May 30, 2010

Small Beginnings: Where Do I Start?

HB here for this week's Small Beginnings, a series on where to start a real food journey. Last week we heard from Laura Fiser

I am no expert in the realm of nutrition, but I do know what has worked for my sweet family of five.

The changes we've made below have taken some time and effort, but we all feel so much better and some of us even behave better.

Here's my list of baby steps:
  • Take the plunge and get you some raw milk. It will change your life. Read about the benefits of raw milk here.
  • Find a farmer with some chickens and buy the eggs. Then, eat the eggs. Enjoy the eggs. They will make you smile. Just ask Julia Child. She ate eggs, yolk and all, and lived to the ripe old age of 91.
  • I made a promise to myself to only feed my twin girls organic and/or nitrate free meats. I read this article about staph infections caused by chickens and it did me in.
  • Consult the dirty dozen list and don't break the bank on every single organic product you see at Whole Foods.
  • Gradually begin soaking grains. I started by soaking my oatmeal before I went to bed. Then I moved on to brown rice. Now I soak freshly ground wheat flour for our bread. You can read a bit about grain soaking here.
  • I gave up diet coke. It hurt. It hurt real bad. Whenever I drink diet coke (on some rare occasions) I get an upset tummy and usually a canker sore.
  • I threw away any processed sweet in our pantry, including cereals (read this great article explaining why cereal is not our friend). I've not given up sugar entirely and still make cookies for my family regularly. I almost always substitute a natural sweetener, such as sucanat, maple syrup or honey in place of white sugar.
  • Even if we cannot find or afford certain organic or locally grown products, I can still make nutrient dense choices for my family. This article encourages me.
  • Last but not least, I try to feed my fam by the 80/20 principle. 80% of the time we are eating the best we can eat. We need the wiggle room of the other 20% at this stage in our journey. I want to enjoy food and not be in bondage to it. You can read about my motivation for making changes in our eating here.
Enjoy the day!

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Salt: Friend or Foe

Current “politically correct nutrition” recommends salt avoidance, and indeed it seems that our industrial food system strongly relies on copious amounts of fake salt in order to add flavor to their fake food fair, giving us yet another reason to quit eating it. The refined salt used in these food (and in most people’s kitchens) is processed with excessive heat, stripped of all it’s nutrients, and combined with substances such as aluminum, sugar, and anti-caking agents.

But what about the unprocessed salt obtained from the sea and from natural deposits that was used by traditional peoples? Because of its ability to hinder the growth of bad bacteria, it provided one the first food preservation methods for both meats and lacto-fermented vegetables. It is also a source of nearly 80 trace minerals, minerals that are so lacking in our modern food. In Dr. Price’s research of traditional people groups, he found the people living near the ocean to be the healthiest of all. Might this be due to the abundance of minerals from the sea in their diets?

Changing to unrefined natural salt is a very easy step in the transition to real food. Some choices of mineral rich, properly harvested salts include Celtic salt, Himalayan salt, and RealSalt. Don’t be fooled by white refined salt labeled “sea salt.” Unrefined salts are usually grey or pink and slightly moist. Many unrefined salts are too moist for a salt shaker, but we have found that RealSalt works fine in our salt shakers (although it sometimes requires a gentle tap to get it flowing). Other types of natural salts work great for cooking, and you might be surprised at the improved flavor.

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May 28, 2010

Canning Workshop

Start the summer growing season off right by learning the basics of canning.  Sign up for the canning workshop at Eggshells (in the Heights).  The class will be held Tuesday, June 8 at 6pm and will be taught by Jack Sundell and Rebecca Stover of The Root Cafe.

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May 26, 2010

Processed Food Flood

In our modern society, we enjoy the convenience of eating out, social gatherings involving food, and a constant supply of snacks wherever we go. In my attempt to reclaim and maintain my health and that of my family, the biggest struggle has not been learning to prepare real food at home. The biggest struggle has been trying to avoid all the fake processed food that I don’t buy or prepare that is constantly offered to my family everywhere we go.

