Thursday, December 30, 2010

Found a Great New Blog to Follow!

Living Prepared

Check it out. Today's post is about dry food storage and I'm drooling over the pictures...

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Soda = Unsafe?

I've always known that regular soda is bad for you because of the high sugar content, and that diet soda is unhealthy due to the artifical sweeteners. Recently, I've pretty much eliminated all soda from my diet. I did think that seltzer water was okay, until I did some research ...

There are studies that indicate that the carbonation can cause Osteoporosis. Since I already have problems with calcium, I've opted to give up all carbonated drinks completely (this is easier said than done -- I can't believe how much I crave them!).

Check out these links:

Soft drinks: Unsafe beverages

Soda May Lead To Osteoporosis

The Truth about Osteoporosis by Dr. John Lee MD

I could post another dozen links, but I think you get the idea. Now, that said -- there are other studies that show this may not be the case. However, in my mind if it's possible, then why not quit? It's not as if we'll get ill or die if we quit drinking soda.

Better safe than sorry, I say.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Choosing Good Supplements

Something I've known for quite some time is not to waste money on cheap vitamins and herbal supplements. The cheap ones tend to use less "bioactive" products. What does that mean? Low bioactivity means the body can't actually absorb and use what you're giving it. You might as well take nothing.

Some chemical forms are better than others and you can look at the nutrition information on your bottles to see what they contain.

In his book, "Never Be Sick Again", Raymond Francis gives a good scale of how to check your vitamin supplements for high bioactivity and I thought I'd share:

POOR Bioactivity (i.e. don't use these):

Carbonate (e.g. calcium carbonate)
Oxide (e.g. magnesium oxide)

ACCEPTABLE Bioactivity


OPTIMAL Bioactivity


He recommends Perque brand as the best bang for the buck. Of course, that doesn't mean it's your only option. Just ... educate yourself. Store brand supplements probably aren't your best option.

Be healthy!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Another Reason to Skip Fast Food

From: Receipts Could Be Harmful to Your Health

Cash-register receipts from many fast-food outlets, groceries, pharmacies, big-box stores and U.S. post offices contain high levels of the endocrine-disrupting chemical bisphenol A.

Read the entire story. It's interesting.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Organic vs. Conventional -- how do you choose?

From CNN (read the entire article and view a video here):

If you're eating non-organic celery today, you may be ingesting 67 pesticides with it, according to a new report from the Environmental Working Group.

The group, a nonprofit focused on public health, scoured nearly 100,000 produce pesticide reports from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to determine what fruits and vegetables we eat have the highest, and lowest, amounts of chemical residue.

Most alarming are the fruits and vegetables dubbed the "Dirty Dozen," which contain 47 to 67 pesticides per serving. These foods are believed to be most susceptible because they have soft skin that tends to absorb more pesticides.

"It's critical people know what they are consuming," the Environmental Working Group's Amy Rosenthal said. "The list is based on pesticide tests conducted after the produce was washed with USDA high-power pressure water system. The numbers reflect the closest thing to what consumers are buying at the store."

The group suggests limiting consumption of pesticides by purchasing organic for the 12 fruits and vegetables.

"You can reduce your exposure to pesticides by up to 80 percent by buying the organic version of the Dirty Dozen," Rosenthal said.

The Dirty Dozen





Domestic blueberries


Sweet bell peppers

Spinach, kale and collard greens



Imported grapes


Not all non-organic fruits and vegetables have a high pesticide level. Some produce has a strong outer layer that provides a defense against pesticide contamination. The group found a number of non-organic fruits and vegetables dubbed the "Clean 15" that contained little to no pesticides.

The Clean 15



Sweet corn



Sweet peas


Kiwi fruit






Sweet potatoes

Sweet onions

Monday, May 10, 2010

Simple Homemade Strawberry Applesauce

This morning, I realized my strawberries were beginning to get a little mushy, but I didn't have enough left to do anything significant with them (like jam).

So I pulled out four rather banged up apples I had sitting in my crisper (nothing like using rejected fruit for a project, rather like the orchards use "drops" for their cider... waste not, want not).

I cut the tops off the strawberries and put them in a saucepan.

And then, because I'm lazy, I cut the apples into quarters and cored them, then grated them with the skins on ... because I've foun that the skins of the Macintosh apples are tough and won't grate, so I save one step: peeling. YAY!

