Monday, October 31, 2011

The Grinch That Stole Halloween

It should not be shocking that I dislike Halloween. Okay, it is not so much Halloween that I dislike, it is the candy, because the costumes and the fall theme are pretty fun! So I,, never told my kids about trick or treating. Plus I have never taken them. They know about it now. But they didn't hear it from me. And while they have costumes, I don't plan on taking them trick or treating again this year. And furthermore, I don't feel the slightest guilty about it. Let me try to explain why.

Remember back when you were a kid? Halloween was an exciting time when you got to choose your costume, my mom (and later I) made my costume and then you got to show it off while getting candy from the neighbors? I remember the houses that gave out Snickers, Bottle Caps and caramels (good candy) and the houses that gave out peanut squares, Charleston Chews and bubble gum (lousy candy). And most of all I remember the houses that gave out HANDFULS of candy as opposed to one or two pieces. Those houses rocked. After the evening's haul had been acquired, we would go back home and sort through everything (make sure there were no acid squares or anything that could have had a razor blade in it), eat our most favorite pieces and pass out from all the excitement

Every year I could pour my modest haul between my two legs and count the pieces. My candy was all eaten up in a couple of weeks. I never remember having any leftover at Thanksgiving. Also, I don't think my mother ever took candy away from me in the hopes that I would eat less of it. My mother never worried about that.

Today, things seem so different. First off, I have bought every Halloween costume that my kids have ever had. I never even tried making something. But this year Thing 1 wanted to dress up as Super Why, the leader of the Super Readers on the eponymous show. I was pretty sure that no one makes a Super Why costume. So we went out and bought green tee-shirts, felt, glitter paint and fabric glue and now we have...ta-da!

I am so proud of this! Even though now I know that I spent more on supplies than the costume would have cost, it doesn't matter. Thing 1 loves this. Thing 2 has no idea what is going on, but he loves it too. I do think that part of the fun of Halloween this year has been the homemade costume. I would like to think that I will do this every year until they get old enough to get bored of it. Again, I promise to be inconsistent at best.

But also, I feel like Halloween has turned into a no-rules opportunity for kids to gorge on candy. Perhaps too great a societal focus on healthy eating has created a super demand for unhealthy foods? Even though we don't actually eat all that healthfully as a society, because we know it and obsess over it we create great guilt over our eating habits. Then Halloween rolls around and kids stuff their faces with candy like they will never have it again. This is classic deprivation behavior. What is so crazy is that most people and kids are not junk food or candy deprived. I wish I had more time to study eating behavior and culture.

Remember what I said about those houses that gave out HANDFULS of candy? Well now it seems like everyone is doing it. Our wonderful daycare took Thing 2 trick or treating last Friday around at some local businesses. He came home with easily 2 pounds of candy. He is 2!!! Now I don't fault the daycare. I truly love them. They didn't let him EAT the candy and trick or treating was a very fun activity for the kids. I am glad that Thing 2 went and had such a great time. But can you imagine seeing a dressed up 2 year old and giving him a massive handful of candy? I mean, they don't even care about the candy. The fun for them is the interaction. This is what he came home with.

The quantity is disturbing to me. What ever happened to giving out one or two pieces to each kid? Why am I looked upon as such a stingy Grinch for not letting my kids gorge on candy? Am I depriving them of a rite of passage? Or am I depriving them of a stomach ache? Though perhaps I am not the only adult with a bit of good sense. If you look closely in the pile, you will see two or three small toys and two toothbrushes. Nice.

For the record, I do let my kids have candy. And not just on Halloween. They eat some candy probably every week, though that is usually because DH has something in his pocket when he gets home from work. That is fine, but I don't see the sense in going overboard. I don't restrict my kids food intake. If you are hungry and want thirds, go for it. We eat fat. We eat lots of fat, butter on toast, full fat dairy products, nuts and even coconut oil on our oatmeal! But I do restrict junk food, candy particularly. Does that make me a Grinch? I think it makes me sensible. And it is sad to me to think that such behavior is 'old-fashioned'.

Furthermore, why should I take my kids trick or treating on Halloween? They both went trick or treating at their schools, they'll get treats and parties on top of that, we plan on going to a Halloween party where there will definitely be treats, and every family member and friend that stops by comes with something sweet for the kids. The world has given my kids enough candy. Why the hell do I need to drag them from apartment to apartment in my building and ask for even more handouts from semi-strangers. Isn't the fun of Halloween in dressing up, seeing friends and having a party on a week night? The candy seems like such a sad supporting act.

And lastly, I admit. I am that mom. I will totally throw out all remaining candy that has not been consumed within a week or two. I have done it every year without fail. The kids have never noticed or cared. What a waste. Next time, just give my kid one piece. Any more is like throwing money in the garbage.

