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I make everything from scratch, to avoid ingesting hormones, additives, and preservatives that I consdier pernicious, or at least whose beneficial or pernicious qualities are an open question. Dinners, desserts, soda, sauces and jams, breakfast cereal, trail mix, all sorts of bread. (Still haven’t made my own noodles, because I can’t seem to run out of the ones I have. I’ll get there Susy Morris, I swear.)

At almost 60, I’m a remnant of the last generation that routinely learned to cook at home. While I never stopped making dinner- the stews and soups and roasted chickens- I had largely abandoned baking, picking it back up a few years ago. I started with crackers, then scones, and moved on to pie (yes the crust too, thanks for asking).

It turns out to be like language– while I do rely on recipes, I found baking intuitive for the most part; call it “touch memory” from my childhood. Like smells, it turns out the texture of a proper pie crust, and the correct amount of cookie dough to scoop up, and the shape of a pita are learned skills that lurk in the interstices of your brain until you need them again.

But I didn’t trust myself with bread.

I’ve been through many recipes- the Browneyed Baker, and Mark Bittman and my favorite legacy cookbook. I’ve watched the complex terror that is America’s Test Kitchen’s minute description of how to fail at breadbaking. I followed every step to the letter. I asked my pro-baker buddy for tips. But it wouldn’t rise, and it didn’t look right, and the crumb was too loose or too dense.

The only expert I didn’t consult was that lizard brain of mine, which kept telling me that none of my breads felt right.

A month ago I went to a bread baking demonstration, expecting to find That One Weird Trick That Will Make Your Bread Turn Out Correctly Every Time!

And I did.

The presenter started throwing ingredients into a bowl– warm water, melted butter, yeast, sugar, coffee, salt. He dismissed experts and recipes– “two cups of liquid, some kind of shortening, yeast, flavoring like salt, 4-5 cups of flour. That’s bread. Any kind of bread– flat bread, loaf bread, fancy bread.” Now this sounded more like cooking, and less like that scary, scientific, chemical-reactions, cautiously weighed ingredients mystery that is baking. And I remembered baking bread with my mother; she used to have a cookbook out, but I seldom remember her looking at it. She would just make the bread, and tell me “this is what the dough should feel like when it’s ready to rise, and this is what it feels like when it’s ready to bake.” Here’s how it looks and here’s how it smells.

So I started making bread, instead of reading recipes. The first time I ignored the recipe, I forgot the shortening in a loaf bread. Bread without shortening gives you flat bread, like pita, so you can imagine how nice and dense that loaf was.

But it freed me from the tyranny of perfection– I made edible bread armed only with ingredients and my knowledge. So I made another loaf (and forgot to punch it down– this results in a bread “balloon” in case you’re wondering), but it looked and tasted like bread. I’m on my fifth loaf now, and third successful loaf. Easy, in fact, as pie turned out to be.

Standing at the counter kneeding bread feels not just like, hey, I’m going to have some delicious bread in a few hours. It feels like I’m Eve, or Miriam, or Mrs. Ingalls, or my mother, doing what women do, and have always done.

Making bread.

DSCN1163

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ER

This past week has been Spring Break in my area of South Texas. Everyone has been making plans, going somewhere or just planning to relax at home. “Spring Break” doesn’t really mean anything to me. No kids, no one heading to visit us… it was just another week on the calendar. Well, that was what I thought. From my post last week you learned about my many limitations.

I really need to back up to the end of January when this all started. I had a complete hysterectomy. It was necessary and unavoidable. There was no way I could leave either ovary because of tumors (happy to report they were benign!) I can get real technical and use all the medical explanations, but I will keep it simple for now. Complete hysterectomy. Done. Most of us know that there is always a risk with any surgery; big or small. Most of us know that sometimes there are complications. For me, those things are always in the back of my mind.

I am in tune with my body. I always have been. I can tell if something just isn’t quite right and I am not afraid to go have it checked out. I grew up in a household with a doctor (my mom) and I was always interested in things so when someone would get sick, I payed attention and learned. If someone I know gets sick or diagnosed with something, I tend to do research and learn more about it. When I head into a doctor’s appointment I come with a notebook and questions.

I was just starting to get out and do things over the past two weeks. Starting to do a bit of grocery shopping and able to push a lightly–loaded cart. A week ago Friday was a busy day for me. I had several stops and errands. Spring Break week was to be busy. A friend and I were doing a presentation on the Herb of the Year – Elder (sambucus or elderberry) to a group of Master Gardeners. I had a field trip and lunch arranged for the garden club I am in. My friend and I were doing our Elder presentation for the local Herb Society. Busy week. Samples to make, etc. Friday I was wrapping up loose ends with all these stops and errands.

