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Health, Home, and Happiness: February 2010

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Review: One Gallon of Organic Palm Shortening

Trans-fat free Organic Chicken breaded in coconut flour and fried in Organic Palm Shortening

I've been enjoying using palm shortening in my cooking for the past few weeks. I took pictures of it compared with coconut oil for you; the container with the spoon in it is palm shortening.  It's a little softer than coconut oil, which is a plus especially in the winter; I used it for everything I would normally use coconut oil for with no ill effects.  

I also tried making doughnuts.  They look good, don't they? Well, I just tried sweetening my regular soaked wheat bread recipe, and they were too dense and bread-y for our tastes. We ended up toasting them and using them as rolls ;) Nourished kitchen has a sprouted doughnut recipe that I'm sure is much better than my attempt.

Palm oil is the most often used oil in the rest of the world (in America the most often used oil is soybean, which is an unstable omega 6 fat).  Tropical Traditions' Palm Shortening comes from a small scale farm in South Africa with strict standards not only for quality of the oil, but for environmental and social as well.

* I have a question for you- does anyone know of a good resource to find the omega 3 vs 6 ratio of an oil? I was trying to find out the ratio of palm oil but couldn't.  I do know it's a more stable oil than liquid oils, which are prone to becoming rancid.

If you're a first time customer of Tropical Traditions, I'd love it if you would use my referral code #5682145 and you get a free book on the benefits of coconut and I get coconut oil credited to my account.  See my reviews of their other products: Coconut oil, Coconut Cream Concentrate, Shredded Coconut, and Coconut Flour.  
Hint: I wait until they have a sale; usually once a month a gallon of expeller pressed coconut oil goes on sale for $39 or less, which is a great deal.

On to the Giveaway!Tropical Traditions is giving away an entire gallon of organic palm shortening just like the one they gave me for review! To Enter:
Giveaway is over! Molly from Organic Spark won, I'm going to email her now so that Tropical Traditions can send her a big ol' tub of organic palm oil!

First, sign up for their newsletter here if you haven't already. You have to do this step to be entered.
And post a comment to let me know you did.
  • Go ahead and tell me if you make fried food at home and what kind of oil you usually use.  Leave your email address if it's not hooked up to the profile you're commenting from! 

For extra entries:
~please post a separate comment for each one, and if you're already doing them you can count them too (make sense?)

@healthhomehappy is giving away a gallon of @troptraditions #organic palm shortening #realfood

Giveaway ends 3/6/10 and I'll pick a winner from

Disclaimer: Tropical Traditions provided me with a free sample of this product to review, and I was under no obligation to review it if I so chose. Nor was I under any obligation to write a positive review or sponsor a product giveaway in return for the free product.

My Sponsors:
Naturoli: High quality natural laundry soap for pennies a load!
Amazon: I buy lots from here, from books to carseats to diapers
Mountain Rose Herbs: Bulk herbs, spices, and essential oils
Rose of Sharon Acres: Natural goat milk soap products and tooth chips- soap for teeth!
Folky Dots: Beautiful Waldorf Dolls and Clothes from a work-at-home mom

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Friday, February 26, 2010

Cow vs Goat Yogurt

Cow yogurt on the left, goat on the right.

I made the 24-hour SCD/GAPS yogurt for GAPS; both with cow and goat since one of my kids doesn't do well on the cow yet.  I did them the exact same way, but the goat turned out runnier than the cow.  Goat milk fat is also white and naturally homogenized, so it has a little different properties from cow milk.  This is just the goat milk in the purple carton that you can get in the dairy section from some normal grocery stores.  

The SCD/GAPS yogurt is kept warm for 24 hours, so that the good bacteria have time to digest all the lactose. Having the yogurt be homemade and incubated for 24 hours really is an essential part of the diets, since any lactose that would be digested would feed the bad bacteria in the gut that we're trying to starve.

Eventually, I'd love to have milk goats.  I bought Raising Dairy Goats on Amazon about 10 years ago- via AOL dial up on the computer in my parents' bedroom.  Some day I'll put this book to use!

My kids love yogurt plain. I like it plain, but I also like it with raisins in it. We use it for dipping and as a topping on pancakes, or just eat it for a snack.  I liked the idea in Wild Fermentation of combining the sourness of yogurt with savory flavors to compliment the taste of yogurt rather than trying to cover it up.