Bah Humbug.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A TRUE Junk Food Conversation With Thing 1

The hours between drop off and pick up are a bit of a mysteryto me. Thing 1 doesn't always tell me what he does, what he is learning about or who his friends are. I hear from the teachers of course, but Thing 1 doesn't let me in on everything. Then randomly he will dump alot of information out at once. Over dinner last week, Thing 1 had the following to say to me:

Me: {Thing 1}, what did you have for lunch today?

T1: Nothing.

Me: You didn't have very much of the lunch that I packed. Did you eat the school lunch?

T1: No I didn't.

Me: You know it's okay. You can tell me if you eat the school's food. It's okay.

T1: No I didn't. Maybe a little. They had chips.

Me: Okay. You had chips for lunch? You weren't hungry for anything else? You ate a big breakfast. Were you not hungry today? Do you usually get hungry before lunch?

T1: (Looking off in space, not really paying attention) Yes! Very Very Hungry!!

Me: {Thing 1} Do you have a morning snack at school? (BTW-I know they do).

T1: Yes, we do.

Me: What did you have for your snack today?

T1: Your apple.

Me: That's good. What do the other kids bring for snack? (sorry--I couldn't resist)

T1: (Without hesitation) They bring junk food.

Me: They do? {Thing 1} what do they bring?

T1: Like...fruit snacks and......marshmallows. Hahahahaha! That was {So an So..}

Me: {Thing 1}, do you like your apple?

T1: Yes.

What do you think of this interaction? Questions? Concerns?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A 100% Pure Giveaway???

I am thrilled to say that last week when my post Have You Heard About 100% Pure? ran, the wonderful folks at Alex and Von offered to giveaway a $25 100% Pure gift card for one of my readers!!! I thought that was fantastic!

So now is your chance to sample the 100% Pure line of synthetic-, paraben-, fragrance and toxin-free all natural cosmetics. You could choose the cocoa tinted bronzer, the fruit pigmented lip glazes or the various skin washes or scrubs. 100% Pure is missing all the yuckies and synthetic what-nots that you will find in conventional cosmetics. Yet they cover well and perform as well as a department store brand.

To enter the giveaway, just leave a comment down below telling me what product you would buy with the $25. I will accept comments through Friday at midnight. Then I will use to choose a winner, whom I will announce Monday.

Good Luck Everybody!! And thank you so much to Alex and Von for sponsoring this giveaway!!

This post is shared with Traditional Tuesdays and Fat Tuesdays and Real Food Wednesdays

Monday, October 24, 2011

Recipe: Sausage and Kale Pasta in Creamy Tomato Sauce

This is hands down my favorite new dish. I use pasta to bridge the gap in weeknight meals. Before school started we only did pasta once or twice a month and I viewed it as a cop out meal. But with the new intense school schedule I am changing my tune. Plus my kids usually eat it, which lessens the tantrum duties.

I figure a good way to make pasta more of a meal that sticks to your ribs and not your belly is to load it up with sauce. My sauce to pasta ratio is pretty high. I like it soupy. Then I make sure that the sauce is filled with lots of different veggies and pastured meats! The following combination has been helping me to sneak more green leafies into my kids bellies. After serving this dish 5-6 times in the last few months I am happy to say that they no longer fuss over seeing the greens in the sauce

Sausage and Kale Pasta in Creamy Tomato Sauce
1/2 pound of pork sausage (but really any old thing will do, leftover cooked sausage, ground beef or turkey, even leftover meatloaf)
1 cup of kale chiffonade
2 cups prepared marinara sauce
1/4 cup heavy cream
8 ounces of dried pasta (I am not going to be hypocritical enough to encourage you to eat whole wheat pasta, I have currently fallen off the whole wheat pasta wagon....trying to get back on. It's hard

In a large skillet, sautee your sausage until well browned. I do not drain the fat. I think it adds something to the final dish. Add the kale to the pan and wilt. Next add the prepared marinara. I usually keep a meat free version of this sauce on hand in my freezer. That is what makes this a weeknight meal. When the kale is cooked and the sauce is all unctious and delicious looking, stir in the cream. My kids don't like when the sauce is super pink, so I have to restrain myself to about a quarter of a cup. You can add more if you want, because Good God it is worth it.

Finally cook your pasta in boiling salted water for about 9-10 minutes. Drain. Then let the cooked pasta simmer in the sauce for another 2-3 minutes. Serve and top with grated parmesean and a big salad (if you are more effecient than me).


