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Friday, September 30, 2011

Giving up Sugar

image credit
I have a confession,  I have a problem with sugar. Don’t get me wrong, I eat healthfully, but somehow I have not been able to cut the sugar habit.  I can’t say when this sugar problem started for sure but I know it is not good for me, diabetes runs in my family, my dad and my brother have both been diagnosed with diabetes. I have had my blood sugar checked and I am doing okay. But as I age (ahem – over 40 and fabulous), the weight is not coming off the way it did in my 20’s.

I realize that  a problem with sugar is not at all uncommon.  The average American consumes approximately 158  lbs. of sugar a year.  I probably consume about  75  lbs.  This is probably, because I don't eat much processed foods. This will help me give up the sugar.

How am I going to do this? I have joined The Sugar Detox Challenge at Naturally Knocked Up. This is an 8 week program, so yes I will be giving up sugar during the holidays, Halloween and Thanksgiving. It should make for some interesting times.  But the pace is slow and very doable. It is not cold turkey. Along the way I will be sure to share some of the reasons why you should consider getting the sugar out of your life.
Have you ever considered giving up sugar? Have you successfully given up sugar in the past? I would love to here how it went for you.  If you think you might be up to the challenge I would love to have you join me. I will be stating this tomorrow on Oct 1st, 2011, but you can jump in anytime you want to.  Share your thoughts on this with me. Let’s encourage each other to liver healthier lifestyles.

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this post is linked up with Living Well Blog Hop

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Is There Enough Food for Everyone?


Hunger Facts
  • 1 in 6 people in America do not have access to enough food
  • The vast majority of people receiving aid for food are working adults
  • 17 million children are living in food insecure households, school lunch programs do not cover this
  • Food Insecurity affects even people of all education levels
  • The lack of adequate nutrition in children, affects not only their physical growth but their cognitive and behavioral development
  • Children from food insecure houses do less well then their peers from homes where there is enough food
  • Food insecurity affects rural households with less access to available food, food pantries and food banks
  • More than 50 million Americans don’t have access to adequate food

What is First Fridays for Food Security?
The United States Council of Catholic  Bishops has issued a challenge to American Catholics. They are asking us to consider Food Security. Many people around the world, including here in the United States have a problem with food security.  A household is considered food-secure when its occupants do not live in hunger or fear of starvation. Food Security is a problem not only in third world countries, it is prevalent here in the United Sates too. In 2010, 17.2 million households, 14.5 percent of households (approximately one in seven), were food insecure, the highest number ever recorded in the United States
How can I make a difference? On every first Friday for a year, eat meals that cost only
as much as is allotted for a family of your size by the USDA Modified Thrifty Food Plan. (You will need to divide the weekly cost by seven.) The USDA Food Plan is used as the basis for food stamps. For some you  may notice a disparity between the cost of their normal meals and the amount allotted in the food plan. Especially if you eat out often.  You may have to economize in order to stay in budget.
Many religions, including Catholics have a long history of fasting. If your reduced First Friday Budget requires you to fast you may take this time to consider while you are fasting for just one day, voluntarily, this is the normal state of food for 17.2 families her in the United States, and countless others in third world countries.
If you are interested in joining up with the First Friday Fast you can do so every first Friday through April 6, 2012. If you like you can chose to extend the fast for the entire week. We may opt for that during Lent. If you would like to join the First Fridays for Food Security Challenge you can do so here or join the USCCB on Facebook
My family will be joining this challenge. My goal will be to create 3 healthy and nutritious meals, perhaps snacks for my family of five. Since my husband eats at work I will include the cost of his meal in the plan. I hope to show that a family can eat and eat well on the thrifty meal plan. For us that means a Friday Budget of $24.64. Subtract the $3.75 for my husband’s lunch at work and that will leave me with $22.79 for the day’s food, about $10 a meal or $2 per person per meal. This does not sound like much be the nice thing about a family is that we have a certain economy of scale. I find it easier to feed family thriftily than a single person or a couple.
I am curious to see how my reader will do and I would love for you to share your experiences here. The next First Friday will be October 7th, be sure to come back and share your experience here.
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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Is Your Vanilla Real?


My daughter mentioned that we need vanilla for cooking, so today at the store I stood looking at all the options in the spice aisle. Vanilla Extract, USDA certified organic vanilla, Madagascar vanilla. My head started to spin. I remember being a young girl and my grandparents brought a large bottle of REAL Vanilla back from Mexico. The bottle had to be about 1 liter in size. In the past I have been able to find the same bottles here in Mexican markets.  The last time I went to a tinderia I was not able to find any. But given my recent luck with honey I opted to do so research before buying any vanilla for the upcoming baking season. You know how much I LOVE to do research.
Of course I could not keep this info to myself, I had to share it with my all my friends
Your Options in Vanilla
Pure Vanilla Extract

Pure simply means it is not artificial.  Pure vanilla extract is made by steeping  chopped vanilla beans with ethyl alcohol and water. Manufacturers can use a variety of types and qualities of beans. The process of extraction takes about 48 hours then the mixture is placed in tanks from anywhere from a few days to several weeks. The aged mixture is then filtered, placed in holding tanks and eventually bottled. I was surprised to find out that pure extracts may still contain sugar, corn syrup, colors and stabilizers.

