Sep 28, 2012

Cooking Greens

by guest blogger, Kelly Carney of North Pulaski Farms

I am asked often how I prepare greens so here is how I do it.  I usually cook in large batches so I can have leftovers that I happily eat over and over every day until they are gone.  Anyone who likes greens will tell you they get better each day they sit in the fridge.

I started with 3 bunches of my Purple Top Turnip Greens,  5 slices of Freckle Face Farms Bacon, one of my Marconi Peppers, a handful of sliced Jalapenos that a friend grew and one of my Hickory Smoked Peppers.

I first rinse and soak the greens in the sink to remove any grit that may be on the leaves.

 Then I slice the marconi pepper, jalapenos, bacon and the stalks of the greens and sauté them with a teaspoon of sea salt for about 15 minutes on high.

After that I add the rest of the greens, a tablespoon of sea salt, the hickory smoked pepper and add water 2 inches over the greens (you have to hold the greens down to guesstimate the water level) then boil at least 30 minutes.

The greens with a very slight hickory flavor combined with the mild heat from the jalapenos warm your taste buds.  Tomorrow they will even be better!!!

-Kelly Carney
North Pulaski Farms

One commenter wrote: And greens are an excellent and easy way to incorporate more bone broth into your diet - just substitute the broth for the water! If you can imagine, it makes the greens even better tasting, too!

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Sep 25, 2012

Tips for Eating Less Meat (& Recipes)

by guest blogger, Katie Short from Farm Girl Natural Foods

Fairly frequently over the years I have heard that while people prefer grass-fed and pastured meats, they simply can’t afford to eat them all the time.  They often only purchase these pricier meats just for special occasions, relying more often on cheaper, lower quality options. 

Just as often these people are surprised to hear that while I grow meat animals for a living, I don’t eat very much meat. That probably sounds crazy, and maybe it is a little. I love meat and it is included in nearly every meal of the day. But while delicious, I know very intimately how dang expensive it can be.  [Here's a post I wrote on why you should pay more for grass-fed meats.]

If I wasn’t the grower, we couldn’t afford to buy such high quality grass-fed and pasture-raised animal products and it’s taken me years to learn how to eat in line with local and “organic” ideals while not breaking the bank. 

In this light, I thought it might be fun to share some of my experience in living with less meat. Of course, this doesn’t mean depriving my family of meat when we would have otherwise enjoyed a boatload of it. Through a combination of tricks, we feel like we’re eating just as much meat as before when we’re actually spending less and eating about 2/3 as much of it. I am not claiming any level of expertise here; just passing along some things I’ve found work for my family and would love to hear your tips and ideas too.

1. More flavor
-First, I double the seasoning in nearly every recipe. Studies have shown that we often eat until our senses are satisfied as much, if not more than our stomachs. To this end, if there’s more flavor in the meal, we will likely feel satiated literally eating less of it. Experimentation is key here since it might take a little while to find just how much extra spice is still tasty and not overloaded.

-One of the great things about our meats (and those of many other local producers) is that it’s more flavorful, often more lean, and more healthful than it’s grocery store counter part. In a practical way, this means that each pound of meat can go further. In adding flavor and protein to a meal, our sausage can be just as satisfying in smaller quantities partly because there’s literally more meat per lb and partly because the flavors are so much better. Where I used to use a whole package for a meaty spaghetti sauce or veggie hash, I can now get away with just half a pound and we don’t even notice the difference. That’s two meals per pound where there would have been only one.

2. Mixing in other proteins
-Another trick is mixing in high quality whole grains and beans for added substance. Among my favorites are quinoa and lentils. These are both relatively new in my pantry and I’m totally in love with them, though for different reasons. Quinoa is quick to cook, has a stellar nutritional profile, and makes a fantastic substitute for rice and pasta in all my regular dishes. Since it’s high in protein and fiber, its also very filling and can make a meal that’s light on meat feel more substantial in your mouth and in your belly. About once a week I make a big pot of quinoa, which keeps well in the fridge for use over the next few days. I’ve even substituted it for pasta in lasagna with great success.

Lentils are my other go to. These guys come in an almost infinite array of varieties, which I am just beginning to explore. Like quinoa, they can be relatively quick to cook (much faster than other beans) and add a really nice heartiness. I especially like lentils mixed in stews and stir-fries. They’re also great mashed and mixed into burger meat. Both lentils and quinoa are readily available and are only marginally more expensive Certified Organic. 