Are you making yogurt yet? It's really simple, it's way cheaper than store-bought yogurt, and it's a great way to get good bacteria into your diet!

How I do yogurt in a cooler- it's pretty simple.  And yes, I use store (industrial) milk. I don't have raw milk right now; raw milk is better but the yogurt does work with grocery store milk as well. (this gets asked pretty often, since I'm encouraging you to leave your milk in a warm environment for 24 hours ;) - not something that we're taught is okay to do!)
More detailed directions to SCD 24-hour yogurt.
Benefits of raw goat milk from Rose of Sharon Acres

Cow closeup

Goat closeup

Part of Fight Back Friday

My Sponsors:

Naturoli: High quality natural laundry soap for pennies a load! (50% off sale on their detergent until 3/1)

Amazon: I buy lots from here, from books to carseats to diapers
Mountain Rose Herbs: Bulk herbs, spices, and essential oils
Rose of Sharon Acres: Natural goat milk soap products and tooth chips- soap for teeth!
Folky Dots: Beautiful Waldorf Dolls and Clothes from a work-at-home mom

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Lazy Stovetop Popcorn


We had a popcorn maker when we were first married. I got rid of it and got much-needed cupboard space once I realized that it's super easy to pop corn on the stove, in a regular pan, without shaking it incessantly.

This is all I do, I pour popcorn in the bottom of a pot or pan, about as much as it takes to cover the bottom of the pan seems to work well. Add a tablespoon or two of coconut oil.

Crack the lid to allow steam to escape. Turn the stove to medium, right there in the exact middle has worked in every house we've lived in.  I don't shake it. When the popping slows, it's done. Better to remove it from the burner too soon than to let it burn and ruin the whole pot.

We top with sea salt.  Easy, isn't it?

Sally Fallon in Nourishing Traditions warns against eating too much popcorn because it's not soaked, but compared to most snack foods on the market this is a great improvement!

This frugal snack is part of Pennywise platter Thursday

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Dehydrated Pears


Nature's candy. I'm borrowing a friend's dehydrator right now, she had tipped me off that dehydrated pears were just like candy. They are! So yummy.   They were still chewy when I took them out of the dehydrator, the apples that I've done before were crisp, like chips.  I like chewy because we don't go through them quite as fast.

I keep mine in the fridge because I've had food I thought was adequately dehydrated go bad in the pantry. 

Dehydrated fruit is great for teething babies. And it's not nearly as messy as fresh or cooked.  I cut across, then cut out the seeds only, leaving the rest of the soft core.  I wish I had thought to borrow the dehydrator when I got all these pears last summer!
Do you have a dehydrator?

I'm just borrowing one, and I'm betting my friend bought it at a garage sale. I know that the Excalibur is supposed to be the best.  I'm content with a borrowed 'Snackmaster' for now, maybe I'll consider buying my own once we have land and fruit trees.

Part of works for me Wednesday

My Sponsors:
Naturoli: High quality natural laundry soap for pennies a load! (50% off sale on their detergent until 3/1)

Amazon: I buy lots from here, from books to carseats to diapers
Mountain Rose Herbs: Bulk herbs, spices, and essential oils
Rose of Sharon Acres: Natural goat milk soap products and tooth soap!
Folky Dots: Beautiful Waldorf Dolls and Clothes from a work-at-home mom

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Monday, February 22, 2010

Easy Lunch: Chicken Salad in Steamed Cabbage


This is an easy lunch, chicken salad is made up in the beginning of the week to last the whole week.  I cored a cabbage and then steamed for a good 30 minutes to soften the leaves. The too-soft outer leaves and too-small inner leaves go into soup, the 'just right' ones are used as wraps.  GAPS friendly but liked by everyone. We add cooked apples or squash to the meal for carbohydrates since we don't restrict carbs.  I wrap in waxed paper and tuck in an insulated lunch bag for an easy lunch on the go.

Simple chicken salad:
Cut up chicken
 A generous amount of mayonnaise
Sea salt
Optional: sauerkraut for good probiotics,  cut up onions, celery, olives, mustard

Mix.  See? Eating real food can be very simple!

And a soaked wheat tortilla recipe from gnowglins if you wanted to skip the cabbage. I also have bought sprouted corn tortillas pre-GAPS at the health food store.  If you're buying corn tortillas it's really a good idea to get them sprouted or soaked in lime as traditional cultures do.  They're easier to digest that way.

