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ORGANIC: 10 Things to Know

1. USDA Certified Organic (fruit & vegetable produce, animal products, and food products) promises that there are no chemical pesticides or fertilizers used in the growth of the food, and there are no genetically-modified organisms in the seed used. Synthetic chemicals and GMOs are both highly toxic to the human body! With the normal diet that most people eat, it is said that the average person ingests 16 lbs. of chemicals per year. Guess what the body has to do with all of that? Filter it out; detoxify. Guess what it needs in order to detoxify? Clean sources of vibrant nutrition, and strong capable organs. And the average non-organic diet doesn’t really help to provide our bodies with adequate nutrition. These are organic labels, also with a chart to explain what “made with organic” means…

                 

2. What about the rest of the world? Well, for instance, the European Union bans chemicals that are allowed in the U.S., and organic foods are more mainstream and accepted there. In Europe, organic foods are often called “biologique”. In addition, the EU bans the use of genetically-modified organisms in all their food. Perhaps the United States should be more careful? But it gets worse as soon as we leave Europe… Chemicals that are banned for food production in the U.S. are sent to third-world, tropical countries that grow much of the produce that just gets shipped right back to us. They are still using the chemicals, and we are still eating them. U.S. regulations for internationally-produced food are disturbingly low, and the possibility of what we are eating is disturbing as well. Perhaps we should be more careful?

3. Organic and natural from small-farms is how we generally still “picture” our food. We conjure up images of fenced gardens, rustic homesteads, red barns with Jersey milk cows, and chicken coops out the back door–when the actual truth that should be deeply impressed upon us is the far opposite. Food and food production has changed 180 degrees in the past 60 years, but our knowledge hasn’t kept pace with the commercialization. Industrial agriculture and food manufacturing has long ago entered the realm of the unknown, and anytime we do find out about what goes on there (from various undercover video clips or new documentaries), it’s usually quite frightening. Regardless of understanding little about what goes on in food processing, even less do we know what these kinds of chemical-laden, GMO-ridden, over-refined “foods” will do to our bodies long term. Read my post about Vestiges and Values for more about this…as well as Keeping Symbols Alive.

4. Small, traditionally-organic, family farms used to supply 40% of our food as recently as 5 decades ago. (And long before that, 100% of our food!) Now, small farms supply 2% of our food, while commercial-size farms supply the remainder. What has this done to farm families and the economy and culture of small towns and ranching communities? Rendered them obsolete, mostly. People started choosing foods from farther and farther away. Now, thankfully, there’s a movement for local, organic, high-quality and specialty foods. Do you get to know your farmer like you would your babysitter or your pastor? You probably care how you are shepherded at church, or how your children are cared for while you are gone. Do you also care about who is growing the food you eat, and whether it is good for you? Our own reconnaissance in this area will always be more particular than the government’s attempt at managing food distribution. There is always opportunity for better knowledge and control within our own community.

5. Exponentially-more nutrients have been tested and found in organically-grown foods. Organic farming practices such as tilling compost or manure back into the soil increase the possibility for more real nutrition for the plants to eat. Healthy soil grows healthy plants. Healthy plants make healthy vegetables. And healthy vegetables make healthy people. But really, to go back to the main point here, there is a reason that organic food does give value for the often-higher price. It often has double or triple the vitamin and mineral content, and none of the toxic pesticides that require nutrients from your body in order to detoxify. And if you can’t yet buy all your produce organic (which, for the record, I don’t either), at least wash all your produce VERY WELL with produce-wash, and keep in mind which things are best to buy organic (both of which I do).

6. Buy organic meat, dairy, eggs, and other animal products. Or, know your farmer and the feed or fertilizer he uses, and don’t worry about the certified-organic label. (Local foods such as farm eggs or a side of beef are usually of much higher quality and better price than organic foods transported across the nation.) Animal products are the very most important, in my opinion, to buy as clean, non-toxic sources. Why? Because there is such a vast difference between conventional and organic/local with these! Four main reasons: Antibiotics and growth hormones and other toxins remain in the animal, especially in the fat, and then get transferred, untouched, to you if you eat it. Conventionally-raised animals are always fed genetically-modified grain and other foods which are nutritious neither for the animal nor for you. Animals fed grain and toxins have a high ratio of omega-6 fatty acids in their meat, milk, and fat–and omega-6′s are ultra-inflammatory and lead to disease. And lastly, animals are living, breathing beings, and to be teetering on the edge of life and death, riddled with tumors and taxed to their last bit of energy, is neither healthy nor humane. Please buy organic animal products.

7. Buy organic for the Dirty Dozen, and don’t worry as much about the Clean Fifteen. Vegetables and fruits with thinner skins, that grow near the soil above ground, and that are more fragile and susceptible to pests, are the ones that are given higher levels of chemical sprays–and are the ones you should buy organic. Produce that is usually peeled or shelled is less necessary to buy organic. Also, be creative in buying food in different forms. Frozen berries (the time of year when they can’t be picked locally) are usually better quality than any fresh versions that are organic or even non-organic. Stores usually have organic frozen green beans grown in California, but if you look for them fresh off-season, they will be non-organic and likely from Mexico (with all those third-world pesticides that are not desirable). Choose what you need to, but be very informed about the background behind the various choices!

8. Buy organic of the most likely GMO items: corn, rice, soy, canola, and cottonseed. Actually, a few caveats here. Please never eat the oils made from any of these foods, organic or not! They are still highly processed, highly toxic, and highly inflammatory! But, moving on….if you eat corn or rice, please let it be organic! If you eat soy, it should be organic AND in a fermented version. Canola is not really healthy at all, so don’t eat it all, unless it’s certified organic and you are making double-sure that you are counteracting with enough omega-3 anti-inflammatory fatty acids. And never eat cottonseed oil at all; it messes very much with hormones, especially male hormones, and reproduction. Just avoid junk foods and fried foods and commercial pastries (which are unhealthy for other reasons, too) and you’ll easily avoid most of these genetically-modified, inflammatory oils.

9. Buy organic versions of prepared foods and condiments. Because they’re usually the only kinds that are remotely natural. Why conventional spaghetti sauce has 25 added fillers and flavors and preservative is unknown to me, when the organic version gets buy with real tomatoes, real herbs, and real olive oil. Period. Of course, it’s due to cost and cheapness. But please, please, buy the realest version that you can! Or make it from scratch. This goes for any canned soups, bottled sauces, dressings, mixes, seasonings, toppings, condiments. If it’s something that is ready-to-eat or ready-to-heat, be super careful of what you are buying. Always read ingredients. In a future post, I want to share more about specific food additives, so you are more informed why they are detrimental.

10. The bigger picture. Now that you know the most important things to buy organic {animal products; the dirty dozen; common GMOs; and prepared foods}, here’s a few extra reasons that it’s so beneficial. Organic farming preserves ecosystems, biodiversity, heritage species, top soil and the landscape; and unpolluted air. Buying organic supports better farming procedures, animal humaneness, multi-generational farming families, and a sustainable future for agriculture and our earth. Aren’t those worth supporting? Not to mention you’ll feel much cleaner and less toxic (and will be healthier) if you aren’t loading your body with toxins and inflammation and pesticides that never like to leave. Give your body the nutrition it needs to detox the bad and heal itself with the good.

