Thursday, December 25, 2014

Week 52

Be glad and rejoice while finding your balance.

This is the last weekly challenge of the year, week 52.  How have you done this year?  May you be filled with joy as you ponder over this past year!

As your Christmas gift to yourself, your family, your friends, please be glad and rejoice at your success.  You may not be where you want to be yet, but remember that changing your diet back to a diet consisting of the foods created by God is countercultural and is something most of us need to relearn.  It is all about baby steps, which is why I have given you these weekly challenges.  So if this year, you have only awakened your awareness and learned the importance of changing your diet - be glad and rejoice!  You can recommit and begin again in the New Year.

While you are rejoicing this Christmas week, if you have been following along with the challenges, then think about one last aspect of what you are eating.  Each of us needs to eat God's foods, rather than man-made processed foods, in order to reap good health and vitality, but you also need to figure out what balance of God's foods to eat.  Fewer and fewer people start with enough reserves to even cheat a little with their diet - so most people need to go 100% for success.  But everyone also needs to eat a balanced diet of God's foods, not cutting out complete food groups.  For example, you cannot eat only brownies and apples and maintain good health and vitality.  This last challenge of the year is a key aspect for success - find the balance of foods your body needs.  However, if you have not yet cut the foods/ingredients (such as sugar) that you are addicted to out of your diet, you will probably not be able to listen to your body's clues to find your balance.  It is important that you master these earlier challenges to be able to do this last step for success.   

So how do you find your balanced diet?  Keep in mind that we are all different.  We each will develop slightly different health problems as our bodies become depleted of various nutrients and become overloaded with 'toxins' from processed foods.  While rejoicing, with a thankful heart, think about your favorite meals and how they make you feel.  Some people need more meat (my husband requires more meat than me to feel energized and well); some people need more carbohydrates to feel satisfied (not calorie loaded nutrient void carbohydrates so prevalent in our culture); some people thrive on lots of fresh raw foods such as produce, nuts, and raw dairy to feel their best; and some people need a higher quantity of excellent quality fats, such as raw butter or expeller-pressed coconut oil to feel well nourished.

We all need a balanced diet, but you must determine the quantities of each food group that you need.  Your needs will probably be different than your other family members or friends (you probably already know this).  If you are eating 100% excellent quality FoodsbyGod, but you think you cannot eat anything without gaining weight, then you are eating the wrong balance.  Listen, evaluate, continue to learn, and most importantly rejoice this week!

"I am glad and rejoice with all of you.  So you too should be glad and rejoice with me."  Philippians 2:17b - 18

"Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again: Rejoice!" Philippians 4:4

"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.  And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Almighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."  Isaiah 9:6

May our Wonderful Counselor, Almighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace bless you today, this week, and throughout this coming New Year.  Merry Christmas! 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Week 51

Modify a recipe.

This slide was from the class I taught about five years ago on how to convert recipes, using God's ingredients instead of processed man-made ingredients. 

Learning to modify your favorite recipes and new ones that look good is an essential skill and takes just a bit of practice.  But in no time you will be amazed at just how easy it is and how much difference it can make in how you feel.  Most importantly, I think you will be amazed at how delicious what you are creating tastes.  It will give you a whole new understanding of the blessing excellent food is, not only for health, but for taste and enjoyment of meals. 

Involve your whole family, especially your children.  Buy the best quality ingredients that you can find and don't use any processed ingredients, especially those on list of foods/ingredients to avoid.

Here are a few guidelines which I use:

1.  FLOUR:  Use whole wheat pastry flour (or other whole grain flours) in place of white flour.  On the rare occasion I use a little white flour, I only use unbleached flour that has not been enriched, which I buy at Natural Grocer.  I grind my own whole wheat pastry flour and other whole grain flours.  When substituting whole wheat pastry flour, a little more liquid is required, but this works out o.k. since I replace the sugar with raw honey or maple syrup in my recipes.

2.  SWEETENER:  Replace all sugar (white or brown) with honey, maple syrup or dates (or other fruit).  I typically use 1/2 the amount of honey or maple syrup than the amount of sugar called for up to a maximum of 1/2 cup total in a recipe.  I like to limit the amount of even the natural sweeteners to 1/4 cup except for special treats, like brownies, which are very sweet and which we have only on special occasions. 

3.  MARGARINE:  Never use margarine, a man-made food.  Instead use real butter or good quality coconut oil.  I replace it one for one (i.e. 1/2 cup margarine, use 1/2 cup butter).

4.  CHEESE:  Use white cheeses only, preferably organic or European.  Never buy pre-shredded cheese, which contains anti-caking agents.  Grate your own.  Also, don't buy low-fat or nonfat cheese.  God did not make them this way.  I typically cut down on the amount of cheese I use in dishes. 

