Saturday, October 30, 2010

Happy Halloween!!

Happy Halloween!!

And if you still haven't carved your pumpkin, make sure to roast the pumpkin seeds. Take the seeds out and clean them in a colander. Get all the slimy bits off. Then dry them and toss them with a teaspoon of coconut oil. Sprinkle with sea salt. Spread the seeds out on a baking pan and roast in a 400 degree oven. When you start to smell toasty nuts run like hell to your oven and take them out--you only have a minute. Or you can just keep your eyes on them. I, maybe possibly, forgot about them until we were half done eating dinner. But fortunately my husband is athletic, so they were taken out in time. Let them cool and enjoy. Way better than what you'd get in the store!!


Friday, October 29, 2010

Homemade Mustard

I just love homemade salad dressings that are made with whole grain mustard. And while I have found a dijon mustard that is additive free, I could not find a whole grain mustard in the same category. Sigh. I guess I'll have to make one.

My biggest issue with most of the homemade condiment recipes is that they are fresh and go bad quickly. Mayo, mustard, ketchup, all of them last for about a week. Whereas a bottle of store bought mustard can last for 6 months, or maybe longer. (Perhaps they don't last that long, but I have never had any trouble with them) I sure don't want to be making mustard every other week every time I make a salad. The whole point of this is to make life better, right?Eat better, feel better? Not slaving in a kicthen for an hour for every sandwich.

So I looked for a recipe in Nourishing Traditions, my go-to guide book now. And guess what I found. A recipe for lacto-fermented mustard. Now before you say "Ewwww That's Gross!" lacto-fermented really just means preserved, like yogurt is preserved milk. I saved the whey from my post How to Make Cream Cheese or Quark, and it keeps for several months in the fridge. So I used a tablespoon or so from that. This mustard will keep for several months in the fridge.

MUSTARD (This is for a half recipe, from Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon)
3/4 cup (6 oz) of ground mustard
1/4 cup of filtered water
1 tablespoon whey
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 cloves of garlic (optional)
1/2 tablespoon honey (optional)
1 tablespoon whole mustard seeds (optional)

Mix all ingredients together until well blended, adding more water if necessary to obtain desired consistency. Place in a right sized jar. The top of the mustard should be at least one inch below the top of the jar. Cover tightly and keep at room temperature for about 3 days before transferring to cold storage.

I, of course, aletered the recipe because I didn't have everything. (C'mon, you know your read this blog expressly for the hilarious stories of my screwed up overconfident cookery) I had a jar of mustard seeds, but no ground mustard. If you had a spice grinder that was clean that would work to grind your mustard seeds. But I was going for whole grain mustard, so I put my seeds in a mortar and pestle and crushed them. And crushed them and crushed them. And I tried to convince Thing 1 that he should crush some of them too, but he didn't fall for it. So I did some more crushing on my own. But I gave up after a while, because I am lazy, and my arm started hurting.

I then followed the recipe as directed and let the mix sit on the counter top for three days. It sat in the fridge for a couple more days, but that was just because I wasn't home. But the first full day I was at home, I made a sandwich and you know? The stuff really tastes like mustard, which I know is a dumb thing to say. But it has that sour kind of taste but instead of getting it from vinegar like store bought mustards, it got from the whey and the fermentation process. I liked the crunch of the whole grains. The following day I used the mustard in salad dressing. Since it keeps for a couple months, I could make room for this in my already packed cooking schedule. Next time, I am going to add a splash of white wine. That was really the only flavor missing. Yummmmm.

This post is part of Fight Back Fridays at The Food Renegade!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Peanuts and Lectins and Aflatoxins, Oh My!

When I started this blog one of the first things I did was to replace my vegetable oil (read-soybean oil) with peanut oil. Peanut oil has been around a long time, plus peanuts are an oily food, it only makes sense that one could easily make oil. Easy to make equals less processing.

Then I noticed that Sally Fallon recommends eating peanut oil only occasionally. Okay, that was fine, I moved on to beef tallow and coconut oil and ate fewer thing requiring vegetable oils in general. But I continued to eat peanuts which, as you probably already know, are not nuts at all but legumes or beans. I never gave this truth much thought. I eat beans and consider them good for me. So who the heck cares that peanuts are legumes? Then I met the paleo people. They of course don't eat beans and legumes because of their high lectin content. Lectins are 'antinutrients' that inhibit your ability to absorb the protein stores that are found in beans and legumes. They are called antinutrients because they limit your ability to digest the actual nutrients that are available in your foods, so I get it. I mean if you are unable to digest, absorb and utilise a food, who gives a flying fork if it is high in protein?? Traditional bean preparation has been to soak dried beans, change the water out every couple of hours and then discard the soaking liquid. I have done this for years because I wanted to reduce the cooking time of my dried beans. But it turns out that soaking also reduces the lectin content of the beans. Don't you just love that much of proper food preparation is instinctual? Fermentation also is a good way to pre-digest some of those lectin beasties. So always soak your dried beans for a minimum of 24 hours and better if you soak for 2-3 days until they start to sprout. Always throw out the soaking liquid. And if you use canned beans, always throw out the liquid they are canned in and wash them thoroughly before adding them to your dish. This doesn't get rid of ALL the lectins, but it's good enough for me. The paleo people feel strongly that beans and legumes would not have been part of paleolithic man's diet because one needs to cook them. Therefore beans and legumes are not paleo. And lastly, soaking beans much longer or until they sprout allows the bean to "come life" and much of the starch converts to proteins as the bean prepares to grow into a plant. Remember that sprout craze 20 years ago? There you go, that's the science behind it. You can sprout any beans or seeds or non-irradiated nuts, including wheat. I have started only buying sprouted breads and all the boys (both the little ones and the big one) love it. They don't even realize that I changed it up on them.

But back to peanuts. Now you can start to see why it is significant to identify peanuts as legumes rather than a nut. Biologically they are vastly different than nuts. They aren't even brothers or cousins.

Then a couple weeks ago I was discussing all this with a like minded colleague. I respect this friend's opinion because she is dairy, gluten and refined sugar free. (My hero!) She said that she no longer eats peanuts because of the carcinogens. Wha-wha-what???? Carcinogens? Seriously? She sent me some sources and information and what I read really shocked me!

It turns out that there is this nasty little mold, called Aspergillus flavus, that gets into peanuts and other stored seed kernels (like corn or wheat) and creates these toxins which are carcinogens, which is called aflatoxins. (And yes, I am well aware that that last website was for a veterinarian, like animals, but the info is still pretty good.) Not all peanuts have them but those that have been stored have a higher likelihood of being infested. It is apparently pretty common. One website I found said that in a recent study all major brands of peanut butter contained some level of aflatoxins above the believed safe level. The health food store peanut butter which is 'grind your own' contained the highest levels of aflatoxins, undoubtedly because they were stored longer in open containers that allowed air flow. Yikes! Many folks feel like roasting kills the mold, but others are not as sure. If a commercial peanut butter still contains some traces, likely a commercial high heat roasting and refining process is not killing the mold in entirety.

Fortunately Dr Weil at his website tells us not to lose our heads. Aflatoxins create the risk for liver cancer. And since adolescents generally consume high amounts of peanut butter you'd think that there would be a ton of kids out there with liver cancer. But there haven't been any liver cancer epidemics reported in the under 12 set. Nevertheless, perhaps we don't know all there is to know about peanuts and their oil. Not to mention that many schools and public places have forbidden the use of peanut products due to severe allergy concerns. So, I think we will probably just steer clear. My Things like almond butter (I prefer it) so why don't I just use that? Almonds are not at risk for aflatoxin contamination. I have also heard that sunflower seed butter is approved because it is not a peanut nor a tree nut, another common allergy. I have never eaten 'sun butter'.