I know this is hard for people who know me to imagine (smile), but many people think I’m extreme. I’m often told things like, “It doesn’t really matter this once.” or “This is a special occasion.” But life is full of special occasions and the “this once” statement doesn’t make any sense to me at all. It's not “just once;” it's a constant flow of processed junk, in the classroom, lunchroom, youth group, church nursery, children’s ministry, camps, retreats, school parties, birthday parties, sports events and practices, business meetings, business trips, office parties. It is an overwhelming tide, and people who refuse to let their children eat orange crackers shaped like fish or filled with peanut paste may not only be considered extreme, but impolite as well.

Our family is still working on answers. My children are teenagers now, so they have to make some decisions for themselves. They know a lot about food. They rarely ask for fast food and enjoy home cooked meals; but they attend camps, youth group, school functions and outings with friends. It is socially difficult for them to abstain from the junk, and impossible in situations like camp that would require lengthy fasting, but they generally pay the short-term price by not feeling good. What will be the long-term price? I heard one mother say that her teenage daughter tells friends that she has “special dietary needs which require her to eat real food.”

I tried this recently on a form for a summer program. The form asked parents to sign up to bring a snack on one day of the program. The snacks could not be homemade but must be packaged (processed) food. In the space where it asks for any allergies or dietary restrictions, I put “he cannot eat processed foods. We will provide our own snacks.” Believe it or not, the snack police never showed up at our home.

Encouraged by that success, we have decided to “opt out” of the soccer team snack program next season also. It’s a no-win situation for us. If we bring healthy snacks, we will be unpopular; if we bring junk, we will feel guilty. By opting out, our son must deal with the stigma of a “weird” family (something he is getting used to), but at least we can provide him his own healthy snack and homemade electrolyte water.

If you’ve read this far hoping for some good advice regarding how to stop the onslaught of processed food, I’m afraid I've disappointed you. If you have any ideas of your own to help the rest of us, please post your comments. My biggest hope is that more people will join together to find ways to change the social norm of filling our children and ourselves with toxic food. (Just say, "No"?)

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Quinoa, Swiss Chard and Feta

If you're tired of eating rice or potatoes - quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) could be the healthy alternative for you.  It's high in protein, calcium, iron, has vitamin D and many of the B vitamins. You can buy quinoa in a box in the "organic/healthy" section of Kroger or at Whole Foods near other grains.

Rinse the grains before cooking, and for better nutritional absorption soak for a few hours.  (Read about hows/whys of soaking here.)  I soaked my quinoa in water with a squeeze of lemon for about 6 hours.  (If your kitchen is warm enough, you'll even see it sprout sooner.  The lemon juice expedites the process and is not crucial.)   While chopping everything else, cook the quinoa in chicken broth for 15 minutes, let rest covered for an additional 5 minutes.
Like rice, you can eat quinoa plain.  Plain is boring.  The following recipe is one that's adapted and evolved from Diana's Schwarzbein's cookbook - it's one of my favs.

Her recipe called for chopped spinach, and I've used frozen before.  This time I used fresh swiss chard.  It's in season and has been called a vegetable valedictorian.  Sooo good for you.  Buy some this weekend at the farmers market.Look at the beautiful COLOR!  Folding the leaf in half, I cut out most of the red fibrous vein, esp. in the big leaves. Rachael Ray would call this her garbage bowl.  It's too pretty to go in the garbage, I'll put it in my compost. The 8oz bag made about 8 cups of chopped swiss chard. Now for the fun part.  If you don't have a wok, any large pan will do. I started with 2 T coconut oil.  Olive or sesame oil would be fine, too.
Then saute an onion, garlic and mushrooms, if you like.  Usually I don't add the mushrooms but these babies were on sale (organic! for $1.25 this afternoon). Then get your man to fire the grill.  Beef: it's what's for dinner.  My dad will be so happy (he's a cattle farmer). Add a big splash of sherry to the onion/mushroom concoction.  If you don't have sherry, it's not essential.

However, it sure helps to remove the yummy tidbits stuck on the bottom of the pan.  At this point, add your chard and stir.
I wanted to steam the chard so I borrowed the lid from my stock pot. Then crumble feta and soak currants.  The feta adds so much flava! to this dish. Here's the cooked chard with currants added. Lastly, add the quinoa that you cooked while chopping the veggies. This is Hubby's favorite dish.  He will eat leftovers straight from the fridge, if there are leftovers. Recipe Recap 
Rinse, soak, cook 1-2 cups quinoa.
8-10oz green of choice: chard or spinach
Saute in oil:
-1 chopped onion
-garlic to taste
-mushrooms (optional)
then add
2 T sherry
chard or spinach
Steam till wilted then turn off the heat. Salt and pepper to taste.  Red pepper flakes would be good.
Toss in 1/2 cup of currants, raisins or cranberries (also optional).
Mix in your quinoa and top with crumbled feta.  Gobble it up.