Just a short walk to the truck was hard. I was short of breath and having chest pain. I knew it wasn’t my heart, it was my lungs. My mind thinks; blood clots or walking pneumonia, but I don’t have other symptoms other then the shortness of breath and lung pain. I ran a few more errands and I didn’t feel any better so I headed home. Saturday there was no change so I headed over to the local Urgent Care. They didn’t do any scans of x-rays, they suspected the same thing I did – blood clot. Again, since I only a few symptoms, they basically gave me two options – to head to the newly built ER or head down into town to the hospital where I had my hysterectomy to that ER because it would be one less transfer if I needed to be admitted. They stressed that the hospital ER might be my best choice because all my information was in their system including my medical insurance and it would save time. Down the road to the hospital I went (you guessed it, I drove myself)

I was quickly ushered into triage. After they listened to my “story” (hysterectomy, shortness of breath, etc) they asked me if I worked in the medical profession. Nope, that’s just me. They were all taking bets that it was a blood clot (I just didn’t know that at the time) and off for a CT scan I went. Then all the commotion started. The scan showed that I had a very large pulmonary saddle emboli (really big blood clot hanging out between both lung at the heart.) That is not good! Then I had ultra sounds of both legs where numerous more blood clots where found. Just then my husband arrived. They were sending me off to have a filter installed (an IVC filter – Intra Vena Cava -a filter put in below the lungs and heart above the kidneys to catch and break up the additional clots that were traveling up.) The staff that had not seen me were looking for my husband to sign on sent forms. The doctors said I could sign my own forms because I was “conscious and alert” (because for the size of the clot, I really shouldn’t have been – just another symptom I didn’t have.) Filter installed smoothly. Time to head up to ICU and settle in.

From the reactions of the doctors and nurses in the ER and every doctor I met and checked in with me and followed me in ICU, there is a consensus that I am lucky to be here. Once the ER docs saw my CT results they couldn’t believe I was conscious and coherent because I didn’t have any other symptoms and haven’t had any of the other symptoms like:

  • Swelling in my legs
  • Heat in my legs from the clots
  • Pain in my legs from the clots or when they examined them
  • dizziness,

So my Spring Break was an unplanned trip heading towards the big city, a room with a view on the 5th floor (ICU), room services three times a day. Amenities and bonuses are just too long to list so here are just a few (and of course not free for charge)

  • Bed Pan – because I am not allowed out of bed at all! (by the way, those things just DO NOT work at all. Not at all!)
  • Blood pressure cuff going off every 15 minutes all day and night (I know it is important, I can live with it)
  • 6 electrodes stuck to my chest with all the wires going everywhere
  • IV (Intravenous/drip) catheter – for me, this hurts alllll the time.
  • Blood thinning medications
  • A low-sodium, low vitamin K, cardiac diet (ahhhh my garden is full of vit. K –  KALE, SPINACH, BROCCOLI – that’s not on the coumadin list)*
  • A adjustable bed (wow, they did let me move enough to operate that one on my own!)
  • Cable TV (a treat – watched the Food Network mostly – what a surprise)

Adjust bed

I have a long recovery ahead of me. I can walk about as fast as a snail’s pace fairly well right now. Anything faster and I am super short of breath and have terrible pain in my lungs. Walking and talking around completely out of the question, my oxygen saturation drops below 90 (not good) and I need oxygen (which I have at home and use as needed during the day and use all night.) Since I can’t walk and talk at the same time, you can see how how chewing gum is completely out of the question. I haven’t chewed gum in years so that is good! I can barely do anything in the kitchen, just too much exertion (I can make toast! but I can’t make bread) I will be on blood thinners for a minimum of 6 months and the filter (Intra Vena Cava) will be kept in for that period of time too. It will take that long for my lungs to heal and get back to taking a normal, pain-free breath of air.

Right now we are linking the pulmonary saddle emboli as a complication from my hysterectomy because we do not know if I have a family history of clotting. Once I am off coumadin I will go through a full hematology work up to find out.

My spring and summer and fall look pretty bleak in terms of a garden (no, this isn’t a “poor me” post.) There is no way I can plant a garden. Even if my friends and neighbors plant it, I can’t water it, weed it, harvest it. Hopefully by June I can drive and hit the framers markets. Again, this isn’t a “poor-me” post, this was more about sharing my recent turn of events in hopes that it spreads some awareness and could bring up some discussions as I go through the healing process.

What do you think this is?

Kale

*Also, eating foods high in vitamin K (kale, spinach, broccoli and more) is a big topic of discussion when it comes to blood thinners. If you are interested, I would like to incorporate that into a post(s) as I go through this process. Comment and let me know.  I am just starting so it is fresh and new to me.

Sincerely, Emily

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My contribution to ye olde NDIN blog this week is a re-post from my blog, Pocket Pause. I decided that after drooling over these butter photos on Wednesday, i’d like to do some more drooling on Friday. Forgive me. – Miranda

Butter was given a bad name years ago, replaced with man-made margarine packaged in wasteful plastic tubs full of heart attack causing ‘frankenfood’ with fewer calories. To be completely honest, i kind a like margarine. It’s salty. You know what is also salty? Homemade butter blended with SALT.

