Dec 20, 2014

Deviled Eggs: The Perfect Party Food

They need no utensils, are nutritious and many people really like them.
These were made with pastured eggs (read why you should pay more for super yellow yolks), fermented roasted red peppers and parsley from my garden.  I didn't color enhance the picture.  Instead of using mayonnaise (I was out), I used heavy whipping cream.  Delish. If you preserved lacto-fermented pickle relish this summer, use that, too.

Take some to your next holiday party.
-Julie

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Dec 18, 2014

Last Minute Local Shopping (for the person hard to buy for)

I went to a "Favorite Things" party recently.  You know, the kind where you bring one of your favorite things wrapped then tell about why it is your favorite.  At our party, we drew numbers to choose a gift then played "Dirty Santa" style and people could steal the gift you opened.  

Three of the favorite things were gift cards.  Of those gift cards, two of them were from local stores that I love: The Root Cafe and The Green Corner Store.  And actually, one of the favorite things I took to the party came from The Green Corner Store (Tammy Sue's Goat's Milk Lotion).  This is really beginning to sound like a commercial, but I really like that store.  My kids love the soda fountain (who doesn't like homemade ice cream?!) and I like to go there when I'm looking for a gift for the person who has everything (except homemade marshmallows!).  You can find some one-of-a-kind gifts there.

Another option for last minute gift giving is to head out to the Hillcrest Farmers Market this Saturday 8am-noon.  Check their Facebook page for ideas.
In addition to summer 2015 CSA program North Pulaski Farms is offering gift cards for the spring.  Now thru the end of the year, buy a five pack of $25 gift cards for only $100!  The cards are valid from March 2015 thru May 2015 and can be used to purchase any products at any of the markets or on the farm.  To order you can call Kelly Carney OR pick them up at the Hillcrest Farmers Market.  The Giant Winter spinach in the photo will be the size of a basketball and ready in early March!

Kelly Carney
North Pulaski Farms, LLC
(501) 240-4233
Kelly@northpulaskifarms.com

Happy shopping and merry Christmas!
Julie


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Dec 14, 2014

Real Food Hands-On Cooking Class

Start the new year with real food cooking skills!  I will be teaching real food basics on New Year's Day at 1:30pm in my kitchen for the person eager to make baby step changes in 2015.  We will make chicken pot pie and talk and learn along the way.   
Chicken pot pie is a comfort food that many people love.  With a few minor changes, you can make it very nourishing.  It is a recipe that is easy to double and freeze half.  

 Some of the culinary topics covered will be:

- cooking / deboning a whole chicken 
- taste testing: crock pot vs. roasted chicken
- knife skills
- bone broth basics
- creating cream of chicken / mushroom soup from scratch
- making a pie crust from scratch.

Class size is limited to 6 people.  This would be a great class for mom and daughter to take together.  Or a fun gift to give to the person who has everything. 

When: Thursday, January 1 at 1:30pm
Where: my kitchen, near Whole Foods on Rodney Parham
Cost: $25 per person

Email me for additional details and to reserve your spot -- luvmyhub AT gmail.com

Stay tuned for other classes in January and February.  I will be teaching a couple of classes at Fermentables: one on culturing vegetables and one for kombucha making.

--Julie

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Dec 8, 2014

My New Favorite Thing

One of my big take-aways from going to the Weston A. Price Conference was the importance of using epsom salts in my bath.  Usually I'm not a big bath taker.  Showers are much faster.  After being at the conference I decided that I would try at least once a week to take a 20-minute bath with 2 cups of epsom salts.  For bonus points, use your favorite essential oil.  

Time and time again I heard people give kudos to this inexpensive additive to your bath (both attendees as well as presenters.)  The below 10 pound bucket came from Sam's Club and was about $7.
Why is epsom salt so good for the body?

The chemical name is Magnesium Sulfate.  Many people are deficient in both magnesium as well as sulfur.  We theoretically could get those minerals from our food... 

- if we didn't have compromised guts from taking rounds of antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals
- if we only ate biodynamic, nutrient-dense, organically raised foods (and no processed foods)
- if conventional farmers used soil amendments other than N, P, and K. (Since the introduction of synthetic fertilizers in the 1950's, magnesium in vegetables has decreased 25-80%.  Buy local and organic when you can.)
- if we lived stress-free lives (Stress influences digestion --upset stomach anyone?)

The skin is the biggest organ.  For better or worse, you are absorbing all kinds of things around you.   When you soak in a bath of epsom salts the body is getting a healthy dose of magnesium and sulfur.

  {disclaimer:  I'm not a doctor or scientist.  Do your own research.  The following is my limited and simplified understanding.}

Magnesium is needed by the body for almost every cellular function.  It is a cofactor for over 300 enzyme systems in the body.  A few of the systems include protein synthesis, muscle and nerve function, glucose control, and blood pressure regulation.  If you consistently just don't feel good --you quite possibly could be magnesium deficient.

When you sweat (exercise or menopause), you are loosing a lot of magnesium.  Ever have muscle cramps?

Some people tell me, "Oh, I'm taking a magnesium supplement" (or calcium and magnesium supplement).  That could be helpful, depending on your gut health and the quality of the supplement.  You could also be throwing your money down the proverbial drain if you are not absorbing it.  

You've read in this space before: compromised guts will not absorb as many minerals as a healthy gut. That is, minerals from food or supplements.