 

Discoveries of the Week

Via various avenues, I’ve arrived at the following webpages and thought you might like to see them, too. Here’s a variety of links:

10 Reasons Why Lowfat is NOT High Nutrition at Empowered Sustenance

~Excellent, excellent points that everyone should know!

10 Signs of Nutritional Deficiency in Children at Weed ‘em and Reap

~Do your children have any of these signs? Pay attention!

Have you Heard of Weston Price? from Kelly the Kitchen Kop

~Good history lesson about historical diets and the people who studied them.

A Real Food Attitude Adjustment at Green Eggs & Goats

~Cooking a real-food meal really is simple, as this blogger shares with an anecdote.

Real Food Kitchen Overhaul at Natural Fertility and Wellness

~Healthy, whole-food meal lists for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Stocking a Traditional Foods Pantry by Nourished Kitchen

~A comprehensive list of where and what to buy for every food group.

About Sofya at The Girls’ Guide to Guns and Butter

~Mostly I gravitated toward the name of this site : ), and the author’s story is neat, too.

Wild Game Recipes from Hunter Angler Gardener Cook

~I like the idea of recipes tailored toward wild things from outdoors. : )

 

….If there’s a common theme among these at all, it would be to eat grassfed meat and wholesome butter. : )

Let me know if you enjoy posts like this–if you like to find out about other blogs and articles you may enjoy. Thank you! ~Renee

Decorate Your Kitchen

~A beautiful kitchen can be more appealing to work in, so why not seek to beautify your own kitchen this week? Or maybe you already have–in which case, congratulations! I’d love to hear how you decorated your kitchen.~

A beautiful kitchen reflects your personality and unique gifts and emphases. Do you do a lot of canning or culturing? That will invariably show in your kitchen. Do you collect a particular style of dinnerware? That will be evident. Celebrate it. Showcase the marks of your trade, or your way of showing hospitality.

First: Simplify.

Go through your kitchen and find anything that you don’t need or don’t use. Remove those things to give away or donate. Try to consolidate your supplies into versatile items, not single-use items. A knife and cutting board can do what it takes any number of machines or tools to do. Here’s an equipment list I’ve made before; it still has quite a few things on it, though! Clear counters and start from a clean slate.

Next: Organize.

Separate and group your cooking supplies into equipment stations for the most efficient use. You’ll want stove-top utensils near the stove, and the dinnerware cupboard near the dishwasher or drainer. Straighten or stack everything in your cabinets and drawers and under the sink. As you’re organizing, keep out anything that you think is especially pretty or stylish, for the next step.

Finally: Decorate.

Look through all the items that had been on your counter. Also, take a look at the items that you noticed as you were organizing the cupboards. What are the items that 1) you need accessible, 2) are useful to you, 3) and are beautiful to you? Decorate the counters or back-splash with beautiful things that you use often. Don’t decorate your counters with useless things, or it may feel too cluttered. It helps to have room for the actual task of cooking! : ) Don’t minimize your work space for the sake of things to look at. Clear it away and leave only what is useful.

And what is useful…make it beautiful and use only what is appealing to you! Are there things you use that could be grouped into a basket or tray to keep them consolidated and on pretty display? Do you have a cookbook stand that you use often? Keep a favorite hardbound cookbook in it, for inspiration. Do you have a favorite painted ceramic dish? Use it to hold garlic bulbs, or as a spoon rest. Do you reach into canisters often? Get some that are beautiful to you. The larger that a kitchen is, the more room there is to decorate, of course–but don’t go overboard. But perhaps you could hang your heavy stainless pans on a decorative pot rack, or set your favorite vases on a shelf.

Sometimes it helps to purchase a couple of new items to tie together the beginnings of your kitchen style. Do you notice a theme or color scheme surfacing? Maybe you like red accessories; perhaps you could get a new red dishtowel for the oven handle, or a nice red butter crock. Perhaps you like French-country or Nordic style like I do. You could get a lined wire basket or painted wooden tray that reflects a certain style. (Some of my favorite stores for kitchen shopping are World Market, IKEA, Crate & Barrel, Sur La Table, and Williams-Sonoma.)

Too often we muddle through with the things we have always used, and the place we have always cooked, instead of giving it all a refreshing makeover. If you’re happy with how your kitchen functions and how pleasing it is to you, excellent! But if not, think about how making a few changes in weeding through extra items, or organizing what you have and decorating with the prettiest items–will make your job happier!

Extend your beautifying and decorating to the pantry, too. You can store most-used items in coordinated mason jars or metal tins. You could place loose packages in baskets or bins. And personally, I love to buy things in pretty packages. I like to buy locally-made foods, or artisanal or specialty products that make me smile when I see the pretty label on my shelf. Perhaps that’s superfluous, but it’s a simple way to add pleasure and beauty, and since I’m usually buying natural or organic products anyway, it’s really not any more expensive.

Additional ideas:

  • Look at Pinterest for decorating ideas. Here is my board of kitchen styling. I definitely like white cabinets and hope to have them again someday!
  • New kitchen linens are an easy way to dress up and freshen a kitchen. (Or maybe I’m just partial to them.) I think it’s hugely rewarding to have substantial, good-quality towels and cloths and aprons to use. If they’re sturdy, absorbent, bright, and clean, you’ve just taken a great stride toward a satisfying kitchen. : ) Screen-printed terrycloth ends up looking old really fast. Get printed broadcloth, or woven designs. Buy towels from a specialty kitchen store and they will usually be larger and higher quality (and more beautiful and more easy to fit to your theme) than the ones from department stores or big-box stores. {Can you tell where I like to shop?}
  • What I did when I moved to my studio, as I was buying the few extra things that I didn’t have yet, was the following… I have one wire basket that holds avocado oil, coconut oil, salt and pepper grinders, and my knife honer. I have another basket that holds a pretty new utensil crock, garlic cloves, mortar and pestle, trivet, and a few oft-used seasonings. I have a spoon rest that has a lovely bluebonnet motif–a reminder of my friends in Texas. And I leave my cutting board flat on the counter all the time, ready to use. Oh, and the dish drainer sits on the counter, and I have soap (one of the pretty AND all-natural ones that can be purchased) and produce wash by the sink. I don’t have any appliances on the counter because I don’t use them very often, and there isn’t room. My food processor, my only large appliance, is under the sink. (I like that because it is a tall cupboard, and the appliance doesn’t have to squeeze under another shelf.) That’s just what I did with the things I have and what I use often, and it will look different for everybody. And I’m still changing things as well as keeping ideas in mind for possible future kitchens.
  • Make a focal point for others who are entering your kitchen–and for yourself. Enter the kitchen as you usually do, but think about where your eye travels first. Be deliberate about placing something beautiful for the eye to focus on! This could be wherever the largest item is, or biggest “pop” of color, or by a grouping of several items together, or via what is arranged on the windowsill. Think artistically about where the eye goes, and how the image “flows.” Is there balance between the sides of the room/what’s on the counters? Is there an ugly appliance that your eye always jumps to? –Perhaps it could be moved to a different location or surrounded with some lovelier items.

