Archive | September 2010

Post 3: Healthy Eating

Meet Meghan. She’s a real live Martha Stewart, but nicer. Honestly. I still remember the every dish of the 4-course meal she cooked the first time we came over for dinner. Yes, I am obsessed with food, but it was over three years ago, people. That’s a memorable meal, I don’t care who you are. One time I was having a bad day and came over for a visit, and she sent me home with wine in a sippy cup. Not sure if that’s legal, but don’t you like her already? She has recently relocated to a unique organic farming/residential neighborhood that has gained national attention. I am jealous of the farmer’s market within walking distance!!!!
Here are her very practical tips:
Gosh, it’s so hard! I could talk about this all day.
I try to buy local produce as much as possible. Local and seasonal is usually the least expensive, most nutritious and a lot more fresh.
Whole grains like brown rice, bulgar wheat, and whole grain pasta are staples. Packed with protein and so good for you.
Canned tomatoes from Italy (san Marzano) for soups and sauces are good in winter when you can’t buy farm tomatoes.
Boxed broth is $2 at trader joes and I use it for everything.
Fresh market has dry goods you can buy in bulk- grains, beans, etc.
I don’t eat meat but when I buy it for other people it is always organic and grass fed.
Coconut oil is so good for you- I use it to make popcorn. Not so good for you, but whatever:)
Plant an herb garden to add tons of color and flavor to meals. Cheaper than buying the $2 packets at the store.
Amy’s organic frozen meals are so good when u don’t feel like cooking.
Frozen berries and fruit for smoothies.
If I eat soy I make sure it is not genetically modified. If it says organic it is not gmo.
Bottom line, the least processed the better. It takes a little bit more effort at first, but you will feel amazing.
I still love a chip and I eat them regularly, but I balance chips with lots of greens and whole grains.
I don’t eat dairy so I use almond milk to cereal and coconut milk for creamer.
I will bake some chicken breast to have on hand for a sandwich or to put on a salad for dinner with walnuts.
Or just have some barbecue sauce for dipping and have the salad on the side.
Buckwheat noodles (also called Soba-has tons of protien) with broccoli sauteed in olive oil and some lemon.
I live on avocados.


Update on Sam

It’s been awhile since I’ve commented on Sam. It’s not that I don’t have things to say; it’s just that I’m not sure you’d believe them. I hardly do myself.
I have files and files on tips for infant eye contact, on signs of autism, on evaluations and write-ups and doctor forms for Sam. I think it will be the story I tell till I’m 100. It felt so real, those days and weeks where Sam wasn’t interested in looking at you, woke up at night crying inconsolably, and refused to nurse. It was terrifying because I felt like I didn’t know who my baby was, really. Would he ever be normal? What was wrong? How could I fix it? Hope has never been my strong point. Others hoped for me. Todd. Those who prayed for us. And, mostly, my mom. Early in the struggle she said she had lots of hope because it was so early, and that she believed we would tell him about this when he was 10, the story of how God answered our prayers for him. For some reason, I clung to that. In my darkest scariest moments, I would ask her: “Mom, do you still think we will tell him about this when he’s ten? Still?” She would laugh and always say yes, and yes, and yes. And I would close my eyes and picture us all, our family…we would be at the beach (because the beach is my happy place, I guess) and Todd and I would be sitting on beach chairs and Sam would be running up to us, showing us shells and waves and pointing out kites and everything else. If Mom believed it could happen, it could.
I had forgotten about that little vision until I started planning our family vacation this year. I was laughing in my head at how much fun Sam was going to have at the beach. I couldn’t wait to bring him, because I knew (and I was right) that he’d be running around pointing out the waves, and the sand, and telling us when he saw a dog or a shell… And at some point, it hit me. The vision. Mom was right, just nine years off. Our miracle did happen, it just didn’t take that long.
Sam, I want to remember forever how you say “Go Skins, Boo Cowboys” and clap when everyone laughs. How you said, “Daddy, home, see Sam, happy” the other day when Dad walked in from work. How you remember the “awesome rabbit” in Grammy’s yard and the next three words are always “Johnny,” “bushes” “catch” because you thought it was the coolest thing ever when John Haggan tried to hunt it. You tell me every time we pass a garbage truck, a tanker, the gas station on 73, or a bulldozer, which to you is simply, “bull.” You ask for noodles and beans or chicken and fries when you’re hungry, and can tell me every item on the “things that move” page. You remind us about the “hay ride,” the lazy river, and when you tell us, “big one coming,” we know you are remembering the “awesome ocean.” You ask to read “Humpy Dumpy,” and love to point out his shoes. Your favorite song is “This little light of mine,” and I know you want me to sing it when you say, “bushel, no.” It took me awhile to get it, but now I do. You love learning the name for the whisk and the teapot and the egg masher. All lotion is “desitin,” all water is “Lake Norman,” and every train is Thomas. The cutest things in the world are when you ask for SamMule, call me Mommy, Mommy, and when you remind yourself frequently, “Daddy, see Sam, soon.”
We love you Sam. You make us laugh, keep us on our knees, and remind us daily of The God Who Hears. He loves you more than we do. Love, Mom and Dad.

