Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Eating Better: The Basics (Part 6 Wow!)

Now that you know to eat your fruits and veggies and avoid processed foods (like that was a big news flash;)), I want to tell you about another important aspect of healthy eating...Eating organic foods!

Pesticides are known carcinogens. They cause everything from cancer to ADHD! This is proven! Yet, because the amount we actually consume per meal is so "small", they are considered safe by the FDA (don't even get me started on the FDA...:-/) What has been neglected is the effect they have on a cumulative basis, over time, as they accumulate in our bodies, polluting our body systems and organs. Not to mention the horrible impact pesticides have on the environment.

I hope that you have all heard of the "Dirty Dozen", a list composed by The Environmental Working Group, of the 12 "dirtiest" fruits and vegetables...The ones that have been laboratory tested, and found to contain the highest amount of pesticides. These are foods that you should ALWAYS buy organically! They also give you a list of the 15 "cleanest" fruits and vegetables, or "Clean Fifteen". These foods have the smallest amount of pesticide contamination. (I still buy some of these organically if available.)

Here a a few links on the dangers of pesticides in our food:



Here is a sample of  what I usually buy on my weekly grocery shopping trip:

Organic lettuces are great for quick and easy salads!
I use a salad spinner (love this one from OXO) to prep quickly, and for easy storage.

A variety of easy to pick up and eat on the go fruits...apples, plums and peaches, mmmm:)

We love our berries! They are loaded with antioxidants and fiber. 
Grapes are a great treat to have in a basket on the dining room table, so we can "pick" at them all day:)

It is also important to buy organic when it comes to dairy, eggs and meat. Meat, especially beef, is pumped full of hormones that are suspected of causing early puberty in young girls, and colon and breast cancers. Cattle are also fed corn, which is not what they are naturally meant to consume. They are grazing animals that should be grass fed. They are given hormones and fed corn to "fatten" them up and make them taste better. This is where the "You are what you eat", phrase comes into play...If you are eating something that is fat and full of hormones...YOU are going to be FAT AND FULL OF HORMONES!

Horizon organic milk is by far our family favorite (yes, that is chocolate milk you see;))
We also LOVE the Stonyfield Farm Organic yogurts!!!
Got to get the calcium in those kiddos:)

I won't lie...organic chicken is EXPENSIVE! But so worth it. 
I bake 1 or 2 of these up a week, and use them for different dishes, or slice/shred them up for sandwiches. They are terrific in school lunches (remember those nasty nitrates in lunch meat:P).

Organic eggs, from free-ranging  hens, just taste better! They contain less saturated fat and more omega-3 fatty acids. I eat 2 a day!

If I still haven't convinced you, you need to watch this documentary, Food Inc. It is life changing! (I have given you the link to part 1 of Food Inc. on YouTube. You can watch the whole thing there, in 9 parts, or check it out of your local library.)

Finally, I will leave you with the generous bounty of our garden!!!

My hubby and fabulous mother-in-law and father-in-law picked all of these last night!

Growing our own food sure is rewarding! (and we know what's in it;))

Have an awesome week!


Monday, August 22, 2011

Eating Better: The Basics (Part Five)

Today I am going to give you some links to the sites I use frequently for finding healthy recipes!

Clean Eating: Improving your life one meal at a time.

Clean Eating is a great site for finding recipes with whole, unprocessed ingredients. 

Eating Well – Where Good Taste Meets Good Health.

I recently found this site, and LOVE all the yummy ideas!
I just took a peek at Eating Well today, and they have some awesome ideas for lunches.
Check it out!

Allrecipes home

Of course, my favorite site of all time.
If you haven't been to AR you are missing out.
Just type in any recipe you can think of...they have several choices for everything!
Plus, you can do an ingredient search.
I don't know how many times I have had a mish mash of things in my pastry and fridge...
typed them into a search...
and came up with a tasty dinner:)

I owe much of my weight loss to Cooking Light magazine
 I have found some incredible, delicious recipes in CL.
A couple of my favorites:

Check these sites out and give me your opinions!

Next time I am discussing my reasons for choosing organic foods.

