Monday, June 27, 2011

Why I Make My Own Salad Dressing

My husband took our two older boys with him to a speaking engagement this evening, and my littlest is on his 5th serving of salad... and so I had time to write a quick post! (I'm not exaggerating about the 5th serving!)

Look at that happy little face! I am happy for him to eat his lettuce drenched in this homemade salad dressing because it is super nutritious, and he obviously is enjoying every bite!

I don't use measurements, but here's an approximation of what I used:

2 organic strawberries, stems removed
pinch of celtic sea salt
1/4 cup good quality apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup local unrefined honey
1/2 cup good quality olive oil

I just put these in the food processor and blend them up. Easy Easy. 3 minutes - tops. But like I said... I don't use measurements, so just taste and see what you need to add to yours.

So here is why I go to the trouble of making my own dressing....

The first reason is because of the quality of ingredients. Mainly, I do it for the oil. By the time most oils get to our supermarket shelf, they are rancid... and this applies to the oils in salad dressings. Also, for reasons too numerous to write now, we do not eat vegetable oil or canola oil either...which are the oil of choice in most pre-made dressings.

But besides that...the good quality sea salt is full of essential minerals, the apple cider vinegar has probiotics and balances our PH, the unrefined local honey is full of vitamins, minerals and tons of enzymes, and the olive oil is fresh and full of plenty of healthy antioxidants.

The second reason that I make my own dressing is because we can have a different taste every night! We eat salad at least daily, sometimes twice a day, and I want to keep my family interested! Last night we had French, tomorrow we might have Ranch... it's always a surprise for them! If you have a mini food processor (mine is tiny) it makes the work a breeze, but you can also just use a fork or a whisk and and mix it by hand. (My little food processor has been going strong since I bought it over 6 years ago - and I use it two or three times daily - so I think it's a great little investment)

So that's it for my quick post... try the strawberry dressing. I think I'll go eat the rest of it with a spoon ;)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


I love making soup for lunch. It's so easy... just throw some veggies into a pot set on low as you clean up from breakfast, and don't think about them again until lunch time! Here's what we ate today for lunch... (forgive the bad photograph)

1 bag organic frozen red and green bell peppers
1 head organic cauliflower
1 bag organic mini carrots
1 bag frozen artichokes hearts

Boil in pot after breakfast on low.

Just before serving, peel fresh ginger and garlic, and throw into blender. Add about 5 tablespoons (or so) of butter, cooked vegetables and cooking liquid, salt, pepper, organic curry powder, organic ground red pepper, and blend until smooth. Top with fresh cilantro.

Yum, yum.... and super nutrient dense. If I had any chicken stock on hand, I would have cooked the veggies in chicken stock for extra goodness! :)

Monday, April 11, 2011

In honor of Easter Candy!

All things in moderation, right? But seriously, when it comes to sugar... there is really no benefit whatsoever. Sugar is SO bad for us. I know we've been hearing that for so long that we are desensitized to the fact that it's true... so I wanted to write a quick post to help remind myself why I do not need sugar in my life, and why my children certainly don't either! So why did I put a picture of ice cream sandwiches? Keep reading to find out.. but first the inspiring part!

Mineral and Vitamin Depletion

When you eat refined sugar, your body takes nutrients from other cells to metabolize it because the sugar lacks the ability to do so on it’s own. Minerals like calcium, magnesium, sodium and potassium are taken from vital body parts to make use of the sugar you ingested. Over Time, the vital body processes requiring those minerals run down and become less efficient. So we’re actually stealing necessary nutrients from other parts of our body that need them the most just to deal with the excess amount of sugar in our body. This is why our cholesterol goes up, and why our immune system doesn’t work as well. We’re actually opening up the door and letting infection, inflammation and disease come into our bodies and make us sick again and again because we don’t have the proper nutrients to fend them off. The sugar is stealing them.

Sugar has an extremely harmful effect in unbalancing the endocrine system and injuring it’s component glands such as the adrenal glands, pancreas and liver. It may not seem to happen instantly, it actually takes years before it ruins your pancreas, your adrenal glands, throws your whole endocrine system out of kilter and produces a huge list of damage. But it does eventually happen. Then, blood sugar level fluctuate widely. This cause all sorts of chaos in our bodies.

Furthermore, it depletes B vitamins - and we know how important those are for normal function.

Bone Loss

As stated above calcium is one of the minerals that is depleted when sugar enters the body. Calcium serves a major roll in bone structure, and calcium also plays a key roll in keeping your teeth healthy and strong. Without it you become a higher risk to tooth decay and without calcium and a higher intake of sugar your teeth will rot that much faster.