Sweet Potatoes and Broth

My Aunt Rebecca has many interests. This morning she was on the radio (Baltimore Talk Radio) singing a song she wrote about the government treading on our rights. (You can preview the song here.) She gives riding lessons to handicapped children, wrote a curriculum on overlooked figures in Black History, wrote and published kids’ album on horses, oh, and she is our family resident expert on alternative medicine. (Sometimes I think of her as a “witch doctor,” but I mean that in the best possible way :). She lives on The Farm in Maryland, and is a wealth of knowledge. Her thoughts on healthy eating are below. I like it because you can hear her talking when you read it. Great tips!
If you were to study the components of a sweet potato or, say, some wonderful homemade beef or chicken broth, the life-giving elements you would discover in these foods and how these elements all work together for our good, are truly amazing! Food is a miraculous gift from God. How sad when these gifts are over-processed, stripped of all their dense nutrients, fortified with synthetic vitamins and then sold to the uneducated consumer. When shopping for our families, it is important to keep two thoughts in mind. First, is this a “nutrient dense” food? And, second, did God make it? If the package says enriched or fortified the answer is a resounding, “No!” Preparing food for your family is a matter of common sense. Here are just a few things to get you thinking and to help you figure out for yourself whether a certain food is one that you want to put on your family’s table or not.
1. God did not make ‘low fat’ anything. Man has decided that he knows best and has stripped the fat and therefore much of the nutrition from many foods. There is a lot of information available about the myths of high cholesterol.
2. “You are what you eat and you are what your meat eats.” When you consume beef and dairy products from animals that are raised on grains, not grass and sunshine as God intended, you are not receiving His nutritious gift and in fact may be hurting yourself.
3. God did not make artificial sweeteners. He made raw sugar, honey, maple syrup, etc. Did you know that aspartame is derived from the waste products of e.coli bacteria?
Do you see my point? It is, really, just a matter of common sense, and believe it or not you will eat less, and feel truly satiated if the foods you are consuming are “real.” Now, how do you take this common sense and fit it into your family’s budget?
Food is the most important item that I purchase, and although I may not be able to afford everything I would like to consume, this has always been my plan of action. Before I spend money on anything, I ask myself one question: “Is this purchase something I really need?” Is this tube of mascara necessary? What about this cartful of “stuff” from the dollar store? Hmmm. Are there hygiene and cleaning products that I could make myself or simply do without? Vacations? Christmas presents? Trips to the local coffee shop? The list goes on and on and it all adds up! When I look back on how people lived years ago, I learn a lot about what is truly necessary for us to live. There are many areas where, if I choose, I could be more frugal.
So let’s get back to food. Keep in mind that you want to purchase foods that are “nutrient dense.” This means you may have to do some searching before you can find a good source. The local grocery store may not be your first choice. Fresh, free range eggs are packed full of nutrition and will easily last a few weeks in your refrigerator. Take an afternoon ride and keep your eyes peeled for the little inconspicuous cardboard signs posted on telephone poles or mail boxes that say, “eggs for sale.” If the place looks alright, don’t be shy, just pull up! They put the sign there because they want you to stop in and “bother them!” It may sound silly but sometimes something as simple as a nutrient-dense egg reminds me of how great God truly is. Oh, make sure you ask how old the eggs are.
Then there are farmer’s markets and roadside stands. Yes, take advantage of these. Always try to find out if their produce is local, because this means less of the crap they had to spray on your food for prolonged shipping and shelf life.
Have you ever seen the small family roadside stand with no attendant? You know the ones where they trust you to stop and purchase using the honor system putting your money in a small box under the counter? Well by all means, stop there too. Don’t worry that some little old lady might be peeking through the living room curtain to see who’s pulled up at the end of the lane. Take a minute and see what they have! Maybe you don’t want it for supper but you can freeze just about anything. Which reminds me. Freezing is much easier and far healthier then canning.
Meat is the expensive item. Keep in mind the amount that you truly NEED to eat, not the amount you WANT to eat. Ask around for local butchers, as their cattle, more then likely, have not come from filthy feed lots where they are primarily eating corn and soybeans instead of grass as God intended. Also keep in mind that shipping cattle long distances for butchering puts them under heavy stress which causes them to release toxins that taint the meat.
Making soups and stocks from pasture-raised animals is easy, economical and extremely healthy! You can add bone marrow or chicken stock to anything you are preparing for extra nutritional value. I’m sure you’ve seen the popular picture of the old man at the table, head bowed and eyes closed, thanking God for the small bit of sustenance that he was about to eat. I like to think about the miraculous gift of nutrition that God was providing him through a little bowl of broth!
Don’t put a lot of pressure on yourself when planning meals. Concentrate mainly on “nutrient dense” foods and you and your family will be fine. I remember my mother saying that when she was a little girl she took an apple and a piece of bread with butter (mind you, not margarine or a low fat spread) to school each day. And, oh, what a big treat it was if they got to take a sweet potato! Needless to say, we eat way too much nowadays.
Food has become such an obsession with many of us, and advertising doesn’t help. I will always remember a young mother I met this year in D.C., at Glenn Beck’s “Restore America” event. She told me of an instance where they had taken the kids to Burger King for a treat. Her 10-year-old daughter commented that she didn’t like what was written on her bag. The mom asked her what she meant. “Well, the bag says, ‘Have it your way,’ and I just think that’s rude.”
I pray that God will constantly remind me that I can’t always have food “my way.” Maybe all I really need is a sweet potato or a little bowl of homemade broth.
One last thing. Experts say that we should be eating fermented foods sort of like a condiment with your meal. A small serving, say 1 tablespoon, with your meal gives you great added flavor but more importantly tremendous health benefits. I wanted to leave you a simple recipe that is packed full of nutrition and tons of good bacteria that are essential for a healthy gut and immune system. Please find other fermented recipes and try them also, as they are extremely easy and economical. Get your children accustomed to these foods at an early age!

