Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Raw Milk

I received some questions about the safety of Raw Milk due to my post a few days ago. I know it's a little freaky. I did some research before adding raw milk to our diets, and I've mainly been operating on the knowledge that it does more good than harm. But I've found some excellent resources and thought I should share in an effort to educate. Thank you for asking me about this issue - it made me prioritize getting more answers!

My own grandfather was deathly and irreversibly ill from salmonella (supposedly from some bad chicken) just prior to the big salmonella issue in Illinios from bad milk...so I do not take this issue lightly.

Organic Pastures is the brand we actually buy. We are having an a "health" event on Oct 4th (save the date - I'm still working on the details) and this guy Mark is going to attend. I'm excited to have him here in person ;-)



Once again - it all boils down to (forgive the unintentional pun) the care and procedures used in bringing the food to the table.

Whole foods are better.
Organic is safer.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Garden Update

I spent some time gardening yesterday (and sweating profusely!). It sure is directly in the hot sun. I guess that's why some of the plants are really struggling now. I pulled out all the kale, collard greens, lettuce that went to seed, cleaned up the dead tomato plant leaves, removed the dead snap peas, cantalope (so sad it died, it had 3 baseball-sized melons that died with it) and bush beans. Also took out one yellow squash and one zucchini to see if that helps the singletons grow better. Turns out gardening is a lot of work! We have one tomato plant that is doing well, one that is sad, and three that are pretty much dead. Agh. Cabbage is doing well but seems to be getting bugs now. Cukes have that nice white fungus. Strawberries are booming and I think next year will be even better.
Here are the tomato plants...not too pretty...

Major lessons:

1. Definitley shoved too much in there this year, next time will be much less and

2. I need to fertilize more frequently- my new theory is that a well nourished plant won't succumb to diseases.

We also planted the new garden on the right with 5... yes F.I.V.E new tomato plants (I'm determined to get to the point of canning leftover tomatoes!), and more strawberries. I already had planted broccoli, chard, bush beans, artichokes, peppers, arugula, and carrots like 2 months ago. I gave up on any of it growing but in the last two weeks it has all sprouted up. Hmm. It's still a little sad looking - I think it is just super hot in that spot. I am so excited the two artichokes I planted have sprouted - my goal is to have one on the end of each row b/c they last for years and get pretty big. We may not see any actual artichokes this season but they say they get more prolific each year. Big hopes for those guys! They are a very pretty plant to so we may just plant a bunch around the whole yard. Wouldn't that be fun? Even Kaelyn loves artichokes!

Here are the broccoli. Or as I call them, HOLY BROCCOLI! Kaelyn LOVES her brocci. So does daddy. I really hoped to grow our own but was warned against the aphid infestations. I noticed whenever we get fresh organic broccoli it is always infested (beware - they just look like some innocent pepper before you realize you didn't put any pepper on your broccoli). I am not so hopeful that these will make it to our dinner plates...

And finally, I have a shout out to two fellow mom's. Our new garden has special permanent residents, two butterflies, to commemorate two little babies who didn't make it. The yellow one (first photo) is for baby Ella, my friend Bre's baby. The green one (second photo) is for a good friend who recently suffered a miscarriage - she knows who she is. I am wishing, for both of you, a successful addition to your families very soon - and an end to this difficult journey.
Thank you both for all of your support.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

New Plan for this blog

First, I would like to thank all of you who have been so supportive of me and our journey over this past year. Hard to believe that it was a year ago in two weeks that we received our positive home pregnancy test for Maya. Ugh. Time has gone too fast and yet too slow, all at the same time. It's been a journey, to say the least. It's been a tough choice to decide to share it so openly. It was my instinct to do so, even though it is not all that comfortable to be so exposed. I also haven't been completely supported by those who've known me well. I think it's hard for anyone who has not gone through this to realize that those who face challenges in growing their families (fertility, loss, etc) have to think about these issues every day of their lives. So although I do not feel I am actively grieving anymore, I still have to think about my health, wonder about what will happen next time, and go through all the ins and outs of each step of the way. It is still a part of my every day, even though I no longer miss my growing belly or ache for the baby I was getting to know.
I am glad to hear so frequently how often this blog has helped people. I didn't know if anyone would continue to read it or not. It's been helpful for me, more than I thought it would be. Something to put my mind into and keep me busy - so thanks for allowing me to share.
The health aspects obviously apply to everyone and my original hope was to chronicle my learnings, keep track of the knowledge I gain, and try to be organized about it all. I want to do more of this and find a way to make this site even more helpful for those who just feel overwhelmed by the lifestyle changes we face if we really want to live more healthfully.
The miscarriage aspects of this site obviously only apply to a smaller, and very unfortunate, group of people. It is my hope that we can be "in this together" even if it is only through this blog. And it is your support I cherish the most as no one but you know what it's like to be "on this side of the fence."

