Thanksgiving is just over a week away. I have to say this is one of my families favorite holidays. It’s always good to have a day set aside to remember how richly we are blessed in this nation. But that’s not the only reason my family loves this specific day.
This is the one day of the year that I spend the entire morning cooking a major spread that turns into leftovers for months to come.
This year we’ve been invited to a friend’s home so I won’t be making the meal. But that didn’t stop my daughter from asking me to make her favorite dishes; homemade cranberry sauce and my own “special” mashed potatoes. So, yes, I will make those, because she loves them. It just won’t happen that day.
I’ll also make my turkey on a different day. I even ordered my fresh turkey this week. Yes, you read that right. Ordered. Fresh. I no longer buy one of those birds from the freezer case at the grocery store. When I first started eating healthier, I purchased a fresh turkey from the local butcher. That same year, I also made a frozen turkey for our church’s Thanksgiving dinner. It was a great learning experience for me. When finished, the frozen bird had lots of juices in the bottom of the pan, the fresh bird, very little. When we ate the fresh turkey, my entire family was amazed at the taste. It really did taste better. There was also a lot more meat from a same weight turkey.
Yes, the price is great on those frozen turkeys. But what exactly are you paying for? According to the ingredients on a frozen turkey website, their birds are: Turkey, water, salt, modified food starch, sodium phosphates, natural flavorings. That same company also sells “fresh” turkeys. Those ingredients? “Whole Young Turkey. May contain up to 4% of a solution of water, salt, spices to enhance tenderness and juiciness.”
So what exactly are some of those ingredients? Sodium phosphate - it’s used to completely empty the colon before a colonoscopy, as it is considered a saline laxative. It also can cause kidney damage. When I looked it up online, it’s listed as drug! Yeah, no thanks. I think I’ll pass. No drugs or diarrhea in my dinner please. And modified food starch? Well it could be made up of any number of things; most likely a grain such as corn, wheat, tapioca or potato. If you are allergic to one of these items, you certainly would want to avoid this turkey.
Now what's in my fresh turkey, bought from a locally owned store? You guessed it. Turkey. That’s it, nothing else. No “natural flavors“ or “spices.” Whatever those are. We don’t know either, because they aren’t required to tell us. There are no injected fluids of any kind in my fresh turkey. I may add some water or butter to the pan and some herbs and spices to enhance the flavor. But that’s it. I know what’s in there. It’s safe and healthy to eat. It tastes amazing AND I’m supporting a local business. And it’s natural. This turkey has never been fed antibiotics nor was it given hormones to make it grow twice as fast as is safe for it.
Oh, and I always buy a 24 pound bird as that is the largest size that fits in my electric roaster. Any idea how much leftovers I get? I freeze quite a bit and am enjoying the turkey for many months. FYI - All turkeys have the same size bones. After a certain point, you are paying for meat, not bones. Another way to save money. I usually roast the turkey at 350 degrees until the meat falls off the bone. That’s why I love my electric roaster. It’s so much easier as we don’t need to carve it and the meat is juicy and tender. I figure I can always have crunchy skin when I make chicken.
After stripping all the meat, I return the bones to the roaster, cover with water and add a few tablespoons of vinegar. I simmer this for a few days, creating a bone broth full of rich calcium and flavor. Very little of this bird gets wasted.
So I may pay a bit more for our Thanksgiving dinner, but I think the benefits far out weigh the extra cost, especially for our family’s health.
Wow, it's been a long time since I've posted. For that I am really sorry. Life just has a way of getting ahead of me.
In case you didn't hear, this was the summer of extremely high temperatures and a drought throughout the mid-west. I struggled to find things to post about as I wasn't very thrilled with the state of my garden. I had to water every other day when the temperatures were at their highest. Using city water just doesn't make for very happy plants. Rain water is what is best for plants.
With the high temperatures, I sure didn't feel like experimenting with cooking or baking, though I did make some interesting salads. With the cooler temperatures recently, I have tried some grain free desserts for the kids.Black Bean Brownies anyone? The kids loved them so I will be making them again, and will share the recipe.
