Dec 31, 2011

Batch Cooking: The Work in Advance Part 3 and Other Tips

Batch cooking is not only work on the day of cooking.  There is plenty you can do in advance.  I have written before about things you can do to make cooking day easier (part1 and part 2).

Work in advance:

1.  If you have small children, pay a babysitter.  It is worth your sanity.  Being Christmas vacation, our husbands were able to distract entertain care for the children.

2.  Don't do laundry - or anything else - on cooking day, except cook (and wash dishes!)  Stay focused.

3.  Decide before cooking what you will eat for dinner that night.  At the end of the day, I am tired and my brain doesn't work so well.  If I have decided ahead of time what's for dinner life is good.  

4.  Cook meat and broth the day or two before.

5.  Chop what you can in advance.  HB likes using the very inexpensive gallon sized bags that require a twist tie to store these chopped veggies.  Oh what a feeling to remove the twist tie and dump it all in a stock pot!!  Below you see several bags of similar contents.  With a sharpie marker, HB wrote which recipe or how much was in each bag.
Below, left to right: mirepoix (celery, onions, carrots), cooked chicken, onions, more chicken, mirepoix, more onions, brats (cooked and sliced).
Below are veggies I chopped the morning of our cooking day, left to right: chopped bell peppers, jalapenos (from my garden in my fridge since Thanksgiving), sliced bell peppers, fresh tomatoes from a neighbor's garden before the frost!
6.  If at all possible, start the day with a clean dishwasher.  Try to clean as you go and start the dishwasher when it is full.  This is easier said than done.
7.  Packaging - we use a lot of plastic bags because it is easy.  Above you see HB ladling soup into a pitcher that has a gallon freezer bag in it.  This method helps you keep the bag upright and not make the bag too full.  Remember liquids expand when they freeze.

I am brand loyal and prefer Zip-lock brand because I've had better experiences with it.  HB however, uses the Wal-Mart brand (we rib each other a lot about this!).

We also used plastic yogurt, sour cream, etc., containers labeled with masking tape.  I plan on eating one of the soups this week so I stored it in a half gallon mason jar.  This was also helpful because you can put very hot soup in a glass jar; I would not put hot soup in a plastic bag.

HB packaged some of her pizza sauce in half pint glass jars.  I froze some pizza sauce in a (blue) silicon cupcake mold.  Once frozen popped it out and put it in a gallon bag.
HB wrapped each of the burritos separately in foil then marked them for the type of meat inside (just as they do at Chipotle).  So they don't get "lost" in my freezer, I put them together in a bread bag.
8.  Invite more people (if you're extroverts like HB and me).  Some neighbor girls joined us for most of the day.  At first they took my toddler to the park but later they sat and chatted with us.  Occasionally we asked them to help.

That's all the tips I can think of for now.  What advice can you add?

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Dec 30, 2011

Batch Cooking - Mission Accomplished

HB and I finished our fourth batch cooking day today.

We started at noon and were cleaning up and packaging at 5:30.

I had planned a hot date with my hubby and the babysitter was coming at 6. Needless to say we left a big mess in the kitchen.

When Hubby and I came home at 8:00, HB was back to finish cleaning the kitchen!! She is a real friend, y'all.

I will write more details later. I think we both took home at least 15 meals each. Delicious *nutritious* meals.


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Dec 28, 2011

Triple Crocks

Just outside my door are three slow-cookers.  One of which I got for Christmas! I don't prefer the smell of chicken in the morning so they are outside.

We are gearing up for another batch cooking day!! **trumpets sound**loud gong**

It is 11pm and in the two oval crocks are frozen solid chickens, about 4 pounds each.  The round crock will be making beef bone broth.  All are set on low.

I will unplug them in the morning, let them cool, debone then refrigerate the chicken and toss the bones back in one crock.  Add some feet, a splash of vinegar, and cover with filtered (non-clorinated, non-fluoridated) water.

The chicken broth will brew all day.  Tomorrow night before bed I will drain the broth then cover the bones again with a splash of vinegar and water and get a second batch of broth from the same bones.  I will do a similar thing with the beef bones.  This way I can get double the broth from my bones.

As a side note - I've been using the bones twice lately to make broth.  The key is to just cover the bones with water.  You will know when you've reached the end of the life of the bones when you can squish the bones between your fingers.  You read that right: squish bones between your fingers. This means many minerals have been extracted out of the bones and into the broth.