3. The two-meal rule
-Finally, I have an unofficial rule that every package of meat has to last for at least two meals. For sausage and ground meat, I usually brown the whole package and set half of it aside in the fridge for later in the week. Roasts make a great initial meal but also make fantastic left-over sandwiches, tacos, and when chopped “beef-up” a veggie stir fry nicely. Of course the bones and juices left from a roast, especially a crock pot roast, are the start of killer stock. I often save those by freezing it all in used yogurt tubs for a time when all the other stock ingredients (celery, carrots, etc) are readily available locally. Whole chickens can be 3 or even 4 meals if every scrap is saved this way.

-The essence here is not just thinking, “I’ll cook extra and save the leftovers for later” but planning from the outset to use that item for multiple meals.

-The big exceptions to this rule are pork chops and steaks. Unless either is ridiculously large, it’s pretty hard to have any leftover from a ratio of one steak per person. For this reason, we tend to save steaks and chops for more special meals when a little bit of luxury seems warranted. We still eat them, just not as often.

Here’s a link to the simplest and best basic quinoa recipe I’ve found yet. It’s just basic quinoa but it’s a great place to start.  Julie has a yummy side dish recipe for quinoa, feta and chard here.  Quinoa is one of the easiest grains to sprout which boosts the nutritional content even more (how to sprout quinoa here). 

And my favorite meat-stretching recipes? Well, my all time favorite is the carnitas recipe found here at Real Food Little Rock. I make that one about once a week and use the left over pork for many meals, from pulled pork sandwiches to pizza. 

Otherwise, this is my go-to 30-min skillet dinner. Serves 4. For an Asian flair, try sesame oil, ground beef or mild sausage, and toss in a handful of plain peanuts.
2-3 tbl coconut oil, olive oil, or lard
1 onion, diced
a couple cloves of garlic, crushed or chopped fine
Vegetables! These are all great options: A Half bunch of kale, ½ head cabbage chopped, a cup of purple hull peas, large handful of green beans, one yellow or zephyr squash sliced, diced eggplant, any tomatoes. The more variety, the better.
½ lb sausage, Cajun, chorizo, and jalapeno are all good options.
2 cups quinoa, whole wheat couscous, lentils, or precooked rice.

1. Begin preparing your quinoa or other base grain/pasta/bean.
2. Heat a heavy skillet (I use an extra large cast iron one) over medium heat. Add the oil and brown the sausage. I usually cook a whole package and set at least half aside for another meal. 
3. Once evenly cooked through, remove the meat leaving any sausage grease and oil that may have accumulated in the pan- remember, this is antioxidant-rich healthy fat from happy pastured animals. It will boost the flavor of your whole dish while passing along great omegas and micronutrients. Now add onions and garlic and brown gently. If you are including eggplant, I recommend adding it now since it can take a little longer than other veggies.
4. After a couple minutes, add all the other, and toss. Cook for 10-15 mins, stirring occasionally. 
5. Toss in your cooked sausage and stir.
6. Add half of your quinoa or lentils or couscous or whatever it is you have been preparing, reserving the rest for another time. I like to add it directly to the mix in the skillet and toss together, but you may prefer to serve your stir-fry over the top of your grains. Salt to taste and serve.

-Katie Short

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Sep 18, 2012

Real Food Favorite Recipes

Here are some of my favorite real food recipes:

Beef (or Chicken) Enchiladas*
Falafel*, quinoa tabbouleh, hummus* and tzatziki sauce
Red Beans and Rice for the slow cooker*
Chicken Pot Pie*
Chicken salad (Sunday's lunch - I used 9 pounds of chicken!)
*doubles and freezes well.

made this last week and it is yumma
chicken shawarma (similar to Layla's recipe)

cheap, nutritious, fast
poached egg in marinara (don't knock it till you try it!)
stir fry

salad dressings
Italian - seriously my fav!
Ranch & Honey Dijon
probiotic salad dressing & how to toss a salad

All your recipes require cream of mushroom?  Here's how you can make it with real food.

What are your favorite recipes?


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Sep 16, 2012

Reader's Question: Thyroid & Hormone Balance

Often when medical doctors scratch their heads or only write prescriptions as a cure, real food can help immeasurably.  Below is a question a reader sent to us.  It was answered by frequent guest blogger, Erin, who has a degree in health science and loves to research.  Erin is not a doctor but provides thought provoking advice.  --Julie

Reader's question:
In the last few months have had ovarian cysts that are rupturing frequently. When I was 17, I had thyroid cancer and had my thyroid removed.  Now I take thyroid supplements.  The doctor does not know why I am having cysts nor why they are rupturing (which my abdomen fills with blood and then my body absorbs it back).  It is excruciatingly painful. I have been told the only option is birth control or to get pregnant. Apparently, this can make this cysts stop. Taking the pill and putting those synthetic hormones in my body is not a good idea in my mind.  My thyroid doctor says my hormones are not in a place for a safe pregnancy. However, the longer I wait and the cysts continue to occur, it can cause more of a threat to fertility. What are some natural things I can do to heal my body?

