Thursday, June 24

Hiccup!

I won't be posting for a few days. Work has finally started in the yard. However, in the process of excavating for the addition, a severed cable has rendered us internet access-less. :(

Hang in there with me and I'll be back soon!

Wednesday, June 23

Sunscreen Safety

I admit...I've long been a worrier over sun exposure. I'm fair skinned and I don't want more freckles. I couldn't care less that tan 'looks healthy' or was 'in'. If God wanted me to have darker skin, He would have made me that way. Besides, I'd rather not look like a leather purse when my 40s and 50s come along.

My recent reading about cancer, though, actually really helped temper my paranoia about skin cancer concerns for both me and my children. (My husband will lay out and bake to a beautiful brown any chance he gets. That and his Diet Coke consumption are the only things we haven't 'worked out' yet. ha-ha) After all, people lived skin-cancer-free for centuries before sunscreen was created.

Then, this news comes along that most sunscreens contain oxybenzone, a proven endocrine disruptor. Now, I'm not terribly school in the workings of my endocrine system but I don't think I need lots of help being a 'disrupted' person and I sure don't want chemicals messing with my growing kiddos.

I thought I'd share with you a website that tests and ranks not only sunscreens but tons of products that are used topically. Considering that skin is our bodies' largest organ, it's worth knowing what I'm slathering on every exposed inch of my family.

Other recommeded reading -- this list of sunscreen facts.

Monday, June 21

A Different 'Motivation Monday' - Aspartame

For several weeks, I have taken time off from my weekly exercise posts known as Motivation Mondays. After twelve weeks, there is a good variety of workouts to choose from and, without a lot of time invested in photos or videos, I feel limited on what I can include moving forward.

So, I now offer a different focus for inspired living. This series will highlight food and nutrition issues you may not be aware of but that could be affecting your health. I will not aim to give a comprehensive account of each but rather present facts to get you thinking about ways to achieve greater health through what you eat. 

Week One - Aspartame

What it is: an artificial sweetener commonly known as NutraSweet or Equal
Where you can find it: Lots of places inculding the obvious -- 'diet' soft drinks and reduced-calorie/reduced-sugar foods -- and the not-so-obvious such as pharmaceuticals, vitamins and toothpaste
How it came into use: Read the troubled timeline of its FDA approval here or the wiki here and here. Remember, it is customary for products to be approved based only on manufacturer-submitted research. 
Why you may want to avoid it:
  • As referenced in the first link above, the National Soft Drink Association lobbied in 1985 against aspartame's approval for beverages because it converts to formaldehyde at temperatures above 85˚F. Trusting that the chemical was kept cool at every step of the production chain is a leap of faith I just can't make. 
  • Further, it is noteworthy that as aspartame (and other artificial sweetener) use has sky-rocketed, so have the ranks of overweight and obese populations. Certainly, this is not to be blamed on these chemicals but it sure hasn't helped either. If there is no benefit to the risk of consuming aspartame, then why accept that risk? 
Honestly, the gross negligence and corporate greed evident in the approval process and the artificial-ness of the product is enough for me. But I don't drink soda and am very willing to be active enough to afford to indulge my sweet tooth on occasion. That that may not be enough for you is certainly understandable. As always, dear reader, my aim is to be, and help you be, an informed eater. 

Friday, June 18

Oven-Roasted Kale


My friend and blog reader, Steffany, sent me this recipe. I had heard people rave about kale chips before but had never made them. That was my loss - they are awesome! My son did all the work himself with the exception of adding the salt. Wouldn't you know that I messed up that tiny task...I put in too much. Oh well, they'll be fabulous next time! :)

Oven-Roasted Kale - serves 4 as a side dish

Ingredients

2 bunches kale
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 to 3 large cloves garlic, minced
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

Directions

Preheat oven to 375°F. Rinse kale and pat dry thoroughly. Remove and discard thick ribs and roughly chop leaves. Pat leaves dry again. Toss with olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Spread on a large rimmed baking sheet. Kale does not need to be in a single layer, as it will shrink in volume as it cooks. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring every five minutes or so, until leaves are tender, crisp on edges and slightly browned. Sprinkle with sesame seeds before serving.

Nutrition: Per serving (About 3oz/83g-wt.): 100 calories (80 from fat), 9g total fat, 1.5g saturated fat, 3g protein, 5g total carbohydrate (2g dietary fiber, 0g sugar), 0mg cholesterol, 160mg sodium

Friday Challenge


This weekend, take your kids (or just yourself!) to a farmers market. (Go here to find one.) I can tell you it has really become a sticking point on our calendar. If your kids are picky eaters, please let them surprise you. Just as children love petting zoos, they will be charmed by the array of offerings and knowledge that is available. Wander, talk to people, taste samples if they're offered.


You might be surprised at what your kids ask you to buy. A powerful sensory relationship is forged when a child hand-packs a vegetable and then helps prepare it for eating. A green bean means something completely different to a kid who has dug his/her fingers into a basket and selected handfuls and then snapped them for cooking. When my youngest asked me to buy Shiitake mushrooms a few weeks ago, I thought silently that she'd never eat them unless they were smothered in a sauce of some sort. Shut my mouth because she loves them sauteed with garlic and olive oil! She looks forward to making that purchase herself every Saturday.

Creating a powerful connection with food and the people who labor to bring it to you, though, is only part of the benefit. When you trade your cash for food, know that you are literally voting for a better way of life for our culture. You are sending a message that paying taxes for subsidies on mass-produced, chemically-treated and genetically-modified crops is bad enough. But then paying taxes for the health care of those who get fat and sick on the products those very crops are turned into is preposterous. It's no way of life for anyone but the bigwigs who think patenting seeds makes sense.

Food is an undeniable component of a population's culture, no matter where it is geographically. What is America's, really? McDonald's? General Mills? Whatever is on sale? Seriously??? Look at the cuisines we borrow from around the world and realize they were born of what was in abundance in that region, not a year-around selection of low-quality versions of every fruit and vegetable known to man.

And, as for what's on sale, check out your local farmers market. Begin to build a food culture for your family. Your body, your budget, and, quite possibly, your kids will thank you. I know the farmer will!

(Don't forget to take your own bag/basket and a cooler if you plan to purchase dairy or meat.)

Thursday, June 17

How To Make Fabulous Biscuits

For Southerners, making mean biscuits is a source of great pride. It's not hard but it's very nearly an art. The tradition of making something so comforting out of so little runs deep in my blood. It's a task where I notice my hands and wonder how they will look as I make such foods with grandbabies running around my kitchen.
But, as usual, I digress. The following tutorial contains all I've learned in my many years of biscuit-making. May exploding Pillsbury cans and Bisquick never reside in your shopping cart again...

Biscuits
makes 10-12, depending on circumference of cutter
2 c plain flour, preferably unbleached, plus enough for kneading/cutting
1 T baking powder
1 t salt
6 T softened butter or lard
1 c milk, warmed