New Series: Healthy Eating, Happy Eating

Welcome to Part I of the new series with a cheesy title. It was either that or no blog post today, because you have to have a title for a series, and I was too tired to think of a good one. So there.
I have “interviewed” a few people who eat healthier than me to try to find out:
1. what is they think is MOST important regarding healthy eating
2. what they actually have for dinner
I have learned a ton, and can’t wait to share it. If you also have tips to eat well on a budget or healthy meal ideas, please share!Post number one is from Katie. Katie is the kind of person who finds the most effective way to do everything. Therefore (of course) she has found the most effective way to eat healthy on a budget. She probably should write a book, and she actually sort of did. But it’s all good, so I’m sharing it:


Can’t say I’m an expert by any means… but here are a few things I’m doing to try to keep our family healthy:
– I’ve been watching our diet to attain a pH balance (between acidic and alkaline – the vast majority of Americans are extremely acidic which causes numerous health problems over time) – this is really critical to your body’s ability to fight off germs, disease, etc. – even cancer. You can test your pH using saliva or urine tests that are quite cheap and can buy these at Healthy Home Market up near Brandi’s house or online.
– Reduce our intake considerably of white flour, white rice, sugar, and all animal products (meat or dairy). All of these lend themselves to making you quite acidic (in reference to the pH scale above) so reducing them makes a big difference. I usually only cook something with meat in it a couple of times a week – and even that is more for Titus than for us. Of course, to maintain proper protein and iron levels, you do need eat a lot of beans and other high protein foods in it’s place.
– I try to ideally make at least half of our intake fruits and vegetables (mostly vegetables) because they are alkaline bringing the balance back up. Raw is better, but any will do. Lemon, lime, cucumber and ginger are all great to add to water… you’re supposed to drink a lot of water – your weight in pounds divided by 2 – that many ounces a day.
– I’m becoming more and more convinced of the importance of going organic (read the Organic Manifesto if you have time – it’s in the library) because it is arguably more healthy with more nutrients in the soil, but also because it is not loaded up with pounds of pesticides, fertilizers, herbicidesfungicides, etc. How about this for a statistic? Every year the amount of pesticides, etc. added to agricultural soil is equivalent to 4 pounds for EVERY American – I can’t remember what the big number was now, but is that not ridiculous? The book goes into more detail about how that harms our land and water, how it is causing global warming and most immediately interesting, how much damage all those chemicals do to our bodies. I know on the surface it looks like it is more expensive to go organic, and it might require a slight increase in the budget, but overall there are several ways to keep the costs low even with organic food such as:
– buy what’s in season and if it is something you want a lot of, consider canning or freezing it to have for other months of the year. This alone will save a lot of money AND you’ll much higher quality food if you buy it locally and in season rather than having shipped from who knows where and picked before it has the full nutrient level.
– make a lot of foods yourself to avoid processed foods and the additional chemicals and preservatives added (I make my own yogurt, bread, most baby/toddler food, and as much as possible from scratch.
– Good places to buy healthy and organic food for reasonable prices: Bradford Store, Healthy Home Market, Trader Joe’s, farmer’s markets (but make sure they really are local farmers), Amazon (right now there is a promotional Amazon Prime account for free for three months for mom’s. I can send the link if you can’t find it), Neighborhood Produce (but this is NOT organic, so I may not do it much longer – if you do, just make sure to wash it well with a one part vinegar to three parts water bath for 20 minutes) and Costco – I know I’m a broken record on this one – but I haven’t found cheaper prices for organic foods than I do at Costco – I really think the membership is well worth the money saved, particularly on the organic stuff but also on all your baking items.