Last week I asked my seven-year-old son if he thought he could squish a chicken leg bone between his fingers.  "No way" was his response.  I handed him a bone that had made two rounds of broth.  It crumbled like a cracker between his fingers.

He was amazed.

I explained the reason he could do that was because the bones had given their precious minerals to the broth for our bodies to use.   I asked if he wanted to grow up with strong bones or crumbly bones?  Frequently eating broth-based soups would strengthen his bones.

It was a convincing object lesson.


Does anyone else find it ironic that a fire extinguisher just happened to be near the outlet?

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Dec 19, 2011

Healing Tummy Troubles with Real Food

I love reading real-life stories of how real food heals people.  Today's post is from Wendy D. who has seen dramatic healing in her daughter.  Wendy is involved with a public speaking club called Toastmasters and this was her most recent speech. - Julie
What would you do if your child or grandchild came to you and said, “My tummy hurts?”

What if that child came to you every week and said, “My tummy hurts?”

What if they came every day to say, “My tummy hurts?”

What if they came every single waking hour?

This has been my experience with our 7 year-old daughter Caris over the past 4 ½ years. What began as a stomach bug in February 2007 has persisted as chronic and intense abdominal pain, bringing her to tears on countless occasions, flat-lining her personality at times, and, in general, taking away her smile.

Just this week, we have gotten a glimpse of her beautiful smile again, and I am excited to share with you how that has come about; but first, I’ll give you a few details of Caris’s tummy troubles and also of what has tried to help.

Believing the trouble to be a simple stomach bug at its onset that February, we let it run its course. Caris was sick for over three weeks, with recurrent bouts of vomiting and diarrhea (even during a miserably-long car ride to and from a missions conference in Illinois). Since that time, what has remained is a constant ache in her gut – an ache which leaves her lying on the hardwood floor seeking comfort from the bloating or doubled-over the arm of a sofa, moaning in pain.

She is currently under the care of a respected gastroenterologist at Arkansas Children’s Hospital, who has taken much time in considering her needs and in answering our questions. Yet questions linger.

After a liver ultrasound, a barium swallow study, an upper endoscopy, and a complete colonoscopy with tissue biopsies, along with a host of blood draws and stool samples, the only diagnosis has been Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth. Her physician has recently suggested a referral to the Functional Abdominal Pain Center for Children in Columbus, Ohio. It is clear that Caris lives in pain, but the true source remains unknown. And questions linger.

Many months of attempting to ward off her known bacterial overgrowth through the addition of a series of over-the-counter and prescription probiotics have only prolonged the status-quo nature of her pain.
Experiments with gluten-free and dairy-free diets also turned up empty for Caris. Only two of many attempted treatments have shown promise: one was the cyclical use of antibiotics targeted to “knock down” all of the bacteria in her system, only to allow the gut to repopulate with healthy intestinal flora over the course of a month or more and then wait for her symptoms to worsen as the “bad” bacteria take over, thus starting the cycle all over again.

The second was the use of an adult dose of Entocort, a corticosteroid prescribed for Crohn’s Disease, which reduces inflammation and swelling in the GI tract. Due to the nature of that medication, Caris could only remain on it for up to 90 days at a time.

We abandoned both methods because of their obvious and potential side effects.

So questions linger.

In the waiting rooms of the clinics at Arkansas Children’s Hospital, I am filled with gratitude for the health and vitality my four children do enjoy.

As you look around and see the numerous maladies which bring families to seek top-notch medical care from around our state and region, it is easy to see that others bear greater burdens.

Yet back home (or even as we climb in the car leaving the hospital), as Caris moans and begs for relief from the feeling that she describes now like “someone just keeps slamming a board against my belly really hard,” I am humbled at my inability to simply do something to help her.

Books and ideas abound on the topic of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (an umbrella term, of sorts) along with its causes and treatments. But do you trust the one your neighbor hands you to read, or the one that currently has the most holds on it at the library? Do you spend your few free hours reading the discarded copy you stumbled across at a book sale, or the one with the most professionals quoted on its back cover?

I can assure you, each one has “THE answer” to all of my daughter’s gastrointestinal woes! The confusion makes my tummy hurt!

Sitting on the floor of the library aisles poring over books and medical journals, as I’ve done on more than one occasion, can be another humbling experience. I hold a Master’s Degree in Clinical Nutrition, and yet feel completely inept at helping my precious daughter.

What’s a mom to do?


Pray and read; pray and ask questions; pray and do research; then pray some more. After all, God is the Great Physician, and as the One Who knit Caris together in my womb, He knows and loves her best. So I pray and expect God’s healing, all while asking the Lord to use these years of pain in Caris’s life to make her stronger and to give her a greater dependence on Him. (I need that, too!)