People who are extremely deficient in magnesium may find that a transdermal application of magnesium oil helps even better than a pill form.  The higher quality magnesium oils can be expensive.  Epsom salt doesn't break the bank but requires time to soak.

{side note:  several friends of mine swear by Calm and drink it as a night cap before going to bed.  They say it helps them fall asleep and stay asleep.}  
This 4 pound bag of epsom salt from Kroger was only $3.

What about sulfur?

Stephanie Seneff, PhD, argues in this article that sulfur deficiency could be a cause for obesity, heart disease, Alzheimer's and chronic fatigue.  She was a speaker for 6 hours at the conference this year.  She also spoke last year (6 hours on sulfur alone!)  One conferee told me the one big take away he remembers from last year's talks on sulfur was: 

When you’re getting sick-- cold, flu, cancer even! produces sulfur.  The body allows this to stabilize blood chemistry.  Take an Epsom Salt bath to give the body sulfur.  Or eat high sulfur foods (like garlic, onions, broccoli or cabbage). 

Since going to the conference, when family members feel a little under the weather and complain, I send them straight to the tub with instructions to use epsom salt.  My dad says he remembers his grandmother burning a sulfur candle (stinky!) in the room of an invalid.

Does it help?

It doesn't hurt.  It is not expensive.  And it doesn't stink.

Detox
Again, I feel the need to say I'm not an expert.  But I heard several people at the conference say that epsom salts (or sufficient levels of magnesium) will help you detox.  The word "detox" is somewhat of a buzz word these days and I confess I'm not sure what all it means or how the body detoxes.  

However, I do know that I want to help my body in every way possible to rid itself of toxic substances.  Another theme I kept hearing at the conference was "the reason we are so sick (as a culture) is because of all the toxins (like heavy metals) that are staying in our bodies and not being eliminated."

If taking a 20-minute bath in epsom salt relaxes my mind and heals my body, I'm in.  Bonus that it's not toxic or expensive.

-Julie

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Dec 5, 2014

Creative Storage

The lid to the peanut butter that I frequently buy is the same size as a small mouth canning jar.  I store lots of things in jars, including spices in bulk from Azure Standard.  I prefer plastic lids to their metal counter parts because plastic doesn't rust when I send it through my dishwasher.

The ultimate in recycling is actually using something you'd otherwise throw away.

--Julie

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Dec 3, 2014

Resources for Gut Healing

Increasingly I talk to more and more people who are taking health into their own hands, specifically making huge changes in diet.  And seeing results.

This thrills my soul!  But it can be overwhelming, can't it?

One of my family members has had mystery symptoms for an extended period time.  We have tried countless remedies as well as ruled out many things.

Crazy enough, one of the last things we implemented was removing gluten.  It wasn't as difficult as I had anticipated because I cook so much from scratch and making bread isn't in my routine.

Gluten wasn't the culprit.  Oh, I think removing it from the diet was a good move --at least for a season while we focus on healing the gut.  That family member has been gluten free for about 5 months with plans to go a year without gluten.

{side note:: Even if you are not gluten sensitive, if you are eating grains (primarily wheat) that isn't prepared properly (soaked or sprouted) it is hard on your digestive system.  Not to mention that you will not absorb the nutrients as well if you forgo proper preparation. :: end side note.}

Always looking to learn more, once we started the "gluten-free journey" I decided to borrow a copy of a friend's copy of The GAPS Diet.  Simultaneously, another friend told me that when she was researching GAPS she bought this ebook which spelled out the first 30 days on the healing diet.  I bought the ebook and it was helpful.

Here's a post that has several links to stories of people on the GAPS diet.

Some friends of mine have been following a Paleo diet (basically eating meat, fruit and veggies, eggs, nuts, seeds, and healthy oils but no grains, dairy, or refined sugar) and have found healing from eating that way.  Paleo and GAPS are somewhat similar (GAPS is a bit more complicated intentional about adding new foods to your diet.)  A couple of distinctives of the GAPS diet is copious amounts of bone broth and fermented vegetables.

{another side note:: If you're interested, here is a comparison of Paleo versus a traditional diet compiled by the president of the Weston Price Foundation.  The Paleo Mom wrote a rebuttal here.  I love freedom of press!! :: end side note.}

Other friends, who struggle with leaky-gut or autoimmune health issues are following the autoimmune protocol.  This diet, referred to as AIP, is similar to the Paleo diet mentioned above but is more restrictive.  AIP also removes nuts, seeds, eggs, beans, and nightshades which are tomatoes and peppers among others.

A new-to-me blog is The Paleo Mom and it is very helpful in sorting all of this out.  She holds a PhD and is now a mom who blogs and cooks and writes about science-y things in a language I understand and cooks some more.  Recently I gushed about recipes I've tried from her blog.

Another yummy paleo recipe blog is PaleOMG. (Note: her language may be offensive to some.)

Our gut-healing journey has included lots (daily) of gelatinous bone broth and fermented vegetables.  We have restricted grains, sugar in most forms, and for a season dairy.

I think it is helpful to underscore that we are created uniquely.  Each person has a distinct genetic makeup and cultural background.  Listen to your body.  Do your own research.  Ask lots of questions.  Listen to your body.  Think.  Ask more questions.  Keep a journal of what you eat and how you feel.  And listen to your body.  The body wants to heal itself given the right tools and deprived of toxic junk.

