kitchen background

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Niu Rou Mian- Authentic Taiwanese Beef Noodle

I lived in Taiwan for a year and a half as a missionary. I have a lot of good memories of the people and the culture, and many good recipes of the food. In Taiwan, a common greeting is, "Have you eaten?" (Chi bao le ma?) When getting to know people, they would often ask how I liked the food. I was glad to be able to say that I loved it. Taiwanese food uses a lot of fresh vegetables and meat, fish or tofu over rice. They don't eat a lot of sugar, and a common dessert is fresh fruit or sweetened beans.

Niu Rou Mian (Beef Noodle) is a food you can buy from restaurants or vendors, but can be easily made at home. It takes some work ahead of time, so be sure to start early.


2 lbs Beef Shank/Short Ribs or Stew Beef 
2-3 tomatoes
1 Whole Onion
5-6 Cloves of Garlic

Olive oil
2 big pieces of ginger
3-4 stalks of Green Onions
1/2 cup of Soy Sauce (Dark and Regular)
2 cups Beef Broth
5 cups of water

Noodles( I used Barilla whole wheat linguine)
Bok Choy 


Slice onion, tomatoes and garlic. Saute in a dutch oven in a little bit of olive oil until softened. Add meat. Cook until browned. Add soy sauce, ginger, green onion, beef broth and water. Let simmer for 4-6 hours, adding more water if needed.

Cook noodles according to package directions. Add bok choy during the last minute or two of cooking. Drain. Dish up noodles and bok choy. Scoop beef mixture over noodles.
You will need a fork and a spoon to eat. Enjoy!

This post is part of Tasty Tuesdays.

Friday, March 26, 2010

School Lunch on TV

After my post earlier this week about school lunch with my daughter, a few readers let me know about other things happening with school lunches around the country.

Tonight the new show "Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution" will air on ABC. I watched it online earlier this week. His main objective is to teach people to cook their own food and be aware of what they are eating. His first attempt was in a school cafeteria in Huntington, West Virginia, the unhealthiest city in the U.S. It's really interesting to see their reaction: not only are the lunch ladies not grateful to see him there, they are downright hostile towards him. The big shocker to me was that they don't see anything wrong with the food they are serving. Looking at a box of hamburger patties, where ground beef was the number one ingredient, Alice (a lunch lady) didn't mind that there was a long list of other ingredients mixed in there too.

In Chicago earlier this week, students prepared to meet with their school board to protest against the school lunch food. They are concerned that nachos, fries, pizzas and slushies are the daily fare. Their suggestions include: having an organic school garden and cooking the food on site. The board turned down the students request to meet with them, but a teacher promised to deliver their speeches for them. You can read the full article here. The powerful part is that students here care enough to try to make a change in what they are served.

Jessica Ortega, one of the high school students involved in trying to make changes in her school lunch, said, "If we could get used to the nasty food, why couldn't we get used to the healthy food too?"  That's part of why the school lunch is such a concern: at a very young age, we are getting kids used to  unhealthy food as the norm.

Michelle Obama has taken school lunch up as one of her issues. “Every day, with the food you serve, you're teaching them these critical lessons about nutrition and healthy eating,” Obama said. “You're shaping their habits and their preferences, and you're affecting the choices that they're going to make for the rest of their lives.”  She is working from the top down, and students working from the bottom up, maybe we have a chance of making a change in the quality of food we feed our nation's kids.

Less than a week left for the jewelry giveaway- be sure to enter before the 31st!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

School Lunch

I met my daughter for school lunch today. I rarely let her buy lunch, so it was a double treat-- buying lunch and having her parents there (my husband met us too).

I had seen the school lunch menu and was not impressed. Corn dogs, pizza, chicken nuggets, and always a choice of yogurt if they don't like the main entree. So I had pretty low expectations. I'm glad to say there were some positives, although there is definitely room for improvement.

We started with milk. We had 3 choices: plain, chocolate or strawberry. I chose plain, but that was the only one I saw at our whole table. Most kids went for chocolate (including my daughter and my husband). The milk was not labeled as low-fat, and I am assuming it was whole! I was pleasantly surprise to see these kids getting healthy fats. I was also very surprised to see "Grade A. Pasteurized." Notice something missing? The milk was not homogenized, and had instructions to "shake well." Homogenization breaks up the delicate fats, so I'm thrilled that the milk is un-homogenized. One environmental note: the milk was served in little pouches as opposed to cardboard containers. I'm just guessing here, but thin plastic like that seems like it would take longer to break down, even though it does take up less space in a landfill.

