Archive for March, 2010

With the premier of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution series on TV (which I begrudgingly watched with Mr Chiots) there’s been a flurry of posting on the internet about the school lunch program and the health of the children in this country. I have very strong opinions about this matter, and food in general. Since we spent the month of March focusing on Real Food I thought this might be a good time for us to discuss the feeding of our children.

Who’s responsible for the nutrition and feeding of children?
the government? the state? the community? the school? the parents?

photo courtesy of al la corey on Flickr

What Is the National School Lunch Program?
According to the USDA website: The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) is a federally assisted meal program operating in public and nonprofit private schools and residential child care institutions. It provides nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunches to children each school day.

A Little History of the School Lunch Program
The school lunch program was started by Harry S. Truman in 1946 for reasons of “National Security”. He read a study that said many soldiers that wanted to join the armed services for WWII were denied due to medical issue caused by malnutrition in childhood (note: my grandpa was rejected because he was double jointed in his elbows). The school lunch program was expanded by Lydon Johnson to include breakfasts in 1966 and summer lunches in 1968.

Since its inception, the school lunch/meals programs have become available in more than 98,800 schools. The 2004/05 school year reported that over 9.2 million children participated in the breakfast and lunch programs; and as many as 1.6 million children took advantage of the summer meals program that same year. *

What were school kids lunches like before school lunch programs?

What did children bring for school lunch in the 19th century? History books tell us their meals were usually composed of leftovers from the previous day. This means Italian, Irish, Swedish, Jewish and German immigrant schoolchildren likely consumed very different foods for lunch. A century later, ample evidence reveals home-packed lunches still reflected family heritage and economic status. The classic “American melting pot” school lunch of sandwich, fruit, dessert & drink was promoted by the same folks who worked hard to establish school lunch programs.

Possible “melting pot-type” school lunches based on period cookbooks are these:

1. Ham salad (or just plain ham) on whole wheat, graham crackers, fruit (apple, grapes, strawberries)
2. Chicken breast on roll, deviled eggs, carrot sticks & celery curls, ginger snaps or ginger bread
3. Corn bread & jelly, beef jerky, dried cranberries or raisins, popcorn balls
4. Cornish pasty (small portable pie filled with meat & vegetables), fruit (plums, pears, cherries), sugar cookies
5. Deviled ham (Underwood Company began in 1869) & soda crackers/saltines, canned fruit (peaches, pears), muffin (blueberry, apple, cranberry) **

What were school lunches like when they were first being introduced?
School lunch menu in Philadelphia in 1917
Monday: Baked beans and roll, Cocoa or milk, crackers or ice cream
Tuesday: Vegetable soup and roll, Cocoa or milk, crackers or ice cream
Wednesday: Creamed beef on toast and roll, Cocoa or milk, crackers or ice cream
Thursday: Macaroni with tomato sauce and roll, Cocoa or milk, crackers or ice cream
Friday: Creamed salmon and roll, Cocoa or milk, crackers or ice cream**

photo courtesy of Writing Program PTW on Flickr

So, the school lunch program is providing “nutritionally balanced” meals to our kids? really? I remember school lunches, I rarely ate them and I remember not liking them and knowing they were unhealthy. We packed our lunches because my parents knew school lunches weren’t healthy. Our lunches were simple and delicious, sandwiches on whole grain bread, carrot sticks, apples, fruit, cheese, etc. Visit the Fed Up With Lunch blog to see what school lunches actually look like.

I believe it’s a parent’s responsibility to feed their children healthy food. My parents were always proactive about keeping us healthy and about providing good food for us. We didn’t have tons of toys or tons of clothes, but we had good food and we spent a lot of time being active. Because my parents made the effort to make sure we had healthy childhoods my brother and sister and I have the blessing of being healthy adults. Sadly in our society many don’t see fast food and junk food as unhealthy (or they just don’t want to admit it since they consume so much of it). I had a friend recently who was taking her son to checkup. The son happened to mention that he was going to start drinking raw milk. The doctor gave my friend a lecture about the dangers of raw milk and how it wasn’t good for kids. This is very sad, especially coming from a doctor, because if the boy had said he was excited that his mom was going to take him to McDonald’s after the appointment the doctor would have said nothing about that.