What resources have been helpful for you?
-Julie

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Nov 26, 2014

Kraut:: It's What's for Lunch

At lunch today my 22 month old ate almost his weight in sauerkraut.  He definitely ate more 'kraut than anything else at lunch.  I love that!
Not only is traditionally made sauerkraut full of probiotics but it is a superior source of vitamin C.  Both of those things are welcomed in the winter when our bodies are working hard to fight of foreign invaders like colds and flu.

Wishing you a very happy Thanksgiving!
Julie

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Nov 25, 2014

Meet Your Farmer This Saturday

Tammy Sue and her Critters invite you to join them at their place this Saturday, November 29 from 10am-2pm.  
Load up your children (grandchildren or the neighbor's kids) and head over to the outskirts of North Little Rock.
 You'll find goats, chickens, alpaca and even a guard llama.
While the farm tour is free, you'll want to remember your wallet.  Tammy will be selling her hand crafted soaps, lotions, lip balms and other body care items.  These make the perfect Christmas gifts!  I love her grapefruit scented lotion and hair bar (shampoo). --Julie

Saturday, November 29, 10am-2pm
4 Cheyenne Trail, NLR 72120


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Nov 23, 2014

Meet Up at My House This Tuesday

Several friends asked that I share some of what I learned at the Weston A. Price Annual Conference.  And so, I'm inviting you to my house.  :)

This Tuesday, November 25 at 7pm.  I live near Whole Foods just off Rodney Parham.  Email me for the street and house number.  luvmyhub@gmailDOTcom

For the first 30 minutes we'll meet, chat, taste a few ferments.  Then at 7:30 I will share the main take-aways I had from going to the conference.  Some of the things I learned:

-ferments
-gardening, why nutrient dense local foods
-dangers of GMOs, why to eat organic
-tips for detoxing
-dangers of vaccines

I'll kick everyone out at 9pm.

It will be a great time of connecting with other real foodies.  I hope you can come.  We all have so much information we can share with each other.  I realize that it's a terrible time, just a few days before Thanksgiving, but I'm afraid if I don't do it now it won't happen.

-Julie

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Nov 14, 2014

Jennifer's Experience at the Wise Traditions Conference

My best friend from college, Jennifer Shelby, is today's guest writer.  She joined me at the Weston A. Price Annual conference in Indianapolis last weekend.  --Julie
It was so motivating to be a part of the 15th Annual Wise Traditions 2014 Conference, titled Focus on Food last weekend in Indianapolis.  And, I was in good company!  I reunited with longtime friend, Julie, author of the Real Food in Little Rock blog, and her friend Jami of Freckle Face Farm.  We joined more than 1,000 real food enthusiasts, including many names I recognized from the world of traditional food blogs.  Everyone I met was friendly and seemed so happy to be at this conference, surrounded by like-minded foodie folks. Being in this group affirmed that my family’s food and lifestyle choices are indeed worth it!
I enjoyed hearing numerous, very detailed presentations on topics I was familiar with such as the GAPS diet, history of the Weston A. Price Foundation, benefits of and techniques for preparing fermented foods, and more.  Some presentations were quite technical and stretched my brain, necessitating more research at home on topics such as cell wall deficient forms bacteria and their connection to chronic illness.  As a chronic Lyme disease sufferer, I was captivated by the many stories of health recovery told by conferences presenters and attendees.    
This conference literally feeds your body and brain.  We were served delicious, nutrient dense food throughout the conference.  I noticed there was no need for mid-afternoon, sugar-laden snack breaks when lunch consisted of rich cheeses, pastured meats, veggies, ferments, and plentifully buttered bread!  At most conferences I’ve attended, participants are slumped in their seats after lunch waiting for a coffee break and cookie.  Not so here.  You could feel the difference from being nourished with real foods that don’t wreck your blood sugar levels. 
The exhibitor area was amazing.  Throughout the day we had opportunities to meet and chat with vendors passionate about producing and promoting products such as garden kraut, fermented beet kvass, cinnamon tingle fermented cod liver oil, smoked sockeye salmon, fresh cream of coconut, and so much more.  It was great fun sampling all the products and deciding which ones to purchase and take home to my family. 
Overall this was a great experience and I hope to have the opportunity to attend another conference in the future. 
--Jennifer Shelby
Midway, Kentucky

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Nov 13, 2014

Natural Remedy for Teething Babies and Fussy Toddlers

I am not a doctor or a trained medical worker.  However, I AM a mother who spends more time with my children than anyone else.  

Usually my 22-month-old has a sunny, easy-going disposition and sometimes a bit of a comedian.  Last week he was cranky beyond reason.  The usual diversionary tactics were not working (water play, being held, changing scenery, reading books, singing, etc.)  On the second day of irrational irritability, I decided to test a homeopathic remedy, chamomilla.  I bought it at Drug Emporium, in the back of the store where the other remedies are sold (other remedies we have used are rhus toxicodedenron for poison ivy, and arnica for bumps and bruises.)  It cost about $6.50 for the tube of tiny white pellets. 

I gave my toddler 3 tiny pellets after naptime.  Within 30 minutes he was a different child.  Another dose was administered 3 hours later, just before bed.  The next morning when he started into the crying-for-no-good-reason, I gave him another dose.  He seemed to perk up.  

Was it a coincidence? I don't know.  