As we moved down the line, we were able to fill our trays ourselves with orange slices, salad, cucumber slices and baby carrots-- as much as we wanted. The fruits and vegetables were fresh, and most kids took  at least some of the fruit and veggies. I liked that they were able to choose, and help themselves to whatever quantities they desired. There was only one type of salad dressing offered- ranch. I put it on my tray, but when I saw the ingredient list, I left it unopened. The ingredients list covered the entire packet, and the first ingredient was soybean oil. Kind of takes away from the healthfulness of the salad if all you have to dip it in is that.

We were on to our entree next. There were three choices. A tostada, macaroni and cheese, something labeled "Taco Nada" that looked like a tamale, or a low-fat strawberry yogurt. My husband and I chose the tostadas. It was a little soggy on the bottom and cooked-in-the-microwave-style crispy on the edges. Our daughter had the neon orange macaroni and cheese. These are the kinds of foods that give school lunch a bad name. Processed, reheated foods with little nutritional value. White noodles in a fake cheese sauce or a melted cheese-like substance on a fried shell are not my idea of healthy choices.

I'd break it down like this: Positives: un-homogenized whole milk offered, fruits and veggies offered, no dessert. Negatives: two of the three milks have added sugar, the only dressing is made with soybean oil and other unhealthy ingredients, the entree is highly processed. So, while they has lots of room for improvement, I'd give the overall lunch a C+.  School lunches have long been known for being less-than-desirable, but our school is trying.

Being at school lunch today brought back a memory from my own school days of Brad Benner following me around the playground asking me if I liked soggy hamburger buns. I could see he was holding something under his shirt, so it was with caution that I asked, "Why are you asking?"  "Just answer the question," he insisted. "No, I don't like them." I said, still wary. Out from under his shirt came a petition and a pen. "Sign your name here if you don't like soggy hamburger buns." I signed. And you know what? We still had hamburgers at school, but they changed those soggy buns. Instead of heating the burger and bun together, which did make a soggy bun on the bottom, they heated them separately. It was a simple solution, and the most amazing thing of all is that the change was brought on by an elementary school student.

Maybe we need to start another petition for healthier school lunches. Until there are significant changes, my daughter will continue to bring her lunch. But what about all the kids who have parents who don't think they have time to bring a lunch, get school lunch paid for, or just don't care? It's for those kids, that are eating this food every day, that something needs to change.

Link to giveaway.

This post is part of Things I love Thursday.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Eat this, not that

There is a series of books with the title "Eat this, not that."  This is my real food version of eat this, not that. Some are really simple changes- just throwing something different in your cart at the store, and some take a little more work.

Sea salt, not iodized salt
Iodized salt is washed, stripped of minerals and bleached. Then, to restore some of what was lost in that process, potassium iodide is added back in. Sea salt has trace minerals, including naturally occuring iodine that is more readily absorbed by the body. Unfortunately, not all products called "sea salt" are unrefined. Look for salt that is a light grayish color that has not been bleached.

Plain yogurt, not commercially flavored yogurt
I'm not saying that you have to eat all your yogurt plain, but if you are adding in your own sweeteners and flavorings, you will add less sugar than a corporation would (unless, of course, you're my Dad and you add sugar to your Cap'n Crunch). You also get to control what kind of sweetener goes in, allowing you to use maple syrup instead of high fructose corn syrup or other highly processed sugars.

Maple Syrup or fruit syrup, not maple flavored pancake syrup
Real maple syrup is a naturally occuring product that comes from a tap directly in the maple tree. Since it can be pricey, we alternate between maple syrup and fruit syrups. But we have completely eliminated the fake stuff from our diets. Usually the number one ingredient in the fake stuff is HFCS, followed by other processed foods, none of which have any redeeming nutritional value.

Homemade bread, not store bought bread
With store bought bread, there is usually a long list of unpronouncable ingredients. When you bake your own, you know exactly what goes in it. You can even do things to increase the nutrition and digestibility, like soaking or sprouting your grains. Besides all the health reasons, homemade bread tastes so good, and costs much less than store bought.