As you probably know, many of the authors here at Not Dabbling are advocates for drinking raw milk. I prefer raw goat’s milk, which is why we’ll be raising miniature Nubian goats, but also enjoy raw Jersey milk and belong to a local co-op who supports a young farmer with her 2 cows. I realize that the ‘raw milk debate’ is a ‘thing’ these days, but i’m not afraid to say that i prefer raw milk, can digest it MUCH easier than pasteurized milk, and it is my opinion that the enzymes and other goodies found in raw milk are important and worth whatever ‘risk’ there may be in skipping pasteurization. It’s all about the handling, folks! Raw milk is also known as “cream line” milk because the cream rises to the surface. I skim off this cream to make butter, and to leave my drinking milk at a lower butter fat percentage, closer to 2% milk. Whole milk is delicious, but i don’t think my waistline needs to be ingesting that on a regular basis. ;)

I encourage you to visit this website, as well as some of the sources they reference at the bottom. The entire article is wonderful, but here is the cheat-sheet “20 reasons butter is good for you,” which is worth a Pin, if you ask me. ;)

  1. Butter is rich in the most easily absorbable form of Vitamin A necessary for thyroid and adrenal health.
  2. Contains lauric acid, important in treating fungal infections and candida.
  3. Contains lecithin, essential for cholesterol metabolism.
  4. Contains anti-oxidants that protect against free radical damage.
  5. Has anti-oxidants that protect against weakening arteries.
  6. Is a great source of Vitamins E and K.
  7. Is a very rich source of the vital mineral selenium.
  8. Saturated fats in butter have strong anti-tumor and anti-cancer properties.
  9. Butter contains conjugated linoleic acid, which is a potent anti-cancer agent, muscle builder, and immunity booster
  10. Vitamin D found in butter is essential to absorption of calcium.
  11. Protects against tooth decay.
  12. Is your only source of an anti-stiffness factor, which protects against calcification of the joints.
  13. Anti-stiffness factor in butter also prevents hardening of the arteries, cataracts, and calcification of the pineal gland.
  14. Is a source of Activator X, which helps your body absorb minerals.
  15. Is a source of iodine in highly absorbable form.
  16. May promote fertility in women.9
  17. Is a source of quick energy, and is not stored in our bodies adipose tissue.
  18. Cholesterol found in butterfat is essential to children’s brain and nervous system development.
  19. Contains Arachidonic Acid (AA) which plays a role in brain function and is a vital component of cell membranes.
  20. Protects against gastrointestinal infections in the very young or the elderly.

Those are some great reasons to eat butter! So, let’s make some! (If you don’t have access to raw milk, pick up some organic cream instead.)

Homemade Butter

First you must separate the cream from the milk. Skimming the cream was difficult when i purchased my raw milk in regular milk gallons. Luckily, my local farmer sells her milk in wide mouthed half gallon mason jars. We bring in a jar as a ‘deposit’ when purchasing the milk. I have a handy little spoon (the type that looks like a mini ladle) that i use to carefully scoop out the heavy cream into another large mason jar, or in this case a food processor. Making butter is easy: all it takes is agitation. When making butter with the cream from a half gallon, i usually do it “by hand” in a large jar: shake shake shake shake. This batch was rather large, however so i saved time and sore muscles by agitating in a food processor. Easy. Though, i always have a hard time not just stopping at whipped cream. ;)

As you agitate the cream it will slowly begin to thicken, turn to whipped cream, then begin to separate. Once you get chunks of butter suspended in a milky liquid (buttermilk!), stop and move the operation into a quart jar. Carefully pour out the buttermilk (and use for baking and other recipes) and replace with super cold water. Shake, pour off, pour on cold water, repeat until the water runs clean. Place the butter into a bowl along with a pinch of salt and press any residual water out with a wide spoon. You can leave your butter salt-free, but the salt will help to preserve it, and i personally love the flavor. To store my butter, i pressed it into ice cube trays and covered them with wax paper and froze them. Now i have perfect little butter loaves: one in the fridge, the rest in a ziplock in the freezer. You can further preserve butter by making ghee.

I had a delicious piece of toast with a thin slice of melting homemade butter on it this morning, as did my husband. In his words: “man, this is delicious with your butter on it.” Yes it was. Go make some butter! It’s fun to do with kids, and it’s nutritious and good for you. Love margarine too much? Add some salt and maybe some other spices while you press out the water, and do yourself a favor: scrape out the cancer-spread and re-use the tubs for holding buttons or something.

How about you? What’s your stand on the “raw debate?”