On a side note, DO NOT substitute the cream for anything. ANYTHING!! Half and Half will not work in a pinch. The tomatoes are too acidic and will curdle any dairy product without enough fat content. Cream is the only thing that can stand up to tomatoes. Otherwise it will just look like you added ricotta cheese to the sauce. Though that might be good in a pinch now that I mention it....

I hope you will try this. I definitely don't feel 'bad blood sugar' vibes after having this dish. The veggies, meat and fat certainly stand up to the pasta. I always feel full and happy after eating this. You could also easily add in other veggies! Great additions might be fennel, eggplant (I have done that with success!), summer squash, etc. I am sure you could come up with a ton.


This post is shared with Traditional Tuesdays and Fat Tuesdays, Real Food Wednesdays

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Have You Heard About 100% Pure?

Around this time last year I stopped using facial creams due to concerns over all the chemicals I was spreading on my skin. I switched to using only pure argan oil on my face, and other oils like apricot kernel or almond oils in lieu of body lotion. The result has been wonderful. I have virtually no dryness. I knew that I needed to switch to a more natural brand of makeup, but I was nervous. My mother was a lifelong militant Clinique user and I admit I have used almost nothing else.

I was turned onto the brand 100% Pure after reading the amazing blog Chic and Green. Karley Zigler Mott reviewed some 100% Pure products that had nothing but natural ingredients. The bronzer is tinted with cocoa power! Upon trying the 100% Pure products for myself I was really impressed at how well they covered, how smooth they felt, etc. The quality of the products is like an expensive boutique brand but without all the icky chemicals.

Since I had never heard of a company offering such pure cosmetics (that actually worked) I figured you might not know either. I asked Karley, since she also sells 100% Pure directly to consumers, to give us some more information about the company and the products. You can find Karley's product offering at Thanks Karley!!

As a former aesthetician, makeup artist, and woman who developed my own successful natural skin care line, I can tell you that I am extremely choosy about ingredients and product quality and safety. In 2009, I closed my business to spend more time with my children and to nurture my writing ventures.

I was no longer making products and needed to switch to products that I approved of in terms of ingredients and effectiveness. I was first introduced to 100% Pure when I heard a fried talking about the line a few years back and I decided to buy a lip gloss. I loved it. I also was receiving products to review for my blog and 100% Pure was one of those brands. After trying their skin care, I was so impressed that I started trying more items. I was hooked.

100% Pure was founded by Susie Wang in 2004. Susie grew up in Japan with her Geisha grandmother and she learned all about herbs, tea, sake, flowers, and more as an avid gardener since the age of 5. She went to college at UC Berkeley and actually discovered a way to use all-natural ingredients to stabilize Vitamin C so it didn't turn brown from oxidation. She actually patented this technology. After this, major cosmetics companies from around the globe sought Susie out for her knowledge and expertise.

She became a product developer and formulator, making the "next big things" in the beauty industry. After accidentally spilling a vial of a chemical that was supposed to go into an eye cream she was making, she noticed that the lab table eroded from the harmful chemical. She was upset about this and began to research ingredients and how they could impact health. She also was upset by the fact that even though companies claimed not to test on animals, many of the ingredients used had actually already been tested on animals.

Susie walked away from millions of dollars in job opportunities to create her own line of beauty products made without any artificial ingredients, chemical preservatives, or harmful toxins. 100% Pure was born and is made with natural, plant-based and food ingredients.

Most everything is gluten-free and Vegan, which the exception of the products made with honey.

As a consumer, I was immediately impressed with not just the products I was using, but also the woman behind the line. I am a true 100% Pure fan, use the line, love the line, and now sell the line. I've been blogging for a living for a few years now and never thought I'd get into selling anything other than my own creations. When alex + von came along with an opportunity for me to sell my favorite brand (they also offer Suki and WeeDecor), continue to work from home, and share something I'm truly passionate about, I couldn't resist.

I love 100% Pure and sharing the line with everyone I talk to who has an interest in skin care and cosmetics. I love my customers and always want them to know I am here to help with anything at all. If your readers would like to, I do offer a complimentary skin care analysis to help them choose their ideal skin care regimen. It takes no more than 5 minutes to fill out and their product recommendations are emailed to them with my notes attached.

Some of my most favorite 100% Pure products-

Brightening Cleanser -- I love this because it really gives new life to tired skin. With natural lemon and kojic acid, it refreshes and enlivens dull skin.

Organic Coffee Bean Caffeine Eye Cream -- This smells wonderful, with natural vanilla and cocoa absolutes. It helps with dark circles, fine lines and puffiness and is my favorite eye cream in any price range.
Fruit Pigmented Tinted Moisturizer -- Using fruit pigments, such as white peach, instead of harmful dyes to color the product, this tinted moisturizer evens out my skin and gives it a natural glow without chemicals

Again, you can contact Karley at her website and be sure to read her wonderful blog Chic and Green. I encourage you to consider ditching your old standard cosmetics in favor of some that are held to a higher standard of purity.

