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I remember when I was a little girl, cereal manufacturers advertised “fortified with vitamins and minerals!” in their wares.  One manufacturer even claimed to have 100% of recommended daily allowance in their flakes. We bought it and ate it because it was Milk and Cerealphoto © 2007 Steven Wilke | more info (via: Wylio)
there; we had very little understanding of nutrition in our family past a straight caloric count.  We didn’t consider things like fibre, protein, whole foods, or anything else that Mark and I now do in our family.  *shrug*  My parents did the best they could with what information they had available.

Now we know about things like bioavailability – your food’s nutrients and their  ability to be absorbed by your body – and how important it is to eat things that have raw nutrients for your body to use.

Enter this little (disgusting) science experiment where we get to see exactly what kind of iron is in fortified cereal.  While this video shows a masked box of Total cereal, it can also be done with any “iron enriched/fortified” cereal.  I’ll have comments below and a bonus recipe to make breakfasts both healthy, tasty, and easy.  :)

Delightful, eh? Yeah.  Blech.  I will still buy an occasional box of organic cereal to munch on, but most often, it doesn’t get eaten much.  I have some tasty flax cereal with raisins hanging about – I’m more likely to make flax muffins with it, but I’m okay with that.

Okay, so now you’re grossed out and a bit wigged out, potentially thinking about checking the boxes in your pantry when you’re done reading blog posts.  What will you feed your family?  Never fear.  I have an easy recipe for you that has whole foods, nutritive oils, and fibre.  No iron filings needed; these breakfast cookies are equivalent to a bowl of oatmeal and I promise you, kids and husbands alike love them.  My son’s eyes POPPED when I asked him if he wanted a cookie for breakfast.  Seriously.  You’d have thought that I offered to buy out FAO Schwartz of all existing LEGO sets.  :)

Breakfast Cookies
  • 1 c. butter, melted (I often use 1/2 c. butter + 1/2 c. coconut oil)
  • ¾ c. honey
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 t. salt (I like Real Salt)
  • 2 t. cinnamon
  • 1 t. baking soda
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 1/2 c. buttermilk (milk or kefir can also be used)
  • 2 c. whole wheat flour
  • 2 c. rolled oats (NOT steel-cut oats)
  • 1 c. raisins
  • 1 c. bittersweet chocolate chips

Mix wet ingredients, add flour in 1/3 c. at a time. then add oats, raisins, and chocolate chips.  Scoop large (really big!) spoonfuls of batter on to baking tray, bake at 350F for 18 minutes.  Cool on a rack and store in a container in the fridge, between waxed paper pieces.  Yields 12-15 cookies per batch.

Way better than iron filings, eh?  :)

 

Okay, so last week’s intended Two-fer Tasty Tuesday was a bomb, but this week’s is NOT.  I have finally found a mayo recipe that is easy, delicious, and fresh – and did I mention it is delicious?  :)

I’ve experimented with other “no fail” mayo recipes – from stick-blender recipes to “so-easy-you-could-do-it-in-your-sleep” recipes.  The stick-blender recipes were a massive failure – I think because my stick-blender isn’t new and is the better part of 15 years old, it just doesn’t do it right/well/enough.  And the SEYCDIIYS (“so-easy-you-could-do-it-in-your-sleep”) recipe?  Yeah, it tasted bad.  I think mayo “blooms” after it’s made and you refrigerate it.  It’s the only way I can describe the different flavours that appeared after I made it – and that made the final product inedible.  😐

So I’ve searched and hunted.  I’ve tried butter-mayo (a great concept, but I’m not buying a different kind of butter than what we normally use, just to make mayo), olive oil mayo (it needs another oil to mellow its flavour), and finally settled on a blended-oil mayonnaise.  The key to making any homemade mayo is this:  DRIZZLE YOUR OIL IN.  Sounds simple, but really, it can be frustratingly challenging.

My blender is a Bosch and fits on my Universal Plus mixer.  I love it.  The top to the blender has a hole in it, effectively making it like a funnel.  You can see it a little more clearly below and to the left.  If you have a food processor whose “plunger” piece (the one you use to shove food that you want to shred down in to the whirling blades without losing a finger) has a tiny hole, that’s also used for oil emulsification.  I just happen to have a blender with a nifty spot for it.