5.  DAIRY PRODUCTS:  Use only organic.  Also don't buy low-fat or nonfat dairy products.  As with cheese, God did not make them this way.  I use fresh milk with the cream skimmed off the top to make my yogurt, but when you buy low-fat versions from the store, they have been heavily processed.  I never used canned dairy products, but make my own from fresh milk (i.e. homemade whipped cream).

6.  SPICES and SAUCES:  Be very careful with pre-made spices and sauces that are used in recipes.  These often contain MSG (in all canned soups), as do most spices mixed that are not organic.  Be sure to read the labels.  Using things like single organic spices and fresh herbs, homemade broths and fresh cream, you can recreate everything you need to make a favorite recipe healthy.  Use real flavorings, never imitation.  

Here are two more slides from the classes I previously taught.  These are example of two recipes that I modified, showing you the original recipe and the modified one.  Try converting an easy, favorite recipe of yours this week and remember that it takes some practice to become skilled at something.  Take notes on your recipe of how you modified it and how it turned out.  As you will soon see, it is not difficult.  Be sure you have all of the correct ingredients on hand before you start.

Using the foods and ingredients, as God has provided for us, will result in health and well-being for you.  Seek God's ways, not man's.

"He who gets wisdom loves his own soul; he who cherishes understanding prospers."  Proverbs 19:8

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Week 50

Evaluate your cookware and replace that which is unhealthy.

With Christmas right around the corner, if you have not already done so, get at least one good pot or skillet.  Thinking about what you introduce into your food from your cookware is very important.  It is not important that you have a pretty matching set (though there is nothing wrong with that).  The important thing is that you are not creating health problems for yourself or your family by using unhealthy cookware. 

Let me give you some guidelines and then share with you what I use.

NEVER USE:  Pots, pans or skillets with non-stick coatings.  These items are really that bad and should never be used.  If you are currently cooking with any of these type pots and pans, I would suggest seriously thinking about replacements right away.

You may not think this is that serious, but did you know that the FDA has called for a reduction of a chemical used in making these coatings due to adverse health effects such as cancer and a suppressed immune system?  Since the US government and regulatory groups are heavily influenced by companies and their profits, and thus allow many questionable chemicals and practices, it is definitely a big concern when they decide something is not healthy.  Replace your Teflon coated pots and pans, even if they are not scratched up.

Glass cookware, stainless steel, aluminum and cast iron can all be coated with a non-stick coating.  No matter what the coating is on, it is unhealthy.

NOT RECOMMENDED (especially if trying to go 100%):

Aluminum pots and pans.  Aluminum pots and pans are typically cheap (they are very lightweight too) and aluminum will leech into your food.  This is controversial though, because if you take an antacid (which I do not recommend - there are many other side effects to be concerned about) or eat foods with additives, you may be getting a lot more aluminum than what you get from your cookware.  According to the ATSDR governmental agency, the average American adult gets 7 to 9 mg of aluminum a day in their food from flour, anti-caking agents (which is why I recommend not using pre-grated cheese), baking powder (which is why I recommend buying an aluminum-free brand), and food colorants (all artificial ingredients are on the foods/ingredients to avoid list).

Anodized aluminum pots and pans.  These are much better than non-anodized but aluminum will still leech out of them, especially if you are cooking something acidic in them (such as a tomato-based dish). 

Health issues with aluminum include nervous system, reproductive system and immune system problems.  However, the ATSDR report from 2008 states that the level of aluminum a person receives from food and cookware would not be harmful for a healthy person. 

"Eating large amounts of processed food containing aluminum additives or frequently cooking acidic foods in aluminum pots may expose a person to higher levels of aluminum than a person who generally consumes unprocessed foods and uses pots made of other materials (e.g., stainless steel or glass). However, aluminum levels found in processed foods and foods cooked in aluminum pots are generally considered to be safe."

Hmmm... generally considered to be safe.  If you are eating the typically American diet, then you will not need to worry about cooking in aluminum pots and pans.  However, if you are trying to gain or maintain your health and vitality by eating 100% FoodsbyGod, you might think about getting better cookware options.  

SOME LEECHING WILL OCCUR:  Stainless steel pots and pans, even the expensive heavy duty ones will still leech some elements into your food, for example nickel and chromium.  Saladmaster makes waterless stainless steel cookware (which is extremely expensive!), and they changed their stainless steel composition first to 304 stainless steel in the 1980's and then to 316 stainless steel (surgical steel and that used in deionized water systems in the semiconductor field) in the 1990's and then a final upgrade to 316 stainless with titanium in 2008.  If you have ever been to a Saladmaster party, you know that food cooked in these pots and pans tastes great.  That is because with their newest cookware, leeching is not occurring from the pots into your food.  Obviously, some leeching does occur from standard stainless steel pots and pans or Saladmaster would not use such expensive compositions of stainless steel.  I am not recommending Saladmaster, or stainless steel pots and pans.  I am just using Saladmaster and their stainless steel compositional changes over the years to show you that some leeching does occur with stainless steel cookware.