However, I do know that I wanted to pull out every follicle of my hair the day before from the incessant whining and crying.  The homeopathic remedy seemed to help.  It's inexpensive and non-toxic.  The way I see it, I really don't have anything to loose and everything to gain.

Anyone else tried chamomilla?  Here's a chart of other symptoms it has been known to relieve. Earaches, toothaches and insomnia are on the list.  Also interesting to note that this chart concurs that chamomilla is helpful for the child that is "only quieted when carried and petted constantly."  While there are times when a child needs to be held for comfort, I'm also a busy mother who ain't got time for that!

What other homeopathic remedies are in your first aid kit?

-Julie

PS - all this talk of chamomile makes me want to go read Peter Rabbit! 
"Peter was not very well during the evening. His mother put him to bed, and made some chamomile tea: "One table-spoonful to be taken at bedtime.” 
― Beatrix PotterThe Tale of Peter Rabbit

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Nov 10, 2014

Wise Traditions 2014 Highlights

I'm back to life, back to reality.  The 2014 Wise Traditions Conference was all that I'd hoped it would be --and more.  I had a great time and really wish each person reading this could experience it one day.  As with other conferences of this size, while there you feel like you're being blasted by a firehose of information.  

In this post, I'm sharing some Instagram pics and commentary.  I hope to make time to write more about the conference. 

One of the reasons the conference was so fun this year was because I convinced my BFF from college to join me (she still lives in Kentucky).  We have not really connected in about 10 years.  I also convinced Jami Latture of Freckle Face Farm to come along from central Arkansas.  The three of us laughed and learned all weekend long.
Another major highlight is browsing and learning from the vendors.  Above we are snacking at the VitalChoice booth.  Normally I don't care for fish or anything fishy.  Let me tell you, Bob, VitalChoice wild seafood is a whole 'nuther story.  It is good.  Above I'm eating salmon belly (skin and bones, too) and it wasn't that "fishy."  Below I tasted two different kinds of roe (also known as caviar or salted fish eggs.)  Confession: I stopped and sampled the salmon roe everyday.
The vendors are very generous.  Green Pasture, maker of fermented cod liver oil, gave away 100 jars of FCLO everyday.  You better believe we were there early to snatch our free gift.  Radiant Life gave away jars of palm oil and nice sample spray bottles of magnesium oil (hopefully I can write more on that later.)

I could write for hours on the food at this conference.  Simply delightful.  Nutrient dense.  Very tasty. Wow.  And it seems like a miracle that they were able to feed 1000+ people at every meal.  Below is me with my roommates at the awards banquet.
After the food was eaten and awards given, Denise Minger was the keynote speaker.  Denise is only 27 years old.  Yet found fame about 3 years ago when she went toe-to-toe with The China Study author and vegan, Colin Campell.  She refuted his claims that animal protein causes cancer. (I actually heard her speak on this very topic in Dallas in 2011.  The paper linked above is a great resource for those who are thinking of going vegan.)  Of interesting note, Denise was vegan from 7-17.  She prided herself on a cavity-free mouth until the dentist found at least 13 cavities when she was 17 years old.  That was the wake-up call she needed to re-examine her dietary intake.

Denise talked on the subject of her new book, Death by Food Pyramid: How Shoddy Science, Sketchy Politics and Shady Special Interests Have Ruined Our Health.  It was very interesting to learn about the genesis of the "food pyramid."  The main point of her talk was keep learning.  Keep your eyes and ears open to learning new information --and then question everything.
Drinks on the table: sour lemon water kefir and root beer flavored kombucha.

Jami caught me in the act of not letting any raw whipped cream go to waste.
You may have noticed the blue ribbon on my name tag that said, "volunteer."  I applied for a financial scholarship, was awarded one and in turn was asked to volunteer 6 hours.  One shift of 2 hours (which really only lasted one hour), I collected lunch tickets at the buffet line.  The second shift of 4 hours, I worked the registration desk.  It was the last day of the conference, so if people weren't in a hurry, I asked them what they learned at the conference and what changes they would make once they were home.
This lady was from my home state and this was her first conference.  She cracked me up when she said, "I'm a registered nurse and feel like a spy at a spy convention.  However, I am encouraged there are other mainstream medical practitioners here."

One young mom I talked with asked how she could learn more about natural living.  I told her, "Keep coming to conferences like this!  You won't hear this information in mainstream outlets."

When I came home last night, I told my husband I was grateful for the opportunity to go.  I feel like the time (and money) spent was a great investment into the health of our family.  I learned about food, medicine, food as medicine!, dentistry, vaccines, gardening, and so many other things.  

I am more resolved to buy local, nutrient dense foods all while staying as far as I can from GMOs.  My soul was refreshed from the break away from the daily grind.

It truly is a great conference.  Next year's conference is in Anaheim, California.  Start saving your pennies now.

-Julie

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Nov 6, 2014

Traditional Foods Conference

In a few hours I'm hopping on a plane for Indianapolis. {EEK! I'm so EXCITED!} This weekend I will be learning tons at the Weston A. Price Foundation's annual conference.

Wanna go with me?

OK, that may not be realistic but you can live stream the conference, in part or the whole thing.

Three years ago, I was able to go when the conference was in Dallas.  Here's my recap of the food and other noteworthy events.  Oh, and the food is beyond excellent.  I really wish some of you could go with me.