Have a great start to the week!


(I am still trying to find a digital picture of me at 185 pounds. If I can't, I will have to scan one. But I promise I am going to share the picture (proof) soon;))

Sunday, August 21, 2011

We Interupt This Blog Series...

Happy weekend! I have had an interesting week. I had Wednesday and Thursday off.


 But...as luck (or lack of sometimes) would have it, on Wednesday morning I opened the door of my car, shut it, or attempted to shut it, and the strike (the part where the door thingy meets the other door thingy) fell out onto the ground.

 Uh oh!

There wasn't a bungee cord or zip tie to be found. So I was obviously not going anywhere. RATS! I had been planning on taking a trip to the farm market to get some fresh peaches, broccoli and spinach. So I was bummed.

A little back story on my car before I continue. We bought it in August of 2005. It was (notice how I say was) a 1999 GMC Jimmy. I LOVED it! Four wheel drive...lots of room...moon roof...rockin' stereo system. Perfect! Or so I thought. Eighty days after we bought it, the engine blew, along with the catalytic converter:( That was EXPENSIVE. So I vowed I was gonna drive it into the ground.

Fast forward back to Wednesday. So there I was with no ride. I can't say that I was shocked. I just hadn't imagined this would be the end. I thought maybe she would have gone out with a bigger bang. Not that there wasn't plenty wrong with her:
  • The "check engine" light had been on and off for months.
  • The breaks never worked right (my hubby replaced the break pads every 3 or 4 months, and a rotor or two at least once a year...EVERY year!).
  • A wheel bearing was going bad in the front.
  • The transmission was starting to get a little...uh...skippy (I don't know a better way to describe it).
  • A furry beast had eaten one of the seat belts out of the back seat.
  • Bald tires.
  • Small things too numerous to count. 


I was hangin' on though.

But that darn door was the last straw. If it costs more to fix than it's worth...it's time.


I got a new car!

I about had a panic attack (actually...I did!) when I signed the papers (understandable considering the last car buying experience we had), but I am really happy with my 2008 Chrysler Town and Country Touring!!!


Here are some random pictures from our this past week and weekend...

Goofing off at the farm market (which we went to while waiting for the paperwork on the car).
They have an awesome cafe where we ate lunch, which included farm fresh veggies on our salads, Fresh baked bread, and homemade cinnamon apple sauce (instead of fries) with the kiddos meals.

Saturday night cruise...

along the waterfront...

Gorgeous sunset!
This is why we live in Northern Michigan!

And finally...

a cheesy self pic of me and my new haircut.
 I almost cried as my wonderful stylist, Jason, whacked off six inches of hair.
It had to be done though.
Luckily I have found some awesome new vitamins that will help my hair stay healthy!
(But more about that later;))

What did you do this weekend? 


P.S. Be back tomorrow with the continuation of my Better Eating Series!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Eating Better: The Basics (Part Four)

I bet you are super stoked to learn what fabulous recipes I have for you today! You remember...the ones with all those yummy fruits and veggies we discussed a few days ago? Well... Here they are!

Quinoa Fried Rice (we call it Veggie Fried Quinoa)

This is quickly becoming a favorite in my house! Another FABULOUS recipe from Jenn at Peas and Crayons. If you haven't already done so, go check her out!!!

I have been using Kitchen Basics Chicken Broth for this, and a little extra soy sauce! You can add so many things to this dish. EXPERIMENT! My kids are CRAZY about it. For real!

Next  is my go-to veggie..salad!

I usually purchase a large container of organic baby spinach and a package of organic hearts of romaine lettuce when I do my weekly grocery shopping. This gives us enough for about three nights worth of salad (a few servings each of those F's&V's). I will set out little dishes full of different veggies (onions, green pepper, broccoli florets), some dried cherries and/or cranberries, cheeses (feta, Gorgonzola, mozzarella), nuts (walnuts, pecans, almonds), and a homemade vinaigrette (recipes to follow). This gives everyone a choice.

Especially the picky one!

Our 2 favorite dressings:

Greek Dressing
(this dressing is great on a bed of lettuce and spinach, with feta, onions, cukes, tomatoes, kalamata olives and pickled beets!)