This Post is shared with Simple Lives Thursdays and Fresh Bites Friday

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Lush, The Prude and The Kids

When I first heard the song 'Last Friday Night' by Katie Perry I was a little confused, overwhelmed, disgusted and angry. Perry's homage to binge drinking is troubling because her demographic is heavy with those who cannot legally drink (or legally drive, or legally be unattended in public places). Perhaps the song is more unnerving because it is so damned catchy. I found myself shocked that such a song would be on the radio for impressionable ears all while I was turning up the volume. The song is infuriatingly singable.

I have fond New York City memories of staying out all night and going to work with a manageable hangover. My first year out of college was a progression to adulthood. My first stop was the Tom Collins. Next was the Vodka Tonic until I was grown up enough to handle a proper Martini. I took my Martinis dirty until I now I look forward to little more than a glass of straight vodka. Winston Churchill once said that the proper way to craft a martini was to fill a glass with vodka and set the open bottle of vermouth next to it. Then recap the vermouth and enjoy your drink. Hawkeye Pierce from M.A.S.H. famously ordered his martinis so dry that he could 'shake the dust off of them'.

There is something heady about the twilight descending while standing on a tile floor in heels. The chatter of an excited crowd swirling around you all while you smell and taste your first sip of wine of the evening. That first sip is always the best one. But I rather think I have earned my memories. I learned to drink responsibly over the course of many years. My parents drank at home. They enjoyed themselves without going overboard. My college years were not filled with keg parties and trays of shots. I had a handful of overly anxious rebellious drinking bouts at 18 or 19, but they were few and far between.

Today I drink alot less than I used to, and martinis are mostly just a fond memory. But I still worry that my kids will grow up to develop troubling drinking behaviors. In fact I worry that drinking has replaced smoking as the 'cool habit' in ad campaigns and movies. Drinking can develop into an unhealthful and life strangling habit. And songs like Perry's 'Last Friday Night' or that Pink song with the ever-classy name 'You and Your Hand' only romance binge drinking and partying to a very young and impressionable fan base.

Jeez, really? When did I get so uncool? When I was 17 I was able to read Tom Robbins and Charles Buckowski without becoming a sexed up heroin addict. Why do I assume that today's kids don't share my same surprised reaction to the Perry song? I guess I don't find the song so offensive, twenty-somethings will have to learn to navigate this drinking culture. And a little wildness can be good to an otherwise serious youth (like I was). It is that I worry for the 16, 14, 12 and 8 year olds whose exposure to pop music is informing them on what the adult experience really is.

With that being said I can't say that I have been a great musical role model. Last week as I pushed both my kids down the street in their stroller, Thing 1 belts out "I am going, I am gooooooo-ing, Where streams of whiskey are flowing!" I remind you, he is 4. The Pogues may be revered as a traditional Irish band, but they are most certainly of the modern day and their songs of debauchery include the story of a young man who drinks until he chokes only to die the following morning and a man who tosses his cookies in the church collection plate. Do their bagpipes and international status allow them carte blanche to sing blithely about binge drinking? And since we are a family of some Irish decent should I find it less troubling to share this music with my children than that of some make-up faced pop tart? Sure the Pogues' music does not contain that seductive ingredient of sex, but their raw lyrics still make light of alcoholism.

So, if I write a food blog, why on earth bring this topic up? At the risk of painting myself as Tipper Gore, My children are getting bigger and they are more impressionable. I am conscious of what kind of world view I am presenting them. I don't want to be hypocritical, but I fear that this is impossible. There are so many slip ups a parent can make.

Also, I am examining my own complicated relationship with the bottle. I love drinking. Like really love drinking. It is not something I want to give up. But as I am getting older I am finding that my body is not tolerating alcohol like it once did. Drinking less produces a more negative side effect than it once did. I bring the topic up because while I have examined most of what I eat, I have not made similar decisions about what I drink. Perhaps it is time for me to become educated about what happens to one's body after a drink or two. Perhaps then I can educate my kids so that their choices are influenced by fact and not by the lyrics of a Katie Perry song.

This post is shared with Real Food Wednesdays and Healthy 2day Wednesdays, Simple Lives Thursdays and Fresh Bites Friday

Friday, October 14, 2011

How Do You Handle Treats For Your Kids?