I hope to post more pictures later.
Julie

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Nov 4, 2014

Farm Girl Meats Update & Sausage Cooking Tips

I have a special relationship with Katie Short of Farm Girl Meats.  Our friendship started about 5 years ago when I was chatting with her at the Argenta Farmers Market.  She told me she had a copy of Nourishing Traditions.  At that very moment I knew we were kindred spirits.  Fast forward a few years.  Now she comes to my house twice a month to deliver meat and egg shares to 25+ families.  (I'm lucky enough to have a flat driveway in a central location!) Katie is a gifted communicator and I asked her permission to republish this week's shareholder newsletter in this space.  --Julie
This week is all about the hickories. Those lovely trees turning all shades of red are also dropping gold all over our land, and the pigs just can't get enough. Not only are the nuts irresistible to the pigs, high in protein and good fats, and abundant, they will add depth and sweetness to our finishing hogs. I wish I could say we planned our hog harvest to follow the hickory drop, but this year it was just a bit of delicious serendipity. Some of the meat in this week's offerings will be from hickory-fattened hogs, but a better array will be available in early December.
The hens don't seem to care much about the nuts, but they are nearly out of the annual molt and feeling sassy with their fresh new plumage. They compete with each other for the prime roosting spots at night and the roosters vie for their attention during the day- needless to say its always noisy in chicken town these days. As for the meat birds, they are almost ready to harvest! We can expect some chicken in the basket as early as next delivery.

How to Cook a Link Sausage

Do your links ever split while cooking? Are they crumbly when you try to bite or cut them? 

We'll save the meat science behind the challenges for another day and get right to some simple ways to make the most of our lovingly raised, carefully seasoned sausages:

For the grill, parboil first. To do this, put your room temperature sausages in a deep saucepan or soup pot and cover generously with cold water. Now place the pan over medium-low heat and bring it to a simmer. Remove from heat immediately. Now your links are ready to brown up on the grill to your liking, texture preserved! 

Start on the stove, move to the oven. 
Preheat your oven to 375 and lightly oil an oven-safe frying pan, cast iron is ideal. On the stove top over medium heat, brown your sausages on all sides. Now, place the whole skillet in the oven and set the timer for 8 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, and the sausages from the pan, giving them 2-3 minutes rest before eating. 

=========
For more details about the Farm Girl Meat/Egg Share, click here.  Farm Girl Meats website is here.  She's also on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook (check out the video of the pigs eating hickories).  Email Katie for additional questions: katie AT farmgirlfood.com

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Nov 2, 2014

New Real Food Restaurant Opens in NLR

On Main Street in Argenta is a new real food restaurant for the health conscious.   Good Food by Ferneau (next door to Mugs Cafe) is housed in the space formerly occupied by the Argenta Market --not be confused with what is across the street on Saturdays: the Argenta Farmers Market.  Good Food by Ferneau has remodeled and it looks quite trendy.  

Whew, now that you know where to go, let me tell you what good food you'll find.
Fresh, mostly local and organic offerings are on the menu.  The food is perfect for the person who works downtown and wants a healthy, quick lunch but they are also open late on Friday and Saturday.  Inside the deli case are several pre-packaged, to go options.  Prepackaged but not processed.  Those with gluten sensitivities have plenty of options too.
At the far right of the counter (above) Butcher & Public provides an in-house butcher shop with a passion for local farms and humanely raised meats.  The meat comes from names you'll recognize: Falling Sky Farms, Freckle Face Farm, Farm Girl, among others.  Take home some brats, sausages, cheese, or pate.

The weekday my husband and I stopped for lunch, I ordered a meatball sandwich that had fresh mint sprinkled on top, garnished with house made pickles.  My husband wasn't terribly hungry and had a bowl of butternut squash soup.  Most of the other diners were taking their food to-go.
Please support this local good food restaurant.  Try something new this week.  :)

HOURS -- Good Food by Ferneau 
Mon - Thu10:00 am - 6:00 pm
Fri10:00 am - 1:00 am
Sat6:00 pm - 12:00 am



521 Main Street, North Little Rock  (501) 725-4219

--Julie

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Oct 19, 2014

Tips for Toddlers and Children to Eat Soup

One day last week my two youngest and I ate soup outside for lunch.  The weather was perfect - a glorious fall day.

After I snapped this picture (and posted it on Instagram as mommamajors), the thought came to me, "I wonder if other moms serve soup for lunch?"

We eat a lot of soup in the fall and winter.  Soup is nourishing, delicious, inexpensive, easy and quite versatile.  Not to mention, the warmth in your mug and belly can knock the chill out of your weary bones.

I've learned over the years of serving soup that it can be messy for those less coordinated (i.e. toddlers).

Tips for Toddlers and Children to Eat Soup

for the very messiest and uncoordinated unpracticed
- Strip 'em naked and let the soup run down their chin, chest, belly and chair.  Do this just before bath time and chalk it up to a learning experience...for both of you!
- Eat outside or in old clothes.

for those wanting to improve
- Serve chunkier soups with little or no broth (or liquid).  This is the soup I made last week (it's a current fav).  My 22 month old son was basically eating ground beef, cooked/mushy veggies, and beans all in one cup.  He loved every chunky morsel then slurped the remaining spoonfuls of broth at the end.  He is gaining control with the spoon and does remarkably well.  I try to set him up to win (removing frustration) by giving him the chunks in soup without the "soup."