I added everything to the pan, plus a little water (I eyeballed it, but it probably wasn't even half a cup)

... covered, and popped it onto the stove, on low heat.

I cooked it until the berries were soft (about 20 mins)...

... and then pureed it in my smoothie maker (which is easier to clean than my blender).

And, voila! Strawberry applesauce. Very yummy for eating or for baking.

So next time you have mushy berries and/or bruised apples, you know what to do.


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Easy Peasy Homemade All Purpose Cleaner

I used to use 409. And then, when I got a dog who licked EVERYTHING, I switched to the "green" cleaners, but they really pinched my pocketbook. Then, Dr. Oz mentioned something on his show that my SIL shared with me.

A miracle?



Yep, that's right -- just plain old white vinegar.

Mix equal parts vinegar with water in a spray bottle and use it everywhere. It even cuts through grease (I used it on my stove last night). It does make the house smell a bit like a salad for a little bit, but I like the scent! LOL...

Some facts about why vinegar makes a great cleaner (it's even quite anti-bacterial!):

The acetic acid in vinegar kills viruses, germs, bacteria and mold. It also dissolves tough mineral deposits and stains like those found in sinks, toilets and tubs.

How cool is THAT? You can even clean up after raw meats or scrub your sink and potty.

And one HUGE bottle of vinegar? Costs practically nothing.

Frugal. Non-toxic. Easy.

What more could you ask for?

Go on... fix yourself up a bottle today.

Here's a site about 1001 Ways to Use Vinegar. Check it out.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

More on BPAs

Wanted to see what else I could find.

I discovered this:

Minutes from the backroom BPA meeting between Coca-Cola, Alcoa, NAMPA, GMA, ACC, and Del Monte

Which includes lots of info on how these companies are trying to sell the idea that BPAs aren't harmful, including "scare" tactics and targeting minorities and the poor.

I found this:

Chemical Manufacturers & Food Industry Defend Use of BPA

Which has much information, but this quote was especially interesting:
But the recent industry memo outlining the strategy discussion on how to address the public concern about the potential safety issues raised by BPA, and the public desire to switch to use of safe (or at least safer) chemicals from less safe ones, demonstrates that behind closed doors key industry trade associations - including the ACC, the Grocery Manufacturers of America, and the North American Metal Packaging Alliance and even individual companies like Coca-Cola, Del Monte, and ALCOA, are gearing up for a costly (perhaps in ways they didn't anticipate) media campaign to thwart chemical policy reform, and convince the public that it has to choose between exposure to (and consumption of) unsafe chemicals or loss of access to affordable necessities like infant formula and baby food.

Still researching as I can...


Wednesday, April 7, 2010


Do you ever wish you didn't know something -- because ignorance is bliss? That happened to me the other day.

I imagine most of you have heard of Bisphenol A or BPA. It's been in the news quite a bit because they've discovered that the plastics it's used in leaches bad chemicals into whatever the container holds that can cause cancer. I know I shouldn't microwave in plastic and that #7 plastics shouldn't be used over (like as a water bottle).

I've taken steps to make sure I follow these rules to keep my family as safe as possible.

Then, yesterday, I found out this: Epoxy resins containing bisphenol A are used as coatings on the inside of almost all food and beverage cans.

WHAT? Really?

So, I started researching. I hit Wikipedia first. And found tidbits like this:

...the U.S. National Toxicology Program (NTP) later agreed with the panel, expressing "some concern for effects on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland in fetuses, infants, and children at current human exposures to bisphenol A," and "minimal concern for effects on the mammary gland and an earlier age for puberty for females in fetuses, infants, and children at current human exposures to bisphenol A."

And this:
A panel convened by the U.S. National Institutes of Health determined that there was "some concern" about BPA's effects on fetal and infant brain development and behavior. A 2008 report by the U.S. National Toxicology Program (NTP) later agreed with the panel, expressing "some concern for effects on the brain". In January 2010 the FDA expressed the same level of concern.

A 2007 review has concluded that BPA, like other xenoestrogens, should be considered as a player within the nervous system that can regulate or alter its functions through multiple pathways. ... A 2008 review has concluded that BPA altered long-term potentiation in the hippocampus and even nanomolar dosage could induce significant effects on memory processes.