Peanuts likely do not present a grave health problem for you. But they are not as safe as some other foods. I liken it to mercury levels in tuna. You know you shouldn't be eating 3 pounds of tuna every week, so use the same caution with peanuts. But the paleo people get a plus one for using their instincts about food to guide them to healthy diet.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

CSA Week 21

Only ONE MORE WEEK LEFT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I am terribly sad about this.

This was a small CSA week. We got a bunch of kale, a bunch of arugula, one butternut squash, three Italian eggplants, two celeriac roots, a bag of red onions, 2 red(dish) tomatoes and two green tomatoes, two green peppers, a head of lettuce, and a turnip. Huh? One turnip? I will blame that on DH. I manned the kids while he chose the veggies. He asked me about a hundred questions...What kind of butternut do you want? What do you look for in an eggplant? Do you want daikons or turnips? I mean!! Just pick something!! They're vegetables!! Ok, I am over it. I don't want to be mean.
There is a slight chill in the air. There is a crisp smell on the wind. I came out of the subway tonight and it was dark. And we haven't even had daylight savings time yet. Honestly I am worried about fall vegetables. I have been dabbling in fall vegetables all while eating carrots and broccoli, both of which are still technically local for me (even if not EVERY one I have eaten has been local). But now, my kids' favorite stuff is disappearing from my refrigerator and all I have is this stuff that takes a really long time to cook. I am getting really nervous. Are my kids gonna hate me? Am I gonna be able to get dinner on the table on a weeknight? Am I gonna buy all non-local vegetables all winter?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Traveling, Part Two

Leg Three: Houston

I would have to say that today was the best of all the days. I made the smartest choices and ate the least. I think it might be because it was the only day I was traveling alone. The other days I didn’t want to push my weird food views onto others, or embarrass anyone with a really complicated order.

Breakfast was at the hotel: oatmeal with one table spoon of brown sugar, a banana and a cup of coffee with 2% milk. I swear no one but Starbucks as whole milk! I flew to Houston and did my work there and grabbed lunch when I got back to the airport.

The airport was, just as I expected, a mecca of fast food. I walked up and down the terminal trying to find something good. I didn’t want to eat French fries because I knew they would be fried in veg oil, but then I found a place, Papa’s Burgers (apparently the best burger in TEXAS, that is according to their sign) that would substitute a salad for the fries. I said Okay. I didn’t want to eat the white flour bun, so I ordered, one hamburger topped with avocado and tomato, no bun, with a side salad. For my dressing I ordered oil and vinegar. You should always safely assume that all commercial restaurant salad dressing is made with soybean oil or some other polyunsaturated oil. I definitely got the “health nut” look from my waitress and she was very confused by all the requests. And you should have seen the oil and vinegar shakers! Almost nothing came out. Apparently anyone who orders oil and vinegar does not actually want to have any on their salad.

On the plane I chose just water and cashews. I was really thrilled. I did have a little refined sugar with my oatmeal that morning but other than that, no overeating and no white flour. I fortunately returned home in time for dinner. Whew! What a trip!


· I noticed that food was either super high fat and processed (like sausage, hamburgers or fast food) or low-fat or fat free foods like 0% yogurt. I eat a diet that is filled with healthy fats, but I also don’t go overboard. It was actually hard to find food that I considered to be minimally processed that also had healthy fats in moderate amounts. Does everyone eat this way? Is everyone either sick to their stomach or starving?

· Americans do not drink whole milk. I am convinced of it. What a shame. I literally could not get access to any milk with a fat content greater than 2% milk. I have switched the whole family over to whole milk because I truly believe it is better for me. Whole milk tends to be less processed because the dairy doesn’t have to do anything much to it.

· If you ask for something, like real milk vs non-dairy creamer, people are happy to give it to you as long as they have it. So don’t be afraid to speak up.

· I definitely made choices because I was afraid that my colleagues and friends would judge me or that they would feel judged because I was doing something different than they were. Many of the “off plan” foods I chose on this trip I did so because of who was with me. Jeez. That’s a whole blog post unto itself! We have to get over this, I am just not sure where to start.

· I really overate because I had so many restaurant meals. Most of my meals were 50%larger than I normally would have had. Shucks. I find it hard to say no, I am a plate cleaner. Next time I travel I will try to eat better and cleaner, so that I can clean my plate rather than having to stop or waste food. I think I would be happier that way.

I am soooooooo glad to be home!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Traveling, Part One

Last week I took a three day business trip. I have stated in my piece “I am a Practical Real Food Person” that I would not stress out about processed foods that I come in contact with outside the home. I don’t travel excessively, so uber-processed foods do not make up even a significant minority of the foods I eat. But as I also stated in “The Downside of Eating Clean”, traditional foods in the SAD (Standard American Diet) have been upsetting my stomach recently. So I admit it, I have to give up them up. French fries or other items fried in polyunsaturated oils (vegetable oils) in particular are the worst offenders. So I set up a goal for myself, travel away from home for three days, and eat real food the whole time. Here is how I did.

Leg One: New Orleans

I arrived at La Guardia at 6:30am with nothing but a cup of coffee in my belly. My first challenge, get breakfast at an airport. This was kind of challenging. I went to CIBO Express because they had cold items much like a grocery store. I knew that any “breakfast sandwiches” would have meat of questionable quality and the rolls would all be white flour-heatburn for sure. So at CIBO I found a container of Greek Yogurt and some fresh strawberries. I also got a liter of water and some nuts for the day to snack on. There was a large selection of yogurts including traditional yogurt and several Greek varieties. My biggest issues: all the traditional varieties and all but one of the Greek varieties all had some type of added sugar. And sadly the only plain yogurt was completely fat free. I don’t get that. If you eat a fat free breakfast, how do you expect to make It until lunch? You will be starving in 2 hours because fat keeps you full. I ate the berries and yogurt but was starving when I got off the plane.

One the plane I said no to the peanuts and pretzels (didn’t they stop serving peanuts on planes due to allergy concerns?) but I did ask for a cup of coffee. When she gave me the cream for my coffee, I didn’t read the label before I plunked it in my coffee. *Gasp* It was non-dairy creamer, or as it should be called, milk -flavored-partially-hydrogenated-water. Great, 2 hours in and I have already consumed my first non-food.

Lunch was at a little Mexican place that was similar to Chipotle only locally owned and not part of a big chain. I chose a salad with what was called Chicken “Tinga” which was chicken in an oily red sauce. There was definitely veg oil in there. The salad was all iceberg lettuce, which I rarely ever see in New York anymore. But there were good slow cooked pinto beans, fresh pico de gallo, guacamole and sour cream. There were probably stabilizers in the sour cream. But it was full fat, so likely it was less processed…likely…. My trepidation with this lunch was the fried flour tortilla “bowl”. I knew it would be fried in veg oil. I started out convincing myself that I wouldn’t eat it. But quickly I realized that I was way too hungry. So I ate it.
My colleague and I had a little snack at about 4pm. It would be a cultural crime to say no to this…

But there is a lot of questionable food here. Refined powdered sugar, refined and probably enriched white flour, copious amounts of vegetable oil. Almost nothing about this snack is acceptable in my mind. But, hey, this is New Orleans. And if you can’t enjoy life by experiencing the local culture while you are traveling, then what the heck are you living for? Besides my colleague had never been to New Orleans before and I thought it was important that she go to Café Du Mond.