It’s interesting to me that many people will make sure their children wear their bicycle helmets, but don’t make them eat any vegetables. Sure our children may be emotionally happy, have tons of toys, and access to health care, but if we’re not nourishing them properly what kind of future will they have? This doesn’t just affect the lives of our children but it affects the future of our country and society. These children are the future adults/leaders/parents of our country and we’re not doing a very good job of equipping them with basic health so they can enjoy a prosperous future. It’s one thing if you don’t want to eat healthfully yourself as an adult, but when you don’t nourish your children well you’re setting them up for a grim future.

Who’s responsibility do you think a child’s nutrition is?

*cited from Education Bug
**cited from FoodTimeline.org

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The winner of our week 4 prize is Xan, who blogs over at Mahlzeit which she describes as: A common sense cooking blog for regular people (with a little gardening thrown in).

Contact me (Chiot’s Run) through the contact me form on my blog so I can get your address to get the garden seed packet sent out to you.

Congrats – happy spring gardening!

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For the first time in recent memory I think we are actually going to exhaust our jam and jelly supply.  We have already run out of tomatoes and applesauce.  The fruit sauces are almost gone and there is not a jar tomato sauce to be found.

My pantry has been almost completely exhausted of all home canned items. My freezer is getting low too!  The food challenge has certainly made me turn to my pantry first when cooking…and now my low supplies are proof or our changed eating habits!

I have a feeling I will be spending some of my summer locked in my kitchen churning out batches and batches of jelly.

The following is from a post I wrote two summers ago in the midst of making grape jelly.  I had to smile as I read it because this time of year I would love to be processing jelly…Sounds like back then I might have been a tad tired of the whole thing!

“The rule is, jam tomorrow and jam yesterday…but never jam today.”

Lewis Carroll Through the Looking-Glass

That is exactly how I feel this time of year!  Yesterday I made jam. Tomorrow I will make jam. But is there time today to enjoy a piece of toast with jam?  Certainly not, I’ve got too much jam to make!


These are the grapes we picked last night…I’m guessing when I add them to the blackberries I should get at least a dozen batches of jam.  Yes I will be chained to the stove all day and well into this evening!

This winter I’ll sit down next to the woodstove with my warm piece of toast and homemade jam and remember why I do this every year.

But for today I’ve gotta wonder…

So how is your pantry holding up through the Food Challenge?  Do you have anything left in your freezer from last year’s harvest?

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“The implication of the Price research is profound. If civilized man is to survive, he must somehow incorporate the fundamentals of primitive nutritional wisdom into his modern lifestyle. He must turn his back on the allure of civilized foodstuffs that line his supermarket shelves and return to the whole, nutrient dense foods of his ancestors. He must restore the soil to health through nontoxic and biological farming methods. And he must repair that “greatest breakdown in our modern civilized diet” which is the gradual replacement of foods rich in fat-soluble activators with substances and imitations compounded of vegetable oils, fills, stabilizers and additives.”

The Weston A. Price Foundation –Nutrition and Physical Degeneration


Here at Chiot’s Run the month of March and the Real Food Challenge was actually not much different than most months. We’ve been transitioning our eating to Real Food over the past 5-6 years. A container with a barcode rarely passes over the threshold here. There are a few areas we are working on, more seasonal and layering in more nutrients to each meal. That’s what we focused on this month and it has been great.

I also need to work on making more and more of our cheese, I make mozzarella all the time and have tried a hard aged cheese once, with a really really sharp outcome (good cheese, just super super sharp). I’d love to master the art of hard cheese making.

We also want to focus this summer on trying to fit more cold weather crops into our small garden space, which is a challenge since we don’t have space and the garden is shady so things don’t grow as quickly. I’d love to lessen the amount of canning I do and focus more on items that can be stored with minimal processing (sun dried tomatoes, dehydrated items, potatoes & squash that only need a cool spot). We also want to keep expanding our garden area so we can provide a little more of the food we eat.


Jennifer here – Two years ago my hubby was diagnosed with an off the charts triglycerides level. He was told that if he didn’t change his ways that he wouldn’t live another five years. Wow. Since then we’ve really started paying attention to the foods we eat. All “white” foods were removed from our pantry and cupboards. We added even more whole grains and olive oil to our diet, replaced beef with bison, and added more lean fish to our weekly meals. We also eat vegetarian meals quite often. Most importantly, we rarely eat out at restaurants.


For us the biggest part of this challenge has been to eat more locally and seasonally, as well as to replace store-bought processed grains. We’d already established a healthier eating pattern because of Hubby’s diet and this year’s garden will reflect that. I taught myself to bake a good loaf of bread, how to make pasta, and crackers. We reduced our trash by 50 percent and reduced the amount of boxed cereal eaten in our household by 80 percent.


poached egg

I think most importantly we’ve found several new local sources for food to incorporate this challenge into a new way of life.


The month of March is almost over and the Real Food Challenge will be coming to an end. Most of us however will be carrying on trying to change our diets. We know that eating Real Food is something that we must do for our lifetimes, not just for a month.

Will you keeping up with the Real Food Challenge after the month is over?

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grilled pizzas

Dear Grilled Pizza,

Oh! How I love you so! You’re the perfect combination of char marks and melty cheese oozing between slices of vegetable and sometimes meat. I love to share my leftovers with you, especially if it’s barbeque. Chicken, zucchini, onions, ground meat (even salami!), they do compliment you so. You pair just as well with or without beef or pork, however those sweet dessert pizzas are but a mockery of your loveliness. Those crazy Westerners should keep their sweets to cobblers and tarts instead. Mild peppers are like the cherry on top. You are perfectly paired with the smokiness of the grill; the fast cooking technique. Most people wouldn’t care for your need of constant attention, but you’re one of the deserving few that actually require it to be the best you can be. I love to attend to you with mozzarella and feta, sometimes queso blanco. Fresh herbs as a garnish. Green tomatoes or sun-dried. And always lots of garlic with some sweet olive oil. I’d even give you a bouquet of broccoli or mushrooms if you so desired.

Our rendezvous every Friday evening only leaves me wanting more of your many flavors. So many people take advantage of one side of you; they waste your beauty with pepperoni and sausage. They adorn you with too many flavors to truly taste who you are (because deep inside we all know it’s the crust that matters). We Americans love you and leave you, to use up your convenience, to eat you with cheap swill. I for one can no longer do that to you – I see your importance. You bring our families together, you bind our leftovers into a harmonious flavor, you are eloquent and yet strong, simple or artisanal (and you pair well with wine or beer, and even sweet southern tea). You are seasonal and somehow you’ll always ring true of your homeland if we treat you gently. With all of these words and love from the deepest acre of my fickle heart, will you be mine this eve?

With many tasty wishes in mind, Jennifer

grilled pizza
Jen’s Pizza Sauce: (enough to cover 3-4 10 inch pizzas)

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • ¼ cup fresh basil
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • ½ tsp (or more) crushed red pepper
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 pint crushed tomatoes
  • ¼ cup tomato paste (or one small can)

Lightly sauté garlic, basil, oregano and crushed red pepper in olive oil. Add tomato sauce and paste and simmer for about 20 minutes over medium low heat. For a smoother tomato sauce you can use an immersion blender or food processor to puree the chunks of tomatoes.

pizza sauce collage

Alteration: to create a barbeque pizza sauce add 1/2 cup molasses and 1/4 cup cider vinegar. Adjust for sweet/tartness.

