Food Reformation Comes Home

Last weekend the kids and I attended Vision Forum’s Reformation of Food and the Family conference.  Over the years, our eating has mirrored a roller coaster ride.  I read and research and learn all this great information.  I get excited and plan and have some great ideas.  Then reality sets in.  And it gets hard.  And I get discouraged.  Down goes the roller coaster as we run back to all the yuckies we need to be avoiding.

I think that is why I enjoyed this conference so much.  It was such a great encouragement.  One of the theme’s that was mentioned over and over by several speakers, is that eating well is a journey.  It is something that takes time, and lots of learning over an even longer period of time.

For those of on this journey who are first generation sojourners, not only are we huffing and puffing trying to just keep on the path, we are also having to “cut” the path as we go.  We don’t have a roadmap or gps, we have to find our way with each step. And if that’s not enough, there are plenty of money-hungry healthy eating experts out there that are happy to show us the way for a price.

Fundamentals

Today, I drove about 45 minutes away to a little farm tucked away in the rolling hills of Texas. As I pulled up to the farm, chickens and guineas were roaming around the yard. A tiny red building next to the pig pen housed the freezers full of grass-fed beef, free-range chicken, and pastured pork. The fresh milk and eggs are in the fridge next to the house.

As we were getting out of the van, out runs two little blonde-haired girls with their mama not far behind. She helped me get my goods out to the van, then took us on a mini-tour of the farm. We chatted about the pigs and their family’s hopes of moving toward heritage pigs. Then we discussed how hard it is to butcher the animals you have grown to love over the couple of years it takes to fatten them up (without growth hormones, that is). She walked us back to the van when we were done, thanked us for coming out and said she looked forward to seeing us next time.

As we drove away, I thought to myself,

“That’s how it should be.”

Simple. Basic. Whole.

I left that farm feeling so full of peace. This is how it should be. We should have peace of mind about the things we eat and feed out families. And it doesn’t have to be this complicated food matrix. It really can be simple.

What about the cost?

I have been thinking about this quite a bit lately, especially with the rise in couponing (yes, I have tried my hand at it). I don’t remember the statistics, but I read something somewhere that said we (as in modern Americans) spend less of our total earnings on food than any other time in history (or any other country, currently). We want it cheap (or free) and we don’t care how devoid of nutrition it might be. In other words, we are a gluttonous generation that wants to be fed by the work of others. Another non-statistical bit of info…one in seven Americans is fed with food paid for by others (food stamps, free lunch program).

Real food cost money. Do you know why? Because real food is grown by real people. Real people can only work so many hours. Real people are affected by nature (remember the curse put on Adam?). Real people have to feed their own family. When you buy real food from a real person, you have to exchange something of real value for the real food.

This often comes in the form of sacrifice. For most of us, eating real food is a sacrifice. It may cost more than we would like to pay. We may have to travel further than we normally travel. It probably takes longer to prepare. But the reward, or should I say blessing, of our sacrifice is great.

What now?

As time allows, I am planning on writing a series of articles about where to begin in reforming our diets. Sometimes the hardest part of a journey is the first few steps. And often those steps must be taken in faith.

I would also like to spend some time on practical ways we can eat a more wholesome diet while at the same time living within our means. This can be a challenge, but honestly I think a big part of overcoming these challenges is changing our mind set.

One other topic that deserves to be examined is the different fads out there, even in the “healthy” food arena. Everything has a label and everyone is wearing one! As a Bible believing Christian, we should start and end with His Word as our source of reference. What does the Word say about our eating (does is say anything at all)?

Finally, I would like to leave you with a verse. I know that the food topic can sometimes be divisive. That is not my goal at all. I pray that all I say or teach others would be done in charity.

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

1 Corinthians 13:1

Giveaway: Vision Forum’s The Reformation of Food and the Family Conference Pass for Two

Several years ago, when I was a new homeschooling mom, I had a little boy who had lots of energy. And not only did he have lots of energy, he was very sensitive–to everything. His socks bothered his toes. The peculiar smell at the Jelly Belly factory was unbearable. He couldn’t stand wearing pants or long sleeves (he still only wears pants to church), because he was always hot. As he grew older, he had trouble learning to read and write.

I was at a loss.

I didn’t know if he just needed more discipline. Maybe I wasn’t being consistent enough. Or maybe I just wasn’t good at homeschooling. I read and researched and tried all kinds of things, but they just weren’t helping.

At the time, we ate the typical American diet minus the sugary cereals. I really felt that because I only let my children eat the healthy cereals, we were doing good. Little by little, I started reading about eating a “whole foods” diet. I learned the benefits of grinding my own grain and drinking kefir. Most importantly, I learned how sugars and dyes that are so prevalent in foods targeted at children, actually affect their developing neurological systems. Many of the behaviors I was seeing in my son were a direct result of the foods I was feeding.

Over the next year, I begin to cut out as many processed foods as possible. We replaced the Kool-aid with all-natural water. We bought our milk and eggs straight from the farm and ate our veggies out of a garden (unfortunately not my own…still working on that one). I learned to bake bread, and yogurt, even experimented with kombucha.

The results were dramatic. My little man calmed down (to a normal little boy level), things didn’t bother him quite so much, he learned to read, and I realized the importance of feeding our kiddos (and ourselves) a nutrient dense diet.

I guess that is why I am so passionate about eating healthy. I have seen both sides. I have experienced first hand, the benefits of eating foods that are wholesome.

Now don’t get me wrong, I still struggle to stay away from the sugar. Eating healthy is not always easy. It is not always the cheapest. It is not always what I want to do.

I still need encouragement in this area of my life.

That is why I am sooo excited about this upcoming conference!!!

There are so many AWESOME speakers at this conference!

Nancy Campbell is going to be there. Her book Be Fruitful and Multiply really helped me see that children are a blessing from the Lord. I can’t wait to hear her wisdom and her love of helping women in God-given roles.

Michelle Duggar will be speaking. I think my girls are more excited about seeing (possibly meeting) her than I am. I just want to thank her personally for living out the example of a meek and quiet spirit, modeling it for those of us who need that kind of encouragement.

Kim Coghlan from Life in a Shoe. I really wanted to meet her at the film festival. I saw her on the last day of the festival. She was busy talking to someone else and I didn’t want to interrupt. But when I turned around, she was gone. I didn’t see her again, but I hope I will this time!

Joel Salatin…as much as I am excited to hear the ladies, I am really excited to hear Joel Salatin, of Polyface Farms, speak. He is a wealth of information and I would love to have a farm like his, with all my kids working together, growing our food.

The Good News Gets Even Better

If you couldn’t tell, I am thrilled that I am going to be able to go to this conference. But I am even more thrilled that I am going to get to take one of you with me!

I have a pass for 2 (you and hubby can go!) to the Vision Forum The Reformation of Food and the Family Conference!

The conference will be held July 12-14, 2012 in San Antonio, TX.

Who Wants to Join Me???

To enter to win a pass for 2 to The Reformation of Food and the Family conference,

leave a comment below telling my why you would like to attend

and

share this giveaway (either on your blog, facebook, twitter, or with your neighbor).

I would ask that only those actually able to attend would enter the contest (I don’t want to give the pass to someone that can’t attend when there are others who are able to attend that would love to).

I will be drawing (via random.org) a winner next Monday, so please enter by Sunday, June 25th at midnight.

Can’t wait to find out who will be joining me in San Antonio!

Oven Baked Potatoes

The potato was burned black outside, but inside it was white and mealy and a most delicious baked-potato smell steamed out of it. They let it cool a little, and then they gnawed the inside out of the black crust, and it was the best potato they had ever eaten.

~Laura Ingalls Wilder, Farmer Boy

One of my favorite foods is a baked potato smothered in butter, sour cream, and cheddar cheese (it is even better with bacon bits and chives). But for some reason my baked potatoes never tasted as good as the ones at the BBQ restaurants.

Until my mom stayed with us last summer…

I realized that most of my problem was the fact that I had only made them in the microwave, which is fine for a quick meal, but not so fine for a tasty one.

From now on, all our baked potatoes are made in the oven. It does take a bit longer (like 2 hours longer), but it is worth the wait. If you have never made oven baked potatoes, I would urge you to at least try them!

Oven Baked Potatoes

1. Wash and scrub baking potato. Poke it several times with a fork or knife.

2. Place on a rectangle of tin foil. Pour a bit of oil over potato, then cover with salt. Note: add more salt than you normally would so that it can penetrate the potato.

3. Place wrapped potatoes in baking dish. Bake at 400 degrees for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. The time it takes to bake can vary greatly depending on how large the potatoes are and how many you are cooking. I check the potatoes by sticking a knife through them. When it is easy to pierce, I consider it done.

4. I let the potatoes sit for a while after taking them out of the oven.

Curried Chicken and Rice Salad

Several years ago I had the privilege of having a friend that had the gift of hospitality.  She always knew when someone was in need and was quick to serve in so many ways.  She always had a meal ready for those who were sick or had new babies.  I have several great recipes from her simply because she cared enough to bring meals during times of trial.

This is one she shared.

Thank you Suzanne…for the recipes and the memories!

Tips on Getting Your Kids to Eat Healthier

Our crew had dental cleanings this past week and two of them had small cavities.

Several years ago we had the same problem. I was told that it was largely hereditary and there was really nothing I could do about it. I didn’t feel like that was totally accurate. It was about this time that we began changing up our diet to a more “whole foods” diet. For years the kids were all cavity free.

Until now.

It seems we have fallen off the healthy eating wagon. Little by little I have let “junk” seep back in to our diets. Part of it may be the fact that we moved to a foreign country and then back to the states (because of medical issues) within such a short time frame. I feel like I am just now catching my breath from it all.

To add to it, I have been having my own medical issues (currently waiting on results for celiac testing). It is time for this family to get back to eating healthier foods.

By the way, my friend Kerimae has a wonderful podcast on the topic of preventing and healing cavities.  I listened to it again this week after our dental visit!

Most of you know that I am studying to become an herbalist. I truly believe that the Lord has blessed us with many plants for our healing. However, our first line of defense against disease and illness is a solid offense. The Lord has provided an abundance of wonderful foods, created to work with our bodies to maintain health.

I thought it was very timely that the High Five Moms topic this month was “getting your children to eat healthy foods”. This is a “practice what you preach” topic, that’s for sure!

Here are a few things that have helped us in the past and will be re-implemented this week (We are traveling to the San Antonio Christian Film Festival this week, but we are still going to work toward better choices even on the road!).

Healthier Snacks

This is probably our biggest problem area. I have a child that is a wonderful dessert chef.  He can whip up so many yummy, sweet concoctions.  I was just telling him that he needs to write an e-book entitled “Carni Lovers Cookbook” — he made funnel cakes yesterday.  Ok, I am side-tracking I know.  See this is why I have so much trouble eating healthier!

1. So, our new food choices will include much more fresh fruits and veggies.  My children really don’t have a problem eating these as long as I make sure to have them on hand.  They love ranch dip, I just need to make sure and make my own so that we don’t get all the yuckies from the powdered packages.  For fruit, I will sometimes mix up fresh lemon/raw honey for them to dip it in.

2. My friend Brandy at The Marathon Mom has a ton of granola bar ideas.  My kids like the granola I make, but it is more of a cereal rather than a snack bar.  I am going to try to make more granola bars to have on hand, especially when we are on the go and need to grab a snack to take with us.

3. We also like to make smoothies.  I like them because it is easy to add in lots of healthy “stuff” and it still taste yummy.  On my to-do list is start a batch of kefir.  It has been years since we made our own kefir, but it is time to start back up.  If you don’t know what kefir is, here is a brief description from kefir.net…

Kefir is a cultured, enzyme-rich food filled with friendly micro-organisms that help balance your “inner ecosystem.” More nutritious and therapeutic than yogurt, it supplies complete protein, essential minerals, and valuable B vitamins.

Sounds like pretty good stuff, huh?

Healthier Meal Times

It doesn’t really matter how healthy you cook or prepare foods, if your kids don’t eat it.  Some simple “rules” we have at our house concerning foods…

1. Each child gets one food item to dislike (one item over all, not at each meal).  They don’t ever have to eat this one item (although sometimes they have learned to eat their one item, they are not forced to do so).  All other food items they must eat at least some of when they are served.

2. No picking out foods.  They can take out their one item if we are eating something that has it in it, but other than that they don’t make a habit of taking things out of their food.  Generally I try to not include their item on their plates, but sometimes it can’t be helped.

3. When making foods that aren’t necessarily favorites, I try to pair them up with other foods that are well liked.  This allows them to eat a bite of something not so tasty, then take a bite of something more appetizing.  For instance, I like to make fresh asparagus when I make baked salmon.  Some of the younger kids are still learning to enjoy the asparagus, but they readily eat the salmon.  By serving them together, it seems to ease the transition.

4. Start off with small amounts of new foods, or ones that aren’t well received.  Most of the time the kids will eat a small amount of foods they dislike without complaining.  This is also good training for times that you may be eating at someone else’s house or at church.  I teach the children that if they don’t like something (or if it doesn’t look appeasing) just ask for a small amount rather than say “I don’t like that” or “I don’t want that”.

5. I don’t usually make “kid meals”.  99% of the time, the foods I make are for all of us and they are regular meals.  I don’t make chicken nuggets and macaroni type meals just so the kids will eat (nothing wrong with healthy homemade chicken nuggets and macaroni, just using it as an example).  Rather I choose the best meals for the entire family.

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Need more ideas on getting kids to eat healthy? Check out the other moms and see what they have to share!

Brandy at The Marathon Mom

Keri Mae at The Happy Home

Stacy at A Delightful Home

Andie at Happy Andersons

Butter Cookies

When my older children were younger, we would often make “sugar” cookies for the different holidays. We had all sorts of cookie cutters. The kids loved rolling out the dough, cutting out their cookie, and then of course loading it down with a ton of icing and colored sprinkles.

Then I went through my healthy eating phase (ok, not so much a phase as a new way of life) and out went all the cute cookie cutters. I couldn’t let my kids eat “sugar” cookies, especially with all that icing and decorations. So for the last few years my poor younger children haven’t experienced the joys of rolling out cookies and decorating them…

until this week!

Join me over at The Marathon Mom where I am sharing a delicious Butter Cookie Recipe!

The Great Cheese Ball Link Up

One of my favorite memories of Christmas time is the cheese balls my grandmother and great-grandmother would make every year. Us kids would sit around snacking on them, waiting on Christmas dinner to be done.

There were two cheese balls that I remember very distinctly. One of the two I make every year for Christmas, or any other time we need a special snack. I changed up the recipe a bit from my grandmother’s recipe. I added in the cheddar cheese to give it a bit more substance–and to make it last longer!

The other cheese ball I grew up eating was a mystery cheese ball. I asked my grandmother for the recipe a couple of years ago, but she didn’t have it and couldn’t remember how to make it. This Christmas I was determined to find a recipe for the mysterious cheese ball. I googled and googled. None of the recipes sounded like the one I remember.

Then one day I received an email from my aunt saying she thought she had found the recipe online at Homesick Texan. This would make sense, as I am sure this recipe was probably passed around the state where I grew up.

By omitting one of the ingredients, I had found the winner!

Seeing as how I love a good cheese ball, I thought it would be fun to collect cheese ball recipes throughout the year (in preparation for next years festivities!). If you have a cheese ball recipe, please link below so that we know where to find the recipes. Make sure the link goes to the recipe post and not your homepage.

Monday’s Menu Link Up

I haven’t planned out my weekly meals in quite a while, and consequently we have been eating out way too much.  I don’t know about you all, but one of the hardest aspects of getting dinner done is deciding what to have.  If I don’t plan ahead, I find myself trying to throw something together with half the ingredients missing.

So here I am back at it.  That’s the nice thing.  Even if you haven’t planned your meals in a while, you can just pick up where you are and plan for the next few days, or week, or month.

I am also thinking that I should start planning for the Christmas cooking and candy making.  The cooking doesn’t require too much planning just because we have the same things each year.  It’s the finding time to get it all done that requires the planning.

Some of our favorite goodies include:

Lucero’s Magic Bars (these are my son’s favorite, so he is in charge of making them)
Millionaires (my great-grandmother and grandmother always made these — now it’s my turn)
Fudge (no frills here, just the recipe on the back of the marshmallow creme)
Pecan Pineapple Cheeseball (another recipe from my great-grandmother, although we have tweaked it a bit)

We had the cheeseball this week so that I could get pictures to share (look for the recipe in a few days).  Not sure if I will make it again for Christmas.  I am looking for a cheeseball recipe where the cheeseball is covered in chili powder.  My grandmother made it when we were little, but doesn’t have the recipe anymore.  Maybe I should do a cheeseball linky…

Menu for December 12-18

Monday — pork stir fry with cabbage, brown rice
Tuesday — fish sticks, hushpuppies, salad
Wednesday — crockpot pork chops, mashed potatoes, spinach
Thursday — vegetable stew, cornbread
Friday — caroling (bringing snacks to fellowship)
Saturday — enchiladas, beans, rice
Sunday — leftovers

Now it’s you turn! Share your weekly menu or favorite recipe.

Please make sure that you link to the specific post (your menu or recipe) and not your homepage. At the end of your post, please include a link back to this post so that others can join in as well. Also, the post that you link to must be completely family friendly.

If you don’t have a blog or haven’t written a menu post, share your menu for the week in the comments!

Popcorn Balls

One of our favorite treats in the fall is popcorn balls! Now let me forewarn you, this is not some healthy for you kind of recipe. Basically sugar, sugar, corn syrup, and more sugar poured over popcorn. We don’t make this often, but when we do, everyone loves it!

High Five Moms: Fall Harvest

We are now in Kansas, staying at a hotel while we house hunt. The weather here is absolutely beautiful. How I have missed the crisp fall air! We have passed by several pumpkin patches and I long to bring in my own harvest. I have dreams of having a huge garden with vegetables overflowing and an orchard full of fruit trees ready to be turned into pies and jams.

This year isn’t that year for me. It’s funny how our lives ebb and flow. Some seasons are full with times of planting. Other times are filled with harvest. For now, I am in a barren winter season. I can still be thankful though. I see spring on the horizon. Planting time is near. We will soon find a house and work like little ants getting everything in it’s place. Maybe next year I will be up to my ears in canning jars, and freezer bags, and dried “stuff”.

For now, I want to post something I wrote 4 years ago. I look back and see how much I have learned over the years and I just thank God for allowing me to learn…little by little. I have to laugh too, because we always think we know so much until we look back and see how much we had to learn. ~smile~

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October 11, 2007

When I was young, we lived near my great-grandmother. Every summer, my mother and great-grandmother both had large gardens and preserved the bounty each fall. At the time, us kids couldn’t stand canning season, because of the vinegar smell we had to endure on pickle canning day. I was too young to appreciate being able to grow and preserve food for your family to enjoy all year long.

I will never forget the time I went into my grandmother’s pantry to get some salsa she had canned. I had made some dip, and wanted to add her yummy salsa to it. However, something did not taste right. Well, the jars weren’t marked, and I couldn’t tell the difference between a jar of salsa and a jar of spaghetti sauce. I was hoping for Mexican, not Italian!

A few years ago, I decided to try my hand at canning. My grandmother passed away 12 years ago, and my mother is halfway across the states from me, so I didn’t have the benefit of hands on learning. My first experience was canning salsa. I always make it fresh, but thought it would be nice to pull some out of the pantry at any time. I didn’t read up on canning very thoroughly, instead just jumped right in. I made my salsa, filled my hot jars, then watered bathed them for the alloted time. As I waited for the “popping sound”, I decided to look up some info online. What? It said I needed an approved recipe, as it is possible to create botulism if the acidity was not high enough. I was so worried I would give my family botulism. I prayed as I opened each jar, “Please keep my family safe from botulism, Lord”. I guess I could have thrown the salsa out, but I had worked so hard I couldn’t bare to.

Not long after the salsa incident, a friend taught me to make strawberry jam. I loved it, but couldn’t stand the amount of sugar used. I was told that non-sugar recipes really didn’t work, or taste very good. I gave up on jam…until recently. I listened in on a phone seminar given by Marilyn Moll of The Urban Homemaker, with guest Lisa Vitello of New Harvest Homestead. I learned that you could make delicious jam with honey, or even no sugar at all. I was introduced to Pamona’s Pectin, which works wonders with these types of recipes.

If you are just starting out, I would recommend getting some Pamona’s Pectin. I wanted to make a small batch, just to test it out. I took out only a few jars and started boiling the jars and lids in a huge pot. I have a water bath canner, but since I was only making a few jars I figured a large pot would work. I could cover the jars with boiling water. I chopped up some peaches and plums, threw them in a pot with some fresh apple juice, a stick of cinnamon, and a few cloves. I let it simmer for a bit, then started mashing. I followed the remaining instructions from the pectin box. I also have a Ball’s Blue Book, which is helpful. Here is my mini-bounty and my baby step toward learning to preserve food for my family!

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This week the High Five Moms are all writing on different aspects of Autumn and times of harvest. Make sure to hop on over and be encouraged!

Andie @ Happy Andersons

Stacy @ A Delightful Home

Brandy @ The Marathon Mom

Keri Mae @ The Happy Home