And it also indicated that exposure to BPAs can cause these types of cancer: Breast cancer, Neuroblastoma, prostate cancer.

You'd need to read the entire article to get the full impact, but it's a little scary (Okay ... a LOT scary).

I use canned goods in my food storage area. They're convenient and they store for a REALLY long time. But what good is having it if it causes cancer, if it affects the memory processes of the brain, etc.?

BPA's are in canned veggies, canned fruit, canned meals like soups and even soda.

I found a short article about how to avoid BPAs here. It said:

Beverages appear to contain less BPA residues, while canned pasta and soups contain the highest levels.

But it really didn't give me what I wanted. Then I found this article about who does and doesn't use BPAs in their packaging. Now we're talking! I highly recommend taking a look if you're concerned.

One note that bothered me most there was this:

COCA COLA is not only defending BPA as safe but is spending millions of dollars lobbying and publicizing it's safety to prevent regulations restricting it's use.


I'll be doing more research, but this really hammered home the need to buy or grow fresh fruits and veggies and can or freeze them myself.

What do you think about all this?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

So Excited...

Look what I have:

In case you can't read, the title is:

Homemade: A Surprisingly Easy Guide to Making Hundreds of Everyday Products You Would Otherwise Buy

I got it from the library, but if I like it well enough, I'm buying my own copy.

Stay tuned for recipes and experiments from me!!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Homemade Granola

I love granola, but haven't been happy with the recipe I've used in the past, so I went on a recipe hunt. I found this one to use as a base recipe, this one I found on, as it came with very high ratings on the site:

Megan's Granola


8 cups rolled oats
1 1/2 cups wheat germ
1 1/2 cups oat bran
1 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup finely chopped almonds
1 cup finely chopped pecans
1 cup finely chopped walnuts
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
3/4 cup honey
1 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups raisins or sweetened dried cranberries


1.Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Line two large baking sheets with parchment or aluminum foil.

2.Combine the oats, wheat germ, oat bran, sunflower seeds, almonds, pecans, and walnuts in a large bowl. Stir together the salt, brown sugar, maple syrup, honey, oil, cinnamon, and vanilla in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then pour over the dry ingredients, and stir to coat. Spread the mixture out evenly on the baking sheets.

3.Bake in the preheated oven until crispy and toasted, about 20 minutes. Stir once halfway through. Cool, then stir in the raisins or cranberries before storing in an airtight container.

I modified it, of course! I'm not a huge fan of nuts in my granola, so I didn't add any (though I might chop up some peanuts and use a few sunflower seeds next time). I added 3/4 flaxseed meal and substituted molasses for the maple syrup and brown sugar. I also threw in 3/4 cup of peanut butter... mmmm.... (melted together with the honey, oil, etc).

Here's how it worked. First I gathered my ingredients:

Then I put everything I needed to warm/melt into a bowl and put in the microwave (because I didn't want to tend a saucepan and it just needed to get warm).

And put the dry ingredients in a HUGE bowl (8 cups of oatmeal is a LOT):

After I stirred the dry ingredients, I added the melted stuff (Note: I didn't think about peanut butter until AFTER I'd done this, so you won't see it in the bowl...I threw it in the empty bowl, melted and added it next):

Stirred it thoroughly in order to coat all of the oats and then spread it onto two jelly roll pans (lots of folks call this a cookie sheet - but officially, a cookie sheet doesn't have raised edges, and you want edges for this job!) and also used two pie tins (there is a LOT of the mixture):

Cooked at 300 (instead of the 350 the recipe calls for) for 20 mins, stirred and decided it needed a bit more time, so put it back in for another 15 mins. Pulled it out and let it cool (it "crisps" as it cools, so give it time to do this before eating or putting it into a container):

NOTE: After it's cooked, feel free to add raisins, craisins, or other dried fruit -- it's yummy, and would make a great trail mix. Just don't COOK the fruit with the granola, or it will get dry and hard.

DD and I ate this for breakfast yesterday ... and she had it for a snack later. It was a big hit and was the best recipe I've used! However... I had an ulterior motive for making it -- I wanted granola bars.

So... stay tuned. Provided it doesn't get eaten up today, I have plans for granola bars in the works...

Thursday, March 4, 2010

An Easy Healthful Lunch

Let me introduce you to my DD's favorite lunch -- Cheesesteak open faced sandwiches, minus the steak. SO yummy and so good for you.

