Sunday, March 30, 2014

Making Butter

There are many ways to make butter; I will share my quick, easy method with you.  I make butter from the cream I skim off my fresh, raw milk about once a week.  The butter I make is sweet cream butter.  I make it while cleaning up the kitchen or cooking a meal.  For my method, one needs a mixer in which the beater rotates rather than the bowl (such as a Kitchen-Aid).  Of course, you can also churn butter by hand if you want to get some exercise and you have the extra time!
Place skimmed cream into the bowl of the mixer and wrap with plastic wrap to prevent the liquid from slopping out of the bowl.  It works best if you don't fill the bowl more than about 1/3 full. 

Turn on the mixer to a medium speed (I start at a setting of 6) and whip cream until it fluffs up and then starts to break down.  Stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl. 

Continue beating on a slightly slower setting (I use a setting of 4) until you hear liquid developing.  At this stage you need to turn the mixer to the slowest speed and stay close by.  Turn off the mixer immediately when the butter forms into a ball and the liquid starts to slosh. 
If you forget about the butter and leave it on a high speed you will end up with liquid splattered all over the kitchen even with the plastic wrap in place.  I have done this once or twice over the past 10 plus years that I have been making butter.  What a mess!

Once the butter is formed, pour off the liquid.  I use this 'sweet buttermilk' liquid to make oatmeal or for baking. 

The take the ball of butter and rinse it under cold water while squeezing out all liquid. 

When all signs of white liquid are gone, dry the butter ball with paper towels or a cloth. 

It is important to get all of the liquid out of the butter so it does not go bad quickly.  If you look closely, there is some liquid on the front edge in the photo above.  I typically turn the pressed butter pat over to wipe up any liquid on the bottom.  I make unsalted butter and keep it stored in the refrigerator or freezer.  You can add sea salt at this point, if you wish.  I wrap the butter up in brown natural wax paper and place it in a Ziploc bag.  

If you are going to use it within a couple weeks, place in the refrigerator or you can place it in the freezer and it will last for months.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Week 13

Enjoy a "100% God's Food" meal with a friend.

Though possibly scary, I hope this is a fun one!  Plan and prepare at least one "100% God's Food" meal this week and invite someone over to share it with you (or if this would be a special treat for your family - share it with them).  Cook from scratch with none of the foods/ingredients on the avoid list.  Find and buy the best quality ingredients available.

Hopefully you have been sharing what you are doing, and thus your friend(s) that you invite over, will be thrilled to enjoy a few new recipes with you.  If you are not sharing what you are doing with others and have not sought support of family and friends, please be sure to read these posts.  It is so important to your long term success for you to have the support and encouragement of your family and friends.
Advanced Challenge:  Go 100% this week with all of your meals, eating only God's foods!

After posting this challenge last year, I had a lot of questions about what it means to eat "100% God's foods".  You can read Jennifer and Joanna's thoughts in the guest posts, and some of my thoughts on what it means to me.  But I wanted to address this topic in simple terms for those new to eating a diet of "God's foods" versus "man's processed foods".

I have found that many people pick and choose foods from both groups of food (both God's and man's) to eliminate when trying to improve their diet.  For instance, they may decide to eliminate grains (God's foods if not genetically modified and if grown organically) or dairy products, while continuing to eat or drink something processed or addictive or conventionally raised, such as sweet tea or factory-farmed meats or unnaturally low-fat foods.  The key to success is finding the best quality, unadulterated foods and ingredients from all food groups as provided by God and eating these foods.  It is important to take baby steps and relearn where your food is coming from, how it is grown and how it is processed.  You cannot buy conventional foods in conventional grocery stores - these are not God's foods but mass-produced foods, grown and processed with toxic chemicals, often with the addition of addictive and artificial ingredients to make you buy them.  You cannot eat these foods and regain or maintain your health.

May you grow in discernment and wisdom as you make changes in your diet.
"Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance - "  Proverbs 1:5

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Where to Start

A snapshot from our kitchen window last week, which my son Tom captured.  I would have never dreamed 20 years ago that I would live on a mini-farm; have children or pets or chickens; and be healthy and happy.  Through a series of amazing events and circumstances, this is where God has placed me and I feel so blessed.
If you have read my story, you know that I could be extremely ill at this point in my life instead, or even have succumbed to a serious disease, if I had remained on a typical American diet using conventional medicine to treat my health problems.  Now that I am in my 50's, it saddens me greatly to see so many of my friends, even those much younger, dealing with chronic health problems and diseases.  It doesn't have to be this way and I am grateful that through God's grace, He has brought me to where I am today.  Don't be deceived and think you can never get to this point.
Start with baby steps.  Educate yourself - read the posts below.  Begin the weekly challenges.  Become aware and ask God to help you succeed.
The world's wisdom concerning foods and food choices has infiltrated everywhere, including those who know and live for the Lord.  The only path to gaining and maintaining health is through a diet of foods as God has provided for us.  Man-made processed foods contain toxins and little nutrition, and WILL cause health problems eventually for everyone. 