Natural Vanilla Flavoring
Natural Vanilla Flavoring is derived from vanilla beans, but usually has no or little alcohol.
A natural vanilla flavoring is derived from vanilla beans but has little or no alcohol.  Natural Vanilla Flavorings might have sugar, glycerin or   propylene (polypropylene) glycol base. Natural Vanilla Flavoring  are typically used in cooking and baked goods both at home and in commercial establishments.
Glycerin and propylene (polypropylene) glycol are FDA approved food additives. Propolyne Glycol has several uses, among them as a carrier  in fragrance oils.  Glycerin is used as a sweetener, and may help preserve foods.
Artificial/Imitation Vanilla FlavoringU.S. manufactured artificial vanilla is produced from synthetic "vanillin", Lignin Vanillin, which is made from wood by-products of the paper iindustry. This by product is chemically treated, with flavor packets, similar to those that scent perfume,  to mimic the flavor of vanilla.   Discerning palates find the imitation vanilla products to have a harsh quality with a bitter aftertaste. Despite it’s initial low cost it is not really less expensive, as it takes twice as much imitation vanilla flavoring is required to match the strength of pure vanilla extract
Tonka Beans
That’s right, some vanilla is not made from vanilla beans. The Brazilian tonka bean can be used to make a flavoring similar to vanilla.  The big problem with tonka beans is that they contain coumarin. Coumarin is toxic, causes liver damage and is a known carcinogen. Coumarin is banned from products sold in the United States since the 1950’s.   Coumarin is used extensively in synthetic vanillas made in Mexico, and the FDA still finds products containing coumarin in some ethnic  food store.. If you buy Mexican vanilla make sure it is clearly labeled “coumarin free”.  Lacking strict labeling laws as we have in the U.S., Mexican manufactured products may not list accurate ingredients.These products often are labeled in Spanish “Extracto de vainilla” or “Vainilla.”  Again, purchase from a reliable source and steer clear of those large "bargain" sized bottles from Mexico 
Synthetic Mexican Vanilla
Most of the vanilla extracts that come to the US from Mexico are synthetic. The best way to determine quality is price. If you are offered a large bottle for a cheap price it is most assuredly a synthetic product. Also, real vanilla is not "clear". No matter what the label may tell you if it is clear it is synthetic. True vanilla is amber colored. Synthetics tend to be dark and murky either from the coal tar from which they are produced or from caramel and red food colorings. Pure vanilla is expensive because it is difficult to grow commercially and is tedious to process. Actually, Mexico is no longer a significant producer of vanilla--most of it now comes from Madagascar where it can be produced more economically.
What are our Options for Vanilla?
Is it real?   So how do you know if it's real vanilla. If it's in a big bottle and cheap , it is not real vanilla. If it's expensive it is either real vanilla or it's a tourist rip-off. Since it is expensive, it is more likely to be sold in smaller bottles. Real vanilla has an amber color. Synthetic vanilla is often darker in color. Pure Mexican vanilla, though rare, is still some of the best vanilla there is. Whole vanilla beans may also be purchased. The Mexican vanilla bean is thicker and darker than the Madagascar bean. Look for beans that are moist, plump and tender, not shriveled and hard. It all goes back to reading our labels. Make sure what you are buying is labeled as vanilla, and is labeled in English. There are several recommended top Brands of Vanilla. Another option is to make your own vanilla extract. After researching my options I think that is the route we will be taking.
On a Personal  Note

In doing my research I learned that the brand I had bought in Mexican Markets and most likely the same brand that my Grandparents bought years ago is not actually vanilla.

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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Wordless Wednesday- Nature Scavenger Hunt

The scavenger hunt edition. This week I sent my two youngest out on our property to do  a Nature/photo scavenger hunt to find what they could find.. We have a small property by the standards out here, but large by many others.  In fact ours is the smallest property in our little "neighborhood".
The Flora

The Scenic Views

The Fauna (or evidence of )