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Since my husband and I decided we would switch our corgi, Pocket to a raw diet, we’ve done quite a bit of meat shopping. I’ve never been much of a meat eater, so the whole process is new to me, and much easier when i can find a local farmer who can give me advice and whom i can feel confident buying from. It’s especially nice when i get to see a flock of happy Boer goats watching me drive up the lane. We paid a visit to a local farm last week to pick up some meaty bones for Pocket, and some goat meat for us. Winn’s Livestock and Hatchery just north of Corvallis has affordable meat raised by a 4th generation farmer and his very friendly wife. April chatted back and forth with me via email to decide what was best for us to purchase, and we ended up with a freezer full of bones for Pock, a pound of ground goat meat for us plus a shoulder steak that i’ll cut up into stew meat in the next week or two.

goatsoup2

You can read more about my delicious ‘goat chilly’ at An Austin Homestead. You may be wondering about my choice of meat. Goat isn’t overly popular here in America. But guess what: it’s the most popular meat in the rest of the WORLD. There’s great reason for that: goats are small, able to graze on non-ideal pasture (read sticks and blackerberry brambles), have a relatively high dressing percentage to their body mass, and have some of the most nutritious meat of any livestock. This article has a lot to say about the boons of eating goat meat, as does this one. What you’ll find when studying about goat meat is that it has lower calories than beef (and even elk, venison and chicken!), less fat and cholesterol, and is guaranteed not to have any growth hormones added as the USDA has not approved their use. Goats are easier on the land than their big boned beefy counterparts, and can often thrive in areas that would otherwise require massive amounts of irrigation and pastureland to grow larger protein critters. Due to its leaner meat, goat DOES have to be cooked more slowly to avoid tough texture. Read more about the fat and calorie comparisons of goat meat to many other popular meats at www.elkusa.com.
raw

Another reason to raise goats: they’re really fun, personable and friendly. Along with my change, April came out with a 4 day old bottle baby Boer, and boy what a cutey she was! We plan on raising dairy and fiber goats, with an eye on edible breeds. Miniature Nubians have decent dressing rates, though Kinders are better. We’re only two people and a dog, so we’re less concerned with the larger amounts of meat from the bigger meat breeds. According to April some of her Boer goats can ready 300 pounds. That’s a lot of goat! Goats can be like family pets, and we can’t wait to have some around. We realize that butchering one of those cute little kids will be hard to do, but the nutritional benefits of eating homegrown and super lean meat far outweigh the sentimental drawbacks. For me at least (i’m still working on convincing the husband of that one.)

Goats!

So, with more iron, potassium and thiamine together with less sodium than other ‘traditional’ meats sold her in the USA, 50% less fat than beef, 45% less fat than lamb and 15% less fat than veal…. what reason do you have not to try goat meat for your next meal? None! Find a local farmer’s market or farm and get yourself some cabrito, chevre or goat meat. It does a body/planet good!
Read more about Miranda, Pocket and their adventures in goats and cooking at An Austin Homestead.

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I was knocked down by yet another cold this season. This is hard for me to wrap my brain around (especially in the cold-induced foggy state.) I have been healthy and cold free for about 2 years and this year is completely different.

I have learned a lot over the past few years about herbs and foods and characteristics that are helpful, but I have also found that my best intentions haven’t prepared me to fight these colds.

I want to grow elderberry bushes so I can make immune boosting syrups and tinctures and even wine. I want to grow calendula and chamomile, horehound and stinging nettles. I want to grow sumac and dandelions and ginger. I know I can grow these things. I have a few growing now. It just takes time and I have to realize that I can’t do it all overnight!

Even though I can and will grow these things, it isn’t practical to think I can grow and make my own “everything” all at once. I need to step back and realize that I can (and should) buy some of these wonderful dried herbs and fruits and just start making the tinctures and syrups and throat lozenges so when I am hit with a cold I am prepared. When my bushes and trees and herbs mature I will then know what to do with them and be thrilled I can use my own.

Drying some horehound to make throat lozenges

There are a few things I did during this last cold that helped me to fight it off faster. I drank hibiscus tea and I also drank garlic tea. Garlic is chuck-full of great antimicrobial and antiseptic properties. I cook with garlic a lot, but drinking the garlic tea is another way to get it into your system and help fight off the effects of the cold or flu. You can read about garlic tea right here at Not Dabbling in Normal.

Along with losing my appetite I also lost my sense of taste and smell. To help get me through this cold I made a healing chicken soup that I know helped nourish me and get me through this much quicker. I made a bone based chicken broth and threw in ginger, onion, hot peppers, dark leafy greens (kale and chard and spinach), turmeric, and garlic along with basil, oregano, thyme and parsley. I wasn’t really thinking about taking photos while I was sick, so the photo you see below is the second batch of soup I made when I started to feel better.