Don't be fooled and deceived. 

Speak Victory - No Shame or Guilt
Black and White, or Shades of Gray
Stop the Cycle Today

Be grateful.

Thank You
Thank You Again

Get to 100 % through baby steps.

What Does Your 100% Look Like?
Starting the Weekly Challenges

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!"  Philippians 4:13

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Week 12

Be a member of the 'Clean Plate Club' - don't waste food.
Growing up in the 60's, I was taught to be a member of the 'Clean Plate Club'.  Then in the 80's and 90's, it became vogue to leave a bit of food on your plate.  I guess it was a sign of self control in a society of people becoming obese.  But it is a sign of nothing more than arrogance and wastefulness and worst yet, perhaps subconsciously we know that the processed foods that we are eating in school cafeterias, buying at grocery stores, and ordering at restaurants are garbage so we don't feel bad about tossing what we don't eat in the trash.  Maybe if we bought and ate quality foods that cost more, we might not be so apt to throw food away.   

But whatever the reasons for wasting, there are good reasons not too.  One key reason is that it might help you loss weight and then maintain your correct weight.  If before a meal you think about the amount of food you need, and take just that amount, you will be eating less.  This is a very important lesson to teach our children also. 
So don't waste food.  Some thoughts on what this encompasses.
1.  Teach your children and yourself to take a small portion of each food choice - if you have never tried something before take just a teaspoonful the first time.  You can always go back for seconds.  Then if you don't like it, you won't be leaving uneaten food on your plate.  Luckily, what one person doesn't like, often another one in the family will love.  For my boys, when they were little, they learned to eat everything on their plate (they had to finish everything on their plates, which was a little bit of all items served, before they could go back for seconds of the things they loved).
2.  Plan your meals and know what you have in your refrigerator and freezer.  Use the produce and foods that you are buying.  Put the newly purchased grocery items in the back and then use what is in the front first.  Typically most items last from several days to a week or two in the refrigerator.  Raw meat lasts a day or two; dishes you prepared and saved as leftovers typically last about 5 days; and things like carrots and celery can last a couple weeks.  (I store my potatoes and onions, which last a couple weeks, in a dark drawer in the utility room, not in the refrigerator.)  Items can be frozen for months.
3.  Save what is not eaten at a meal and plan 'leftover' meals.  Often, I make extra ingredients (such as roastedpotatoes or taco meat) that are then added into a new dish so it does not seem like we are having leftovers and I have a quick, easy meal that is delicious in the next day or two.  Or else, I make one new item (a salad or biscuits for instance) to go with the leftovers.
4.  Leftovers are often great for lunch - take advantage of that delicious real food that you created.
5.  Finish off the perishable items with your meal first.  Things like salads don't keep well for long, so have seconds of those rather than the chicken that you can use in another meal.  If you have teenagers, have them eat the perishable items before they have seconds of the other foods.  Hungry teenagers can be coaxed into eating just about anything!
6.  Save money by learning to use all of the food you buy.  You also become a wise steward of the land when you don't throw away food.  The amount of food thrown in the trash in the United States is nauseating.  Don't be a contributor to the problem.
7.  Take all of those unopened foods that  have ingredients on the 'Foods to Avoid List' to a food pantry.  Replace them with good quality real foods and plan yourmeals wisely using what you have on-hand.  Then teach your family to appreciate these wonderful, delicious foods and to not throw away uneaten food.  You will reap the benefits.
"Jesus told his disciples: 'There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions.  So he called him in and asked him, 'What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer.'" Luke 16:1-2    

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Week 11

Get 15 minutes of sunshine on your face every day (or 15 minutes of fresh air if it is overcast).