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Monday, September 26, 2011

Green Your Halloween–Repurposing Costumes

Halloween 2009                                       Halloween 2010
Family Pictures - 11-09 208IMG_1843
Halloween is coming up soon, my kids are already thinking about it and making plans.  For us it involves more than just Trick or Treating. There is a Fall Carnival at school, where students are encouraged to dress up in costume, we try to hit the local Halloween Parade/Trick of Treating in the big town on the Saturday before Halloween and then of course there is the big candy night.  Follow all that up with a get together with other Catholic Families to celebrate All Saints Day and we have a busy week. For my kids that often means a change of costumes as well. They like to have their options.  This is only compounded by the fact that we often go from 80 degrees during that week to 40. Necessitating different options for clothes. 
What is any sane, rational mom of three kids who like to dress up in costumes to do? We have many routes we take here at the Granola Catholic Home
Today I would like to talk to you about repurposing costumes and clothes you already have.
In the above photos, Peanut is wearing parts of a Pavada, a traditional Indian outfit  for the Bollywood Look  Pumpkin is dressed as High King Peter , his “tunic” is actually an old dress up skirt that I made for the girls a long time ago. We paired it with a pair of sister’s leggings and a body armor undershirt. Accessories from the dollar store or the dress up trunk. Pi is a pirate. She is wearing a velvet cape, that is in actuality an old velvet skirt of mine that was no longer flattering.  The tunic is homemade not by me. I purchased it at a thrift shop for $6.99 we finished out the outfit with another pair of leggings.  Last year Pi wanted to repurpose the tunic and  create a different outfit, but she grew about 4 inches. So Peanut got her chance. She choose to be a fairy with the same basic piece. We added wings fro the dollar store and a homemade wand. A “new” costume for just $1.  I just love repurposing clothes and costumes from home to create something new. And that is a good thing, because my kids will change costumes right up to the moment the step out the door to go trick or treating.
National Costume Swap Day
Now I recognize that not everyone is crafty and creative, so how about checking out the National Costume Swap Day. This year, October 8th is national Costume Swap Day. Do you still have last year’s Halloween costumes? Are they in good shape? If you are not planning on repurposing them yourself you might want to find a Costume Swap event near you.

this post is linked up with It's a Keeper 

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Honey in Your Medicine Cabinet


Many of you may already be aware of using honey as a remedy for sore throats, or seasonal allergies but did you know you can use it to treat skin conditions?
Treating Skin Conditions
A little confession here. I happen to suffer from Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis. I am always looking for new, safe  and effective ways to deal with flair ups. Since I have psoriasis on my foot, among other places,  it can be quite a nuisance. After reading on some of the history of the use of honey I decided  I would give it a try why not? I already have organic and natural honeys in the house, and since I use honey to wash my face I figured  what can it hurt to try? 
History of Honey’s Use in Medicine
egyptian honeyUsing honey to heal wounds is not new medicine. Ancient Egyptians used honey several thousand years ago to heal wounds. In fact honey has been found in ancient tombs. This is how we know that honey NEVER goes bad.  And as recently as World War II honey was used on soldiers to speed healing. It was only with the advent of antibiotics did honey fall out of favor as a home remedy. Seems to me that at least 2 generations forgot about using honey for wounds. When I asked my mother if she had ever heard of using honey she replied she had not. It seems like the use of honey for its healing properties is coming back.  In 2006, a study University of Bonn in Germany began recording a  largely positive experience with what is known as medihoney. Even chronic wounds infected with multi-resistant bacteria often healed within a few weeks source. They have been using what they call Medi Honey to effectively treat MRSA.
In a study at Complementary Therapies in Medicine, honey was used with olive oil and beeswax. They found that the honey has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties that helped to decrease pain and the inflammation  and  lead to faster wound healing. The olive oil also has antibacterial properties and the ability to inhibit substances that lead to inflammation. Olive oil and honey both contain flavonoids that help protect cells and inhibit histamine (a substance involved in allergic reactions). The release of histamine is what makes the skin itch. A particular bane for those with dry skin.  They added beeswax  for  its anti-inflammatory properties. Beeswax  is often included in formulas to treat burns and other skin conditions.
Research has found that some honeys, particular Manuka Honey have a high concentration of natural hydrogen peroxide. When making honey the bees bees add an enzyme called glucose-oxidase. This enzyme ensures that small amounts of hydrogen peroxide,, are constantly being formed from the sugar in the honey. The advantage over the natural hydrogen peroxide over  that which you can buy at the store is that a small concentration is sufficient to kill the germs,. Since bottle  hydrogen peroxide  loses its potency over time, you need to use more to get the same results, The enzyme glucose –oxidase also blocks antihistamines, the reason honey works for well for your seasonal allergies
In the past I had used olive oil on my skin, now I will be adding the honey to mix. Since, I am already using honey to wash my face, I decided to use it on my psoriatic areas. Yes it can be quite messy but after a good foot soak it feels good to massage the honey and olive oil  into my skin.  After trying it only once last night I am looking forward to good results already.  Anything that I can do that keeps me off of strong medicines is a plus as far as I am concerned. Honey is a great humectant, which means in not only moisturizes but it holds moisture in.
For a local supplier of honey  check out the The Honey Locator