Daisy Sour Cream, not store brands
Daisy Sour cream has one ingredient: cultured cream. Other brands I've seen have around 10. Daisy sour cream is delicious, and I'm sure their short list of one ingredient has something to do with that.

Rumford baking powder, not Clabber Girl
Clabber Girl baking powder, along with most store brands, contains sodium aluminum sulfate. Aluminum is not something we need more of, so it's best to avoid a product that is adding extra.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil, not pure olive oil
Extra virgin olive oil is cold pressed, and keeps all the nutrients. "Pure" olive oil is what they make after
they make EVOO. They use heat to get the rest of the oil out of the olives. It destroys some nutrients and
also causes it to become rancid, so they sometimes have to add in some virgin olive oil just to make it
taste decent. EVOO is the way to go for health and for taste.

Homemade Broth, not Swanson's
Broth is the simplest thing to make: Add water, bones, and veggies to a pot. Simmer for hours. Drain out the veggies and bones. That's it! Unfortunately, most broth that you buy in the store contains autolyzed yeast extract or soy lecithin. You can find brands without added ingredients. If making broth seems too much of a chore and you are going to buy it, look for a brand that contains: chicken (or beef), vegetables and maybe some salt. That's really about all that should be in there.

Pastured Meat and Poultry, not Factory Farmed
This can be a hard one, because it costs more to get the good stuff. But it's better for the animals and better for us. They have happier, healthier living conditions, resulting in healthier meat on the animals. Their health depends on what they eat (like grass for cows), and their environment. Pasture raised animals don't need routine antibiotics and are generally allowed to grow without any added growth hormones.

This is far from a comprehensive list, but hopefully it will get you thinking. Feel free to add your own in the comments!

Note: I got some feedback from my family that my giveaway post was confusing, so let me clarify: you don't have to do ALL those things to get an entry- each one is good for one entry, for a total of up to five. So click here and head on over to enter!

Friday, March 19, 2010

$25 of gorgeous jewelry--giveaway!!

Drum roll please....

I am excited to announce a great jewelry giveaway.
Sontina of Sontina's Creations has graciously agreed to giveaway $25 worth of her gorgeous jewelry!
This is one of a kind, hand crafted, wearable art.
Her jewelry is affordable, so even if you don't win this giveaway, if you're in need of some jewelry (or a gift) be sure to support this small business owner and spread the word about her new business!

Ways to enter:
(There are a total of 5 possible entries.)

1. Visit the website and then come back here and tell us what you like.
2. Subscribe via email or follow this blog (or tell me that you already do).
3. Email 3 friends about the giveaway.
4. If you have a blog or a website, post about the giveaway and link back to this post.
5. Click the "Share this" button at the bottom of the post and share the giveaway.

Please let me know what you did, and use a separate comment for each entry.
This giveaway ends at midnight on March 31st. It is only open to residents of the continental U.S.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Falafel with yogurt sauce

Beans are a great source of nutrition that doesn't cost a lot of money. This delicious recipe for Falafel comes from Food Network's Guy Fieri, with a few changes from me. I made Falafels for years while reading the recipe from a magazine. It wasn't until I was talking with a friend that I realized I was pronouncing it wrong. So, in case you too are unsure of the pronuncitation, it is:
Fa-La- Full
Not, Fal-a-fell, as I went around calling them.
Oh well, my friend got a good laugh and I learned a new word. Falafels are made from chickpeas and fried in little patties. They can be eaten in pita with lettuce, tomatoes, or even cucumbers, or wrapped in lettuce. This recipe is very versatile. You can leave out the bell peppers, use dried herbs instead of fresh (be sure to reduce the amount if you do), or eat the whole thing in a pita with lettuce and tomato. Chickpeas are a good source of protein and folate, high in fiber, calcium and minerals. And they taste really good.
Nourishing traditions recommends soaking chickpeas for 24 hours in a little whey (or lemon juice), and simmering for about 6 hours. I do this soak and slow cook, but then I can or freeze the beans. Freezing is better nutritionally speaking, but it's not quite as convenient to have to thaw a container as it is to get one out of the pantry and pop it open. For that reason, I usually prefer canned. Dried beans are much less expensive than (store bought) canned also, so a little planning ahead will save some money.
I'd seen many recipes for yogurt sauce, and it just never sounded good. I tried this one with my homemade yogurt and, in the words of my father in law, "it'll knock your socks off." It's so good I use the leftovers (if there are any) as a salad dressing.

