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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Tuesday's Real Food Recipe- Coconut Oil "Candy Bars"

Going along with our "Simplifying your switch to whole foods" series, I thought it fitting to add a recipe that I recently made to add coconut oil to my diet.  I found that I don't really like adding it to my smoothies because it affects the texture, so besides cooking with it (and it is a good cooking oil because it is stable at high temperatures), I wanted to eat more of it throughout the day because it boosts metabolism, energy, and does NOT make you fat!  Here is a recipe that you can use as a nice snack about 20 minutes before meals, or a sweet treat that is GOOD for you. 
Coconut Oil "Candy Bars"














items needed
small silicone baking cups (2 TBSP) (I have cute little heart-shaped ones which may be easy to find right now close to Valentine's day)
1 cup organic, cold-pressed coconut oil
1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut (optional)
 whole almonds-2 per candy  (optional)
4 tbsp of stevia or honey, or to taste
4 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
sprinkle of course grey tamise sea salt

soften coconut oil (not quite melted).  Add about 4 tbsp stevia or honey and cocoa powder, mix thoroughly.  Sprinkle shredded coconut and whole almonds in the bottom of the silicone baking cups.  Pour 2 tbsp mixture into each cup, refrigerate and enjoy!  I added a little dollop of honey to the tops of mine because this first batch I didn't add any sweetener.  It really needed a little, so thus the dollop of golden wonder.  Sprinkle a little grey tamise on the top for that salty/sweet flourish!

*To make in an 8x8 bar pan- double the recipe, mix the almonds and shredded coconut together and spread evenly in the bottom of your pan.  Refrigerate and cut into small squares!

*optional- add different dried fruits, nuts or even peanut butter!  Adding peanut butter or almond butter would give it a more fudge-like consistency vs. a truffle consistency.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Thousandth Row of Sowing

Life's glory is thought to be in the reaping until you look back and realize the true glory was in the years of sowing. 

But I'm still in the sowing, and even though my intellect tells me that there is glory in today- the thousands of tiny steps I am taking towards a goal that is so far away that it's barely in focus; are tired.  I'm tired.  I want God to say that I've worked hard enough and my harvest is finally growing in strong, but I'm not there yet.  My garden is miles long, and I'm on the thousandth row, sweating, weeping, and trying to save a few dancing steps for when my children look up at me.   

Today, i'm called to sow.  God is requiring it of me, and I don't feel worthy today.  Some days I can feel the strength deep into the ground under my feet, and other days, I feel like a whispy petal at the end of summer, where the quietest breeze could just lift me away.  I can only imagine that my attitude is what hails and what fails me.  It's my strength or my demise. 

My trust that God has not forgotten me when I'm in the thousandth row of sowing comes from the truth that I have in my heart.  Any less knowledge of this truth, and how could I stand?  My God tells me with a promise that He will provide all my needs.  He will work for my good because I love Him.  I will reap the harvest that I am sowing, with each tear that I wipe away from my child, every truth I share, every day that I give, my seed is planted.  My harvest is coming.  Giving up is not an option because I trust in the promise of my Great and glorious God, that my harvest will come.  Today, my job is to keep focused on the clear prize I know in my heart even when it looks hazy and miles away.  Just as a mist evaporates into air in but a moment, so my harvest will arrive.


What are sowing right now?  Sometimes it feels like our work isn't producing a crop, and that the harvest is so far away, making us feel discouraged.  I am praying for you, today!  I know that in these times where the harvest isn't evident, we are still called to the task that God has for us- whatever that may be.  I pray that you will continue on strong and commited to your crop, sowing your seeds.  Trust in your Father, that your harvest will come!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Simplifying Your Switch to Whole Foods- Beating old habits

Think of the one food or drink you would never want to live without?  Ice cream?  Pop?  Cookies?  Fast food?  Potato chips?  Chocolate?
Why didn't I think of this?