I love a good sandwich for lunch. I especially love a sandwich with potato chips. Before I cleaned up my pantry I bought a 10 ounce bag of kettle chips about every other week. Today that seems excessive. I only buy them for special occassions now, a car trip or special picnic, a party, you know, something that feels out of the ordinary. After the inital shock to DH's system we no longer miss them. They are an awesome indulgence on occasion. Kettle Chips or Dirty Chips are the preffered brands because they fry in safflower, peanut or sunflower oil. These oils are not generally from genetically modified plants. Avoiding GMO's is our reason to avoid most fried foods. Most standard brands fry in soybean oil. Over 90% of the soybeans grown in the US are genetically modified.

The last time I bought potato chips I saw some troubling behavior from the Things. For lunch I gave them a meat, a cheese, a vegetable and some chips. It was an okay amount for a toddler, 4-5 chips. They ate the chips and clamoured for more!!

The conventional wisdom surrounding feeding young children is that they should be offered a variety of foods from a variety of food groups. When offered real foods they will choose among them and eat what they need. It is also believed that treats can be offered every now and again. Life should be enjoyed and banning foods can leading to hoarding behaviors. Furthermore many nutritionists suggest allowing a child to have as much as he or she wants of the food that is offered. If sweets and treats are offered less often, say 2-3 times per week, even a double serving of cake shouldn't be enough to wreck a good diet. I do all of these things. We limit sweets, I offer different simple meals with a variety of components, and we encourage the kids to eat until they want to stop, but that doesn't mean that the 'Feeding Sun' is always shining in our house.

There is nothing wrong with eating potato chips every now and then. I would go as far as to say that eating them even once a week will probably not make any noticible difference in your health or waistline. When I eat chips I like them along with other foods as part of a larger healthier meal. When my kids eat chips they sometimes go overboard. Or like the day in question, they refuse other food.

Upon the tantrums, that day, I told them that the chips were a treat and that they were part of a larger meal that they now needed to eat. I said that they could have more chips after they finished more of their meal. Thing 1 complied and earned more chips. Thing 2 did not and melted into a puddle on the floor.

Kids don't come with a developed standard operating system. They don't know that chips ought to be limited while salad should not. Heck some adults don't get that either. I have come to realize that treats of both the salty and sweet variety are probably best left to the end of a meal. Children younger than 5 don't always have the wherewithal to eat certain foods in moderation. You probably can't trust your toddler to eat a reasonable portion of anything that is super special and amazingly delicious like potato chips. If you don't want your kids eating too much, it is best just to not serve that treat. Or at least to do so less often and after a meal where you feel good about EVERY item that is served.

But that doesn't address the issue of portion control. I do not agree that we should offer foods and then just allow kids to just eat to their heart's content whenever given the opportunity. Sorry, I just don't buy it. This country has a massive cultural portion control problem. Suggesting that super young kids be allowed to make the call on how many pieces of cake they should eat is ludicrous. Yes, we do want them to each as much good healthy foods as they need while going through a growth spurt. And no, we do not want to encourage hoarding behaviors. BUT, I don't see anything wrong with telling your three year old 'You already had your piece of cake, if you are still hungry here are some carrots.' Your child might throw a fit. If you find the fit so unnerving or unacceptable then don't serve the cake. Or, you can choose this to be a teaching moment and allow him both the cake and the fit. Most kids will 'get it' after a while, cake is a special cherished item not a free-for-all.

I have grown to despise the term 'everything in moderation' because there are clearly foods that should not be eaten in moderation, like vegetables and fresh water. Vegetables are always a 'green light' food in my mind. Go to town. Stuff your face. Every diet I know of is in need of greens. No need to moderate there. Then again, animal protein is also a food that you need for health. (Sorry vegetarians and vegans, I really am....I am willing to listen if you are willing to school me!) But one does not need too much animal protein and again, going overboard doesn't support good health. And then there is junk food. A little won't hurt you, but you don't need it and too much can be detrimental. So this BS idea of everything in moderation doesn't really make much sense. Vegetables should not be eaten in moderation, they should be embraced. Cake and cookies should be eaten in moderation, it is okay to limit them.

Our kids NEED us to teach them which are green light foods, yellow light foods and red light foods. They need us to present a family culture in which everyone only eats one piece of cake. It will not warp your kid to tell them, 'you have had enough candy'. There are many cultures that do well in teaching their young 'how to eat', ours ain't one of 'em. As children get older they begin to adopt the behaviors that they have been repeatedly shown. Don't you want them to feel confident in heathy choices with few mixed messages? Of course there will be times when they go overboard and have too much sweet or rich food. At that point, their bodies negative reaction will only reinforce the lessons of moderation that you the parent will have already put in place.

How do you handle treats with your children?

This post is shared with Fight Back Fridays, Real Food Wednesdays and Healthy 2day Wednesdays

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Have You Been Reading 'The Pork Memoirs'?

