Photo: Great grandparents at their farm in Blandinsville, IL, with five of their six children .. my grandpa was yet a twinkle in grandma's eye. Stable boy and governess also pictured. Hodges farm, circa 1903-4

Friday, February 21, 2014

Fake Food & The Anguished Homemaker ~ Update

An oldie not moldy post originally published April 24, 2012~ in light of the recent push by the Food Babe to bring to light azodicarbonamide AKA a chemical used in the production of yoga mats that is found in factory bread produced in the USA ... and banned in numerous other countries around the world.  Here's my take on this subject a few years back. Know what you're feeding your family. 

Dilemma ..

What is it? ...
Enriched bleached flour (wheat, malted barley flour, niacin, iron, thiamin, mononitrate [Vitamin B1], folic-acid), water, high fructose corn syrup, yeast, contains 2% of each of the following: vegetable oil (soybean and/or cottonseed oils), salt, wheat gluten, dough conditioners (may contain one or more of the following: mono-peroxide, datem, ascorbic acid, azodicarbonaumide, enzymes), calcium sulfate,/yeast nutrients (monocalcium phosphate, calcium sulfate, ammonium sulfate and/or calcium carbonate), cornstarch, calcium propionate (preservative) distilled vinegar, soy lecithin, milk, soy flour, sesame seed.  Allergy warning:  contains milk, wheat and soy (AND GMO'S .. emphasis mine).  Cost .. $3.29

The above FAKE FOOD is the ingredient list on a package of white hamburger buns.  Yep, it's vacation time from the family and I had to 'stock up' on some food while I am away for a mini trip.  Sticker shock!  Ingredient (not so) shock(ed)!  Creepy feeling shock!  Oh .. I also had the choice of 'whole' wheat buns and the ingredient list was similarly (anti) nutritious!

My homemade bread ingredient list:  Freshly ground sprouted wheat flour, water, sunflower oil, sea salt, yeast.  Notice there are no vitamins added because they have not been stripped out of the flour.  No dough conditioners and preservatives .. because the shelf life is a few days .. not months.  Cost including baking fuel .. under a dollar.

I walked away from the market with a basket half filled with mostly JUNK, and was hoping not to be seen with the various items in my cart.  I digress .. there was also a  box of Kashi cereal .. some sort of message on the box reassured me that it didn't contain high fructose corn syrup and that was supposed to make me 'feel good' about serving it to my family.  A bunch of grapes (out of season), bananas from half way around the world, a package of kosher hot dogs, sliced deli turkey lunch meat, lettuce, lemon and (God forbid) a bottle of (fake) peppercorn ranch salad dressing.  My total was $76 (almost 1/4 of our total monthly food budget).

Last time I went away I worked my butt off making bread, spaghetti sauce, and prepped enough food for several days .. along with our daily food prior to leaving.  This little endeavor left me exhausted and questioning the sanity of why I was getting away from the family for a little rest and relaxation.  I came home to find the spaghetti sauce still in the freezer (not used) and a few receipts for 'fake food' on the counter.

In a perfect world I wouldn't need to buy this JUNK.  My family would know how to make their own salad dressing, cook oatmeal for breakfast, make lunch that didn't include processed meat.  My job is not done.

Get to know your food sources.  Read labels.  Learn to cook. Plant a garden with your family. Have ingredients available and teach your kids to pack a healthy school lunch.  The rewards will pay off with overall health now and when you're older.

Homemakers prayer: "Lord, I cannot always inspect the food my family eats.  Let there be enough nutrition in the foods I prepare at home to offset the times I have to close my eyes.  Help me teach my family the importance of good nutrition and making wise food choices.  Amen"

Friday, February 07, 2014

Grain Free Meals ...

... can be filling.

We've been cutting out grains of late.  My thoughts are that they contribute to poor health and 'feed' the cravings within.  Our 'modern' society is in a flux.  We have obesity and poor health running rampant and seem to be fixated with food 24/7.  We're the most overfed and undernourished generation EVER! 
spaghetti squash with meat sauce and tossed salad

I'm not saying we won't eat a piece of bread now and then, but I've found that by cutting it drastically from my diet .. I'm less hungry and don't walk around looking for my next snack.  Nathan's not craving and constantly asking for the three P's ~ pizza, pasta and potatoes.

grass fed beef burgers, cauliflower with cheese, tossed salad and beef stock
Included with our diet are 'snacks' of cultured veggies, buttermilk and kefir.  Getting creative . . . comes naturally with a little practice. 

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Restoration Tuesday

RESToration!  Requires REST.  Do you get enough REST?  How can you be RESTored if you are not RESTed?  I bet Dr. Seuss could make a children's book on this subject.

How do I REST?  Let me count the ways:
  1. Limit caffeine .. and never past 2:00 PM if I plan on sleeping at night
  2. No TV in the bedroom
  3. Sleep with the window cracked
  4. Stick to a routine
  5. Eat healthy food
  6. Read about topics of interest
  7. Drink plenty of water
  8. Enjoy a cup of spearmint tea before bed .. it's become a 'signal' that it's my bedtime
  9. Rub a little lavender oil on my pillowcase or diffuse near my bed
  10. Read a novel in bed
Do you RESTore your body, mind and soul each day?

Monday, February 03, 2014

Fine Tuning The 'Machine'

After detoxing, restoring my health, eating nutritionally sound meals .. it's not difficult to self diagnose those little twinges that creep up on occasion.  For example, when my neck starts making creaking sounds, I need to drink more bone broth.  If my feet start to ache and/or I don't sleep peacefully I've usually run out of my cod liver oil.  When my left index finger aches at the first knuckle and/or my knees ache .. I've consumed too much sugar.