The other option you have is to use a squirt bottle – like the ketchup/mustard kinds that are $.50 apiece once the summer picnic season starts.  The real point is to drizzle the oil slowly, otherwise you’ll end up with an Exxon Valdez-type mess in your kitchen, and as Alton Brown says, “That’s just not good eats.”

Speaking of Alton Brown, he has a great tutorial on making mayo that I’ll include at the bottom of this post.  They’re worth watching just to get the idea of the science behind the stuff.  I’d be remiss in my duties as an AB-fangirl if I didn’t tell you that his recipes are the bomb and nearly fail-proof.  My one dissension from AB’s advice is this:  NEVER EVER MAKE MAYONNAISE IF YOU DON’T KNOW WHERE YOUR EGGS COME FROM.  AB talks about using “pasteurized eggs,” which means they’ve been pasteurized in the shell, but since we’re all about Real Food and Unadulterated Food here, I’m not going to recommend those.  I would never, ever make mayo with store-bought eggs.  Ever.  I’ve had salmonella poisoning and I never want to have it again.  Know where your eggs come from, wash them before sticking them in the fridge, and make sure they are the freshest eggs around.  These are cornerstone rules for making homemade mayo.

My recipe is divergent from AB’s in a few things:  I omit his dry mustard (see above, where I explain my “blooming” theory – dried mustard in mayo = a very strong mustard spread in 24 hours) and I don’t use his corn oil (see above for “Real Food” comment).  I did use a blend of coconut oil and olive oil, and it turned out spoon-lickin’-good.  I prefer an unflavoured/unscented coconut oil for this application – I always have some of Tropical Traditions’ Expeller Pressed CO on hand for stuff like this.  As far as an olive oil, make sure it’s extra-virgin.

Now that I’ve got my explanations and disclaimers out of the way, here’s the actual recipe.  This will make just over a pint of mayonnaise – about a pint and a quarter.  I find it easiest to assemble all of my ingredients first and then begin the mixing process.  :)

Sue’s Homemade Mayonnaise
  • 2 whole, fresh eggs, room temperature
  • 1 t. sea salt (fine grind, I like Real Salt)
  • ½ t. sugar
  • 1 T. white vinegar
  • 2 T. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 ¾ c. TOTAL olive oil & expeller-pressed coconut oil (equal portions of each)

In your blender, toss your eggs (whites included!), the salt, sugar, vinegar, and lemon juice.  Whirl on highest power for 30 seconds or so.

In a gentle, slow stream, with the blender (or food processor) on high, begin adding your oil combination.  You’ll hear the blender chug differently as the oil begins the emulsification – but keep going until all the oil is added.  Whirl it for about 30 seconds after the last bit of oil is incorporated and then scoop it in to a jar.  The flavour should be light, slightly lemon-y, and altogether creamy.

Alton says that the acids allow this to “proof” on the counter for up to 12 hours – I let mine sit for no more than 3-4 hours.  I think the heat of Arizona is stronger than the heat of Atlanta, where he is.  😉  Cap it up and stick it in the fridge.  Most people say to use it within 7-10 days, but I can’t find a reason why it wouldn’t be good past then, assuming optimum refrigeration is followed.  The eggs don’t spoil in the fridge, the salt, sugar, and acids won’t spoil, and the oils would still be good.  But follow your own best judgment – never eat something that smells “off” or you find questionable.