- Serve in a cup or small bowl so that the child feels the freedom to drink the soup instead of fight with the spoon.

- Give the child the widest spoon that will fit in their mouth.  They need all the extra surface area they can manage to get food in their mouth.  Sometimes the "baby spoons" are not all that helpful.  We have a couple stainless toddler spoons that are helpful. (I steer away from using plastic when I can.)   If you watch my baby, he looses quite a bit from the bowl to his mouth.  When he is super hungry he sometimes puts down the spoon and eats with his hands for the first few bites.

- If at first you don't succeed, try and try again!  Don't give up!

Julie

PS -- My daughter is almost 4.5.  She can wield a spoon like nobody's business and has been eating soup like a champ for a long time.  I say that to encourage those with preschoolers that soup isn't messy forever.

PSS -- I'd love to know what soups you are making these days.  I am always on the lookout for new recipes.

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Oct 15, 2014

Save Time & Energy with This Tip

The day I realized two whole chickens would fit into my slow cooker --it was a glorious day.
If I'm going to spend the time and energy to debone a chicken, it's not that much more work to debone two.  The crock needs to be cleaned no matter what's inside.

The extra meat can be used for fast week-night meals or frozen for later.

And the additional bones makes it worth my time to make broth.  Win-win.

Julie

PS - Scroll through other cooking tips here.

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Oct 12, 2014

Plantains Are My New BFF

Plantains are my new best friend.  Have you ever tried them?  They're the huge green banana looking things.  When ripe, they are black.  I found some at the Colony West Kroger this weekend.

Last night at a dinner party a friend said, "When we were in Costa Rica, we ate them at every meal."  I've eaten plantains as chips and even fried my own but I didn't know the extent to their versatility.

I am learning they are quite adaptible, especially if you are trying to eat grain-free.

Today I tried a couple new (to me) recipes from The Paleo Mom.  I highly recommend her blog if you haven't checked it out.  She earned a PhD but now stays at home and can explain the science behind food.  She just released a cookbook.  Here's a video where she explains a bit about plantains -- how to choose and cut them, etc.

I made her nut-free, coconut-free paleo (grain-free) muffins.  They were really good and not grainy like some gluten-free recipes.  Many times with gluten-free treats you have to buy lots of random ingredients.  In this recipe, the most random ingredient was a plantain.  And if you can't find plantains, you can use a green banana (or so it says in the comments.)  The recipe recommends 3-5 T of dry sugar.  I used 5 T of sucanat and they were plenty sweet with the additional 2+ cups of blueberries.  Next time I make these muffins I will use even less sugar.

For dinner, we had herbed chicken savory crepes with mushroom "cream" sauce.  Delish.  I used to make crepes frequently but since we are trying to be grain free, I'd written crepes off my menu.  I will say, this meal was perfect for a weekend and would be too much work for a weeknight meal.  My eldest son ate the remaining crepes with butter and maple syrup.  We'd all eaten blueberry muffins before dinner so we weren't that hungry.  With the remaining filling, I added more chicken and broth for a hearty soup for my husband's lunch one day this week.

**Haven't tried it yet but just saw this recipe for Simple Paleo Tortillas...will try soon.

Tonight I also made The Paleo Mom's grain-free Swedish Meatballs.  I used way more fresh herbs because the recipe as written seemed a bit bland.  The meatballs we will eat tomorrow night.

My kitchen looked like a bomb had gone off when I was finished.  The fridge is stocked with good food.

Any new recipes you're making I need to try?
Julie

PS - By way of reminder, I do not make any money from this blog.  I endorse books and blogs just because I think they are helpful.

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Sep 29, 2014

Dinner Time Is a Sacred Time --Fight For It

The children set the Thanksgiving table.
I love food.
I love making food.
I love making food for the people I love.

I don't always love dinner time.

I spend hours thinking about food: procuring, chopping, marinating, fermenting, sautéing, blending, roasting, baking.  And then there's the kitchen clean up...

After the dreamy days of preparing the perfect meal,  I present my labors for three children who turn up their noses.  They don't always appreciate the labor of love in front of them.

Recently, it hit me during one of these dream shattering wake up calls.  Dinner time isn't just about the food.

Dinner time is a sacred time.  I must fight for it.

No matter what stage of life you find yourself -- with babies, teenagers, and every staged between, there is something (many things?) that pulls us away from the table.

The table is the one place where we all are gathered and sit face to face.  No other time during the day are the five people in my home focused on one another.

Dinner time is the portion of the day when we learn about each other.  What were the highs?  Where were the lows?  How can I encourage?  Let's talk about plans for tomorrow.  Not only do the adults ask questions but we prompt our children to step outside their egocentric circles and ask about another.  When guests come, we help the children think in advance a question they could ask.

Reality is, the children interrupt adult conversations.  Babies make gigantic messes.  Some children complain about the menu (yes, mine).  To be quite honest, more times than not, our table time is shorter than I prefer.  My eldest longs to be other places and the baby makes everyone miserable with loud shrieks once he is full.  Sibling rivalry even rears its ugly head during dinner.

We must battle for this sacred time.

I can't think of a night when the dinner hour was perfect.  Why do I have this unrealistic expectation?  I'm working to readjust so that when we have gathered as a family there is a sense of achievement.  We were together.