And I journal, though not often enough. Here’s an excerpt from a blog entry I made in October 2010:

. . . her smile has gone away. After putting her down for the night, I literally left her room
and wept. . .

Caris's sweet attitude tonight really broke my heart. A little while after we put her down (and also following two bedtime snacks), she called sweetly, "Mom?" From my bedroom I called back, "Good night, Caris. It's time for sleeping." (not an unusual drill) She called again, "Mom?" "Yes, Caris, what is it?" "Mom, can you please come here so I can tell you something?"

No begging. No demanding. Just "can you please?"

I suspected it was yet another tummy complaint, but walked down the hallway nonetheless. "Mom, could I please have just a little something to eat. My tummy really hurts."

Ugghh. I took the time yet again to explain that the pain she feels must be the food moving through her system, not hunger. Her cues are so confused. How disheartening itmust be to never be able to define what's really going on inside. . .

. . .Caris was only 2 when this pain began to plague her. It breaks my heart to know that over half her life has been fraught with abdominal pain. I've grown afraid that these will be her most vivid memories of childhood. Her personality, her outlook, her attitude all change during "seasons" of greater discomfort. Oh, how I wish I could give her her smile back.

That smile!

We have seen glimpses of it in the past few days. My oldest even reported that Caris laughed when she tickled her on Thursday. We’ve never heard that response before.

I recently returned to a book I’d perused several years ago, called Gut and Psychology Syndrome (or GAPS) by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride. It led me to a similar book written by cellular biologist Elaine Gottschall entitled Breaking the Vicious Cycle. Both authors promote the idea that total gut healing must occur before normal intestinal function can return for patients with Crohn’s, Ulcerative Colitis, Celiac Disease, and other related GI disorders. Their work is based on the research and clinical experience of Drs. Sidney and Merrill Haas in the 1930’s-1940’s. I could take a full hour to explain the science behind their findings, which are fascinating, and I believe I will for a future speech!

For today, suffice it to say that starving the gut of all complex carbohydrates – anything that takes two or more steps for digestion – rids the intestinal bacteria of the “soil” they need to overpopulate and wreak havoc in the gut.

This is not an easy approach, by any means. The “Haas Diet,” since renamed to the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, limits intake to homemade, high-quality broths for a time, followed by the very gradual introduction of one new food per day (or less) in order to allow the gut a period of one-two years to heal, at which time complex carbohydrate foods may be cautiously reintroduced.

There has been a great deal of cooking going on in our house since we began the Specific Carbohydrate Diet the day after Thanksgiving. All six of us undertook the introductory days for moral support, and three of us are continuing on it for the duration. Excellent attitudes and helping hands have lightened the increased meal-planning and preparation load.

The pain scale on our fridge, which became a regular part of our day before Caris was verbal enough to explain her needs, has always garnered a “7” or “8” response at a minimum over the years. On rare,
rare occasions, Caris has given her pain a “5.”

After one week on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, she said “3”! We are overjoyed.

The holidays are ahead, and with them many opportunities to be tempted with sweets and treats. Even one bite of a “non-compliant” food would mean returning to the intro diet again. This course would seem to be quite difficult, but the hope I have had since seeing Caris really smile, and the resolve she has because of the subsiding pain in her belly leave us encouraged that God has led us further toward healing than we have ever been before.
Caris on far left with her three sisters.
Perhaps, as our questions turn to answers, her childhood memories will be of smiles and laughter after all!

-Wendy D.

Here's an update written 9-months after this was first published.

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Dec 14, 2011

Lacto-fermented Benefits

Surfing the internet tonight I came across Wise Choice Market a small company that sells lacto-fermented vegetables.

Here are some claims from their health benefits page (and remember, you can make your own lacto-fermented foods.)

  • The live lactic bacteria that are involved in the production of our products are so beneficial to health that they have often been called "life preserving agents".
  • They contribute to the protection of the body against infections and stimulate the immune system.
  • They improve the digestion process by regulating the level of acidity in the digestive tract and by stimulating the production of beneficial intestinal flora.
  • They act as anti-oxidants.
  • They facilitate the synthesis of certain vitamins, such as vitamins C and B12 (which can only be produced in the presence of lactic bacteria).
  • They are known to have a soothing effect on the nervous system.
  • In producing lactic acid and enzymes, the lactic bacteria also facilitate the break-down of proteins and hence their assimilation.
  • Our fermented vegetables are recommended for diabetics, since the sugar content of vegetables is transformed by lactic bacteria into a more assimilable form.
  • The lactic acid contained in our products does not have the harmful acidifying effect on the human system that other organic acids tend to have. In fact, it helps prevent arthritis.
  • Our fermented vegetables are an important component of a yeast-free diet (as in the case of candidiasis).