Recently I had a simple question, 'There are many different cultures around the world that don't eat pork. But pig is perhaps the most delicious of all animals. If so many people agree that we should not eat pork and pork is damned delicious, their reasons must be pretty compelling, right?"

As a working mother, I have more good ideas than time to execute them. I have grand visions of being able to write a book about why people don't eat pork. Although those visions generally include me raising pigs and making sausage on a farm upstate while I do my research. Ironic, I know.

I came across a very compelling website today and I had to share it. It is called The Pork Memoirs and it is a weekly 'blog' (if you can call it that) where people submit stories of their personal pull and tug with all things pork. From the vegetarian who was seduced by a pork chop in Montreal to the young boy at a conservative Jewish school whose mother lied to him about his favorite salami containing the reviled animal, the website if full of well written stories of the human struggle with swine.

The reasons why people do not eat pork are myriad and complicated. Pork is a difficult food stuff to pass up, I imagine one would have to have good reason to be pork-less. Read this website. If you are interested in food, it is guaranteed to make you smile.


This post has been shared with Fight Back Fridays

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Ups and Downs of Making Homemade Hot Sauce

You know what they say, 'If at first you don't succeed, try, try again!'

When we first began cutting out processed foods early last year, I thought mostly about making our about our meals and our snacks from scratch. I never gave much thought to our condiments. Condiments were, in my mind, an INGREDIENT, not something with their own list of ingredients! Making homemade mustard and mayonaise, however, have been some of the highlights of our eating non-processed foods. My interest in making condiments stems slightly from my desire to know exactly what is in my food, my homemade versions do not contain yucky preservatives or food colorings. But really I think my interest comes from the desire for enlightenment. How does one go about making mustard? I mean, who is even talking about that?

I read The Nourished Kitchen's recipe for Fermented Hot Sauce almost a year ago. And I was fascinated by it. The ingredient list was impossibly small, peppers, salt and whey. The whey is even optional. And I do love a good hot sauce! But the post came out after pepper season was already over here last year. So I waited until this year.

I have investigated my beloved Frank's Red Hot and it does not contain any highly processed ingredients. I was pleased about that. But I am concerned about the salt content of such sauces. I am definitely a hot-head. If I am not sweating, it is not hot enough. On tacos and chili and the like I use alot of hot sauce to achieve my desired heat level. Alot of hot sauce equals alot of salt. And too much salt doesn't do anyone any good. So....that was my other motivation, not having bags under my eyes the morning after a heat seeking journey.

The first time I made the recipe, I followed the recipe. But I only had 9 ounces of peppers. So I adjusted the measurements accordingly. It was unlike other fermented recipes I had tried because there was no bath of whey and water enveloping my pepper puree. I was concerned about how the whey was going to get to all my peppery bits. Then after two or three days, my habenero puree came down with a powdery looking white mold on the top. I left the jar sitting on the counter for almost two whole weeks before I decided to deal with it. After reading several articles that told me that no injury would befall me as long as the mold was white, I decided to proceed. I finished the recipe. And my sauce was the exact consistency of my Frank's Red Hot. But the habeneroes made it super crazy ridiculously spicy. My kinda sauce!

I am living proof. White mold on the top of fermented foods will NOT make you sick. Whatever it is, it is benign. However.....the white mold does do something to the flavor. My super crazy hot sauce, as much as I wanted to love it, tasted off. It tasted turned. I ate it several times before I threw it out and started over. I never got sick but I never LOVED the sauce.

On my second try I purchased a greater quantity of peppers so as to remain closer to the original recipe.. Habeneroes are all done around here, so I chose serrano peppers. The original recipe calls for three POUNDS of peppers. Do you have any idea how much three pounds of peppers is?! It is a crazy amount. Only slightly less than 2 pounds fits into my food processor, so that was where I stopped. I used the full amount of whey given in the recipe. And the full amount of salt. I also figured since I had a mold problem the first time around I should add a quarter of a cup of water so as to increase the whey's ability to get into every pepper crevice. I did not want mold coming to the party this time!

Fortunately the sauce fermented on the countertop for a full week, and no white mold ever developed. Hurrah!! I strained the sauce and tasted it. It had the right balance of salt and sour from the fermentation. It was perfect on the heat level! It was overall exactly what I wanted it to be. Only problem...the sauce is way to watery. It is fine to add to chili. But it has the same consistency as water. So putting some on a taco might not be so awesome.

Oh we go again. Do I make a new batch? Or just live with this one? Did I make a mistake in adding the extra water? Did I not strain it well enough?