My final product looks like this (the mayo has a yellow tinge because the farm-fresh eggs have bright orange yolks and aren’t pale like factory-farmed eggs):

~~~~~~~

And, because I just can’t stop now – here is my homemade ranch dressing recipe.  The seasoning is kept in a jar and then when mixing it to make salad dressing, I add in 2 T. of dried whole milk.  I love that this has no MSG in it and that it tastes SO good.  Brendan declares it to be as good as store-bought ranch dressing; I love that I know how it’s made.

MSG-free Ranch Dressing Mix
  • 4 T. onion powder (granules)
  • 7 t. dried parsley
  • 4 t. sea salt (I like Real Salt)
  • 1 t. garlic powder (granules)

Mix these ingredients in a jar and cap it tightly.  To make ranch dressing, use 2 T. mix, 2 T. powdered whole milk (for a richer flavour), 1 c. of mayo (hey! you just made some!), and 1 c. of milk or buttermilk.  Mix all together well (I use my stick blender) and refrigerate at least 3 hours for optimum flavour-blending.

The spice blend is cheap (important as food prices are rising), is made with spices in my food storage, tastes really good, and is usable in dips as well as dressing (just blend with 2 T. of the mix with 2 T. of dried whole milk and 2 c. of sour cream).  It takes a remarkably small amount of cupboard space, too.  :)

As promised, here are the AB videos on making mayonnaise – enjoy your newfound culinary skillz!  :)

I’ve been sitting on this video for a while now, unfortunately because I’ve not had the time to edit it.  Between the holidays, house guests, and now more house guests, our last 30+ days have been a tad overwhelming, but way too much fun, too.  :)

I got my grain mill in November and am so VERY happy with the purchase.  Our food storage, as you may know if you read here often, is filled with hard white wheat and this mill makes it incredibly easy to make the tastiest bread EVAH.  Seriously, if we liked my bread before, we LOVE it now.  It’s amazing how much lighter and airier my bread’s crumb is now, versus using cracked wheat before.

  • As I researched (and researched and researched and researched) grain mills before buying it, a few things stood out:  I wanted a non-impact type mill, which meant that I had to be happy with millstones and only certain grain mills actually used millstones.
  • I wanted to control the heat of the flour – or at least not have it get too high.  Having borrowed a friend’s WhisperMill (now it is called the Wonder Mill), I knew the flour was HOT when the mill was done.  I also knew that it was LOUD – it was louder than my vacuum cleaner.
  • Which brings me to the third thing:  I wanted  a mill that wasn’t going to burst my eardrums.  The so-called WhisperMill was anything but quiet, but the “reported sound level” on differing websites was about 50dB.  There was NO WAY it was actually 50dB – my (formerly) brand-new dishwasher ran at 55dB and it was virtually silent. So accurate portrayal of noise was important to me.
  • And finally, I really wanted a mill that would last.  The mills that were (are) made in Korea are okay, and they are a sight less expensive than the European mills.  But the European mills had longevity on their side, and I really didn’t want to have to do this research and re-purchase this in a few years.  I wanted it to last and be a lifetime investment.  KoMo has mills that have run daily for 15 years and are still going as strong as the first day, and that was the sort of purchase I wanted to make.

So we saved our money and finally purchased the mill.  I played with it a bit and figured out what texture I wanted my flour at for bread (it’s not quite at the finest setting, but it’s definitely fine) and off to the races we went.

I haven’t regretted the money I’ve spent thus far, and I’ve also ground my own cornmeal (but not from popcorn – from degermed corn).  If I ever grind beans in it, I’ll get a nice bean flour that’s useful for much, and I can also make rice flour and other fine-flours.  We’ve not developed a taste for muesli yet, but I’m hoping to get Brendan hooked somewhat soon.  I think he’ll like it.

This video was made & produced by the Health Ranger at NaturalNews.com and I thought it was worth re-posting here.  It’s a longer video (about 14 minutes) but really gives some first-hand experience and a look at the impact of this bill (S510) that was passed by Congress.

Brendan is now saying he wants to be an organic farmer when he grows up – which is totally cool.  But whether organic farming will even be an option by the time he grows up is questionable.  If we permit this centralization of our food supply, we’re going to face more BigAgriBusiness and more regulations on the “threat” the small farmer is to these conglomerates.  We’ll also face greater disease and concerns about hormones and antibiotics in our food supply – but it will fall on deaf ears, because the end (cheap food) will justify the means (poison in our food).

I am a chicken.  A complete dental chicken.  This is really quite ironic, because I’ve been to the dentist most The Drillphoto © 2010 Paul Lowry | more info (via: Wylio)
of my life, had extractions, oral surgery, gum surgery, and 6 years of braces and 2.5 years of retainers.  It’s not like I’m afraid of the unknown.