To see other nourishing ideas and meals, visit Kelly the Kitchen Kop for Real Food Wednesday.  And this Works for Me.

Originally posted at Havin' Fun Yet?

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May 24, 2010

Small Beginnings: Where Do I Start?

This week's Small Beginnings is written by Laura Fiser.  Last week we heard from Rita O'Kelly, the week before from Lisa Lipe.

Real Food: What to Eat and Why(1)  Watch the movie Food, Inc.(DVD or Netflix) and read Real Food by Nina Planck --to discover importance of transitioning your family to a more nourishing way of life.  Change requires motivation!
(2) Find sources for nutrient dense foods.  Little Rock's Locally Grown Food Club is a great place to start buying pastured eggs, grass fed meat, and organic fruits and vegetables.  
(3)  Gradually move away from processed foods-- start by taking 1 or 2 processed foods you normally buy and learn to make them from scratch or to substitute a whole food in it's place.  A couple of easy ideas: learning to make your own salad dressing and replacing boxed cereals with eggs or smoothies for breakfast.
(4)  Eat real butter--a good fat!  Some other good fats are olive oil and coconut oil.  Avoid refined vegetable oils, margarine, and spreads--even the "healthy" blends.
(5)  Add cod liver oil to your daily routine.  Refer to the Weston A. Price website for the numerous health benefits and brand recommendations.  It's especially good for babies and children.
(6)  Eat probiotic rich foods like yogurt, kefir, and live cultured vegetables daily.  Good gut bacteria are our first line of defense against illness and disease!
(7) Connect with other people who are attempting to move toward more traditional ways of food preparation for encouragement and support!

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May 21, 2010

Lisa's Bulk Buying Lists

I’ve been frequently asked what I have ordered from Azure Standard and what I have ordered from Country Life Natural Foods (through a local buying club). Unfortunately, I usually can't remember this information on the spot. So for those who have asked and received the answer, "umm, well, uh....", here are my personal lists of things I have ordered and would order again.

Azure Standard
Frozen organic peas -5 lbs.
Frozen organic blueberries - 5 lbs.
Azure hard red wheat
Azure hard white wheat
Really Raw honey
Organic Herbs and spices in bulk (garlic powder, thyme, black pepper corns, sage, cinnamon, tumeric, marjoram)
Vanilla beans
Kalamata olives
Green Pasture Fermented cod liver oil
Bubbies sauerkraut (lacto-fermented)
Bubbies dill relish (lacto-fermented)
Organic pears
Organic apples
Organic carrots
Organic onions
Organic chicken feed
Epson salt - 50 lbs.

Country Life Natural Foods
Organic Thompson Raisins
Organic Popcorn
Once Again Organic Peanut Butter
Organic broccoli seeds (for sprouting)
Organic radish seeds (for sprouting)
Organic corn (dry for milling into cornmeal)
Organic rolled oats
Organic hard red winter wheat berries
Organic rye berries
Baking yeast
Organic yellow tortilla chips
Baking powder – 5 lbs.
Organic cane juice crystals (I use for kombucha)
Tinkyada brown rice pasta
Organic dates – 30 lb.s
Real Salt – 25 lbs.

If you are interested in ordering from Country Life Natural Foods, e-mail me directly. realfoodlisa AT gmail DOT com

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May 18, 2010

Death Pyramid?

Every 5 years since 1980, the USDA has been convening a group of "experts" to decide what American’s should eat. But, unfortunately, it seems our government is no better at balancing our diets than it is at balancing its budget. This year marks another 5 year anniversary of what many refer to as the "death pyramid," guidelines promoting the products of commodity agriculture (with a heavy emphasis on grains) while warning against nutrient-dense animal products such as eggs, whole milk, cheese, butter, meat, and organ meats. (Picture from Nourishing Our Children)

Personally I find it insulting in and of itself that my government feels the need to dictate my diet. But to add injury to insult the guidelines are a recipe for health disaster.

