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    • Got "Food"?

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    •  9/14/2009 8:33:43 PM
    • allergens in processed foods ...

      So much of what Americans consume each day can hardly even be called "food".  A great book called "In Defense of Food" goes into great detail about what it is that we are actually eating.  If our grandparents couldn't recognize it, chances are it isn't really "food".  How in the world did we get to the point that opening a box, taking out 2 cardboard looking pastries w/ sprinkles on top and putting them in the toaster qualifies as a great way to start the day.

      Once again I want to share a blurb from Kingsolver's book "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle".  (I won't make this a habit....but I am just loving this book). Keep in mind this quote comes from a well-respected New York Times Best-Selling novelist.


      "I belong to the generation of women who took as our youthful rallying cry: Allow us a good education so we won't have to slave in the kichen.  We recoiled from the proposition that keeping a husband presentable and fed should be our highest intellectual aspiriation.  We fought for entry as equal partners into every quarter of the labor force.  We went to school, sweated those exams, earned our professional strips, and we beg therefore to be excused form manual labor.  Or else our full-time job is manual labor, we are carpenters or steelworkers, or we stand at a cash register all day.  At the end of a shift we deserve to go home and put our feet up.   Somehow, though, history came around and bit us in the backside: now most women have jobs AND still find themselves largely in charge of the housework.  Cooking at the end of a long day is a burden we could live without.


      It's a reasonable position.  But it got twisted into pathological food culture.  When my generation of women walked away from the kitchen we were escorted down that path by a profiteering industry that knew a tied, vulnerable marketing target when they saw it.  'Hey ladies,' it said to us, 'go ahead, get liberated. WE'LL take care of dinner.'  They threw open the door and we walked into a nutritional crisis and genuinely toxic food supply.  If you think toxic is an exaggeration, read the package directions for handling raw chicken from a CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operation).  We came a long way, baby, into bad eating habits and collaterally impaired family dynamics. No matter what else we do or believe, food remains at the center of every culture.  Ours now runs on empty calories.


      When we traded homemaking for careers, we ere implicitly promised economic independence and worldly influence.  But a devil of a bargain it has turned out to be in terms of daily life.  We gave up the aroma of warm bread rising, the measured pace of nuturing routines, the creative task of molding our families taste and zest for life; we received in exchange the minivan and the Lunchable.  (Or worse, convenience-mart hotdogs and latchkey kids.)  I consider it the great hoodwink of my generation."


      She goes on to say that while we have all become busier in this country, maybe it's time to take a look at what we are so busy doing.  Maybe it's time to dedicate a litte more time to cooking, which she expresses as "the great divide between good eating and bad".  Maybe it's time to include the whole family and recognize that "we  have dealt today's kids the statistical hand of a shorter life expectancy that their parents." 

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    • Spending Money on Food

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    •  9/13/2009 11:12:07 AM


      As a young girl, I remember my mother scouring through the grocery ads each week.  I remember walking down the aisles in the grocery stores and having her show me the prices of the food.  She showed me how to look at the weight of a can or box and compare the prices of different brands to find the cheapest ones.  I remember her clipping coupons and using a small notebook to keep track of all of her expenses.


      Two decades later I have become my mother in that regard (although I don't go quite so far as saving tin foil and using food containers in replacement of Tupperware).  I anxiously await my weekly grocery ads and keep a notebook with that weeks fantastic finds.  I look forward to clipping coupons each Sunday in hopes of saving a few bucks.  I price match at Wal-Mart, and plan my meals around what's on sale!


      The only reason I tell you all this is to show you the error of my ways.  I have been transformed by an incredible book I am reading by Baraba Kingsolver called "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle".  She has opened my eyes to the need to support my local farmers!  Silly as it sounds, her words have greatly impacted me.  She comments that "What we eat determines how we live".  As a whole I have been very uneducated about where my food comes from.  Who grows it, who processes it, what foreign policies are in place because of what I eat and how do those policies affect me?  Who determines what  kids eat at school, and how do I get a say?  Is it possilbe that the food choices I make each day affect far more people than just me and my family?


      Because I lack all of the eloquence of writing that Barbara Kingsolver has, I am just going to give you a little taste of what is in her incredible memoir.


      "Grocery money is an odd sticking point for U.S. citizens, who on average spend a lower proportion of our income on food than  pople in any other country, or any heretofore in history.  In our daily fare, even in school lunches, we broadly justify consumption of tallow-fried animal pulp on the grounds that it's cheaper than whole grains, fresh vegetables, hormone-free dairy, and such.  Weather on the school boards or in famililes, budget keepers may be aware of the health tradeoff but still feel compelled to economize on food - in a manner that would be utterly unacceptable if the health risk involved an unsafe family vehicle or a plume of benzene running through a school basement.


      It's interesting that  penny-pinching is an accepted defense for toxic food habits, when frugality so rarely rules other consumer domains.  The majority of Americans buy bottle drinking water, for example, even though water runs from the faucets at home for a fraction of the cost , and governement quality standards are stricter for tap water than for bottled.  At any income level, we can be relied upon for categorically unnecessay purchases: portable-earplug music instead of the radio; extra-fast Ineternet for leisure use; heavy vehicles to transport light roads; name-brand clothing instead of plainer gear. "Economizing", as applied to clothing generally means looking for discount name brands instead of wearing last year's clothes again.  The dread of rearing unfashionable children is understandable.  But as a priority, "makes me cool" has passed up "keeps arteries functional" and left the kids huffing and puffing (fashionably) in the dust."


      She made ne realize that I may not even bat an eyelash at spending $50 for cable each month, but wouldn't spend an extra quarter on a head of lettuce if I didn't need to.   NEVER AGAIN....well, ok, maybe not never, old dogs take time to learn new tricks.  But I definitely feel a little more educated what happens to the dollars I use on what I eat.  I had no idea the positive impact that buying local have have on some many different levels.  I have such a new found respect for small time farmers that attempt to compete with HUGE agribusiness conglomerates.  There is an accountability in the quality of food you buy when purchased from a local farmer versus shipped from some random country. 


      I admit that it will take time to change my thinking about spending a little more money on better qulaity food (altough I will still look for those bargains).  But the seed has been planted (no pun intended) and I plan on become much more acquainted with my local farmers!


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    • Lunch Ideas

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    •  9/11/2009 8:31:17 AM


      Finding nutritious lunch ideas (that my kids will actually enjoy) has been a constant quest it our house.  I am continually trying to find new

      ways to feed them the same old stuff.  Here's just a couple to share!


      Anytime Dip (see recipes) with low-sodium chips, snap peas and a mandarin orange.

      This is a favorite in our house.


      Fruit Kabob (it's amazing to me that if you put something ordinary on a stick somehow it becomes extraordinary to kids),

      sugar snap peas, kiwi, fresh bread (see "Mommies" Whole Wheat Bread Recipe.



      My kids are out of school this week and this is what my daughter made herself for lunch.  Just had to get a picture

      of it!!!

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    • Genetically Modified Seeds

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    •  9/6/2009 8:42:25 PM

      I recently saw a movie called "Food, Inc" that brought to my attention the oddest thing: SEEDS. ( I am also reading a fabulous book right now called "Animal, Vegetable, MIracle" by Barbara Kingsolver that echoed many of the movies points) I can honestly say that I have never given 2 thoughts to the seeds that make up our food.

      So I did a little research and here is what I've learned.

      There are basically 3 types of seeds: HEIRLOOM, HYBRID, and GENETICALLY MODIFIED.


      HEIRLOOM seeds are generally chosen for the taste of the vegetables they produce.  These are the seeds that have been saved and passed down from generation to generation, farmer to farmer. These seeds are always open-pollinated (unlike hybrid) which means that if the seeds are saved properly, they will produce the same crop year after year.  These use the plants natural sex organs (yes, plants have sex organs) to reproduce each year.


      HYBRID seeds (which are slowly dominating the seed catalogs and crops) have been bred to accentuate the positive characteristics of their species.  They are the one time product of crosses between different varieties of the same species (which means that same sex organs).  Often these are bred for the uniformity, disease resistance, and greater productivity.  For example, cross breeding tall corn with early corn.  The down-side is that these seeds need to be purchase each yea.  Because of their unnatural parentage, these "offspring" of these seeds will be unpredictable.  In essence the superior quality of these seeds is first generation only!


      GENETICALLY MODIFIED ORGANISMS (GMO's) or GENETICALLY ENGINEERED is a relatively new process to the food industry that involves gene manipulation within a laboratory.  The engineer is not limited to the natural sex species of plants, but can use chromosome splicing to combine the traits of species in no way related.  For example, using animal or bacterial genes and splicing them into plants.


      So what are the benefits?  Well, the main reason is to make plants either herbicide or plant resistant.  This means that entire crops can be sprayed with something like Round-Up and they plants will not be affected.  Unfortunately, this may possibly increase the amount of pesticides already being used.  The GMO also allows the engineer to produce whatever seed they choose.  Currently, there are genetically modified seeds produced to include a "terminator gene" that causes the crop to commit genetic suicide after one generation.  This forces the farmer to buy the expensive, patented seeds year after year.


      Which brings up another interesting point.  These seeds are patented.  Monsanto, which is one of 6 MEGA companies that own 98 percent of the worlds seed sales, budgets $10 million a year to investigate and prosecute any farmer that might be found in possession of its seeds.  That seems fair, you might think.  If they invented the technology, they should have rights to it.  Right?  Well, not so fast.  The problem with genetically modified seeds is that they are proving to be uncontainable.  Seeds naturally cross-pollinate with the use of birds, bees and even wind.  This is true of these seeds also.  So a neighboring farm, but unknowingly get some of these GMOs pollinated within their own crops.  The problem with this is that these farmers are being sued for exorbitant amount when companies like Mosanto find even so much as a gene that came from their patented seeds.  Other organic farmers are up in arms over the fact that they might lose their "organic" labeling (not to mention get sued) because of the natural cross-pollinating.


      It seems that there are people on both side FIERCEY fighting for or against the genetically modified process.  I am not nearly educated enough to be able to form an adequate position.  But what I do feel strongly about is KNOWING what I am EATING. Three quarters of the entire world's food comes from just 8 species and these are quickly narrowing to genetically modified corn, soy and canola.  You would be dumbfounded if you knew how many supermarket products us some form of corn (ever heard of high fructose corn syrup - it's in everything).  We have labeling laws in this country and for some reason these ubiquitous 6 companies seem exempt from these laws.  There are no current laws requiring our food to be labeled as GENETICALLY MODIFIED.  Is it possible that our government is somehow in bed with these companies?  I found it quite interesting when Veteran Mommy informed me that a senior lobbyist for Monsanto was just appointed to a senior level position in the FDA. (Yes, our government profits anytime we can increase the quantities of grown commodities). 


      Knowledge is power.  The more educated we are as consumers the better off we will be as a whole.  Don't believe everything you read, but don't ever stop reading!!!!


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    • Beginner Gardener

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    •  9/2/2009 2:50:58 PM
    • I am a very AMATEUR Gardner but I have dreams of one day having a massive garden with just about anything edible that I can grow in soil.  Anyway, being the beginner that I am, I was curious what veggies grow when.  So here’s my very limited knowledge.

      April and May –Spinach, Kale, Lettuce, and Chard

      May-June – Romaine, Broccoli, Cabbage, and Cauliflower

      June –Squash, Cucumbers and Baby Squash

      July – Green Beans, Small Tomatoes, Green Peppers

      Late July–August – Beefsteak Tomatoes, Eggplants, Red and Yellow Peppers

      August-September – Watermelons, Cantaloupes, Honeydews, Winter Squash

      October – Pumpkins

      Some things like onions and carrots can come back more than once a season.

      This is a very basic list, but it will help me when I decide what to plan next year.

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    • Got tomatoes?.....

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    •  9/2/2009 2:42:47 PM

      All my life I thought I HATED TOMATOES.  I decided a few years ago that I was going to change my taste buds

      and assign a few specifically to these mysterious "fruits".  Little did I know that there are a huge variety of tomatoes

      out there, each with their own shape, size, and taste.  Who knew that when I even though I hated one type of tomato

      there was another species that I learned to adore (my fantastic litte grape tomatoes).  I planted 5 different plants this

      year, and can honestly say that I have finally develop a few more taste buds! 

      I decided that I wanted to DO something with all these fabulous fruits so I went out and bought a canner, and some

      jars.  I actually CANNED my first tomatoes last week!!! 

      That was exciting, but didn't give me the instant gratification that I was looking for.  So I decided to try cooking with them.

      We have a local restaurant here that sells the best roasted tomato soup I have ever had.  I made it my quest to duplicate it!

      I think I succeeded.  In fact, I loved my soup so much that .....that's right.....I canned it (well the first half of it).

      So this entry should probably have gone under the recipe section (where I will add it), but for now, here's what I came up with.


      I quartered 3 pounds of tomatoes , all different varieties, and placed them skin side down on a greased cookie

      sheet.  I then sliced up 1 red pepper and 1 sweet onion and added them to another cookie sheet.  I placed both

      cookie sheets into the oven and roasted them at 375 for 45 minutes.  I also put a bunch of garlic into tin foil (just

      to keep it from getting burned) and roasted in the oven as well  (I used about 20 cloves in the soup and saved the

      rest in the fridge).

      After they were done roasting I took 1 TBS of butter, 1 chopped carrot, and one chopped celery stalk and cooked

      them in a pot for about 5 minutes.  Then I added about 2 TBS of whole wheat flour along with 4 cups of chicken

      broth (could easily do veggie stock instead) to the pot.

      Then I added all of the ingredients from the cookie sheet (juice and all) to the

      pot.  Along with those I threw in 1/4 cup of sun-dried tomatoes.

      I let all this simmer for 45 minutes.

      After that I ran "batches" of the soup through my food processor (Vita-Mix would be great too) until it was the consistency

      that I wanted (a little smooth, and little chunky)

      I threw everything back in the pot, added 1/4 cup of cream (such a small amount could easily be eliminated to make this meal

      vegan) and a 1/4 cup of fresh chopped Basil,

      and my DELICIOUS soup was ready!

      I was worried that one of my daughters (who HATES tomatoes) would throw a fit.  She took a bite and said,

      "I don't love it, but I don't hate it."....Ahhh, success!  There is nothing better than watching your kids eat a meal

      that you know is really good for them (even if they don't know it themselves)!!!

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    • Yikes...I don't do so well on vacation!

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    •  8/31/2009 12:16:37 PM
    • Yowzers!!!  I can't believe how easy it is to revert back to my old ways of eating!  Unbelievable.  After being on vacation for a week in Lake Powell I definitely need to step back to Weight-Loss Mom.  7 pounds in 7 days.  Yuck!  By my last night in Lake Powell I didn't even care what I was eating.  My last meal on the way home was half a cheeseburger and fries!  I didn't even bat an eyelash.  The backlash of it all was getting on the scale when I got home and then having NO energy to workout.  I felt disgusting. I looked disgusting. Aand I couldn't believe how quickly it all happened!

      But now that I am home I am rededicated (especially after seeing how fantastic Newbie Mommy looks).  So for the next week I will be going back to what I know works - a whole food diet with lots of veggies and NO sugar!!  Even after one day I feel much better and already dropped 2 of those pounds.  Hopefully by the end of the week my body will have forgiven me for the wreckless abandon I treated it with.   Sorry body, I know better.  Luckily I have a website like this that keeps me focused and great friends that inspire me!

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