I took this photo on February 5, 2011.  It does snow occasionally in Texas, though this winter we have just gotten ice!  I bundled up on this frosty morning in 2011 to enjoy the beauty before the sun melted the snow in our field.  Though it is not good to get too much sun, it is very healthy to get some fresh air and some sun on your skin and face each day.  Yesterday was a gorgeous spring day here in Texas, almost 80 °F.  A beautiful day just calling one to go outside.  It was easy to get some sunshine while working in the garden and fresh air with the house windows open.  Every day will not be as lovely as these days were, but try to enjoy some time outside on most days.  If you can, take a 15 minute walk while you are outside to get your blood circulating too.
While too much direct sunlight can cause skin cancer, no direct sunlight is also not healthy and in combination with a poor diet can contribute to many health problems.  Sunlight has many powerful healing benefits.  The most significant is the synthesis of Vitamin D by our bodies.
Many people because of a man-made, nutrient-deficient diet are low in vitamin D.  Taking a synthetic vitamin D supplement is not the answer, because it will not be absorbed properly by the body.  Vitamin D is one of the fat soluble vitamins that our bodies desperately need and this deficiency leads to numerous health issues that are so prevalent in our society from osteoporosis to Alzheimer's.  So many diseases have emerged due to low fat diets and not enough time outside.  We need good fats in our diets and sunshine for optimal health.
If you work full-time plus, don't think you cannot achieve this challenge.  Everyone gets breaks during the day; use one to get outside.  Also, don't sit in your car or next to a window in the house during this 'sunshine' time.  You do not want to get the sunshine through a window, but directly on your skin and face.
Make time each day for this challenge.  Use this time as a 15 minute break from your day to enjoy the beauty of the world around you.
Advanced Challenge for those already getting 15 minutes of sunshine on the face each day:
Find someone, perhaps an elderly person, that you can help get outside for 15 minutes in the sun each day also. 
"Light is sweet, and it pleases the eyes to see the sun.  However many years anyone
may live, let them enjoy them all."  Ecclesiastes 11:7 - 8 


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Week 10

Make a meal planner.

Ideally, you will make a meal plan for the whole week and you will get the ingredients you need when you go grocery shopping, but if this is too overwhelming, start with planning out just one day.  The next week, plan two days, until eventually you are planning out the whole week.

Here is a blank meal planner form.  Include your three meals, plus your morning fruit, your daily raw nuts (not shown on the planner above but on the blank one), and an afternoon snack.  It is easy to make a blank meal planner in Excel, or draw a grid on a piece of paper and fill it in.

When I taught classes five years ago, Jennifer helped me put together a two week meal plan, complete with weekly meal plan spreadsheets and recipes. Above is the first week's spreadsheet. If you would like to receive a copy of the spreadsheets and recipes, let me know and I'll email them to you.

Use meals you know how to fix and that your family likes.  Get their input.  Use ideas from our two week planner.  But try not to use foods or ingredients that contain any of the items on my foods/ingredients to avoid list.  Put your meal plan on your refrigerator or somewhere that you will see it throughout the day.

As Jennifer said in her update, the key to success is "The biggie: plan, plan, plan!"  You don't have to be a victim of the food industry.  Plan out your meals so you can buy God-made ingredients when you go to the store.

Advanced challenge for those already planning their weekly meals:

1.  Find one or two better quality ingredients to use for one of your recipes.  For example, buy local 100 % grass-fed meats, free-range eggs, or raw milk.

2. Use something less processed.  For example, make some butter from fresh milk (post explaining how coming soon), or your own whole grain bread for sandwiches.  Have fun and experiment with something new.

"From the fruit of their lips people are filled with good things, and the work of their hands brings them reward."  Proverbs 12:14

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Storing and using fresh milk


We only drink fresh, raw milk and when it is not available we don't drink milk (*see below for more information about why we don't drink man-processed milk).  From my raw milk, I make butter, kefir and plain yogurt (which I use to make fruited yogurt and fruit smoothies and yogurt cheese).  I use the liquid left from making butter to make my oatmeal - nothing is wasted.  One day, I hope to also make my own cheese, but I think that will need to wait until I am no longer homeschooling.
If cared for properly, my raw milk lasts easily 2 - 3 weeks before souring.  Sometimes, I don't make my butter before the skimmed cream sours, but this 'soured' cream makes great lemon poppy seed muffins.  But careful, however, that your 'soured' cream is still usable for cooking - that is does not smell off or have any discoloration, typically reddish color on the surface.  If so, toss it out.
My milk comes in plastic gallon jugs. I do not have my own cow, which takes a lot of time and commitment, but I am blessed to have a close source of raw milk.  If you live in the North Texas area, Lavon Farms, in Plano, sells raw milk or there are several farms a bit outside of the area that sell raw milk at their farms. 
Handling raw milk properly:
1.  Be sure that you bring a pre-chilled cooler with you when picking up your milk.  It is very important to keep your milk cold at all times for it to last 2 - 3 weeks before going sour.
2.  I transfer my milk from the plastic jugs into glass jars.  The morning that I am going to get milk, I sanitize my already cleaned glass jars in my dishwasher, using the sanitize and heat dry options.  (After a milk jar is emptied, I clean it in the dishwasher and store it until ready to use again.  Be sure you store your clean jars with the lid off so they can air.)  I transfer my milk into half gallon wide-mouth glass jars when I get it home.  These large jars are available at Elliot's hardware in Plano, sometimes at other stores that carry canning jars, co-ops like Azure Standard, and on-line.  A word of caution:  you MUST let your glass jars cool to room temperature before pouring your cold milk into them or they will crack! 
3.  I then place my milk on the top shelf of my 'cold' refrigerator.  Find the coolest spot in your refrigerator to store your milk if you have only one refrigerator, and turn the temperature colder while still being able to store your produce in your refrigerator without damaging it.  I let the milk sit for a day in the refrigerator to settle before I start using it (unless we are completely out of milk).