Lactofermented vegetables
A sandwich chock-full of healthy stuff

And I finally have some things up on Etsy! Come check out my Etsy shop, Green Bean Boutique! Previews of more to be listed on my craft blog

Part of Real Food Wednesdays

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Friday, February 19, 2010

Review: The Omnivore's Dilemma

The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four MealsThe Omnivore's Dilemma is a story of our whole American industrial food chain, from the standard American Diet, that surprisingly consists mostly of corn, to the hunter/gatherer diet of local self-gathered and hunted food.

The first part of The Omnivore's Dilemma is about corn and the industrial farming practices that are making a mess out of our food supply, health, and the environment.

Next the focus is on industrial organic, the big organic brands that are found in Costco and supermarkets across the country; Earthbound Farms, Cascadian, Petaluma Poultry.  Industrial organic does keep tons of pesticides out of our environment and food, and is a healthier alternative to standard farming, but it still has issues. Some of the problems that stuck out for me specifically were the 'free range' eggs and chickens who seem to live very similar lives to their non-free-range counterparts, the focus on profit above sustainability, the low pay for the workers.  Lots of encouraging facts, though, like pest control. "To control pests, every six or seven strips of lettuce is punctuated with a strip of flowers: sweet alyssum, which attracts the lacewigs and syphid flies that eat the aphids that can molest lettuces" p 165.

The section on sustainable farming was my favorite.  Michael Pollan spent a week on Polyface Farm with Joel Salatin and wrote about all the efficient sustainable options for farming.  Salatin's method of farming uses both hard work and thinking, and produces more food per acre, more food per calorie of fossil fuel, food with less bacteria, food with more nutrition, than either the big-scale organic or the conventionally raised food.  I loved hearing about the system of rotating animals to keep the pastures in good condition, and how he uses mind over muscle to get the animals moved.  Everything on his farm has a purpose, and generally it not only benefits the animal, but also benefits something else on the farm as well.  The most intriguing part to me was that Salatin's father had bought the property he farms it was depleted and rocky, but through mindful farming not only had they produced nutritious food for their family and customers, but they had also actually enriched the soil and the landscape.  Healthy farming puts more back into the land than it takes out.
Joel Salatin: "In nature health is the default," he pointed out. "Most of the time pests and disease are just nature's way of telling the farmer he's doing something wrong." p 221

The last section was on hunting/gathering, which was also interesting.  Being raised near the area that Pollan did this hunting and gathering, I could easily picture the landscape and location and that was kind of fun (I grew up in Northern California).  Pollan set out to gather seafood, wild mushrooms, hunt wild pig, which he found to be the most personal meal.

I did really enjoy the whole book.  I even bought a copy for my skeptical (okay... hostile may be a more accurate term...) of real food uncle and he's agreed to pass it on to my parents after he's done.  I love that it's written as more of a story.  While I find facts and statistics interesting, I have a hard time concentrating and getting through a whole book focused on facts. The Omnivore's Dilemma is a book I'm glad to have on my book shelf.

More books I recommend (links to reviews):

The Maker's Diet is Real Food from a Christian standpoint. I'd love mainstream Christians to get on board with eating whole food and producing it sustainably, the way God intended.

Eat Fat Lose Fat:  Sally Fallon's 'fat book' mostly about coconut fat.  I have felt great since adding more coconut fat to my diet.  She explains the health benefits of coconut oil and a way to lose weight without putting your body in starvation mode.

Nutrition and Physical Degeneration: Is the reason the majority of our teens need braces to straighten out their teeth due to malnutritrion? After seeing dentist Weston Price's studies of cultures still eating traditional whole foods, I believe this to be true. 

Real Food for Mother and Baby:  A look at what whole foods to eat when you're expecting.  A nice politically-incorrect answer to What to Expect When You're Expecting. 


Thursday, February 18, 2010

All Natural Hypoallergenic Laundry Detergent Liquid (soapnuts)


After I used my 40 loads' worth of soapnuts, I tried using Naturoli's "Extreme 18x" which is super concentrated natural laundry detergent derived from soapnuts themselves.  While soapnuts (review here) would be a little more natural, this liquid detergent is a tiny bit easier to use (no hunting for the little bag of soap nuts in the bottom of your washer).  Just like the soap nuts, you aren't using much packaging at all, not dealing with bulky laundry detergent containers, and the detergent itself is natural.  It worked just as well for me as the soapnuts.  It's processed in the USA.