Erin's response:
I tend to go a little overboard with info, so please don't feel overwhelmed by my response. :)  My degree is in health science, so these topics are very interesting to me.

Your thyroid gland and ovaries have a definite connection.  Both are controlled by the pituitary gland.  I'm assuming that you received radioactive iodine as part of your cancer treatment?  The ovaries have iodine receptors like the thyroid, so they would have been affected by the treatment (though I'm not sure to what extent). Also, an under-active/absent thyroid causes the pituitary gland to secrete a hormone which interferes with the hormones that tell your ovaries to release eggs (ovulate).  The thyroid supplement you are taking should help with that, but I'm trying to demonstrate how the thyroid and ovaries are indeed connected.

Iodine deficiency can cause of ovarian cysts.  Iodine in the body is used as follows: 3% by the thyroid, 70% by muscles and fat, 20% by the skin, and 7% by the ovaries.  It is not enough to take an iodine supplement, however.  Iodine is one of 4 halogens (iodine, bromine, chlorine, and fluorine).  The same receptors that are made to use iodine can also accept other halogens.  So if you are eating bromated bread or bleached flour of any kind, the bromine in the bread is competing with iodine.  If you are drinking fluoridated water or using fluoride toothpaste, then the fluoride is competing with iodine.  The problem is your body does not NEED fluoride or bromine--it needs IODINE!

I have no idea what your food philosophy is, but that is usually the first place I start when trying to figure out health concerns.  Cysts (both on ovaries and breasts) can also be caused by inflammation.  The #1 inflammatory agent in the American diet is SUGAR.  If you are eating processed foods (food in packages), then you are getting too much sugar in your diet.

My recommendations:

  1. Get an appointment with a natural-minded doctor.  I'm not sure where you live, but I've heard good things about Debra Velez in downtown Little Rock (she is a nurse practitioner). {Julie interjects: on the blog we also have a list of complementary and alternative resources for central Arkansas.}
  2. Cut out all sweetened beverages, including fruit juice.
  3. Avoid soy (the phytoestrogens can contribute to cysts).
  4. Avoid meat and dairy products treated with hormones and antibiotics.
  5. Avoid caffeine.
  6. Drink red raspberry leaf tea or take a supplement.  This herb is beneficial for regulating your cycle.
  7. Use castor oil packs on the painful ovary.
  8. If you are eating a low-fat diet, STOP.  Your ovaries need the animal fats and cholesterol found in food in order to make the proper levels of estrogen and progesterone.  Replace the sugar and carbs in your diet with healthy fats like coconut oil, avocado, butter, raw dairy, etc.  
  9. Take an iodine supplement.  Kelp and seaweed are good sources.  Some people take a brand called Lugol's orally and some rub iodine on their skin to be absorbed.  A good practitioner can help you.
  10. Use reverse-osmosis filtered water and fluoride-free toothpaste to avoid fluoride.  Here's a post I wrote about the dangers of fluoride.

In conclusion, you might find this excerpt from helpful (he is a well-respected licensed acupuncturist):

Chris Kresser:
I do have a lot of success using botanical medicine for shrinking ovarian cysts, but I’m reluctant… Yeah, I can’t just throw out some herbs to take because, number one, the formula really needs to be personalized based on the individual’s particular characteristics.  That’s a really important part of Chinese medicine and making these formulas.  And number two, the botanicals that are used in these formulas are quite strong and definitely should not be used without supervision and shouldn’t be used for an extended period of time.  So unfortunately, the best I can do is to recommend that someone seek out a qualified herbalist, practitioner of Chinese medicine who is trained in this sort of thing, or a Western herbalist.  These formulas have a long history of successful use for this kind of thing.  You can look in Chinese medicine texts that are over 2000 years old, and they don’t call them ovarian cysts, but they have a different way of talking about them.  And I’ve had patients with multiple large ovarian cysts that have disappeared completely, and that’s been confirmed with ultrasound after use of these formulas.  So they work pretty well.  I think they’re pretty safe when they’re used under supervision, but I think you definitely need to take them with somebody’s supervision.   
It’s true that PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) is definitely connected to insulin resistance. So I would be way more likely to suggest a fairly high-fat, low-carb diet to control the blood sugar and improve insulin sensitivity. And I would probably couple that with some high-intensity strength training, which has a really big effect on insulin sensitivity and improving glucose tolerance. And I would have her measure her blood sugar with a glucometer to determine what her carbohydrate tolerance is. So that’s a device that a lot of diabetics use. You just prick your finger and put a drop of little blood on a strip, goes in a machine and it tells you what your blood sugar is. 
And the way that you use that to test your carbohydrate tolerance is you eat a meal, you take your blood sugar right before you eat the meal, and then you wait an hour and you take it an hour later, and then you take it two hours later. The deal is, you don’t want your blood sugar going above 140 after one hour and you don’t want it above 120 after two hours. And if it’s going above that, then you’re eating more carbohydrate than you can tolerate, in general.