I had a truly brilliant math teacher in high school that always told us, 'You don't learn much from a right answer. One must do many many things right to get a right answer. But when you get a wrong answer it is important to look back at your work and find the ONE thing you did that produced the wrong answer.' Every recipe we make is an opportunity to get some new outcome. Limiting sugar, replacing eggs for baking soda or playing with water contents have all been some of the things I have tried in coming up with the perfect recipes. And with each triumph and failure I have learned something new. Some recipes have been good. Others have been total throw aways. This one has been in between. But I definitely plan on dusting myself off and getting this one right again.

This post is shared with Traditional Tuesdays Healthy 2Day Wednesdays and Real Food Wednesdays and Simple Lives Thursday and Fight Back Fridays

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Have You Heard About Denmark's New Fat Tax?

Thank you to Fooducate which is where I first heard about this story. It was originally reported by the BBC over the weekend. Apparently, the country of Denmark has passed the world's first 'Fat Tax'. Starting soon all foods with a saturated fat content of greater than 2.3% will carry a tax of aproximately 8 cents per ounce.

Oh, this is wrong on so many levels. I was rather angry when I first heard about the tax because it doesn't make alot of sense to me. The tax is only on products containing SATURATED fat. The types of products to be taxed will be items like butter, coconut oil, lard, some meats, cheese and full fat milk and the products that contain them like ice cream and pizza. It means that candy, chips or french fries fried in soybean oil, cakes and cookies made with canola oil or deconstructed fat free milk products will remain untaxed.

The items to be taxed are largely unprocessed items that my healthy weight family eats every week. Meanwhile the products that we avoid to maintain our health, like chips and cookies will remain untaxed!! While I am sure that some processed products will be taxed, it will be quite easy for food companies to reformulate those products and circumvent the tax. Manufacturers of butter would be unable to reformulate, of course. The tax means that a pound of butter will cost about $1.28 more! Raising the price of unprocessed food seems counterintuitive. Don't we want people to start making their own food rather than letting some unknown company do the cooking for us? Food is expensive enough already, levying a tax on so many unprepared foods makes little sense to me.

Perhaps it surprises you that I am against this tax? Actually I am all for taxing unhealthy foods. I fully support the once proposed NYC soda tax. I supported the once proposed ban of sugary beverages from being part of the SNAP benefit plan. I just disagree with the item being taxed here. If you want to address obesity, tax sugar. Our bodies need fat, even saturated fat. But our bodies don't need sugar at all!! Obesity is undoubtedly a complex problem. It is not one that a single bad ingredient or food caused. The causes of obesity are cultural as well as food related. But it makes no sense to me to blame the foods that we have been eating throughout history.

I don't anticipate additional countries following suit. I will be curious if the law even lives. Sometimes bad international press can turn the tide against such laws. This could be a difficult additional expense for the average Danish family. Suddenly your meat, milk, butter and cheese have an added tax. It could end up being $5-10 a week on otherwise unprocessed healthy foods. Over the course of a year that could mean an extra $250-$500!!!

It is clear to me that many people in positions of authority do not understand nutrition. Many folks do not understand the partnership between healthy fats and satiety. Meanwhile, how many hundreds of calories could you ingest of saturated-fat-free potato chips before you burst? I think the Danes got it all wrong. If the government should have any say over our diets, it ought to be them standing strong against sugar and banning non-food chemicals from the food supply. This tax is completely off base.

Do you agree with government taxes on food items? Why or why not?

This post is shared with Traditional Tuesdays and Real Food Wednesdays and Simple Lives Thursdays and Fight Back Fridays

Monday, October 3, 2011

4 Working-Mama-Tips For Making Chicken Bone Broth

When I think about all the changes we have made to our diets in the last couple of years, a few stand out as more important than others. Switching from highly processed soybean oil to more stable, less processed fats like coconut oil, butter and lard is on the short list. Also making homemade stock or bone broth has been a game changer for me.

In the beginning I said that I would never make my own stock. I really did!! I was so anxious about the inconvenience of making stock that I clung to my bouillon like Thing 2 to his favorite train. I had made stock before and the result was a weak broth that needed so much salt to taste good that I figured it was easier to keep a couple of cubes on hands. That was until I was introduced to the technique of making bone broth.

To make bone broth one must take bones and simmer them for hours with aromatics like onions, celery, carrots and black peppercorns. Chicken bone broth must be simmered for a minimum for 4 hours. Beef bones must be cooked for closer to 10 or 12 hours. The resulting liquid is a dark colored, cloudy, meaty, gelatin filled elixir. Bone broth is a far cry from all those half assed recipes that call you to cook a whole raw chicken in a pot of water for an hour. Quick broths tend to be clear and even slightly bitter tasting in my opinion. The reward for all those hours spent tending to the pot is a broth so thick with nutrition and protein that it is an excellent support to otherwise meatless meals.