SONY DSC

{The above picture is in my current kitchen. And you’re welcome to look at my Pinterest board for other kitchen inspiration!}

Now a question for you: Do you feel like your kitchen is “decorated”?

Would you like to do more with this space that you use often?

Please tell us about it in a comment!

 

3 Steps to a Clean Kitchen

Do you wish your kitchen was clean more often?

…Now, this does entail actually cleaning it ;-)  …but I’ve found these things to be good sort-of landmarks such that, if you think in terms of these procedures, it really works.

If you want a clean kitchen, decide that it’s a priority to clean it quickly and immediately. It won’t clean itself, but here are some of the easiest ways to keep it clean.

I’ve written a lengthier article on this, but here are the same ideas in a more concise form. I’ve seen dozens of articles that people pin on Pinterest about things like this, and decided to chime in again myself!

1. Thoroughly scrub every surface with non-toxic cleaners and hot, wet washcloths. The floor; behind countertop appliances; the backsplash; the fridge; the oven; the sink; the soap dish. (Hint: It’s so much easier to want to clean it after every meal if it was clean only one meal ago! And my unproven theory is that dirtiness tends to migrate, so if the soap dish is dirty, the sink will start to look dirty, too. I’m not sure about this theory, but it seems to be true. ;-)

…and wash all the kitchen linens. While you’re cleaning with water and lovely products, throw a load of laundry in the wash, too. Wash all kitchen linens that aren’t in your towel drawer. Wash the washcloth that’s at your sink, all the towels laying around, the dish- drying mat, all your potholders, the table runner, and anything else that’s fabric. Are the clean towels and washcloths in the drawer looking dirty and dingy? Buy some new ones, rotate them every one or two days in your kitchen, and enjoy the clean look and feel of nice towels and cloths.

2. Clean up as you cook. Your kitchen is clean. Now you get to keep it orderly and decluttered by cleaning up as you go. After preparing one dish, put all the ingredients away and wipe off the counter before starting on the next part of the meal. Give dirty dishes a quick rinse-off as you stack them by the sink, so that the food doesn’t get crusted on. (This may seem like a futile step, but it goes a long way toward the kitchen seeming and smelling clean, and toward faster cleanup later.) Then, once the meal is on its way to completion, hand-wash any dishes that won’t go in the dishwasher–while the meal finishes cooking. “Cleaning up as you go” takes probably 1/4 the time as it does after the food is crusted on (gross!), after you’ve been distracted by the next activity in the house, or after dishes start to pile and pile into an overwhelming, daunting mountain.

3. Finish the cleanup before you leave the kitchen. Or, at least, do it in stages. And have a process that you do the same way every time. Habits eliminate the daunting nature of the task, if it gets to that point. Just jump in and do the next thing in your process.

Clear the table. Wipe the table. Put leftovers away. Load the dishwasher (if using). Hand-wash any other dishes. Rinse out the sink. Run the disposal. Wipe the counters. Wipe the stove. Sweep the floor. Done.

If you have to help children or move on to something else before this is finished, after a meal, it helps to do at least the first three items (the table and the leftovers) before leaving the kitchen. Coming back into the kitchen later and having all the dishes next to the sink is far less daunting than having them strewn all over the counters and the dining table. Hopefully you’ve washed or at least rinsed all the cooking dishes while you were cooking, so those aren’t getting crusty and yucky.

That’s all! Your kitchen is now clean; your family is fed; and you are hopefully happy!

Bonus: Make your kitchen beautiful and appealing to you, and you’ll be more likely to enjoy spending time there and cleaning it. A future post will be on beautifying your kitchen. :-)

 

Other tips:

Meal Planning

If cleanup tends to be overwhelming, try to plan one-dish meals, or meals where you can assemble something cold while something hot is cooking. Try to keep stove-top dishes to a minimum or try to do some cooking and assembly earlier in the day, so all the cooking isn’t being done all at once. Or, separate out your meals so you have, for instance, a pot of soaked oatmeal for breakfast; a ground-beef and veggie stir-fry for lunch, and a big salad with cheese and leftover shredded chicken for dinner. Each of these meals uses just one main cooking or serving dish. I know we tend to think of good meals having to have several different dishes–and that’s nice for entertaining company–but if time and simplicity really is attractive to you, just make basic meals for your family the majority of the time. One-dish meals can still be just as flavorful and still have all the macronutrient components (carbohydrates; fat; protein) that four-dish meals do. (Hint: toppings go a long way toward making one-dish meals flavorful and fancy! Try some of these 10 ideas, or use any sort of shredded vegetable, pieces of fruit, crumbled tortilla chips, freshly-cracked pepper, fresh cilantro or mint, tomato slices, or anything else you can think of!)

Kids and Mealtime

So, last weekend I was watching three wonderful chidren over the course of two days–and six meals. The morning that I was getting them ready for church to leave at 9:00 am, I didn’t get the whole kitchen clean after breakfast. I cleared the table but didn’t sweep. And you know–after we had lunch, I noticed that it was less motivating to clean up because the task was bigger. There were dishes (rinsed, however) on the counter from breakfast, and I hadn’t swept the floor yet. The task took longer than twice of the usual. I didn’t have time to clean up from lunch before putting one little person down for a nap, but then I came back and did it right away–telling the older children that they could read for a while and we’d have dessert after they did their part of cleanup, and as I kept working on the rest. I don’t have my own children, but after nannying a fair amount, I’ve found quite a few things that work well. With kids, I usually enlist their help with the cleanup or give them a different job to do; encourage them to eat carefully and cleanly to begin with; and explain that I am going to finish in the kitchen before the next activity that I promise. If I know they are waiting for me to read them a story, it’s an incentive to do it quickly!

So, anyway, those are some ideas that I have found work for me and other families as well! If you want to keep your kitchen cleaner, these are some ways that others have done it successfully! Best wishes to you!

Do you have other systems that work for you? Please share!

*photos of beautiful kitchens thanks to Flickr Creative Commons!

Deflaming vs. Inflaming Foods

Some foods promote inflammation and some foods decrease inflammation. Most of us have an inkling that inflammation is probably bad, but what really is it?

Inflammation is the body’s protective response to invasion or injury of some kind, where the body tries to fend off the attacking substance, protect itself, and heal itself. There’s quite a few things, other than acute injury or stress, that induce inflammation. Mark’s Daily Apple lists these, and I quote:

  • Toxic diets
  • Insufficient omega-3 intake
  • Excessive omega-6 intake
  • Lack of sleep
  • Lack of movement
  • Poor recovery
  • Chronic stress
  • Lack of down time
  • Lack of nature time
  • Poor gut health
  • Poor acute stressor/chronic stress ratio
Food–toxic food–is a major cause of inflammation, and what we’ll be focusing on today.
Are you really trying to inflame your body, lower its defenses, burden it with toxic overload and weight retention, and make it more susceptible to disease? No? Then why eat toxic food?

With every bite we take, we have an opportunity to promote a clean body or promote a toxic, inflamed body. Which will it be? Of course, there are some foods that are compromises, and some occasions that we don’t have a choice. But usually we do have a choice. We are the ones responsible for what we buy, cook, and eat. It just takes some conviction and courage to do the right thing.

So, what are the right foods?