Except maybe that’s my problem.  I’m not afraid of the unknown – I’m nervous about the known.  And then there’s the smell.  My friend Mel is a dental hygienist and she laughs at me – but she’s gotten used to The Smell. The Smell is enough to induce a full-on panic in me – it nauseates me and makes my eyes water.  There was one time I took Brendan to an oral surgeon to have his mouth evaluated (he was tongue-tied at birth and it wasn’t corrected surgically until he was 3.5 y/o – a long story) and they invited us back to the examining room.  As we stepped through the door, I was hit full-face by The Smell and did everything in my Mom Power to keep it together and not completely bolt out of panic.  So far, I’ve done a good job of not relaying my dental chickenhood to Brendan, but it’s work on my part.

Confession time:  I’ve not been to the dentist since I got pregnant with Brendan.  Yes, I’m aware that’s a long time ago.  And yes, I’m aware that he’s nearly 9.  Don’t remind me, please. But I have a good excuse – or set of excuses.  Mark’s previous employer had really crappy dental insurance – regular cleanings were not even covered at 50%, and we simply didn’t have the extra cash to cover the cleanings AND whatever work needed to be done.  Going in to debt to have unpleasant work done in our mouths wasn’t exactly high on the priority list, either.  Doing a really good job on cleaning your teeth and making sure you remove the acids from your mouth becomes a pretty big priority when you can’t afford dental work – and when you’re a dental chicken.  So I’ve been meticulous for the past several years about brushing and flossing and have done a pretty decent job, I think.

Now I look back and see it as a bit providential in the way it worked out.  A few years ago, I finally got my hands on raw milk.  Within a few months of drinking the raw milk, my teeth felt … better.  I’d had some sensitivity that I attributed to some potential decay, but miraculously, they went away and didn’t hurt anymore.  My gums stopped bleeding when I flossed, and there was nothing else to point to except the milk.  I wasn’t drinking a gallon per day, but just a glass and whatever was in my coffee cup in the morning.  Huh.  It kind of went along with Dr. Weston A. Price’s theory about eating real (whole) foods in primitive cultures and not having the dental decay/health decay that Western societies had after eating processed food.

We’re now in a place where we can afford to have dental work done – and our dental insurance enrollment is coming up in January.  All of a sudden, I realized – I want a dentist who looks at health like I do.  It’s what has put me on the hunt for a biological dentist – one who doesn’t use mercury-amalgam fillings (I have a mouthful of them), who doesn’t push fluoride on patients, and who will treat my whole family.  A few in this area are covered by our dental insurance, but several aren’t.  Which also makes me question if it’s possible to take the premium for our dental insurance ($70/mo) and stuff it in our HSA, paying for dental care out of our pockets.

Lots of questions, but I think there are answers out there – I just have to be diligent.  If the office doesn’t have The Smell, that could very well be a tipping point for me – because it also erases the majority of my fear about seeing a dentist.

Hard to believe that when I was Brendan’s age, I wanted to be a dentist!

I’ve been using this remedy for a couple of months now; I was turned on to it by reading about the healing properties of elderberries on a few different blogs.  And even if some of my friends (*cough* *cough*) call it “voodoo medicine,” I’m a firm believer that God gave us ways to heal our bodies long before pharmaceuticals were invented.  :)

Plus, it really works.

Brendan had a cold with fever last month (which might’ve been a flu bug, but there’s no way I’m going to have him tested by sticking a swab up in to his nasal cavities) and I diligently did a few things:  I let the fever run its course (it never got above 103F) in order to speed the death of the virus; I gave him all the chicken stock (complete with the minerals from the feet) he could handle; and I gave him a tablespoon of elderberry syrup every hour on the hour for 2.5 days.  Before day 3 was up, he was up from the sofa, poking around for real food, and playing Lego.

So now Mark has some creeping crud – and I just finished another batch for him.  He’s dozing on the sofa now (and I’m faithfully rubbing Thieves essential oil on the bottom of my feet and peppermint essential oil on the tops of my toes to stay healthy) and he has already had a dose, warm from the pan.

I sort of feel like an elderberry evangelist now, but I’m really quite dead-set against flu vaccines and overreaction with antibiotics.  So this is my answer  and if anyone around me is talking about a cold remedy, elderberries are likely to come in to the discussion.  :)

So if you want to make elderberry syrup, you’ll need the following:

  • ½ c. dried elderberries (or 1 c. of fresh/frozen elderberries) I got mine from Mountain Rose Herbs
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 1 whole cinnamon stick