The ever popular sugar high feels great for the brief moment that you have it but then after that you feel even worse. More tired, more fatigue, can barley keep your eyes open, more irritable, short tempered, and all your brain is telling you is to get more sugar. It’s like a sugar hang over. You get that surge of energy and everything in your body starts working harder and faster then that source runs out and your body just wants to shut down, and all that will take place with 30 min. Then the hangover starts. Now your body is trying to recover from that massive surge but remember only 10% of the sugar was used so your body still has a job to do by trying to regulate your blood sugar, and store those empty calories as fat as well as keeping every other organ in your body working at an optimal level. So while your body is working overtime to recover from your sugar rush all your brain wants to do is shut down, or take a nap. This is why after a big meal of refined sugars we want to go lie on the couch and crash for about an hour. Now most of us don’t have the capability to live like this, getting a sugar high then crashing. We've got things to do! So for the rest of the day we’re trying to fight the fatigue that we have created for ourselves. We’re not thinking clearly, we can’t focus, the day becomes stressful and it’s not as much fun anymore. And that’s the vicious cycle that we’ve been going through because this society has become addicted to sugar.

So - there are but a few of the many reasons not to eat sugar. I can attest from a life FULL of sugar, that eventually it does take a toll on your body and it's hard to heal. I'm dealing with that right now. And it's also hard to break those habits of eating a diet loaded in sugar. So while I do not want to deprive my children of the taste of sweet things, I need to remind myself the truth that the less they eat sweet things, the less they will truly crave them.

So here's my idea for next year: I'm going to make some homemade treats for my children that I approve of, and do a "trade in" when they are given gobs of sugary candy. Obviously I want to make mine more appealing... but wouldn't YOU trade in your bag of sweet tarts for an ice cream sandwich? Especially if your mama was REALLY talking the ice cream sandwich up?

Here's the recipe: Make ahead and freeze

Sandwiches: makes 24

2 -1/2 cups almond flour
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup organic butter or ghee, grated or cut into small pieces
1/3 cup honey
4 tablespoons cocoa powder

Directions: In the bowl of a stand mixer, food processor, or using a handheld mixer, mix all cookie ingredients until smooth. Separate dough into two equal pieces, and chill in the freezer until firm. Working quickly, place one piece of dough (keep the other in the freezer) between two sheets of parchment paper and roll to 1/8 of an inch thick. Use a circular cookie cutter or the top of a drinking glass (which is what we used) to make circles, or if you’re pressed for time use a pizza cutter to cut out squares. Place cookies 1 inch apart on parchment paper on a cookie sheet, and bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Allow to cool.

Repeat with the remaining dough, and if you’re cutting circles, also re-roll out the scraps. Return dough to the freezer for a few minutes any time that it becomes too soft to work with.

To make sandwiches, use a teaspoon and scoop an approximate teaspoon of ice cream onto the bottom of a cooled cookie. Top with another cookie and squish until the ice cream meets the edge all the way around. Repeat with remaining cookies. Store in the freezer.

Ice Cream:

  • 3 egg yolks (be sure you use good quality eggs from a local farmer who raises healthy pasture-fed chickens…I wouldn’t recommend eating raw eggs from the grocery store.)
  • 1/2 cup real maple syrup
  • 2-3 T. vanilla extract
  • 1 T. arrowroot (looks like cornstarch only it’s better for us)
  • 3 1/2 c. heavy cream/whipping cream, preferably raw, but for sure NOT ULTRAPASTEURIZED
  • dash sea salt

Beat egg yolks and blend in remaining ingredients. Pour into ice cream maker and process according to instructions.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Fast Food

We have never been a family that eats out a lot, but this year we have really tried to cut it out completely. At first, it was hard! Although small, the bulk of our eating out money was from me swinging by a fast food restaurant to grab something for the kids when I just hadn't planned well. Now that we are down to a one car family, I am rarely out and about without a specific purpose... and therefore it has really helped us accomplish our goal of not eating out at all.

But then the other day when I was out with the kids, the all-too-familiar-scenario came up again. I really did have enough time to run home and feed them before going to our last commitment... but I was just feeling lazy. So I drove up to Chick fil A. We LOVE that place. It was calling my name. The kids cheered as we pulled up. So.... I looked at the menu, and quickly tallied that for about $18 I could order 3 kids meals and 1 adult meal. I would have been full, but the boys (all THREE of them, even the baby) would still have been really hungry. $18 and we are still hungry? OK, let's just order the chicken nuggets and water. For each of us to have 8 nuggets and water, it was going to be $15. Eight nuggets and water is not what I call a good dinner. And I'd have to be crazy to think this was going to fill us up any more than the kid's meal scenario. This just didn't make sense to me. I can get a whole grass fed organic roast that will last us three meals for $18!