Friday, September 23, 2011

Where I’m From

I am From

I am from garden fresh tomatoes , from Dels Lemonade  and Aunt Carrie’s Chowder.
I am from the house that looks little but is not, that is full of books and smells like a wood stove.
I am from the sod in the front yard, lilies of the valley under the pine tree and a vegetable garden in front of the the front yard.
I am from polar bear plunges on New Year’s Day followed by a Disney Cartoon  and a ridiculously loud laugh, from my Mother and Uncle David and Grandfather.
I am from forgetting something at the store while shopping  and talking to everyone at the store, so that the return trip to get the butter takes 1 hour.
From getting your ducks in a row and some day you will have a child like you.
I am from first communion dresses and confirmation suits, from going to the Rectory after to School when I could not find my mother at home.
I’m from rural New England and the land of the wee folk., hotdogs and beans with pepperoni on Saturday nights, and leg of lamb for Easter
From the a mother who lost Philadelphia on the way to Washington D.C., the father who could fix anything, the grandmother who could cook the best peanut butter cookies .
I am from photo albums in a bookcase, baby clothes and wedding dresses under the eaves in the attic, that are worth more than any other collectibles that may be in that house.

thanks to Mama Kat’s for the writing prompt

7 Quick Takes

My son was asked to do a bar graph in school last week and he chose to do in on his favorite proteins.  I guess we talk about food and nutrition at our house a lot, or is it that I have my kids pack their own lunches, with supervision, and I am always asking “do you have a protein?”, “do you have a a vegetable?”
Apparently cheese and peanut butter are his favorite proteins.
Speaking of my son, I guess my kids DO listen to me.  Yesterday, my seven year old told me that he advises his friends not to use the soap at school because it is CONTAMINATED.  He picked that up when I did the piece on Triclosan, and suggested that simply washing his hands with hot water for the time it takes to say his ABC would be enough to kill the germs. He is going to get his friends mom’s phone numbers so I can call them and tell their mom’s all about it. Such a sweet kid
IMG_7574Looks like a trend here, I have noticed that my Pumpkin, is quite loquacious, talkative, when we are in the car, especially when we go off just the two of us. Last night I took him to town for his our soccer team pictures. (I coach his team). During the 10 minute car ride we talk about the above Contaminated Soap, what I would do with a million dollars, what type of car would I like to have, and how nice it would be to have the house paid off and and all utility bills paid. What I want to know is where does a 7 year old get all this from?

My daughters and I have decided that now that the weather is so glorious, we will be begin training for a 5k. We will be doing the Couch to 5k program, or as it is affectionately known as C25K.  We have set a date for our 5k and will be doing one in mid November. I am not promising any great times from this 45 year old out of shape mom, but I will finish it, hopefully not in last.
Fall is here! Have I told you HOW much I LOVE fall? It is my absolute favorite season. There is nothing I don’t love about fall.
Yesterday was my birthday, so today I am eating some leftover birthday cake while I write this. My family The ones who were left at home whilst my son and I went to have team photos, surprised me with dinner and cake when I got home. Deacon G did his best first attempt at making Breton crepes. I think they tasted great and that maybe we might have to get a crepe pan to help him out, because I really do LOVE buckwheat crepes. 


Lions and tigers and bears, oh MY.  Not quite but the fauna are definitely active around here.  The mountain lion is back and it seems she is a mama, because a couple of horses in our neighborhood have been taken down by more than one mountain lion.  But more happily the beaver are back. These pictures are the same tree taken just two days apart. The tree is now down and they are working on it. A couple of years ago they cleared the hill near our barn, which was fine with us, as it is a hard to access place to maintain.
and the monarchs are stopping off here on their migration to Mexico. They are not the only ones enjoying the sunflowers,  the gold finches are munching away on the seeds. While watching one light on a flower I though to myself, what perfect design in the goldfinch they have, the gold and black color of them perfectly camouflages them from the hawks.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Pretty Happy Funny Real–Wedding/Cousins Edition

round button chicken
Deacon G’s mom – Grammy Sugar got married this past weekend. She had been a widow for almost 11 years. Everyone enjoyed getting together but my kids especially liked getting to see their cousins. It was fun for me too, to see how they kids are similar and how they differ, not just in ages, there is a 13 year age spread between the cousins oldest to youngest.
There is always pretty at a wedding. In this case there was lots of pretty, but I would have to say the girls are particular pretty. Pi and Peanut lit candles, while Princess was a flower girl for Grammy Sugar and Sweet Pea, well look at those big eyes.



Pi was declared before we got to the wedding that she was ready to dance. When we arrived at the church and realized there was no dance floor. She devised a way. She downloaded some music on her phone, put it on speaker and got all the kids to dance with her. If you notice I most of the kids are barefoot by this time. And being barefoot makes everyone happy.