Chop up peppers, onions and mushrooms (I prefer portabella) and put them in a pan with garlic and a tiny bit of butter. I also will add just a little seasoning salt or plain salt.

Cook until mostly soft (a little crunch in the peppers isn't a bad thing). Add cheese (this is one case I allowed a bit of leeway in the "healthful" category -- I just don't like how cheddar or other hard cheeses melt, so I use American. NOTE: I do NOT use "processed American cheese food" like those icky wrapped slices you can get ... they are NOT cheese. I use American cheese from the deli, which is a least a *little* more like cheese and can even call itself "cheese" and not "cheese food"):

Turn off the heat and cover:

After about a minute, it's melted nicely:

Prepare your bread (we used homemade sourdough):

Cover with your mix of veggies and cheese:

And EAT!

DD asked for this three days in a row, lol... it's that yummy.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Homemade Sourdough: Starter and Bread

DD have been buying "When Pigs Fly" sourdough bread lately -- When Pigs Fly bakery is regionally located in the northeast, and they make some of the yummiest and most healthful bread there is. You CAN order it online if you're interested.

In any case, while their bread is fantastic, it doesn't come cheap (what truly good thing does?) So DD and I decided to try to make our own.

First... you need starter. And IT needs about 5 days or so to get really good and ready. There are many options for making sourdough starter, but I chose the simplest:

1 cup milk
1 cup flour (I used oat -- whole grain but white)

Mix together in a container that isn't metal and let sit out for about 5 days, until it's got a good "sour" smell... you can't put a lid on this or it will explode as it ferments. I put mine in a glass jar with a cloth over the top, stirring it once a day.

Edited to add: After your starter is "sour", you can cap it and store in your fridge. If you don't use it after a couple of weeks, scoop a little out and add new flour and milk, and leave out to ferment again.

Once you have your starter, you're ready to make bread.

Here's the recipe I used:


Combine and set aside until bubbly (do not stir):
1 1/2 c warm water (about 105 degrees)
1 package (2 1/2 tsp) active dry yeast

Mix and stir for 3 minutes with the above mixture - let set until double in bulk:
1 c sourdough starter
3 1/2 c whole wheat flour
1 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp salt


1/2 tsp baking soda
2 cups whole wheat flour

Mix until satiny

Shape into 2 oblong loaves and place on lightly greased cookie sheet. Cover and let rise until double in bulk. Just before baking, brush with water or egg whites.

Bake at 400 degrees for 30 - 40 mins

I made a few changes -- the biggest being that I substituted unbleached white flour for half the whole wheat flour so I'd have a little more "fluff" to my bread.

Gather your ingredients and tools:

Proof your yeast (yeast in warm water):

Mix your starter into the yeast and add other ingredients (sugar, flour, etc):

Next, knead your bread a bit until all the flour is mixed in. I don't have a pictures, because DH came by to chat while I was working, and I plumb forgot!

Then shape into loaves and put on the cookie sheet:

Cover and let rise (about an hour, if your house is warm):

When they're HUGE, brush with water:

Put in the oven:

With a pan of water for a crunchier "french bread" crust:


When they're done, brush the tops with a bit of butter:

Then immediately cut into them

and eat because nothing tastes quite as good as fresh baked bread...

DD ate three pieces... it was lunch for her that day.

In conclusion: The bread *tasted* fabulous. It was still a little heavy, but the flavor was perfect. Next time, though, I'll probably use bread pans so they'll rise UP instead of OUT -- these loaves got fatter, not taller.

But this is a definitely make recipe. We'll be having this quite often, I suspect. It's my favorite homemade bread yet.


Sunday, February 14, 2010

What $40 of Healthful Food Looks Like

I have to admit, this "living healthy" thing I got going on this year isn't easy on the pocketbook -- I can't wait until I can start growing stuff (and participating in the local CSA) because this is ridiculous.

Behold -- $40 of food:

I admit to splurging on the rotisserie chicken (I love them -- I'm considering buying a machine to do them myself), but nothing else. Even the sliced mushrooms were the same price per pound as the unsliced ones.

So: apples, celery, carrots, peppers, mushrooms, an onion, cabbage and lettuce chicken and cottage cheese.

Forty Dollars.

Makes me crazy...