Simple Balsamic Vinaigrette:

3-4 Tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Tablespoons of organic balsamic vinegar
1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
1-2 teaspoons organic dijon mustard
2 teaspoons organic or raw honey (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients and whisk together. Simple as that folks!!!

(Healthful Hint: Use rolled oats instead of bread crumbs. Also (not so healthy hint) These need lots of sea salt if you are using organic, no salt added beans)

Topped with tomato, cucumber and tzatziki!...

With some  SWEET POTATO FRIES  on the side!?! I am in L-O-V-E with these! You can even use a mixture of chipotle and ancho chili powder for a smokier taste.

Is your mouth watering yet?

Maybe some Sweet Summer Fruit Bruschetta will do the trick:

Chop up some peaches, plums and/or nectarines...maybe add a few juicy raspberries or blueberries...mix in a little honey...perhaps some coconut flakes...cinnamon...The possibilities are endless! Pile it up on some toasted baguette slices (or better yet, some toasted mini whole-wheat pitas). De-lic-ious!

Another fruity opportunity (haha! I crack me up!)...

A Fruit and Walnut Salad (modeled after a certain fast food chain's version of a "healthy" snack):

Sliced organic apples and walnuts, sprinkled with cinnamon or apple pie spice, and organic vanilla yogurt for dipping. My daughter asks for this treat daily!

I hope that I have given you a few ideas. Maybe convinced a few of you that F's&V's can be exciting and tasty...?  Yes!

Next time I will give you those favorite healthy eating site links. And maybe..that picture of me at 185 pounds! I am such a tease;)

Happy eating!


Saturday, August 13, 2011

Eating Better: The Basics (Part Three)

It's that time folks! Time for the "eat your fruits and veggies" portion of my Eating Better series. Do I hear you all cheering yet? I should!

How cute is this! I saw this awesome button that Jenn over at Peas and Crayons created, and knew I had to include it in this post! You should definitely pop over and drool over her amazing, HEALTHY recipes.

Since grade school the benefits of eating fruits and vegetables have been drilled into our heads. Everyone is well aware of the fact that eating fruits and veggies is healthy. So why don't we do it?

I am very passionate about health and nutrition, especially when it involves children. I found an alarming statistic (I LOVE statistics) about childhood obesity...17% of children in this country are obese! That means that almost 1 in 5 children had a body mass index  (this a neat tool that can help you calculate your child's BMI) of 30 or more! Now, I remember being in school, and every class had "the chubby kid", but this is 4 or 5 OBESE children per average class of 25 kids! There is something wrong here!  Another little factoid I ran across...Only 22% of high school students are getting at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day (the recommendation is 9 servings)! Do you think there may be a connection? I DO!

There are two main excuses I have heard for the lack of fruit and veggie consumption. The first being "Produce is too expensive". Well, let's do a little cost comparison...A candy bar costs around 85 cents. A large, organic Gala apple cost roughly the same (I paid $2.67 for 3 huge apples yesterday). The candy bar is nutritionally vacant, while the apple has fiber, vitamins and antioxidants that support a healthy digestive and immune system. Hmmm? Another great example of cost NOT being the real issue...A bag of greasy potato chips costs about $3. Plus you can add in the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes. A pound of organic carrots costs $2.69, and includes the benefits of better vision, lowered heart disease risk and protection against certain cancers. I know which one is the better deal to me!

That brings me to the second excuse (the one I know you are screaming at your computer screen)..."Fruits and vegetable don't taste very good" (which I don't agree with), so my children won't eat them. There are hundreds of different types of produce available. Experiment! Try something new! Until recently I had never eaten a papaya. They are seriously delicious! The same goes for the kiddos. Get them to pick out their own fruits and veggies! My kids and I will sometimes see who can pick out the weirdest looking fruit, then take it home and try it. There have been some things that weren't to our tastes, but you never know until you try. Plus, it makes them feel like they are in charge of their own diet, and gives them the tools they need to develop healthy eating habits.