If it were easy, more people would be doing it.  Take off your oven mitts and put on the boxing gloves.  This is a battle worth fighting.  Gather your people around the table, turn off your electronic devices and gaze into one another's eyes.

Where else do children intentionally and consistently interact with adults?  The table is a place to practice manners.  We practice not only with napkins in our laps but also with the placement of our words.  The tone of our voice and the choice of our vocabulary.   We practice showing preference to one another: let me serve you.  Over and over and over.  We practice these things.

Don't fall prey to the idealistic notion that your meal needs to impress Martha Stewart.  Or even be Sally Fallon nutritious (though I do recommend a ferment at every meal!)   Life sometimes necessitates take out.  At least try to sit together and face one another.  Resist the temptation to eat on the run, standing up, or in the car.  Dinner time is a sacred time.

And when your less-than-perfect dinner time concludes, there is still more family time!  Everyone can take their plate to the counter or load into the dishwasher.  Even the smallest of hands can wipe the table while the more coordinated children can sweep the floor.  My husband recently started motivating the children towards happy hearts with blasting the very religious music of one of his favs -John Mellencamp.  Now our 21-month-old requests in his own way to ROCK in the USA after every meal.

Good times.  Good memories.

Fighting for my right to party, [another 80's music reference]
--Julie

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Sep 22, 2014

Arkansas Abundance:: New CSA in Town

I'm always happy to promote local food.  But I am especially excited when there are new farms trying to get started.  WE NEED LOCAL FARMS.  If you have been thinking about trying to buy more local, chemical-free food, this could be the option for you.  --Julie
About Arkansas Abundance
Arkansas Abundance is a six-acre farm located on the south side of Little Rock. We are in our first year of production and excited to provide good food to the Little Rock area. All of our produce is grown using organic methods; we use no synthetic fertilizers or pesticides on our produce. In addition to tasty vegetables, we raise goats, rabbits, and free-range chickens.

What is a CSA?
Community-Supported Agriculture” is a system for getting food from the farm to the kitchen in a way that benefits both the farmer and consumer. Customers buy a share of the farm's produce at the beginning of the season, and the farmer delivers this produce weekly. This provides a convenient, regular supply of fresh, local produce for the customer, and it helps the farm by providing some of the season's costs up front. Our favorite reason for doing a CSA is that it helps us get to know our customers through the weekly pick-up process.

Expected Produce
The produce will vary each week according to what's growing at the time. This fall we expect to have: lettuce, spinach, kale, swiss chard, mustard greens, arugula, kohlrabi, pac choi, cabbage, parsnips, turnips, beets, radishes, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, snap peas, shittake mushrooms, garlic, and potatoes.

Share Options
This fall, our CSA will run for six weeks, from mid-October to late November. Full shares may be purchased for $170 or half shares for $85. The amount of produce received over the six weeks will equal or exceed the total value of the share, and the customer will receive about the same amount of produce every week.

Delivery
Shares will be delivered to the Hillcrest Farmer's Market (located at 2200 Kavanaugh Blvd) on Saturdays between 8am and noon. Shares may also be picked up at Arkansas Abundance on Friday afternoons by arrangement. Distribution will begin in mid-October run for a full six weeks. We will contact you with a specific start date by the end of September.


Contact
If you're interested in a CSA, we invite you to come visit the farm and see our projects! Or you can see photos on our Facebook page. Please contact us with further questions by email (arkansasabundance AT gmail.com) or phone (501-213-6450). We are offering a limited number of shares, so please submit your form and payment promptly to ensure you get a spot!

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Sep 17, 2014

Broth Making:: Reader's Question

I'm answering a reader's question, below.  Also, I'm hosting a vegetable fermenting class on Friday, September 19 at 3pm in my home.  Email me if you are interested. luvmyhub@gmail DOT com

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Julie, 
Is bone broth supposed to taste good? My first attempt was nasty and didn't gel at all (was using beef bones).  Where do you get bones?  Do you add chicken feet for gelatin or that Great Lakes gelatin everyone is talking about?  Do you just drink mugs of it or use it for soup base? I appreciate any and all advice. 
Thanks, 
Martha

+++++++++


Hi Martha!

First - let me congratulate you for trying something new and healthy!  Very soon you will be a broth-making master, I just know it! 

There are many ways to make bone broth.  As for the taste, it is not my favorite to drink just plain.  However, if you choose to drink it plain, be sure to add plenty of sea salt.  Salt can be a deal breaker when it comes to flavoring broth or any broth based soup.  Seriously.

In my home broth is used mostly for making soups, rice, greens and reheating food on the stovetop.

Here are some questions that could help you trouble shoot.

1. How much water did you add to the bones?  

I try to just cover the bones with water.  Too much water can cause the broth not to gel.  Even if it doesn't become gelatinous, it will still be healthy for you.  Homemade broth, even watery broth, is so much better for you than the canned stuff from the store.

2.  Did you add any or too much vinegar?  

Vinegar helps to pull out the micro-nutrients and minerals in the bones.  I usually make broth in either a 4 quart or 6 quart crock-pot and use about 1-2 tablespoons of raw apple cider vinegar.  Too much vinegar can give an off taste to broth.

3.  What kind of beef bones?

Beef broth is my favorite to drink.  I have read that for best results with beef bones, make sure they have been broken or sawed so that you can get to the marrow.  I have purchased beef bones from Whole Foods freezer section (middle of aisle, near bottom of freezer case.  They look a bit like white donuts.)  I have also used bones from steaks and roasts (I ask the butcher to leave them in).  