Some on the committee have expressed concerns over widespread deficiencies in the American diet of such essential nutrients as fat-soluble vitamins A, D, K, and E. WAPF President Sally Fallon states, "There is no way for Americans to consume sufficient quantities of these critical vitamins while confined to the low-fat, low-saturated fat, low-cholesterol, low-calorie cage of the USDA dietary guidelines."

Choline deficiency is another area of great concern. Choline is very important for neuro-development, without it during prenatal and developmental stages, brain connections can not form. Choline is essential for brain function and memory. The recommended daily amount of choline can be provided by 4 or 5 egg yolks per day, but that would equal 800-1000mg cholesterol, much higher than the 300mg per day limit recommended by the committee. Chicken liver and beef liver are also excellent sources of choline, but again we are warned against these nutrient-dense foods as being too high in cholesterol and vitamin A.

Sally Fallon comments, “… while we watch in horror the blighting of our children's lives with failure to thrive, learning disorders, attention deficit disorder, autism, mental retardation, the committee is sticking to its anti-cholesterol guns. Truly, we have sacrificed our children on the altar of Baal, and the USDA has wielded the knife." (Read whole article here.)

Sally and I are in agreement on the proper response to these government guidelines; return to the kitchen and prepare real food. Take revenge by living "longer happier lives than the government 'experts'."

At our house we have increased our intake of choline and fat soluble vitamins by adding raw egg yolks from pastured hens to smoothies. We also like them mixed into whole fat raw milk with a little vanilla flavor . This tastes really rich and good (think eggnog).

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Linky Love

 - If you suspect ADHD in your child, consider purchasing more organic foods, according to this AP article.  Here's a wallet guide (or iPhone app) to help you know which foods are most contaminated.

 - Time reports that eating processed meat (cold cuts, sausage, bacon, hot dogs) increases the risk of heart disease by 42% and type 2 diabetes by 19%.

 - The Nourished Kitchen is starting a 12-week on-line real food cooking class in two weeks on June 1.  This would be a good investment of time and money if you're serious about learning more about eating well.

 - Not ready to start an e-course in two weeks, but are interested?  Kelly the Kitchen Kop is teaching a course at the end of summer.  The Nourishing Gourmet is also starting a class (time to be determined) with the focus on real food on a realistic budget.

 - Dionelle, at Naturally Knocked Up, wrote this week about making her own deodorant as well as toothpaste.

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May 17, 2010

West Little Rock Farmers Market - Today!

It is very exciting that west Little Rock now has a farmers market! On Mondays you can bring home fresh produce if you stop by from 2pm until 5pm (or when customers cease shopping) at the corner of Hinson and Napa Valley, across from Pulaski Academy and down the hill from the library.

Today was the second week of the market and all three farmers said it has been a positive experience.

Below is Kelly, from North Pulaski Farms which is a certified organic farm.  He also has a blog and is on Facebook.  Today's offering from Kelly included lettuce, cucumbers, squash and zucchini.

Laughing Stock Farms had some delicious looking strawberries, yellow squash, cucumbers, and red potatoes.  He hopes to have green beans next week.

Sam, from The Garden @ Becky Lane (chemical free) was offering beautiful lettuce, fresh herbs of all kinds, and garlic bulbs.  He also was selling raw cheese from Honeysuckle Lane.

I came home with a little something from all the farmers, and encourage you to stop by, too.

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Small Beginnings: Where Do I Start?

On each Monday over the next few weeks, Real Food in Little Rock will bring you a list of starting points written by individuals who have volunteered their expertise. Last week's Small Beginnings was written by Lisa Lipe, Little Rock's current Chapter Leader of the Weston A. Price Foundation.

This week's article is written by Rita O'Kelley, former Weston A. Price Foundation Chapter Leader in Little Rock.
Grocery Shopping
I thought I knew how to grocery shop until I began my new quest for healthy living and eating in 2000. If you don’t feel you have the time to read books right away, here are a few tips and rules of thumb when shopping:
  • Eat fresh real food rather than processed. Organic, biodynamically grown, chemical and pesticide-free are your best options.
  • Stay on outer aisles, which is the perimeter of the store.

    1. Fruits and vegetables
    2. Dairy (raw, whole, unpasteurized milk, cheese, eggs)
    3. Meats, poultry, fish (grass-fed, no growth hormones, no chemicals)

  • Steer clear of inside aisles for food items.
Food in boxes, packages, and jars are highly processed, lacking much nutritional value and loaded with sugar and chemicals to lengthen shelf life. If it says “use by ____ date" and that date is anything longer than weeks or a few months at most, that is a clue as to the amount of chemicals and additives.

If a food is in a cute shape, it is processed to the point of removing anything digestable/healthy and replaced with synthetic “nutrients” that our bodies cannot assimilate and will not recognize. Examples are cereals, crackers, sugars, sauces, pre-packaged entrees.
  • Read labels
If ingredient list is long or unpronounceable, chances are good it doesn’t belong in your body.
  • Buy local
Food grown and shipped within 50 mile radius of where you live will be fresher and not picked or harvested too soon.

A word about fruits and vegetables:
Best: Fresh
Good: Frozen
Least: Canned
Grains: Fresher if packaged in cellophane or plastic rather than open bins. Bins are subject to constant opening, subjecting them to temperature changes, oxygen, people’s hands and germs.

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May 16, 2010

WAPF Little Rock May Chapter Meeting

Thanks to everyone who attended our WAPF chapter meeting Friday night. Also thanks to Whole Foods for giving us free use of their community room and providing cultured dairy, lacto-fermented vegetables, and kombucha for sampling. With 25 people in attendance, we packed the room. We’ll be sure to reserve a more spacious location for our July meeting.

I enjoyed sharing the overview of Dr. Price’s research along with the important principles he found operating in the diets of healthy traditional peoples. Dr. Price believed that returning to nutrient dense traditional foods would reverse the trend of physical degeneration he was observing in America in the early to mid-1900s. Unfortunately, the degeneration has continued as more and more modern processed foods have been added to the standard American diet.

If you missed this presentation, or you would like to share it with a friend or family member, we plan to show a condensed version about 20 minutes before the start of our next meeting. Those who would like to see it should plan to come early.

For the topic of that meeting, I intend to choose a specific aspect of traditional diets to explore in more detail. If you have suggestions for topics you would like to know more about, your comments are welcomed.

The picture above is of some of my recent ferments. From left to right you can see a bottle of kombucha, lemons, garlic, a radish/leek/onion mix, sauerkraut, and dill pickles. These probiotic foods are preserved by the traditional process of lacto-fermentation.

If you would like to learn more about making your own lacto-fermented vegetables, kombucha, and cultured dairy (like kefir and yogurt), there will be a Culturing and Fermenting Workshop on June 10 from 7pm. to 9pm. I will be teaching at a friend's home in West Little Rock. The cost is $25. Six spots are still available. If you want to attend, please e-mail me (lisa8 AT sbcglobal DOT net). I will give you the location and tell you where to send $25 to hold your spot.

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May 15, 2010

West Little Rock Farmers Market

On Mondays starting somewhere between 1pm and 2:00pm and going until produce and customers are gone (somewhere betwee 4 and 5pm) there's a new farmers market in town. It's across the street from Pulaski Academy.

The farmers selling produce are:
Laughing Stock Farm
Hardin Farm

North Pulaski Farms (organic)
and maybe more.

Please stop by and support local agriculture.

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May 12, 2010

Reminder + Video

Reminder: Our Next Meeting

When: this Friday, May 14th from 7pm until 9pm
Where: Whole Foods Community Room - FREE
Why:  For those who are already involved with the Weston A. Price Foundation as well as those who would like to find out more about WAPF and our local chapter activities.  

You are welcome at whatever stage along the path to healthy food that you currently find yourself.  Come meet others with similar interests and learn about the Weston A. Price Foundation. 

Please RSVP to Lisa - lisa8 AT sbcglobal DOT com

Must watch video - esp. if you have teenagers: (click to watch on the blog if you're reading in email)

My favorite line in the rap is "This so called food ain't meant for a human, if I eat this my bowels won't be movin'."  

HT: Hartke Is Online

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May 11, 2010

Another Acronym

Hubby's brother is an active service man and I can hardly keep straight all the acronyms for the military. However, I'm all about shortcuts. We eat BLTs for dinner. Have you ever LOL when you tried to DIY? I mean, even Michael Jackson made his mark on history with PYT.

The newest acronym on my lips lately is GMO, which stands for genetically modified organism, another name is GE or genetically engineered. They've relatively new (~20 years?) and no one really knows the full ramifications of them.

If you eat corn (high fructose corn syrup) or soy, both of which are in most EVERYTHING in the Standard American Diet, you are consuming large quantities of GMOs.

Kelly the Kitchen Kop wrote a short and helpful post on GMOs. Cheeseslave's great post says that upwards of 75% of products in our local grocery store have GMOs in the ingredients (which includes baby formula!!) She links to a video that shares:

  • Cornell University did a study and found that the BT toxin released from the crops is lethal to monarch butterflies.
  • Experiments performed on other animals resulted in pre-cancerous cell growth, smaller brains, livers and testicles, damaged immune systems, liver malfunctions, lesions in the liver, stomach and kidneys, inflammation of certain organs, cell malfunctions, higher blood sugar levels, fertility problems, and unexplained increases in death rates.
  • In the Philippines, people living next to a GE cornfield developed recurring skin, respiratory and intestinal problems. Blood tests done on 39 of the Filipino residents revealed that their immune systems had been compromised by the BT toxin.
Below is an interview with Jeffery Smith, an expert on GMOs. Watch it. Educate yourself. (If you're reading this post in an email, click on the blog title and watch the video from the blog.)

From everything I've read on the subject, the only people for GMOs are the people who are making money from them. Don't just take my word for it. Do your homework.

It used to be that I bought organic produce because I was concerned for pesticide residue. Now, I'm buying organic to steer clear of GMOs - especially corn products. You won't find high fructose corn syrup in my pantry.

To help you remember which foods are most important to buy organic, here's a handy pocket guide.

As the old saying goes, "Pay me now or pay me later." I prefer to pay for organic (or local) now than to pay with my health later.

GMO may be on my lips, but I'm working not to put them in my stomach.

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May 10, 2010

Small Beginnings: Where Do I Start?

“Despise not the day of small beginnings,” is the wise advice of an ancient Hebrew prophet. If the idea of starting a nutrient-dense traditional foods lifestyle seems a little overwhelming, it may help to narrow your focus. Pick a step that seems doable and start there. Every positive change will be beneficial. By taking one step at a time, you will be amazed at the progress you have made a year from now.

On each Monday over the next few weeks, Real Food in Little Rock will bring you a list of starting points written by individuals who have volunteered their expertise.

Here’s my list. I hope you decide to pick one and try it!

1. Replace processed foods and drinks with fresh whole foods. Read ingredients and skip items
with ingredients you don’t recognize or can’t easily pronounce. Start by learning to make something from fresh ingredients that you currently buy in a box, can, or bottle.

2. Replace conventionally raised grain-fed animal products (including organic) with products from animals raised naturally on grass. (meat, eggs, dairy) Start by buying something from a local farmer who raises animals on pasture. (See our homepage for a list of Arkansas farmers.)

3. Eliminate products made with soy. Limit soy consumption to fermented soy in small amounts. (i.e. naturally brewed/fermented soy sauce)

4. Replace processed vegetable oils and hydrogenated oils (trans fats) with traditional fats and oils (butter, olive oil, coconut oil, animal fats from grass-fed animals).

5. Replace refined sugar with natural whole sweeteners in moderation like raw honey, maple syrup, or whole cane sugar.

6. Replace refined white salts (including refined sea salt) with unrefined mineral rich salt.  
Try Real Salt or Celtic Salt.

7. Add cultured and fermented foods with good bacteria for a healthy intestine and immune system.  Examples are yogurt, kefir, raw dairy, sauerkraut, and other fermented veggies.

8. Learn to make mineral rich bone broth. This and good salt are the secrets for great tasting food.

9. Buy a copy of Nourishing Traditions. You can also find it at Drug Emporium in Little Rock. 

10. Contact our local Weston A. Price Foundation Chapter and ask for a mentor to help you get started.

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May 7, 2010

Natural Insect Repellent

Mosquitoes love me. I'm sweet as candy to them.

Spraying chemicals on my skin makes me a bit uneasy. It makes my husband red and itchy.

Two years ago, I read this article about making a natural insect repellent. Then I read this article. Both inspired me to make my own.

{The same summer I started making this natural repellent, a pre-teen friend of mine decided to become an entrepreneur. She found cute spray bottles, made mass quantities and earned some cash selling it door to door.}

Here's the concotion I have used and been quite pleased with the results. Heaven knows mosquito season is upon us.

4 drops eucalyptus essential oil
4 drops lavender oil
4 drops tea tree oil
4 drops lemongrass oil
2 drops peppermint oil
2 teaspoons witch hazel
8 ounces water

Pour into a spray bottle and shake. Apply at least every two hours. It smells wonderful.

Anyone else had success with a natural repellent? What other essential oils do you use?

*image from Tinker

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May 5, 2010

A Whole Chicken...With Bones?!

Several people have told me they are not buying local whole chickens because they don’t know how to cut them up. Below is a 3 min. YouTube video which shows how to do this.

Occasionally I cut up a chicken, but usually chicken is cooked whole in the crock pot. (Four hours on high; 6-8 hours on low, depending on size). The chicken is done when the meat comes easily off the bones.

After removing the meat put the bones back into the crockpot to make bone broth. Bone broth is full of minerals and is one of the most nutritious foods you can eat. If you don't want to make broth right away, freeze bones to make broth later.

To make bone broth in your crock pot:

- To the bones, add 2T of vinegar, I use raw apple cider vinegar. Remember the elementary experiment with eggs and vinegar? The vinegar helps to remove the calcium from the chicken bones making nutritious broth.

- Cover bones with water, filling at least 1/2 your crock with water.

- Turn crock on low for at least 8 hours and up to 48.

- Strain and freeze. I prefer pint size glass freezer jars but many people use 2 and 4 cup portions in ziplock bags.

- If you want to get fancy, you could add onions, carrots, celery and bay leaf or two for depth of flavor and more minerals but this is not necessary.

- Use bone broth in place of water when making rice, or in soup.


10 Tips for Even Better Homemade Chicken Stock
Making Nourishing Traditions Style Chicken Stock

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May 4, 2010

Strawberry Patch

North of Little Rock, about 40 minutes is the quaint little hamlet of Cabot, home of Holland Bottom Farm. They have some very yummy strawberries. Last week we ate a flat. This week we bought three more - to freeze. Strawberry season in central Arkansas is good through mid-May, maybe as late as the end of May. Call before you go: 501-843-7152. Or, head on down to the farmers market this Saturday. The fine folks at Holland Bottom Farm picked for us, but if you want to pick your own, look here for options.

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How to Buy Local Meat in Bulk

Spring has arrived and I’ve been thinking about what meat I will need to restock my freezer. For me it was initially a bit intimidating to learn how to purchase meat in bulk directly from local farmers, but I found this to be the best way to be able to afford quality meat. In the process I had to learn terms like “a quarter” or “a half of beef” and deal with cuts of meat I had never experienced before (things other than ground beef and chicken breasts).

The first order of business was a freezer for the garage. I learned that, although “self-defrosting” seems like a convenience, it actually means that my meat would be partially defrosted repeatedly during storage and would not keep as long. It is much better, but more work, to get a freezer that you have to defrost yourself periodically. Fortunately, those types are cheaper.

Next I had to decide which farmers I wanted to purchase from. I met farmers at the Argenta Certified Arkansas Farmers Market and I read farm profiles from the Arkansas Sustainability Network food club.
Just because a farmer is local doesn’t mean the meat was raised according to my standards or even that the farmer actually raised the animals him/herself.
I asked questions like:
  • Where was the animal raised?
  • What did the animal eat?
  • Do you vaccinate or use antibiotics or other medication?
  • Is anything nasty (like chlorine) sprayed on the meat during processing?
These are all fair questions to ask about a product you will be eating.
Then I had to prove how ignorant I was about various meat cuts and ask questions about what kinds of cuts I would receive in my bulk order and how to prepare them. I have received meat cuts in bulk orders that I didn’t have a clue as to what they were or what to do with them.
Sometimes there was no label other than “sheep” to give me a hint before I defrosted it. When in doubt, I put it in the crock pot.
If it is meaty, then add carrots and potatoes and season it with salt, pepper, and any other meat seasonings you like.
If it is boney, make soup. Cover it with water, add cut up veggies and whatever seasonings you like. Also boney cuts, like ribs, make great crock pot barbeque. Cook them on low until the meat is tender enough to easily take off of the bones. After removing the bones pull the meat apart with forks and add your favorite barbeque sauce.
My crock pot has never failed to produce a good meal. Meat always comes out tender when cooked on low.

When you purchase organic meat at grocery stores, health food or otherwise, you should realize that although the animal was fed organic grain, it was not raised naturally on grass - unless it specifically says ‘grass-fed'.
The natural diet of cows and other grazing animals like beefalo, buffalo, and sheep is grass. This produces omega-3s and other good stuff in their meat. Grazing animals do not need to have any food other than pasture, but are sometimes “grain finished” or feed supplemental grains/soy in addition to pasture (so it’s a good thing to ask if you want to make sure it was only grass-fed.) Hogs have exposed skin, so they get lots of vitamin D from being in the sun, which is passed on to me when I eat it.

Pastured chickens are supplemented with grain in addition to their pasture. My primary interest when buying these animals is whether or not they were raised on pasture. I want omega-3s in my meat. My second consideration is whether or not the supplemental feed was organic. It is great to be able to get both grass-fed and organically fed, but if I have to choose between the two, grass-fed is the most important to me with organic coming in a close second.

If you want to inquire about bulk orders, contact the farmers directly.

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May 3, 2010

A Tale of Two Markets

There are two farmers markets in Little Rock, about a mile from each other. The River Market is on the south shore of the Arkansas River. North Little Rock hosts the Certified Arkansas Farmers Market. Both are open Tuesday and Saturday mornings.

What's the difference?

The River Market Pros
  • lots of vendors
  • large selection of food and crafts
  • ability to purchase non-local foods (like bananas)
River Market Cons
  • very crowded
  • parking can be a challenge
  • not all the produce is from Arkansas
Certified Arkansas Farmers Market Pros
  • sells only products from Arkansas farms
  • convenient parking
  • not crowded
Certified Arkansas Farmers Market Cons
  • limited selection
History Behind the Certified Arkansas Farmers Market
In 2008 a group of local farmers created the market as a way to reduce deception. They wanted to protect their businesses from unfair practices by wholesalers and resellers. The Certified Arkansas Farmers Market only sells products from Arkansas farms and is closely governed.

Questions to Ask at Any Market
Most farmers love to talk about their products. Take a few minutes to get to know your growers. A few questions you could ask are:

- Are you the grower? Tell me about your farm.
A friend of mine once bought pork thinking it was locally grown on pasture. Later she found out that the farmer had purchased the meat from a USDA inspected facility then cured the meat. I've also read where a seller at the River Market bought strawberries from California and repackaged them in small cardboard containers, labeled "Arkansas Strawberries" and sold them at rock bottom prices.

- When was this produce picked?
This may or may not be important but helps to build rapport.

- What chemicals do you use to raise these?
When I say chemicals, I mean pesticides, herbicides and or fertilizers. If they start naming things, I might say something like, "Thank you, but I don't really need any of these today."

- Will you make me a deal?
If the posted sign says 2 for $1, I might offer them $2 for 5. Or, if it is a farmer that you think you'll buy from all season ask if they will give you a loyal customer discount. Never hurts to ask. There's power when buying in bulk. Shop with a friend. Bulk buying has saved me many dollars.

Both markets are fun to visit. They each have their own personalities. I have purchased from both and will purchase again from both. Be a wise consumer and don't be afraid to ask questions.

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May 2, 2010

Easy Ice Cream

Got a bunch of overripe bananas?
When mine get too ripe, I peel them and freeze them in 2 or 3inch sections in a freezer bag. Usually they are used in smoothies, or on occasion, banana bread.
Here's how you can make yummy ice cream with them in your food processor:
- add frozen chunks of banana to your food processor with the chopping blade.
- add other fruit if desired (like blueberries, peaches, strawberries) or even peanut butter or cocoa powder!
- add about 1T of vanilla
- add milk, up to half the amount of fruit. It is best to start with too little milk than too much.
- give your processor a whirl until it reaches soft-serve consistency.
It's so yummy and guilt free you could eat this for breakfast!

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