October's Crock Pot Challenge: meals picked!

This was fun!  I went through the *not lying* hundreds of crock pot recipes I've bookmarked or pinned or marked in cookbooks over the years and I narrowed it down.  Some of it was easy.  If it contained wheat, it was a no-go.  But I did choose a few with a grain of some sort, since I'm only limiting grains, not eliminating them.  I forgot to eat dinner tonight (smart) so while I was finalizing my selections for this blog post I was literally drooling.  Do you ever have those I'm-so-hungry-but-it's-too-late-to-eat moments?  Like, I know I should go eat something right now, but it's 10:00 and I know how bad eating late is for a person who is watching her weight.  But then again, so is starving yourself.  Maybe it's all a wash.


These aren't all crock pot recipes, but the ones that aren't seem like they can easily be converted.  We shall see!  It'll definitely be an experimental month in the Hibbard household.  I'll be sure to post as many of these recipes as I go along as I can!

It's a 31 day month, so I chose 26 meals.  At least five meals are taken up by leftovers and dining out, but usually more like 7 or 8.

I also tried to pick quite a few meals that can be prepped beforehand.  For example, dump-and-go crock pot meals are great because you can prep all the ingredients at the beginning of the month, stick it in a freezer bag and simply dump it into the crock pot and cook on whatever day you'd like.

When choosing meals, my rules were: no processed foods (if something calls for canned enchilada sauce, for example, I'll make my own, and I steer clear of any recipe that calls for "cream of..." soups), no wheat, minimal grains

October's Meals (linked to a recipe whenever possible):

Eggplant lasagna x2

Broccoli and three cheese soup with grain-free buns x2

Marsala chicken & mushroom casserole

Chicken enchilada soup with cheddar cheese "crackers" x2

Pork stuffed peppers

Spaghetti squash lasagna x2

Cream cheese chicken chili x2

Italian fagioli soup with grain-free crusty rolls

White beans and sausage with honey biscuits x2

Coq au vin x2

Summer Squash Casserole x2 (from Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker and one of my favorite recipes of all time!)

Vegetarian chili x2

Cilantro lime chicken with corn & black beans x2

The World's Best Chicken x2

Turkey White Bean Pumpkin Chili - thanks, Jessica!

That's all she wrote, folks!  I'll plug these into a calendar, make a big grocery list and prep whatever I can possibly over this coming weekend if the time allows (although I doubt it, this weekend is PACKED).


October & the crock pot

Special diets can be time-consuming. Eating whole foods can also be time-consuming, and many people don't undertake changing their diet to something a little healthier because it can seem to be so daunting. Trust me, I know that as well as anyone! I don't enjoy cooking all that much. Perhaps I did before I had kids, but if I did, I don't remember. Now, with three kids three and under, cooking is something I dread. That hour between 4 and 5 has always been the witching hour in our house and big, elaborate meals with lots of ingredients sound like a good idea until I try to execute it. On those nights, at least one person ends up in tears and it's usually me.

So, to bust the myth that eating whole foods is extremely complicated or time-consuming, and because October is my birthday month as well as Halloween and I'd like to make things easier on myself, I'm undergoing a crock pot challenge. I want all our dinners to be crock pot meals. To make matters more complicated, they must be wheat-free and for the most part, grain free. I'm trying to stick to no grains at all at least every other day, if not more often. I'll post all the recipes and costs as I go.

If anyone has any tried-and-true crock pot recipes that don't use cream of soups (or other processed stuff) and doesn't have wheat, I'd love to try them out!


I'm gonna miss this.

(Lost most of my pictures when I switched from WP to blogger. Slowly working on putting them back, but it's a massive undertaking so please forgive the broken image links!)

If you're so inclined, and you're a country music fan or can at least stomach country music for the benefit of a better experience, you should really play this video while looking through these pictures.  I'm not so much a country music fan (anymore), but this song gets me every.single.time.

I'm gonna miss this.  I'm gonna want this back.

No matter how crazy or overwhelming or frustrating my days can be, I have to stop and smell the roses, so to speak.  I  have to intentionally look around; look at my beautiful children, see their excitement and their happiness amidst their own frustration, their own struggling to grow up, to become little independent people.  It's my duty, my special, privileged duty, to raise these amazing children.  I need to stop complaining and start seeing this season of life for what it is: breathtaking.  Short-lived.  Something I will miss dearly.  I know it.

I'll miss this sweet girl's grumpy face.

I'll miss that he wants to play games like peek-a-boo with me when I only want him to eat.

(and I'll miss that he always, always, always puts his shirt on backwards and his shoes on the wrong feet)

I'm going to miss this funny little hairstyle that all of my children have had.

I'm going to miss this time in my life when almost every picture I take is blurry.  It signifies my tiny little playful children and their inability to sit still because they are exuberant with excitement.

And though I may not be able to imagine it now, I know I will miss these cute little picked-apart lunch plates.

And I will surely, absolutely, positively miss this stuff:

Beautiful baby lashes:

Beautiful baby toes:

And her hilarious signature funny faces:

I'm gonna miss this.


Wheat Elimination & My New Outlook

Hello, I'm Chelsea.  I'm a change-my-diet addict.

What I mean by that is that ever since the summer I graduated from high school, I've focused heavily on food to solve all of life's problems.  It started as a way to lose weight.  We all know that for a girl who carries a few more pounds than she wants, it can definitely seem like losing weight will solve all life's problems.  At that point in my life, I didn't view food as medicine, but just a tool to get me skinny.

I still care as much about food as I did back then, but for different reasons.  Don't get me wrong, weight is definitely still on my mind.  I just had a baby three months ago, after all.  But now I see a change in diet as first and foremost the biggest health tool I have.  I figure the weight thing will fall into place without much effort once I'm eating the way I'm supposed to be.

If we're honest, we have to see that if we were living the way God (or if you're not the believing sort, nature) intended, we wouldn't be overweight.  I'm completely guilty of living in a way that our bodies weren't created to thrive on.  I don't exercise much and until recently, didn't consistently eat healthfully.  Barring disorders that make it nearly impossible for people to lose weight on their own, I don't think that counting calories was the way we were designed to live.  It makes much more sense that if we were eating healthy foods when we're hungry, stopping when we're satisfied and getting some exercise every day, we would never have to think about our weight and we wouldn't be slaves to My Fitness Pal or whatever calorie counter of choice you use (because honestly, it's not a sustainable lifestyle).  This all hit me sometime in the last few months, when I decided to delete the My Fitness Pal app off my phone, stop obsessing about calories and protein and fat grams and just...live.  I figure my body will let me know when I've found my own ideal diet.  For me, that means shedding these baby pounds and the nagging, annoying health problems that have been plaguing me for a few years.

Over the years, I've used Weight Watchers, Atkins, a carb/fat/protein ratio diet, fasting/cleansing, and - worst of all - just plain starving myself.  When I started caring more about the quality of food I was putting into my body, I went vegetarian and then vegan.  And now I'm off wheat.  To the outsider, I'm sure I look like the most indecisive food nut to walk the planet.

That's not the whole story.

You see, I'm actually searching for something.  All this time, I've been searching for something.  At first I thought it was the perfect way to eat.  Like there was one perfect way to eat for everyone.  But then I stumbled across the idea of bio-individuality and it's like the clouds parted and all of a sudden I could really see!  It all made sense!  We're all unique, every last one of us.  I've seen people thrive on diets that didn't work for me (like veganism).  I wondered what I was doing wrong.  Now I don't think it was anything.  Why does veganism make one person sick and lacking in nutrients while others become world-class athletes in the best shape of their lives?  Why does vegetarianism make some people skinny and glowing while I just got fatter and unhealthier?  Why is is that some people can eat wheat all day long with nary a symptom while others can't even be around it without becoming sick (I'm not even referring to allergies here)?

I've been searching out the perfect way to eat for me.  All these diets aren't failures in my eyes anymore, but stepping stones on my walk to the best diet and lifestyle for myself.  I felt worse as a vegetarian than I did eating whatever I wanted.  I felt better as a vegan, lost a few pounds but my energy levels completely dropped, my eczema got even worse and I didn't notice any drastic changes in my health.  Because I was so anemic (I was pregnant, and always have anemia during pregnancy but this was the worst), I had to start eating meat again to help bring my iron levels up.  I was *thisclose* to losing my homebirth because one's iron levels have to be a certain amount to legally give birth at home and mine didn't reach that amount until about a week before giving birth.  Once I started eating meat/dairy again, I realized that veganism was also not the diet for me.  At first I got depressed; I considered myself a failure.  Why weren't these things helping me?  Was my entire philosophy that food is the best medicine actually wrong?  Was I fooling myself that by eating better, I could make my body healthier, stronger, fitter and more able to serve God?

I don't think so.

I have a friend who is incredible.  She is a shining example of health, runs insane amounts, eats ridiculously healthy and is an all-around inspiration to me.  She's a vegan.  It serves her well as she is radiant, beautiful and at the pinnacle of health.  That diet obviously is the right one for her.  My mom is also a vegan.  She's skinny, glowing, youthful and beautiful.  She feels great.  It's obviously the right diet for her.

Since stumbling across Wheat Belly, I've changed my diet yet again.  For the most part, I've given up wheat and tried to cut back on all other grains drastically.  I've been feeling great.  I've lost seven pounds in a few weeks without a smidge of effort.  My skin is glowing and healthy (I've been battling acne as an adult, strangely enough, but never as a teenager).  But the kicker is that when I've reintroduced wheat (on five occasions now because I didn't want food to go to waste), I have paid big prices.  Prices with my weight (due to bloating) and prices with my breathing.  (PS - If you can't afford the book or don't have time to read it right now, this is a fabulous summary!)

My asthma was so bad three nights ago after having pizza with wheat crust that I had to take my inhaler five or six times overnight.  Not only is that probably dangerous (I couldn't help it!  I couldn't breathe!), it's not good for my body. I don't want to be dependent on medicine.  I don't want to have to pay for it or pollute my body with it.  If there's a better way, why would anyone want to depend on medicine?  It's expensive, synthetic and it's not good for your body.  I've watched friends become addicted to medicine, too.  I've watched them suffer horribly when trying to remove the medicine from their systems.

I think I may have finally found my perfect diet.  This diet has done such drastic things for my body in the past few weeks that I can't go back.  Two days ago I had delicious cake with whipped cream frosting (my absolute favorite) staring me in the face, and all it took was thinking about the previous night and having to puff on my inhaler five times for me to easily resist that cake.  Easily!  And I'm a carb and sugar addict!  And it was like, dude, I don't want that cake.  Yuck.  Not to mention that I am finally starting to fit into pre-pregnancy pants.  And last night, for the first time in so long I can't even remember, I actually wanted to go to the park with my husband and kids.  Horribly enough, my husband usually takes the big kids to the park after dinner at night and I stay home to kick my feet up and relax with Landon in peace and quiet for 30 minutes because I feel lousy and my energy levels are depleted.  All of a sudden I've got this energy surge like I only experience during that nesting period of pregnancy.  I want to clean and play with my kids and socialize!

To make a long story longer (sorry, I'm wordy), I do believe there are universal harmful foods in our world.  I believe preservatives and pesticides and genetically modified foods are harmful for everyone walking the planet.  Some people are better able to handle these than others, though.  As for me and my kiddos, we aren't the hardiest people around.  We have sensitive systems and our bodies revolt against this stuff in the form of eczema, asthma, allergies, and for my kids, digestive troubles.  My husband, on the other hand, is a hardy breed.  His body can take a lickin' and keep on tickin'.  That doesn't mean I'm feeding him processed foods and conventional produce, though, because I think even though he isn't showing outward signs that this food is harmful to him (that I can see), I believe strongly that even the hardiest people can't escape the ultimate damage that conventional food causes.  Even the hardiest people will pay for conventional food somewhere down the road through either cancer, heart disease, diabetes, obesity or some other diet-related disease (which kills 3 of 4 Americans and was virtually non-existent a century ago).  I am a believer that paying more for food now will all but guarantee we'll pay less in medical costs down the road.

From a Christian perspective, like Lindsey from Passionate Homemaking, I don't think I can change the course that God has planned for me by eating healthy.  But I do believe that our bodies are meant to be cared for and when we know this food is damaging to our bodies, it's our duty to do better.  I know now that by eating wheat (and processed foods and using chemicals in my home, etc.), I'm making myself weaker, sicker and less able to do God's work.  With less energy, I'm less likely to serve.  With poorer health, I'm less able to be hospitable, but instead rely on others to be hospitable to me.  With mental health struggles, I go to church less, serve less and fellowship less.

Whether you're Christian or not, it's hard to deny the very simple fact that people are sicker and fatter today than they were 100 years ago (or 50 years ago for that matter).  It's not a radical idea.  It's something that's on the news every single night.  I don't think it could be because we eat meat or wheat or dairy, because we ate those same things 100 years ago.  I think it's because we eat conventional meat and wheat and dairy (and produce and so on and so forth).  I think it's because we've changed the nature of our food so much.  A large percentage of our food is now modified on a genetic level - in a lab.  We add chemicals and preservatives to our food.  We spray it with pesticides.  It's such a simple concept when put in these terms.  We eat way too much stuff that isn't natural; food that is brand new.  Conventional foods - meat, produce, dairy and processed foods - are the simple denominator.  Solving the problem of the current obesity and health epidemics should be as simple as being more physically active and reverting back to the same diet we ate 100 years ago: organic, whole foods.  Period.  It's not crazy.  It's not extreme.  It's not radical.  If anything, it's the exact opposite.  It's the natural, God-given way we've lived for all of time until now.

Regardless of the fact that there are certain foods that are universally harmful and eliminating these foods is bound to reverse so many current problems, I also can't deny that some people aren't able to tolerate foods that others are.  For some people, they're plagued by food allergies which can actually be confirmed through a simple test.  For others, it's sensitivities that you have to discover on your own through trial and error.  We've all evolved from different cultures all over this globe, and it makes sense that we evolved to eat what is available to us in our part of the world.  Who knows, maybe someday we in America would evolve to eat a diet of processed foods loaded with chemicals, but clearly we aren't there right now.  If your ancestors came from Africa, your body is probably capable of eating foods that might not be tolerated by someone whose ancestors are from Scandinavia, as the example in the link on bio-individuality above states.

If you want to eliminate your own weight struggles or health problems, first try to eat whole foods in organic form only and see if your weight issues or any health problems you're experiencing subside (give it at least a month).  If they don't, I'd encourage you to perform some trials - remove things from your diet for a minimum of two weeks and then reintroduce them, one-by-one.  Start with the common problem-causers like milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish, shellfish and then maybe even meat.  It might be a little time-consuming initially.  It might be a little more work for a short period of time and you might feel worse before you feel better while your body is withdrawing, but I promise you that if you do have any sensitivities to any food group that are causing health problems, you won't regret the initial work or deprivation.  Imagine a life without chronic pain!  Without digestive troubles!  Without weight struggles!  Without skin problems!  Without depression!

It's not about taking a magic pill.  It's about fixing your body from the inside out, and that looks different for everyone.  If someone guaranteed you that you could eliminate your, say, chronic pain, by working really hard for two or three months, would you do it?  Who wouldn't?  I can't guarantee it, but I've read enough stories, seen enough in my own family/friends and experienced enough in eliminating my own health problems that I can tell you it is absolutely, positively, 100% worth the extra money and time to try.  You'll never know until you do, right?  But be thorough and be honest with yourself.  I can't tell you how many times I mostly improved my diet or I mostly gave up all dairy or all meat or what have you.  You never know how sensitive you might be.  For one person, eliminating most wheat sources is fine, but for someone else they may be so sensitive that if any tiny bit of wheat is in their diet, they won't improve.  Make sure to do your research, too.  If you could be allergic/sensitive to milk, you have to not only eliminate obvious dairy sources, but you may have to eliminate everything with casein (a milk protein), too, which is a surprising amount of foods.

When you think about it, the current practice is to do the same with medicine.  When they put me on an anti-depressant during pregnancy, it was explained like this: everyone's body tolerates medicines differently, so we'll start with this anti-depressant, give it a few weeks and see how you're feeling.  If that isn't working for you (or, worse yet, it makes you suicidal), we'll switch to something else.  Why is it that we'll happily go along with this trial-and-error of medicine, but scoff at the idea of going through elimination diets?

As for me, there is no going back to wheat.  Ever.  And I think I've finally honed my food philosophy.  :)


Wheat belly is the new beer belly.

Should I skip over the fluffy intro and dive right in?  Okay.  Thanks for giving me permission.  Except when noted, all of the information below comes from the book Wheat Belly.
Modern wheat was created not by the process we know today as genetic modification, but by a process that predates GMOs.  In other words, it was an even less refined process than the genetic modification we know today.  Modern wheat was basically created through a hybridization experiment.  I don't exactly love being a Guinea pig, do you?

Over the past 50 years, thousands of different strains of wheat have hit our supermarket shelves...without ever being tested for safety.  Scientists went in, genetically modified these grains, and then tossed it to unsuspecting grocery store patrons without any concern for the implications on our health.  I really try not to be alarmist and I try to look at things from as many different perspectives as is possible for me, but this issue (and genetic modification in general, now that I'm learning about it), is particularly difficult for me.  I'm finding myself, over the course of this Project Real Food, getting increasingly upset about the level of secrecy and the lack of testing in the products we buy every day.  Don't we have a right to know?  Why are companies fighting so hard to keep these things a secret if they're so confident they're safe?  I just don't get it.

Most people, me included until the past year or two, assume that everything they are putting in their bodies and feeding their children is tested and government-approved.  We can't buy unsafe food, right?  Wrong.  We depend on the government or these food companies to protect us, but we are playing a dangerous game by doing that, because it is very often untested, unlabeled and the government is never even notified.

I love the way Dr. Davis describes modern day wheat on his blog:
The genetic distance modern wheat has drifted exceeds the difference between chimpanzees and humans. If you caught your son dating a chimpanzee, could you tell the difference? Of course you can! What a difference 1% can make. But that’s less than modern wheat is removed from its ancestors."

For a long time, we've been told that complex carbohydrates are good, simple carbohydrates are bad.  Dr. Davis says there's much more to the story.  Skipping over the somewhat confusing science to sum it up (please read the book if you're interested in reading about the exact science behind it - better yet, read the book no matter what!  This is just my summary of the book), 75 percent of the complex carbohydrate in wheat is amylopectin A.

Amylopectin A is easily digested into glucose.  Because amylopectin A is easily digested into glucose, it makes its way into your bloodstream quickly, spiking your blood sugar and causing you to gain weight.  As a side note, beans (and rice and starches) are high in amylopectin, but it's amylopectin B or C, which is the least digestible form.  This is good for us, even though it sounds like a not good thing, because it means most of it makes it to your colon, where the good bacteria in your gut (remember - you want good bacteria!) eat these undigested starches, meaning they are not absorbed into your bloodstream and don't spike your blood sugar.  Two pieces of whole wheat toast will spike your blood sugar higher than sugar and many candy bars!

Spikes in blood sugar lead to visceral fat.  Visceral fat is fat that accumulates around organs.  Skinny people can actually have visceral fat and they wouldn't know it!  In a study of molecular imaging at Imperial College in London, Dr. Bell scanned 800 people and found that up to 45 percent of people who were skinny on the outside and thought they were healthy actually had excessive levels of internal fat.  Among men, the percentage was almost 60 percent.  Experts believe visceral fat contributes to the risk of heart disease and diabetes (on a side note, when studying this I learned that skinny people who are sedentary are at a much higher risk for mortality than obese people who are active and fit - whoa).

Another problem of modern wheat is a protein called gliadin.  It breaks down into polypeptides, or small proteins, in your GI tract.  Once they're broken down like this, they can cross into the brain and bind to morphine receptors.  This is why, Dr. Davis hypothesizes, so many people are addicted to wheat and/or it increases their appetite.

As I've said on my blog before, I am particularly interested in things that increase risk factors for autoimmune disease since it is rampant in my blood line.  Wheat appears to be one of those things, as the lectins it contains can "unlock" the proteins that line your GI tract that determine what substances can enter the blood or lympatic system.  Wheat lectins disable this process, thus increasing your risk factors for lots of diseases, autoimmune being one.  Dr. Davis says this is the suspected reason behind wheat causing rheumatoid arthritis, skin diseases, Hashimoto's thyroiditis and more.

According to this article,
Visceral fat acts as a gland, secreting hormones that make the immune system react. This produces more fat to store and protect pathogens from invading our organs. It's the proverbial vicious cycle, and it also produces low level chronic inflammation that can result in various autoimmune diseases."

Dr. Davis says very occasional wheat consumption can be fine unless you have celiac disease, rheumatoid arthritis, cerebellar ataxis, peripheral neuropathy, Hashimoto's thyroiditis, dermatitis herpetiformis, etc.  Basically if your conditions can be triggered by wheat, you should avoid it entirely at all times.  He also says if you have a propensity for wheat addiction (one piece of bread leads to five), you should try to give it up entirely.

Additionally, there is something called re-exposure reaction that Dr. Davis has seen with countless numbers of his patients who went off wheat, lost lots of weight, felt great, got healthier, and then upon re-introduction, had all sorts of problems like asthma attacks, GI issues, joint swelling and pain, anxiety or even rage.  He suggests that if you do give up wheat, you should plan on giving it up for good.

This one actually hit home for me because it's what happened to me in as short a period as a week and a half.  I completely avoided wheat for a week and a half with not one trace passing my lips (as far as I'm aware), was feeling really good and had lost several pounds.  I ate some homemade pizza I made since I was too scared to attempt a wheat-free pizza dough recipe, and that night I commented to my husband about my asthma flaring up and how I'd had to pull my inhaler out of the closet for the first time since giving up wheat.  I thought it might have been a coincidence, but it has now happened on all three occasions that I consumed wheat again.  It appears that for me, wheat is something I either have to be all on board for or give up completely.

I haven't decided for myself how I feel about all of this yet.  I completely buy the fact that our modern wheat is not the wheat God gave us at all.  I subsequently buy that it is damaging to our bodies then.  I mean, makes sense, right?  Put something in our bodies that isn't the God-given food of yesterday and our bodies cannot recognize it as normal food, which triggers a host of bad reactions, many of which science has probably not even identified yet.

What I'm confused about, though, is the idea that WHEAT is the problem because of hybridization, but he recommends consuming other grains only in moderation.  I've been eating spelt bread and spelt tortillas since going wheat-free, but I've seen him mention in literature that spelt is also not great.  Why?  What can I eat?  How infrequently should I be consuming grains?  There's a Wheat Belly cookbook coming out on December 24th, and I am all over that bad boy!  After seeing the extremely positive reactions in my own body (weight loss when I hadn't been able to lose at all, complete cessation of asthma, increased energy, cravings almost disappear), I am definitely willing to keep doing this.  It's been surprisingly easy, and I've noticed a drastic improvement in my cravings.  But of course, as soon as I fell off the wagon and had wheat, the next few days were plagued with cravings of cookies and bread.  Wheat begets wheat just like sugar begets sugar.

The filter I run my food choices through is typically one of tradition and history.  Have we been eating {insert food in question here} for generations?  Is it a traditional food, talked about in historical documents?  For the same reason I went back on my decision to stop drinking milk (after all, the Bible tells us ours is a land rich with milk and honey), I have to second-guess the idea that we should give up all grains.  Grains are traditional and while I buy that modern grains may be bad for us, my own personal verdict is still out on how I feel about consuming traditional grains.  I've got my own little experiment in the works...


Is wheat making me fat?

*I'm moving on from processed foods to my next goal in Project Real Food but I'll keep posting about processed foods alongside other things since there's so much to cover.  As for buying processed foods?  I've mostly kicked that habit.  My husband had to wake me up last Saturday morning to ask me what to feed the kids for breakfast and then called me while I was out shopping later that day to ask what to feed them for lunch.  "Nothing is labeled anymore!" he said.  While I know it frustrated him, it secretly made me happy because I know that means there's almost nothing processed in our house anymore!  I'm still buying canned tomatoes, cereal for my hubby, spelt bread, cheese (and probably always will - I am no cheese maker!), jelly (organic) and frozen hashbrowns.  I did at least buy them from TJs and they only have two ingredients, but I cannot for the life of me get hashbrowns to turn out when I make them myself from shredded potatoes.  Someday maybe I'll get to the point that I'm buying absolutely nothing processed, but maybe not.

I don't know where I've been hiding, but I only just recently learned of the book Wheat Bellyby Dr. William Davis.  I'm not sure how long it's been published, but it already has almost 600 reviews on Amazon. I've had it on hold at the library for almost two months, and I was still 22nd in line (seriously?) so I finally gave in and bought this book.  I can't say I regret it!

The basic premise can be heard here.  Basically, modern wheat (since about the 60s) has been genetically modified to produce a higher yielding crop, and in doing so, has essentially ruined our wheat.  In addition to other issues with modern wheat, there is a protein in it called gliadin, and it is an opiate.
This thing binds into the opiate receptors in your brain and in most people stimulates appetite, such that we consume 440 more calories per day, 365 days per year," Dr. William says.
Like I have been learning about genetically modified food lately, our bodies often don't recognize these modified "foods" as food, resulting in a range of health problems.  It passes my common sense filter, but I'd never thought about GMOs like that before.  I suppose when you get in there and play around with the very essence of food - modify its genes and whatnot - it's not that surprising that our bodies then cannot recognize what it is we're eating.

There is much more science behind the premise that modern wheat is no good for us, and I'll touch on some of it over the course of the next week or two I'm sure, but for now I am on a trial of a wheat-free life.  This will be week three, but last week I cheated on multiple occasions.  :/  I'm down four pounds so far though!  As someone whose weight hasn't budget since Landon was born, this is a big, big deal.  I'm not carb-free, just wheat-free.


Technology overload (or why am I so dang addicted to the internet?!)

Do you ever feel like a slave to all your electronics?  Lately I have.  When we go out to eat, I notice how many people are on their phones and not talking to the person in front of them.  When I open up my laptop, I notice how many of us moms are all on facebook venting or liking statuses or posting witty quotes, or pinning ideas on Pinterest that we'll never actually execute (let's be real) or shopping on Amazon or Etsy because what could be better than window shopping from the comfort of your own home in your PJs?!  Or maybe we're blogging all the time or chatting on message boards all day long.

I'm not here to cast stones.  I've gotten to be so dependent on having my phone or laptop right next to me that I'm scared I don't know how to function without technology.  If my cell phone and laptop simultaneously broke tomorrow (it could happen!), would I survive or would I crumble into a mess of tears and anxiety on the floor?

I feel like laptops and smart phones are going to really hurt the generation we're raising right now.  I know you might read this and think, "Oh, I don't do this.  This isn't a problem of mine."  And if it isn't, awesome!  I applaud you for being stronger than I am at resisting those temptations to just "hop on really quickly."  But if you do find yourself getting on your computer off and on throughout the course of the day just because it's there or you can't seem to get your phone out of your hand, I'd just encourage you to dig deep into your heart and be real with yourself.  That's what I did.

I asked myself some questions.  Why are you staying home with your children instead of working?  Because I'm so very blessed that my husband can support our family right now and I can watch my children grow, be here for them every day, teach them what we want them to know at age-appropriate times and raise them up in the way we want them to go.  So why do you waste all this time online when you could be watching them grow, teaching them, raising them up?  Because...it's there?  I honestly have no better answer than that.  Because my laptop is there, I feel like I need to get on it.  You know, 'cause I might miss something if I don't.

I've been trying so hard lately to be a more intentional mom.  I took the facebook app off my phone a few months ago and stepped back from a message board I was a part of just to regain some perspective and give myself one less thing to take me away from my kids.  It's certainly freed up some time, but I've managed to replace that time with more time on facebook or Pinterest.  So yeseterday...I asked my husband if he could somehow turn off the internet during the day.  Does that sound weird?! Well, I did.  And as it turns out, he can.  So from today forward, I've given myself exactly one hour during the day to have the internet on: from 12:30 to 1:30, when my kiddos nap, I can get online.  And all other times after 7:00 in the morning?  My internet will not work.

There's something so refreshing and exciting about this, but totally scary, too.  I'm sort of embarrassed to put it out there that I have to actually have my internet turned off during the day to keep myself off the computer, but I'm just being real.  And I think for a lot of you, if you were being real, too, you'd see what I did.  We are a generation of moms addicted to the internet.

G'day, my internet lovelies.  Hope to be seeing less of you during my days with my beautiful, amazing and incredible children who need their mama.

Three months!

I think the picture probably speaks for itself that this month brought on some pretty bad eczema on little dude's face.  Things are shaping up to be so similar to what we experienced with Ben that it hurts my heart a little to know what the next few years are likely going to hold.  The light at the end of the tunnel is that Ben has grown out of most of his issues.

Baby boy:

At three months, you have really trimmed down (you were a chunky little thing when you were born) but you're so tall that you're outgrowing clothes left and right!  You're now just a hair shy of 14 pounds, so you're following a trend of about a pound a month in weight gain.  Mama's cool with that.

You have become so interactive this past month.  You're always smiling and cooing at us.  It's been so fun watching your personality really take shape.

Your current favorite things are your elephant wubbanub, a ridiculous invention that is oddly can't-live-without, and that little toy you see above that hangs from your carseat/playmat/bouncy chair/wherever you happen to be for the most part.

You're starting to really figure out how to hold your neck up well, you seem to like the Bumbo...for a few minutes at least...and you're migrating from hating tummy time to thinking it might be sort of cool sometimes.  You roll on occasion, but are perfectly happy to lay still and watch the world around you, something your early mover and shaker brother and sister never really enjoyed.  I predict you will be our later walker.  There is no way you'll be walking in 6 months like they were!  But MAN are you talkative!

You've gotten to be quite the finnicky sleeper lately, and I'm afraid I may be to blame.  I've never been a fan of the swaddle blanket because I was always so scared of creating a dependency, but this time around I found the Woombie and that thing is amazing!  So I went with it.  I swaddled you.  I created your dependency.  And now I can't break you of it.  Sorry, baby boy!  Hopefully you'll break this on your own over time.  You're super sensitive to noise, so needless to say you don't get a lot of sleep in this house during the day.  We are quite the noisy folks!  Your bedtime routine needs to be executed to an exact science or you go all KAPOW(!) on us.

This week has brought on a much more temperamental baby than we're used to.  Not sure yet if you're getting teeth (you're gnawing quite aggressively on anything in your vicinity and drooling like a maniac), annoyed by the cold we all have passed around or have just reached a different stage.

One of my favorite things is watching you watch your siblings.  You can already see the wonder and love you have for them!  You just stare at them in awe, and if one should happen to come up and give you a kiss or make a funny face, you beam and sparkle from ear to ear.  It's just the best!

We adore you, sweet baby!  You're growing so fast and we just want to freeze time right where it is.


Project Real Food: Coffee Break

Time to sit down, grab a cup of coffee and get real.  I started Project Real Food three weeks ago today.  The first change admittedly ended up being almost no change at all, since I determined coffee is perfectly A-OK (for me).  I drink no more than 2 cups now, so I suppose that's a little change from before.  If I want more coffee after two cups (I usually do), then I drink teeccino (vanilla nut!).  I'm only buying Rainforest Alliance Certified coffee now (Caribou Coffee Mahogany), and I'm trying to shoot for buying as many Rainforest Alliance Certified products as possible now that I know what that means.  It's more money for our family, but benefits the earth and the growers and since we are in a financial position to be able to do so, I believe we should.  It's much more sustainable - a word I never thought I would care about until recently!

The next goal was processed foods and with very few exceptions, we no longer have anything processed in our house.  We do still depend on canned tomatoes because we didn't grow any of our own tomatoes this year and I haven't attempted to buy in bulk and can yet.  As far as processed foods go, I figure that one is pretty benign.  I like to avoid canned anything because of the BPA, but you do what you can for your own family.  These kinds of choices are so personal.  I have also given up wheat (more on that later), and I haven't attempted to make my own spelt bread or tortillas yet, so we're going processed on those until I can conquer some new recipes.  If you consider cheese a processed food, we will probably always consume some processed foods.  I'm no cheese maker!  And - shockingly - hot dogs!  Ew, right?  It's a big healthy food stumbling block for me (yes, I love hot dogs) and my kids love them too, and since getting them to eat meat is nearly impossible, I give in and buy the "healthy" hot dogs either from a local farm or Applegate's Great Organic Uncured Beef Hot Dogs.

I started making yogurt consistently, I've started making my own cream cheese and sour cream from our fresh farm milk and I skim the cream off each gallon to use for creamer in my coffee.  I make almond milk and almond flour from scratch, and I've started making all our sauces like pizza sauce, enchilada sauce, "cream of... soups," taco seasoning, italian dressing, etc., from scratch.  I quickly learned how incredibly fast and easy these little upgrades to health are, but better yet, they taste so much better.  It makes me wonder why we've all gotten away from making these things now that I know how quick it is.  My next goal is to get some good recipes for spelt bread, tortillas and pizza crust so I can get back to making those things from scratch, too.

The other goal I sort of quietly squeezed in that I never posted about was supplements.  I sat down and did some intensive research on the supplements that would benefit me, and I plopped down a painful amount of money on them.  I literally watched my mom cure herself of her multiple sclerosis attack before my eyes with mega doses of Shaklee vitamins, so despite the fact that there is no general consensus about how beneficial/absorbable vitamins are, I just can't deny what I watched happen to my mom.

Now it's time to get honest.  First, it's important to note that it's only been three weeks and I've only been taking some of my supplements for three weeks and some for one week, so I think only time will tell how this all impacts me, but I think a report is still in order for now.  :)

The best way for me to do this is to review all my objectives and see where I stand.

  • Increased energy levels?   Nope.  Not at all.

  • Weight struggles?  This one is really frustrating me.  My body has not wanted to let go of any weight since Landon was born.  This did NOT happen to me with the other two children.  I lost five pounds last week after giving up wheat (reading Wheat Belly right now), which I was so, so excited about!  But then I somehow gained three pounds yesterday.  So...take that as you will.  I have no idea what that even means.  How does one even gain three pounds in a day?!  Either the five pounds were a fluke or the three pounds were a fluke.  I don't know.  But I guess I can consider a loss of two pounds last week a success since I've lost almost nothing since Landon was a few days old.

  • Relief from pain/dizziness/allergies/asthma?  I hadn't noticed, but I haven't been dizzy in a bit.  I'm not sure how long to be honest, but I can't remember the last time, so it was probably at least a week ago.  My allergies and asthma haven't gotten any better at all.

  • Relief from eczema?  I usually don't have any during the summer, so I won't know if this is improving for me until winter, but the kids eczema hasn't gotten any better.  Poor Landon's eczema has gotten really bad in the last week.

  • Decreased illness?  I didn't post about this in my original objectives post because I completely forgot, but I spent almost the entire winter sick last year.  That's not at all an exaggeration.  I was actually sick more of the winter than I was well.  I've never experienced anything like it!  The winter before was probably half/half.  Before that?  I was never sick.  I've heard more and more recently about how pregnancies can really wear your body down, and I know having little children in the house increases the germ factor exponentially.  It's not all that surprising that having three kids in a few years (especially when I only gave my body 7 months to recover between two of those pregnancies) has worn my body down, but I'm really hoping to see some improvement in this area more than any other because I'm a whiny sick person.  I'm already on my second cold though, so no improvement in this area yet.  I had my first one two weeks ago when we had a very momentary dip in temperatures, and then again a few days ago, coinciding with the second dip in temperatures.  Ridiculous if you ask me!  The temperatures drop for a few days and my body goes instantly into sick mode.  I'm honestly tempted to lock us in the house the entire winter, order all our groceries and never step foot out of the house.  I'm only half-kidding!

  • Improvements in the kids?  This is the only area where I'm actually pleasantly surprised.  Everything else has been a let down so far.  But Ben's daily stomach complaints (to the point of tears) have completely stopped.  His behavior has drastically improved.  My hubby commented last night about how it was the first time he has had to punish him in quite awhile.  I hadn't noticed until he said something, but then I instantly realized he was right!  Ben has been so much better behaved in the last two weeks!  We'll see if this trend continues.  :)

All-in-all, we haven't seen much improvement.  I'm not completely surprised since it's only been three weeks, so I think the story will be more telling a month from now, but I'm definitely a little disappointed.  I'm going to keep pressing on, though!  Like I said before, I'm really loving the idea of biodiversity and I think there's no better way to figure out  your own perfect diet/lifestyle than trial and error.  Just because one person is perfectly suited to a vegetarian diet or a Paleo diet or a vegan diet or {insert other diet term} doesn't mean that everybody will be equally positively affected.


What's the real scoop on processed foods?

Why is our family giving up processed foods?  We all know processed foods are bad.  Even if you eat them all the time, you know they aren't good for you.  But maybe you don't know exactly why.  I know I didn't.  I knew that high fructose corn syrup was supposedly bad (but why?), that there are all sorts of unpronounceable ingredients on the backs of boxes or containers of processed foods and that many have added sugar and "natural" and artificial flavoring, but what exactly does it all mean?

I think truthfully, there are too many common ingredients found in processed foods to cover in one blog post, and like I said before, this is a slow learning process for me so I'll break things down when I need to.  This is one such occasion.  In researching processed foods, I've come across a lot of different things, and they are each worthy of their own post, so I'm going to go one-by-one for a bit.

High Fructose Corn Syrup

Today I really dug into the research on high fructose corn syrup, something that has gotten a pretty bad rap lately, but something we're still eating all the time via processed foods.

Where did it come from?

High fructose corn syrup was created to take advantage of the incredibly cheap surplus of corn (because the government subsidized it).  HFCS was developed in the 1950s, but it wasn't until the 70s that a process had been created to harness it for mass production.  This process emerged in Japan.  Soon thereafter, HFCS was used in everything it possibly could be.  Why not? It seemed perfect.  It was cheaper than sugar, tasted like sugar, extended the shelf life of products from days to years and would be responsible for drastic increased profits through decreased costs.  Probably no one product was more impacted by HFCS than soft drinks.  Coca-Cola swapped out sugar for HFCS in 1984, which spurned a massive switch all across the board, with company after company following Coca-Cola's lead.

Eighty percent of HFCS is extracted from genetically modified corn.  It's created using enzymatic fermentation, mold and chemicals.

Does it make you fat?

Just like sugar, HFCS has no nutritional value whatsoever.  In turn, it depletes your body of nutrients in order to be metabolized.  Fructose is metabolized faster than sugar and ends up getting stored in the liver.  This can contribute to or cause non-alcoholic liver disease.  Then, because of fructose's unique molecular structure, it acts as a backbone for the construction of long-chain fatty acids - or, in layman's terms, converts to fat more easily than glucose.  Glucose moves easily from the blood into the brain (the blood-brain barrier), while fructose lacks that ability.  As a result, the brain cannot properly tell your body you are satisfied, no matter how much fructose you consume.  This is part of the theory about why HFCS is so much more likely to spike your weight than glucose.  Additionally, fructose doesn't stimulate the release of insulin.  Without insulin, there is no leptin.  Without leptin, the brain can't "hear" a signal that you are satisfied and you will just keep on eating.

Brooklyn College's Anthony Sclafani noticed that the rats in his lab who ate rat food put on weight normally, but when given a diet of processed foods, had insatiable appetites.  The more sugar they ate, the more sugar they wanted.  They literally couldn't stop themselves from eating.

According to this article in the Guardian:
Sugar induces many of the diseases associated with "metabolic syndrome", including high blood pressure, diabetes and accelerated aging. 'It can also be argued that fructose exerts toxic effects on the liver that are similar to those of alcohol," said the UCSF scientists. "This is no surprise, because alcohol is derived from the fermentation of sugar.'"
A Princeton University study found that rats who ate high fructose corn syrup gained significantly more weight than those eating table sugar, even when their caloric intake was the same.  According to an article on the study:
'Some people have claimed that high-fructose corn syrup is no different than other sweeteners when it comes to weight gain and obesity, but our results make it clear that this just isn't true, at least under the conditions of our tests,' said psychology professor Bart Hoebel, who specializes in the neuroscience of appetite, weight and sugar addiction. 'When rats are drinking high-fructose corn syrup at levels well below those in soda pop, they're becoming obese -- every single one, across the board. Even when rats are fed a high-fat diet, you don't see this; they don't all gain extra weight.'"

So what's with the mixed messages?

It makes me a little frustrated to read the research on high fructose corn syrup and then think back to all the advertisements the Corn Refiner's Association launched in 2008, claiming that table sugar and high fructose corn syrup are one and the same.  You can visit their website today and you'll find this:

But of course, scroll to the bottom and you'll see the website is run by the Corn Refiner's Association, and as has sadly become the norm in the food industry today, it is very difficult to trust studies that are sponsored by (or even worse, created by) the very organization or association that stands to gain its entire livelihood on their product being considered safe.  In my opinion, this is one of the sole reasons that food has become so complicated today.  One independent study says one thing, but an industry-sponsored study says the exact opposite.  Who are we to believe?  This is only my personal opinion, but I will generally opt to believe an independent study that was not sponsored by an organization or association with a vested interest in the success or failure of the product being tested over one sponsored by the company who stands to gain or lose the most based on the study's results.

To sum it all up:

High fructose corn syrup, when studied independently (not sponsored by the Corn Refiner's Association), is found to produce fatter rats with bigger tummies (belly fat) and triglycerides - symptoms of the metabolic syndrome (obesity/type 2 diabetes/insulin resistance/hypertension).  The introduction of HFCS in the 70s parallels the massive spike in type 2 diabetes (47% to be exact) and the 80% increase in obesity.  High fructose corn syrup shuts off our ability to determine when we're no longer hungry, making it the biggest contribution found yet to the unnatural hunger that plagues Americans today.  Because high fructose corn syrup is so cheap and so abundant, it is used in the majority of processed foods today (just try to find a loaf of bread or jar of applesauce at your grocery store that doesn't have high fructose corn syrup in it), meaning it is not a product most Americans are getting in small quantities.  We are ingesting massive amounts of high fructose corn syrup each year, so it's really no wonder that the obesity rate has increased 80 percent.

Not to be misunderstood, however, I think it's important to note that just because high fructose corn syrup is "bad" doesn't mean sugar is "good."  I don't think sugar is good for you in any form.  I think our bodies can tolerate small amounts of sugar and be just fine (as can our waistline), but we consume so much sugar it makes my stomach hurt just to think about it.  I'm completely guilty of this.  In fact, I have a raging sweet tooth, and researching HFCS really helped me shed some light on why that might be.  If I want to kick the sugar, I simply must give it up entirely for awhile.  As long as I'm eating things made with HFCS, it stands to reason that my body will keep asking for more and I won't know when to stop.  Regardless of the confusion among the HFCS debate, I think everyone can agree that as a whole, we consume much more sugar than we should.


September's Meal Plan

Do you meal plan?  I've tried all sorts of different ways over the years.  In the beginning, when I was newly married, I had no idea what I was doing and I would set out to the grocery store with nary a list or idea of what to eat.  I assumed the grocery store would inspire me.  In other words, I'd buy 80% of my groceries in the frozen aisles.  You know, frozen pizza one night, a Bertoli frozen meal another, some take-it-out-of-the-freezer-and-throw-it-in-the-crockpot meal we were quite fond of, etc.  I've evolved a bit in my meal planning techniques but I'm constantly trying new things on for size.  Over the years I've tried OAMC (once-a-month-cooking), planning one week at a time, planning one month at a time (but not cooking all at once), and making double batches of anything that can freeze so I can always stick the second in the freezer for another time.  The latter is my absolute favorite.  Although OAMC rocks, for me it's just too time consuming.  I can't wrap my mind around an entire day doing nothing but cooking.  And don't get me started on the clean-up required.  I know that it's great in the long run because it frees up so much time the rest of the month, but it's just not for me.

This month, since we're trying to kick processed foods and still keep our budget under control and because I have three kids three and under and need every second I can get, I decided to plan for the whole month and implement my double or even triple batch cooking.  So, for example, I have garden chowder penciled in three times this month.  When I make it for the first time, I actually triple the recipe and put two batches in freezer safe containers and into the freezer.  Makes for a quick dinner the next two times I have garden chowder scheduled.  I love cooking this way.  I save money by being able to buy in bulk (through my co-op that is nationwide and might deliver to your area, Azure Standard, and Costco).  And I save time by having so many meals prepped and in the freezer ahead of time.

My mom also had a smart idea to make up a bunch of frozen pizzas to have a healthy option when I don't have time for dinner but don't realize it until 4:00 in the afternoon.  In those instances, we usually turn to fast food.  I'm giving myself a goal of making 6 frozen pizzas to put in our deep freezer this month so when the "Ahhh!  I have nothing planned for dinner" panic sets in, we don't end up at Chipotle (or McDonalds or Papa John's).

I thought I'd share my menu plan since I love seeing other people's menu plans for inspiration!  I'm linking to everything that has an online recipe below.  There are so many cute, free printables to take advantage of, as well.  I've included two that I love in this blog post: the one above and the one below just to show you a few examples, but you can find even more if neither of these strike your fancy by hitting up Google images and typing in printable menu planner or something along those lines.

Meals that I'm doubling or tripling that will feed my freezer:
  • Garden Chowder 

  • Chicken Enchilada Soup - Note: I cook dried beans instead of canned because it's more economical and no worries about BPA in the can lining, I use this recipe for enchilada sauce because it has no vegetable oil and I make my own healthy version of cream of chicken soup using this recipe.

  • Chili - Note: Like I mentioned above, I cook dried beans instead of canned

  • Cafe Rio Chicken Tacos - Note: I make my own ranch seasoning mix using this recipe (since we're avoiding processed foods and these mixes are notoriously  high in sodium and other unnecessary ingredients) and I use this recipe for italian dressing for the same reason (and it's more economical!)

  • Healthy Frozen Pizza
Other meals that aren't freezer-friendly but are fairly quick and easy:
  • Summer Squash Enchilada Casserole - Note: This comes from the book Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook (which I can't recommend enough) but this adaptation is just as yummy!  This is one of my all-time favorite meals.  I can't say enough amazing things about it!  It's a slow-cooker meal, but it does require a little beforehand prep work, so keep that in mind.  I make it for company constantly because we think it's that delicious.

  • Breakfast for dinner - Note: We do this once a week because we love our breakfast and it's fast and easy!  I'm trying to go mostly wheat-free (another post for another day), so we usually do bacon (local), eggs (local) and hashbrowns 

  • Mexican chicken breasts - Note: Couldn't be easier.  This takes next to no time to prepare.  Just make up a large batch of taco seasoning mix to always have on hand because the packaged stuff is absolutely loaded with sodium and make salsa every few weeks.  This is the salsa recipe I usually use but sometimes I just throw a whole bunch of things in the food processor and call it good.  I don't use reduced fat sour cream but I do use plain yogurt (full fat) so I don't have to buy and waste a whole tub of sour cream.

  • Farmer's Market Skillet - Note: HOLY COW.  This is insanely good.  I just made this for the first time last week and it's a new favorite.  I actually added some balsamic vinegar to mine because you simply cannot go wrong with balsamic vinegar, but do as you wish.  :)
I left five days blank because I figured out awhile ago that if I plan for a meal every day, food always goes to waste.  We have at least one day a week where we eat leftovers for dinner and we're shooting for going out for dinner two times a month.  So, there you have it!  Our month of dinners in a nutshell.  Do you monthly meal plan?


How to make almond milk and use its leftovers for almond flour

(Lost most of my pictures when I switched from WP to blogger. Slowly working on putting them back, but it's a massive undertaking so please forgive the broken image links!)

Want to feel really self-sufficient?  Take some almonds and turn them into almond milk and almond flour.  And the biggest secret of all?  It's EASY.  Girl scout's honor.

Do you or have you ever bought the cartons of coconut milk/almond milk/soy milk?  If so, you're not alone.  I did, and I thought nothing of it.  In fact, since it was a purchase I usually made from the organic section, I assumed it was totally fine.  But it is, after all, a processed food.  It never occurred to me to actually read the label.  I'm guilty of this all the time.  Oh, I'm buying this from Whole Foods/Trader Joes/Earth Fare?  It simply must be good for me then!

I'm not going to go through each ingredient one-by-one but there are a lot of questionable things here.  I've already linked to this great article about natural and artificial flavors, and it is something I have cut out of our diets almost 100% when we eat at home.  Here's some food for thought about carrageenan, though I'm not sure exactly how I feel about this one just yet.  If you want to look up the rest of the ingredients, you'll see that most are not something you want to be consuming in any significant quantity.  Keep in mind that these are the ingredients of the unsweetened almond milk.  If you drink sweetened or vanilla, you can add sugar along with other unhealthy ingredients to this list.

This is what I've been giving my son for awhile (who may or may not have a dairy intolerance...the jury is still out), and now I wish I'd done my research earlier and discovered how easy it is to make my own!

Soy milk and coconut milk, in the carton, are very similar with their own set of unhealthy ingredients, and soy itself poses lots of health risks so we shoot for consuming very small amounts of soy.

As far as almond milk in general (not talking about the processed form), it's a healthy alternative to cow's milk if you are lactose/dairy intolerant, vegan or just don't particularly care for cow's milk.  It's got more vitamins and minerals than soy or rice milk (rice milk is pretty nutritionally void in general).  Almond milk contains omega-3 fatty acids, which are the good ones and the ones missing from conventional beef sold in the grocery store, while its grassfed counterpart has lots of the good, healthy fat!  Our bodies need a ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fats that most of us don't get with our modern processed diets (instead we're heavy on the omega-6s and deficient in omega-3s), and I theorize it's predominantly because of the industrialization of our food system and feeding all our livestock the wrong things.  An 8 ounce glass of almond milk contains about a gram of protein and a gram of dietary fiber and is low in calories.  Almonds are great sources of vitamins, too.  They contain vitamin E, manganese, selenium, magnesium, potassium, zinc, iron, fiber, phosphorous and calcium.

Alright, I suppose we can get to the actual recipe now, eh?