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Sep 4, 2012

Homemade Baby Formula Testimonial

by guest blogger, Sarah Baker Wellons

I’ve always been interested in health and nutrition, but it wasn’t until my son, Noah, was born that I became adamant about real food. I wanted the absolute best for him and of course, it was going to work according to “my plan.”

This plan of mine included breastfeeding until at least the age of one and never, ever, ever (did I say never?) would I feed him commercial formula. To me this was the ultimate failure of my motherly duties if I had to resort to the plastic carton of powdered milk.

Well one cold January night I found myself sitting in a hotel room, not enjoying my vacation, while my three month old son screamed his lungs out because he was hungry. For weeks, I had pumped myself to death, eaten all the foods that were supposed to help my milk supply, and was downing as much water as possible.

However, this was to no avail because my stress and anxiety level was through the roof and all mommies know that stress affects your milk supply.  So I was at a crossroad… either let my baby scream and be hungry because I had to make “my plan” succeed or supplement.

Considering I had never seen a baby die because of eating commercial formula, I decided I would do it. To my surprise, Noah stopped crying and became a more content baby with a full tummy.

While the formula helped my stress level at first, I still didn’t have a peace about feeding it to him. Matter of fact, I was wrestling with it every day, wishing there was another option.

I hated reading the back of the Enfamil package with an ingredients list as long as a novel, and most of which I could not even pronounce. I also knew the dangers of soy and didn’t want Noah exposed to it at all, much less in that amount. But again, I thought it was the only option.

Then my friend Julie told me about homemade formula and it has changed baby Noah’s life.

When I first heard about homemade formula, I thought there was no way I would be able to do something like that. I thought I was not qualified enough or educated enough on this to try it.

However, I have been pleasantly surprised at the simplicity and ease of it. I use the homemade formula recipe from Nourishing Traditions. There are also videos on this link so that you can watch a mom make the formula in her kitchen.

Sarah Baker making homemade baby formula.
The ingredients can be gathered on your own at health food stores but some of the items you will have to order. I found the easiest option is to order the ingredients from Radiant Life because they have a homemade formula kit that you can purchase with everything you need.  The only thing it does not include is raw milk, cream and whey.  I did not have regular access to raw cream, so I omitted it from his formula.

Every baby is unique in what their body needs so you can tailor it specific to your baby. For example, when I first started the formula, Noah was having diarrhea.  So I omitted the vitamin c and his upset tummy settled.

Another trial and error I experienced was with the yeast flakes. Yeast flakes are full of b12 which is so good for your baby but they caused some vomiting for Noah so I omitted those as well.

Some positives I saw immediately.  First was Noah’s demeanor.  He was content, happy, and relaxed. He guzzled down his bottle at feeding time and absolutely loved the taste.

Next I noticed an improvement in an overactive tear duct that was constantly draining and oozing since the time he was born. The doctor had given him eye drops which did nothing, but two days after starting the formula, it was completely healed.

One time he had an allergic reaction to my parent’s dog and his face was starting to break out. I fed him his bottle and I literally watched the red spots go down as he was eating.

If he has a cold or runny nose, I can boost the nutrition by doubling the probiotic and vitamin c.

It is so comforting to know exactly what goes into his formula (and it there is no soy!)  Noah has now been on the formula for 7 months and he is a healthy 22 pound, 10 month old boy.

Friends and family always comment on his peaceful and relaxed demeanor and I attribute a lot of this to the homemade formula. He has thrived on it and I am loving watching him learn and grow.  Even though “my plan” didn’t work out like I thought it was supposed to, the Lord provided and I am very thankful.

Sarah Baker Wellons

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