The bride and groom had a cupcake tree. The frosting on the cupcakes was sky high. As you can see the girls really dug into them.

Ever try to take pictures of kids, ever try to take pictures of more than one kid at a time?
take 1  - umh which camera do I look at?
take 2 – what is that on the ceiling?
take 3 – got it!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Facts about Food from China

this is part of an ongoing series about Real Food. If you like what you read be sure to subscribe so you don't miss a single post.

Let me begin this post by saying that I think the Chinese Culture is a one rich in history and varied in cuisine. But lately, the great country of China has been more interested in maximizing profits while minimizing costs. In doing so they have had grave problems with food safety.
There has been a lot of news over the years about contamination of food from China. Most recently the news was about Arsenic in Apple Juice and earlier this summer we heard news about Honey being smuggled in from China.  So should we be shocked? No not really. China has had a long history of food safety problems. 
2007Malachite green is found in farmed fish imported from China. It is used to prevent infections in crowded fish ponds, but it can cause cancer and has been banned by the FDA for use in fish to be consumed by people.  The move came after 25% of the Chinese products the FDA sampled from October through May were found to contain residue of chemicals the FDA doesn't allow in fish. Most are known or suspected carcinogens. source. China remains the biggest producer of aquacultured seafood in the world, accounting for 70 percent of the total production and 55 percent of the total value of aquacultured seafood exported worldwide.he contaminants found in the fish are the antimicrobials nitrofuran, malachite green, gentian violet, and fluoroquinolone. Nitrofuran, malachite green and gentian violet, which are used to treat fungal infections, have been shown to be carcinogenic with long-term exposure in lab animals. The use of fluoroquinolones in food animals may increase antibiotic resistance to this class of antibiotics.
2007 Garlic – garlic has been contaminated with raw sewage that was used to fertilize the soil at the farms. Chlorine was used to bleach the bulbs to the pretty white color. Ever buy garlic at the farmer’s market? And chemicals were used to  prevent the bulbs from sprouting during the months of travel from China to the importing country.
2007 – That same year 900,000 tubes of toothpaste imported from China were found to be  contaminated with chemical used in antifreeze. These products  were found in institutions for the mentally ill, hospitals, prisons and  juvenile detention centers in Georgia and North Carolina, according to The New York Times.
2007 – Ginger Recall  The ginger was found to be contaminated with aldicarb sulfoxide, a pesticide that can cause nausea, headache and blurred vision when ingested by humans in small amounts. In larger amounts, it can cause dizziness, sweating, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle stiffness and difficulty breathing.
2007 – All of the above was preceded by the largest pet food recall in US history because of melamine in the dog food. Melamine was used as a filler to bulk up volume in the food as well to give the appearance of higher protein content. The recalled pet food was then fed to livestock. Melamine is normally used in making plastic.
2008-2011  Melamine in Milk – this is an ongoing problem in China that first surfaced in 2008 and is continuing to cause problems this year.  The milk caused the death of several infants and the illness of countless more.  The melamine gives watered down milk  the appearance of  a high protein level.Perhaps most disturbing about the melamine in milk is that milk is used in many baked products.By the way - Do you know where McDonald’s gets it’s pies and other baked treats?
2011Exploding Watermelon – This summer there were stories about watermelon exploding in the fields. We now know that farmers gave the watermelons growth hormones that caused them to grow so fast they exploding.   The bad fruit was then fed to livestock (again).
2011  Cadmium in Rice Earlier this year 12 million tons of rice where found to be contaminated with cadmium, a heavy metal known to cause cancer.This problem is said to stem from the industrialization of the farm belt in China, Cadmium is used in the manufacturing of computers and other electronics.  Some samples were contaminated with up to five times the legal limit.
 2010  Bleach in Mushrooms  A young boy after having his mother tell him he could not eat mushrooms due to them being treated with bleach, began a study with the help of a PhD student and found that 81 per cent of fresh mushrooms on sale in the Chinese capital are bleached with harmful chemicals.Consuming bleaching chemicals can damage the liver and trigger asthma and skin allergies.
2011 - Borax in Pork, – borax was used in pork to make it look like beef
2011 –  There are other reports of  human birth control chemicals being used on cucumber plants, artificially dyed peppers and barite powder being injected into chickens to increase their weight.