At our chiropractic office, I’ve seen this very helpful chart published by Anabolic Laboratories, and I want to list the foods it does. It’s one of the most helpful, concise things I have seen. Very real-food-based, too. Imagine something that elevates grass-fed meat above grains! Amazing!

Pro-Inflammatory Foods
  • All Grains and Grain Products
  • Partially-Hydrogenated Oils
  • Seed and Legume Oils
  • Soda and Sugar
  • Dairy and Soy
  • Meat and Eggs from Grain Fed Animals

Anti-Inflammatory Foods

  • All Fruits and Vegetables
  • Red and Sweet Potatoes
  • Fresh Fish
  • Meat, Chicken, Eggs from Grass-Fed Animals
  • Wild Game including Deer, Elk, etc.
  • Omega-3 Eggs
  • Raw Nuts
  • Spices
  • Oils & Fats (organic butter, coconut oil, and olive oil)
  • [Better/Homemade] Salad Dressing Choices
  • Water, Green Tea, and Red Wine or Stout Beer for alcoholic choices

Take a look at the chart from Anabolic Laboratories to get their complete descriptions.

For slight clarification of the above, I believe that grains and dairy products can be less inflammatory if the grains are soaked or soured, and if dairy is organic, cultured, whole-fat, (and raw if possible).

But grains and dairy that are eaten how most people usually eat them–highly processed and pasteurized–are definitely inflammatory. Sure, eat a few healthy crackers or slices of cheese now and then if you choose to, but know that the majority of your diet should have plenty of grass-fed meat, vegetables, and other types of whole foods.

It’s not so much that entire food groups are inflammatory, as it matters how the ingredients were raised, how naturally they were produced, and wholesomely they were prepared. 

Sugar? Eat honey, not white sugar. Grain? Eat soaked oatmeal, not cornflakes. Meat? Eat venison steak, not Burger King. Fruit? Eat organic strawberries and plain organic yogurt, not “fruit on the bottom” heavily-sweetened yogurt. Fat? Eat coconut oil, not canola oil.

I’ve heard people say “meat is inflammatory.” Well, it is if it has been grain-fed and cooked in rancid vegetable oils. But it isn’t if it is organic and grass-fed, and cooked in organic butter.

What can you buy at the store this week; what can you eat at your next meal that will reduce inflammation and detoxify your body?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

And don’t forget to enter this week’s giveaway–available until March 4th!

Step-by-Step Paleo; Review & Giveaway; and Nourished Living Network

Today I have two great things to tell you about: a new eBook, and a neat network!

I was recently invited to join the Nourished Living Network, a group of bloggers dedicated to spreading the love of traditional, nutrient-dense foods. Updates of all the members’ blog posts are here, and a compilation of member recipes are here. Take a look and browse around. I think you’ll like what you see. There are a ton of great women, with great concepts to share, in the Nourished Living Network. Thanks to KerryAnn for founding it! I keep the NLN button on my sidebar, if you ever want to remember another place to find a link there.

eBook

Ruth at Paleo Diet Basics is also a new member of Nourished Living Network, and has written a helpful eBook that I’ll tell you about today. Ruth lives in Israel but the book definitely addresses all of the products that are available in North America.

What I liked…

It’s called Step-by-Step Paleo, and it truly does take you one step at a time as you transition from a standard American diet to a real-food, balanced diet. During my reading of it, I was very impressed by the sensible and practical way which Ruth suggests that you slowly choose healthier choice and slowly make small changes every week.

There are 12 chapters, with the idea that someone will take a week to implement each chapter. This really is ideal, because it does take 3 months for new habits and changes to become ingrained. Assuming that the reader is eats the stereotypical, unhealthy American diet, transitioning slowly is wise because it gives the body a chance to adjust to new foods and new patterns–and differing amounts of protein and carbohydrates, probably. (Higher protein, that is.) Sometimes going “cold-turkey” and reducing processed carbohydrates so severely is hard on the thyroid gland, and more–so having a three-month plan to adapt to a new diet is particularly a good idea.

Good charts and comparisons

What I believe I liked most about Ruth’s book, Step by Step Paleo, is her lists of concise information about different foods. For instance, oils. She lists the types of oils to start using, and why, with a paragraph for each oil. This is such a helpful way to get a lot of good information all in a glance. But read it–and you’ll learn a lot, too!

I also liked the shopping guides, in chart form, and also her charts for many other comparisons, such as “what to eat and avoid” or “poultry labeling”. These are very accurate and very helpful, and I can’t imagine a more straightforward, user-friendly way to present the material. Even if you don’t need to wean yourself from the standard American diet, but are already on your way toward eating whole food, you’ll find these charts and explanations to be a good reference and an education in themselves.

There are quite a few bonus tips, quotes, and links in Step-by-Step Paleo. The font of some of them didn’t register in my PDF reader, but the ones I appreciated the ones I did read.

Giveaway!

Well, this is the kind of practical plan that a few people have wanted me to write, but now I don’t have to; this is a helpful one right here! And Ruth is giving away one copy of her eBook to one of my readers, so make sure you comment below!

Other items of mention

  • I don’t agree with the reason given in the front of the eBook, for eating “Paleo.” Nor do I think (and nor does the author) that Paleo-eating is the only way for everyone, for life. However, there is a lot of usefulness in avoiding grains for a time so the intestinal lining can heal. And there are many reasons to avoid processed carbohydrates altogether. And there is a lot of usefulness in an eBook like this one, to help people choose the right kinds of proteins and fats. This book is very helpful in those areas! It doesn’t tell you all about the best kinds of grains to eat, because that’s not the scope of the book, and there are countless opinions on grains anyway! : )
  • The way that I like to eat almost-Paleo is by eating plenty of good fats and good protein, and choosing whole-food sources of carbohydrates. For mental alertness and metabolic warmth, I find that I do need a fair amount of vegetable-based high-carbohydrates such as sweet potatoes, squash, black beans, and some of the tarter fruits such as apples and berries. I also eat some soaked oatmeal and some sourdough bread,  for my meals and sometimes just plain baked goods when I’m at other people’s homes for meal. The Paleo way of eating is a very good paradigm because of the fact that meats and vegetables alone (topped with butter!) are an excellent choice for most meals. A hamburger patty and roasted vegetables. Shredded beef and leafy greens stir-fried. And the list is as long as your imagination.
  • Here are my posts on Meat and on Grains (part 1; part 2), for further explanation. Also my posts on Paleo eating and Gluten-free eating (since I think that Paleo-eating gives better results for the symptoms for which people usually eat gluten-free.) Read Step-by-Step Paleo before you think about going “gluten-free”!

Please comment for an entry to win! (before March 4th)

Please comment below and tell whether you have ever followed a plan for switching to better foods, or just studied and gradually improved the stock in your pantry–or whatever method in between. I think you’ll find this eBook, Step-by-Step Paleo, to be helpful no matter which stage of the real-food journey you are on. One of you will get a free copy! I’ll randomly choose a winner on Tuesday, March 4th, at 10 pm MST.

And please head to Ruth’s website and read about her book, and see her blog, too.

Thanks, Ruth, for the opportunity to read and review your book. You’ve done an excellent job with it and I hope in continues to help more people successfully change their diets and improve their health!