4.  Where can I get more bones?

Another option for bones if you need to make copious amounts of broth is to purchase necks/backs/stock parts from local chicken farmers (Falling Sky, Freckle Face, and FarmGirl are farmers I know that do this).  Or buy wings exclusively for broth.  Using bird bones from conventional farms will still make good broth.

Chicken feet will provide more gelatin to broth and I use them occasionally.  Freckle Face gives them with the purchase of a chicken; I think all the chicken farmers will sell the feet in bulk.

5.  How long and what temperature did you cook the bones?  

My preferred method is to put the bones in the crock pot, cover with cold, filtered water (no chlorine), add a splash of vinegar and turn to low.  I will let this simmer for at least 6-8 hours and up to 24.  I have left it for 48 hours before but will cation you to be sure to check on the water level.  Even with a lid on the slow cooker, water evaporates.  I have found dry bones before.  On that day, without thinking I added a cup of cold water and broke my hot crock.  I think I had a small amount of bones to begin with and it was a busy season; I just forgot about the broth.

If you decide to make broth stovetop, bring it to a boil then lower to simmer for at least a few hours.  I prefer the crockpot because I plug mine up outside and forget about it.  Animals won't bother it because it gets too hot.  I don't have to smell it nor does it add more heat to my house in the summer.  And if I'm too tired at night to deal with the broth/bones, I can let it simmer until the morning without care.  The smell is the biggest factor for me.  While I use a ton of broth --especially in winter when making soups, I do not care for the smell of broth.

6.  Did you add anything else to the broth besides bones?

If you use bones exclusively, you should not have any off tastes.  Some people report that veggies, after an extended period of cooking (like 24 hours), can make the broth bitter.  If I know that I am going to be making broth for a while, I usually do not add any veggies.  That said, some people swear that veggies can make the difference.  I figure that I will add veggies whatever I am cooking and that I don't want to spend money on veggies in broth .  Broth to me is a vehicle for trace minerals and gelatin.  It is more flavorful than cooking with water.

Yesterday I cooked two whole chickens simultaneously in my largest crock pot.  At dinner, I deboned the birds and threw the bones back in to the crock.  I had some random bones saved in the freezer and added these too.  Covered them all with water and added a generous splash of vinegar.  About 10pm, I turned the slow cooker to low outside.  This morning around 10am (12 hours later) I removed 8 cups of broth (or half gallon) for making soup.  I added another 8 cups of water to the bones along with the veggie scraps from making soup (ends from onions, carrots, and celery).  Bay leaves are a good addition, too.  Tonight around 10pm I will remove at least 8 cups of broth then test the bones.  If the bones are still hard, I will add more water.

How does one "test" bones?
Take a bone from your pot and try to squish it between your fingers.  If it is brittle and smashes easily, you have extracted all you can from it.  Throw it away.  If the bones are still firm, let them make more broth for you.  The bigger bones can be cooked longer.  Chicken feet almost always crumble after 12 hours.  If I have a mixture of bones, I use my judgment on when I think the most of the bones are used up.  It's not an exact science.

The smooshing of bones is a great hands-on learning experience for children.  Once I gave my 9-year-old son a steak bone after it had been made to broth for about 48 hours.  I asked him to try to smash it with his bare hands.  He did and couldn't believe it. The look on his face was priceless.  I told him that, "We drink broth because it is so good for us.  This animal gave us meat and minerals. Do you want your bones to crumble like that one day? Keep drinking broth (in soup)."  He ran off with other bones to show his friends. 

Do I use Great Lakes gelatin?
I've never purchased it.  I buy gelatin from Kroger when I am making jello, gummies, or add it to yogurt when I make it.  I am not opposed to Great Lakes, it's just that buying quality gelatin is not on my high priority list.  If I were looking to heal my gut, I would probably buy a better quality. 

Hope that helps.  Let me know if you have more questions.  Give it another try!
Julie

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Sep 15, 2014

Homemade Gummies, & Paleo Wraps

For an after school snack, I've been making these Strawberry Cream Gummies from Holistic Squid.

--Did you know that one package of gelatin has 7grams of protein?!  The recipe calls for 13 packages of gelatin.  That's 91 grams of protein for just the gelatin in this recipe.  I just use Kroger brand gelatin but you can certainly buy higher quality elsewhere.  Gelatin is very healing for the gut.

--I have a silicon mini-muffin pan that I use for these but you can also just pour it into your favorite pan and cut out squares.  I tried using candy molds (disaster).  Note to self: stick with silicon or glass pan.  I used 8x8 pan and cut the tummies into ~1/2 to 1 inch cubes.

--If you have a VitaMix, you can save yourself some dishes by making everything in the blender.  Instead of heating on the stove, just run the blender a few seconds longer.  Easy peasy.

--My husband has been avoiding sugar so I've made a "jello" for him inspired from the above recipe.  I use one can full-fat coconut milk and 4 envelopes gelatin with 2 T honey.

--I also want to try this recipe for sour gummy stars.

Secondly, anyone tried these Paleo Wraps from Drug Emporium?
You will find them near the canned coconut milk.  The ingredients are simply coconut meat, coconut water and coconut oil.  They are a bit pricey but a convenient and tasty option for those going gluten free or paleo.

Have you tried anything new lately?
Julie

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