food chinese

The Problem with Food Safety in China
As  I was doing research for this the same thing kept on coming up over and over, people in China have HIGH concerns for their own food safety. It is the number one topic  Many state farmers there will even grow their own food. That simple fact alone speaks volumes about the safety of food coming out of China. As a result, Chinese consumers fear for what is in their food. “Basically, people now feel nothing is safe to eat,” Sang Liwei, of the Food Safety Forum, told the  NY Times. “They don’t know what choices to make. They are really feeling very helpless.” Many wary customers in China prefer to buy imported goods, as they believe them to be safer. However, the Fruit Industry Association of Guangdong province told reporters that most ‘imported’ fruit are grown in China.
In a related story, activist Zhao Lianhai has disappeared after he was sentenced last month to two and half years in prison for seeking justice on behalf of the children poisoned in the melamine-milk scandal. The families involved  have not yet received any adequate compensation to pay for the expensive medical treatment the children require.
The Chinese have good reason to worry that heavy metals, pesticides and other contaminants are creeping into their food. China is the world's biggest producer and user of pesticides, and many farmers over-apply pesticides and fertilizers to get greater yields on limited arable land.
Matthew Crabbe, the managing director of Access Asia, a Shanghai-based market research firm.
Crabbe said foreign firms that obtained food ingredients in China "would probably be safer to actually buy some farmland there and grow  it themselves."
Food safety has become an issue in China because of increased pressures to produce more food on less than desirable land.  Couple that with the fact that China manufactures and uses more pesticides than any other country and you have the perfect mix for chemical warfare on food.
In the course of research for this post I found out that it is possible to get organic produce in China. Organic produce is reserved for important government officials and athletes.

What can we do?
Reading labels is often not enough, Products like garlic and ginger are often removed from their cases and merchandised loose in bins or on shelves. This problem is not new and looks like it will be continuing for a while, since China  does not have enough food safety inspectors to check food.  When food safety is concerned my advice tis to grow what you can on your own, and know where your food is coming from.  I really enjoying knowing the people that  I get my food from personally. I am even lucky enough to call some of them friends.

additional resources
China Food Safety
Tropic Post – China’s Wide Spread Contamination of Food

As I was doing research for this post I did find out that you can get organic food in China. Organic food is reserved for important government officials and star athletes. So while they believe in altering the food and throwing tons of pesticides at it in order to increase production, they also acknowledge that organic food is better for you, by reserving the best  food for the elite.

This post is linked up with Green and Natural MamasLiving Well Blog HopYour Green Resource, Fresh Bites Friday,Traditional Tuesdays t

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Wordless Wednesday–Family = Love


This past week Gramma Sugar(Deacon G’s mom) got married after being a widow for almost 11 years. What made this occasion really special is that my kids got to visit with their cousins.
IMG_8101 IMG_8068

I love these pics of the cousins. The best of about 6 I took. My Pumpkin has the cheesy smile, while Princess in the middle is obviously looking at her dad who is also trying to capture this pic.

There was no dance floor but Pi was determined to dance. So she downloaded songs on her phone and played them for the kids in the foyer of the church. I love that they are kids being kids.

Monday, September 19, 2011

It is not Easy Being Green


I  think Kermit the Frog said it best. Even though my brothers and I grew up in a Green Family. We did not realize it growing up but looking back there were many signs of it.
  • My parents bought property out in the country that had enough land to garden on.
  • They built their house in stages, paying for it as they went, the only mortgage they had was on the land itself.
  • My mother put a vegetable garden in the FRONT YARD. Unheard of even in the 70's, controversial today.
  • My mother nursed her children during a period time when breastfeeding was at an all time low.
  • We recycled cans and newspapers. Taking them to the recycle depot ourselves
  • My mother canned her garden’s bounty.
  • My father harvested dead wood for our wood stove. That means he did not cut down any green wood, just the dead wood in the forest. This is beneficial for the forest as in that it allows for sunlight to get to the forest floor and promote new growth.
Flash forward, to now. Somehow I returned my roots. We garden organically, I buy local food, I cook from scratch, line dry my clothes, I breastfed my children. But it is not always easy being green. Those who live a green lifestyle often have to work at it. For us recycling still means driving it to a collection point. My kids have to take out not only garbage but the compost. Being green means we keep our house hotter than normal in the summer and cooler than normal in the winter. Being green means we use alternative health solutions. Often times people don’t understand our lifestyle choices. Sometimes they are curious, sometimes they just don’t want to understand.
So what can you do?  Continue to stick to your convictions.  Living a green lifestyle is not anything new, it is not a fad or a trend, and if you are looking for some encourage or inspiration check out these great Green Blogs.
Good Girl Gone Green
Big Green Purse
Becoming Crunchy
What challenges have you overcome to live your Green Lifestyle?