 

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 Update: Bobbi is the winner of the giveaway! I’ll get your ebook to you shortly!

10 Favorite Ways to Flavor and Beautify

In Alice Waters’ The Art of Simple Food, she lists in her introduction the staples one should have in his or her kitchen, in order to always be prepared to make a meal.

For Pantry Staples, she lists: olive oil, vinegars, salt, black peppercorns, spices, pasta, polenta and cornmeal, rice, dried beans, canned tomatoes, anchovies, capers, flours, sugar, baking powder and baking soda, vanilla, yeast, jam, and wine.

For Perishable Staples, she lists: garlic, onions, shallots, celery, carrots, olives, fresh herbs, eggs, lemons, mustard, cheese, nuts, chicken broth, butter, milk, bread, and potatoes.

Building on this idea, there are a few staples that are helpful always to have on hand to dress up dishes and round out the flavor. If you’re warming up leftovers, or making a quick meal, the same embellishments go a long way toward both mouth and eye appeal. If you have some basic whole foods on hand, such as beans and rice and vegetables, you can always create a complete, tasty meal with the help of a few well-placed garnishes. Here are a few of my favorites, and why:

@ Lemon. Organic juice (I like Santa Cruz brand) or fresh lemons. Lemon juice perks up pretty much any dish, from calzone filling, to chicken soup, to a beef stir fry. Lime juice or orange juice work better for a few flavors, but lemon is the most versatile. What did I add to my granola bar mixture to contrast the sweetness and earthiness? Lemon juice. What did I add to the ricotta/spinach filling for torta rustica (rustic pizza) the other day? Lemon juice. It has a tart flavor that usually complements anything sweet or rich–and just enough to provide the balance, not necessarily enough to give a strong lemon flavor. And lemon slices are a great way to garnish almost any dish, or to provide on the table for guests to squeeze on their food or into their water.

@ Parsley. Dried in leaves or flakes, or a fresh bouquet. Anytime that something needs a bit of garnish or something green, I like to crumble dried parsley leaves from our garden–always a safe addition. But fresh parsley is a lot more versatile. If I have several dishes planned, I like to buy a leafy bunch of parsley. Then, I chop it up and incorporate it into dishes in many different ways. Some of the chopped parsley can go into a salad; some can be mixed into lasagna filling or meatloaf; some can be used to garnish soup or roasted vegetables. And I mean 1/2 cup in the salad or meatloaf; 2 T. on every bowl of soup. None of this “1/2 tsp.” stuff! Give the dish some more color, texture, gentle flavor, and nutrition! A good way to store parsley in the fridge is to put the fresh bouquet in a glass jar with water, and cover it lightly with a plastic bag.

@ Cheese. Parmesan cheese, Monterey Jack or Mozzarella. I like the sheep’s milk Romano cheese from Costco (very similar to Parmesan but less expensive and easier-digested due to the sheep’s milk), grate it in the food processor, and keep it in the freezer. Then it’s easy to sprinkle on any sort of dish. Any sort of whole-food meal can be enhanced with a handful of Parmesan/Romano. (Don’t use the kind from a can.) Black beans and roasted vegetables… Ground beef and sauteed greens… Lettuce and shredded chicken… All sorts of foods, cooked and placed in the same bowl together, are united into a tasty meal by the addition of Parmesan/Romano. I also like to keep a block of Lifeline organic, locally-produced Monterey or Mozzarella cheese in the fridge. I use it basically the same way as the Romano, but either of these can give a more congruent flavor. Shred it like the Romano, or just serve a couple slices next to whatever mixture of meat and vegetables is for dinner.

@ Oil. Olive oil or avocado oil. Don’t cook with these, just use them as a garnish. Well, the Chosen Foods avocado oil from Costco says it is naturally refined and has a high smoke point, safe for cooking. I still would rather cook with saturated, more stable fats such as butter and coconut oil. Olive oil and avocado oil are both comprised of healthy monounsaturated fats, with a lot of nutrients for your nervous system, heart health, skin health, and more. But they aren’t as stable to cook with nor to undergo heavy processing. Avocado oil and olive oil are only stable when they have been refined…but they have been refined. So, either they have been undergone refining, or they are unrefined and turn rancid in cooking. It’s a lose-lose situation. I have still been using the avocado oil for cold preparations because Chosen Foods describes how it is processed and it tastes good to me. I’m not 100% confident since I don’t know everything about it. However, I drizzle oil liberally on just about anything. Vegetable stir-fries. Split pea soup. Caesar salad. A roasted sweet potato. Hint: use it along with lemon or parsley or cheese, and you’ll really have a winning meal!

@ Vinegars. Red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar. Either of these adds a contrasting zip to vegetables, meats, stews, and soups. Interchange them to figure out which flavors you like. A splash of red wine vinegar is good on steamed kale. A splash of balsamic vinegar is good on steamed beets or asparagus. Beware that vinegar will turn green vegetables gray, so only put the vinegar on immediately before serving. Flavored vinegars–of these kinds plus others–are an easy way to add a complex flavor or just that finishing touch to most any dish. They really are quite versatile!

@ Garlic. Granulated (with no additives) or fresh cloves. Nearly everyone knows that garlic, like lemon or sea salt, is a good way to deepen flavors without even necessarily lending a garlic taste–depending on how much you use. It’s flavor is best when it’s cooked or at least slightly heated. Anything savory can be helped by a bit of granulated garlic or a pressed cloves. Garlic burns easily, so add it to a hot pan right before other liquid will be added, or near the end of the cooking time.

@ Mustard. Prepared whole-grain mustard or Dijon mustard. Mustard is used too little, I think, for how flavorful it is. Some people feel that they don’t like mustard, when the only version they are judging is the bright yellow mustard, the flavor of which stands out like a sore thumb! Darker, earthier mustards have flavor that blends well with other flavors, such as any kind of meat or vegetable. I love the texture of French whole-grain mustard, but it’s hard to find. …Hard to find in a French-made, all-natural version, at least. Dijon mustard, or honey-dijon mustard is a nice choice for some things, but it is stronger. Annie’s organic brand makes a great horseradish mustard that is delicious. The other day I used some on a savoy cabbage and venison salami saute that I made.

@ Olives. Canned kalamatas or marinated from an olive bar. Plain black olives are tolerable, but Greek and Italian-style olives are vastly better. The best olives I have ever eaten were the appetizer at the restaurant Olivia, in Austin, Texas. I wish I could recreate that taste again! Their menu says that have lemon zest, olive oil, and salt–and I haven’t tried doing that yet. Good olives give a concentrated pungent flavor that is true of some of the other garnishes we have been discussing, too. Experiment with the kind of olives that suit your taste, and don’t be afraid to try new one. Good olives are good as a topping on salads, Mediterranean meals, on brown rice or polenta, in Moroccan tagines, and much more. Do you have ways that you like to eat olives? Some people don’t like olives, but I wonder if, like yellow mustard, it’s because they have tasted a mediocre type. So don’t discount all olives until you have tried the most elegant kinds. : )

@Nuts. Toasted walnuts, chopped almonds, or broken pecans. Nuts are excellent because they give a crunch to anything–and contrast is often key in providing a memorable texture in a dish. A few nuts on chocolate mousse, or topping baked squash or baked pears–or a few nuts on anything from salad to waffles. Walnuts seem to be best toasted in the oven a bit, lest they stay bitter. This releases the oils and makes them all the better. Nuts, especially almonds, get lighter and crispier and easier to digest if they are soaked in saltwater first, then dehydrated. But if you don’t have the resources to dehydrate nuts, then roasting them is next best. It improves the taste and the digestion, I believe. Learn to like nuts and use them on a variety of dishes. They have so many good fats, and minerals, and other nutrients, that disliking them is missing out on a treasure-house of health.