I not only used it in my laundry, but I tried using it to clean around the house as well.  It cleans really well! I diluted it and used it on dirty spots on my floor before mopping, and used it to clean the glass doors on my shower.  I'll probably continue to use it diluted as my general 'all purpose cleaner' around the house- it works just as well as other natural cleaners that I've tried- but it's more concentrated so it'll last longer.  For my laundry, I think I'll stick with just plain soapnuts (buy here) since they work out to a little less per load.

Preservatives and ingredients:
Looked up the preservatives (Potassium Sorbate and Sodium Benzoate) on the Cosmetic Database, and they both got a 'green' as far as low risk of hazards. Not so with the other detergents we looked at back in the soapnuts post.   I'm guessing that because the liquid detergent is so concentrated, they end up using less preservatives overall as well. 

My kids didn't react to it, and they both have super sensitive skin which has reacted to other so-called natural products before.  I think the short ingredient list (5 ingredients!) would help those who are prone to rashes, eczema, or chemical sensitivities.


Cost for this liquid detergent: We don't have a high efficiency washer (I hear mixed reviews about them for diapers, so I'm not sure I'm in a hurry to change) so we only got 48 loads out of the 18X Natural Liquid Detergent bottle.  Chris says that now they have a pump top, which makes it way simpler to know you're only using what you need and not wasting any.  I used the lid as a rough estimate -- you guys have seen how I cook, I don't tend to measure much ;).  Anyway, the 96/48 load 8 ounce bottle is what I tried and it retails for $16.95 / 48 loads = 0.35 for each of my standard washing loads. If you have a front loader/high efficiency, that works out to only 0.17 per load, which is awesome!  Since I don't use a HE, I'm just going to continue using soapnuts, which worked out to 0.22 cents a load. 

I'm a huge fan of environmentalisim that is cost effective, and you can truly see the difference.  This 18x Liquid Detergent is obviously much better for the environment due to how concentrated it is, as well as the little packaging that's used. In addition you don't have to deal with hauling around bulky containers that are filled with mostly water.
From the Naturoli site:
"FEBRUARY 1, 2010:
EXTREME 18X Soap Nuts Liquid Concentrate wins NaturOli its second "Green Dot Award" for the unprecedented reduction of the carbon footprint, toxic chemicals and waste products created by the manufacture, packaging and transport of detergent products."

  • Try 8 ounces of liquid detergent, now with a pump top for accurate dispensing (buy here).  Does 96 loads of laundry and comes in a bottle smaller than a shampoo bottle!  Works out to just 17 cents a high efficiency load.
  • Buy in bulk and save; three 8-ounce bottles (buy here) - on sale now it works out to just 13 cents a load.
  • Try a sampler (buy here) enough to do 12 high efficiency loads, or 6 regular.  Also comes with a trial of soapnuts!
Other items:
I'm generally a bare-basics kind of gal (bar soap, use coconut oil or almond oil as my 'lotion') but sometimes it's nice to use something a little more exciting. Naturoli has a whole line of lotions, soaps, bodywashes, and aromatherapy with a focus quality. Other items that I've tried from Naturoli are their body wash, lotion, and massage oil- all worked well and had a nice natural scent, or none at all.  In the comment section of the Soap Nut Post it looks like their soapnut bar soap is a hit as well!

The links to Naturoli are affiliate links, but I'm only promoting them because I personally use this product and think it's worth trying!  Using my affiliate link is a way you can help support this site! Thanks!


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Fish Cutlets- Getting more fish in our diet

Living in Montana, I have absolutely no excuse for not including this nutrient dense food in our diet.  For $30 each, hubby and I can fish every weekend this summer and catch a combined limit of 10 fish (depending on the area and type of fish).

I had avoided cooking fish previously because it seemed like an awful lot of work to pick around all those little bones.  With the recipe for fish cutlets in the GAPS book, I think we can handle eating fish this year, since all the bones get ground up into the meat.

I had fish in my freezer that hubby's boss had given us last summer.

The book says to remove the head, skin, and large bones. I started removing all the little bones but quickly became bored and decided we'd see how they did in the food processor instead.

In it goes, with an egg, some coconut oil, salt and pepper.

Ground, by pulsing, and then formed into patties.  Rolled the patties in shredded coconut, and baked in a greased glass baking dish.