I have made chicken bone broth many times now. And I have done so with everything from a leftover roast bird to raw backs and necks. But my favorite chicken part to use is chicken feet. Chicken feet produce hands down the most flavorful and gelatin rich of all chicken broths. I have finally found a source for feet that is local, pastured and organic. Pastured chickens generally cost around $8 per pound. But the feet are sold off at a slightly lower cost. And fortunately the farm from which I buy my feet will sell a whole bag of feet, so I don’t have to buy a $45 bird just to get two feet for stock! My feet are approximately $6 for one and one half pounds. And that makes about a gallon and a half of stock.

Properly made bone broth should gel when cooled overnight in the refrigerator. If you have followed all the directions here and your broth does not gel then it just has a little too much water in it. Chances are when you use it to make something, like soup, it will gel up nicely after you have cooked with it. When cooking with feet, I have been told that clipping off the nails is super important. However, I generally dump the feet in frozen with no additional prep. I figure they will boil for 6 or so hours and whatever buggies the nails would have would stand no chance. Also, be sure to commit the full time and boil the feet until they are really beginning to break up and fall apart on their own. If your feet still look like they did when you dropped them in, you are throwing away a lot of goodness. If the skin looks ragged and the joints are beginning to come apart, then you have reached the zone. Keep going, it takes at least 4 hours of stovetop simmering to get there and you can easily boil them longer than that. There is no sense in throwing away nourishment!

Bone broth is super easy. But that isn’t why you aren’t currently making it right? You don’t make broth because it takes too long or you aren’t home for long enough periods of time, right? That is certainly what I struggle with. So how does a busy mama work something as simple as bone broth into her already maxed out schedule? I have a couple of tricks to share that make it easier for me to keep this important foodstuff around the house.

1) Save your vegetable scraps in a plastic bag in the freezer. Bone broth requires aromatic vegetables be boiled with the bones. But who wants to take great fresh {expensive} veggies, just boil them and finally throw them away? Now I freeze my scraps. When I chop a carrot, the nibs and ends go into my freezer bag instead of the garbage. Same with celery and onion ends. You can even throw onion papers in there. You will end up straining it out so there is nothing wrong with the papers! My freezer bag is where I throw all of the uneaten carrot sticks that come home from Thing 1’s lunch box! I generally save celery, carrots, onions or celery root. More good things to save would be ginger, garlic or garli scapes, leek trimmings, scallions or lemons that you have squeezed. They will of course flavor the broth.

2) Break up your time. Often I am busy or away from the house during the day, even on weekends. So I will start a pot of stock at 6pm and let it boil until 9pm. Before I go to bed I will stick the whole pot in the fridge. The next night I will repeat until the stock has boiled enough. When it comes to stock I am not concerned about the heating and cooling rules that apply to uncooked meats or leftovers. Stock is a food that is boiled at a high temperature for a long period of time. In the cooking phase I don’t worry much about it, and it helps my schedule to where I can make stock on a weeknight!

3) Freeze stock in smaller portions. At the end of the process I will freeze the stock into smaller 2 and 4 cup containers for longer storage. That way I don’t end up thawing and refreezing great blocks of stock. And then I can bring out exactly how much I need, a 2 cup portion for making gravy or rice or a 4 cup portion for making soup. Soup only takes 20-30 minutes with previously prepared broths, yet they taste like they have been cooking for hours! I will use 1 ½ to 2 gallons of water to boil 1 ½ pounds of chicken feet. That yields enough stock for my family for 3 to 4 weeks.

4) Put your crock pot to good use! I do think the stovetop is best. The heat is higher and so the stock bubbles. The bubbles agitate the bones and veggies making them break up and enrich the broth. BUT…I have made great bone broths in the crock pot when I don’t have enough time for a stove top job. I have even started a batch of broth at 9pm and had it cook until 5 or 6am. Then it is waiting for you when you wake up!! I don’t get as gelatin-y of a broth with the crock pot, but finishing it on the stove top might be an answer to that.

Using the above tricks I have managed to keep bone broths regularly on hand and the junk filled cubes out of the house! Considering the extreme cost of ethically raised meats, bone broth is a wonderfully nourishing addition to your diet. Plus the taste is so rich that I can always count on Thing 1 eating whatever veggies that I boil in them. When he takes a hot thermos full of veggie soup to school I always know that he is getting a healthy and nutritious lunch. I am truly thankful that he likes soup as much as he does.

If you are a stressed out lady {or fella} with too many obligations and not enough time to nourish yourself, consider making time to make bone broth. Using the tricks I mention will help to fit the task into your crazy schedule, and the nourishment will support your health!


This post is shared with Traditional Tuesdays and Real Food Wednesdays and Simple Lives Thursdays and Fight Back Fridays