The Best Pizza Dough Ever recipe found at 101 Cookbooks. I slightly alter the recipe by using 1/3 whole wheat flour. I also add a cup of sourdough starter and combine dough making with my weekly sourdough feeding. Finally, I’ll sometimes substitute some whey for water and/or add some wheat germ or garlic.


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It is easy to incorporate whole grains in baked goods.  This month I have been trying to use them in more creative ways.  Here is a recipe I tried this week that my family just loved!  But what’s not to love about barley in soup?

1 Onion, chopped

4 stalks Celery, diced

1 Cup of chopped greens (we used spinach)

3 cloves Garlic, minced

1/2 pound fresh mushrooms sliced


1/4 Soy Sauce

1/2 Cup Organic hulled Barley


In large pot combine the onion, celery, garlic and mushrooms and saute in oil for 5 minutes.  Add barley and soy sauce, and 5 Cups of Water.

Bring to a boil and simmer for 2 to 3 hours.  Salt to taste, Pepper too if you like!

Serve with a good homemade crusty bread…yum!

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On Friday’s during March we do a weekly wrap-up about how we’re all doing for the Real Food Challenge. ***comment with your wrap-up by Sunday and you’ll be entered to win a garden seed collection (winner chosen, congrats Xan)


This time of the year is busy for anyone who loves to garden like we do here at Chiot’s Run. I’ve been spending the days working outside, cleaning out flowerbeds and planting lettuces, radishes and peas for late spring meals. So far I’ve been able to plant: peas (2 different kinds), radishes, spinach, lettuce, and arugula. I started seeds indoors for broccoli, cabbage, tomatoes and peppers. Along with all the seed starting for spring/summer/fall veggies, I grew some sprouts on the kitchen windowsill for eating this week. We enjoyed them yesterday atop pizza. I gave some to my mom and my sister to eat on and we kept the rest for ourselves. It’s amazing how many sprouts 2 tablespoons of seeds will produce (note to self, use fewer seeds next time).

We also harvested our first salad from the garden. I had some mache, or corn salad, growing in the garden that overwintered (wonderful little hardy green if you live in cold area). If I had more planted we could have been eating it all winter long. I also harvested some wild garlic mustard, which is an invasive weed that grows all throughout our gardens. I harvest the plants and we really enjoy eating them, they make a nice spicy green. The salad was topped with a homemade maple mustard vinaigrette, which is the house dressing here at Chiot’s Run.

I made a batch of crackers using this recipe. I used half freshly ground whole wheat flour, and I must say, they’re delicious. They taste kind of like wheat thins (not as sweet). I used my pasta roller to roll them out thinly, which is a trick I learned when making flatbread. They were super easy to make and made a delicious wholesome snack! I made some fresh flour tortillas on Tuesday, two batches some all white and some whole grain. I used this recipe, but I added organic vegetable shortening instead of oil to the recipe (and I added more than the recipe called for). Making homemade tortillas isn’t new for me, I’ve been making them for years. We don’t eat them very often though, often opting for sourdough bread. I’m thinking of experimenting with making overnight sourdough tortillas, I think I could make some them healthier and even tastier this way.

All-in-all it was a good week for the Real Food Challenge. We ate lots of seasonal foods. Squash was front and center this week with a few meals of butternut squash with brown rice (a variation of this recipe) and a few meals and butternut squash soup. We enjoyed quesadillas with homemade tortillas filled with local pastured chicken, local cheese, corn from the freezer and lentils. A few salads were enjoyed as well sided with venison burgers on homemade sourdough bread topped with caramelized onions and homemade pear chutney. It was a week of delicious homemade meals that provided much needed energy for all the chores we had to get done.


Kim here…I must say that I would call this week the ‘Rice and Egg Week’!  I was totally sick of homemade bread (is that possible?).  So instead of bread at most meals there was baked brown rice.  My big kids ate it with peanut sauce and my little ones opted for soy sauce or a sprinkling of local cheese.  I also made a lentil chili that we ate over rice.