Falafel (Fa-la-full)

Extra Virgin Olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 14 oz. cans chickpeas, drained
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 egg
1 Tbsp. salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4-1/2 cup flour
2 cups chopped parsley leaves
3/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves
Lettuce, separated into cups


In medium skillet over medium heat, add 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil and sweat onions and peppers 2 to 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook until translucent, 5 minutes more.
In a food processor, pulse together chickpeas, ground cumin, egg, salt and pepper. Add flour, parsley and cilantro. Pulse until the mixture starts pulling away from the sides of the food processor. If it doesn't, you need to add more flour until it does.
Remove mixture to a large bowl and mix in the onion mixture. (I usually do a rough chop on the onions and pepper, and then chop it finer in the food processor since it's already out.)
Scoop falafel into one inch rounds.
Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook, flipping occasionally, until golden brown, about 5 minutes.
Drain on paper towels and sprinkle with salt while still hot.
Serve in lettuce cups (or pita bread) with yogurt sauce.

Yogurt Dipping Sauce

1 cup plain yogurt
1/2 Tbsp. lemon zest
1 Tbsp. freshly sqeezed lemon juice
1 Tbs. salt
1 Tbsp. freshly chopped cilantro leaves
2 Tbsp. freshly chopped parsley leaves
1/2 tsp. ground cumin

Mix ingredients together in a small bowl and chill until ready to use.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Help Wanted: Religious Real Foodies

I am going to be starting a series soon on Real Food and Religion. I'm looking for some bloggers/ writers of different religious beliefs to help me out with this project. If you are interested, comment below with:

1. Your name
2. Your religion
3. A link to your blog if you have one

I have a list of questions to get you started on your post.
I will be running the series starting in mid- April.
I'm excited to be running this series; please help me make it a success!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Lessons in Composting

A few months back I began working on my compost. I'd never done it before, and after reading about it, I thought, "How hard can it be?" You save some scraps, put them in a bin, and voila! compost!
Except, when I finally went to check on it, all I had was a stinky mess of rotting fruit and vegetable parts.
I've been on the phone with Master Gardeners and reading more about the subject, so that I can do this better the second time around. Here's what I've learned.

Compost needs air. I do remember hearing this. In fact, a friend told me that she had drilled holes in her bin to allow air in. I kind of bypassed this step since we don't have a drill. I thought maybe air coming in the top (since my bin doesn't have a lid) would be enough. It's not. Drill or cut holes.
Another way to get air to your compost is to have a compost pile instead of a compost bin.

Compost needs brown matter. This same friend told me that also. I did add some, but not enough. Brown matter can be dried leaves, straw, or dead grass clippings.

Compost needs bugs. Worms crawl in through those holes in your compost bin, and eat up the organic matter you've put in there. Even if no worms get in, tiny bugs (aka bacteria) will also do the job of eating up your discarded food material. I guess that's why composting will also work directly on the ground, because it allows those bugs access to your compost.

Compost needs water. The ingredients in your compost bin need to be moist to provide an environment where the bacteria can multiply.

Why Compost?
Composting reduces your waste. You will have less of an impact on the planet, and as a bonus, you have to take the trash out less.
Compost provides a gourmet meal for your garden. And my garden needs all the help it can get.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Good things all over the blogosphere

Today I want to use this post to point your attention to all kinds of great giveaways and other great things happening online.

A giveaway and a challenge

The nourishing gourmet is having a spring cleaning challenge. This week's challenge is to clean your pantry. I am lucky enough to have a large walk in pantry, and 'cause it's so big, it stays pretty organized. There were a few things I needed to do to spruce it up. When you participate in the spring cleaning challenge and leave a comment, you are entered in the giveaway. That's great motivation for getting things clean!
I do lots of canning, as you can see in the picture above. But not all of that is actually canned. Some of those are old peanut butter or spaghetti jars that I've reused for storage of bulk items. Using glass jars makes things look neat and organized, and bonus!- they are free and help you save the planet when you reuse old jars.


The Nourished Kitchen is having a giveaway for organic, grass-fed ghee. Not familiar with ghee? (pronounced gee with a hard g) It's clarified butter and can be used to cook or saute foods. Ghee can be heated to a higher temperature than butter and will last longer-- in fact, it doesn't even need to be refrigerated.

Katie at Kitchen Stewardship is having a giveaway for 3 bread pans from Urban Homemakers. They look great, and are made from tinware, something I had never heard of before. If you're the lucky winner, you can use them to make this delicious soaked bread recipe

Emily at Not so idle hands is having a Mikarose giveaway. Mikarose is a modest clothing company. They have lots of cute dresses. The giveaway is for a $60 gift certificate for clothing of your choice.

Some good things I've read lately

Elizabeth at the Nourished Life wrote a great post about yoga and weight loss. I used to teach aerobics and yoga, back before my son got banned from the gyms daycare. I can't say that I fully "got it" back then, but I've definitely grown to love yoga and plan to teach again soon.

This post is about a woman who traveled to Kenya and had a touching but inspiring experience. Some of the things she saw and experienced are really heartbreaking, but it makes you think: what can I do to help those who are less fortunate?

Enjoy your reading and good luck on the giveaways!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Becoming a Locavore

Locavore: someone who eats food grown or produced locally or within a certain radius such as 50, 100, or 150 miles (240 km). The locavore movement encourages consumers to buy from farmers’ markets or even to produce their own food, with some arguing that fresh, local products are more nutritious and taste better. Locally grown food is an environmentally friendly means of obtaining food, since supermarkets that import their food use more fossil fuels and non-renewable resources.

I don't have a radius from whence my food must come, but increasingly as I eat real food, I find that more of my purchases are local. I've always had a thing for good produce. A juicy, fresh peach on a hot summer day- heaven. And that's not something you find at a grocery store in the middle of March. You find it at farmers markets, on a friends peach tree, or on a local farm. 

Earlier this year, our family joined a CSA group (Community Supported Agriculture). Every week we pay $22 for a basketful of organic produce. It's supposed to all be local, although I have noticed a few stickers that say things like "chile" or "peru"-- not quite the local I was looking for. Most of the produce is from places in California (where I live), and almost all of it tastes much better than what you'd find in the store. An unexpected benefit has been meeting like-minded people. Some are there because they are vegan, some for the value, and some because they want to support local farms. It's been a great adventure to bring home new veggies that I've never tasted before and to try to figure out something new to do with them. It's made me (and my family) try all kinds of new foods.

From the produce buying club, I met some people interested in going in on a beef purchase. A while back, we were able to split a side of grass fed beef from a local farm. It actually cost less than the per pound price I paid for grass fed ground beef at the store.

This same group is going in on some pastured chickens, again from a local farm. We are buying in bulk and getting a discount. I'm excited to be supporting a local farm, and for the added nutrition of pastured chickens. I like knowing they were raised humanely by someone supporting the environment.

My eggs come from the local nursery or a small farm down the street. These eggs are like nothing I've ever seen in a store, even when I've bought "free range, organic eggs." The yolks are bright orange with a rich, distinctive egg flavor. I've become a regular at the nursery, and the lady at the counter always knows what I'm there for. Last  time I came by in the morning, she was washing eggs that had just been gathered from outside. The happy chickens live just out back.

Becoming a locavore is a process. I still buy many things from grocery stores that have been shipped from who-knows-where. But I am becoming increasingly aware of where things come from, and how that impacts both the environment and our health. This summer we plan to expand our garden so that we can eat from the most local source available- our backyard.

This post is part of Fight Back Friday.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Roasted Chicken with Onions, Potatoes and Gravy

The first time I ate a whole chicken was after the birth of one of my children.  A friend brought it over and I was impressed! It tasted great, looked fancy, and seemed like something only a pro would make. I have since made many whole chickens myself and found that it's surprisingly easy, but the results are still impressive. Cooking a whole chicken with the skin on is a great way to get lots of healthy fats into your meal, and it adds lots of flavor.
A whole pastured chicken can be pricey, so I make sure we use it for at least 3 meals. If I'm making a whole chicken, we'll carve pieces off the bird for the first meal. Then, I pick all the leftover meat off, shred it, and store it for a future meal. Finally, I take all that's left: bones, that little bag of innards that came with the chicken, and any fat or inedible meat parts. I usually put all this in a bag in the freezer, and when I have enough stored up, I make chicken broth.

Roasted Chicken with Onions, Potatoes and Gravy
(Recipe from Williams-Sonoma)

1 pastured whole chicken
1 1/4 tsp. sea salt, divided
3/4 tsp. black pepper
oregano sprigs
1 lemon, quartered
1 celery stalk, cut into 2 inch pieces
2 Tbsp butter, melted
2 pounds medium yellow onions, peeled and cut into 8 wedges
2 pounds small red potatoes, cut into 1 inch wedges
1/4 cup wheat or white flour
14 oz. chicken broth, divided

1. Preheat oven to 425.
2. Remove giblets and neck from chicken (Save for your broth). Starting at neck cavity, loosen skin from breast and drumstick by inserting fingers between skin and meat. Rub 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper under loosened skin. Place oregano sprigs, lemon slices and celery inside body cavity. Lift wing tips over and back, tuck under chicken. Tie legs together with a string. Place chicken, breast side up, on the rack of a broiler pan.
3. Combine 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. pepper, melted butter onions and potatoes in a large bowl and toss well to coat. Arrange onion mixture around chicken on rack. Bake at 425 for 20 minutes. Reduce temperature to 325 (do not open oven); bake an additional 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until a meat thermometer registers 165. Set aside onions, potatoes and chicken. Keep warm.
4. Drain chicken drippings into a small saucepan. Combine remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, flour 1/2 cup chicken broth in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add flour mixture and remaining chicken broth to saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium; cook 5 minutes or until gravy thickens, stirring frequently with a whisk.

This post is part of Real Food Wednesdays.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Real Food Basics: Fats

The Real Food Basics series covers the difference between industrial (grocery store)  food and traditional, real  foods.

If ever my mom wanted to lose weight while I was growing up, she would count her fat grams. It was an "eat less fat, be less fat" kind of mentality. That was the wisdom of the day, and continues to pervade a lot of our thinking.
Even now, most people are scared of fat. Doesn't fat make you... fat? No! It doesn't. Fat is necessary and keeps our bodies alive and healthy. But fat must be fattening, right? No again! Eating fat doesn't make us fat.

Fats essential roles:

Source of energy
Slows down the absorbtion of food and helps us feel fuller longer
Builds cell walls
Needed to absorb fat soluble vitamins

But aren't some fats bad?

Yes, but maybe not the ones you think. We have been taught that animal fat is bad.  How many times have you heard to avoid red meat, avoid butter, avoid egg yolks? This is actually the kind of fat we need to be eating for our health. There is a lot of science out there to prove this, and there's no way I could include all of it in this one post. Instead, I'll explain why our family eat the fats we do, and why we're not afraid of fat. If you want more information, see my suggested reading list, or feel free to post any questions in the comments section.

New Fats and Old Fats

Think back a hundred and fifty years or so. Pioneer times. Ladies in long dresses and bonnets, men out working on the farm. What kind of fats would they have used? They would have used primarily animal fats: lard, butter, beef tallow, chicken (or other poultry) fat. In other parts of the world, they used olive or coconut oil. 
There was no grocery store to go buy vegetable (soybean) oil, of course. Margarine hadn't been invented yet. Canola oil, the newest of the oils in the market, surely wasn't available either.
So, what happened? Michael Pollan talks about having a food culture. Mothers are in charge of this food culture, because traditionally, they have been the ones feeding their families. In our country, the food culture changed. Instead of trusting in the wisdom handed down from earlier generations, we turned to science to figure out what to eat.

In the 1950s, a researcher named Ancel Keyes was instrumental in changing our food culture. He did studies that "proved" that saturated fat was dangerous and causing heart disease. Here's a short video clip from the movie Fat Head that is kind of funny and does a great job of explaining how we all came to believe that saturated fat is bad.