Soooo... I decided to go home and grab some fruit, raw veggies, raw cheese, lacto-fermented pickles, raw milk... and carry on to our next destination. Sure it took more effort and more time... but I felt SO much better. (and I didn't have to feed them again later!) Plus, I got to teach them about what our family values, and why I made the decision I made.

BUT EVEN AFTER ALL OF THAT... here I am....driving home alone from church today with the three kids... it's 12:45... it's cold outside... I know everyone was starving and I had nothing in the crock pot. I was tempted to pick up some chicken fingers on the way home. I resisted the urge, and am so glad... cause here's what I made...

Yummy! I picked up these pastured, organic, smoked sausages from the Farmer's Market. ($4)
I sauteed a bag of organic frozen onion, red and green peppers in some Palm oil (peppers -whole foods $2, palm oil - MRH - see previous post), added a tiny bit of leftover potatoes (I always keep on hand - see previous post), and salt and pepper. The last minute of cooking I added an entire head of garlic that I minced (.40 cents). Besides all of the antioxidant and cardiovascular benefits, garlic has wonderful anti-viral properties too, so I try to incorporate at least 1 whole head of garlic into our meals each day. I also try to only cook it as long as I need to to take the bite off, so the kids won't say "it's too spicy". The more raw it is, the more anti-viral properties. Keeps the vampires away too ;). Finally, I topped the dish with some lacto-fermented relish (whole foods $5, but we only used a few spoonfuls), to get in some good probiotics and help us digest our meal. This took me about 10 minutes and cost us about $7 for the whole family to eat.

So again, I must end with a disclaimer. Sometimes we do have to stop and grab fast food. And sometimes, we don't have to... we just want to. IT'S OKAY. We can still be friends, and I STILL think you are a good mommy and wife. { I still think I'm a good mommy and wife when I do it too :) } This is just an encouragement to try to make those stops fewer and further between. It's just better for our wallets and for our bodies.

Friday, February 18, 2011

One more word on Fats (maybe!)

In previous posts, I've attached links to learning about the importance of fats in our diet - especially animal fats. I just received a little booklet put out by the Weston A. Price Foundation that's purpose is to educate the general public on why the FDA's food pyramid is totally out of whack. So it's a very elementary, dumbed-down version, but still good basic stuff. I've read a great deal of the research behind their statements, and you can always go to their web site to find more in-depth information.

"Most people think that saturated fats are bad for them, and they try to avoid
butter, cream, lard and fatty meat. However, decades of scientific research
have shown that saturated fats are vital for human health. They are needed
for the function of the heart, the kidneys and the lungs; they support hormone
production, healing and cell function. They are essential for normal
growth and development, including the development of the brain.

Every cell in your body is surrounded by a membrane composed of billions
of fatty acids (fat molecules). At least half of these need to be saturated fatty
acids or your cells won’t work properly. It you avoid eating saturated fats like
butter and meat fats, then your body will crave simple carbohydrates like
sugar and white flour, because your body can make
saturated fats out of carbohydrates. The problem is
that consumption of refined carbohydrates depletes
the body of nutrients while animal fats, especially
fats of grass-fed animals, provide the body with
many important vitamins and minerals.

Healthy animal fats are necessary for the function of the thyroid gland.
When your thyroid gland is not working properly, you have low metabolism
and gain weight very easily. Also, if you are not eating healthy animal fats,
then you may crave carbohydrates, which cause weight gain in many people.

It is very unfortunate that people believe cholesterol is bad. Cholesterol is
one of the most important substances in the body. Human life would be
impossible without cholesterol. Cholesterol provides stability to your cells
so they function properly; and your body makes hormones, vitamin D and
bile salts for digesting fat out of cholesterol.
But doesn’t cholesterol clog arteries and cause heart disease? Actually, cholesterol
in our food and cholesterol levels in the blood have very little relationship
with heart disease. People who eat a lot of cholesterol often have very
low levels of cholesterol in the blood and people with low cholesterol levels
in the blood are just as prone to heart disease as those with high levels.