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Sunday, September 18, 2011

Slow Food’s $5 Dinner Challenge

The Challenge
On Saturday, September 17th,  I participated in the Slow Food Dinner Challenge. The challenge to cook a dinner for under $5 per person. Slow Food is  the opposite of fast food, it s healthy, local and delicious. It is food that is good for you, good for farmers and workers, and good for the planet
Why? Because  I believe that Real Food should be easy and accessible. Real and slow food are normal around here, and to be honest. Why $5 a person? Slow Food USA decided upon that amount because that is the average price of a fast food meal. Now to be honest $5 a person for a meal at my house means a budget of $25 for an at home meal. This is beyond doable.
Now to be brutally honest, we had gone away earlier this week, and  I had forgotten to plan a meal. So  when  I got home  I got creative and went shopping in the pantry and freezer.  I know that fresh is always best but sometimes life gets busy. But it is possible to enjoy a Slow Foods Dinner when you can’t get to the Farmer’s Market.
So what did  I make and how did it go?
Sweet and Black Soup 
Super Easy to make.  I was happy to find some of my Crockpot Broth in my freezer. When you have good home made broth you can make anything taste good. But  I dug deeper n my freezer and found some corn that was left over corn from earlier this summer.  I looked in the fridge and found some great homemade salsa made by a friend of ours. I simply combined the little bit of salsa with my crockpot broth the leftover corn, and added a sweet potato.
  • Overnight Crockpot Broth
  • 1 cup of sweet corn cooked cut from the cob
  • 1 sweet potato cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 cup of black beans (pre cooked)
  • 1 cup of Salsa
combine all the ingredients in the crockpot and season to taste with
  • adobo seasoning
  • cumin
  • paprika
Cook until all the ingredients are heated through. Now I would like to say if I had planned ahead I might have added some grass-fed ground beef to this recipe or some precooked chicken(leftover).  But this was pretty tasty as it was. I would have also have liked to have had some cilantro, but unfortunately my garden burned up n our 100 degree summer.
I served my Black and Sweet Soup with some Black Bean Quesadilla’s on corn tortillas. 

Another easy basic at my house.
  • Corn Tortillas ( I am lucky to be able to buy locally made ones here)
  • Cooked Black Beans
  • Leftover Salsa
  • Any end bits of cheese blocks, it is fine to mix them while you are grating them.
My oldest was craving a sweet dessert for tonight. We don’t do desserts during the week, but the weekend seems to be a different story. So  made some decadent caramel apples. The best part about this dish is that I used some apples that were getting a little old and wrinkly.

Dessert – Apples with Caramel Sauce

All you need for this recipe is a little bit of butter and brown sugar and your apples. Again if  I had gone out shopping specifically to make this recipe   I probably would have used a tart apple like Paula Red or McIntosh. But I used what s on hand.

Now to break down the cost.
Soup -
  • Crockpot Broth -----------------free(this basically made from the carcass you would normally throw away)
  • Left over corn -------------------.33 ( I figured this based on a price of 3 ears of corn for $1)
  • Black Beans -------------------$1.29 (  used Organic Canned Black Beans)
  • Sweet Potato-----------------   .50  (good faith estimate as I buy these by the pound )
  • Salsa ---------------------------- free (this was a gift to us)
Total Cost for the soup was $2.12 (and we have plenty left over)
Black Bean Quesadillas
  • Corn Tortillas --------------------------------------------------------$1.30
  • Black beans- seasoned by me and pureed with hand mixer---$1.29
  • Salsa -------------------------------------------------------------------Free 
  • Cheese (bits of left over)-------------------------------------------$1.29
The Quesadillas were a bit price at $ 3.88
Apples with Caramel Sauce
  • Butter – 1 stick -----------------------------------------------------.49
  • Brown Sugar 1 cup ------------------------------------------------.39
  • 4 Apples sliced thinly(about 1 lb. in season apples --------- 1.29
Total price for Apples with Caramel Sauce $2.17
Total Cost for Three Courses for a family of 5
  • Soup                              $2.12
  • Quesadillas                       3.88
  • Apples w/Caramel Sauce   2.17
Total Cost  $8.17 for the entire family or $1.63 per person 

Since I was not able to go to the farmer’s market on Saturday due to travel,  I had to make do with what I had on hand. But sometimes  am at my most creative under pressure. I am lucky in that  I do stock my pantry with staples and source them as locally as  I can year round. Eating in season is important to me too. Apples always taste their best in fall, and peaches just are not the same here in Oklahoma because I don’t get that super sweet huge Georgia peach.
I would say that this dinner came in much under budget at $8.17 or $1. 63/per person.  But the true savings in eating slow food today was that I was able to source everything  I needed at home. Cooking the Slow Food way does not need to to be time consuming or costly. I challenge you to give it a try.

Friday, September 16, 2011

7 Quick Takes

 Fall arrived ahead of schedule. Tuesday our temperature reached 101 degrees, today the high is forecasted to be 68 degrees, right now it is 59 degrees and cloudy. I don’t think we will make it to 68 degrees.. In celebration I broke out the long pants, sweaters, and scarfs, but still refuse to wear socks.
IMG_8011We will soon be headed out of town for a wedding. Why does it seem like we pack as much for 2 days as we do for a week? Oh, I know why. We have all the fancy clothes. We have a separate bag just for our dress clothes, suits and dresses and extra shoes. Have I mentioned before that I like to travel light? I think we did a good job, one of the bags is full or gifts for family members. But frankly I am happy with less luggage.