Disclaimer: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

If you're not up for making lacto-fermented foods, buy a jar of Bubbies sauerkraut or pickles and eat a couple of tablespoons with your meal.  Whole Foods and Drug Emporium carries Bubbies in the refrigerated section.  Your gut will thank you.

You know what they say, "A tablespoon a day (of lacto-fermented food) keeps the doctor away."

OK, I just made that up.  But it sounds like a good phrase, don't you think?
Just eat it.  It's good for you.  I promise.


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Dec 12, 2011

Linky Love

Caroline loves kombucha
My 19-month old loves kombucha.  She asked me to tell you to be sure to drink yours, too.  Nourished Kitchen wrote a great post on Kombucha: A Reintroduction to This Ancient Tonic.

Sex and the Soybean: A Cautionary Tale - Dr. Kaayla Daniel

Chemicals Linked to Thyroid Disease - Healthy Child Healthy World

Get your peanut butter - before prices soar.

Are Antibiotics Necessary for Strep Throat? - The Healthy Home Economist

Real Food on a Budget by Eat Nourishing.

Ten Worst Kids' Cereals by Nourish MD


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Dec 11, 2011

Lacto-Fermented Cranberry Chutney

My sister-in-law sent me this link to lacto-fermented cranberry apple chutney before Thanksgiving.  After Thanksgiving she emailed back to say it was super yummy and that I should try it.  I had some of the ingredients on hand, but not all.  After consulting with other chutneys in Nourishing Traditions, this is the recipe that I created.  And really like. {Keepin' it real: the first batch was waaay too salty, so I made a second batch and it tastes much better - recipe at the end.}  This is one more jar to add to my lacto-fermented arsenal in the fridge.  Both my children will eat this (my 19-month old has been eating the radish relish by the handfuls!).

Lacto-fermenting is not rocket science.  And just a couple of tablespoons at each meal not only aids digestion but also is a powerhouse of nutrition.  Go buy some cranberries while you still can!

Before you go chopping everything, start your whey dripping.  You can use yogurt or kefir.  In the above picture, I poured kefir into a coffee filter that I sat on a strainer/funnel combo on top of my jar.  The clear-ish liquid that comes out the bottom is whey.
In a food processor, coarsely chop cranberries and apples.  I used my blade attachment but the shredded attachment would work, too.  (My shredder fell jumped off the counter and broke.  Boo.)
Pour everything into a bowl and stir.
Stuff it into a jar.
I'm pointing to the liquid level.  You'll want to add enough filtered water (no fluoride or chlorine) to cover the top of the fruit.
At this point I decided to use the remainder of the can of pineapple and added about a cup of filtered water.
Let it sit on your counter for 2-3 days before putting into the fridge.  If your kitchen is cool (less than 65*), consider setting your ferment near an alternative heat source - like run a dehydrator for warmth or plug up your crock pot.

Here's my recipe for a two quart (or half gallon) jar:
10 oz cranberries, chopped
4 small apples, chopped
1 can (18oz?) crushed pineapple, I drained it to use the juice for something else but the juice would be fine in this.  Actually a fresh pineapple would be best, but I couldn't bring myself to pay $5 for one.
1/2 lemon, squeezed
1/2 t powdered cloves
2 t cinnamon, heaping
1/4 c rapadura or sucanat (unrefined sugar)
1 t real salt
1/2 cup whey
filtered water as needed.

Mix the above and keep on your counter for 2-3 days then refrigerate.

Unlike sauerkraut that will keep for months (a year?!) in the fridge, Nourishing Traditions recommends eating the chutney within two months.


11/14/12 EDIT:
When I made this today, I decided to add 2 oranges (processed with apples) - because I had them on hand.  As a result, I did not add the half squeezed lemon nor was the extra water needed.

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Dec 7, 2011

Homemade Applesauce and Fruit Leather

I bought too many apples from Azure Standard and decided to turn them into applesauce. Having never done this before, I decided to take pictures along the way - thinking that there's someone else out there who would like to learn.

My son requested that we flavor it with blueberries.  I used frozen ones that I'd purchased this summer at the farmers market.
Chop your apples.  I cored them as I went.  For those of you who have a fancy corer/peeler/slicer, use it. I removed about half of the skins because I read on another blog that you could leave the skin on.

I added about 1/4 inch water in the bottom of my stock pot to get things going.  You don't need much water, the apples will do the work once you get them started.
Be sure to stir every so often so you don't scorch the bottom.  I turned on the heat when my pot was about 3/4 full and kept adding apples, cutting/peeling as I went.  I think I put about 20 pounds of apples in my 6 quart stock pot.  Amazing.
Once the apples are completely mushy it has cooked enough.  You can either use a potato masher or an immersible blender.  I went the mechanical route.
Though the picture does not correctly convey the color, it was a lovely purple.

We ate about two quarts as apple sauce and the rest I poured into my dehydrator trays and made fruit leather.  My dehydrator only came with one fruit leather tray, so I cut parchment paper to size for the other trays (and reused it the next day for another batch.)  I liked the performance of the parchment paper best.  The leather was easier to remove from the paper.  But maybe your dehydrator would perform differently.
Below is the manufacturer's fruit leather tray.
You can see that the leather was not easily removed.  Also from this picture you can see the bits of skin.  Perhaps if I had a more powerful blender, it would have resulted in a smoother texture.  My texture sensitive 7-year-old son did not complain of the texture in the fruit leather.  However, he did not prefer the texture of the skin in the applesauce.  My 18-month-old baby did not complain either way.
Was it worth the time?
Well, the apples would have gone to waste if I had not turned it into applesauce.  They were a bit mushy when we bought them (it was my first and only box of mushy apples from Azure.)  So, in this sense, yes, it was worth my time.  In another sense, it was a fun homeschooling project for my son to see how to make applesauce and fruit leather.  However, it was time consuming.  

Was it worth the money?
The apples were organic and I could not purchase the volume of organic applesauce or fruit leather for the cost of the apples.  If your family eats a great amount of organic applesauce or fruit leather, then, yes, by all means - tackle this!  

{FYI Apples are on the dirty dozen list.  Meaning, if you are going to buy something organic let it be apples.  Conventional apples are sprayed with dangerous chemicals called pesticides at least twelve times before they reach your hands.}

Was it yummy?
Oh my yes!  We ate all of this in record time, especially the fruit leather.  I really liked the additional flavor from the blueberries.

Will I do it again?
My son keeps begging to make more fruit leather.  Depending on our apple stash at the end of the month, we might make more.  At the very least, I will buy organic applesauce to make more fruit leather, because that stuff is expensive!

Anyone have other tips for me? New flavors I should try?


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Dec 5, 2011

Making Treats

While most people this time of year are in the kitchen, they're not doing what we did today.  I joined Wendy and Coplea Donley at their house and made lacto-fermented radish relish.  Good times!

If you like sauerkraut in any way - try the radish relish.  It is yummy!  Lots of my (skeptical) friends have tried it and like it.  I gave some to a friend, who let her children try it on salad.  She sent this email to me:

I also wanted to tell you that all 3 of my kids liked the radish relish.  They ate it on salad at lunch today.  One daughter  said, "This salad is the best ever!" and the baby kept asking for "more carrots."  :)  I'm sold!


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Dec 2, 2011

No Bake Coconut Cookies

Wanting a sweet treat this afternoon but not patient enough to wait for cookies in the oven, I turned to no bake cookies.  And changed the recipe a bit.  Instead of using three cups of oatmeal, as the recipe indicated, I used one cup oatmeal and two cups of shredded coconut.  Yum.

Don't tell my family - I halved the sugar and they didn't notice.  The natural sweetness of the coconut allows for less sugar.

Here's my recipe:

1/2 c butter
1/2 c milk
1/4 c cocoa powder
3/4 c sucanat, or your choice of sugar
pinch of Real Salt
1/2 c peanut or almond butter (I used natural)
1 t vanilla (how to make it here)
1 c rolled oats
2 c shredded coconut

In a saucepan over medium heat, melt one stick of butter.  Stir to add milk, cocoa powder and sucanat.  Bring to a boil for one minute.  Remove from heat and stir in peanut butter, vanilla, oats, and shredded coconut.  Drop spoonfuls onto parchment paper.


UPDATE January 20, 2012::  I just made these gluten free by using all coconut (no oats) and 1/4 c coconut oil (making the recipe 1/4 cup butter and 1/4 cup coconut oil) = delicious!!  I'm not sure this would work in the summer because coconut oil is liquid at temperatures above 78*.

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