Baked 40ish minutes at 350.  They were great! I felt a few bones, I think those are the ones that were stuck up on the side of the food processor bowl and didn't get mixed in well enough. Next time I'll scrape around and whirl some more.

I'm not the only one trying to include more fish in our diets, Stephanie and Kimi are as well!

Part of Real Food Wednesday and Pennywise Platter Thursday and Fight Back Friday

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Monday, February 15, 2010

Oil Pulling to relieve chronic conditions and whiten teeth

In looking up natural remedies for keratosis pilaris for a friend I saw the subject of oil pulling come up. Curious, I googled around and found that it's the kind of holistic treatment that I like- minimal possibility of side effects, inexpensive, not time consuming.

What is oil pulling?
 It's essentially swishing oil around in your mouth to pull out toxins from your body, which clears up many chronic conditions.  Because of my love of coconut oil, I tried that. I was a little squeamish to actually put the whole recommended tablespoon of oil in my mouth so I just used a teaspoon, chewing to melt the coconut oil.  It's kind of weird to get used to, but doable. Then I swished for about 5 minutes, spit, and brushed.  My mouth feels cleaner afterward, and I notice a little more phlegm running down the back of my throat (a sign of cleansing, I think) after.  If I could remember to consistently do this daily or even every other day, perhaps I'd know if it cleared up keratosis pilaris for me or not ~grin~. 

The theories
With holistic methods (or anything, actually) I'm always interested in knowing the reasoning behind the treatment.  There are a few different theories behind why oil pulling works, here are the ones I came across that seem plausible.
  • Oil has antibacterial and antimicrobial properties, which cleans out the mouth naturally.  Because everything in our bodies is tied together, a clean healthy mouth supports a clean healthy body.  A chronic condition may be a symptom of another underlying problem, such as buildup of toxins within the mouth/digestive system.
  • The oil actually is pulling toxins out of the body through the mucous membranes in the mouth.  
  • Chronic conditions are a oil deficiency, and the essential fatty acids are being absorbed sublingually, correcting the deficiency.
Some of the chronic conditions that may be helped by oil pulling:
  • Keratosis pilaris (those little bumps commonly on the back of the arms)
  • Eczema
  • Migraine headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Discolored teeth
  • Gingivitis
  • Acne
If you think about it, these conditions are most likely a symptom of an underlying problem.  As with a lot of holistic treatments that address the root of a problem, you're likely to get worse before you get better.  I noticed that I got more phlegm in my throat after oil pulling at first.  Presumably this is from toxins being released.

There seem to be differing opinions on how long to 'pull' (I don't know why it's not called swishing) for, from pulling for no longer than 3-4 minutes so as not to re-absorb the toxins that were pulled out, to pulling for 20 minutes to fully benefit from the treatment. I decided 5 minutes seemed doable, so that's what I started with.

While you may feel silly doing it (my children find this highly amusing), doing this daily for a couple weeks or so doesn't seem to have many downsides if it clears up a lingering chronic condition without side effects.

More cheap-and-easy natural remedies:
Garlic Ear Oil for Earaches
Tea Tree Oil for Mastitis
Plain Water for Pink Eye
An elimination diet for a breastfeeding mother to clear up baby's rash (okay... perhaps not completely easy!)

Have you tried oil pulling before?

Are you using Swagbucks to search and win yet?  I use mine for Amazon certificates to fund my reading habit.

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Saturday, February 13, 2010

Natural Laundry Soap- Soapnuts!



This is what I've been using for my laundry for the past three weeks. Soapnuts. Is that wild or what? These little berries clean my laundry.  I put three in a little drawstring bag, drop in with my clothes, and they get everything all clean!

At first I thought I was not going to let the bag with soap nuts go through the rinse cycle, because it couldn't be good to let there be soap in the rinse water, right? After fishing the little bag out a couple times, I kept forgetting, and my clothing still comes out clean. No residue, no chemical stink, no nothin' but clean clothes!

About every 5 wash loads I toss the older soap nuts and replace them with new ones in the little drawstring bag.   To check if the soapnuts still are going to work in your laundry, you can put them in a little water and shake up, watching to see if bubbles form.
a stack of clean cloth diapers

Before recommending these to you, I wanted to try them for a couple weeks. I can gladly say that they work on my laundry! My husband does construction, you know I cook a lot (and don't always use an apron), and the baby is in cloth diapers, so I think we're a pretty good test of what laundry detergent works.  I still used Oxyclean on a few of the kids' clothes when sleeves were dragged through food. But for detergent, SoapNuts was it for the past few weeks, and I'm sold!