Our hens started laying this week so every day my kids have begged for egg sandwiches!

I will say that these are almost too pretty to eat!

On a darker note there was the China Apple Juice Incident…enough about that.

I also found two York Peppermint Patty wrappers in the laundry…which nobody confessed to0!

My hubby was thrilled when a co-worker gave him some elk-sausage.  He has not found a local source of meat and since I’m buying any at the super market he has been meatless this month.  I won’t let him eat the camel…

We will have spinach soon and a few other greens.  My peas are a couple of inches high now.  I even have dandelion greens (which aren’t my family’s favorite) that I will harvest soon.

So as we head into the end of the month my only major break in our challenge will be this weekend when it is Sweet Girl’s 7th birthday.  She wants subway (not the restaraunt) sandwiches with a packaged veggi-bologna she loves.  So I will be buying that.  She also want a rainbow cake with organic jelly beans making up the rainbow…it is a tradition.  And since I have no clue how to make jelly beans I will be going to the health-food store for those too!

But overall it hasn’t been too bad…although I am sooooooo ready for a fresh tomato!


We had another very full week here at Unearthing this Life. The arrival of bees and chicks within days of each other, plus gardening, and a family gathering – well, let’s just say it really threw my schedule out of whack. This past weekend we did not eat one home-cooked meal. We were so busy with preparations for our new family additions that we took the easy way out for lunch on Saturday. That evening we had a double date with some new friends and Sunday followed up with a good ol’ Southern potluck.
cinnamon swirl

Once we got all the excess sodium out of our systems we were able to pick right back up where we left off with lots of good real food. I baked some cinnamon swirl bread with dried cranberries, and we had rabbit stew with turnips and sweet potatoes, even some bison burgers with homemade hamburger buns (substituted 1/3 whole wheat). I’ve had a horrendous craving for bright colored fruit and I’ve been experimenting with a mixed fruit oatmeal crisp using frozen stores from last year’s crop. Not as good as Kim’s I’m sure, but it was good enough to feed my cravings. The freezer has been hit hard this week, and I’ve been able to start making room for this year’s haul.


hamburger rolls

This last week isn’t going to be much of a challenge, I think. We’re over that 21 days of routine and hopefully have committed this all to habit. And yes, bring on the spring veggies! I’m watching my spinach and peas poke their little heads up without much worry for my impatience!


Don’t forget to link your progress by Sunday to be entered for this week’s drawing! (winner chosen, congrats Xan)

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I need to be honest. I’ve been feeling a little frustrated with the Food Challenge this past week. It’s the amount of time that goes into it. Spring has sprung here in Tennessee and my fickle heart so desires to be outside reveling in the warmth of the sunshine and planting seeds and watching bees and playing with chicks and hiking with my daughter and dining at the picnic table. I’m ready to put away the knitting, the breads, and the heavy foods. I’m ready for easy summer foods! Just as in the Princess Bride I want to “Skip to the end!” of all the hard work and waiting. I want raw foods; tomatoes and peppers with cheese, I want cucumbers and squash and berries! But like the rest of you that are sticking by our self-imposed rules I’ll be waiting as patiently as I can, all the while watching all those delicious and most healthful of foods grow on the vines that I’m now planting. When they arrive they’ll taste all the better. The seasons are changing and I have yet to learn to eat for this season.


This month seems to have affected me and my family in a way I’d never thought possible. I never considered myself a food activist, I always thought of myself as a gardener that enjoyed homegrown food all while being a bit of a Foodie. Going through this challenge has really opened up my eyes so much more to the junk we’re encouraged to feed ourselves. I’ve grown more and more frustrated with the state of food at the public schools including the one my daughter attends. Corndogs, hamburgers, Uncrustables for lunch served with chocolate and strawberry milk? Then to top it off with a sugary snack like cupcakes or Oreos and Capri Sun later in the day? In one year of public schooling, the state untaught almost everything my daughter knew about food. I’m thrilled to see Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution coming to television. I hope the show does make a positive impact on our society and help to make food knowledge even more accesible.