@Butter. Organic. And organic sour cream and creme fraiche. Perhaps this item should be first. Butter can certainly be added to everything, and definitely improves the flavor. Again–choose a good kind! The difference between pastured or cultured organic butter, and conventional butter, is a world apart. I like to use Organic Valley Pastured Butter, Organic Valley Cultured Butter, or KerryGold pastured Butter. They are all a lovely, colorful yellow, and oozing with flavor! Put a couple tablespoons on your toast, or your baked potato, or anything else that has been baked or sauteed. Use some butter to cook in, then use more to melt into it just before serving. Alternately, a dollop of sour cream or the European-style creme fraiche is good on most things–either hot or cold meals. Try it–you’ll like it! And add some other garnishes while you’re at it–such as parsley, garlic, nuts, or olives.

5 New Things to Do with Carrots

1. Eat a carrot every day throughout the month, to rid the body of excess estrogen. Evidently the fiber in carrots binds to estrogen in the gut–and many chemicals we are exposed to are estrogenic, so we usually have extra–and helps to carry excess estrogen out of the body. Consequently, progesterone can maintain its healthy level, and all functions of female hormones are given the chance to be made easier. Hardly anyone would mind that, right? I’ve been trying this for the past couple weeks: eating one or two raw carrots a day. It’s supposed to have a cumulative and long-term benefit. Read this article or the second half of this article for a bit more information.

2. Buy carrots in tasty bundles, with the stems intact, and organic. It’s amazing (but not really surprising) how much better these taste than the “baby carrots” (that have been tumbled in bleach water if they’re not organic). Since baby carrots have been washed, they tend to get either parched-dry in the fridge, or slimy and grimy. Instead, treat yourself–and help yourself to like carrots better. Buy organic carrots in bundles; break off the stems a 1/2 inch above the carrot; keep them in the fridge in a bag with some air flow; and just scrub one off (no need to peel) before eating it. I think they taste best when they are about 8″ long and 3/4″ in diameter. These type of bundles were on sale at our store recently, and the slender shapes looked easy to munch on whole, so I tried some. This is the way I will buy them from now on! The difference is huge.

3. Increase your intake of all things carrot. Carrots, in addition to binding estrogen, also cleanse the liver–and many, many other things. Many people mistakenly believe that carrots contain Vitamin A, but Vitamin A only comes from animal foods. Carrots do contain beta-carotene, which the body can convert to Vitamin A if it has enough minerals to do the conversion. Eating animal foods are a better and more direct way to get Vitamin A. However, beta-carotene is a potent antioxidant that protects the body at many levels and aids in the healing of countless ailments. Healthy eyes, healthy skin, healthy digestion, healthy blood pressure, or healthy teeth, anyone? Sometimes people have turned yellow from eating two many carrots, but most of us aren’t very close to having that problem. In fact, liver sluggishness can be manifest by yellowish-skin, so most of us probably need more carrots to cleanse our livers and brighten our skin. Eat a few today!

4. Try some of these recipes from Pinterest. (My Pinterest recipe board.) In browsing recently, and in trying to eat more carrots, I have found some dishes that look pretty much delectable. The fiber that binds estrogen will be more available if you eat carrots raw, but carrots are still plenty healthful and fabulous if you eat them cooked. So, why don’t you try one or two of these recipes? Roasted Carrot Salad over Arugula (with blue cheese and almonds!). Creamy Herb Dip with Crudites. Meyer Lemon Roasted Carrot Strings (with yogurt sauce) {this picture looks amazing!}. Celery Root and Carrot Remoulade or any of the other carrot recipes at Williams-Sonoma.com. Do you have any favorite carrot recipes you’d like to share? You’re welcome to leave the link or the recipe in the comment section.

5. Make some granola bars and add some grated carrot. That’s what I did last weekend, and here’s my original recipe! I had been wanting to play with carrot-cake flavors in a different form. I’ve shared them with a few people already, and they all liked them. The first time I made them, I developed the recipe and remembered to take pictures. The second time, I made them with some girls I was babysitting, then we all had them for a snack. : ) Granted, the carrots in these are more for the flavor than the health benefits, as it is such a small amount.

Carrot-Cake Granola Bars

Place two cups of rolled oatmeal in a bowl, and (optional to avoid crumbliness) 2 T. unbleached flour. Grate two slender carrots (or chop one of them finely to lend more texture) and add to the oatmeal. In a saucepan, melt together 2 T. coconut oil, 3 T. honey, 4 T. almond butter, 1/2 cup organic cream cheese, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1 tsp. lemon juice, and 1 tsp. vanilla. This mixture can stay lumpy, as long as the almond butter and cream cheese are softened. Add to oatmeal and carrots and mix well. Pat into buttered 9×9″ shallow pan, about a 1/2″ thick; sprinkle with more sea salt and cinnamon; and bake at 375 for 15 minutes, or until golden and springy to the touch. Let cool for one minute, slice into 12 pieces, and with flat spatula, gently remove to cooling rack.

Here’s a picture.

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Real Food vs. The French Diet

Are we celebratory with food, or critical of food? Do we see our diet as a cultural expression, or as a chore?

In recent reading about both traditional, “real food” diets and French cuisine, I’ve gotten an impression of a lot of potential contrast between the two approaches. Here’s a list of some of them. And yes, they are stereotypes, meant to be somewhat exaggerating.

And first of all, some definitions. By “real food” followers, I mean those who want to go back to the most traditional, nutrient dense forms of every food. Raw milk. Butter. Sausage. Garden veggies. By “French,” I’m speaking of those who have lived in France and still follow their historic way of procuring and preparing food–as well as anyone else who seeks to emulate French cuisine in their eating style.

Real Food vs. The French Diet

What they eat:

Real-foodists have come up with all sorts of allergen-free diets and healing diets that restrict certain foods–whether for a period of time or for life. The French eat pretty much everything that has ever been thought of as food.

What about grains:

Real-foodists like to have grains soaked, whole, gluten-free, or often no grains at all. The French eat breads and pastries, made with white flour, in moderation. (Interestingly, French flour does have a lower gluten content than American flour, however.)

Where it’s from:

Real-foodists like to extend effort to find foods that are regionally-grown or locally-produced. The French cuisine is naturally furnished by the foods grown in each region: seasonal, local eating at its best. They inherently gravitate toward local foods.

Attitude about eating:

Real-foodists can seem somewhat cautious and narrow in their ideology–talking about all the things they can’t eat, or all the places they don’t want to eat. The French seem to have a knack for approaching food with pleasure, joy, love, and conviviality.