I have to say, I do prefer the cooler temperatures. The smell of burning leaves and making soups and chili and baking delicious treats for the family give this time of year a cozy feeling. Hopefully we'll have enough wood to burn this winter in our furnace. Nothing is more comforting than a warm fire on cold winters night.
So now I head to my kitchen to make a great pot of chicken soup. Enjoy this beautiful fall day everyone!
Through the process of elimination, I have discovered that I have a sensitivity/allergy to wheat. When I have any food with wheat in it, I become congested and start to sneeze, alot. This usually lasts for one to two days. While this isn’t disabling, it is very distracting and uncomfortable.
While it may not seem like it’s that big of a deal, it does make me wonder how else the wheat is affecting me. I’m not sure if it’s gluten issue or not. I’m not even sure that it really matters. I just know that I feel better when I’m not eating it.
I have already been working on reducing our family’s dependence on wheat products so I have something of a head start. Over the years I have experimented with a variety of flours such as coconut, almond, amaranth and chickpea. I’ve opted to stay away from soy and corn due to the possibilities of GMO contamination.
One thing I have come to realize is that bread and pasta are not required for a meal. I had been raised with the attitude that starches are an important part of the meal. My son, who is 12, seems to be hungry all of the time. I’ve tended to encourage him to eat bread as it is very filling. I’m now trying to find other, healthier foods that will both fill him up and supply nourishment to a growing young man.
This is one of the reasons I’ve been drawn to quinoa.
Quinoa is chuck full of nutrients. (If you’re curious about what quinoa is, please read my post from January 29, 2012.) It is also incredibly filling. When making a dish with quinoa, it doesn’t appear to make as big a meal as pasta will, but it is so filling that the first few times we had it, we over served ourselves. A little does go a very long way.
I don’t always feel like having to experiment with new foods. Sometimes it would be nice to just grab a box and some cans and just throw everything together. But I know that in the end, I will regret it and spend the next day being congested or totally spaced out due to other additives, thus losing an entire day just to save some time the night before. Not worth it. I also know that the better we are all eating today will have long range benefits as well. Better dental visits, fewer Dr. visits, less weight gained and children with no behavior issues due to additives, just to name a few.
I am thankful that we are able to have me be a stay at home mom so I can take the time to provide better meals. I’m also able to get out in the garden more so we can have fresh food as well as safely preserved foods through canning and freezing.
I think I’ll go make some quinoa and cheese for tonight’s supper. I might even throw in some broccoli and ham for good measure!
It has almost been a month since I last posted. For that, I am really sorry. I had really hoped to document my daily life, but this last month has just totally gotten away from me.
The biggest reason for this is due to the weather. We have had record warm weather in Wisconsin. Everything is growing at a record pace. I am now still trying to cleanup from winter while plants that don’t come up until May are demanding my attention.
I love taking pictures of my gardens as they progress so I can share them, but they have gone so fast, that though I’ve gotten some, I have missed much.
So now I will try to remember what has been going on.
My crocuses started blooming the first week of March. I planted peas and lettuce on the 10th. On the 13th, kale seeds were planted. In mid-March, my friend gave me the last of her maple sap, 5 gallons, which I cooked down to one pint of syrup. Very yummy! On March 16 I was hanging laundry on the line. I’ve never done this before mid-May.
On March 21 my peas, lettuce and kale were up. I then discovered that my asparagus was up! This is a full two months early!!! I waited as long as I dared and picked my first batch on March 25. I sautéed it in butter and sea salt. It wasn’t much, but it was delicious.
My last post, March 3, was about my planting of tomato seeds. This last weekend, I just transplanted those same seedlings into bigger cups as they were getting so big that I didn’t want them to be stunted before they can go in the ground at planting time. Tomorrow they will be placed in the cold frame as I haven’t enough room on the dining room table.
On Tuesday I received a load of alpaca beans, aka poop. I spent all day yesterday adding it to pots, amending beds, weeding my strawberries and trying to figure out where to go with all of my containers that I will be planting tomatoes in.
A good part of today was spent recovering from yesterday, though I did some weeding and cleaning. I also picked some of my kale from last year and made kale chips for the family. They were a huge hit and are almost gone!