NO LEECHING WILL OCCUR:  Glass pots.  I love my glass pots and use them exclusively for acidic dishes (all tomato dishes and to make my bone broths).  Nothing will leech from glass pots and pans, if they are made correctly (all would be that are made in the USA such as Corning products).

The problems with glass pots and pans is that they are no longer manufactured.  I have gotten mine at garage sales and on Ebay.  Glass pots and pans are great for soups and stews, but they quickly lost favor when sold in the 1980's because they do not heat evenly and must be used on low heat (or things burn on the bottom).  This is unfortunate because they are the best cookware option for many things. 

SEASONED CAST IRON:  The amount of leeching that will occur with cast iron depends upon how you care for your cast iron and how well it is seasoned.  Minimal leeching will occur if they are used and cleaned correctly and these are the 'original' non-stick pans.

I NEVER use my cast iron for acidic (tomato) dishes.  Acidic foods will eat through your seasoning.  Well seasoned cast iron skillets were the first non-stick skillets and work wonderfully.  The best skillets were made by Griswold (front left skillet in photo above).  I have two antique Griswold skillets that I use exclusively to cook eggs.  The Griswold skillets have a smoother surface and are exceptional.  With a well seasoned skillet, you should not be leeching chemicals through the seasoning into your food.  Butter works great to coat the skillet prior to cooking eggs in it and clean-up is a breeze.  It is KEY that the skillet is hot before you butter it and pour your eggs into it.

I bought a new very large cast iron skillet in the 1990's that I use to cook meats and sauté vegetables.  The best thing to use for seasoning a new skillet is pork lard (cook some good quality pork bacon in your skillet).  NEVER use soap to clean your skillet.  I use the scouring side of a sponge and warm water only.  Then I always dry the skillet well after cleaning it (I place in on the stove top to dry it).  When seasoning, cook some bacon, pour off the grease (and save it), then wipe out the skillet and regrease it with the pork grease.  Place it in the oven at a low temperature (200 °F) for several hours.  This will allow the grease to penetrate into the pores and create a good seasoning or non-stick coating.  This process will need to be done a few times for a brand new skillet.
Besides having cast iron skillets, I love my cast iron griddle.  To clean, I wipe it off with a paper towel.  It is wonderfully seasoned, and nothing sticks to it.

"As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." Proverbs 27:17

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Week 49

Learn to use spices - they are key to creating delicious meals!

I have lots and lots of spices.  I use them so much that I typically buy them in 1 pound bags (often from Frontier Wholesale).  Spices can be expensive, so the upfront cost is high, but they last a long time and they are definitely a key to creating outstanding, delicious meals.

Years ago when we lived in Austin, I tried several times to make homemade chicken soup.  Every time I tried, it turned out bland and tasted like water.  I thought it was my lack of cooking ability - that I was unable to make delicious foods.  But it was just a lack of important cooking knowledge.  I did not realize then the importance of owning and using spices.  Of course, I was not making my own homemade broth back then either (another key ingredient), but the spices and fresh herbs are essential ingredients.

I have posted many recipes and I hope that when you buy the ingredients to try one that you also make sure you buy the spices.  For instance, yellow rice is delicious because of the turmeric (Jon does not like brown rice even when cooked in chicken broth, but he LOVES our "yellow rice"). 

Buy and use the spices that your family enjoys.  We love nutmeg and thus I sprinkle it into almost all my breakfast creations.  Reading about the health benefits of cloves, I started experimenting with that.  The secret ingredient for the wheat-free waffles is the cloves.

Start off with small bottles until you learn which ones you use often.  We use a lot of cumin, oregano, turmeric, poultry seasoning, nutmeg, and cinnamon - to name a few.  If you keep the spices sealed and in a dark, cool location, they will last for several years.  I like to store my extras in glass bottles in my utility room as shown in the top photo.  I never throw away my little spice jars that I have in the kitchen, instead I refill them (and do so often).  Besides buying directly from Frontier, or from a good on-line company such as Mountain Rose or from a coop such as Azure Standard, you can also buy good quality bulk herbs at Whole Foods to refill your small jars, which is less expensive than buying another little jar. 

Make this challenge a fun one and treat yourself to a new spice each week when you grocery shop until you have a good collection.  Then be sure to use them!  Buy good quality spices (I buy almost exclusively organic ones), and always read the labels.  Often spice mixes, such as poultry seasoning, will contain other additives, so be careful.  Spices, gold, and precious stones - three things listed as gifts for a king.  Appreciate and treasure the wonderful spices that are so readily available to even the common folk in our world today.

"When the queen of Sheba heard about the fame of Solomon and his relation to the name of the Lord, she came to test him with hard questions.  Arriving at Jerusalem with a very great caravan - with camels carrying spices, large quantities of gold, and precious stones - she came to Solomon and talked with him about all that she had on her mind."  1Kings 10: 1 - 2