Cholesterol is the body’s repair substance. If you injure yourself, your body
will make more cholesterol to repair the damage.
Cholesterol is what your body needs to make steroid hormones. These
hormones are involved in healing and also help us deal with stress.
If you try to lower your cholesterol levels with diet or drugs, you may have
trouble healing or dealing with stress.

Cholesterol is critical to brain function and the formation of memory.
You may become depressed and have trouble remembering things if your
cholesterol is too low.

Sex hormones like testosterone and estrogen are made of cholesterol. If
your cholesterol is too low, you may not be able to have children or have
a normal sex life.

Cholesterol acts like an anti-oxidant in the body and protects us against
cancer. People with low cholesterol levels are more prone to cancer than
those with normal or high cholesterol levels.
The tragedy of the anti-cholesterol message is that it has led many people
to avoid high-cholesterol foods like eggs, meat, and butter, and instead
consume foods low in cholesterol but high in industrial seed oils and trans
fats – foods that are very unhealthy!
While a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet was originally intended only for
adults “at risk for heart disease,” today it is applied to everyone in the
population. When pregnant women avoid cholesterol and saturated fats
during pregnancy, they put their growing fetus at risk for developmental
problems; when children are denied cholesterol-rich animal fats, their
bodies cannot make all the necessary connections in the brain. Without
adequate cholesterol and saturated fat, children are at risk for developmental
problems, behavior problems, learning disabilities."

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Here's a list of where I get products just in case you don't have sources yet. I'd also LOVE to hear of anything anyone knows of that might be better... especially for a CSA for produce. I haven't joined one yet because I am not sure that it is worth the investment for those of us on a super tight budget - I tend to pick the cheapest and most filling veggies to stretch my dollar - so don't want that decided for me - But I LOVE the idea of supporting local farmers and also getting super fresh food grown in nutrient dense soil.


Laurel Creek Meats:

Some of the prices are not correct, like - ground beef is $3.99 /lb instead of the $3.40/lb that the site lists. However, this price includes tax, so it's still a great deal. I purchase ground beef and roasts from them.

Gourmet Pasture Beef:

If you order more than 10 lbs of ground beef, they give you a 10% discount, making ground beef $4 / lb. I'm ordering here this month to see which I like better. They dry age and grass finish, which is nice. I am also going to order some of the less expensive roasts - the $14.99 ones. They are 3-4 lbs, making the price anywhere from $5 to $3.75 per pound.

UPDATE: At the downtown Nashville Farmer's Market, the Mennonite gentleman sells ground beef for $3.50 / lb. I bought some from him today, and then met another merchant that cut me a deal for 12 lbs of ground beef for $20. His meat is even certified organic and grass fed and finished. Why so cheap, you ask? Well, his normal price is typically $3.99/lb but he had extra that he needed to sell.

Of course, if you have the means and freezer space to buy a whole or half cow, that is the way to go. There are several farmers I would be happy to give you the names of.


Laurel Creek Meats: $3.50/lb for a whole chicken $3.00 /lb for a whole chicken
Nashville farmers market: $2.65/ lb for a whole chicken


Laurel Creek Meats: $4.00 / dozen
Various co-ops for raw milk: $2 / dozen and up (where I get mine)
Nashville Farmers Market: $3.25 / dozen


Coconut oil, Palm oil, Cocoa powder, dried herbs, dried mushrooms, cocoa powder, elderberry for colds:
(please let me know if you are ordering and I'll go in with you - shipping is crazy for a few items but goes down the more you buy)

Olive oil:

-organic bulk grains (oats, rice, raisins, quinoa, etc)
-organic apples (in bags)
-some organic veggies (varies weekly)
-organic potatoes (in bags)
-organic tomato paste in glass jars
-organic frozen veggies
-celtic sea salt

-raw cheese
-organic mushrooms
-some organic veggies (varies weekly)
-organic frozen veggies
-brown rice noodles
-organic apple sauce
-cherry tomatoes (sometimes reasonably priced)
-almond flour
-coconut milk (in a can - the real thing - I know.. BPA... I might be taking this off the list)
-sour cream
-Dr. Bronner's liquid soap (I fill foam dispensers at every sink, and use it for my face and in the shower for the whole family)

-organic bananas
-organic apples (if around $1 /lb - otherwise Wholefoods)
-some organic veggies (varies weekly)
-organic herbs (only if on closeout - which they always seem to be)
-organic mushrooms

-organic spinach
-organic salad mix
-organic baby carrots
-frozen blueberries
-frozen mixed berries
-cherry tomatoes
-imported cheeses (varies weekly, look on label for raw)

My lists (in my head) for each store make for super quick trips. I know what I'm going in for each time and I know everything else in the store is not for me so I don't even have to look! :)

Here's a good tip for anyone that does not live in Nashville... just look up raw milk co-ops in your area, and contact the point person. Even if you do not want to purchase raw milk, they can probably point you to farmers that produce beef, chicken, and veggies in your area.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Homemade Chicken Stock

Ummm... Chicken Stock. So many uses... sauces, soups, flavoring...