How I decide
Sometimes studying all this conflicting information about nutrition is enough to make you crazy! (For example, if you watched the clip, you notice that the authors didn't seem to think wheat was a good thing either. I disagree with that one, and we are wheat eaters at our house!) For me, I read and study what I can, but I ask myself two questions when deciding what my family should eat:
1. Is it traditional? (Have people been eating this food for a long time? Or is this a new product, something that a corporation came up with?)
2. Is this how God designed it to be eaten? (Is it in a whole form or has it been chemically altered?)
I used to be more mainstream in my thinking. I was always jumping on the next new science. But when I started reading some of the lierature out there, I realized that not only does science not have all the answers, much of what they've taught us has been wrong.
In the concluding paragraph of her section on fats in Nourishing Traditions, Sally Fallon says,
"In summary, our choice of fats and oils is one of extreme importance. Most people, especially infants and growing children, benefit from more fat in the diet rather than less. But the fats we eat must be chosen with care. Avoid all processed foods containing newfangled hydrogenated fats and polyunsaturated oils. Instead, use traditional vegetable oils like extra virgin olive oil and small amounts of unrefined flax seed oil. Aquaint yourself with the merits of coconut oil for baking and with animal fats for occasional frying. Eat egg yolks and other animal fats with the protein to which they are attached. And, finally, use as much good quality butter as you like, with the happy assurance that it is a wholesome-- indeed an essential-- food for you and your whole family."

Thursday, March 4, 2010

3 ways to have real food on a busy night

Real Food is obviously important to me, but for any of us, life can get in the way of our dinner plans. I have 4 young kids, ages 6, 5, 2, and 5 months. And making dinner time seems to be the time when all you-know-what breaks loose.

This dinner last night took about 20 minutes total, and 5 minutes of hands-on prep time.

Here are some of my tricks for "quick" meals. These are all things you can do ahead of time and use in a pinch.

Double it. When something is labor intensive or takes a while to make, make more! Then you have some stored in your freezer for those times you don't have time to make it. Some things I double and freeze:
Homemade cream of chicken soup
Chinese dumplings

Can. I'm a big fan of canning because it's so nice to have convenience food that you can just pull out of your pantry and not have to defrost. Just pop open a can and you're good to go. The only special equipment you need is a pressure canner, or a water bath canner for fruits. I bought a Presto brand 23 quart for $79 on amazon. Things I can and store:
Beans (garbanzo, pinto, black, kidney)
Enchilada sauce
And soon I plan to do:
Barbeque sauce

Do some of the prep ahead of time. When you are chopping an onion or another vegetable, do you cover it and store it in the fridge? That's what I used to do until I read Katie's idea on Kitchen Stewardship- she just chops the whole vegetable at once and freezes it in a baggie. I use this tip with onions all the time and it's been a great time saver to be able to grab pre-chopped onions and use them in my meals. I also am more likely to throw spinach in my omelets when it's washed, chopped and ready to use from my freezer.

Meal plan for the tamale meal shown above:
Steam tamales. (20 minutes)
Melt bacon grease in pan. Add pre-chopped onions to pan. Cook for 2-3 minutes. Add can of black beans. Simmer on low.
Peel carrots.
Cut and smash avocado.
Dinner is done in 20 minutes, and for 15 of those minutes I can be holding the baby, helping with homework, or pulling the two year old off the baby... and my family still has a nutritious meal for dinner.

This post is part of Pennywise Platter Thursdays and Fight Back Fridays.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Cream Cheese and Whey

When I first read Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon, I realized that a lot of the recipes called for whey. Whey comes from dairy products, and can be obtained through making mozzarella or other cheeses, or through separating your yogurt.
This is the easiest method for making whey.

Line a colander with cheesecloth and place the colander over a bowl.

Pour yogurt into the bowl (any quantity is fine).

Let drain until the yogurt stops dripping.

Now you need to let gravity help get the rest of the whey out. If you have a sink with a long handle, or a cabinet with a handle, tie the ends of the cheesecloth onto here and let it hang above the bowl (be careful not to squeeze the cloth). If not, you can get a large pitcher and tie the ends of the cloth to a long wooden spoon. Set the spoon on top of the pitcher and let the whey drip into it.

When it is done dripping, it's done.

The whey can be stored for up to 6 months in the fridge. Use it for soaking grains to reduce the phytic acid. Whey contains calcium, potassium, B vitamins, zinc and magnesium. In Ageless Recipes from Mother's Kitchen, Hanna Kroeger says, "Whey is such a good helper in your kitchen. It has a lot of minerals. One tablespoon of whey in a little water will help digestion. It is a remedy that will keep your muscles young. It will keep your joint moveable and your ligaments elastic. When age wants to bend your back, take whey...With stomach ailments, take one tablespoon whey three times daily, this will feed the stomach glands and they will work well again."

The yogurt cheese can be used in place of cream cheese. Spread it on a bagel, or make a dip with it. I've also used it in cooked recipes, mixed with chicken for example, and it works just as well as store bought cream cheese.