  1. Preheat oven to 450˚. (If you'd rather not heat up your whole kitchen, these bake well in a toaster oven if you reduce the heat to 425˚. You may have to bake in two batches.)
  2. Warm milk in a small saucepan over medium low heat. (Remove it from the heat when you see a bit of steam rising, well before boiling.)
  3. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl.
  4. Using a pastry blender or fork, cut the butter into the dry mixture until it's in small crumbles. 
  5. Add milk and mix well, erring on the side of under-mixing. The dough should seem a bit sticky.
  6. Turn out onto a floured surface. (Tip: I use a large rectangular stone, kneading/cutting at one end and baking the biscuits at the other end. Makes for one less thing to wash.) 
  7. With floured hands, turn the dough over until all sides have gathered a bit more flour. If it's really sticky, the milk was too hot so just add a small handfuls of flour until the dough doesn't cling to your touch.
  8. Gently pat the dough into a circle. Don't worry if you see bits of flour or butter. The kneading will take care of that.
  9. Pick up the top of the circle at the 12 o'clock position and fold it down to the six o'clock position. Gently pat out to a circle again. 
  10. Knead three more times, folding in each direction...three o'clock to nine, six to twelve and nine to six. Use a very light touch; this is what makes all those flaky layers!
  11. Pat dough out one more time into a circle about 3/4" thick. Using a floured biscuit cutter or over-turned glass, cut from the outer edges to the center, never twisting as you cut. 
  12. Nestle the little beauties up against one another on the pan.
  13. The scraps from the first cuttings can be very gently rejoined to make more biscuits or bake as is as 'baker's treat'. :)
  14. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until lightly browned. 
  15. Serve immediately.
  16. Leftovers may be stored overnight in an airtight container. 
I've learned a lot in my many years of making biscuits. First, practice makes perfect. This is never more true than with the lightness of your touch. It needs more TLC than yeast doughs. Patience and time will yield tall, beautiful biscuits with endless layers to welcome your butter, jams and sorghum! 

Tuesday, June 8

Gardening 2010, If You Can Call It That...

Yes, that's it -- a few lowly basil, oregano and sage plants. Until I planted these, though, I was feeling very bummed about not having a garden this year due to the house addition. Funny how three pots of herbs can improve one's outlook!

We break ground tomorrow and the earth-moving should be done within a week or so. The upside to this year's losses is that I'll have three times the growing space next year. I've got a lot of work ahead to build the beds and get them healthy and full of worms again. Can't wait, though, my hands have missed the dirt!

And who knows? I may put a few tomato and pepper plants in after all!

Wednesday, June 2

Summer CSA - Week 5

I love the weekly deliveries but I am beginning to learn just how much work this is. Now I really understand why housewives in the 40s and 50s jumped on new convenience foods as they appeared on grocery shelves. If only they had exercised a bit of restraint (or food marketers were idiots), that wouldn't be nearly all that's available anymore and our nation would be healthier.

I pick up on Wednesday mornings which means those afternoons are spent googling for recipes as well as washing, chopping and preserving what I can't use right away. The upside is that the kids and I have the most fun lunch of the week on Wednesdays!

This week we received red leaf lettuce, kale, broccoli, orange and white carrots, fennel, beets, peas and kohlrabi.

Tuesday, June 1

Farmer's Market and a Delight I Almost Missed!

After the craziness of the past month, we purposed that the long weekend would be one of recovery and time spent together for our little family.

I had planned a few things. Simple things like homemade ice cream, a trip to the climbing gym a cookout with grandparents and our first family visit to the local farmers market. I have frequented the downtown one in years past, not knowing that I was bypassing one half the distance from home!

It was a hit for all of us. We wandered about, asked questions, tasted things and left with three bagfuls of local sensory overload. When your kids pull you aside and ask if we could please buy some of those Shitake mushrooms and a shaker of bee pollen from that other man, it just confirms that kids have perfectly-working taste buds, too. Given a choice between Doritos and spreadable garlic-herb goat cheese, you don't need to tell them which one is healthier because their bodies tell them which is better (in every sense of the word.)

We left with salad tomatoes, mixed greens, garlic scapes, cucumbers, baby potatoes and the aforementioned mushrooms which are grown about 15 miles from us. We also bought some locally-made treats such as gazpacho, rolls, chicken black bean ravioli, goat cheese feta and the herb cheese mentioned above.


I'd recently read about garlic scapes and was thrilled to be able to talk to someone about ways to prepare them. Scapes are the plant portion of the garlic plant which is cut off to send more energy to the growing garlic bulb. (This explains why scapes are only available for a few weeks each year.) This trimming allows the bulb to become the plump little fellow we are accustomed to seeing. They are fanciful curlicues with a moderate garlic flavor.

I made a pesto out of them which I tossed with the handmade pasta we bought. Yum.