The same goes for adults! EAT YOUR FRUITS AND VEGGIES! 9 servings per day!

Tomorrow I will give you some of my favorite fruit and veggie recipes. Plus links to some amazing healthy eating websites:)

Have a wonderful Saturday!


Thursday, August 11, 2011

Eating Better: The Basics (Part Two)

So...have you hopped on my chemical-free band wagon yet?

Why not?

It can be difficult to retrain you your taste buds to enjoy food in it's whole, purest form. Especially if your eating habits have always been the same: packaged, processed foods, consumed out of convenience and "necessity". But I'll let you in on a secret...I can TASTE the preservatives and engineered flavorings in just about any processed food. No lie. My family's nickname for me has always been "the nose". Smell is directly linked to taste, so therefore, with the help of my super duper sniffer, I can taste anything unusual in my food (and let's face it...chemically engineered junk is unusual).  It wasn't always that way though. For years I ate junk and thought it tasted good. Like most people, I was raised on condensed soups, seasoning packets and packaged sweets. Oh, my mom made homemade cookies and other from-scratch goodies, but not every day. And let's face it, Little Debbies are cheap and lack the preparation time of homemade cookies.

In order to ween myself (and my family) from the processed foods, I had to come up with tasty alternatives. I started with the ever popular condensed cream of mushroom soup. After a quick internet search, I came up with this. I altered it a bit to suite our tastes...added more mushrooms, used organic broth (which is IMPORTANT to keep the MSG out), and seasoned it with sea salt. It works great in tuna noodle casserole (which I now have a different from-scratch recipe that  I use and I will share another day) and green bean casserole! The recipe can also be used to create other "cream of" soup variations. Another thing I quickly found a substitute for was taco seasoning. My favorite website, allrecipes.com, is where I found my go-to taco seasoning recipe. Trust me, this is WAY better than any seasoning packet. Plus, you can mix up a ton, and have it on-hand whenever. How convenient is that?

(note: You will need to add 1/2 to 3/4 cup of water to the seasoning mix. Just like the packets.)

It was actually quite simple to find chemical free substitutions for the foods we liked. Here are a few of my favorite recipes:


Oatmeal Whoopie Pies (aka: oatmeal cream pies)  Please note that I switch the shortening for real butter.


Restaurant Style Salsa

28oz. can of organic (or natural) whole tomatoes

2-10 oz can of all natural tomatoes with green chilies (I use the Meijer Naturals brand...Ro-Tel HAS additives, so do not use)

1 jalapeno pepper, seeds and all, cut into chunks

3/4 cup white onion, roughly chopped

2-3 cloves of garlic, peeled and halved

1/2 cup ORGANIC cilantro

The juice of 1/2 a lime

1 tsp sea salt

1/2 tsp cumin

a pinch of sugar

Toss ingredients into a food processor or blender, pulse 15-20 times.

Pour into a bowl and store in the fridge for at least 4 hours (it gets better with time!) before serving.

We are HUGE chips and salsa eaters! I use either the brand pictured above, or organic if they are on sale.

In the evenings, my hubby and I like to drink chai tea lattes. I use lowfat organic milk, and sprinkle with a little nutmeg. Way better than those processed cocoa packets we used to slurp down.

These are just a few ways that we have improved our diets. As I said in the last post, this was a slow process for us. You may be wondering about other important aspects of healthy eating, and I promise I am getting to that. Posts on everything from eliminating trans fats to the importance of buying organic produce are yet to come. Plus links to more of my favorite websites!

If you have any questions, let me know!


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Eating Better: The Basics (Part One)

Wanna hear something SHOCKING?

My kids do NOT know what Trix cereal tastes like! Or Fruity Pebbles, Cocoa Puffs, Apple Jacks, Cap'n Crunch...the list could go on for a while. They can not fathom the flavor of a Cheeto. Or recall the riotous jumping of Pop Rocks on their tongues.

Wanna know why?

They have NEVER eaten them!

Yeah, yeah, I know...I'm drinking the Kool-Aid (made with stevia and coloring naturally derived from beet extract) mixed up the earthy-crunchies.  A little artificial flavoring, MSG, and twenty plus ingredients that I haven't a clue how to pronounce, all cemented together by some high fructose corn syrup are way healthier than the bad wrap they've gotten...

