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Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Girls Scouts Made a Liar Out of Me !

I just got finished telling all of you about my top 5 ingredients of foods that I avoid and why.  And, in so many words, I told you these ingredients don’t enter my house.   Not even 2 weeks later, I bring girl scout cookies into my house!

My daughter is a girl scout and is selling cookies.  She had a very lofty goal of selling 3000 cookies (or somewhere around there) so that she could earn the ipad the girls scouts were giving away as an incentive prize.  Of course, I did not discourage her lofty goal.  I encouraged it, by buying some boxes from her!

What is a mom to do?  Wouldn’t you have bought from your daughter?  Please say yes!

Those stinking Tagalongs with their partially hydrogenated oils are soooooo yummy!

Oh well, I’m done beating myself up.  They will be gone soon and we can go back to eating the way we always do… cookieless.

I’m sure some of you are enjoying your once a year girl scout cookie binge as well.  Eat ‘em up!  You won’t get them again until next winter!

Oh, and in case anyone is wondering… my daughter sold 128 cookies with very little help from me (except driving and walking around with her).  I am very proud of her!  She would have sold more, but I have raised her in the South and cookie sales were during our single digit weather and snow.  She was so not wanting to go out and sell in that and I didn’t make her!Smile

Okay, I’m off to have some Tagalongs and espresso!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Urban Homestead, Urban Homestead, Urban Homestead!

There.

Now that I've got that off my chest, I can get to explaining WHY I had to get that off my chest.

It seems there is a family in California (the Dervaes) that owns a farm that has trademarked those words.

Seriously.

I'm actually a bit speechless. (no jokes, please)

It is unbelievable that people think it is okay and just to trademark words like this.  Isn't Urban Homesteading (also another set of words they trademarked) something that has been around for a long, long time?  Do they seriously think they are the first to think of it?

Also, wouldn't urban homesteading be considered an activity?  Can you trademark activities???  I homeschool my kids.  Can I trademark the word 'homeschool'?  I want to own that!  Yep, that's what I'll do.  I will trademark the word homeschool and no one else will be able to use it without my express permission.  What is the point in that??

Now, just so you know, on their blog, they have something written at the very top that says, "Despite recent internet publishing, we are NOT suing bloggers.  This is a false and unfounded claim."

There are rumors floating around the blogosphere that if you use any of the terms they have trademarked, then you will receive a letter from the Dervaes family informing you of your mishap.  Well, according to the little blurb on their blog, that is not true.

I am happy to hear that.  That being said, why did they trademark it in the first place?  The name of their business is Dervaes Gardens, not urban homestead.  And it doesn't even look like they trademarked Dervaes Gardens!

Here is a list of the terms they felt needed to be trademarked: Path to Freedom, Urban Homestead, Urban Homesteading, Grow the Future, Homegrown Revolution.  That list is on the bottom of their garden website as well as their blog.  It may be on other sites of theirs too, but I didn't feel like taking the time to look at all of their sites.

Anyway, I want to thank 'Tis a Gift to be Simple  (Check out her blog for more information about the whole thing.  She has a few blog posts about it.) for bringing this whole thing to my attention.  You never know, I may have posted about urban homesteading (there I go again using the forbidden words!) on my blog sometime in the future and I wouldn't have known I was doing something wrong! (Please sense the sarcasm)

So, hopefully I won't get a letter in response to this post.  Although, from their own blog I shouldn't get a letter; but if I do, I will politely apologize and explain to them the nature of the post and that I in no way was trying to take their business as I do not own an urban homestead so it would be impossible for me to take their business!

Please let me know what you think of all this.  Is it being made to be too big of a deal?  Are people not doing enough?  If you are bothered by this, you can join others at the Take Back Urban Home-steading(s) facebook page.

Also, if you have a blog, facebook page or twitter account, the people at Take Back Urban Home-steading(s) are declaring today (Feb. 21st) as Urban Homesteaders Day of Action.  They are trying  to "blanket the web with the words urban homestead and urban homesteading through blog posts, web pages, and articles."  I'm always up for a little activist fun, so of course I had to join in!  I hope you do too!

Have a great day!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Zucchini Pesto Recipe

Before you stop reading because you know there is no way your kids will eat it, then think again!  Try it... just don't let them see you make it if you think they will be influenced by seeing all the green stuff going into it! ;)

This one is for my friend, Pat.  She was expressing to me some frustration over trying to fix healthy meals that can also be quick.  She and her husband work together and they don't get home until 8:00 most nights.

This recipe is so easy, so fast, so yummy AND healthy!  You really can't get better than that!

Now, just to let you know, I don't really use recipes.  On the rare occasion that I do use one, I just use it as a template.  I knew I was going to post this recipe on my blog, so this time I did pay attention to all my portions.  That being said, you can use the portions or you can change them up a bit.  The recipe is extremely forgiving.

I have one other quick note before I start on the recipe.  We had this for lunch one day this week and all 3 of my kids had 3 helpings!  Yes, THREE!!  That includes my almost 3 year old.

This recipe will make enough for more than one meal.  I currently have our leftovers waiting in the freezer to eat on a later date.  This will hopefully further help all of you who need a quick meal to turn to... just take it out of the freezer, warm it up and you're done.  Okay!  Enough talk.  Here's the recipe.

Zucchini Pesto
4oz. basil
1 1/2 cups olive oil
4 cloves garlic (I normally put this much in when I make a smaller batch, but I ran out.  Feel free to  put double the garlic.  Just know that the more garlic you put in, the more hot it will be since you won't be cooking it.)
2 zucchini
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
salt to taste

Before you start getting all those ingredients together start cooking whatever noodles you plan on eating it with.  We used ziti noodles.  If we want to go a healthier way, we use spaghetti squash.  

All you have to do is toss all of these ingredients into a food processor (I used my bullet with the pitcher attachment) and blend it until it is smooth.  Done! 

I start by putting the oil and basil in the pitcher.
I began blending that, just to make more room in the blender.  It really won't blend well, because there isn't enough moisture.  Just blend a few seconds and you're good.  Then I added in the garlic, zucchini, parmesan and salt and blended it until it was smooth.

Here is what it will look like when it's finished:

At this point, you will need to taste test it.  Feel free to add more salt if you'd like.  Also, if you are serving kids that are sensitive to spicy foods and the garlic is making the meal too spicy, you can add more parmesan at this time.  Once it is to your liking, serve over pasta and enjoy!

Cover the pasta as seen in photo below.  It only takes a couple of spoons full.

 Then stir it around until the pasta is completely covered.

Then, if you prefer, top it off with more parmesan!  Yum!

Next, sit down, relax and enjoy!

The following is a list of things you can add to or change about the recipe depending on your tastes:
  • Use spaghetti squash instead of pasta to keep the meal gluten/grain free.
  • Don't have zucchini?  No problem!  Just use basil by itself or add spinach or parsley.  We have tried all of these variations and they are all super yummy.
  • Add pine nuts or almonds.  Most pesto recipes call for pine nuts.  I don't use them.  I'm not against them, I just don't use them.  Mostly because I live in a rural area and it is hard to find.
  • Add more parmesan.  Normally, when I make pesto, I don't put any parmesan in it.  My husband doesn't like parmesan, so I usually omit it.  It is good either way.  If you make it without parmesan, anyone in the house that wants it can just put it on their food individually (like in the picture above).
  • Add more olive oil.  If you want your pesto to be more thin, feel free to add another 1/2 cup or so of olive oil.  Frankly, I just didn't have room in the pitcher for more.
Let me know what you think and how everyone in your house liked the meal.

Have a great day!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Learn Anything??

Whew.  Okay, I'm finished with the posts that explain why I avoid the 5 things in my Top 5 Ingredients post.

I truly do hope you learned a little something about how to feed your family a little healthier.  If you are new to reading labels, you may find yourself getting frustrated at how many of the products you regularly buy that contain those 5 ingredients.  Please don't let that stop you from starting with just one ingredient!

Pick one ingredient and start cutting it out now.  Even if you can't cut out the ingredient completely, maybe just cut out a few of the products that contain said ingredient?  For example, most crackers I have seen contain high fructose corn syrup and/or hydrogenated oils.  Try going to the health food section and buying your crackers from there.  If you want to get really crazy, you could cut out grains completely.  Our society eats way too many grains anyway!  Just so you know, my family does eat crackers.  However, it is a treat, not a daily, or even weekly snack.

Anyway, like I was saying, go to the health food (or natural) section of your grocery store.  Usually, you are fairly safe in that section.  However, don't assume that just because you are in the 'natural' section of the store that you are okay to buy anything.  Please still read the ingredients.  Once you are comfortable with the substitutions you have made with that ingredient (whatever ingredient you decided to start with), move on to the next ingredient.

If you missed the posts, click on them below and you can get all caught up! :)

Just take baby steps toward better health!

Then, come back here and comment to tell me how you are doing with your new shopping habits!  I would love to hear your feedback.


Have a great day!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Why I Avoid Buying Foods With Glutamates

Today's post is the last in my series of posts that explain why I try not to consume the ingredients in my Top 5 Ingredients I Avoid When Shopping post.  Today we talk about glutamate (or, more accurately, glutamic acid).

Glutamic acid is the harmful component to Monosodium Glutamate or MSG.

Glutamate (glutamic acid) is the major excitatory transmitter in the brain.  So, wait a minute.  If it is in our brain and has a function, why do I avoid it?

Simple.  My body knows how much I need of it.  If I give my body too much of it, the brain cannot do its job properly.  I don't know about you, but I want my brain to function properly even if that means my food has a little less taste.

Glutamic acid is very good at hiding within other ingredients.  This is why I said in my post listing my 5 ingredients I avoid that glutamate is the hardest ingredient to avoid.  Refer to this helpful chart to find out what other ingredients contain (or can contain) glutamic acid.

That chart is extremely helpful, because you will realize it is not just as easy as looking for Monosodium Glutamate on the ingredient list.  Avoiding MSG is a great starting point, but it would be great to branch out and avoid the rest of the ingredients on the list as well.

And here is a list of reported symptoms from ingesting MSG.  It's a long list, right?  That is why I don't ingest it or let my kids ingest it.  That list of symptoms is why my kids (aged 2, 7 and 9) have NEVER had Doritos. 

I apologize for not giving you all of that in my own words, but as you saw if you clicked on the links, the lists are quite long.  I thought there was no point in rewriting it all when those two sites did it so beautifully!  No point reinventing the wheel! ;)

Well, I hope this weeks posts get you started on a new healthy track with your family's diet!  If you missed them, you can go back and read them by clicking on the ingredients below.

Again, if you are new to reading ingredients, please don't feel overwhelmed with this list.  You will find that these ingredients are highly prevalent in the foods most Americans eat!  Start with just one item on the list if you don't think you can do all of them.  Anywhere you start will be beneficial for your health!

Good luck!

Note: As stated in the link with the list of ingredients that glutamate can be in, "Glutamic acid found in unadulterated protein does not cause adverse reactions.  To cause adverse reactions, the glutamic acid must have been processed/manufactured or come from protein that has been fermented."

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Why I Avoid Artificial Sweeteners Like The Plague

On to the next ingredient in my series explaining my Top 5 Ingredients I Avoid When Shopping post. (If you missed it, just click on the title in that last sentence and you can get caught up.)  Today we talk about artificial sweeteners.  This can include aspartame, sucralose, saccharin, acesulfame K, neotame and probably more that I'm not remembering or that are still in the lab and will come out any day now!

In 'studying' to write this post, one of the most disturbing things was at the very beginning of my search.  If you type "artificial sweeteners" into your google search bar, the first page of links are all health related and contain the terms, "cancer" and "most dangerous".  Not good!

For the purposes of keeping this post as simple and easy to understand as possible, I am going to concentrate on aspartame.  The post would be 5 pages long (or longer) if I went into each one!

According to an article on Medicine Net , it was concluded after numerous studies that aspartame was safe with a daily intake of 40 mg/kg/day, except for people with phenylketonuria.

I'm sure you've seen the word before.  There is a phenylketonuria warning on all packages of things with aspartame... you know, the usual, "I'm covering my hind end warning".  Just like the warnings on cigarettes.

So, what it is phenylketonuria?

It is a genetic disease in which you are missing an enzyme needed to break down phenylalanine.  If phenylalanine builds up in the body (due to it not being broken down) it is harmful to the central nervous system and causes brain damage.

The reason you can't have aspartame if you have this disease is because aspartame is made up of phenylalanine, along with aspartic acid and methanol.

If you don't have phenylketonuria you might be wondering why you need to bother avoiding aspartame.  Here's why...  there have been reports of aspartame causing the following problems (this is just a sampling of the problems it can cause):

  • Aspartame disease (yes, you read that correctly.  Apparently, someone knows this stuff is bad if they are willing to name a disease after it!)
  • Headaches 
  • Birth defects
  • Depression
  • Cancer
  • Increased hunger (interesting, seeing how they put it in diet drinks)

Here is a great article on the rest of the side effects of aspartame (the side effects are lengthy!).

I hope this gives you a little insight as to why it would be a good thing to cut this out of your diet... or at the very least try to avoid it.  I know this was all about aspartame and how it's evil, but remember sucralose, saccharin, acesulfame K, and neotame are all on that nasty list as well.  When you are in a restaurant and need a sweetener, stay away from the yellow and pink packets and go for the white... or the brown if the restaurant has raw sugar.

Tomorrow's post is the last of this series and will talk about glutamates.

See you then!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Why I Avoid Buying Foods With Sodium Benzoate

As promised in my post about the Top 5 Ingredients to Avoid, here is more information on Sodium Benzoate so that you will understand why it doesn’t enter my house.

There have been some health concerns about the combination of sodium benzoate and ascorbic acid or vitamin C. When the two are mixed, they can form the chemical benzene, which is carcinogenic (cancer causing).  However, sodium benzoate on its own is not considered a carcinogen, and you would have to consume a huge amount of it in order to have toxic levels in your body.  In mice studies where the animals were fed sodium benzoate, no adverse effects were reported, and the life expectancies of the mice were not shortened, nor was their health affected in any way.

Sounds convincing, right?  No not really because the research never tested the affect of sodium benzoate combined with Vitamin C on the health of the mice.  That is the real kicker.  That is what forms benzene which is carcinogenic.  What does carcinogenic mean?  Plainly, cancer causing.  It has also been known to destroy the DNA of the mitochondria in your cells.  Your mitochondria are also known as the ‘power centers’ of your cells.  This can lead to a number of neuro-degenerative diseases (including Parkinson’s).

Now, I suppose if you know without a shadow of a doubt that whatever you are buying with sodium benzoate does not also have Vitamin C in it, then maybe you could consider buying it.  Part of the problem is that most of the time (if not every time) I have seen it on an ingredient list, that product also contains Vitamin C, either naturally occurring or added.

I’m sure there is a lot more information out there about sodium benzoate.   Please do the research yourself to see if it is something you would consider eliminating from the ingredients you bring into your house.

In the end, when I am choosing what to buy at the store that is prepackaged I like to err on the side of caution.   If the ingredient doesn’t sound natural to me or if I’ve never heard of it, I won’t buy the product.   I will sometimes look it up when I get home, too. Then, I know if I can buy the product next shopping trip.  Generally, if I’m buying something prepackaged it’s not a necessity anyway, so it can wait.

I hope this helps you.   Check back tomorrow for the next ingredient on my list and why I avoid it.

**** Note: Upon further research, it appears that any ingredient that contains the word benzoate, is a potential threat to your health.  (Thank you Robert for asking me the question to prompt the research!)****

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Why I Avoid Buying Things With Hydrdogenated Oils

Today's post will be my explanation of why our family avoids partially  hydrogenated and hydrogenated oils as pointed out in my post about the 5 ingredients we avoid.

Let me just start by saying that oils are not necessarily bad for you (at least some oils). However, when man...or woman, I'm not trying to discriminate here ;) ...comes in and changes the natural state of that oil by significantly increasing the temperature of that oil, it is now in a state that is unhealthy for human consumption.

The website, Natural News, has a wonderful article about hydrogenated oils. Here is an excerpt of it that will explain better than I ever could how the state of the oils are changed and what they do in our body:

"They take these naturally healthy oils such as palm, kernel, soybean, corn oil or coconut oil and they heat it anywhere from five hundred to one thousand degrees under several atmospheres of pressure.  They then inject a catalyst into the oil for several hours. The catalyst is typically a metal such a nickel, platinum or even aluminum. As this bubbles up into the oil the molecular structure changes and increases in density and rearranges it's molecules so that instead of a liquid at room
temperature we now have either semi-solid or solid oil. This creates either partially hydrogenated or fully hydrogenated oils.

The molecules in this new product are now closer to cellulose or plastic than to oil. In fact hydrogenated oil is only one molecule away from being plastic. When you eat anything containing this material, just as the oil is now thicker and more viscous (dense), so too does your blood become thicker and more viscous right along with it. The heart now has to work so much harder to pump blood throughout the system. This is one of the major ways that consuming hydrogenated oils contributes to high blood pressure.

As you can imagine, this thicker blood with this gummy substance flowing with it can easily lodge in the arteries and build up the arterial plaque.  It doesn't take anywhere near as much time as you may think for this to occur. Some studies have shown that negative health effects of eating processed foods occurs within only minutes of consuming such foods."

I don't know about you, but that doesn't sound like a good thing...

Bottom line... we shouldn't be eating foods with this stuff in it.

Manufacturers put it in our foods because it makes it so that it can stay on the shelf longer and that increases their profits.

This is just a taste of why I don't like to have this in my family's diet.  If you would like to read a very detailed article on hydrogenated oils I highly recommend you read the full article quoted above. You can find it here.

Tune in tomorrow for the next ingredient on my list!

Have a great day!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

I'm Behind...

At the beginning of October, I posted the top 5 ingredients that I avoid at the grocery store.  At the end of my post, I told you that I would write something up about each ingredient individually so that you could understand WHY I avoid them.

Well, over the past few months, I got a little caught up on… well, life, and haven’t posted them yet.  I apologize.  I did post on High Fructose Corn Syrup and why I avoid that ingredient.

So if you missed it, you can go back and read it if you'd like and be ready for the rest of the ingredients!

Tomorrow, I will continue on with the ingredients.

I will go in the order that I listed them in the original post, just because it makes sense (even though the order of the ingredients has nothing to do with which one is worse than the others).

The post tomorrow will be on hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils.

See you tomorrow!