This past week I got together with a culinary group I belong to. The theme this month was “soup.” One of the ladies brought an “Immunity-Boosting Winter Soup” and it was the first soup I ate that night. It was so much like the one I make, but hers included freshly harvest dandelion greens.   We talked about her soup along with the ingredients and the properties that each ingredient has. I was thrilled to know I was on the right track with my soup.

What went into my healing soup?

  • Ginger – works on congestion & great for nausea
  • Spinach/Kale/Chard – full of vitamin C, and A, folate and potassium
  • Hot peppers – help to relieve pain and stimulate endorphins
  • Turmeric – antibiotic properties
  • Garlic – an expectorant, natural antibiotic
  • Red Bell Pepper – high in Vitamin C & A

The immunity-boosting soup that my friend made also had a pinch of cinnamon (infection fighter), calendula flowers (immune stimulator), dried thyme (antibiotic & expectorant), astragalus root (help to strengthen the immune system) and dandelion greens (high in vitamin C & A and many trace minerals and is especially high in potassium)

I am back on my feet and the fog has cleared. I attribute that to the things I ate and drank. Now I better start making a list of things I would like to order so I can get some syrups and tinctures made up to help keep my immune system in tip-top shape.

Do you have any herbal or home remedies that work for you?

disclaimer

Sincerely, Emily

You can also read what I am up to over at Sincerely, Emily

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With the first week of October Unprocessed behind us, we wanted to let you know how we’re doing!

***

I (Xan) was already pretty unprocessed, but I confess that since last year I’ve slacked off quite a bit, mostly on the label-reading front.  So I made the discovery that you cannot buy unprocessed pasta at chain grocery stores. I’ll try the mercado, but I’m not holding out much hope, since pasta isn’t really a biggie in hispanic cuisine. But you never know. Suzy thinks I should make my own, but I’m not there yet. Will try the specialty shops.  The good news is our favorite tortilla chips, El Ranchero, unexpectedly have the following ingredients list: corn, lime, corn oil, salt. Here are the things I made this week, to keep me unprocessed:


***

I have a terrible thing to admit. We ate out last night. Living here in town I find it increasingly difficult to avoid dining out on occasion. We ate at a Mexican style restaurant and I chose a real chicken breast topped with chorizo and real cheese. Sure, I could’ve avoided the processed chips … and the margaritas…, but I feel I could’ve made a far worse decision. At least it wasn’t typical fast food.

For the most part, meals around our house are pretty unprocessed. We make our own butter, breads, and even cheeses. Meat is purchased at the local butcher instead of the meat department of the grocery store, and our milk is from a local farm – and it’s raw. But that doesn’t mean that all of my meals are gourmet works of art or some Foodie delight. Lunch the other day was simply some rolled out dough from the bread that was rising, baked into a pita and topped with ground peanut butter and homemade jam.

school day lunch

Experimenting is fundamental at our house too. We get bored easily eating the same things over and over. This week I came up with a recipe for Shepard’s Pie. It needs some refining, but it was sooo much better than the mashed potato and canned veggie casserole I grew up with.

Better Shepard's Pie

And as a special treat this week, Hubby and my daughter made dinner for our Sunday guests! It’s one of our favorite meals from our restaurant days. I adore that she loves food as much as we do. It makes it simple to teach her how to eat healthy and gets her thinking about where and who her food comes from.

teaching

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Here at Chiot’s Run we were 98% unprocessed as usually. Last month (before the challenge started) her purchased a few of his favorite cookies at the health food store (Newman’s Own Organics Ginger-O’s) and he finished off that pack. At the beginning of the week I made a big batch of beef stew that we’ve been enjoying eating on, and a pot of chicken soup. When I’m busy, I like to make a few big pots of soup each week and we rotate between for quick meals.

This afternoon we went to the Algonquin Mill Festival. We enjoyed some pancakes made from flour they grind right there at the the steam powered mill (we took some of our homemade maple syrup in a jar so we didn’t have to eat the fake stuff) and Mr Chiots enjoyed some pumpkin pecan ice cream, it was also made by steam engine and contains only: milk, sugar, pumpkin, eggs, spices, nuts and vanilla. It’s really nice when you can find something to buy while out and about that’s not highly processed and full of chemicals & preservatives!

***

How is your October: Unprocessed coming along? Have you learned anything or experimented with new foods?

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Last week we talked about Why you wouldn’t just eat an egg?, instead of a processed bowl of cereal full of sugar and GMO ingredients. I mentioned that we eat custard for breakfast or snacks and a few people requested recipes. The custard we eat is a bit different than what you may be used to since I make mine barely sweetened (it is breakfast after all). Most people view custard as a sweet treat, but it can be made very nourishing with a few tweaks. It is the ultimate simple nourishing breakfast, if made with eggs, milk, spices and the tiniest bit of natural sweetener. If your family members are sweet lovers, you can always give them an extra spoonful of maple syrup on top of the custard, but really do try to wean them off eating sweets for breakfast, even of the natural kind. If you simply like things sweeter, double the amount of maple syrup or honey in the recipe below.

Custard couldn’t be easier to make, it mixes up in a flash and then spends the majority of it’s time in the oven while you can do other things (like read blogs). I often mix mine up in the evening pulling it out of the oven right before bed to cool
overnight.


There are a few different options for making this custard. If you want to make it super quick, simply whisk all ingredients together, pour in dish or cups and bake. If you want extra flavor and nutrition, steep milk with vanilla beans and true or sweet cinnamon sticks*.

BASIC NOURISHING CUSTARD
(recipe is easily halved, but believe me, you’ll be wishing you hadn’t)

6 eggs, from pastured chickens (or ducks which have larger yolks & make creamier custard)
1/4 cup organic maple syrup or local raw honey (double this for sweeter custard)
2 teaspoons organic vanilla or 2 vanilla beans**
4-6 sticks of true or sweet cinnamon*
5 cups whole raw milk
dash of salt
organic ground nutmeg or cinnamon for top if desired

Preheat oven to 325 F for dish or 350 for cups.

If you want extra healthful and flavorful custard, steep milk with vanilla beans and cinnamon sticks (see below for sourcing for these). Whisk eggs, maple syrup, and vanilla if using in bowl, stir in milk. Pour into a glass baking dish or six custard cups. Sprinkle top with nutmeg or cinnamon if desired. Set the baking dish(es) in a pan of hot water, as you can see by my photo, I use 6 small Pyrex Rectangular Glass Containers nested in a rectangular glass baking dish for large single servings. Bake large dish at 325 degrees for 1 hour; bake cups at 350 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes. Custard is done when a knife inserted off-center comes out clean. Serve warm or cold, add an extra drizzle of maple syrup if you want it sweeter.

You can also make this even more healthful by adding some pumpkin to make pumpkin custard. Essentially all you need to do is swap out half the milk for pureed pumpkin. What a wonderful way to get a serving of vegetables first thing in the morning.

What’s your favorite nourishing breakfast?

I can also be found at Chiot’s Run where I blog daily about gardening, cooking, local eating, beekeeping and more; I also blog at Eat Outside the Bag blogging about all things food & cooking. You can also find me at Your Day Magazine, Not Dabbling in Normal, and you can follow me on Twitter and on Facebook.

*true or sweet cinnamon is different than the regular cinnamon you buy at the store (unless you have access to a hispanic store), it’s much sweeter, less cloying, and blends so much more beautifully with sweet dishes like this one. You can buy organic true cinnamon from Mountain Rose Herbs for a great price, I always have a big bag on hand. Cinnamon is a healthy addition to your diet, containing lots of manganese, calcium and iron. It also contains trace minerals that help regulate blood sugar. Here’s some great info on the health benefits of cinnamon.

**Vanilla beans can be quite pricey in the grocery store, but if you buy in bulk from Saffron.com it’s very nicely priced. Vanilla is also a healthy addition to your diet adding a wide variety of minerals and vitamins, it’s a natural anti-depressant and it help you relax (good for nighttime beverages). Here’s a great article about the health benefits of vanilla. You can also rinse and dry vanilla beans after using them in this recipe and throw them in your sugar crock to impart flavor. Or add to a bottle of brandy, bourbon or vodka to make your own vanilla.

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I heard the new commercial for Kashi cereal the other day that claimed “More protein than an egg” and I thought to myself “why wouldn’t you just eat an egg?”. After all you’d be eating REAL food, in it’s simplest and most natural form instead of a product made who knows how long ago, in a factory from GMO ingredients (Soy & Canola) and loads of sugar (a bowl of Kashi contains a little over 3 teaspoons of sugar). An egg would be cheaper, healthier, produce less waste, use less energy and if you purchase it locally or keep your own chickens, it’s much better for your local economy.

Here are the ingredients for Kashi Seven Whole Grains & Sesame Cereal: (Whole: Oats, Long Grain Brown Rice, Rye, Hard Red Winter Wheat, Triticale, Buckwheat, Barley, Sesame Seeds), Textured Soy Protein Concentrate, Evaporated Cane Juice, Brown Rice Syrup, Chicory Root Fiber (Inulin), Whole Grain Oats, Kashi Seven Whole Grains & Sesame Flour (Whole: Oats, Long Grain Brown Rice, Rye, Hard Red Winter Wheat, Triticale, Buckwheat, Barley, Sesame Seeds), Expeller Pressed Canola Oil, Honey, Salt, Cinnamon, Mixed Tocopherols (Natural Vitamin E) for freshness.

Ingredients in an egg: hopefully grass, insects, organic grains, and lots of sunshine. It’s worthwhile to seek out a local source of free range eggs because they’re much healthier that regular battery cage hen eggs (here’s a great article from Mother Earth News about free-range eggs). If you think about what an egg is, you’ll realize it’s really a perfect complete food. An egg contains everything needed to nourish a chick. For more in-depth information on the health of an egg, read this great article at World’s Healthiest Foods.