  • 1 T. finely chopped ginger root (fresh or frozen, not dried)
  • 2 c. of filtered water
  • 1 c. raw honey

 

Add the ingredients above (elderberries, cinnamon stick, cloves, and ginger) to 2 cups of filtered water in a pan

 

Turn your pan on medium-high heat, making sure everything is wet.  Note the water level in your pan before things begin to boil

 

When things begin to bubble, turn your pan to medium-low heat and allow it to simmer gently.  You’re going to decoct (reduce, but used in herbal “cooking”) by half the amount of liquid, strengthening the finished product.  Watch your liquid level – as a point of reference, on my stove, it took about 20 minutes to decoct to the mixture to where I wanted it.

 

If you look carefully, you can see the line on the inside of my pan where the water level started out; this was right before I strained it.

 

I tamped down the elderberries, cloves, ginger, and cinnamon stick to make sure I got all the good stuff out of the strainer

What you can’t see is that I had a cup of honey in this bowl before pouring the hot elderberry juice on top of it.  It’s important to have the elderberry juice hot, or the honey won’t dissolve properly and it will be inconsistent in texture and dosing.

 

It’s thin on the spoon at this point, but it will thicken as it cools.  The honey is a great cough-soother (just be sure to use raw honey, not refined honey!), the cinnamon and ginger have warming properties for the chills, and the cloves are anti-viral and downright medicinal, along with the elderberries themselves.

 

You’ll get a good pint out of this recipe; pour it in a mason jar and store it in the fridge.  I also have amber medicine bottles that I fill up with this stuff for portability (one fits in my purse) and easy dosing.  Take 1 tablespoon per hour while you’re awake – if you wake during the night, take another, but don’t actively dose at night otherwise.  In other words, rest while you can and take this while you’re awake.

You’ll feel better in no time!  And this is safe for kids – no worrisome pharmaceuticals in it, just the things that God put on our planet to heal us, naturally.  :)

16
Sep

This one falls under the “I’ll take “Get a Clue” for $800, Alex”-heading.  Yes, I’m that agog – still.

Two days ago, the NYT health blog had an article up about how the Corn Refiner’s Association is aiming to change the name of High Fructose Corn Syrup.  The petition has come before the FDA because of the bruising HFCS has taken in the media, in popular culture, and because so many people (and companies) are abandoning the stuff in droves.

I’ve had my own little tet-a-tet with the CRA over calling HFCS “the devil himself” in an AnnArbor.com article in February – and I’m sure this article, although a lower-profile than my A2.com writing, will not exactly please the group’s president, either.

Audrae Erickson, the president of the CRAA, is quoted in the NYT as saying that “Clearly the name is confusing consumers.  Research shows that ‘corn sugar’ better communicates the amount of calories, the level of fructose and the sweetness in this ingredient.”

Ummm… Ms. Erickson, I don’t think people are “confused” about whether or not they want to consume HFCS.  I think most people have researched it fairly well – at least, well enough for their comfort level.  Some of us have researched it significantly more than “well enough” and sound the alarm bell when things like this are attempted.

The CRA has claimed for several years now that nutritionally, sugar and HFCS are virtually the same.  And yet, pancreatic tumor cells, when placed in a medium of HFCS in a laboratory, grew like mad.  Sugar has always fed tumor cells, but proliferation of tumor cells only happened in the HFCS medium.  Huh.  “Just like sugar,” eh?

Additionally, HFCS (like any form of fructose ingested without fibre and nutrients) is not metabolized by the pancreas, but heads straight for the liver.  There is some talk about how HFCS and other unmitigated forms of fructose can cause a host of health problems – from high blood pressure to high cholesterol.  This whole topic gets really complex, and if you want to read more, check out Dr. Mercola’s site and the search parameters here.  I am personally convinced not let the stuff in my home.  We have purged all HFCS-bearing foods and drinks from our diet and my husband has decided (on his own – not due to nagging!) that he won’t drink his favourite soda when it’s sweetened with HFCS.  He will gravitate towards cane-sugar sweetened sodas when they are in production, but that’s it.

So the upshot is that the CRA thinks we’re unintelligent and “confused” about their main product.  And that our “confusion” would be lessened with a name change.  I don’t know about you, but I’m not confused – and a name change, although business-savvy, seems borderline sneaky and deceitful to me.  Manufacturers aren’t going to start using it again just because a name changes when customers have spoken so clearly about wanting to avoid it, and this just seems another attempt to pull the wool over our eyes.

I, for one, am not letting my eyes be covered.  Baaah (humbug!).

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