Dinner was amazing and still very New Orleans. We dined at a place in the French Quarter called Galatoire’s. I am pleased to say that this place was all real food. And it was authentic, and decadent. Everything was amazing. We tried the turtle soup (I have had better), and dinner was Crabmeat Sardou, which was a beautiful pool of freshly creamed spinach topped with a house poached artichoke heart topped with jumbo lump crabmeat and smothered in hollandaise. Don’t you just love the French Paradox? I was completely happy with this meal. And so was my tummy.

Leg Two: Dallas

The following morning my colleague and I were off to Dallas. I was a little smarter this time around. When I ordered coffee at the airport I saw that there were only little creamer cups of half and half. But the H & H also contained 5 different stabilizers and preservatives. I asked the woman behind the counter if she had any milk and she provided me with a bottle of 2% milk. Nice! I also ordered scrambled eggs. I passed on all the breads and baked goods and sugar as well as the highly processed bacon and sausage, which they had tray after tray of. The eggs tasted real (as opposed to powdered) and I swear I saw butter in the bottom of my bowl. That’s a good sign. They definitely aren’t grass fed, but overall it was a decent choice.

We had lunch in a little chain café and I had an amazing salad of romaine lettuce, goat cheese, fresh apples and dried apples, thinly sliced red onion and these candied slivered almonds that were just ridiculous. I know there was sugar on the dried apples, in the dressing and on the candied almonds. The salad had a very sweet taste to it, so there you go, another day eating refined sugar. It wasn’t obvious from reading the menu that there would be so much sugar.

I had an apple for a snack and then went to dinner with a colleague. She took me to a great place called Bolsa, which tends toward organic and market fresh ingredients (they even say so in their menu. After an amazing bruchetta tasting (white flour in the bread) I had a ridiculous dish of scallops and potatoes bathed in a pool of cream and onion and fresh corn. It was ridiculous, and all real food! Dessert however, was another story: Raspberry Croissant Bread pudding with a sour plum sauce. Not overly processed, but it did have sugar and white flour. If you live anywhere near Dallas, please do yourself a favor and go to this restaurant. The night was about 75 degrees with a light breeze, so sitting outside made the food and the company all the better.
Only problem, I really overate. Everything was seriously good!

Tomorrow, I wrap up my trip in Houston and I draw spome conclusions about traveling and eating, which is always hard for me.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The 5 Ingredient Rule

In Food Rules, Michael Pollan states in Rule 6 on page 15, "Avoid food products that contain more than 5 ingredients. The specific number you adopt is arbitrary, but the more ingredients in a packaged food, the more highly processed it probably is. Note 1: A long list of ingredients in a recipe is not the same thing; that's fine. Note 2: Some products now boast, somewhat deceptively, about their short ingredient lists. Haagen-Dazs has a new line of ice cream called "five". Great-but it's still ice cream. Same goes for the three ingredient Tostitos corn chips advertised by Frito-Lay-okay, but they are still corn chips."

Michael Pollan has been a real inspiration to me. In fact it was Food Rules and In Defense of Food that inspired me to start this blog in the first place. But I am particularly frustrated by this rule. It is one of the most important tenants of a new crop of real food people out there. There are blogs all over of people adopting rules for themselves. And I LOVE it. I love that Americans are getting angry and taking action in their own life. But I don't get all the blind faith in the number 5.

I think it is human nature to be inspired by the work of a trailblazer like Pollan. And it is also normal to want to throw away your past and jump on board. I admit it, I am a Pollan disciple. But I am frustrated when people who read the rule (in bold face) and forget to read the fine print.

I don't live by the 5 ingredient rule. It would complicate my life too much right now. And there are some foods, just as he mentions, that are kind of evil that fall into the 5 ingredient category, like Fritos, or high sugar jam. I actually think the 5 ingredient rule is good for those just starting out in trying to eliminate processed foods from their diets. But for me and my family, there are some products like Mary's Gone Crackers and Utz's Organic Whole Grain Pretzels and the New Morning Organic Oatio's that all have more than 5 ingredients. They are not the foods in my pantry that I am the happiest about, but I have found brands that do not contain preservatives and -ides and -oses. So I am willing to make peace with it. Also, after just taking an inventory, I have only found 5 or so items that are even over the 5 ingredient rule. And I believe that that normally happens when you favor minimally processed foods.

Rather than strictly stick to the 5 ingredient rule I choose to cast a skeptical glance on all pre-packaged foods. However the ones that we do eat will contain ONLY real food ingredients, whole grains, preferably organic and low sugar. If I can keep our pre-packaged food intake down to a minimum and see that only high quality items are consumed, then I am happy not having to follow the 5 ingredient rule. My life is not an experiment. I am not trying to do something extraordinary to prove that it can be done. I have never liked proving myself to anyone, I am who I am, period. I am looking to eat this way for the REST of my life, and teach my kids how to do it too. Plus I don't really like rules too much.

And folks, I am taking tomorrow off! See you next week!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

CSA Week 20

Today from the CSA we got tons of stuff. A bunch of carrots, chard, tat soi (a very yummy hearty green), a red kumi squash (did I spell that right?), 4 chiles, 4 various tomatoes, an eggplant, a bunch of leeks, lettuce plus three pounds of apples and three pounds of pears. We are SWIMMING in fruit. What would my heaven be? A full 3 hour block of time where my kids both behave and play with toys while I make an almond crusted pear tart in the kitchen. Or I could make apple-pear jelly in a gently bubbling pot during a lazy Saturday afternoon. Or spend a quiet morning, while the kids sleep in, roasting pumpkin to later use in muffins. Or even more heavenly? I could make a salad with a beautiful balsamic dressing with fresh tomatoes and carrots sliced on the diagonal and I could share it with my boys and they would actually eat it! There is my heaven.
Recently I braised an amazing grass fed pork shoulder all day in the crock pot and it came out all unctious and glistening in it's glorious pork fatty-ness. So soft and delicious, I really hoped at least one of the Things would eat some. Nope not even one. That is a shameful truth for a girl from Memphis. When are my kids going to start eating? How do they manage to only eat the worst foods for them, even when they have only good foods they will choose the least healthy of all of them. I have taken away the hot dogs, nitrate filled meats, chicken nuggets, frozen pizza, flavored yogurts and most of the white flour in our lives. But yet still they manage to gravitate to bread and nothing else. *Sigh* Please someone tell me this gets easier.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

HFCS at kidHaven

Hello Dear Readers,

Our regularly scheduled CSA posting will air THURSDAY instead of today. Today we have a change of plans.

Below is an article that I wrote for this week. I have written about HFCS before. But for this article I did more research and went back through all the facts, plus some new ones. Well at least they are new to me...Take a read and pop on over to kidHaven why dontcha!

The Low Down on High Fructose Corn Syrup

Recently you may have heard that The Corn Refiners Association petitioned the FDA to “rename” their ubiquitous product High-Fructose Corn Syrup to plain old “Corn Sugar.” On the CRA’s website the lobby group states, “Many people do not realize that high fructose corn syrup is composed of same simple sugars found in table sugar and honey-glucose and fructose--in virtually the same ratios.” Some readers might brush this off as no big deal. It is a product rename. And HFCS is just a sugar, so such a name is fitting? No?

The issue is slightly more complex. Because chemically speaking, sugars are all really different and the body does different things with them. There is sucrose and fructose, glucose and dextrose, lactose and maltose and many others. But while High-Fructose Corn Syrup is made from plain ole’ corn, it is only certain parts of the familiar plant. And those extracted and refined sugars don’t act the same way in your body as they would if you ate the whole kernel right off the cob.