Then there’s the much debated health reform bill (Please hold all political discussions for another website). Staring down American obesity and the state of the food so many of us consume, I’m so completely thrilled to see that chain restaurants will be required to list a “nutrient content disclosure statement”. I’ve always enjoyed (in a demented sort of way) reading those “Eat This, Not That” articles and have been completely floored to see the nutritional content of some of the foods we may view as remotely healthy or even eat on a regular basis. Maybe, just maybe we’re slowly inching toward a better way of living. Perhaps when more people realize what junk they’re literally being fed that we’ll see an actual food revolution. I hope to see more food activists out there demanding a better quality of food, boycotting the junk, telling schools that we want our children to eat better.


Until that day my daughter will be homeschooled, I’ll be working in the garden, eating fresh eggs from my own chickens, using honey that the bees collected, and waiting patiently for the tomatoes to come in. And in the meantime I think I’ll enjoy my first asparagus spear out of my own garden, hoping.

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Last night I was writing my blog post for my blog and trying to decide what to write about today that would fit in with the Real Food Challenge. Then I realized that what I was writing about was real food.

This past summer my grandma died. I was talking to my mom about making a cookbook with a collection of family recipes that everyone remembers or has fond memories of. I’ve been wanting to do it for a while, but haven’t had the chance to gather some of the recipes. During a trip down to my grandma’s house last week I gathered some photos of a few of my grandmother’s and my great grandmother’s favorite recipes. I love that many of them are in their own handwriting, or they were typed on their old typewriters.

I was thinking how many of our memories revolve around food. We remember our grandma’s famous rolls, or aunt Edna’s cake. My mom and I were chatting with my uncle about one of his favorite dishes my grandma made when he was a little boy. One of his favorites was a simple casserole.

So many of our memories revolve around food, real food in particular. I doubt I’d have fond memories of my grandma’s famous rolls if they were brown and serve rolls from the store. I wouldn’t be taking photos of her pickle recipe if she always bought pickles from the store. On those days when you’re struggling to think of something to make or don’t want to make some real food, remember that real food is the stuff that memories are made of.

What’s your favorite real food memory?

Susy can also be found over at Chiot’s Run where she blogs about gardening, beekeeping, maple sugaring, eating locally and everything in between.

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Why Should I Care?

There is a song by Oingo Boingo called “Nothing Bad Ever Happens To Me” that is one of the songs in the Soundtrack To My Life (guess that says a lot about me….) The refrain from the song is

And I can’t believe that anyone would

Want to do such a terrible thing

But why should I care?

Every time I look around this place

I see them scream but I hear no sound

And the terrible things happen down the road

To somebody else that I don’t even know

Nothing bad ever happen to me.

It’s been a gray, cold day. I was all fired up this weekend to write passionately about Real Food, GMO’s, Sustainability, How we got in this mess, and The Way Forward. Kim’s post had me grinning and punching the air. YES! I’m not the only one who sees it. But today… LAUNDRY.

I was all set to rally the troops and take on food issues again. But it’s a laundry day for me. Time to deal with the mundane tasks of living my beliefs rather than pushing the edge in a burst of ecstatic energy. So, I made bread, helped the kids excel in school, trimmed hooves, planted, weeded, stacked fire wood, taught scouts, fixed bits that were broken, petted the cats, enjoyed my coffee, chatted with my dad…LIVED THE LIFE.

So, here I am at the end of my day, not writing the post I’d imagined I’d write. I have notes I’ve been keeping, ideas, thoughts, questions. They could have been woven into a brilliant post, but not today. Today Oingo Boingo plays loudly in my head and I know that the world is falling apart around me, but I have to do laundry.

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