Most of us have a food or beverage that we crave and couldn't imagine living without.  I was thinking about this in regards to simplifying your switch to whole foods, and possible setbacks as you begin your real food journey.  Now, of course the stores are full of gluten free cookies, organic potato chips, coconut milk ice cream- you name it.  BUT, these are also really expensive and don't add nutritional value in most instances.  For those of you who want to switch to whole foods because you need to completely revamp your life, including weight loss, switching over to organic versions of all of your favorite processed foods aren't going to help you.  Sucanat and raw honey, while nutrient and mineral rich, are still sugar.  That being said, switching to whole foods doesn't mean you can never indulge again- you just may indulge in something different than what you want to indulge in today.  Your tastes really can change.
I used to crave sugar every day, typically around 3:00 in the afternoon and also after dinner.  Being at home most of the time, it was very easy to walk over to the pantry and find something sweet.  Because we don't have processed snacks on hand, my sweet treat might involve peanut butter with honey drizzled all over it.  This continued well after I switched to whole foods, so now my "whole sugar fix" was plaguing me just as badly as my "refined sugar fix".  But when I realized why I wanted something comforting, I could find comfort in other things besides food.  There are three changes that I made mentally and physically that I truly believe helped catapult me out of the vicious craving cycle. 

First, I made a mental note of the comfort I have in knowing what I am going to eat.  I simplify my meal options and while adding variety in how I combine foods and ingredients, I always have the same ingredients on hand.  I find comfort in knowing I cook 2 eggs for breakfast, because I don't have to think about.  If I thought about it a few years ago, I could have possibly talked myself into eating something like this for breakfast  I mean, what's the big deal?  Um...Anna...really?  You REALLY talked yourself into that?  OK, on occasion, I did!  And you know what, it didn't help me any!  But I don't crave cake anymore.  And, whereas now I occasionally could go for something sweet, I rarely crave sugar or salty foods.  Again, your tastes really can change.

I also visualize what I want to be eating.  At the beginning, I had to visualize what I wanted to want to be eating (you follow?).  I thought about myself eating the foods that I knew would fuel me, give me vitality and energy.  I visualize myself eating a kale smoothie and how glowing my skin looks, and how good I feel, and then my emotions all of the sudden buy into it as much as my mind.  Now I don't have to buy myself into it- I do eat the foods I want, they just happen to be whole and healthy.  This is a huge technique to achieing success with any goal you set out to accomplish.  It will build your mental strength, and help you move past years of poor habits.

Lastly, I added a food that really helped curb cravings for sugar and bread/cookies.  I upped my saturated fat intake.  GASP!  I know!  Did you know that fat doesn't make you fat, but carbs and sugar make you fat?  There are so many amazing books out there (I have a nice list in the resource section if you are interested) that have some fascinating information, studies and science behind them that debunks the low fat lifestyle.  When I ate a low fat diet while trying to give up sweets and carbs, I was cranky, hungry, and worst of all, I still craved the foods I was trying to avoid.  I think I actually craved them MORE!  Since adding more saturated fats into my diet like virgin coconut oil, high vitamin butter, flax and fish oils, etc. I feel healthier, happier, full, and best of all- my cravings have vanished and haven't returned.  It has truly inspired me.

We long for comfort, and food is a sensational way to connect with people, culture and traditions in our families that have added values to our lives.  It's deep, authentic, and important.  I hope that simplifying your switch to whole foods will really help you see how you can maintain these same ideals while utilizing the best choices in quality, giving you the longest life possible to enjoy these comforts God has blessed us with in this one and glorious life!  Live and enjoy its abundance!     
Love,
Anna

Great sources for learning about healthy fats and healthy weight loss
The Diet Cure by Julia Ross


Eat Fat, Lose Fat by Sally Fallon and Mary G. Enig, PhD

The Fourfold Path to Healing by Thomas Cowan, MD

A Life Unburdened by Richard Morris

Life Without Bread by Wolfgang Lutz and Christian Allan

The Maker's Diet by Jordan Rubin

The No-Grain Diet by Joseph Mercola

The Schwarzbein Principle by Diana Schwarzbein



Thursday, January 19, 2012

Simplifying Your Switch To Whole Foods- Perishables

Quick Update: Many of you know that my family of 4 is eating whole and local on $400 per month.  I have positive news for you!  NO food is going to waste!  Our fridge has maybe one grapefruit by Thursday and we eagerly await the arrival of our produce box at 1:00.  Can you just picture Natalie, Noah and I peering out the storm door with our lips out, just waiting for a snack?  OK, it isn't that dramatic, but we are definitely ready for the new weeks supply of food, but at the same time, I love that our food fuels us, and doesn't go to waste rotting in the fridge because we bought too much.

If you are new to my blog, welcome!  We are currently taking a food tour that I hope will help families simplify their switch to eating Whole and local foods in 2012.  You can check back to earlier posts regarding budgeting and the introduction.  Today we are on to Perishables...

Perishables produce, dairy, meat

This post is dedicated to perishables in the produce isle.  I have given my whole foods sequence a lot of thought, and I came to the conclusion that starting with perishables is the easiest.  It's the easiest for 3 reasons: one, an apple is still an apple, and it isn't confusing or different as to how you eat it or prepare it.  You just buy an organic or locally grown one instead.  Second, you won't have to feel guilty about throwing stuff out of your pantry and starting fresh- you are buying produce and other refrigerated items weekly, so it is easy to switch over quickly.  Third, it is the easiest to grasp WHY you should be eating it in its organic form.  It doesn't take a brain surgeon to realize you don't want a bunch of chemicals and pesticides along with your salad.  Unfortunately there is one reason why this is the most challenging- the cost.  Our perishables are the most expensive foods we eat when it comes to eating organically and locally.  However, if you get over the initial sticker shock, I truly can show you how to save, AND how to make these items go further to save you money in other areas.

Produce
The pesky "dirty dozen" is something that most of us have heard of.  It is a nice little cheat sheet showing us the worst conventional (not organic) fruits and vegetables to eat.  It is said that when tested, numbers between 90-100% of individual fruits/veggies tested positive for at least one, if not more pesticides.  One strawberry alone tested positive for 14 pesticides, and imported grapes- 14 as well!  They are as follows:
Apples
Celery
Strawberries
Peaches
spinach
nectarines
grapes
sweet bell peppers
potatoes
domestic blueberries
lettuce- most likely to retain pesticides
kale/collard greens

CSA's and Local Produce Companies

CSA at Cane Creek Farm, Cumming, GA
A CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture, and many family farms around the country participate in this program.  The farmer forecasts what their crop will be, and lets customers buy a share of the crop for the growing season.  Most offer about 1/2-1 bushel of produce per week.  What I love about buying produce locally is that you can ask the farmer directly if they spray pesticides.  They may not be certified organic because they may lease their property (certification takes 3 years, and would be a waste of money if they lose their lease for some reason), or the cost may be too high for the smaller farm.  YOUR main concern as the consumer is to know that they don't use chemical fertilizers and pesticides. 
Another fabulous option with CSA's is that many of them offer worker shares.  You go to the farm and help harvest for 4 hours one morning a week and get your produce FREE!  Start looking for a local farm now because they start planning between now and February.  I suggest just googling "Local farm in "insert your city" or look at http://www.localharvest.org/.  They have tons of farms listed and offer some really helpful insight. 

Produce Delivery
I currently get my produce from a company that delivers local produce.  I started a co-op about 2 years ago and we now get a hefty discount on our boxes every week because we have so many members.  I suggest you look into these companies because your town just might have one!  Don't be discouraged if you live outside of the city; I live 25 miles north of Atlanta, and I get a delivery every week!  A company like this has competitive pricing, and of course, the discount helps.  Also, Because I rarely have to go to the store, I don't impulse buy, which automatically saves a lot of money (I guess I didn't NEED that haagen dazs!) 

Winter can be a little more challenging than other months especially if you live in colder climates!  If buying produce at your local supermarket is your best option, focus on foods that are in season which will be less expensive, and start buying organic options of the dirty dozen.  Fruits with thick skin like banana's or citrus aren't as dangerous, so continue buying those conventionally if your budget is tight.  And during the summer, live it up!  Stock up on berries and freeze them for the long winter.  Have a canning party with some succulent and wild friends like we used to do in Wisconsin every year growing up (miss you all!) and eat what's in season until you couldn't possibly eat another strawberry in your life!  We'll be talking dairy next post!

Happy Whole Foods,
Anna
Sources:
The Huffington Post- Dirty Dozen
CSA Programs- http://www.localharvest.org/

Monday, January 16, 2012

Whole Foods 101

Hello!  Welcome to Whole Foods 101 where I hope to encourage and help you to lead a more whole and local food life.  This is a follow up of my last blog post, Whole Foods Budgeting 101.  It got such a huge response (I got tons of emails, facebook posts, and comments!) that I knew I was onto something.  People are ready to hear this information like never before, and with a few quick tips and ideas, recipes and budgeting advice, I'm pretty sure that 2012 is going to be the healthiest year yet for our nation! 

I've been working on a book that will help simplify your families switch to eating local and organic foods in 12 months or less.  Why 12 months?  Because, let's face, Learning all of this new knowledge, potentially changing your budget, changing where and how you buy your foods, how you prepare them, etc. can be very overwhelming!  My friend Angela told me awhile back, "My goal is to have us totally switched over in 12 months."  I thought- BINGO!  Starting somewhere is the best place to start, and I believe I have a reasonable system that will help you start with your perishables and work your way to your pantry so you don't have to throw anything out (OK, maybe the red food coloring) and you can feel good about the foods you are feeding your family!

I hope the budget sheet in my last post will help you see that you can make these changes without crazily changing your shopping list.  Now, if you were buying everything on your grocery list with conventional (non organic)/processed foods, and switch to eating all of those same exact foods in the organic version, your grocery bill would go up by about 20-30%.  We don't want to do that!  Finding ways to use whole ingredients in simple recipes will not only taste delicious, but simplify your meals.  Unless I am roasting a chicken, my meals literally take anywhere between 5-30 minutes. 

In the prologue of my book, I have a section designated "You're Doing Your Best, and That's Enough."  OK, I just made that up, but it sounds good!  Hear my heart, oh wonderful mother (or father!).  The last thing I ever want is to make a mother feel less-than because she feeds her child hamburger helper.  You have done, and I know you want to do the absolute best thing for your child!  I KNOW this about you!  So, don't for one second look back and dwell on or feel guilty about the past years you have fed your children certain foods you want to stay away from now.  Also, if you feel overwhelmed, don't feel badly about the changes you haven't made yet- feel FABULOUS about the changes you ARE making.  Keep  that positive attitude, ask questions, and have fun with this.  When you know better, you do better, and all you are ever asked to do is your best.  And guess what?  Your best is good enough!

One more note.  I am much more interested in learning what I want to do to be healthy and stay out of the medical statistics than I am about bashing policies and politics around the nation.  I am going to focus on whole foods, real foods, and leave the FDA and other topics alone.  Deal? 

OK, now that you've heard my heart, let's dive in! 

Food Pyramid Photo

Here is an example of a different kind of food pyramid.  I found this at http://www.nourishingourchildren.org/.

As you can see, protein, fats, grass fed milk (preferably raw), and produce are the core of this diet, and carbohydrates via grain are a sprinkling in the mix.  I love this!  It looks to me like this person just walked through a beautiful market in France and now has a few days worth of fabulous meals!  This looks like my fridge when I open it up.  What does yours look like?  It should be colorful, simple and not very full so you don't have food going to waste!

Let's stop here and ponder this today.  Go back and reread the budgeting 101 post if you need to refresh or if you are new to my blog.  Take a look at this food pyramid, and dream of what your life would be like if you made delicious and simple meals for your family!  It's a good feeling.  It makes me think of living in France, n'est pas?  I think I'm creating a new genre of books: "self help cookbook."

Bon appetit,
Anna

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Whole Foods Budgeting 101


A delicious Strawberry I plan to eat in 2012

2012 has brought me a task of super mommy epic proportions.  Or, that is, my husband Jeremy has charged me with coming up with a grocery budget of $400 while still eating locally grown, organic food.  "Oh, that will be easy honey!" I say as I bite my lip and grab a pen and paper.  One thing that makes budgeting so easy with local food is that it's a flat rate with no extra tax.  I know exactly to the dollar what my grocery bill will be!  OK, I have THAT going for me....but not much else!  Feeding a family of 4 good wholesome food on $400/month, is...a stretch.  BUT, I have to do it, so I thought I would share this information with you!  I am sure many of us are in  budget crunch mode.  Truth be told, I could sacrifice quality and have more money for...what...snack food?  McDonald's?  But, what good will that do for our health?  NO, I am staying the course and enforcing our whole food lifestyle, and I am super mommy, budget green extraordinaire, and I am going to DO THIS!  Will you join me?  Will you make 2012 your healthiest year yet while staying on a budget fit for a lower middle class family?  Let's forge ahead, shall we?

Here it is.  Of course, you can tweak to your families needs.  If you don't eat meat, you have a lot to play with there, and if you don't drink milk, well, there ya go!  But, this is a pretty standard, 5 food group budget list.  Keep in mind, this is per month- not per week!

Dairy
$98/month. 
$70 10 gallons of milk- (yeah, my milk is worth every Penny!!!) 2 gallons are made into yogurt *I make my own yogurt with our milk (if you would like a starter, I am happy to oblige).
$13-1 gallon of cream *I make my own butter- and yes, it's easy, and no- I am not Amish
$15 cheese


Produce
$140/month
$35/week.  I get a produce box from Nature's Garden Delivered, and allot myself $35/week for a variety of local/regional and some exotic fruits and vegetables.  It is delivered to my door!  *Many people ask what we do for snacks because we don't buy crackers and the like.  Answer: fruit and/or cheese

Protein
$126
$51 Chicken- 3 whole chickens per month(about $17/chicken) A great way to stretch your buck because you can roast on day one, and make a beautiful soup on days 2 and 3.
$40 fish/seafood- Wide variety- salmon, shrimp, tuna (preferably from Vital Choice)
$20 Beef- this gives you a good pound of ground beef/week at $5/lb.  When you buy in bulk, you can typically get grass fed beef at this price.
$15 eggs

Nuts and Legumes
$17
3 jars of peanut butter, or possibly adding in a bag of nuts here and there.  Prices fluctuate more because I buy these at the store, but I am looking into providing this for my co-op, which will improve the price and maintain a great quality!

Oats/rice
$10
$5 1 bag of quality oats (kept in the freezer to avoid oxidation of nutrients)
$5 Bag of Organic Brown Rice
We have limited most gluten in our diets for the time being.  The grain I have in the cabinet is calling my name, but I am happy to give it up for awhile.  At least grain lasts 7 years!! 

Coffee
$9
The painful truth.  I only have money for 1 lb of coffee per month.  I'm not quite over it, but I will just have to settle for 1 cup per day and hope that I sell a lot of books to up my coffee budget.  Sigh.

And this, folks, equals $400.  I haven't figured out how to add healthy oils besides my homemade butter, etc., but I am planning to use the months with an extra pay check to buy these items in bulk.  Also, if I am out of local raw honey, I will just subtract from one of these areas for a week to afford the extra staple I need.

Did I help you or did I make you more confused?  You might have questions like, "Anna, now we need to see a weekly meal planner to see how exactly you stretch that into 336 meals (that would be 3 meals a day for a month, for a fam of 4.)  Um yeah, I'll get back to you on that...say...next blog, OK??

Right now, I am going to munch on a delicious celery stick, and come up with an answer to that question!

Happy Grocery Shopping, Everyone!!
Love,
Anna
 





Monday, January 9, 2012

The Winner of the 2012 Top Book Giveaway is...

None other than the fabulous YA writer,
Lindsey Roth Culli!!! 
Yippie skip skip, Linds!  Send me a note with what book you would like to grace your shelves for 2012.  It might be hard to think of one you haven't already pre-ordered, but I am sure you can do it! :)  For those of you who have your lip out because you didn't win- fear not!  There are many more giveaways to look forward to on my blog- so keep coming back!  In the meantime, you should check out Ms. Lindsey's awesome blog, too, who also has fun giveaways!  Her blog can be found at www.lindseyrothculli.com.  This week, look forward to reading my blog posts to come on grocery budgeting while eating whole foods in 2012, keeping your resolutions going strong, and some scheduling ideas for keeping your kids busy and happy throughout the day. 

Happy Monday, Everyone!  I hope your day is bodaciously fabulous.

Love,
Anna

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Giveaways, Giveways, Love Me Some giveaways!

The Hunger Games

After obsessively reading Hunger Games in two days (I know- FINALLY, right?) I am in a little literary hideaway and just want to think about books!  Of course, when I think about plots in my mind, I just have to talk with someone else who has read or is reading the same book to compare notes.  All of my friends have read or are ahead of me reading through the Hunger Games series which just adds to the excitement that they know some juicy secrets I have yet to learn.  This excitement has me thinking about YOUR excitement in your own literary universe.

What is the BEST book you read in 2011? 
What is the TOP book on your to-read list for 2012?

I have to say, mine is a little different.  My sister got us the i like books.

i like book - pink
http://www.theilikebook.com/
one for Noah and one for Natalie.  So, I guess I am most looking forward to writing in a book this year.  Writing little one sentence "like notes" to my two favorite kids- and it will be precious each day, and each time we look back at them. 
Now it's your turn.  Come on, we would LOVE to know!  And.....because I LOVE a giveaway, I will draw a winner for anyone who contributes and they will receive a.free.copy of their must-read for this coming year! 

Now how about that?!?!  Spread the news and keep 'em comin' folks!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Friendships Save our Spirits and our Resolutions

"And let there be no friendship save the deepening of the spirit." -Kahlil Gibran

My best friend, Lindsey made me a box one Christmas or birthday that had this quote written inside of it and I have loved it ever since.  I am blessed by it every morning when I see it on top of my dresser.  I read it, ponder it, and think of my friend and how blessed I am to have a true "bosom friend!" (How could I not reference the great "Anne of Green Gables" where such a true friendship is showcased??)


Birchswinger and Smiley Sue.  Bff's for life!

When considering what to blog about, I typically think of what has been sticking out to me lately- what trends continue to creep up until they grab my attention.  Over the past few days I have come across quotes like, "Friends are the family we choose for ourselves" (Edna Buchanan), and “Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Just walk beside me and be my friend" (Albert Camus).  Maybe friendship in the new year is just the topic to ponder today!  After all, weight loss, exercise, getting more rest, cleaning out the "catch-all" spaces of our homes are typical New Year's resolutions, and what better way to actually attain these resolutions than from the help of our soul sisters!

Seasons bring these cravings for change, and I know that after rich food for a month and a half, I am ready for a fresh diet and a fresh perspective!  I long for it.  I am relieved when January 1 arrives because I am ready to leave the temptations of pumpkin pie and breakfast casseroles and trade them for running shoes and grapefruit.  But, give it two weeks, and all of the sudden I am craving hot cocoa and don't know if I can continue my grapefruit and salad regimen until spring break.  I need help.  We need help!  We need someone to push us to be better- to hold us accountable.  A friend!  A spouse may be that person, but typically we expect them to be, and they just aren't.  I had the realization recently that my husband is fabulous, but he isn't a personal trainer.  When I ask him to be, he teeters on a tight rope between "encourager" and "accountability partner", and for him, he never knows what the right thing to say is.  Should he say the dreaded, "Anna, do you really need that cookie?"  Or should he say, "remember your goals honey, you can do it!"  Or the most neutral, "Whatever you need, honey." 

What I realized was that, in my case, I need to have him  be my encourager (you can do it, honey and I love you!), and choose a friend to be my accountability when it comes to health and fitness.  And this a great thing!  Not every friend (or spouse) is going to be everything for you all of the time.  That's what is so great about having a spouse AND friends!  So I suggest we propose a toast to friendship this new year.  Be the best friend you can to your friends.  Be the one who steps out and calls them to see how they are doing instead of waiting for them to call you.  Allow them to challenge and encourage you to achieve your goals.  Ask them to!  Maybe you have a friend who has similar goals to yours and you can hold each other to them- even work together!  It's a great way to hold your resolutions while building friendships that deepen the spirit!

Cheers to friends, and cheers to a new year with endless possibilities ahead!

Love,
Anna