Sucrose or table sugar is a disaccharide composed of a molecule of glucose and a molecule of fructose chemically bonded together with a relatively weak molecular bond. That bond is broken when it's in your tummy being digested. Now hold that thought, I am coming back to this.

High-Fructose Corn Syrup is different.

HFCS is produced by milling corn to produce starch, then processing that starch to yield corn syrup (think Karo Pecan Pie ingredients). Standard corn syrup is made up of almost entirely glucose molecules and glucose doesn't taste as sweet to the human tongue as sucrose. Regular corn syrup was all we had for a while, but it couldn’t function as a proper sugar replacement because it just doesn't taste right. Anyone who has tasted Karo knows what I am talking about. But in 1957 Richard O. Marshall and Earl P. Kooi added enzymes to that glucose corn syrup. Those enzymes broke down most of the glucose into fructose. The result is a syrup that is almost entirely fructose. High-Fructose Corn Syrup is derived by mixing the original standard Karo-like syrup (almost pure glucose) and the altered corn syrup (overwhelmingly fructose). The more fructose you add, the sweeter the mixture tastes on the tongue. HFCS 55 is 55% fructose and has a comparable sweetness to table sugar, only in liquid form. And in case you hadn’t already put two and two together, that is the particular HFCS that is used to make soda.

But that brings me back to the original question, Why is it a big deal that the CRA wants to rename their product “corn sugar”? The name “corn sugar” is not so false. HFCS is made from corn and it is a form of sugar. But many critics argue that renaming HFCS would align it with table sugar in the consumer’s mind. No doubt the CRA has the same intention. Remember earlier I told you when sugar is digested, your tummy breaks it into its glucose and fructose molecules. Glucose is used by the body in everything from basic energy to brain function; Glucose is also metabolized in every cell in the body. Fructose is altogether different. Fructose is only metabolized in the liver. Livers of lab animals fed large amounts of fructose have fatty deposits and cirrhosis similar to the livers of alcoholics. The fructose found in High-Fructose Corn Syrup is free or unbound because it is simply mixed in solution with glucose as opposed to bonded like in table sugar. Here’s why this is significant, research indicates that it is this free fructose that is the problem. Free or unbound liquid fructose is almost never found in nature. And although whole fruits contain fructose, they contain so much fiber that you’d be hard pressed to eat enough apples to ingest a dangerous amount of fructose. You would be way too full! Whole fruits also contain a whole host of healthy vitamins and minerals as well.

Earlier this year, Tom Laskawy, for, covered a Princeton University study of rats ingesting HFCS. The study concluded,

“Rats with access to High-Fructose corn syrup gained weight significantly more than those with access to table sugar, even when their overall caloric intake was the same.”

The study goes on to say that

“Some people have claimed that high-fructose corn syrup is no different than other sweeteners when it comes to weight gain and obesity, but our results make it clear that this just isn’t, at least under the conditions of our tests.

In the last 30 years America has become the fattest country in the world. No shocker there. According to a new study by the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development, 34% of the US population is considered obese while a whopping 70% is considered overweight. I am not saying that High-Fructose Corn Syrup is our only problem food in this country, it is not the smoking gun, per se. But it is certainly part of the problem.

If you always had a bad feeling about HFCS, you are not alone. Many of my close mom-friends have concerns about HFCS and want to cut it out of their diets. Most people I know do not drink soda regularly, so they assume that they ingest little if any HFCS. But the problem is HFCS is everywhere. HFCS can be found in yogurt, muffins, breads, ketchup, pasta sauce, salad dressings, juice drinks. HFCS can even be included in products that are labeled “All Natural” because the FDA does not have a legal definition for the term “All Natural”. All the FDA asks with a label of “All Natural” is that the produce be derived from something in nature. HFCS is under that definition of “All Natural.

Many companies are reformulating their products to eliminate the HFCS and instead include sugar, cane sugar, cane juice, raw sugar, turbinado sugar, brown rice syrup, malt syrup, or some other form of naturally occurring sugar. Unfortunately on the other end of the spectrum, The Sugar Association (Washington’s Cane/ Beet Sugar Lobby) is reaping the benefits from all the increased business. And they want you to believe that High Fructose Corn Syrup is BAD, and Cane Sugar is GOOD. Cane Sugar may not be as bad as HFCS, but it is still linked to a whole host of degenerative diseases because it also contains fructose. Don’t be fooled.

Since cutting HFCS out of my family’s diet, the most important thing I have learned to do is to READ LABELS. Here are a few suggestions:

· Go grocery shopping when you have time on your hands (but aren’t hungry).

· Never pay attention to any health claims on the front of the package, they are not regulated as strictly as the nutrition panel on the back.

· And never assume that just because you know, love or respect a certain brand they are above including some questionable ingredients. Just recently I discovered that the brand of Half and Half offered in my office contains milk and cream AND less than 2% stabilizers?! I wasn’t aware that milk and cream needed to be stabilized.

If you have never looked at the ingredients on your favorite yogurt or ice cream, turn the package over and start reading. HFCS is unnecessary. You and your kids don’t need it. You didn’t grow up eating it. You really didn’t, because HFCS wasn’t in the food supply in such an omnipresent way until about 20-30 years ago.

The controversy over HFCS is not new. Our national obesity epidemic has dominated the medical media coverage recently, with many experts pointing the finger squarely at HFCS. And as I mentioned, many food manufacturers have eliminated the ingredient due to pressure from their customers. So, there are plenty of foods in the grocery store without HFCS. But you do have to look for them. My recommendation? If you want to reduce the amount of sugar in your diet, start by buying products that do not contain HFCS. They are out there. Then you can make the decision to go further and choose products with lower amounts of added sugars, or products with no added sugars. As you begin to eliminate some of the sugar in your diet, you may just find that you never needed as much as you originally though you did.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Apple Butter: Don't Try This at Home

The weekend before last we took a trip to Connecticut to go Apple Picking at Silverman's Farm and Orchard. We had a great time picking apples, playing with pumpkins, enjoying a picnic and sliding down bales of hay. Every child in Connecticut under the age of 5 was there, and there were so many pregnant women walking around you'd think the state was in the middle of another baby boom. Thing 1 ate almost an entire feedbag of kettle corn by himself. Everyone had a great time.

Since then we have been enjoying our apples daily, and we have been sharing them with everyone who comes by. But there was one thing that Mommy still wanted to make. Apple Butter.

I was very inspired after I read this post from a Table of Promise reader. Doesn't that look amazing. I admire Katie Jo's tenacity in peeling and chopping, but my thumbs hurt just reading her post! There has to be an easier way.... Most Apple Butter recipes call for, you guessed it, serious amounts of sugar. Also all the recipes I could find called for the apples to be peeled. I know that apples are a fruit that carries most of it's fiber and nutrition in the peel. When the kids eat them I don't peel them, I just wash them liberally. I did find a couple of recipes on the Internet that didn't peel the apples. But you had to go in after all the cooking and fish the skins out. So not fun.

So I decided that I would take my 14 apples, quarter them, core them and run them through the grater attachment of my food processor. At least then the pieces of skin would be small enough that they wouldn't bother you and you could still enjoy all the nutrition, right? I did all of this at 8pm and got the crock pot ready to go by 9pm. I added a cup of water, a couple tablespoons of lemon juice and a cup of sugar. I didn't have anymore sugar (but I was being stubborn and adding only a quarter of the sugar called for in the basic recipe) and I didn't have any apple juice. But I was (over) confident! I knew I could do this.

I popped all my ingredients into the crock pot that night and put it on 10 hours-low cooking. I set my alarm to go off at 2 AM so that I could make sure that there was enough water and no burning. In the middle of the night, everything looked fine.

At 5:30 AM I could tell that the apples needed more cooking. The mix looked like dark brown apple sauce, but still kind of grainy. I set it for another 6 hours of cooking and told the babysitter to unplug the crockpot during lunch, which she did.

When I came home, it was definitely done. But the butter was still kind of watery, and the apple skin pieces were tough, minuscule bits that stood out even more against the soft flesh of the cooked apples. I suppose I could have strained them out, but the pieces were cut so small that that seemed impossible. I froze some, and stored the rest in a quart sized jar. The butter/ sauce tasted okay, but it was NOT terribly sweet. It all tasted like applesauce that I went to ALOT of effort to cook. I have been using it in oatmeal, where the bit of apple skin are not so noticeable. So I have full faith that we will eat it. It will not go to waste. But the whole project was terribly misguided. It is as though I have grown a little too big for my britches.

When will I just learn? I don't have to win a Nobel Prize for Canning and Preserving. I could have made a pie with all the sugar I wanted. I didn't have to go try and save the world with some nutrient dense condiment. Next time, I won't think so much about it, and I will just make some good food and I pledge to get off my high horse and follow someone else's recipe.

Don't try this at home. There is a reason why there are no recipes on the Internet for Apple Butter with the skins left on.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Walmart Looks to Increase Its Local Produce Offering

Thanks to Marion Nestle's blog Food Politics for turning me onto today's topic. I was both thrilled and not so thrilled to read the NY Times article that she quoted for her recent article.

It seems that in 2005 Walmart created a set of goals for their operations to make their business more sustainable and environmentally friendly. Among them waste reduction and packaging opportunities, as well as a reduction in the greenhouse emissions made by their stores and distribution centers, and increasing the fuel efficiency of their transportation department. Local produce, it seems, is also part of their long term goals. Walmart is looking in to increase the amount of local produce that it offers. The store has set a goal of doubling the local produce offering here in the US, or increase to about 9% of the total. Produce will be considered local if it has been grown in the same state in which it is sold. Walmart has also said that it wants to source what it can from small farms, i.e.-farms of 50 acres or less.

The NY Times criticized Walmart (doesn't everyone?) saying that their goals did not go far enough for it's US Operations in increasing the amount of local produce as a percentage to the total. They stated that company has been far more agressive in it's programs in say, Canada, where they hope to increase locally grown produce to 30% of the total and possibly 100% of the total when it is in season. But here is where you really need more information. According to Wikipedia, the US portion of Walmart stores accounts for 67.2% of the total 258 billion dollar business. Wikipedia goes on to say that Walmart Stores in 2005 in the US numbered close to 3800 (they do not give store data for dates later than 2005, but I imagine a few more have been opened). In Canada, the number of locations is closer to 300. Still a large retailer, but it is altogether possible that 9% of US produce could be greater than 30% of Canadian produce. You can make numbers say anything. You really can. Ask the folks who ran Enron.

I am both delighted and disappointed by the news. I am a proponent of local produce and small farms. I am pleased to see that a large retailer is picking up on what was just a fringe foodie movement just a few years ago. And it doesn't bother me that Walmartwants to take advantage of this movement and make a buck off of it. Produce isn't free and farming isn't a charity endeavor. It is a business like any other, and I invite capitalism to create a marketplace to fill the demand that consumers have for local produce. I have said it before, the biggest problem local foods and organic foods have in this country is a lack of infrastructure available to bring them to market. Here you go, Walmart is looking to bring these goods to market, which means more business for small family farms. However, my trepidation is, will Walmart do to local food growers what it did to say, Vlasic Pickles? Walmart has a history of using their buying power to force companies to slash their own profits just to continue selling to Walmart. Local produce and produce from small farms tends to be more environmentally sound (though not always) and thus more expensive. If Walmart pulls the same move, then it could bankrupt some small producers.

There is no way to tell what the outcome will be. So far these are just goals that the company has set forth. I will be sure to stay abreast of this story as it unfolds in the next several months. I don't really shop at Walmart. Here in New York I have to go out of my way just to get to one. So I will continue to support my CSA and local farmer's markets as I always have. Here's to hoping that this story will have a happy ending.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Blueberry Coconut Muffins, Take Two

I was pretty bummed last week when I couldn't make my coconut flour muffins work. But I was undeterred. I am going to figure out gluten free/ grain free baking. But until I get all the way there, baby steps.

The back of my package of coconut flour says that I can substitute one quarter wheat flour for an equal amount of coconut flour. At least I think I read that right. So I went back to my trusted (if old fashioned) Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook with the red and white gingham cover that has long since fallen off. The book was a gift from my mother just a year or two before she died, no doubt a strategic play to make sure we would not go hungry in an emergency.

The coconut flour does not have gluten and so it needs additional leavening. Plus I have always faulted this particular muffin recipe for tasting too much like baking powder. So I started tinkering. But fortunately this recipe has a happy(ier) ending. I did a couple things. I pushed the amount of coconut flour to nearly half. I pulled back on the baking powder but added an extra egg. I substitued honey for sugar and cut the amount by half. Thd batter was too dry, so I added more milk. Below is what I actually did:

Blueberry Coconut Muffins
1 cup half white flour (or white or all purpose flour or 1/2 cup white with half cup whole wheat flour)
3/4 cup coconut flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup of whole milk
1/4 cup of coconut oil
1/4 cup raw honey
About 1/3 cup of frozen wild blueberries

I combined the dry ingredients and then in a seperate bowl I combined the wet ingredients. Then I mixed the two together tenderly and added my berries. I spooned it in my muffins cups and baked at 400 for 20 minutes.

So what happened?

They didn't rise enough. They definitely taste dense, but not so much in a bad way. Next time I will add a third egg and possibly another quarter of a cup of milk if the batter is still too dry. The honey was spot on, they are not too sweet, they could be sweeter, but for us right now this is good. I am really trying to limit sugar especially for Thing 1 and with a homemade muffin he doesn't know what he is missing, but he still feels spoiled. Thing 2 has never really had alot of refined sugar except on his birthday, so he has no idea. But I am pretty sure he loves sugar likes his bubba. And I am thinking that is the reason he loves to brush his teeth sooooooo much, nothing in his diet tastes as sweet as that toothpaste! (BTW-it is tom's of maine for kids, so it is not really high in real sugar, but to him it probably tastes like crack)

Another step toward grain free muffin perfection. And the irony that these muffins are mostly grains is not lost on me. Baby steps...Baby steps.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Mamapedia Featured Blogger

I am really excited that I am again being featured on! Please check out their Voices section for my post, Personal Forgiveness.

The Downside of Clean Eating

Not to pat myself on the back, well, okay, yes to pat myself on the back, but my family and I have recently found a new level of calm and happiness in eating real foods and limiting processed foods. We are eating a record low of refined sugar. I have replaced our traditional crackers with gluten free rice crackers and the kids are actually eating them. DH was happy about the date truffles and I am praying this means that he might be one step closer to getting his sugar addiction under control. I stopped buying potato chips because they are all fried in polyunsaturated oils. And that was a big one. There are plenty of companies that state that they fry in "peanut/ canola oil". Well that means if they can't get peanut oil cheap enough they will get the other. I can't guarantee that I am not eating those poly oils, so I have to move on. I can't say I'll never eat them again, but if I am down to a few times a year, then I am going to give myself some credit. I loved potato chips. *sigh*.

The downside you ask? Last week I attended an offsite business meeting with a colleague. The meeting started at 2pm so we agreed to meet at a restaurant for lunch. Now there are plenty of good restaurants and clean places to eat in Manhattan but where I was that day there was not a great selection. We chose a conventional restaurant similar to a Friday's or Applebee's. You might think the food at those establishments is kinda gross. But I was raised going to places like that as a special treat. And I firmly believe, as a practical real food person, that once in a while is fine. The food police are not going to come out and arrest you, or worse yet, judge you. But beware. The salt and sugar, white flour and soybean oil all go down so hot and beautiful, but the payback comes later. I had mayo, what had to be CAFO chicken (because they ALL are), conventional frozen to oil fries and *Gasp* conventional ketchup. I wasn't going to feel guilty. It was the best establishment available. I could have ordered a salad. But I was starving! I ate half my lunch so I wouldn't fall asleep in my meeting. And of course, a half an hour later my stomach was in turmoil.

I think it was the oil mostly. Whenever I eat large amounts of vegetable oils now I always get an upset stomach. Even yesterday my office had catering for a special meeting and I ate the tortilla chips. Why? Why haven't I learned my lesson. They aren't even that good. Maybe it is force of habit. Perhaps it is nostalgia for foods that I used to love but now make me sick. Like a boyfriend that is kind of mean to you, but you keep going to hang out with him even after he has broken up with you.

This makes me think of the disease that has been increasing in the frequency of diagnosis recently, Irritable Bowel Syndrome. IBS is an increasingly popular diagnosis. Symptoms including abdominal cramping, spastic colon and the like for more than 12 weeks. IBS has been recently a disease of exclusion, or basically when everything else has been excluded, IBS is the diagnosis. That is changing, but the definition of the disease seems to hinge on it NOT being something else like colon cancer or celiac disease.

I don't like taking medicine. I don't even like taking my vitamin every day. I don't think we should have to. I am appalled by the pharmaceutical industry's funding of "symptom management drugs" where there is no cure for the specific disease, only a pill that you must use for the rest of your life. There is no money in curing disease, only in getting you on a prescription. I find his way of thinking deplorable and part of the reason that our current health care system is so dysfunctional. Couldn't it be said that some of the IBS diagnoses fall into this category? I certainly don't have IBS, but if IBS can be managed by eating a healthier diet of lower fat and less processed (just not raw) foods, couldn't it be said that some cases of IBS is just those bodys' inability to adapt to the modern industrial food that we shouldn't be eating in the first place?

Perhaps I am uneducated about IBS. But after reading even just a little bit about it, it seems like a spectrum disorder where perhaps no two cases are alike. That to me suggests that it is still a diagnosis of exclusion. And to characterize a person as having a dysfunction or an improperly working digestive system when what is really happening is they are unable to digest the non-food we are all accustom to eating. Well that seems foolish to me. Then we can give those people a pill to force their digestive systems to properly digest Doritos, which we shouldn't be eating in the first place. Doesn't that seem odd to anyone?

And if it is not IBS, it is constipation. I ate Activia yogurt like everyone else 5 years ago and while it worked, no one ever told me that I didn't really need to eat Activia yogurt. All I needed to do was eat vegetables and real foods. Thing 1 used to really struggle with constipation. Now? Never. Just like that Dyson guy says "I just think things should work properly." Common sense folks. Eat real foods, eliminate health problems. Down with the unnecessary pills.

Now I suppose the question is, will I ever learn my lesson? Will I ever stop eating foods that make me sick? I suppose now I am the same as everyone else. There really is no difference.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Almond-Date Truffles

In the beginning of my "experiment" I still bought candy or cookies, I just bought fewer of them. DH complained but for the most part he fell in line.

Now that we are a little deeper in I have replaced more of our junk. The one thing that DH bitches about more than anything else is candy and desserts. I have the ingredients to make a pie or cookies, but to go to all the effort just to keep a "sometimes" food on hand? Well I am not really doing that. Once in a while is one thing, but I would so much rather spend my time being sneaky getting veggies into my kids tummies.

Then I got an idea for a "candy" that I wouldn't mind keeping around the house. This is one that contains no refined sugar and has a good amount of raw nuts, a healthy source of protein and nuts. Also, I convinced Thing 1 that helping me to make them would be more fun than watching the Backyardagins! Really, this are just tiny home made Larabars (love those things!)

Almond-Date Truffles

1/2 cup Raw Organic Almonds
8 oz Organic Mejool Dates
Unsweetened Shredded Organic Coconut for dusting

Of course my recipe calls for organic everything, but you guys are adults and know that you can substitute roasted for raw and conventional for organic. But I am shooting for as organic as possible.

In your food processor run the almonds until they are well chopped.
Then add your dates, make sure you remove all the pits before pulsing. Date pits are not good eats. Run your dates and almonds together until they form a coarse crumb. You can then either measure out the mix, or eyeball it. But either way form the crumbs into balls by pressing into your hands. Then take the balls and roll them in a shallow dish of the organic unsweetened shredded coconut. Or you could get your 3 year old to do that part for you. And although he got coconut everywhere, he did a pretty good job and I didn't have to intervene and do it for him.

So everyone is happy with this recipe. DH is happy to have something sweet in the house. Thing 1 thinks he is getting candy. Mommy is happy that these are whole foods, no refined sugar or icky ingredients. Only...Thing 2 is kind of pissed. He is a little too young for nuts, so I think he feels a little left out. Oh well, you can't please all the people all the time.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

CSA Week 19

Today I had to check and see what CSA week it was. It has gotten so far that I can barely keep up!
This week at the CSA we got 6 potatoes, one bunch of amazing carrots, a bunch of arugula, a bunch of leeks, a bunch of bok choy (I could also have chosen kale or chard), 2 eggplant, 2 squashes that were called something cute like mini-candy or sugar and spice or something, and 8 apples. This was a manageable week. I am on a major backlog. I have veggies coming out the wazoo. So I am actually kind of happy that this week offers a smaller amount.
I am the most excited by the garlic. A WHOLE BAG!! It contains 5 small heads. That's awesome. The Garlic from my farmer's market has been hit and miss this season. Sometimes it is sublime and other times it is dried out and awful. These heads look great. In fact everything I have gotten from the CSA (except the beets, but there is no accounting for taste, right?) has been lovely.

Lastly, we went apple picking with some friends this weekend. So I was a little bummed to find MORE apples from the CSA. But what else are we going to get in New England in the fall? Really? So now I have like 30 pounds of apples. And I still had some left from last week. I am going to have to start making them into dishes to go with dinner, because as desserts or snacks, we are not moving through these puppies fast enough. Sheesh. I have to get with it. Too bad I hate peeling the damn things so much.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

How to Make Cream Cheese, or Quark

I had heard of Quark before, but I had never tried it. Quark is a soft fresh or unripened cheese that is quite easy to make. I first tried quark when I made my Hot Pepper Jelly a few weeks ago. If you remember, I went to the grocery store to find a cream cheese and found that all the varieties of cream cheese available to me, organic or not, contained locust bean gum. And several varieties of non-organic cream cheese had an ingredient list a page long! They are definitely not making the cut these days. But the package of quark that I bought was simple. It was milk and enzymes and salt. And when I brought it home it was soft, fresh, creamy and easy to spread. Not hard and blocky like typical processed cream cheese is. Of course….I had to figure out how to make my own.

And wouldn’t you know it, Sally Fallon has a recipe for it in Nourishing Traditions. (Aren’t you ready to buy this book yet?) I have actually wanted to make this recipe because when you make cream cheese you also yield the all important whey, which is the back bone of all the lacto-fermented vegetable recipes that Fallon has throughout her tome.

First thing is first. You need cultured yogurt, buttermilk or raw milk. Many states do not sell raw milk. This is such a big controversy. New York State only allows farm sales of raw milk. And that means you have to go to the farm. So while I buy my milk directly from the farm that “grows” it, they could not legally sell me raw milk at the farmer’s market. So I bought cultured buttermilk from Hawthorne Valley Farm. I know they are a farm that I can trust for biodynamic organic products.

And making the cheese is pretty easy. You put the buttermilk (or whatever you are using) in a covered bowl (I used a 2.5 quart pyrex glass bowl with a fitted plastic lid) and let it sit at room temperature for 1-4 days. It is pretty cool out now, so my buttermilk sat for about 2 and a half days. Here you see it on Day 1…

Now you see it on Day 2….
And finally Day 3…
Do you see how it is separating a little? I expected great clumps of curds like cottage cheese. But it wasn’t like that at all. The buttermilk just started to look….grainy. At that point I put a large bowl down and placed my colander inside. I lined the colander with the thinnest clean burp cloth I could find, something that is similar to cheesecloth. Please, use cheesecloth..I am cheap and will use a burpcloth because it is lying around, and I don’t have anyone to burp anymore.

The whey and the curds will begin to separate, with the whey falling through the cheesecloth and colander and into your bowl below. Make sure you save that whey, it has active cultures that are perfect for using to fermentvegetables (think sauerkraut, kosher dill pickles or kim chi, all fermented vegetables) and all manner of restorative drinks. Next take the corners of your cheesecloth so that the buttermilk curds are wrapped up like a pouch. I took the pouch and tied it a wooden spoon. Then I put the wooden spoon across my tallest stock pot so that the pouch was freely hanging and not touching the bottom of the pot. Forgive the coffee cup in the picture-it was 5:30AM when I snapped most of these pics. I let the curds strain like that for about 12 hours overnight. I had to go to work and couldn’t finish it the next morning so I parked in the fridge for the day, and when I returned from work that night, the cloth had absorbed enough moisture and the texture was perfect. See here when I unwrapped my package.
My cream cheese is great. The flavor is unexpected. I am curious to let it develop longer next time for a more sour taste. And while I like the buttermilk variety, I think I would like to try the recipe with yogurt for a different flavor. I have eaten my cream cheese, and there is no stomach upset. It is smoother than store bought cream cheese. Sadly, DH has been a hard sell but he did try it and said he like the texture. Some of the things I do are out of his comfort zone! I even saved the whey and have been adding it to some drinks that Fallon recommends for strength and health. I feel great! There is no need to buy yogurts labeled ‘probiotic’ that are pumped full of sugar and HFCS when you can do this at home. There are real probiotics in this cheese and whey. Plus there was no special equipment to buy. I hope that you will try this. Making cheese at home seems so intimidating and potentially toxic, but actually, it was pretty easy. It wasn’t that much work, but I was anxious waiting! I am really proud that I did this!

This post is part of Food Renegade's Fight Back Fridays!

Monday, October 11, 2010

To Be Thin or To Be Healthy?

I read an alarming article recently which stated that the US is fatter than any other country in the world. I don't think that is shocking to anyone reading. We invented this diet (or at least the most industrialized and unhealthiest parts of it). It only makes sense that Americans would eat more processed foods than any other nation, and reap more of their "benefits".

The report published by The Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development states that according to their findings 34% of the US population is obese and a total of 68% of the population is overweight (which includes the obese people). What exactly does that mean?

Most doctors today evaluate overweight and obese people using their BMI, or Body Mass Index, which is a ratio of weight to height. There are many critics of the system who cite that overall health does not factor into the scale. A person can be classified as "overweight" and still be healthy, such as a body builder or athlete. For me I think that is splitting hairs. 98% of the population does not fall into that category, because they are normal people with normal weights based upon their food intake and activity level, not hyper athletes. But it is important to remember, the BMI classification system is not an overall health rating. It evaluates weight as it relates to your height. Period.

BMI is calculated as: Your weight in kilograms divided by your height in meters squared. Or

BMI= (kg)/ (m)*(m)
Okay--I can't figure out how to get the little "2" square to be above the text like it is supposed to to, so I just wrote it out in long form. This Blogger format kills me sometimes. A BMI of 18.5-24.9 is considered normal. A BMI of 25-29.9 is considered overweight, a BMI of above 30 is considered obese and some sites I found also stipulated that a BMI of over 35 is the definition of morbidly obese.
For the sake of argument, I will lay myself out on the line. I am 5 feet 7 inches tall and I weigh 133 pounds. My weight in kilograms is 60.3 and my height in meters is 1.70. So my BMI is 20.9. But is BMI really a good way to evaluate weight? The scale is wide enough that I could gain 26 pounds and still be considered at a normal weight. I have full faith that there might be another 5' 7" woman out there who weighs 159 pounds who is at the right weight for her body (and give me 25 years, it might be me too), but with an additional 26 pounds on me today I would be all out of whack. Do you see what I mean? Weight for each of our bodies is a very personal matter that is based upon our age and health and diet. All BMI scores serve to do is to classify people into categories. And the healthy weight category is SO WIDE that it is difficult to get a true sense of what an individual's BMI actually SHOULD be.
Calculating my own BMI brings me back to the original OEDC article I mentioned. If the OEDC is using BMI to classify whether people are overweight or obese, I would never have been classified as overwight by the study even before I began my crusade to eat real foods. Yet I was definitely overweight for my own body. I have lost 12 pounds since I decided to give up processed foods!! How many other people are eating crummy foods and looking at their BMI of 24.5 and thinking they have nothing to worry about? The problem is more complex, and for the people who have a BMI of 30+ the problem is of life and death importance.
There has been much discussion of obesity recently on many of the blogs that I read. And with the recent announcement that Mike Bloomberg had requested from the USDA to exempt soda purchases from food stamp elligibility, I have been thinking about our national weight problem too. When I began my investigation 3 years ago into what I was eating and began to limit processed foods, I was solely motivated by weight. For me, and most of my friends and colleagues, a healthy weight equals a health body.
But recently my investigation into food and what I should be eating has gone far beyond my waistline. I strongly feel that when I accepted the detrimental effects processed polyunsaturated fats (corn, soybean and canola oils, etc) had on my diet I moved past the weight issue and into the health issue. My own mother died of brain cancer when she was 50 years old. She was an avid lover of junk food. While we never knew what caused her to sucumb to such an incidious illness at such a young age, my whole family accepted it as genetics. Oh...It runs in the family. I can't prove that her diet caused her to get cancer, I am not even sure that I BELIEVE that her diet made her sick. But I know it didn't help her. She consumed the Standard American Diet along with the rest of us and never once questioned the safety of her food. Her weight was fine throughout her life. She had no reason to worry if her food was making her sick, no?
There is so much talk of obesity, and how to solve the problem. And of course there are the ever present blog commentors that love to bash anyone "who can't control themselves". And I believe that this is a fallacy. American food is not food. Processed foods are pumped more full of sugar salt and fat and calories than most whole foods ever could be, and with all the processing, you will never feel full. Processed foods set up a cycle of eating more while remaining undernourished. Whole foods, non-processed foods and real foods have better flavor and fill both your body and soul. And we eat fat. We eat butter, tallow, meat and whole milk, clearly my family's mission is now about health and not about weight. I believe that I should be eating what I am eating. If I gain 5 pounds, so be it. However, that has yet to happen. What has happened? I am more satieted, I feel better, I have more energy, my skin is clearer, my kids are calmer and I believe happier.
You can take a year, stay up late every night and research food until you are exhausted and blog about what you find. Or, you can avoid processed foods, and eat what would have been available to you in 1900. If you could not have gotten an ingredient in 1900, say soybean oil, shortening, xantham gum, High Fructose Corn Syrup or textured vegetable protiens, don't eat it. You will encounter these foods. They are everywhere. But keep your pantries clear of them and you just might have the experience I have.
If I can keep my kids from getting sick from the most common western diseases of cancer, heart disease and diabetes, I am damn well going to try. For me, it is now about health, not about weight.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Fooding With Your Play

My guys are still a little young to be in the kitchen. Thing 2 likes to pull all the dish towels out of the drawer, then wad them up and shove them back in again. Thing 1 likes to sit, taste the various ingredients, watch and ask questions. But he also likes to break things and spill things (Like, on purpose), and has no concept that there is a particular amount of something that you should be putting in a recipe. I mean, if it is fun to crack eggs, every recipe should call for 6, no?

But Play-Doh is a wonderful medium for food. Below I have some veggies that I made (of course I made veggies)....I also made a bunch of bananas and some lemons (do you see that I am limited by color?) but Thing 1 smushed those before I got the idea to photograph them.

And after that I have some cookies that Thing 1 made (of course he made cookies).....
I actually think this is a good way for my guys to help in the kitchen right now. I will still try to get them in there wen I can, but this way they can really make something from scratch. Just like Mommy!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Pumpkin Pie Smoothies (There isn't any actual pie in them...)

I never know what to do with the squashes that we get during the Fall from my CSA. This year I have finally found a use for them, though slightly by accident.

Last week I roasted my squashes and then pureed them when they cooled. I poured the puree into an ice cube tray and frozes them like popcicles. I wasn't sure what to do with them, put some in mac and cheese, what else? I was at a loss.

But then I got an idea. I took some of the frozen squash-cubes, some plain yogurt, a banana (or a half of one, whatever is around), a splash of vanilla, one squirt of honey (about a teaspoon) and a shake of cinnamon. Blend it all up and what do you have? A Pumpkin Pie Smoothie.

Thing One asked for a smoothie today. And then he paused, and specified...."The one with the ice. The one with the orange ice cubes!"

More veggies in the Things' tummies. Another point for Mommy.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Slightly Hilarious Raspberry Coconut Muffins

Although I do not have a sensitivity to wheat (albeit not a major one) I have been looking for a way to diversify my kids' diet, because between the sandwiches and pretzels and pasta, etc that my kids eat they are eating way too much wheat. I have been nervous to journey into the world of gluten free baking, but my research into the health properties of coconut inspired me to try baking with coconut flour. This was the recipe that I found at The Cheeseslave.

Coconut Flour Blueberry Muffins
Makes 6 muffins
3 eggs (pastured)
2 tablespoons butter, grass-fed
2 tablespoons coconut milk or whole milk (I used whole raw grass-fed milk)
3 tablespoons honey (raw honey if possible)
8 ounces organic fresh or frozen blueberries (please do not use conventional blueberries — it’s important that they are organic) *
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla (organic, additive-free)
1/4 cup coconut flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1. Blend together eggs, butter, coconut milk, honey, salt, and vanilla.
2. Combine coconut flour with baking powder and thoroughly mix into batter until there are no lumps.
3. Drain blueberries and dry with paper towels. Add to batter with a spoon.
4. Pour batter into muffin cups. Bake at 400 degrees F (205 C) for 15 minutes.

* If you can’t find organic blueberries, I would use banana or some other fruit instead. It is important to buy organic berries.

Did the recipe as called for....except....I wanted to use coconut oil instead of grass fed butter. I had grass fed butter, I just really wanted to use my new toy, coconut oil! And I didn't have any blueberries, but I did have frozen raspberries. I only used 6 ounces or so because it looked like way too many raspberries to batter, perhaps raspberries are less dense than blueberries. I also used milk instead of coconut milk. And I ended up baking them a little longer than 15 minutes because they didn't seem done.

Well here is the beautiful, glorious, finished product that I turned out.
And now let me pull out the camera a little....

I had some trouble with these muffins. And I have a feeling that the changes I made to the recipe made it come out so poorly. Apparently you do need to follow baking recipes. My bravado was bound to catch up to me some time.

First off, they didn't seem quite done, so I cooked them closer to 18 minutes. But then the bottoms all got brown, and the middle of the muffin still seemed like it wasn't totally done. (Baking tip--if you bake with lightly colored bake ware, your baked goods will come out better, dark pans attract more heat, over baking your foods. This time I used my silicone muffins cups and placed them on a dark baking pan) I also think the raspberries had much more water than the called for blueberries, so they just sogged up the muffins making them undone in the middle. And because there is no gluten, alot more egg is needed to make the flour rise. So the texture of my muffins was more like a coconut fritata than the texture of fluffy grains. I really think that was caused by the excessive water content too. And for whatever reason the muffins did not come out of the cups. Maybe they really weren't done?
I did, however, like the way they tasted. They were nicely sweet, mildly coconutty, but it was not overwhelming. The outside part of the muffins felt like a grain flour muffin on the mouth, but the insides were very soggy. Thank god the recipe only made 6 muffins, which means I can make another batch and correct my mistakes without having to choke down twelve overbaked-yet-raw-in-the-middle-muffins. The kids were okay with them, but they weren't begging for more....I will do this again, and I will get it right.
Cheeseslave, please don't hate me. I'll make you proud yet.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

kidHaven Regular Contributer

I am very pleased to announce that I will be a regular contributer to the grat site, a lovely site about parenting, kids and what to do with the little ones. My first guest post aired today, so please check it out, and be sure to subscribe to kidHaven, there is alot of great content over there.

Enjoy guys!!

One Family's Search For a Better Meal

CSA Week 18

Ok, who here is sick of my weekly CSA posts? I usually have good traffic on Mondays and Tuesdays and then it drops off only to come back on Thursdays and Fridays. It's okay, you can tell me when something gets tired and needs some revamping. There are only 4 more weeks of CSA deliveries anyhow. I would be a quitter if I abandoned these posts now. So perhaps you can in the comments section tell me how to make these posts better? I am planning on signing up for the CSA Winter share, so I would rather not bore you all to death throughout the winter.
On that note, I would like to take a moment to think about the future. Anybody can eat locally during the summer months when vacation time is plentiful and everything is in bloom. I think it is harder come fall, because while there is still a bountiful harvest, there is less variety and the veggies are maybe not typical American favorites. I am going to try to continue to eat locally even as the different stalls at the farmer's market shut down. I am scared of winter. What the hell are we going to eat? DH and the Things might finally revolt and shove tater tots down my thoat....
On that note this week we got a cornucopia of veggies: 2 pounds of fingerling potatoes, one head of bok choy, a bunch of beets, one head of lettuce, a bunch of dill, one enormous acorn squash, four hot chiles, 2 bell pepper, 2 beefsteak tomatoes, 2 green zebras (these have been my favorite all season), 25 yellow cherry tomatoes (I chose these over the purple cherry tomatoes) and 40 ground cherries. Ground Cherries are these funny things that look and feel like cherry tomatoes, but they have a husk like tomatillos and they smell like cherries. I haven't the faintest idea what to do with them. Do I eat them raw? Do I saute them? I am stumped. This might require the internet.

Don't forget to tell me off in the comments section ;) Just kidding.