Cultured Veggies
To boost immunity I give my family cultured foods daily including kefir, buttermilk, pickles and sauerkraut. 

When my youngest son consumes too many starches he breaks out in a rash on his neck and makes odd snorting sounds in his nose .. often accompanied by a headache.

Do you notice how certain foods affect your mood or health?  Get to know how to fine tune your 'machine.'  Eliminate or drastically reduce the offenders.  When I need to detox, I sip milkweed or stinging nettle tea in the evening several times a week, cut out sugar and starches.  If you wish to consume detox teas, please read up on side effects and consult your doctor if  you have certain health conditions.
Grain Free Meal ~ Japanese vegetable soup, salad, zucchini 'cakes', applesauce 

Maybe we're just WEIRD ..... say it aint so! ;)

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Off Grid Baking

So you want to be prepared for feeding your family should the power go out.  If you have a wood heat stove and a cast iron Dutch oven, you're in luck.  It just takes careful practice.  You have to time the rise of your yeast bread with the glow of wood coals.  If you use a bread recipe such as this one for no knead bread, your window of opportunity to bake is more dependent on coals than timing the dough. 

This means that I start my loaf the night before I want to bake it .. at the very least ... making it early in the morning and baking before bed; I prefer making it the night before baking.  You only need one bowl .. mix up the dough .. cover  .. and set aside for 12-18 hours.  I've even let the dough go 24 hours which gives it a little extra punch in sour flavor.  Bread with a long ferment period is supposed to be more nutritious and easier to digest.  Believe me, when you have lost the ability to cook conveniently you are more apt to eat what is available in your emergency supplies.  Hunger takes precedence to proper diet.

So .. the planning part comes into play usually after dinner and my dough has been fermenting nearly 18 hours.  This dough has just been sitting in the mixing bowl covered with a plastic bag and a dish towel to stay moist .. usually starting off by the wood stove .. and if that gets too warm, I move it to the kitchen counter.

My wood stove would have been burning all day and our home toasty warm.  About 2 hours prior to actually baking the bread, I remove the dough from the bowl, shape it briefly on a floured surface and place it in a ball on a greased piece of parchment paper placed inside a glass pie pan or med. size skillet.  It's covered loosely with the plastic wrap and clean dish towel .. left to rise in a warm spot for 2 hours.  The coals in the wood stove will be glowing read and pushed to the sides and back of the stove. 
Red glowing coals get broken apart with ash shovel and arranged along both sides and back of wood stove.

A few canning rings will be carefully placed in the ashes of the stove floor to support the Dutch oven.
Several canning rings are placed in center of wood stove's floor to support Dutch Oven.

 About a half hour before bake time, with the fire out .. and embers are glowing red, the empty Dutch (D.O.) oven is carefully placed on the canning rings to preheat.. door shut .. and timed for approx. 30 minutes.  I use heavy leather gloves to handle the D.O. After 30 minutes the D.O. is removed and placed on a trivet on top of the stove.  The lid is carefully removed .. and a little smoke should come out.

Raised round loaf is placed inside hot Dutch oven using parchment as a sling.

 Dough is lifted carefully with parchment paper and settled in the D.O.  The top of dough is snipped and dusted with a little flour.  Lid is placed on pan .. and carefully placed on the canning rings .. door gets shut.
A little fire is OK .. but watch carefully .. you really just need a medium amount of red coals.

 If the stove seems too cool a few pieces of kindling can be tossed in to keep the stove heated.

Small pieces of kindling may be added to coals if the oven temp seems too low.  Getting a feel for the temp with your hand is a developed skill.

 It doesn't take much kindling .. if any.  You don't want a big fire .. but a little flame is OK if pushed away from the D.O.  Door needs to remain shut.  Let the bread bake for 30 minutes .. rotating the pan every 10 minutes for even baking.

 After 30 minutes carefully remove the D.O. and place on trivet. 

I've only burned one loaf from too high of temp (from flames).  This one came out perfect!

Remove lid.  bread should be brown and well raised.  Carefully slide an additional metal canning ring under the parchment to lift the bread off the bottom of the D.O.  and cautiously place the pan back in the oven where it will bake for 10-15 additional minutes without the lid.

This bread is full of holes and has a crispy crust.  Slices easily too.

 Carefully remove pan at end of baking time transferring baked bread to a wire cooling rack for approx. 2 hours before slicing.  Store cooled bread in a plastic bag. 

If you try this baking method, be extra careful. 

Saturday, February 01, 2014

A Meal Redux

Redux .. to be brought back.  Adjective of a noun (meal) ...  brought back

So just how does a homemaker create delicious meals from scratch 7 days a week?  This is a very good question, because in today's modern world we tend to want convenience and short cuts instead of slow cooked and nutritious.

My secret to feeding my family without burning out is to make extra servings that can be made over into another meal.  It's a great skill to develop, especially when your family can't tell they're eating leftovers. 

By making extra cooked chicken, meatballs, roast turkey, pork chops, etc., you can more easily fix a second meal quickly.

Here are two examples of meals to make from left over tacos:

  • Mexican Tortilla Soup ~ Using a base of beef or chicken stock, add extra beef or chicken, chopped tomatoes, celery, onions, herbs .. etc.  Top with strips of corn tortillas, shredded cheese, and diced avocado.  Adjust salt/seasonings before serving.
The Mexican Quiche is a complete meal .. that includes a salad topping.  For the soup, serve with a tossed salad.  Here's a great dressing to add to your collection.  The recipe can be halved.  Mexican Caesar Salad Dressing

For breakfast today I made omelets filled with leftover reheated mushroom meatballs and shredded cheese.  My guys like the added protein in their meals since we are eating less grains.   You are bound only by your imagination .. go wild!

Please share your favorite redux meal.