So needless to say, things have been happening fast. I am trying to cleanup, weed, plant, mow and whatever else comes along. Basically trying to fit 2 ½ months of spring into a few weeks. I feel like I am running behind, which is crazy as this time of year is usually spent just cleaning and preparing.
Hopefully I will now be able to share on a more regular basis, but only time will tell. And how is your garden growing so far?
Last weekend, I decided to start my tomatoes and peppers. This should give me 6-8 weeks until the last average frost date.
The last time I started my own seeds a couple of years ago, I started them in late March. The plants were quite small when I started them, so it took a longer time to harvest them. Luckily that summer was very warm & wet, so my tomatoes thrived. This year I have my cold frame (see the previous post) so they can be set out sooner this year.
I'm still learning how best to plant my seeds, so of course, I read the instructions on the back of the seed packs. One thing I learned was that both peppers & tomatoes are sown close to the top as light helps with germination. This would explain why I have so many "volunteer" tomato plants in my compost piles.
This year I decided to mostly use seeds from the last few years. I have purchased a few packets from Menards, but really wanted to save money. The germination of seeds that are only a few years old is still very high.
I also used heirloom seeds. Heirloom seeds are those that are open-pollinated, and passed down from generation to generation. Seeds from heirloom vegetables are true to type, meaning that you can save the seed from a certain plant and expect to get the same thing when you go ahead and plant those seeds again next season.
Hybrid seeds are usually a combination of two or more varieties of a certain plant to get some desired result, such as long shelf life and how nice they look. One problem with hybrids is that they are not bred for flavor.
Heirloom tomatoes are so incredibly flavorful but they don't last long. We eat lots of fresh tomatoes in the summer. If they can't be eaten fast enough, I will chop them up and freeze them in quart freezer bags so we can enjoy them in the winter in soups, roasts and sauces.
I don't buy seeds labeled organic unless there is something I can't find anywhere else, that I really want. There is no regulation on the word organic for seeds. What you do to your seeds once they are planted is what will affect whether they are organic or not.
Today, one week later, this is what I woke up to. Beautiful tomato seedlings. The peppers are being a bit stubborn, but should be up soon. I tagged each and every plant when I put the seeds in. I can guarantee that there is no way I will remember what varieties I have planted. These tags will follow the plants all the way to harvest in summer and fall.
And if you're wondering what I planted last week: Tomatoes: Black Krim, Green Zebra, Red Currant, Brandywine, & Marmande, Peppers: California Wonder, Golden Marconi & Anaheim; I also planted Purple Tomatillas & flat leaf parsley. Wish I had few more varieties of tomatoes, but that's what I had on hand. If they all produce, I should have more than enough.
We have had some incredible late February weather for Southern Wisconsin. This has given us a unique opportunity to build a long dreamed of cold frame.
We decided on a hoop style cold frame due to simplicity and low cost. I have to admit, my loving husband Mel did most of the work, but I did help!
First, he framed the base with two untreated 10' 2x6 boards and two untreated 5' 2x6 boards.
Hoops were formed with four 10' long 3/4" PVC electric conduit, sunlight resistant. Mel bent it using a weed burner torch. He felt the heat was necessary to help the hoops hold their shape better with less chance of cracking or breaking over time.
We then put 4 mil plastic sheeting over the top, securing the back side by drilling an old 2x4 over that end of the plastic . The opening side was stapled to another old 10' 2x4 we had laying around. We plan on just rolling that over the top to open as weather warms. The ends are currently just being tucked under until we can figure a better method.
I spread used bedding from our bunnies around the back bottom to help insulate.
And now I wait. In about 2 weeks I'm hoping the soil inside will be thawed so I can work the soil. My first things I will plant will be spinach & lettuce. Later, I'm also going to set all my seedling in there to start hardening them.
If this works well, I also hope to plant winter crops this fall. I've been researching what grows best in cold frames through winter. Fresh lettuce in January? Yum!
So yes, I'm already planning for next winter too.
I often hear the comment that eating organic foods is too expensive. At first, it seemed that way to me too. I’m a stay at home, home schooling mom. We only have one income so I have to be extra careful with our money.
As I’ve mentioned before, when we started out, we only changed one thing at a time so it didn’t seem so financially painful. (We are still in that process.) This helped greatly and was less overwhelming.
Next, find sources that won’t break the bank. At first I did visit big name stores like Whole Foods and not so big name such as Basics and Outpost which are stores in my area. Very expensive, but it was what I knew.
Years before, I was already part of a local buying co-op. Mostly I was just buying bulk items as they were cheaper. Now I buy most of my bulk sugar and grains, yogurts and many of my supplements and frozen foods this way.
The co-op I belong to is just a group of families who order every 4 weeks from UNFI (United Natural Foods, Incorporated) Most of us meet the truck, help unload our order and work together to sort & distribute everything. We’re fairly large so we receive a 15% discount which makes many things less expensive than grocery and health food stores.
I do grocery shop, but I really do keep an eye on prices. My favorite store in the world is Woodmans. For the most part, their prices are very reasonable. I buy most of my organic fruits and veggies here in off seasons. They also have carts at the entrance of discontinued, dented or day old items. I have found some amazing affordable organic items here.
I also buy things I like only when they are on sale. If it’s not on sale, I don’t need it. If I really need it, I’ve already figured out the best place and price to buy it.
Some things I am just willing to pay more as it is the healthiest option. I found a local butcher that sells naturally raised sides of beef. No antibiotics and locally grown. They know the farmer they get the beef from. Last year it cost us just over $900 for one side. Our freezer is full and I trust what we are eating. I also don’t have to continually buy meat when I do shop.
This year, we have also decided to invest in a CSA - Community Supported Agriculture. To learn more about what a CSA is, please visit this site: http://www.localharvest.org/csa/
We look at this as an opportunity to support a local farm and receive fresh produce for 20 weeks. We know who produces our food and how it’s grown. The cost, when compared with what it costs to travel to the grocery and my time spent, is quite reasonable. It will also encourage me to seek out other local sources.
Eggs. We eat a lot of eggs. Organic can be quite expensive in comparison to conventional. However, if you purchase them for $4/dozen and eat 2 eggs at a meal, that only works out to .98 for that meal. I get eggs from friends that run $2-3/dozen. They aren’t organic, but I know what they are fed.
Organic isn’t always necessary. Do your research as to what is o.k. as conventional and what isn’t. Seek out suppliers. Once you do the leg work, it’s really not that complicated or expensive. Your family will be eating better. Your health will improve. You’ll feel better. You won’t need to visit the Dr. as often. (another big savings)
So you’d like to eat healthier but don’t know where to start?
Well the first step is to realize that most foods that you buy in the grocery store are not created to make you healthy, nor will they give you much nourishment. Just try to read the ingredients of most boxed and canned items in the store. If it reads like a science experiment, don’t consider it food.
Over the last several years, my goal has been to only bring food into our home that has as little processing as possible. I look for food as it was created by God, not man.
As you can see from this box of hamburger helper, there is very little actual food in the box. MSG is listed not once, but twice! That's what yeast extract is. Natural flavor is also very possibly, MSG. So it may be listed 3 times!
Next step, get rid of “foods” like this. Become a habitual label reader. If in doubt, don’t buy it. If you don’t know what it is, why in the world would you put it in you mouth, much less that of your children!
I then gave away or threw away much of what was in my cupboards. Folks at church loved that!
For those of you that are old hands at this, please remember, this is a starter's guide. All people change at their own speed. This is how I started.
I mostly stayed out of the center aisles of the store and just shopped around the outer edges. We would stick to “real” foods. Produce, meat, cheeses (real, not processed cheese food), eggs, frozen vegetables (plain, no sauces), frozen juices (not juice cocktails).
You may have noticed I didn’t include milk. That’s because it was one of the first things we changed. Because I live in a state where the farmer can’t legally sell me fresh milk, I went underground. Suffice it to say, I can now get a safe source of healthy, delicious milk. There is more information about fresh milk elsewhere on this site, if you would like to check it out further.
Next, I learned to cook from scratch. This actually is easier than it sounds. Most meals I can have done in one to two hours, some even less.
The slow cooker became my best friend. Slow cookers can make anything taste awesome and tender. Seasonings are part of the secret. The best thing about slow cookers is you take 5 minutes to throw everything in, first thing in the morning and supper is ready at the end of the day!
I will try to include some simple recipes in future posts.
I’ve been gardening since I was a young child. It has become my favorite hobby. Actually, it borders more on passion than hobby! In the spring and summer I am more likely to be in the garden than in the house. And odds are good, I’ll be barefoot. There is something comforting & calming for me, working barefoot in the garden. And more likely than not, I’ll be weeding.
I love to weed, believe it or not. Pulling up those unwanted plants and the satisfaction of getting the entire root! I find the whole process to be incredibly calming. The process of restoring order to the chaos in my small world.
Weeding is also an awesome time for me to spend time with God, praying and meditating. Somehow, I feel more connected to God, working there, in the dirt, barefoot. Perhaps it is somehow connected to working in the same dust that God made us from.
It is when I am weeding in the garden that I also often find myself weeding through the sins in my life that are keeping me from being more useful to Him. As I talk with God and listen, I seek to pull up the entire root of my sin. That is where the chaos of my life truly needs to be restored to order.
My garden doesn’t just need to be weeded. Seeds as well as plants need to be planted. Compost and manure are added to feed the plants. Watering is necessary when their isn’t enough rain.
Much the same is true spiritually of us. The seed of salvation needs to be planted in us or there is nothing to grow. We need to be fed by The Word or we will be weak and useless. We too need to be watered, but the water we need is the Living Water, that we may never thirst again.
Yes, I long for spring. I anticipate it. I plan for it. I buy all of the necessary supplies. And I wait.
This reminds me of something else I long for. Eternity. Not just any eternity, but an eternity spent in the presence of God. I long for it. I anticipate it. I plan for it. I’m thankful there are no supplies I’ll need. And I will wait. And while I’m waiting, I will continue to weed my gardens barefoot.
Here it is, the end of January in southern Wisconsin and the temperature outside is 52 degrees. What little snow we’ve had this winter is quickly melting away. The ice on local lakes is dangerously thin in some areas. We’ve only had a couple of sub-zero nights. You’d think I wouldn’t be longing for spring. But here I am. Paging through the seed catalogs daydreaming about all of the wonders my gardens will provide.
It’s also filled with nutrients: It’s an excellent source of magnesium. 1 serving of quinoa can meet 48% of the daily value that we need. It’s rich in manganese, iron, tryptophan, copper, zinc, potassium and phosphorous. It’s rich in protein, calcium and iron. It contains all nine essential amino acids including lysine, which is necessary for cellular renewal. It is an excellent source of fiber and starch.
It tastes somewhat nutty when cooked.
Often quinoa still has soapy saponins that coat the seeds, it is a good idea to thoroughly wash the seeds to remove any remaining saponin residue. I just measure the quinoa into the cooking pan and cover the seeds with water, stirring the water to rinse the seeds. I then drain them in a fine-meshed strainer. I do this three times before adding the water for cooking. You can taste a few seeds to see if they are still bitter. If so, just rinse again.
I am still learning different ways of preparing it, but it’s very easy to cook. The basic recipe is 1 cup quinoa to 2 parts water and cook for about 20 minutes until the water is absorbed. I have read that using less water will give it a different, nuttier texture and may try this soon.
Once the quinoa is cooked, you can use it just like rice or couscous. I made stir-fry for supper last night and it was really good. The bonus was that my husband didn’t complain he was hungry an hour later like he does when we eat rice.
Just adding garlic, butter and sea salt is also very tasty. Adding some cooked veggies to it is also good.
I’m looking forward to learning more about this wonderful food & sharing it with you!
In my search to find lower carb, nutrient dense foods, I have discovered Quinoa, pronounced keen waa. It’s very unique in that it’s not a grain, but a seed, coming from a plant related to beets, chard and spinach. Because it doesn’t come from grass family plants, it is great for people with food sensitivities, especially wheat and gluten intolerance. Yes, it is gluten free.