Eggs contain: tryptophan, selenium, iodine, vitamin B2, B5, B12, mylobdenum, phosphorus, Vitamin D, lutein and they’re a great source for choline – something 90% of Americans are deficient in. Eggs contain vitamins and minerals that help reduce the risk of macular degeneration and cataracts, those that help prevent blood clots, many that are good for your heart.

Eggs are also fantastic because they are so quick to make and they can be cooked up in a variety of ways. Mr Chiots and I eat eggs every morning for breakfast and never get sick of them. Sometimes we have the traditional eggs with bacon and potatoes. Other times we enjoy them scrambled. Eggs also pair perfectly with vegetables, making it a great way to get more vegetables into your diet (something most of us should be trying to do). We paritcuarly enjoy eggs poached on a bed of kale, other sauteed vegetables, or a savory tomato sauce. Eggs can also be made sweet by being baked up into a classic plain custard or mix in some pumpkin to add even more vitamins. These little bowls of goodness are perfect for a quick breakfast or snack on the go!

Not only are eggs much healthier, at roughly 15-25 cents each for local pastured eggs here in my area, they’re also much cheaper than a bowl of cereal – especially if you pair them with homegrown vegetables. When you figure in the quality and freshness of the product you’re getting, it blows cereal out of the water!

Food is generally most healthy when it’s the least processed (with the exception of fermentation, which usually increases the availability of vitamins – think sauerkraut, yogurt, sourdough bread, etc). The protein in textured vegetable protein does not equal the protein in an egg. Maybe it does on paper, but it doesn’t take a chemist to see the nutritional superiority of an egg.


Would you rather get you protein from an egg laid by a chicken running around on a farm in the sunshine, or from soy that’s been turned into Textured Vegetable Protein: TVP is made from high (50%) soy protein soy flour or concentrate, but can also be made from cotton seeds, wheat and oats. It is extruded into various shapes (chunks, flakes, nuggets, grains, and strips) and sizes, exiting the nozzle while still hot and expanding as it does so. The defatted thermoplastic proteins are heated to 150-200°C, which denatures them into a fibrous, insoluble, porous network that can soak up as much as three times its weight in liquids. As the pressurized molten protein mixture exits the extruder, the sudden drop in pressure causes rapid expansion into a puffy solid that is then dried. As much as 50% protein when dry, TVP can be rehydrated at a 2:1 ratio, which drops the percentage of protein to an approximation of ground meat at 16%. High quality TVP can be mixed with ground meat to a ratio of up to 1:3 (rehydrated TVP to meat) without reducing the quality of the final product, sometimes improving it if the meat used is poor. TVP is primarily used as a meat substitute due to its very low cost at less than a third the price of ground beef, and when cooked together will help retain more weight from the meat by absorbing juices normally lost. (source: Wikipedia)

What’s your favorite way to enjoy an egg?

I can also be found at Chiot’s Run where I blog daily about gardening, cooking, local eating, maple sugaring, and all kinds of stuff. You can also find me at Ethel Gloves, Grit Magazine, and you can follow me on Twitter.

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turbinado sugar

 

Lately I’ve been doing some research into how foods affect our bodies. Last year I read quite a bit on soaking grains and beans and how beneficial nixtamalization is for us. So far this year my focus has been sugar. Did you know you’re only supposed to have 2 tablespoons of a sugar source in one day? That includes sweetening beverages, treats, cereals, desserts, and so on.

I’ve been really surprised at the lack of information (and misinformation) that I’ve had concerning sugars. I can’t imagine what the average American who doesn’t educate themselves about food understands about sugar. Isn’t it amazing that obesity is on the rise while we’re eating “low-fat” and “diet” foods? These foods are removing healthy fats, adding things like margarine in their place, then adding extra sugar and salt for flavoring. No wonder Americans have such high rates of heart disease and diabetes.  We’re eating 17 times the amount of sugar than we did 200 years ago, and we’re pretty much keeping ourselves on a sugar high! This causes our endocrine systems to do a poor job of keeping our bodies running smoothly so we get depressed, develop allergies, gain weight, have high triglycerides and so on.

That’s probably old news for most of you here. But did you realize that our raw sugars, including Turbinado and Sucanat are refined beyond milling? I was under the impression that our lovely raw sugars were washed canes that were ground in mills and sold … not evaporated, heated, or filtered. In some cases extra molasses is even added to these products to make the color and flavor more consistent.