– and of course, growing your own will always be cheaper. We hope to build our garden more and more and eventually make enough to can all our tomatoes for the year and things like that. Use fresh herbs for flavor rather than additives with chemicals in them when feasible.
In terms of recipes, we have salads just about every day feasible for either lunch or dinner – usually consists of a mix of lettuce or spinach, celery, carrots, cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, avocadoes (this helps ease the no meat thing as well), and whatever else is on hand – broccoli, cauliflower, whatever. I also make a lot of brown rice and black bean concoctions… either just adding onion, chili powder and cumin or making it with more veggies – tomatoes, corn, jalapenos, peppers, onion, etc. Very cheap, but has full proteins and a lot of other nutrients necessary. I also make a lot of pasta primavera – whole wheat pasta and the more veggies the better – squash, zucchini, broccoli, peas, carrots, tomatoes, mushrooms, onion, peppers, garlic, etc. And finally, I also make a veggie dish either with brown rice, spanish rice or no rice. I just chop up asparagus, zucchini, squash, green pepper, tomatoes, onion, garlic, jalapenos, celery, etc. and add some lemon juice, herbs, etc. When we do cleanses, we usually have a lot of this dish since it is straight up veggies.
I think one thing I’ve learned is that healthy food generally just takes more time – to buy, to grow, to cook and to preserve. It’s worth it to me though to stay home and attain/make healthy food than to have an excess in our budget. Sorry to write a book in response – I didn’t expect it to be this long! I’d love any other tips you have or learn as well!

Hope you enjoyed! Stay tuned for more!

A Good Book. Or an evil book. One or the other.

There are good books, and then there are good vacation books. This weekend on vacation, I read a good book. I do not recommend it for vacations, if you are like me and want to eat with anywhere you want an unrestrained conscience, like Mammy’s Kitchen and Dunkin Donuts or the place with the “world’s best French fries.” But alas, this vacation my palate was ruined for French fries. And soft ice cream, and chicken tenders. And this, my friends, is very, very hard to do.
The vicious, merciless, unforgiving harbinger of the torture is the book called “In Defense of Food.” I am glad I read it, even though I now have no idea what to eat for breakfast tomorrow.
His “thesis” is this: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” And that’s it. The part that made the most impact on me was “eat food.” So obvious, right? Not really. Apparently, much of the “food” in America today is just processed chemicals. It’s easy to dismiss these claims to the obvious imposters like Ramen and marshmallows and Cocoa Puffs. I mean deep down, we all knew God never made marshmallows, didn’t we? But it’s not just these foods. The “industrialization” of food is rampant, affecting wheat bread and low-carb spaghetti and low-fat peanut butter and almost every kind of yogurt, and ketchup and – where does it end??? Even the produce isn’t safe. Mass-produced, depleted of nutrients, covered in chemicals…I tell you, food is almost ruined for me forever.
Almost. Because then I remembered the farm. “The farm” is the term we cousins use to describe the family plot in Maryland where most of my best childhood memories are made. As a kid I loved making forts in the apple orchard and eating Schwan’s pizza with Grammy and playing flashlight tag and those sorts of things. In recent visits, I admire different things. Like the chickens who lay eggs for breakfast and the outdoor pizza oven and the land to grow whatever you want in a salad. I am reminded that it is possible to do like my book says and escape the “Western diet.” But it’s not easy. Luckily I have some good examples, like Aunt Rebecca on the farm, and others who manage to bring the farm to suburbia, in one way or another. Over the next few weeks I will be posting the thoughts of others who I respect for their healthy, frugal living. I hope you enjoy those thoughts, and I welcome yours!