Thursday, February 4, 2010

Healthful Dog Food

I've talked about my dog, Dakota, on my writing blog -- and those of you who've been reading awhile know she has digestive problems that have led to me making her food from scratch. I've received emails from several people asking about it, and have had folks IRL interested as well, so decided that a post is in order. After all, our pets are kids, too, right?

I used the recipe for Spot's Stew from the Halo Pets website (actually, I found it in the book, "The Whole Pet Diet", but it's on the site as well.

Halo Pet's Spots Stew

Yield: About 8 Cups

2 ½ pounds whole chicken
¼ cup chopped fresh garlic
1 cup green peas
1 cup coarsely chopped carrots
½ cup coarsely chopped sweet potato
½ cup coarsely chopped zucchini
½ cup coarsely chopped yellow squash
½ cup coarsely chopped green beans
½ cup coarsely chopped celery
1 tablespoon kelp powder
1 tablespoon dried rosemary
11 to 16 cups spring water

For dogs only: Add 8 ounces whole barley and 6 ounces rolled oats, and adjust the water content to a total of 16 cups or enough to cover the ingredients (According to Halo Veterinarian, Dr. Donna Spector, cats require zero carbohydrate content in their diet, so this would be an unnecessary addition for cats).

Instructions: Combine all of the ingredients in a 10-quart stockpot (stainless steel, please) with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat as low as possible and simmer for 2 hours (the carrots should be quite soft at the end of the cooking time). Remove from the heat, let cool, and debone the chicken. With an electric hand mixer, or using a food processor and working in batches, blend all the ingredients into a nice puree; the stew should be slightly thicker for dogs and more soupy for cats. Using zip lock bags or plastic yogurt containers, make up meal-sized portions. Refrigerate what you’ll need for three days and freeze the rest. Be sure and seek your pet’s advice (and your vet’s) on ideal meal sizes.

Serving Size: Amounts will vary depending on age, activity level, current health, weight, and season, but here are some guidelines: The average adult cat will eat roughly 1 cup a day. Because dogs vary so much in size, consult the table below. The amount shown should be split into at least two meals daily.

Dog’s Weight Total Daily Portion
Up to 10 pounds 1 to 1 ½ cups
11 to 20 pounds 2 to 3 cups
21-40 pounds 4 cups

For each additional 20 pounds, add 2 cups. Remember, all pets are individuals, so let your intuition and observations guide you, and always consult your vet.

As always, I changed things up slightly. Here's what I do (I spread this out over two days because it's easier).

Start with two whole chickens (they weigh approximately 9 lbs)

Boil until cooked then remove from broth. I put them in a HUGE bowl with a lid I have and put them somewhere to cool (currently this is the garage). I put the broth into containers and let it cool, too, in my outdoor refrigerator (the only good part about winter!):

The following day, I cook the rest. I scoop the fat off the now cooled broth, and dump the broth into a pot. I add some of the hardest veggies (I frequently use sweet potato in place of the pumpkin, and use whatever type of summer squash I can easily find. I also use potato in place of the barley or oatmeal sometimes) -- celery, carrots, sweet potato, white potato.

I'm a big believer that raw food is healthier, so the stuff I can mush without cooking, I leave uncooked: the peas, green beans and squash.

While that is cooking, I debone the chicken and make sure it's in fairly small pieces.

Then... when it's all cooked and ready, I feed it all through my Kitchen Aid meat grinder (after pouring the broth into the bowl). Dogs have a shorter digestive tract than humans do ... if you don't grind up the veggies, they won't digest them as thoroughly, therefore missing out on some of the nutrients.

This is what it looks like when I'm done.

Now I pull out my other additions.

And scoop a day's worth of food into several containers, then put the correct amount of vitamin, oil, kelp, probiotics, etc., into each one.

(As an aside, I'm looking for appropriately sized glass containers to use, since it appears I'll be doing this for the next, oh... eleven years or so. I'm well aware that plastic is NOT a healthful choice to use.)

DD stirs, and we put them into the freezer.

Dakota helps by washing the dishes:


For the cat, I cut back a little on the veggies and add half fish, half chicken (because my cat prefers fish), don't add the starch and then puree it until it's smooth.

It may sound like a lot of work, but I get more than a week's worth of food, and it's only really an hour or so of actually working time (as opposed to the cooking time). And it's worth it. Look at this face and tell me you wouldn't do the same: