Sunday, March 27, 2011

Tuna (or Egg) Salad in Avocado Boats

I've put tuna and egg salad in avocado boats many times over the years.  I got the idea from one of my friends back in college.  I haven't done this often these last couple of years, mostly because I kind of forgot about it, but also because my husband isn't a fan of avocado.  Now that we're trying to go mostly primal in our house, we won't be having bread for tuna or egg salad sandwiches anymore.  So Carson and I will be eating ours in avocado boats from now on.  Kevin just eats his straight with a fork or wrapped in lettuce. 

I mix avocado into our tuna and egg salad sometimes, too.. and Kevin eats that with few complaints usually.  It's delicious mixed into the salad, as well. 

Sorry for the poor quality of this picture.  I'll update once I get some decent pictures.  This was a boring tuna salad with just tuna, mayo, and mustard since I didn't have any of my other typical additions and I was serving it in the avocado boats, so didn't add the mashed avocado.  I'll post the way I usually make our tuna salad below.  I'll try to take a picture of our egg salad this week and post how we like ours later this week. 

Tuna Salad in Avocado Boats

1 or 2 avocado, sliced in half, peeled, and pitted
1 can white tuna
3-4 Tablespoons mayonnaise (preferably homemade)
1-2 Tablespoons mustard
2-3 Tablespoons dill pickle relish or diced cucumbers
2-3 Tablespoons diced celery and/or carrots
1/2 avocado, mashed (optional... if I serve in avocado boats, I leave this out)

Mix tuna with mayonnaise, mustard, relish or cucumbers, celery and carrots, and mashed avocado (if using) ina small bowl.  Fill avocado halves with the tuna salad and enjoy!

This post is linked to:
Grain-Free Tuesdays at Hella Delicious

Meal plans and the week ahead

Another quick post today. This week, I'm trying to use up a lot of things from the freezer.

Sunday -
(make kefir; hard boil eggs; make mayo; make egg salad; make nut blueberry protein balls; bake squash)
B: fried eggs; bacon
L: leftovers
D: bunless peanut turkey burgers; asparagus; corn; applesauce

Lunch and snack options -
leftovers; egg salad in avocado; crispy nuts; sliced cheese; fruit; salads

Monday -
B: kefir smoothies
D: pork chops; pecan glazed butternut squash; green beans; peaches

Tuesday -
(bake spaghetti squash)
B: nut blueberry protein balls
D: turkey egg drop soup with veggies

Wednesday - soccer
(cook ground beef)
B: yogurt with crispy nuts
D: shrimp, pea pods, and zucchini sauteed in herb butter over spaghetti squash; applesauce

Thursday -
B: strawberry bread
D: sloppy joes over spaghetti squash

Friday - flex; milk p/u
(wrap gifts; make butter)
B: scrambled eggs
D: pine nut chicken; broccoli; carrots

Saturday - Grand Rapids for Girls' Day Out
B: turkish eggs
L: leftovers
D: S - in GR; K&C - leftovers or order pizza

Friday, March 25, 2011

Grain-Free Fudgy Brownies

I saw these grain-free brownies on Health Bent and knew at once that I had to try them. I looooove fudgy brownies and these looked and sounded amazing. So Carson and I mixed some up a couple of weeks ago.  We used homemade almond butter, substituted half of the cocoa powder with carob powder, only added half of the optional sweetener, and did not add the nuts (for Kevin's sake). They were very quick and easy to mix together.  The raw batter was awesome (Carson and I both enjoyed cleaning out the bowl and spoons after we had the brownies in the oven :), so I knew the brownies would be, too.  And were they ever!  Yum!  These things are soooo good!  Very addicting!  They don't look done in the middle when you take them out of the oven - they're still quite jiggly - but they set up as they cool.  They are very fudgy and soft, which we all loved, but I can see how it wouldn't be ideal for some people.  But like I said, we thought they were pretty amazing.  :)

Grain-Free Fudgy Brownies

1 cup almond butter
1/2 cup canned coconut milk
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/3 cup cocoa powder (I used half cocoa powder and half carob powder)
1/4 cup sucanat (optional... I added about 1/8 cup)
1/3 cup chocolate chips (use the highest % cocoa you can find)
1/3 cup chopped nuts (I left these off)

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease an 8 x 8 baking dish.

In a bowl whisk together the almond butter, coconut milk, eggs, vanilla extract and salt. Then add the cocoa powder, sugar, and chocolate chips.

Pour into the prepared baking dish and top with chopped nuts.

Bake for approximately 18 minutes.  The brownies will still be jiggly in the center, but they will set up as they cool down.  Wait until they have cooled completely before serving.  Store in the refrigerator.

This post is linked to:
Simple Lives Thursday at GNOWFGLINS
Pennywise Platter Thursday at The Nourishing Gourmet
Foodies Follow Fridays at Hella Delicious
Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade

Monday, March 21, 2011

Homemade BBQ Sauce

A few weeks ago, I made a beef brisket in the crockpot.  I just threw it in the stoneware with some worschestershire sauce, minced garlic, diced onion, salt, pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil.  Then I let it cook on low all day - like 13 hours.  We had it for dinner that night with some veggies and applesauce.  Very simple and so delicious! 

The brisket I used was quite large, so I shredded it all up and made some homemade barbeque sauce from Heavenly Homemakers.  I poured the sauce onto the meat and through it in the fridge for dinner later in the week.  A couple of days later, I got the shredded BBQ brisket out, warmed it on the stovetop, and served it over a bed of spaghetti squash.  Yum, was it awesome!  The BBQ sauce is seriously delicious and SO EASY!  I made it with the ingredients listed below and it was perfect.  I had thought it a little odd to not have a vinegar in there, so I had been prepared to add some... but it didn't need it at all. 

Sorry, no pictures of anything.  Use your imagination.  :)

Homemade BBQ Sauce

3/4 cup ketchup (preferably homemade or organic, definitely one without HFCS!)
2 Tablespoons onion powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
1 Tablespoon molasses, honey or sucanat (I used honey)

Mix ingredients in a small sauce pan. Simmer for a few minutes until flavors are blended.

This sauce was amazing on our shredded beef brisket.  It'd also be delicious as a dip for homemade chicken nuggets.  I can't wait to try this on some grilled BBQ chicken this spring and summer!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The World According To Monsanto

If you're interested in learning more about GMOs, but don't have time to read the book I mentioned in my GMO post, I'd recommend watching the movie "The World According to Monsanto" on YouTube.  Pretty much everything in the movie is in the book and you get enough in the movie to get a good understanding.  Check it out!  If you do a search on the title on YouTube, you can either select the full length movie (as linked above), or you can watch it broken up into parts... which is great if you only want to spend 10 minutes or so a day watching it. 

Homemade Taco Seasoning

Have you ever read the ingredients on the back of a taco seasoning packet? The ingredients in our old favorite brand (Old El Paso) include the following: maltodextrin, salt, chili pepper, corn starch, sugar, spice, natural flavor (aka MSG), partially hydrogenated soybean oil, silicon dioxide, yeast extract, ethoxyquin. In some ways, it amazes me that food companies can get so many bad things into a 1-ounce packet of taco seasoning. It also makes me shudder.

I've been making my own taco seasoning for quite awhile now. I can't even tell you the last time I bought a packet at the store. I first started with the recipe on Heavenly Homemakers, which was really good. But it wasn't quite there yet, for our liking. So I tweaked it a bit each time and have found the following recipe to be our favorite. I've basically just increased the amounts of cumin, garlic powder, and salt. Added some oregano and a bit of sweetener. And I use smoked paprika, rather than regular. It is so good! Yum!

Making your own taco seasoning is much more economical, not to mention you actually know what is in your food. It takes less than 5 minutes to get all the ingredients out, measure them out, mix it up, and put everything away. How can you not try this? If you need a little more convincing, go read that list of ingredients at the top of this post again. ;-)

Homemade Taco Seasoning Mix

1/2 cup chili powder
1/4 cup onion powder
1/3 cup ground cumin
2 Tablespoons garlic powder
1 Tablespoon smoked paprika
3 Tablespoons sea salt
1 1/2 Tablespoons oregano
1 Tablespoon sucanat

Put all ingredients into a jar and shake it up.

I usually add around 3-4 Tablespoons of homemade taco seasoning mix, plus a little water, to 1-pound of cooked ground beef for tacos.

This post is linked to:
Monday Mania at the Healthy Home Economist
Simple Lives Thursday at GNOWFGLINS

Meal plans and the week ahead

Just a quick post today... here's the plan...

Sunday ~ church
(clean out cars; clean in garage; make coconut flour crepes; make kefir; make tuna salad; hard boil eggs; make steel cut oats; make french dressing; make taco seasoning; soak almonds)
B: fried eggs; sausage links
L: crockpot white bean and ham soup
D: meatballs stuffed with garlic-herb cheese; yellow beans; broccoli; fresh pineapple

Lunch options:
tuna stuffed avocado; pesto pea salad; sliced cheese; crispy pecans; fruit rolls; yogurt; hard boiled eggs; apples and almond butter; fresh pineapple; misc. leftovers

Monday ~ pick up blinds
(dehydrate almonds; hang blinds)
B: kefir smoothies
D: tacos with coconut flour crepes

Tuesday ~
(clean off top of refrigerator; clean out/organize cupboards in peninsula)
B: steel cut oats with maple syrup and home dried fruit
D: cheesy white chicken chili; peaches

Wednesday ~ soccer
(make strawberry almond bars)
B: steel cut oats with homemade jam
D: taco salads

Thursday ~
(clean out drawers in peninsula)
B: yogurt with granola
D: kraut bierock from freezer; veggies; applesauce

Friday ~
(make chicken stock in roaster; culture soft cheese)
B: fried eggs; sourdough english muffins from freezer with almond butter
D: butternut squash soup; pumpkin scones from freezer

Saturday ~ Anna's violin recital and birthday lunch
(make butter; freeze stock; hang soft cheese)
B: grain-free banana pancakes
L: at SIL's for niece's birthday
D: pork chops in the crockpot with apples; peas and carrots; applesauce

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Roasted Whitefish on Peas

I made this for dinner one night this past week.  I got the idea from Stacey Snacks, but I modified it a little to make it grain-free and simplified it a bit in terms of ingredients.  This was seriously one of the fastest dinners I've ever made.  And it was tasty, healthy, and versatile.  Stacey used cod in her recipe, but I used some Lake Huron whitefish that my aunt's boyfriend caught, filleted, froze, and gave to us.  You could use any kind of fish, really.  And any kind of frozen veggie would work, as well.  Use your favorite seasonings and some olive oil, roast, and voila!  A deliciously fast and simple dinner! 

Roasted Whitefish on Peas

whitefish fillets
frozen peas
garlic powder
olive oil

Pour out some frozen peas onto a baking sheet or casserole dish.  Sprinkle some olive oil and seasonings on the peas and mix up.  Lay the fish fillets over top of the peas.  Sprinkle the fish with salt and pepper and drizzle with a little olive oil. 

Roast in a 475F oven for 12-14 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish.

This post is linked to:
Monday Mania at the Healthy Home Economist
Grain-Free Tuesdays at Hella Delicious
Simple Lives Thursday at GNOWFGLINS

Friday, March 18, 2011

Broccoli-Chicken Bake

I made this for dinner one night last week. I found the recipe on Joyful Abode. This was very quick and easy to prep and it tasted great! It was a tasty grain-free dinner. All three of us really enjoyed it. It's a great meal to prep and freeze if you do OAMC or just like to plan ahead, too.

Broccoli Chicken Bake

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
3-4 cups chopped broccoli
1/2 -1 cup diced onions
4 Tablespoons butter
3 Tablespoons arrowroot powder
3 cups milk
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon chili powder

Cook the chicken. I just stuck mine in the oven at 350 and baked it for 15-20 minutes until it was done. You can boil it or grill it if you'd prefer. Once cooked, cut your chicken into bite-sized chunks.

If your broccoli is fresh/raw, you should steam it for about 5 minutes. I used broccoli that I had frozen last summer, so I just used it still frozen.

Next, melt butter in a saucepan. Add the diced onions and saute for a few minutes. Then add the arrowroot powder and stir. Next, add the milk. Bring to a soft boil, stirring. Add the cheese and stir. Stir in the seasonings. Taste it to make sure the flavors are good.

Now put the chicken and broccoli in a casserole dish. Pour the cheese sauce over top.

You can now pop this in the freezer for later, pop it in the fridge for tomorrow's dinner like I did, or pop it in the oven to cook at 350 for about 20 minutes.

This post is linked to:
Foodie's Follow Fridays at Hella Delicious
Monday Mania at the Healthy Home Economist

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Organic Gardening - Soil Testing

It's that time of year - the snow has almost entirely melted; the ground is thawing; tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths are peeking out of the ground; and the air is warming up. Spring is finally showing us that it's here... or at least not far off! It's also the time of year to be thinking about your vegetable and/or fruit garden.  Hopefully you've already ordered your seeds and have sketched out your garden plans.  You also need to be thinking about the nutrient needs of the fruits and veggies you are going to grow.  A lot can be learned from a simple soil test. 

This is the perfect time to get your soil tested for your vegetable gardens. It generally takes about 3-4 weeks to get your results. So you'll want to get your soil samples in very soon in order to have time to address any soil deficiencies or adjust pH prior to planting.  Of course you can also amend the soil after planting, as well. I briefly mentioned the importance of soil testing in a past post on gardening basics, but I thought I'd provide a little more information on the topic.  

Why have a soil test?
The basis for nutrient-dense, healthy vegetables and fruits is a good, fertile, nutrient-dense soil. If you're lacking nutrients and minerals in your soil, you're lacking them in your food. Contrary to what many people believe, vegetables and fruits are not created equal. You need to have your soil tested so that you are aware of any problems or deficiencies in your soil.

What is a soil test?
A soil test will tell you what your pH is, as well as the levels for nitrogen, phosphorus, calcium, lime, and magnesium. You can also pay extra for mineral testing, which I would recommend. Your test results should also provide recommendations for addressing any deficiencies. Test results can be difficult to interpret.  MSU has some great information explaining how to interpret your results

How often do I need to test my soil?
It is recommended to have your soil tested at least every 3 years. However, if you test your soil now and find out you are lacking many nutrients and minerals, I'd suggest having a test done in the fall or again next spring to see if you were successful in amending the soil.

Who does the testing?
Your university extension office is probably your best bet. For Michigan, contact the MSUE office for your county. For Genesee County, you need to pick up a soil test box from the MSUE office, take your samples, and mail it in to the MSU Crop & Soil Sciences Testing Lab. You can see the fee schedule here.

How do I take a soil sample?
There should be instructions included in your test box, but here are the instructions that I was provided by MSUE - its really a very simple process:

1. Decide whether you want to test soil for the lawn, trees and shrubs, flower garden, or vegetable. If growing more than one item (vegetable and flower) together, use the plant code of what you are planting the most of. Soil sample information form will be included with soil box. Use a spade or trowel and a clean plastic pail to obtain the sample.

2. Collect 10-15 representative soil samples from one type of landscape area – such as your lawn, flower garden, around trees or shrubs, or vegetable garden. Dig to the depth of the plant roots (3” deep for lawn; 6” deep or more for flowers, vegetables; and 8” deep for trees).

3. Mix the samples together in a plastic pail (do not use a metal pail).

4. If the soil is wet, it will be necessary to air dry the soil. Do not use artificial heat (radiators, ovens, etc.) to force-dry the sample and do not mail wet or damp soil.