The best part about a wedding is seeing all the family. Both sides of our family live really spread out, so it seems we only see each other at big family events, Weddings, Baptisms, Funerals. I know realize who lucky I was to grow up with one set of grandparents living next door and cousins who lived another door down.   Today we have grandparents and cousins who live 2 planes away, not two doors. It seems we are not the only ones in this boat.either. Just a couple of generations ago families used to stay much closer to home. Now it is not uncommon to pickup roots and move to find better pastures and economic futures for our families.  Family is important to us so perhaps itIMG_8073 for that reason I sent my 13 year old daughter on a tour de family this past summer. Perhaps next summer she can visit a different set of relatives.


They say the apple does not fall far from the tree. When I picked up my son today his teacher told me a funny anecdote.  They were doing bar graphs and discussing different categories of things they could graph. Some suggested favorite movies, some suggested favorite books. My son suggested favorite proteins.  Okay maybe I talk a little bit about food at home. To the point that my 7 year old son comes into my room while I am getting ready in the morning to tell me about the cantaloupe scare on TV. He wanted to make sure that none of us ate any or bought any. I reassured him that the cantaloupe I buy is not from the store.
I am in awe of the online community I have built in such a short time. I have only been blogging in earnest now since about April 12th. In such a short time I have found some great people. One’s that really boost me. Earlier this week on my personal Facebook page I posted a link to the Dr. Oz study. about  apple juice. A local mom left a comment that did not sit well with me. But when I went over to my Granola Catholic Page and checked the blog I had some very appreciative people. I know I do write about some controversial topics here. FoodFaith and How to Raise Children. I love getting feedback of all types so please if you have something to say, or have found out something I did not know about share it with me.  I try to do in depth research and like to go beyond the headlines. It is just my nature to research. I was that rare kid who liked to do research projects in school.
Speaking of an online community I would like to give a shout out to some of the people who support and inspire me, even if they don’t realize that they are supporting and inspiring me.
There are so many more of you who inspire and support me, but that is for another post.
Charisse @ I thought I Knew Mama
Nada @ MiniMomist
Crunchy Betty
Katy@Kitchen Stewardship
Stephanie @ Good Girl Gone Green
Julia @ Julie Cache
I have run out of things to say- believe it or not. Not – I have simply run out of time, the family has come back for more family time.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Pretty Happy Funny Real–Kids took my camera Edition

round button chicken

My kids like to use my camera I never know what they will take pictures of.  Some are just silly, some are beautiful

I just love the macro on this picture of the sunflower. Right now thanks to the hottest summer on record and a drought, the only thing blooming in my gardens are the sunflowers that the birds have planted. Normally I don’t let to many of these grow. I keep the ones I allow to grow in a certain part of the yard. But if they are this hardy they deserve to grow and they will give the birds some free food.
This was the sunrise the other day.  Yes, my daughter took this picture. We are up that early for school. If you look REAL close on the bottom you can see our pond.

Happy (and one sad)
There is so much to be happy about in this picture. Least of all is that my lawn is growing back after the extreme summer we had. This would be my Peanut. We were at a consignment sale and she saw this tutu. That was all she wanted from the clothes. I guess I am somewhat a pushover because here she is wearing it. I am also happy that the grass is green again. We had a brief week of rain, that ushered in some cooler temperatures. Apparently that was enough to get the grass to grow. Now we just need to get the part for the lawnmower. I think it is being shipped from the North Pole.

This is what my lawn looked like on September 10th
Even the dogs are happy to be outside and enjoy the weather. I swear Zack is smiling in this picture.

And  this is what my lawn looked like on August 8th.

Funny  - or Fun
My kids decided to race Big Wheels down our driveway. Believe me it is not this steep. Pi took these pictures of her brother and sister. The angles make it look like the drop is straight down.
This is a more accurate depiction of the slop of the driveway. You can tell because the dog is NOT defying gravity.
Apparently the Big Wheel needed a pit stop
We have breakfast for dinner once a week. Last week we had toasted corn tortillas with farm fresh, pastured eggs, Yes, if you have never had them, they are that  yellow, with papitas, refried black beans and salsa. A great hit with the family

We are a family of creative individuals here. This is our arts and crafts corner. I would like to say that someone had just finished a project, but sadly this is what the desk looks like still as I write this, and the kiddos are at school. Before I had children I was very organized. I used to organize my husband's socks by color.  Now I have learned to let go and let kids have fun. This little corner is in a part of the house not seen by many so it can stay a work in progress. 


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