So what’s recommended for us sugar addicts as we’re weaning ourselves off our favorite addiction? Well, our bodies think sugar is sugar – so the Corn Sugar people say. It’s not what’s NOT in the sugar, it’s what is in there that we’re concerned about.  Sorghum, for example has lots of B vitamins and minerals, molasses from sugar cane has lots of minerals too. Raw honey can help with local allergies, plus it may not upset glucose levels quite so badly for some. Rapadura’s great for baking while stevia is a low-calorie alternative for beverages. And if you avoid Corn and beet sugar (including their molasses by-product) you’re also avoiding GMOs.

The key is to get used not eating so much sweet food. Stop dining out and eating processed foods, don’t eat low- or reduced-fat foods especially those that add sugar in place of fats for flavor, avoid overly sweet foods, count on fruits, and try to add fats to the treat (even if it’s an apple with cheese) to slow down the absorption of sugars, avoid alcohol. After a few weeks of this you’ll notice that most desserts and processed foods taste cloyingly sweet. You’ll probably notice a little weight loss and should see better attention throughout the day.

I know now that I’ve only touched the tip of the sugar iceberg, but there’s only so much one can share at a time! Personally, I’ll be reducing the amount of sugar in my diet to see what kind of impact it makes. Have any of you had experience with reducing or replacing sugar?

Resources:

Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats; Sally Fallon. 1999, 2001.

Well Being Journal. Vol. 20, No.2. March/April 2011.

http://www.greenlivingtips.com/articles/73/1/White-sugar-vs-raw-sugar.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brown_sugar

Jennifer can also be found at Unearthing this Life where she blargs about homeschooling, cooking, gardening, and living in rural Tennessee.

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slice

 

Almost three years ago, my husband was diagnosed with a triglyceride level of someone twice his weight, and was borderline diabetic. Not wanting to be tied down to a lifetime of prescription drugs, he opted to adjust his cholesterol levels by adjusting his diet. Fortunately we had the support of our family doctor in this transition.

I immediately started poaching everything, removed butters and switched to olive oil and margarine, swapped to skim milk from 2%. We removed all cured meats, breads and pasta from our diet, in addition to the few boxed and frozen processed foods like macaroni and cheese that we ate. We added wheat germ and removed egg yolks, in other words – we did everything the American Heart Association suggests in their diet.

Hubby also stopped eating cheeseburgers and french fries at lunch. He started eating vegetarian wraps for lunch and within a short time he lost 30 pounds without exercise. In essence he starved himself. He ate likely less than 1200 calories a day and he had almost no fats or sugars going into his body because we limited ourselves strictly to protein and vegetables. And it showed. Sure, he lost the few pounds he needed, but he looked hollow and weak. His shoulders looked like those of someone twice his age, he had circles under his eyes, and his skin looked sallow. What was important at that time was that his triglycerides were where they belonged.

One year ago our family warily committed itself to the Real Food Challenge. And while I had already introduced organic homemade butter and milk to our diets and we had baby chicks on the way, I don’t think we were quite prepared for the changes the Challenge would make to our lifestyle.

Hubby gained 10 pounds immediately, but his cholesterol levels remained healthy because we added good fats to our diet (no sugar), and he’d long stopped “starving” himself. We didn’t realize that we’d want to keep eating Real Food forever. I thought after that month that I would go back to purchasing some pre-made foods, but even sandwich bread, no matter the brand, tasted flat and dead to me – and all other foods are too sweet or salty.

We’d grown accustomed to the taste and flavors of good, healthy food. Sure there were some flops. My husband didn’t care for my pasta recipe, I’d had homemade wines explode in my storage room, and there were last minute bread baking adventures.

I didn’t know that I’d become an advocate for food in a society where women are supposed to shy away from eating heartily. I wasn’t aware that I’d fear eating processed foods again. I was surprised how much I’d love to cook on a daily basis since now it’s all an experiment. I was amazed at the wonderful flavors Real Food had and appalled at the flavors processed food lacked.

For some odd reason our culture has equated eating tons of meat, large portions of food, dining out too much, eating fast food or processed box meals with the lifestyle to have. Sorry, but if I were to compare my life to the Jones’ I wouldn’t want to be so busy that I would have to resort to eating this way. And if you know someone who eats this way because they cannot afford to eat healthfully, perhaps you could share something from your garden with them this year, or share some knowledge to help them eat and cook better.

As for Hubby and I, the Real Food Challenge is like an anniversary of sorts reminding us why we spend the extra time and money to eat the way we do. We actually decide what we’ll give up in order to afford this lifestyle.  We’re always looking for new recipes and trying to stay on top of healthy eating news. If you need some ideas for recipes or information pertaining to the Challenge, be sure to click on the Resource tab at the top of this page. Also, at the end of this month, we’ll be giving a few things away in celebration of the Real Food Challenge.

Be sure to stay with us all month long!

 

You can find Jennifer at Unearthing this Life where she blargs about raising chickens, a daughter, and gardens; shares recipes and rants; and otherwise discusses life in rural Tennessee, often with a view from the back of a motorcycle.

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