But the best thing about Chicken Stock? The nutritional value. Homemade chicken stock has a natural ingredient which feeds, repairs, and calms the mucous lining in the small intestine. This inner lining is the beginning or ending of the nervous system. It is easily pulled away from the intestine through viruses , too many food additives... and parasites. Chicken soup... heals the nerves, improves digestion, reduces allergies, relaxes and gives strength. Hannah Kroeger - Ageless Remedies from Mother's Kitchen

Properly prepared, meat stocks are extremely nutritious, containing the minerals of bone, cartilage, marrow and vegetables as electrolytes, a form that is easy to assimilate. Acidic wine or vinegar added during cooking helps to draw minerals, particularly calcium, magnesium and potassium, into the broth. Dr. Francis Pottenger, author of several famous studies as well as articles on the benefits of gelatin in broth, taught that the stockpot was the most important piece of equipment to have in one's kitchen.
Sally Fallon - Nourishing Traditions

The main reason I feel SO good about serving homemade chicken stock - the gelatin it contains. Have you ever roasted meat... and after getting the leftovers out of the fridge the next day... saw some jello-like stuff? I used to throw it away in disgust. Who knew it was a super nutritious food?!

The public is generally unaware of the large amount of research on the beneficial effects of gelatin taken with food. Gelatin acts first and foremost as an aid to digestion and has been used successfully in the treatment of many intestinal disorders, including hyperacidity, colitis and Crohn's disease. Although gelatin is by no means a complete protein, containing only the amino acids arginine and glycine in large amounts, it acts as a protein sparer, allowing the body to more fully utilize the complete proteins that are taken in. Thus, gelatin-rich broths are a must for those who cannot afford large amounts of meat in their diets. Cont'd from Nourishing Traditions

Homemade stock made of animal bones, is an incredible source of minerals, electrolytes, and especially gelatin, all of which boost our health through important nutrients or improve our digestion (which goes completely hand in hand with our health and absorption of nutrients).

Besides all of this, for our family on a tight budget... animal protein, using broth in your soups, stews, rice, pasta sauces, etc. will enable your body to more adequately make use of the protein that you are able to eat!

Here's the simple way to make your own Homemade Chicken Stock:

1. Begin with the bones of a preferably organic, pastured chicken.

2. Put the bones in your crock pot, completely covered by cold water, add a few tablespoons of apple cider vinegar. Let this sit for about an hour.

3. Turn on low, and remove the scum that rises to the top after about 30 minutes to 1 hour. Next, add some veggies. I save the remnants of onion, celery and carrots whenever I'm chopping and preparing other dishes, and put them all in a plastic bag in the freezer until I'm ready to make stock. I just dump all these remnant pieces into my crock pot.

4.Let it cook for 24-48 hours. The longer the better because it draws out all of the gelatin and other nutrients from the bones.

5. Pour through a strainer and set broth aside to cool.

6. Put broth in containers.

7. Keep what you can use in a week in your fridge, and freeze the rest.

This was my yield from the batch. Check out the color! I placed them with sunlight behind them, and to my delight... the front two are almost opaque! Diluted to the consistency of what you would buy in the grocery store, I think I made about 12 containers of chicken stock. I used to buy organic, free range chicken broth (on sale) for $2.50 a box. So I am saving about $33 in what I would have spent on chicken broth... each time I use my leftover bones from our roast chicken to make stock. And it's ABSOLUTELY more nutritional.

Recently, I could tell a few of us were starting to fight off a cold, so I wanted to give us all a good dose of mushrooms... since they help our bodies to fight off viruses. (Mushrooms contain a group of compounds known as beta-glucans. These polysaccharides boost the immune system and help the body fight off foreign invaders such as flu and cold viruses. The mushrooms with the highest levels of beta-glucans are Shititake, Reishi, and Maitake)

Saute Mushrooms and Garlic. Add broth. Bring to a simmer. Add green peas and some cooked, diced potatoes {I keep these in my fridge for quick homemade hash-browns in the morning (see previous post)} Cook for 5 minutes. Lunch is served... and everyone loved it. Yummy!