4.  When I am ready to use a jar of milk, assuming it has had at least one day to settle, I skim the cream off the milk to make butter.  This leaves a natural milk that is comparable to about 2% milk.  I purchased a small metal soup ladle at Target that I use to skim off the cream.  As shown in the photos, you need to gently submerge the level ladle into the cream.  Watch carefully and you will see when you have all the cream skimmed.  I place the cream into a small glass container and then place it back into the refrigerator until I have enough to make butter.  Typically I like to have the cream from 1 to 2 gallons of milk for a batch of butter, which yields about 1 pound of butter and 3 to 4 cups of sweet 'butter' milk which I use to make oatmeal.  DO NOT skim the cream off your milk, until you are ready to use the milk.  If you skim several in advance, the milk will start to sour within a few days.  The cream layer keeps the milk from souring.  Once skimmed, the cream will last about a week (sometimes a little longer) before starting to sour.  We like 'sweet' cream butter, but you can make 'cultured' butter also if your cream has soured.  I prefer to make lemon poppy seed muffins with my slightly soured cream.  If I am making yogurt, which uses a gallon or two of milk, I get enough cream to immediately make butter with the cream.
5.  I never set a jar of milk out on the table or leave it out on the counter.  I pour what we are going to drink into glasses or measure it out for my baking and then immediately put the jar of milk back into the refrigerator.  The only time you would want to leave the milk out at room temperature (or slightly warmer) is when you are culturing it, or you want it to sour. 
Using these methods, my milk stays fresh for two to three weeks, minimum.  We use our milk to drink, for baking, and to make:
yogurt (post coming soon)
lemon poppy seed muffins (from old cream not used for butter)
* Why we don't drink commercial milk:
Milk that has been pasteurized or heated to kill off all bacteria in it, no longer contains the many beneficial aspects of raw milk.  In fact, it no longer contains any of the good bacteria that keeps it from being unsafe.  If you are interested in learning more about why the pasteurization of milk began, you should read the book, The Untold Story of Milk by Ron Schmid.  A brief summary is that it was considered too expensive to improve the conditions in which the cows were being raised and what they were fed (resulting in unhealthy raw milk) thus the solution was to pasteurize the milk.  Milk was needed in the cities and it was difficult to transport fresh milk for the large masses of people who had migrated into the cities during the Industrial Revolution.  It was decided a good compromise would be to pasteurize the poor quality milk, rather than requiring better quality.  Because people did not like this option, selling raw milk was made illegal forcing everyone to buy pasteurized milk.  However, the officials making this decision, allowed one children's hospital to continue to use raw milk from cows out on pasture because they admitted that the children in the hospital would not survive if forced to drink the unhealthy pasteurized milk.  I personally think we have now raised a generation of people who are all too unhealthy to continue drinking pasteurized, homogenized milk.
The second and just as unhealthy practice that was adopted was homogenization of the milk.  Homogenization changes the particle size of the milk, so then the cream does not rise to the top of the milk.  Unfortunately, this practice came about and was readily accepted as people got more and more modern conveniences in their homes.  It is definitely much easier to pour milk directly out of a jug than to first skim the cream off.  So this second practice is more associated with laziness.  But there is a price to pay for this 'convenience'.  The smaller particle size of the milk is unknown in a person's gut and causes many digestive problems because it can leak through the gut undigested. 
Even worse, they are now adding vitamins to milk.  These vitamins are man-made vitamins that are not absorbed by our bodies (which is why I do not recommend eating anything that is 'enriched').  Rather than buying foods that are enriched by man, one should look for the original unadulterated foods that contains the natural vitamins and minerals and co-factors and other things we don't even understand yet in just the right combination and balance. 
"God saw all that He had made, and it was very good." Genesis 1:31a