You'll need 3 cups of almonds.  I went with blanched almonds because the skin is already removed.  If you want to turn it into flour and you use raw almonds, keep in mind that you'll have to peel all the skins off before you run your milk through the blender.  Also, if you want to do raw almonds, I'm guessing it's either because it's what you have on hand or you care about raw and you'd rather not cook it.  If the latter is true, you can disregard the boiling method I'm about to talk about and just soak the raw almonds overnight in water (or for 6-8 hours) instead.  Just remember to peel off the skin if you want to turn it into flour.

Next, put your almonds into a large bowl and pour 6 cups of boiling water over the almonds.

Let this soak for an hour.  Then pour the water and soaked almonds into a blender (I do this in two batches) and blend on high for a bit.  When you're done, it should look like this:

Next, drape some cheesecloth (or a nut bag if you have one!) over a bowl.  Sometimes I just use a regular old dish towel.  It serves its purpose but not as effectively.  It'll work in a pinch.

Then pour your nut pulp/milk mixture over the cheesecloth.

Then lift this up and squeeze all the milk out while leaving the pulp behind.

What you're left with will look like this:

And this (set aside for now):

You can go ahead and bottle up your milk.  It's all done!  Keep in mind that this will naturally separate, so shake before serving.

Now take your remaining almond pulp and spread it out on parchment paper over a large baking sheet.

Stick it in the oven as low as you can go (for me that's 200) for 1 to 1.5 hours, or until it feels completely dry.

When it's dry, run it through a clean coffee grinder and voila, almond flour!  You can bake with this in lots of recipes!  I'll post my favorites sometime this week.


Stay weird.

I recently read the book The Locavore's Handbook.  It was a great read, and in it was something that I loved so much, I had to bookmark it.  It was a fable that described the way I feel so well.
There was a town that had two wells.  One supplied the castle at the top of the hill; the other serviced the villagers below.  The village well became contaminated with something that made the villagers go mad.  They didn't realize they'd gone crazy, because everyone around them had too.  It seemed normal, since everyone was in the same condition.  Meanwhile, the king in the castle on the top of the hill was drinking water from his well, which was not contaminated.  One day he went down into the village to see his people and to accompany his chef on a shopping trip.  He thought it would be a fine way to connect with his constituency.

The villagers were insane because of the contaminated water they'd been drinking.  The king and his chef were sane because they'd been drinking from an uncontaminated well.  The villagers immediately noted, with alarm and concern, that their king was not acting like them.  There was something different about his behavior, something not right.  They considered whether it was possible to oust the king from his throne.

The king and his chef got thirsty on their shopping expedition.  They took a moment to stop at the village well for a refreshing drink.  Of course that well was contaminated and they immediately went crazy.

Seeing this, the villagers rejoiced and gave thanks that their king was once again 'normal.'"
I was raised with a mom who cared about food, so caring about food isn't a new concept to me.  But for a long time, I found those who focused so heavily on food to be weird.  I had a friend whose parents were raw foodists: people who consume food that isn't ever cooked above a certain temperature to preserve the maximum vitamins and nutrients.  It was the first I'd heard of such a thing and I thought it was really bizarre, but now I know there is an entire movement devoted to raw food.  I found the people who refused all processed or GMO foods to be pretty extreme, too.  Never in a million years did I think that one day, I'd buy into all the same literature as those folks.

But I have.  That day is now.  I've been researching food for years, but it wasn't until this past month that I decided to really research.  I've been reading every bit of information I can get my hands on.  And not to be biased, I've been reading all different types of literature, because as many who've studied food know, there are all sorts of conflicting opinions out there.

One thing that is for sure, undeniable, is the fact that by and large, we are a fat and sick country.  We rank number one in obesity.  We spend as much as $147 BILLION dollars on obesity in this country each year and we rank fiftieth in life expectancy.  A 2009 comparison study by WHO said the U.S. ranks 29th in infant mortality.  Almost two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese.  The childhood obesity rate has - get this - TRIPLED IN ONE GENERATION.  More children have asthma, allergies, ADD, ADHD, autism, type 1 and 2 diabetes and even formerly adult-onset diseases like cancer and heart disease.  Autoimmune disease rates are much higher now than they were a few decades ago.  Americans used to be taller, on average, than those from all other countries.  According to John Komplos, Ph.D., the leading expert in the field of anthropometric history, the average adult height attained by a population is a historical record of the overall nutrition of that population.  His research documented the height of almost a quarter of a million people from the 1700s to the present.  Americans were the tallest in the world until right after World War II.  Now, we're the same height as the men and women of the Czech Republic, a country that has been economically repressed and nutritionally deprived for hundreds of years, and shorter than many other populations (with more nutritionally sound diets than ours).

I feel like I'm knowledgable enough about food, the history of food and the current state of our food to made a broad, sweeping generalization.  Now generally I don't love broad, sweeping generalizations so please keep in mind that what I'm about to say is just that.  It's basically a paraphrase of all that has gone wrong to get us to the point we have currently found ourselves, and it leaves out a whole heck of a lot of details, which over the course of the next few months I'll probably continue to blabber on about here on the blog, but to make things short and sweet and easier to understand, here goes:

Quite awhile ago, it was decided that the food system should be made more efficient.  It wasn't a flawed idea.  After all, food is expensive (relatively) and lots of people go hungry.  Why not mass-produce it more cheaply to reach more people?  Rather than small family farms, we implemented factory farms that were able to churn out massive amounts of food by cutting corners, using chemicals and now, genetically modifying our plants and our animal feed.  We figured out that we could make our animals grow fatter faster by pumping them full of new food (food they have never eaten before and, interestingly enough, food they will never choose if given the option of grains or grass).  We figured out that we could pack lots and lots of animals tightly together to make even more meat.  Rather than have individual avenues by which to buy our food, like the butcher and the dairy farm and the baker, etc., we opted to put all the food together in one place: the grocery store.  And when that wasn't good enough, the big box chains.

Then, once we had accomplished all of that, we targeted the way in which we eat our food.  If we could make the production of our food that much "better" and more efficient, why not make preparing food more efficient, too?  And then came the packaged/processed foods.  Many were created to take advantage of the cheap, subsidized food like corn.  That's how high fructose corn syrup came to be.

The problem with all of this is that at its basic level, food was never meant to be mass-produced.  This is evidenced by the very fact that to mass produce our food, we have had to re-engineer our plants and animals.  We had to develop pesticides to combat the problem that is created when you plant one single crop in mass quantities.  If you've gardened, you've likely heard of companion planting: the idea that you plant complementary things together to naturally combat insects and disease.  We have had to genetically modify our foods, feed our livestock food they are not equipped to consume, inject them with hormones to grow more quickly and then with loads of antibiotics (80% of the antibiotics sold in the U.S. are used on livestock) to combat all the disease that exists in the filthy environments in which we keep our livestock (to cut costs and mass-produce).  We have spent so much time and money coming up with "solutions" to all of the many problems that have arisen that one has to wonder why in the world we are still mass-producing our food.  It clearly wasn't ever meant to be.

Finally, to combat all of the problems that we experience because of the food we eat (because it is mass-produced), we have to spend millions of dollars on health care costs and take lots and lots of medicine.  And we are a sick, fat country getting sicker and fatter all the time.

I'll be staying weird.  If weird equates to a greater chance for health, I'm okay with that.  And I hope I can inspire you to be okay with that, too.  Maybe together, we can make the whole world weird.