So for the most part, I will continue to use the blog as I have been. You'll sometimes get tidbits about me and my journey. And I'll continue to give recipes and food tips as I find them. But I'm going to challenge myself to continue to work on the "being organized" part a little more. And here is where the new plan comes in:
Each week I will post something that will "help" myself and others get organized about living healthfully. This may be a list of rules, a list of "must haves," a list of priorities, resources for where to get things, or other easy "cheat sheets" that are created based on a culmination of various research I've done.

For today, you get two:

Easy, healthier brownies:
  • 1 package No Pudge Brownie Mix (Trader Joes, Henry's, and I've seen them at Ralph's) - they aren't as healthy as making your own healthy brownies, but they do use wheat flour and cane sugar so they aren't as bad as Duncan Hines!
  • 1 cup canned ORGANIC pumpkin
  • 1 t vanilla
Mix the ingredients together - they will be very gooey
Bake according to the package.

Yum ;-) Can't even taste the pumpkin (which I actually like so I wish you did!).

And an easy list:
How to make Dairy Choices
  • First and foremost, any dairy product you buy should have no RBST/growth hormones (Trader Joes)
  • Second, organic is better than non-organic.
  • Third, raw milk is best b/c it actually has all the health benefits that you are SUPPOSED to get from milk whereas the pasturized milk does not.
There ya go - next week I will focus on making SUGAR choices!

If there is anything you want me to cover, let me know ;-) Even better, if there is something you already have researched, send it my way and I'll feature you in a post!!

Friday, August 7, 2009

A True M.O.G.

This is our beloved Kingston. We call him a MOG - because he is truly part man, part dog. We love him just as much as we love Kaelyn. He is a real member of our family and we cannot imagine life with out him. We are so blessed to have such a wonderful spirit around us all the time - who can put perspective around things by taking it all back to such a simple level - it's all about love and fun!!
Kingston turned 3 this past May (May 3rd - it was his "golden" birthday!). About a month ago, as I was putting his daily kibble in his bowl for dinner, I started to think about how odd it was that we give our dogs this same dry kibble every single day of their lives. When we lost our kitty Fremont earlier this year (11 years old) to kidney failure, I started to blame the food we gave him and the water he drank out of the faucet every single day of his life. So why do we never question what we give our dogs? I mean, arguably, kibble is not a natural thing for the dog to eat. So what did I do???
I went to the library and took out all the holistic dog food books they had. I could not believe what I was reading about the horrors of processed dog food. It really all comes down to the same science as for us humans. We aren't meant to eat processed foods and neither are dogs. They are carnivores (and eat some vegetables) and should eat accordingly. I'm not going to go into details on what I learned, but I will just say that dog food causes tremendous health issues for dogs. Especially the cheaper dog foods (even most of the expensive ones, quite honestly). But it all comes down to this - our dogs/pets would live twice as long if we kept them on a raw, more natural diet. On average, dogs live 10-11 years. If on raw food, they would live an average of 27. Of course, that varies based on breed - but you get the point. The question became clear: How could I make such huge changes to our own eating and leave our dear MOG on kibble?

We've had Kingston on very high-end holistic dog kibble (not cheap) for a very long time because he has always had some intestinal issues (diarrhea). He was currently taking Wellness brand - and doing better than on anything else, but still had the occasional bout of explosive stuff (weekly). And forget it if you tried to give him pretty much any treats that were not completely holistic.
Long story short, for week one I started making his own food. I look back and Samantha (our summer visitor) must have thought I was nuts. It was quite intense as far as the amount of ground meat, the rice, the veggies, the supplements, etc. I never did get it completely down...but Iwas determined. Right away on the cooked "real" food diet, his poop changed for the better. He also had less gas. We also started making his own treats which was super easy.
Week two I got a different book and it focused on Raw food. I know people who've done this and I was NEVER interested in this approach. But after a week of cooking a meal for another "adult who eats for 3 adults," I realized that not only was the raw food diet better for him, but SOOOOOOOO much easier on me!
So week two I started giving him raw meat that I was buying myself. I wasn't feeling great about this option b/c I don't trust our meat packers to be very sanitary...so I went over to our holistic pet store where we were getting his kibble. Low and behold they sell pre-packaged, large-volume, raw meet with everything included so you don't have to supplement. And it was way cheaper than what I was doing by doing it all myself.
So there you have it. He's a raw food doggie. His demeanor has changed, he's much calmer, much more satisfied with his meals, and his poop speaks for itself! I don't think I'll ever go back!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Angels on Earth

This is the photo of earthly angels we have recently encountered (and their two adorable kids Liam and James). When I posted about our hard drive failure, my friend Marianna's sister Josephine came to the rescue. Her husband Jim deals with technology for a living and she volunteered him to help us out. Low and behold - he got ALL our data back. So I'm sharing this poem for Liliana with you because our angels here on earth were able to retrieve it. Thank you Jim and Jo - I am forever grateful.

How will I know who you are
When I’ve never seen your face?
When I finally get to heaven,
Will you still need my warm embrace?

It’s nice to know you’ll be waiting for me
Your sister will keep you company through time
But two separate lives, that’s not what I wanted
You should be here with us, you should have been mine

These are the things I think about
Now that you are not here
I wish instead I could feel you growing inside
And not have to deal with the fears

I think of you in my days, in my nights
I try to honor you in all that I do
I want you to bring meaning to our life
Our purpose has changed because of you

We will try our best to do what we can
To appreciate all that we have
Our baby, our Liliana, will be in our hearts
As we live our lives as full as we can

I have a job as a mom here on earth
But one in another place too
In heaven you need me, in a different way maybe
But you’re always my baby, our spirit, our soul
Waiting patiently for us to come home to you.

You will always be a little sister,
To two girls who are just like you
But you are a special little girl in your own right
When we come home, come find us, we love you

April 14, 2009

Recent Journeys

Wow what a busy summer we have had. Above is a photo of a boquet I made out of our garden and backyard flowers. Many of the garden plants are going to seed now which adds some pretty flowers. The Dill plants have very large yellow flowers, the Cilantro has small white ones, the sunflowers have disappointedly pointed away from the house, so I cut one to bring it "inside" so we can enjoy it, and our colorful calalilies are a fun summer addition! The purple is a garlic plant - that doesn't produce edible garlic - which smells like garlic!

On a recent trip to Paso Robles, we drove by some road-side wild turkeys. Going to this part of the country reminds me of what a country bumpkin I really am. I just love driving around the countryside and Paso reminds me of driving through Tuscany. It was a great feeling to be connected to the earth for the weekend and away from all the usual hubbub. These turkeys serve as a reminder of how unnatural our gigantoid Thanksgiving turkeys are. And I made a promise that if we do celebrate Thanksgiving this year, it will be with a genuine wild turkey - no matter what the cost. But secretly, I am considering boycotting the holiday and all of the marketing and "norm" induced buying it stimulates and celebrating our own traditional turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, etc., Thanksgiving at a different time of the year (did you ever stop to think of how "un-natural" it is for 170 million people to eat a turkey on the same exact day - and all the behaviors this drives in the food industry?).

I also had the extreme thrill of riding in a hot air balloon yesterday with my good friend, colleague, and mentor, Robin (this was a belated birthday gift). I have always wanted to go up in a balloon and I really enjoyed it. We had a ride that lasted more than an hour and my only complaint was that the silence was broken with so many other "passengers" along for the ride (I thought it would be more comparable to my paragliding experinece years ago where you were able to enjoy the silent joy of flight...much like a bird). But all in all, I'd do it again and in the very same place. Riding over the vineyards in Temecula was just beautiful.

But again I was reminded of the challenges of "organic" farming. Flying over an agricultural community provided a "birdseye" view of the sizeable nature of providing mass communities with produce. Oranges, avocados, walnuts, grapes, and more - all the different crops, each in their own beauty in such a large scale, provides an enormous challenge in keeping away pests, using our scarce water resources, soil treatment, etc. I now have a very appreciative and realistic view on organic farming, as most of our own backyard crop is now dying away due to the pests and fungi. Not to mention, in our 120 square feet of garden space, we have yet to generate enough food to do much more than supplement our normal food bill, let alone have enough to share with others.
Here you can see the tractor spraying pesticides on the grapes that will someday be on our table in the form of a wine bottle...

Peach Pie

Peaches are my favorite fruit (sans the furry skin) and peach pie is my favorite pie. It's hard to come by and peach season always seems so short to me, but our farmer's market has been carrying some LARGE and beautiful peaches so Samantha and I decided to make a cobbler - a healthy version, of course!
The story starts with my first issue of "Cooks Illustrated" magazine. I'm not sure if someone sent this to me as a gift or if it is just a one-time thing. But the magazine looks old fashioned, thin, and frankly, un-inspiring. But alas, I opened it up to take a look and by the time I finished it, I felt like I took a cooking class. Wow is it educational. It takes you back to the basics and it is written almost in blog style. I love it.
There was an article called "Improving Peach Cobbler" and while it is not a "healthy" recipe, it was inspiring enough to decide to embark on a better version. I think the recipes in here are a good place to start - since they have taken a lot of time to get the "chemistry" of the dish down - you can make slight alterations and learn on your own how to do them in a more healthy way.
So Samantha and I went out and bought our batch of juicy peaches. They recommended 6-7 of their "large" peaches - which amounted to just over 4 lbs of fruit. I know this because they were $2 a pound and the whole tab was $9. WOW. Okay - so healthy peach pie is already breaking the bank.
Then Samantha went to work. She peeled and sliced (thank you thank you!) all the fruit and it was a perfect amount for a shallow glass pie dish. Then followed the following recipe:
Samantha's Peach Cobbler
Slice peaches (not too thin, not to thick....the thinner you slice, the more juicy the cobbler is)
1/4 cup maple syrup (the real raw stuff...not Log Cabin!)
1 T corn starch
(Let this sit while you prepare the cobbler, or even longer. If any juices collect, drain them out.)
1 C oats (best to go with non quick cooking oats b/c you want the texture to remain in tact as much as possible)
1/2 C whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 C honey
1 t cinnamon
1/3 C butter (softenend, not melted)
1/3 C yogurt (I recommend the whole fat greek strained yogurt - it keeps it thicker, but any non-sweetened yogurt is fine)
Prepare oven at 400 degrees
Stir topping together and spread it over the peaches to create a top-layer crust.
Bake for 20-25 minutes
Let cool for 20-30 mins and eat!
We enjoyed it with a dollop of soy ice cream. Yum!

Even Samantha's mom and brother (Marlene and Aaron) liked this pie so it is a SURE winner. We tried it a couple different ways and the above recipe seems to work best. It is tricky to keep the peaches from getting too runny. I think what we found was that the less ripe peaches get less runny/mushy but are a little more tart. You can cut them a little thinner just to make sure they aren't too cruncy. But if you use soft/ripe peaches, cut them thicker to avoid the overwhelming juice syrup. Also - stick with the yellow peaches, the white ones don't look as pretty in a pie!

Banana Bread

Here is a yummy banana bread. I got the recipe from my neighbor Erin, and modified it a little. It was fine in it's original condition, but you can always make it better, right?
Samantha had fun making it a few times while she was here. If the 15 year old likes it, you know it's okay ;-) And I don't feel guilty giving it to Kaelyn at all!

Banana Bread
3 mashed ripe bananas
4 egg whites (I tried 2 whole eggs and the egg whites were DEF better, so stick with these!)
3 T almond milk
3 T canola oil
1/2 cup honey
1 t baking soda
1 t baking powder
1/2 c oats (orig recipe says 1/4 c wheat germ)
3/4 c oat flour (orig recipe says 3/4 c oat bran)
1 c whole wheat pastry flour
dash salt
2 t cinnamon (could do even more cinnamon)
1 t nutmeg

Preheat oven to 325 degrees
Grease a loaf pan
Mix mashed bananas with egg whites, honey, almond milk and canola oil until blended. Fold in dry ingredients until combined well. Bake for 40-45 mins.