Why are SoapNuts better than my current laundry detergent?

Quite honestly, I'm thrilled to be done with the bulky detergent containers.  And usually detergent doesn't have a list of ingredients on the box or container like food does, so to find out what's being put next to your skin and you're breathing in, you have to do a bit of research. Soapnuts are completely in their natural state, and other than the recycled box they were shipped in, there is no waste involved in packaging.

Soap Nuts - 100 percent natural laundry detergentWhen we were first married, I used Mountain Tide "because then you can tell the clothes are clean" (because of the chemicals oozing out of the newly washed clothes).  When I was pregnant, I bought a box of Dreft because that's what you're supposed to use on baby's clothes, right? But I wasn't impressed with the synthetic smell.  So when I saw that Costco had a 'natural' laundry detergent, that's what I switched to for a few years.  Somewhere along the line when I ran out of Kirkland detergent, I stopped in Target and bought Seventh Generation because Target is closer than Costco and I didn't want to drive across down.  The Seventh Generation gives my baby a rash, so I can't use it on diapers, though he does fine with it on his clothes.

So, what would be in these detergents that might be harmful?

The chemical links go to Cosmetics Database, which is what I used when I was trying to figure out whether I should be slathering sunscreen on my baby or not.
 As far as switching to natural products goes, using soapnuts is a fairly easy change to make.  It doesn't cost much ($8.90 for 40 loads' worth of soap nuts= 22 cents a load- even less expensive if you buy bigger quantities), doesn't take any extra time on your part, and it's not changing something that most kids are going to notice.

I've been really happy with how they clean our clothes. When the soapnuts came in the mail, the kids had a couple shirts that smelled like cod liver oil despite being washed in hot water multiple times with my Kirkland detergent.  I don't know if it was just one more wash cycle that they needed, but after washing once with soapnuts, the smell was gone and it hasn't come back.  I'm impressed!

Buying in bulk (buy here) can cost as low as 9 cents a load!
And you can get just a sampler at first (buy here) to see what you think.

More: See my review on their natural liquid soapnuts detergent (After using both, I do like the soapnuts better for laundry, but use the liquid for cleaning.

Full Disclosure: I do get a referral kickback when you order through my link, but I only promote products and companies that I personally use (like Tropical Traditions, Mountain Rose Herbs, and Amazon) and I think are a good value.

Part of Finer Things Friday
Part of Works for Me Wednesday
Part of Somewhat Crunchy's Natural Cleaner roundup

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Friday, February 12, 2010

Taco Salad

Taco Salad
What to do with the stale crumbs at the bottom of the chip bag?

Mexican food is good because it uses whole real foods and everyone likes it.  Based on your budget at the time you can up the beans and go light on the meat (or forget it altogether) or add more expensive favorites like avocados.

This quick lunch or dinner is a family favorite.

  • Stale chips at the bottom of two (!) bags that have been lingering on the top of my fridge
  • Ground beef
  • Lettuce
  • Beans (way healthier and cheaper if you make your own: Bean Recipe, just skip the mashing part, though refried beans work in this recipe too)
  • Sour cream or ranch dressing
  • Cheese
  • cumin, ground pepper
  • Not included, but good: Olives, peppers, avocado, onions, in-season tomatoes (we hardly ever bother with them out of season)
I slice my lettuce.  Shredded cheese is good. I was lazy and cubed it because I didn't feel like cleaning the grater.

Brown meat, add beans at the end to warm. Drain.  Mix everything together.  If you know you'll eat it all that meal, mix the chips in as well.

I heated up the stale chips in the oven in a pyrex baking dish @ 300 degrees just while I did everything else to un-stale them.  Mine were really overly stale, though.

The only bummer about this salad is that it's not very pretty all mixed together, so it's something I'm cautious to serve to guests. It doesn't look bad here, but if there is a lot of meat and beans and less lettuce, the lettuce all wilts and it just doesn't look that great. It still tastes great though, so for family it's a favorite.

And please go check out Dana's Etsy store, Folky Dots :) She has beautiful handmade Waldorf dolls and doll clothing!

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Dehydrating Almonds for flour (and a few rabbit trails)

A 25-pound box of almonds from Azure Standard. A friend and I went in together on the almonds, they're not pasteurized with propylene oxide like most almonds sold in stores (I was told my almonds from Costco are).