View of food:

It can be often heard in the company of real-foodists, that nutritious food is “so expensive.” The French spend more of their paycheck on food than Americans do, but tend to view food as something abundant, with the choice of it being a noble privilege.

Time spent on meals:

Real-foodists are known to talk about all the time spent on preparing homemade ingredients and homemade meals–and all the dishes to wash, accordingly. But the French really cherish the time spent to work carefully on a meal, and love to linger for hours over it.

Presentation of food:

Real-foodists sometimes give the impression that the nutrition or flavor is the most important thing about food, neglecting appearance in lieu of bland, monotone pictures on their blogs! But in France, the food is often beautifully arranged and garnished, and served with attention to detail and appeal.

Macronutrients emphasized:

Real-foodists like to bandy about the virtues of enough good fats and quality meats, in order to counteract vegetarianism or the standard American diet which is full of processed foods. French cuisine naturally incorporates a wide range of nutrients from a large variety of foods–and balances well carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.

Place for desserts:

In a real-food diet, sugar is minimized or eliminated, or alternative types of sweeteners are encouraged, such as coconut sugar or stevia. In the French diet, desserts are rich, not overly sweet, served in small portions, and eating moderately–a small and tasty finale to every dinner.

Overall conclusion:

Real-foodists can seem to be “against” so many of the unhealthy, toxic foods that certainly surround us and vie for our attention. The French seem to be good at being “for” all whole foods, and just relishing the art and science of making excellent dishes with careful techniques.

I think we can learn a lot from the French way of doing things, and we could learn to have more joy and a more abundant mindset about our food.

Some of the books I have read recently are My Life in France by Julia Child, French Kids Eat Everything by Karen Le Billon, and Eat with Joy by Rachel Marie Stone.

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As I’ve been reading a commentary on Ecclesiastes, borrowed from my pastor, I’ve been really instructed by a couple of points made. One, the author writes that instead of seeing the things we have {including food} as a way to gain leverage in the world, we should view them as gracious gifts from God! Two, the author writes that work {and I’m including, the work of cooking meals} doesn’t have much eternal significance if done for merely ourselves, but when it’s done out of love and service to others, that is where there is endurance and potential. So, basically, when we buy food, we shouldn’t probably think as much about our own consequent health, as we do about how blessed we are to be buying good-quality, beautiful and delicious items. Food made for just ourselves may nourish us physically to an extent, but there is something much grander about partaking with others–or making food for others to partake of–that is especially rewarding and uplifting.

 

Toaster Oven Specialties

 

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I’ve been trying some recipes from Dorie Greenspan’s book Around My French Table, and this “Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good” was the latest. It calls for scooping out the seeds inside, and filling it with a mixture of bread cubes, grated cheese, cream, garlic, and herbs. It was tasty, but I used sourdough sandwich bread and buttermilk for the filling since that is what I had, and I think it would have been better with a crustier artisan bread, and heavy cream (both for the texture and the flavor). But it was a fun, unusual dish to make. I figured it wouldn’t reheat as well, with all the melted cheese, so once it came out of the oven, I shared some with my friend downstairs, and ate the rest myself! Oh, and by the way, this was another toaster oven success; the toaster oven is all I use, and it’s fun to see if things will cook well.

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This meal was comprised of a couple of new experiments. First, for the crusty parmesan zucchini, I followed this recipe that I had pinned to my Pinterest board. The zucchini was really good, and easy to make in my toaster oven! The beef patty is just a simple thing from a lb. of the grass-fed meat raised on my mom’s property. I like to form four patties from a lb., then eat them fresh or refrigerate them to crumble over a salad for a later meal. This time I sprinkled the patties liberally with Montana Mex’s Sweet Salt. It has sea salt, cane sugar, chilies, and spices. This is the only kind of their salt I have tried so far, but I have liked all of their other products. They are sold locally in Southwest MT, or able to be ordered online. The sugar in it carmelized and made the top of the burger slightly crispy and golden. Then I topped the burger with more of the Bellwether Farms creme fraiche that I wrote about last week. Then I think there was another sprinkle of the Sweet Salt and a bit of dried tarragon.

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Just a quick weeknight dinner using some things I had in the fridge: a baked potato, a hunk of our own venison sausage, a petite zucchini, Tillamook colby jack cheese, and fresh rosemary brought back from my uncle’s house in California. I had baked potatoes previously in my toaster oven, and the rest was done in a skillet. I think I started by sauteing the sliced potato, then added the sliced zucchini and sausage until they started to brown. After taking it from the heat, I added the cubes of cheese, and put a plate over the pan for a few minutes so the cheese could melt. Top it with rosemary, and freshly cracked pepper and sea salt, and it’s ready to eat. I don’t eat potatoes a lot, but they are always very warming on a cold night–which we have had many of lately. Last week it dipped down to 30-below zero for a few days. Now it’s a little balmier, at about 30 degrees.

Kerrygold Salted Butter

Coconut Sourdough Muffins (with no picture, since I forgot!)

I made this recipe from GNOWFGLINS over the weekend. The muffins turned out well. They were very delicious and tangy, but the batter was a bit soft, so the muffins didn’t keep a nice domed shape. I used unbleached flour since it’s all I have in my kitchen. (I don’t do much baking, so it’s hard to keep whole wheat flour fresh, plus I have never liked how whole wheat flour reacts to souring and leavening agents. Also, read my post about white flour. ) I doubled the recipe and didn’t use any eggs or extra coconut. It made twelve muffins that were a bit crumbly–probably due to leaving out the egg. And then I slathered them with KerryGold pastured butter (source of photo above; plus read about this exceptional butter!)  : ) The muffins would have worked fine in the toaster oven, if I had a muffin pan with six holes, but I couldn’t find one, so I had to use an oven downstairs. Otherwise, I do cook everything in the toaster oven.

Ways to Love the World through Food Choices

What if you were a Ugandan family–made up of five children under eight, and an ailing grandmother–who rummaged for food in the woods every day, except for the once a week that the missionary lady came to your hut with a pot of warm beans, and a heart full of love and compassion?

Recently, I finished reading the book Kisses from Katie that I was given at Christmas. It’s an amazing story of a twenty-year old young woman who gave up all of her American dreams to do what God gave her even more of a passion for: serving the people of Uganda, and the subsequent ministry birthed (Amazima, which means “truth” in Lugandan). I’ve heard of her before, and was thrilled to finally read her book! The message of her book goes along with what my pastor has been teaching often lately: that success is best defined as using the gifts God has given, to serve the people He has called you to. Katie has learned how to be the hands and feet of Jesus’ love, and has learned how to put aside paradigms of “how things should be” in order to simply meet the need of the hungry or hurting person right in front of her.

Kisses from Katie brings up many good and hard things to ponder. She discusses the contrast of immense beauty and immense poverty, and also of immense joy and happiness. I think that as Americans, we sometimes don’t know how to help people in other countries, or don’t know what they need most. (And it’s not to be made like us. Sometimes they don’t feel lack in the ways we assume they do.) But this author and missionary, Katie, has a lot of insight, and has helped many people. It’s worth your reading, for sure. There’s one of these points that is the reason I’m writing about it today.