5. Place 2-3 cups of the well-mixed soil into the soil box.

6. Mail in your sample to the address included in your test box.

This post is linked to Real Food Wednesday on Kelly the Kitchen Kop, Simple Lives Thursday at GNOWFGLINS and Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Balsamic Honey Mustard Salad Dressing

I've made this recipe a couple of times now. It comes from one of my Organic Gardening magazines. I think it's really good on any type of salad. Its super easy to make, too. It literally takes about two minutes. This only makes about 1/2 cup of dressing, but it is so flavorful, it goes a long way.  Sorry, no picture.  I'll update if I ever think to take one.  :)

Balsamic Honey Mustard Salad Dressing

2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 Tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup olive oil

Whisk all ingredients, except oil in a small bowl. Slowly add the oil as you continue whisking. Keep refrigerated.

Makes about 1/2 cup.

This post is linked to Real Food Wednesday on Kelly the Kitchen Kop and Simple Lives Thursday at GNOWFGLINS.

Soaked Raisin Pecan Oat Bread

I made this last month, but am just getting around to posting it. I'm still terribly behind on posting. I'll get there someday, I figure. So anyway, we went to my SIL's house for dinner one night last month. She asked me to bring some kind of bread. I had recently come across a recipe for Cranberry-Pecan Bread on The Nourishing Home and thought I'd make it to take. The original recipe calls for cranberries, but I didn't have any on hand, so I substituted with raisins.  I really liked it with raisins.  Maybe someday I'll try the original recipe with the cranberries, but I rarely buy them, so I'll more likely always use raisins or other dried fruit. This was a very good bread - very moist and flavorful. And I like that it is soaked. I will definitely make this again!  The recipe below makes one loaf.  I doubled it to make a second loaf to have at home since we were taking one to Grand Rapids.

Raisin Pecan Oat Bread

Step One: Soaking
1 cup organic whole spelt flour
1/4 cup Rapadura (or Sucanat)
1/2 cup organic thick-cut rolled oats (not quick-cook)
1/2 cup organic plain whole milk kefir (or cultured buttermilk)
1/4 cup filtered water

Add above ingredients to a large mixing bowl. Add kefir (or cultured buttermilk) and water and thoroughly combine. The mixture will be a very sticky, wet dough.  Cover the bowl and place it in a warm area of your kitchen for 12-24 hours.

Step Two: Baking
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons pure organic maple syrup
1 large egg
1 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup unsweetened dried cranberries
1/4 cup chopped crispy pecans

After soaking for 12-24 hours, get ready to bake your bread.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Add melted butter to the batter and fold into the batter, just until incorporated. Then, add maple syrup, egg, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon. Thoroughly combine by folding into the batter. Then, fold in the cranberries and pecans.

Place the batter into a well-oiled loaf pan. Bake for approximately 30 minutes, until the bread is a rich brown color and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Meal plans and the week ahead

Is it really mid-march already? Looks like we'll see some nice spring weather this week - we're supposed to hit 50! I'm ready for it! Its hard to believe that we were seeing 70 degree temps already this time last year... I'm keeping my fingers crossed for this year, too! :)

We've got a fairly uneventful week ahead of us. Today we're going over to my aunt's house for our cousin Tyson's 1st birthday party. Wednesday we have soccer. Friday is my flex day and milk pickup. And that's the end of our plans this week! We're looking forward to it, honestly. :)

We'll be keeping plenty busy still, though. We ended up working some long days last week, so we didn't finish as much in Carson's new room. So some of that will push into this week... painting the dresser (it's primed, at least), buying and hanging the floating shelf, buying and hanging some blinds, and putting the final coat of paint on the doors and hanging them up. Then we just have to get a few things to hang on the walls as decoration and its done! We'll start our next project later in the week... or rather Kevin's next project... working on the tractors. We've got the Steiner (the zero-turn mower) in the garage right now to fix the rear wheel that busted off... so Kevin has a bit of welding to do. Then we'll get that out of the garage and get the Cub Cadet in there so Kevin can get the rototiller running. We're hoping to make a trip to Home Depot one night this week (or on Saturday morning) to price out some roof stuff and some bathroom stuff, as well.

So here's the plan... I haven't figured out what I'm going to tackle in the kitchen yet this week.  I'll fill it in as the week goes on.

Sunday - Tyson's birthday party
(hard-boil eggs; make kefir; make counter-top yogurt; prep spaghetti squash casserole; paint 1st coat on dresser; paint final coat on doors)
B: fried eggs; sausage
L&D: at Tyson's party

Lunch and snack options:
leftovers; apples with almond butter; sliced cheese; raisins; hard boiled eggs; raw carrots and celery with ranch; egg salad lettuce wraps; soup from the freezer

Monday -
(thaw whitefish; hang doors; paint final coat on dresser)
B: yogurt with fruit
D: spaghetti squash casserole; green beans

Tuesday -
B: kefir smoothies
D: roasted whitefish on peas; side salads

Wednesday - soccer
(make spicy carrot pickles)
B: dutch baby pancakes from freezer
D: cauliflower soup; cornbread from freezer

Thursday - Happy St. Patrick's Day!
(hang floating shelf; hang blinds?)
B: kefir smoothies
D: corned beef, potatoes, and carrots in the crockpot

Friday - flex; milk p/u
(make grain-free brownies; make butter)
B: scrambled eggs; bacon
D: homemade pizza

Saturday -
(work in garage)
B: omelets
D: tbd

Monday, March 7, 2011

GMOs - what they are and why they're bad

Over the last two weeks, I have been reading the book "Seeds of Deception: Exposing Industry and Government Lies About the Safety of the Genetically Engineered Foods You're Eating," by Jeffrey M. Smith. I just finished it this past weekend and felt compelled to blog about it.

I'd been wanting to read the book for awhile and checked it out from our WAPF local chapter library. I'm very glad I read it. I've been apprehensive about genetically modified (GM) foods for quite a few years now, but I never really understood the depth of the political corruption and cover-up behind them. Wow. I really think anyone even remotely curious about GM foods should read this book. And I wish that our political leaders would, as well. Michelle Obama is such a health advocate, emphasizing our need to know what is in our food... I wish she would read this... and maybe bend her husband's ear about some things!

The book basically covers the many significant health dangers of consuming GM foods. It highlights that GM foods are not a religious issue (as some have argued in the past), rather a food safety issue. However, the U.S. media generally does not pick up on the safety issue. The book discusses the reasons behind this. It was very disturbing to read the factual accounts of Monsanto and other large biotech corporations, in cooperation with government agencies, strong-arming their way through the media, scientific institutions, and politicians.

Not only do I want to recommend that everyone read this book (or at least check out the websites I have listed at the bottom of this post), but I wanted to also provide some information on GMOs. I know much of my own family and many of my friends are unaware of what a GMO even is, let alone the risks associated with them. So here is my attempt at providing a little education on the subject.

What is a GMO and where do I find them?

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are made by blasting certain genes from one species (bacteria, viruses, insects, animals or even humans) into the DNA of a food crop or animal to introduce a new trait. Genetic engineering (GE) creates unpredictable changes in foods. The composition of a GM food may be quite different from its natural counterpart.

The major GM crops in the U.S. are cotton, soy, canola, corn, and sugar beets. According to the Institute for Responsible Technology, approximately 91% of the soy, 88% of the cotton, 88% of the canola, 85% of the corn, 90% of the sugar beets, and 50% of the Hawaiian papaya in the U.S. markets are genetically modified. Others include a small amount of zucchini and summer squash, and some tobacco. There are others, as well, but these seem to be the biggest offenders. The two main traits that have been blasted into these GM foods are herbicide tolerance and the ability of the plant to produce its own pesticide. These traits do not increase nutrition of the foods, whatsoever.

Nearly all processed foods contain one or more of the typical GM ingredients, in one derivative or another - soy flour, soy protein, soy lecithin, textured vegetable protein, corn meal, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, maltodextrin, fructose, citric acid, lactic acid, corn oil, soy/soybean oil, etc.

Common items that probably contain GMOs include: infant formula, salad dressing, bread, cereal, hamburgers, hot dogs, margarine, mayonnaise, crackers, cookies, chocolate, candy, fried foods, chips, veggie burgers, meat substitutes, ice cream, frozen yogurt, tofu, soy sauce, tamari, soy cheese, tomato sauce, protein powder, baking powder, alcohol, vanilla, powdered sugar, peanut butter, enriched flour, pasta, cosmetics, soaps, detergents, shampoos, bubble baths.

So what's the big deal?

"GM foods have been linked to toxic and allergic reactions, sick, sterile, and dead livestock, and damage to virtually every organ studied in lab animals. The effects on humans of consuming these new combinations of proteins produced in GMOs are unknown and have not been studied.

Crops such as Bt cotton produce pesticides inside the plant. This kills or deters insects, saving the farmer from having to spray pesticides. The plants themselves are toxic, and not just to insects. Farmers in India, who let their sheep graze on Bt cotton plants after the harvest, saw thousands of sheep die!

Genetic engineers continually encounter unintended side effects – GM plants create toxins, react to weather differently, contain too much or too little nutrients, become diseased or malfunction and die. When foreign genes are inserted, dormant genes may be activated or the functioning of genes altered, creating new or unknown proteins, or increasing or decreasing the output of existing proteins inside the plant. The effects of consuming these new combinations of proteins are unknown." (Source: Institute for Responsible Technology)

Something else I found disturbing - Antibiotic Resistant Markers (ARMs) are attached to the foreign gene(s) during the GM process. If this makes it into the DNA, the ARM renders the cell invincible to a normally deadly dose of antibiotics. Many scientists have expressed concerns that these ARMs may transfer into our human digestive systems. The effects of this are not entirely known. Of course, the biotech companies insist that the ARMs are not transferred to the human gut. But we know we cannot trust much of what the biotech companies tell us. This raises the question (at least to me) as to whether this process may be one of the reasons we are seeing so much antibiotic resistance in humans these last few years.

Government is protecting the public, though, right?

From what I read in "Seeds of Deception," the answer is a big fat NO. This is very disheartening to me, especially considering that I work for my state government. My organization is (thankfully) filled with upstanding individuals that are really in it for the right reasons - to look out for the best interests of the public and make our state a better place. But this isn't so for all governmental agencies.

The foundation of the U.S. FDA policy on GMOs is a non-scientific, non-binding guideline. They do not perform any of their own independent tests on GMOs, rather they solely depend upon the large biotech companies to perform the tests. If the biotech companies say it's safe, the FDA agrees.

Information was obtained through FOIA to reveal that some "agency scientists did warn that GM foods might create toxins, allergies, nutritional problems, and new diseases that might be difficult to identify. Internal FDA memos reveal that the scientists urged their superiors to require long-term safety testing to catch these hard-to-detect side effects. Nothing was done that would protect consumers. In fact, in the case of genetically modified bovine growth hormone, some FDA scientists who expressed concerns were harassed, stripped of responsibilities, or fired. The remaining whistle blowers had to write an anonymous letter to Congress complaining of fraud and conflict of interest at the agency." (Source: Institute for Responsible Technology)

One might ask how government can get away with something like this, or maybe more importantly why they would even want to. You need to do a little digging and follow the money trail and you will find your answers. Everything revolves around money and profit these days, doesn't it? It makes me sick! Many government officials (mostly in the politically appointed or elected seats) have held previous positions with Monsanto, or other large biotech companies. Others accept financial contributions and then later go on to work at one of the big biotech companies after their duties have been fulfilled "serving the public."

Agribusiness seems to target both sides of the aisle, though they do tend to find more friends on the Republican side. From the information I reviewed at the Center for Responsive Politics, large agribusiness firms lobby the Republicans with almost double the dollars that go to the Democrats, although the spread was closing in recent years. 

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Monsanto spent just over $8 million lobbying in Washington in 2010. Their highest year was 2008 at nearly $9 million. The overall lobbying total (for all companies) for agricultural services for 2010 was $33.3 million. Monsanto was the #1 lobbying client at nearly a quarter of the total and trumping the American Farm Bureau (#2) by over $2.5 million.

Like I said, just follow the money trail...

So how do we know GMOs are dangerous, if government is not requiring the studies?

Various independent feeding studies (by concerned or interested scientists) in animals have resulted in potentially pre-cancerous cell growth, damaged immune systems, smaller brains, livers, and testicles, partial atrophy or increased density of the liver, odd shaped cell nuclei and other unexplained anomalies, false pregnancies and higher death rates.

"Thousands of sheep, buffalo, and goats in India died after grazing on Bt cotton plants. Mice eating GM corn for the long term had fewer, and smaller, babies. More than half the babies of mother rats fed GM soy died within three weeks, and were smaller. Testicle cells of mice and rats on a GM soy change significantly. By the third generation, most GM soy-fed hamsters lost the ability to have babies. Rodents fed GM corn and soy showed immune system responses and signs of toxicity. Cooked GM soy contains as much as 7-times the amount of a known soy allergen. Soy allergies skyrocketed by 50% in the UK, soon after GM soy was introduced. The stomach lining of rats fed GM potatoes showed excessive cell growth, a condition that may lead to cancer. Studies showed organ lesions, altered liver and pancreas cells, changed enzyme levels, etc.

Unlike safety evaluations for drugs, there are no human clinical trials of GM foods. The only published human feeding experiment revealed that the genetic material inserted into GM soy transfers into bacteria living inside our intestines and continues to function. This means that long after we stop eating GM foods, we may still have their GM proteins produced continuously inside us." (Source: Institute for Responsible Technology)

OK, so how do I avoid GMOs?

Buy 100% organic. The easiest way to do avoid GMOs is to always buy certified 100% organic products, which, by law, cannot contain GMOs. You can also look for the Non-GMO Project seal on the packaging.

Avoid processed foods. Nearly all processed foods contain one or more of the typical GM ingredients, in one derivative or another.

Be wary of vegetable oil and margarine. Most vegetable oils and margarines on the shelves in grocery stores and used in restaurants and in processed foods are made from soy, corn, canola, or cottonseed. Unless the label on the bottle of oil specifically says "Non-GMO" or "Organic," chances are it is genetically modified. Some good alternatives that do not typically include GMOs are: olive oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, almond oil, coconut oil, and pure butter.

Be wary of your vitamins. Vitamin C is often made from corn. Vitamin E is often made from soy. Vitamins A, B2, B6, and B12 may also be derived from GMOs.

Where can I get more information?

Check out:
Non-GMO Shopping Guide 
Institute for Responsible Technology
Non-GMO Project
Center for Food Safety

This post is part of Monday Mania at The Healthy Home Economist, Real Food Wednesday at Kelly the Kitchen Kop, and Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Marbled Brownies

We visited some friends for dinner last night.  I was responsible for dessert.  I debated about what to bring, from fancy, complicated desserts to very simple, yet tasty.  I decided to go for the latter since I knew we'd end up being a little pressed for time yesterday.  I decided to just make some marbled brownies.  I used the chocolate chip brownie recipe from Heavenly Homemakers as my base and then just added some cream cheese batter to swirl through.  I haven't made marbled brownies in a long time, but I used to make them quite regularly, so I just went off memory for the cream cheese mixture... and I used my own homemade soft cheese in place of the store-bought cream cheese brick.  I did modify Laura's recipe slightly by adding in about 1/2 cup of milk and an extra egg since the mixture just seemed too thick for brownies (I like fudgy brownies :).  I also doubled the recipe for a larger pan.  I've posted the recipe adjusted for the larger pan and with the extra egg and milk below. 

I think they turned out pretty well and they seemed to go over quite well with everyone.  My parents had one today and even they liked them (they normally aren't too crazy about made-from-scratch goodies that use whole wheat flour).  They were quite thick and dense, not necessarily fudgy, but definitely not dry like I feel like they would have been without the extra egg and milk.

These were also super easy to throw together.  They were just as easy as throwing together a boxed brownie mix... only these are much better for you, made with good, quality ingredients.  And I almost always have all the ingredients on hand.  I'll definitely make these again sometime. 

Marbled Brownies

Chocolate brownie mixture:
2 sticks butter, melted
2 cups rapadura/sucanat
1/2 cup cocoa powder
3 eggs
1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup chocolate chips

Cream cheese mixture:
1 cup/8 oz cream cheese, softened (either use a brick from the store, or homemade)
1 egg
1/4 cup sucanat/rapadura
1 teaspoon vanilla

In a large bowl, stir together butter, rapadura/sucanat, and cocoa. Mix in eggs, milk, and vanilla. Stir in flour and mix until combined. Fold in chocolate chips. Set aside.

In a medium-sized bowl, mix together softened cream cheese, egg, sucanat/rapadura, and vanilla.  Stir until combined.  Set aside. 

Grease a 9x13 baking pan with coconut oil.  Spread about 3/4 of the chocolate mixture on the bottom of the pan.  Spoon the cream cheese mixture on top of the chocolate batter in dollups.  Then spoon the remaining chocolate batter in dollups between the cream cheese dollups.  Cut through the mixtures with a knife to create the marble design. 

Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

This post is linked to Monday Mania at The Healthy Home Economist and Real Food Wednesday at Kelly the Kitchen Kop.

Cheese Crisps (Grain-Free Cheese Crackers)

I've actually had these several times in the past, but I've just never made them myself.  My aunt made them for a few different family parties during her different low-carb diet phases.  They were always very tasty!  I always thought that I should make some of my own at some point, but just never have gotten around to it.  Then I saw the recipe posted on Joyful Abode and figured I'd make some this afternoon.  I used some local, organic co-jack cheese for these.  I want to make some with parmesan soon (which my aunt has made and they are sooo good!), but figured I'd just make one kind today.  I made some plain, some I sprinkled with garlic powder, some I sprinkled with a tomato-basil spice mix, and some I sprinkled with my homemade ranch dressing mix.  All of them are great! 

These will be nice to have on hand for snacks and lunches.  All three of us really like these a lot, too.  And they're a great way to cut some grains out of your diet. 

Cheese Crisps

your favorite block of cheese OR your favorite shredded cheese
seasonings of your choice (optional)
parchment paper

Preheat your oven to 350.  Put some parchment paper on a cookie sheet.

I used a block of cheese, but you can use shredded cheese if that's what you have, or what you prefer.  If you’re using shredded cheese, toss it together in a bowl with any seasonings you feel like using.  You can try lots of different seasoning options.  Just don't use salt... cheese is already salty enough on its own. Once you have the shredded cheese and seasoings mixed, place about a teaspoonful of cheese in little mounds all over the parchment-lined cookie sheet, spaced out because they will spread.

If you’re using a block of cheese, slice it thinly and cut it into little squares. About an inch square is good. Again, they will spread out, so place these on the parchment-lined cookie sheet with some space between them.

Bake for 5-7 minutes. Then take a peek. The cheese will be all bubbly. 

If the edges are starting to crisp up or brown a little, take them out.  If you’re not sure, leave it in for another minute or two.  I had to leave mine in for about 10 minutes.  If you take them out too soon, you won't get crisps... you'll just have rubbery melted cheese. 

When you remove them from the oven, you’ll need to let them cool. I just pulled the parchment off the cookie sheet and placed it on my cool, granite counters.  If you don't have cool to the touch counters, then place the crisps on a cool plate.  After a few minutes, they’ll be crisp.

Meal plans and the week ahead

So what's going on this week... Today we're headed to church... possibly to Faith Lutheran instead of Resurrection Reformed, but we haven't entirely decided yet. Tuesday afternoon I'll be going to my WAPF chapter meeting. I'm meeting up with some friends for dinner on Tuesday night. Wednesday is soccer. Saturday we are headed up to Bay City for our cousin Mackenzey's 2nd birthday. We're looking forward to seeing Jorie's and Greg's new house, hanging out with family, and celebrating Mackenzey's birthday.

I still haven't sat down to do our taxes yet. I will get them done today. I can't put it off any longer. Hopefully we don't end up owing the IRS again this year. :-/ We also really need to go pick up the dresser for Carson's new bedroom... hopefully we'll actually do that today.  Then maybe I can get a coat of primer and a first coat of paint on it today, as well... but that might be wishful thinking. I haven't figured out everything that I'll try to accomplish in the kitchen yet, but I have some ideas included in the plan below.

We've been slacking on our lunches lately, so I am really going to focus on making sure we're all taking healthy, nourishing lunches every day this week. I've listed some lunch options for the week below.  I'm planning to take a small salad every day this week.  I normally avoid salad at lunch time, but I'm going to give it a try this week and see how I do.  Eventually, I'd like to always just take a big ol' salad for lunch every day, but I'll start with small salads and some different side items.  I figure I need to try some different things to try to make some bigger progress on losing some poundage. 

Carson's room is really coming together. He has slept in there since Thursday night last week. We still have to finish up some things up in there... painting the dresser, figuring out a closet organizer (the kits are all too big, so we have to build a custom one), getting a floating shelf for the long wall, getting a lamp, and getting things to hang on the walls.

So here's the plan...

Sunday - church
(pick up dresser; prime dresser; make kefir; do taxes; make butter; paint 1st coat on dresser?; thaw ground beef; sprout lentils; make cheese crisps; slice cheese and veggies for lunches/snacks)
B: sausage links; fried eggs; pancakes for the boys
L: tuna with crackers; raw veggies; kefir smoothies
D: brisket in the crockpot; veggies; applesauce

Lunch and snack options for week:
leftovers from dinner; salads; apples with almond butter; cheese crisps; raw carrots/cukes/peppers with ranch dressing; sliced raw cheese; yogurt with home-dried fruit; chewy granola bars; buttered pasta noodles with parmesan (for Carson one day); muffins from freezer

Monday -
(paint dresser)
B: yogurt with fruit
D: bunless burgers made with beef and sprouted lentils; onions sauteed in burger fat; sliced avocado; steamed broccoli and cauliflower

Tuesday - WAPF; dinner with friends
(move dresser to bedroom?)
B: kefir smoothies
D: S - Don Pablos; K&C - leftovers

Wednesday - soccer
(prep Thursday's dinner)
B: pumpkin scones from freezer
D: almond-pecan crusted red snapper; green beans and asparagus from freezer; peaches leftover brisket with homemade BBQ sauce over spaghetti squash; yellow beans; peas; applesauce

Thursday -
(organize dresser)
B: kefir smoothies
D: chicken broccoli cheese bake; peaches

Friday -
(make granola?; paint dresser; hang floating shelf)
B: toasted sourdough english muffins from freezer with homemade almond butter
D: chicken stir-fry with veggies from the freezer (red bell pepper, corn, pea pods, edamame, onions); applesauce

Saturday - Mackenzey's birthday party
(paint dresser; make kefir; make buttermilk and sour cream?)
B: pancakes for the boys; bacon; fried eggs; veggies
L: cauliflower soup leftovers
D: at Mackenzey's party

Friday, March 4, 2011

Hamburger Corn and Pea Bake

I made a casserole recipe from my SIL Mary's blog for dinner one night a couple of weeks ago. I had thawed some ground beef for something else, but then realized I was missing a key ingredient that I thought I had on hand, so I needed something else to make for dinner. I had some store-bought egg noodles that I needed to use up and some crusty bread that I had used to make up a batch of sausage stuffing to freeze for an easy side dish later on. I browsed through some recipes I had bookmarked a while back and came across Mary's recipe for  Hamburger Corn Bake.  I knew it wasn't very healthy, but then decided to modify it to use healthy ingredients.  I have posted the recipe as I made it below - you can click the link for the original version of the recipe on Mary's blog. I did keep the cream soup because I make my own homemade and can it. If I didn't have this on hand, I'd have just mixed up some milk and arrowroot powder with some seasonings to replace it with. I also have never ever bought cheddar cheese soup, as called for in the original recipe... I didn't even realize they made it. So I just added some shredded cheddar cheese and some milk. My mixture was pretty thick, or I'd have also added some arrowroot powder, but I didn't think it was necessary.

This turned out really well. We all really liked it a lot. I wasn't so sure I'd care for it, but I knew Kevin and Carson would. I ended up liking it quite a bit, though. Its not something I'd make a lot, but its a good winter comfort food. And its much healthier for you this way than using the MSG and preservative loaded canned soups from the grocery store.  I used up the small amount of store-bought egg noodles I had and added some of my homemade soaked whole wheat noodles, as well.  The homemade noodles were awesome in this! 

Hamburger Corn and Pea Bake

1 pound ground beef, grass-fed/finished is best
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 cups frozen corn
1 cup frozen peas
1 pint cream of mushroom soup, homemade if you have it (or 1 1/2 cups milk + 2-3 T arrowroot powder + your fav. seasonings)
1/2 - 3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 - 3/4 cup milk
1 1/2 cups egg noodles, homemade is best
1/2 cup torn up bread or crusty bread
1 Tablespoon butter, melted
Salt and pepper to taste

Bring a pot of water to a boil, salt it, and cook the noodles. I used some remaining store-bought egg noodles that I needed to use up, plus some homemade soaked whole wheat noodles.

Meanwhile, cook the meat with onion until done. Stir in corn, peas, soup, cheese, and milk. I use homemade cream of mushroom soup. If you don't have homemade, you could use organic if you'd like, or else just add some extra milk, arrowroot powder, and your favorite seasonings. Mix well. Stir in noodles.

Put in 2 qt. casserole dish. Mix bread and butter. Sprinkle on top. (I forgot the bread was supposed to go on top and I stirred it up in the mixture. Oops. I used crusty bread (like you'd use for stuffing) and it turned out really tasty.)

Bake at 350 for 45 min. - 1 hr., until hot and bubbly. Let sit for about 5 minutes before serving.

This is posted as part of Food Renegade's Fight Back Friday.