Why are almonds pasteurized?  Just like everything that's pasteurized, they do it to cover up the 'symptom' of industrial farming, rather than treating the root problem.

What do I mean by this? Big agriculture, ever more concerned with the bottom line than the quality of food they produce, underpay their farm workers, have sloppy farming practices, and get substandard quality.  Manure, dirt, bacteria all end up in the almonds (and industrial milk, eggs, spinach, tomatoes, beef... you've seen Food, Inc. right?), which makes people sick.  Rather than attacking the cause (substandard farming practices) 'we' go ahead and make a law that all almonds have to be pasteurized.  (I use the term 'we' sarcastically. I would not vote for such a law.)  So now we have safe dead bacteria, mold, and manure in our almonds. And pus, blood, and feces in our industrial milk. Don't forget that pasteurization doesn't take out the gross stuff that's in the food, it only kills it. Yum. This is why it's ideal to know your farmer, which I know is an overwhelming concept to begin with, but if you know the farming practices involved, you know that your farmer is taking care not to allow pus to get into his milk supply, and make sure his animals are clean before he processes them.
Anyway, on to my almonds. These from Azure are steam pasteurized (because California almonds, by law, must be pasteurized) rather than pasteurized with propylene oxide (a carcinogen that the FDA has approved for use in our food).
A friend and I went in this together. Real Food does strengthen the community. You become friends with people who are like minded and you all share what you do best.  My friend has a bit more on the money end so I'm using her dehydrator and Vitamix to make the almond flour. I have more on the time end (she works full time), so I'm soaking and dehydrating the 25 pounds of almonds, about 3 pounds at a time.  It's relatively fast, but it's something that's easier for me to do than her.  

Along these lines, I have another friend who's a midwife and will deliver our next baby, and yet another who has more land and we exchange money for fresh eggs.  Others know that we're happy to take fish or venison off their hands, and will eagerly give baked goods in exchange.  The same time-strapped friend is letting us spend the time in her back yard to do a garden this spring, while she pays the water bill and mortgage for that particular back yard and again we share the proceeds.

This is all mutually beneficial, I am happy to pay for someone to deliver my baby, I'm happy to pay for pastured eggs. I'm happy to spend time dehydrating almonds, she's happy to have soaked almonds and let me use her appliances.  What's lovely about this is that we all benefit. It's not the typical American/Hollywood attitude of 'in order for me to win, someone else has to lose', but rather it's the idea that when transactions are done well, both parties come out ahead. The people who spend their lives stepping on others, putting others down, and taking advantage may appear to win, but they aren't any more successful when you take the whole picture into account (happiness, wealth, etc).  I had found this as I grew up (I'm still growing up) but then it was put into words when I read Thou Shall Prosper.  A fascinating concept, which the book advocates can spread beyond almonds and farming and go into business as well.

Back to my almonds.  In the morning I take out the almonds that have been dehydrating 24 hours, put the ones that have been soaking in, and re-start the soaking process with a new batch.  I keep the dehydrator in my daughter's room, which stays a little cooler than the rest of the house so the warmth is welcome.  At the end I'll go to my friend's house, grind most of the almonds into flour in the Vitamix, and we'll split the proceeds. She'll get a tad more because we eat a handful of almonds still warm from the dehydrator each morning ~smile~ Like most of this real food, the hands on time is really low, maybe 20 minutes a day, but it does take patience.
How to soak and dehydrate almonds. This is the first time I've done it in a dehydrator, I usually do them in the oven.

Curious about more sustainable farming practices and how it's beneficial to the community, your health, and the environment? The 'farm' section in The Omnivore's Dilemma goes into it quite a bit. It's fascinating and encouraging that there is a realistic solution to this food mess we're in.

Is it really that overwhelming to know who is producing our food? Do we think it's overwhelming to know the people who fix our car? Who teach our children? Who prescribe our medications?  Who remodel our bathroom?  I have no problem admitting that I don't know as much as I should about the food I feed my family, but I'm not going to believe the lie that it's all too complicated and too much work, I should just give up and eat whatever everyone else eats.  I'm going to continually plug away, slowly and steadily replacing industrial foods with what I can find locally, ethically, sustainably, and healthily produced.

Another Food Conspiracy: Apricot Kernels and B17


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