As with much of what I read or observe, I consider its connection to the message I’m passionate about sharing–traditional, therapeutic nutrition. How does the truth about circumstances in central Africa connect to the truth about the food scene in America? Because if they’re both true, there should be a way to view both of these truths simultaneously.

How is it that some people have the choice among everything possible to eat, and some people have hardly any food at all, not to mention choice?

How is it that people in some countries have hardly any food and are dying of malnutrition, while people in other countries have a surplus of food and are dying of heart disease?

Are there ways to love and serve the world through our food choices? Through good food choices?

I think there is a two-fold way that we should view food. 1) We should accept it as God’s gift to us. 2) We should serve others with it.

Here are some points that I thought of, regarding loving the world through good food choices. I’d like to hear your feedback, too. Keep these things in mind:

  • The purpose never to be elitist or purist in eating good food, i.e. worried about something non-organic or unwholesome touching your tongue.
  • The realization that many other cultures do it far better than we do, i.e. preparing more natural, traditional, whole, and homemade foods than we even know how to do.
  • The conviction to eat more food grown locally, thereby not supporting the cruelty to farm workers that is the norm in many sources of our meats and vegetables.
  • Or, the desire to eat foods from afar and abroad, but to buy “fair trade” versions and endeavor to support better conditions for farm workers.
  • The practice that eating well and maintaining good health will enable us to work hard and to give more generously (even monetarily) to those who have less.
  • The belief that promoting strength and health in yourself and your progeny may reap exponential results as God keeps using people to serve others around the world.
  • The mindset that we should do the best we can with what we have, stewarding what God has given and being thankful for it, and using it for His glory.
  • The gratitude for every single morsel that we have…The stories of Africans who eat meager meals with such joy, and share them with visitors, is convicting. I believe they are more thankful than we are.
  • Neither ignorance of the plight of others, nor pride in our own status… The truth is that many people severely lack food, yet many others eat more carefully and nutritiously than Americans do.

As Katie, the missionary to Uganda, learned, she couldn’t fix or help every problem in front of her. But she kept helping, one day at a time, and one person at a time. Likewise, we can’t nearly fix every food issue in the world with what we eat at one meal or the next. We’re not supposed to. We’ll never make the world perfect. Only God will. God loves to help the marginalized, the downcast, the impoverished. And they will always be with us, until Jesus comes back. It’s not our responsibility to make all the world’s problems go away, but merely to love the people around us, one choice at a time.

Is something as mundane as the choice of our next meal, doing something as beautiful as loving someone else?

How are our food choices loving people? Are you nourishing your children well, and promoting their calmness and contentment, with real food? Are you supporting farm workers that will have fair wages and safe working conditions? Are you thankful for the abundant food God has given you, and praying for or reaching out to those who don’t have as much?

I wish I knew about all the farm workers who have had a hand in the food I eat. I wonder if they are thankful for people buying food and for the job that they have? Or I wonder if they are resentful that their employers don’t pay enough for their hard labor?

And similarly, I think we should be very thankful for the food that we are eating. If it’s organic, real food, how wonderful it is that God has allowed us the provision to afford excellent food! Many people can’t do as well. Others sadly don’t even care. We should be thankful that good food is available in an industrialized country where much of the food is adulterated. And beyond that, we should be thankful that food of all kinds is readily available to most of us. Katie, in her book, tells stories of children who have barely one tiny meal every day, and whose health greatly improves when they are fed regularly. In cases like this, it’s not mattering whether the food is organic or local or grass-fed. It’s the amount of food–and having food at all–that matters.

And so it is that we don’t have any right to good food. If we have good food, as God’s gift to us, then we should be grateful. And then, we should turn around and use it wisely and lovingly. Use it to nourish our families and friends for future generations; use it to support fair working conditions and caring employers; and use it generously with the people around us. And we certainly can’t do it all. The worldwide food economy is enormously complex and incomprehensible. But even if we can’t change much, we can love and serve who we can–the people around us. At the end of the day, all we can do is to be thankful for the food that God has granted. In America, it’s often abundant. In Africa, not always. But they are probably more thankful than we are, from the stories I have heard.

During this week when, nine years ago, my father died of cancer, I’m reminded yet again that it does matter for us to think about our health and life and food. And as long as we have life, we should try to love other people by bringing them joy and gratitude and well-being. Life doesn’t last forever, so may we use it to bless other people. Bodies are frail, so may we use our resources to strengthen them for as long as God wills.

{Credit for photos goes to my friend, journalist Rebecca Miller, who has served in Kenya and South Sudan. For more of her pictures, see this Flickr album. Aren’t these pictures beautiful? …beautiful people and a beautiful place. You can find out more about Rebecca’s work here. Rebecca has agreed to tell us more about the food scene in East Africa, so stay tuned!}

Baked Oatmeal Pancake

This experiment was adapted from our family-favorite Scottish Oatcakes recipe, from a cookbook solely devoted to pancakes. I changed several things–omitting the eggs (since I’m avoiding eggs currently) and cutting the recipe in half (to serve just me). But the original recipe does call for soaking the oats, which I love.

Here’s what I did:

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Baked Oatmeal Pancake

1 cup organic buttermilk (I like Organic Valley)

1 cup rolled oats

Place oats in a ceramic bowl, pour in the buttermilk, and fold the buttermilk into the oats until the oats are thoroughly moistened. Cover bowl with a towel or plate, and leave on the counter until morning.

In the morning, melt together in small saucepan:

1/4 cup organic butter (I used Organic Valley cultured butter which imparts extra tanginess)

1 generous tablespoon of raw honey

1 tsp. vanilla extract

To oats and buttermilk in bowl, add:

1/4 cup all purpose flour

scant 1/2 tsp. baking soda

scant 1/2 tsp. sea salt

Pour butter and honey mixture over flour/salt/soda/oat/buttermilk mixture, and mix gently until combined.

Spread in a 9×9″ pan (ungreased). It will be fairly thin, which you want. If you decide to double the recipe, use a 9×13″ pan. If you are making it for more even people, adjust the amounts accordingly (about 1/2 cup oats per person) and perhaps use one or two jelly roll pans. The only thing that fits in my toaster oven is a 9×9″ pan, so that worked perfectly for me anyway! I ate half of it, or the equivalent of 1/2 cup oats.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 35 minutes, or until pancake is golden and slightly crispy on the edges, and no longer soggy to the touch. Take out of oven and let cool for a few minutes.

Scoop out a slab with a spatula, and top with creme fraiche (European-style sour cream) and fresh blueberries. I used the Bellwether brand Creme Fraiche that’s made in the area of California where I just visited my uncle and aunts. (Guess what? The same creme fraiche costs $1.50 less at my local store, than it does in Sonoma County!)

Anyway, the tangy combination of soaked oats, cultured butter, creme fraiche, and blueberries is really delicious. If you change any of these things, it won’t have the same tart/sweet flavor. I was thinking that oranges would look good, and taste good, with this breakfast, also.

If you can tell by the clock in the picture, it was more of brunch than breakfast, but it was worth waiting for. It was very good for my day-off breakfast. And there you have it–just the kind of anecdotal recipe that blogs are known for, with a whole lot of extra information in with the directions! ;-)

I hope you enjoy it if you try it.

~Renee

 

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