Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Foods That Improve Your Quality of Life: Dark Chocolate

I was so excited to find this out.  Dark chocolate just happens to be one of the foods that makes you smarter and less stressed
A 2009 study of 30 individuals fed 40g of dark chocolate per day over a 2 week period showed a decrease in urinary output of the stress hormones cortisol and catecholamines.  

Another study indicates that the flavanols in dark chocolate help to increase blood flow to the brain and also to lower the stress level in those attempting spacial tasks.  

As the researchers put it, “Cocoa flavanol consumption may increase neural [brain] efficiency in spatial working memory function” (Camfield DA et al. 2012)

Remember though, not all chocolate is created equal.  Try to go for fair trade and at least 72% cocoa in whatever you purchase.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Focusing on Core Competencies: Minimizing Breakfast

I've recently been listening to the book 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think on audiobook and, although it is geared toward the career woman, I've found some things that the author states to be highly practical advice.  After all, while I may not get paid for my work, with homeschooling and taking care of a very large household, my hours are definitely not a 9 to 5 job.

One of the things that the author stresses is finding your 'core competencies'.  The things that one does best that no one else could quite do as good of a job, and then focusing the main working hours on these things.  That means that things that are not core competency need to be outsourced, minimized or ignored.

So, as I'm revamping my daily schedule I'm working on outsourcing, minimizing or ignoring the things that someone else can do and that do not lead me closer to my goals.

Here is one thing I've come up with:

While I love cooking, breakfasts and lunches are not my favorite things to make.  So, my first step was to minimize breakfast, both the cooking and the clean up.

Breakfast needs to be over fast so we can start our homeschooling day and lunch comes right in the middle of schooling.  I really don't like taking the time to cook these meals.  However, on a real food diet, buying boxes of cold cereal is not an option for us.  And I like the children to go low on the carbs and high on protein for most breakfasts.

My solution (and remember, I'm feeding 13 people!):
  • Cook up 3 dozen hard boiled eggs on the weekend.  That gives me two mornings of eggs and fruit.  It's an easy prep and an easy cleanup.  
  • Also, baking 4 pans of soaked granola at one time will give me two more mornings of easy breakfast.  
  • A couple bags of make ahead frozen smoothies are a special treat.  
  • And then 4 dozen soaked muffins will round off the week.  

Over the next few weeks I'll be posting more ways to minimize, outsource or ignore the things that need to get done, but aren't my core competencies thus freeing up the set hours I have to be able to concentrate on other things.  Like my real food cooking or spending quality time with my children.

If you have any ways that you minimize the tedious to find more time in your day, please post them in the comment section.  I'd love to hear your ideas!

And if you want to check out the book I mentioned, 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think, I think any mom, those who work for pay and those who don't, would appreciate some of the advice.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Thursday May 10th, 2012

Housekeeping: clean out refrigerator
Weather: rainy all day
brown rice
(I'll be posting my recipe tomorrow for GNOWFGLINS Seasonal Recipe Round-Up)
-radishes are looking great and needed to be thinned
- beets are coming up
-onion sets have started to turn green
Notes of the Day:
- Began a donation bag for Saturday.
- Agreed to make cookies for Bella's Day of Recollection before her First Holy Communion

This post is modeled after Dawn's posts at Daily Domestic Bliss

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Raw Milk Contraband

Watch this amazing video of SWAT team style raids on farms selling something that has been consumed by humans for thousands of years but is now considered 'black market'.

These are families just trying to feed their families what they know is nutritionally superior food and they are treated as criminals.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Sauteed Chard with Butter and Parmesan

Beautiful chard!  And it is amazing what a little butter and parmesan can do to it!

Wardah from GNOWFGLINS has offered a challenge to blog about cooking seasonally and this week the focus is chard.  So the following is my very simple recipe for Sauteed Chard with Butter and Parmesan.

If you are new to cooking seasonally, you may also be new to chard.  This recipe is difficult to mess up and the taste will bring chard back into your kitchen again and again.

First, I separate the leaves from the stems.  The stems I save for another recipe.

I boil the leaves in heavily salted water for about 4 minutes until they are tender.

While it is boiling, I grate up a handful of parmesan cheese.

After the chard has wilted and become tender, I drain it and then let it cool enough to chop it.

Then, I melt about 3 tablespoons of butter in a cast iron skillet.  I add the chard and sauté until it is warmed through and I then toss in the parmesan.

This chard recipe is absolutely delicious.  As you can see from the picture, one bunch does not make a huge amount, but this is easily doubled or tripled.


1 bunch of chard
3 tbsp. butter
handful of grated parmesan


Remove stems from chard and reserve for another recipe.
Boil the leaves in a large pot of heavily salted water for about 4 minutes or until wilted and tender.
Drain the leaves and cool, then coarsely chop.
In a medium skillet melt 3 tablespoons of butter.
Add the wilted chard leaves and heat through.
Toss with a handful of parmesan cheese.

This post is part of GNOWFGLINS Seasonal Recipe Round-Up

Saturday, April 28, 2012

What is NOT real food?

In case you are new to real food and don't quite understand what it is, let me begin by telling you what it is not.

  • If a fifth grader could not pronounce the ingredients or it has more than five ingredients, then the product probably is NOT real food.
    • Look at the labels on some of the products that you regularly purchase.  Here are the ingredients for Utz Sour Cream and Onion Potato Chips.  How many would a fifth grader not be able to pronounce?  What ARE those things that you would be putting into your body?

      • Potatoes, Cottonseed Oil, Dehydrated Whey, Dextrose, Salt, Shortening Powder (Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Corn Syrup Solids, Sodium Caseinate (Milk Derivative)), Dehydrated Sour Cream (Sour Cream (Cream, Nonfat Milk, Cultures), Cultured Nonfat Milk.

  • Refined sugars are NOT real food.  This includes white sugar, cane juice, corn syrup, and any artificial sweeteners.  There are some wonderful real food alternatives to using refined sugars in cooking.  

  • Refined grains are NOT real food.  This includes white flour and white rice.  Items that you buy that contain flour must state whole wheat, not just wheat.

  • CAFO produced meats and eggs are NOT real food.  

Florida chicken CAFO
    • If you don't know what a CAFO is, it's time you found out! CAFO stands for Confined Animal Feeding Operation.  As you can see from the photo, CAFOs are more of a factory than a farm.  Not only is too much manure concentrated into one area which leads to the necessity of using antibiotics, but to increase and quicken weight gain, the animals are fed growth hormones, some of which are genetically modified.

  • Foods that don't eventually rot are NOT real food.

    • When I first began going to my wellness doctor, he had a loaf of white bread on the counter where I checked out.  Next to it was a sheet of paper tallying how many weeks it had been sitting there.  I remember looking at it at 8 weeks and it still looked the same!  It never rotted.  The bugs and organisms that cause decay wouldn't even eat it!

Switching to a real food diet can be difficult for some people.  Knowing where to start by knowing what to avoid can make the transition a little smoother.

This post is part of Food Renegade's Fight Back Friday.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

I've been listening to the book The Money Saving Mom's Budget: Slash Your Spending, Pay Down Your Debt, Streamline Your Life, and Save Thousands a Year and what a great book.  There is an entire section on slashing your grocery budget.  Crystal has so many great tips for Moms on how to get your life in order, not just your budget.  From how to cut clutter, run a yard sale and earn extra money here and there, it is just full of wonderful ideas.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Wisdom from Julia Child

"Some people like to paint pictures, or do gardening, or build a boat in the basement. Other people get a tremendous pleasure out of the kitchen, because cooking is just as creative and imaginative an activity as drawing, or wood carving, or music." ~Julia Child

Genetics or Behavior

Dr. Terry Wahls explains that lifestyle choices, what we eat and do, have far greater impact than genetics in determining the health we have. 

Friday, March 23, 2012

Money Saving Diaper Coupon

I use Seventh Generation diapers for my little guys and right now they are offering a $1.00 off coupon for signing up at their website.

The Book That Started Me on My Real Food Journey

Sallon Fallon gives a brief introduction to the Weston A. Price Foundation and the traditional foods diet.

My interest in a 'real food' diet began when I read Sally's book, Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats.

I highly recommend this book, not only for the why of eating a traditional diet, but also because it is full of basic recipes to help get you started.

This post is part of Food Renegade's Fight Back Friday.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Wardeh from GNOWFGLINS Has a New Book

If you are at all interested in traditional techniques for cooking, I'm sure you are familiar with fermenting foods for storage and for the probiotic benefits.  I have known Wardeh for a few years and she has published her first hard copy book called The Complete Idiot's Guide to Fermenting Foods.  If you ever wanted to learn more about fermenting food, this is the book to buy!

Right now this book is available for a discount with a pre order and is set to be released on my birthday, April 3rd!  I look forward to reading a book that is written by my mentor and online friend.

You can visit Wardeh's website GNOWFGLINS where you will find loads of information and online courses.

Why I Love to Make Muffins

When I realized how non-nutritious even organic cold cereal is, and I tossed it aside for our family, I lamented the loss of ease in preparing breakfast for this large brood.  It was so easy to have one of the older children just pull out a box and serve all 11 of the children (infant not included).  While we didn't have cold cereal every day due to the expense (usually 3 large boxes to feed everyone), it was still my go-to plan for rushed mornings.

I'm happy to report that I've found something BETTER.... muffins!

1.  Muffins can be made ahead in large batches and frozen (very easy mornings)

2.  Muffins can be made in all sorts of varieties.  I have a basic muffin recipe that I just add ingredients to to make different types (see below).

3.  Muffins lend themselves very easily to the soaking of grains which enhances the absorption of nutrients and is much easier on the gut.

So, why are they BETTER than cold cereal?!


As you can imagine, breakfast alone, 13 cereal bowls filled our dishwasher.  With muffins, I simply hand the children a napkin, their muffin and a fruit and breakfast is served and cleaned up in no time.

Here is my basic muffin recipe.  Usually the grains get soaked the night before in the buttermilk, but if you don't have time or forget, then they are still better than store-bought boxed cereal.

This recipe makes almost 2 1/2 dozen muffins depending on the size and the add-ins you use.  It can be cut in half or doubled.  But, I suggest always making at least this size and freezing your extras if you don't have a mega-sized family.

4 1/2 cups whole wheat flour 
( I like to use half hard red and half hard white, but anything will work)
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
2 cups buttermilk (or sour milk if you don't have buttermilk on hand)
2 eggs
1 cup lightly melted butter (or oil)
1 cup honey

With a whisk mix all the dry ingredients in a large bowl.  (If you are soaking overnight, just add the buttermilk to the flour and let it sit overnight.)  Make a well in the center and pour in the wet ingredients.  Begin by whisking the wet ingredients and slowly incorporating the dry ingredients, this help to not overmix.  (If your flour has been soaked then you may need a wooden spoon to break up the flour and incorporate into the mixture.)

Drop by spoonfuls into a prepared muffin tin and back for 12 - 15 minutes at 350 degrees.  Let cool in the pan for about 5 minutes then remove to cooling racks.  Cool completely before freezing.

Some add in ideas:

2 tsp of cinnamon and 1 tsp of nutmeg for a spice muffin
2 peeled and diced apples
2 mashed bananas
chopped nuts
2 cups fresh or frozen berries

This post is part of Simple Lives Thursday, Full Plate Thursday and Pennywise Platter.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Clarified Butter

When gourmet cooking the 'real food' way, it comes in handy to know some traditional techniques that are often overlooked these days, but are important to consistent, quality cooking.  Being able to clarify your own butter is one of these techniques that lends the professional taste to everyday cookery.

Clarified butter is called by many names in various cultures (ghee, samna, brown butter), but it is essentially the same substance.  After being slowly simmered, the milk fat and the water are separated from the golden, buttery goodness to produce a product that has a very high smoke point (485 degrees F) which allows the home chef to cook delicate items, such as chicken breasts, in butter without the butter burning into an icky brown mess. It also acts a preservative.  The milk fat particles are what spoil in butter.  Clarified butter can last quite a long time.  Ours is usually completely used up before we ever get to a spoiling point.

The technique is quite simple, but takes a little bit of time.  Begin by starting with quality butter from grass-fed cows.  While not absolutely necessary, this increases the nutritional content of the final product. Cut the butter into small pieces and put in a saucepan over a very low heat source.  You are aiming for a very low simmer.

The butter will separate into three layers.  At the top will be some foam.  At the bottom is a the layer of sediment, or the milk fat.  The water will be boiling off.  In the middle will be the golden clarified butter goodness.

Keep the butter at a low simmer until you can no longer hear any sizzling.  The sizzling means that the water is still being evaporated.  You want to completely get rid of the water.  Once the sizzling stops, skim the foam from the top.  Set up a glass mason jar with a funnel lined with cheesecloth, a yogurt cheese bag or even a pillowcase.

Slowly pour the butter through the funnel trying to keep the sediment in the pan as it can clog your cloth.

If your cloth does get a little clogged, it's alright, but move it around for the liquid to drip through another spot on the cloth.

Your clarified butter is now ready to use in recipes.  While liquid when it is first strained, the clarified butter will become solid when left a low enough temperatures.  I store mine in the refrigerator.

Use your clarified butter for any recipe that calls for sauteing in butter.  It is also great all by itself and full of wonderful nutrients.

This post is linked to Real Food Wednesday at Kelly the Kitchen Kop.

Monday, March 19, 2012

FREE E-book: Design a Dish

I recently downloaded free e-book from Real Food for Less Money called Design a Dish and I'm quite impressed with the simplicity, yet usefulness of the recipes.

It is a real dinner-saver when you have a refrigerator of food, but no idea what to cook.  The author walks you through creating your own meals with the ingredients you have on hand.  Definitely worth signing up for the newsletter to get this free e-book.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Shrove Tuesday Pancakes

Messy faces were the norm

Today begins our 40 days of prayer, fasting and almsgiving in preparation for the greatest of all feast days, Easter Sunday.

Last night we had a Shrove Tuesday/ Mardi Gras celebration of sourdough chocolate chip pancakes which the boys said tasted great!  And, unbelievable as it seems, I think their bellies were full!

Filling the bellies

Later this afternoon, after the two older boys return from serving Mass at the Sisters', we will be working on making a salt dough crown of thorns and putting together the family altar.  I'm hoping to have a purposeful Lent this year.

With academics running smoothly and the boys done with most of their work by 1:00, using the afternoon time to focus more on celebrating the Liturgical Year seems a real possibility.

Thomas ate more servings than anyone!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Preparing for Lent

We are a little over a week away from Lent.  I've started some preparations, but, as always, there is so much to do and not nearly enough time.

The children and I have begun discussing what they are going to 'give up'.  As usual, we always get the child who says, "I'm giving up cleaning my room." This year it was Bella.  I just smile because the little ones don't know that this joke is probably centuries old.

After all the giggling dies down, we talk about the reasons why we give things up.  Does God really need us to give up candy or computer time?  Eventually,  through questioning, I can pull out the answer that, no, God does not need us to give up these things, WE need us to give up these things, these creatures.  Because drawing closer to God means pulling further away from the world.  By mortifying the flesh, we become stronger and better able to choose God's Will in our lives.  I try to guide them to give up something that hurts a little.  Next week they will write it down on a piece of paper and place it near the crucifix... a symbol of their little gift to Our Lord.

For the little ones, a really great Lenten tradition is to make a crown of thorns with salt dough and toothpicks.  As little sacrifices are made, one of the thorns is removed from the crown.  The goal is to have removed all the thorns by Holy Thursday.  We'll be working on that project toward the end of the week and I'll try to post pictures and a recipe.

Also on my 'to do' list is to compose a Lenten idea  plan for meals.  On most evenings of the rest of the year, our meal consists of a soup course, main course, cheese course and on feast days, an occasional dessert.  During Lent, there will be only one course and I will focus on soups, bread and cheese.  It is always hard for me to not only cut back on the variety in eating, but also the variety in the cooking.  One of my pleasures in life is creativity in the kitchen.  Giving up the creative for the mundane will be one of my mortifications.