Now, I will be honest...my kids have had their share of junk food. They do get out from under my strict control every so often. And...

I would likely cringe if I knew some of the unhealthy "treats" that have passed their lips and landed into their little tummies. Also, If you look back at my post on our summer picnic, you will see that Gabe is indeed drinking a soda. In my defense, I bought it because it was in a glass bottle, made with cane sugar (not high fructose corn syrup), and brought back a few childhood memories. I know, I know, it is the beginning of the post and I am already a hypocrite! But...if you can't bend the rules every once in a while, life would get a little dull. I am not perfect.

Let's clear the air about something else...I LOVE to bake. I make cupcakes, cakes, candies, breads, and all sorts of tasty treats. Here's the catch: I do it with natural and/or organic ingredients. I refuse to use shortening, artificial flavorings, bleached flours, beet sugar, or anything else that is "fake"or full of trans fats. My recipes consist of basics: Unbleached (and sometimes whole wheat) flour, pure cane sugar, organic eggs, real butter and real vanilla. I use organic flour when I can afford to, and turbinado sugar if I can get away with it and a recipe is forgiving enough. The key to this is MODERATION. 

One of the first steps I took in cleaning up our diet was eliminating/reducing the MSG and preservatives we consumed. In my research I found a few articles on nitrates that made me cringe.  In case you don't know, sodium nitrate/nitrite is used as a preservative in hotdogs, lunch meat, bacon and too many other things to count. It has been linked to several different cancers, most notably colon cancer. You can find hotdogs, lunch meat and bacon that do not contain nitrates, but it is difficult, and you have to look for sneaky labeling tricks. I buy my bacon...yes, we do occasionally eat bacon...at my local meat market, where it hasn't been treated with as many nitrates (if any at all), because it is not prepackaged to sit in a refrigerator case for months at a time. Instead of lunch meat, I buy whole, organic chicken, bake it, and shred/slice it for sandwiches.

Also, in my Internet perusing, I came across a ton of information about MSG. A "flavor enhancer" used in...well...EVERYTHING! You will not believe the foods that contain monosodiumglutamate (MSG)! Funny (not so funny) story about MSG. My husband LOVES jerky. He loves it so much that he started making his own out of the venison from the deer he hunts. We would buy these packets of seasoning, thinking it was so much easier than mixing it ourselves. Well, since he then had a ton of jerky, he started eating it every day...lots of it. Very strangely, he also started getting headaches daily. This went on for months. Until I decided to read the packet of jerky seasoning. Monosodiumglutamate was one of the MAIN ingredients. We threw the packets away, and the headaches never came back! We now make our own seasoning (and it tastes much better).

This is post is getting a tad lengthy, and I have included a bunch of information to ponder...so I will continue tomorrow with some alternatives I use to replace the preservative laden foods that had been a staple on my cupboard shelves. Also, I will give you some great links to recipes and websites that promote healthy eating.

Plus, in an upcoming post, I will show you a rarely seen photo of me at 185 pounds! If that doesn't get you to come back, I don't know what else will;)

Let me know what you think so far!


Tuesday, August 9, 2011


I have decided that it is time for a change...



Blogally (that may be pushing it).

As some of you know, my son is autistic, and also has a genetic disorder called 22q11.2 deletion Syndrome (DiGeorge Syndrome). This has been our greatest challenge, struggle, burden (yes, I am going there), blessing and triumph. If you read this post, you will see that we obviously have our bad days (weeks, months...), but life goes on, and we can't just let it swallow us up. Because our family has a strong faith in God and His goodness, and the support and goodness of others, we have made it through some rough times. The boy who almost did not survive his first months of life, is now a happy, healthy (for the circumstances), funny, caring young man, whom is LOVED and appreciated by his family and friends. When we named him, I did not know how true the meaning of his name would become: Gabriel "God is my strength".

Because of the challenges we have faced with Gabe, I have spent quite a few years doing research (aka: trying to find ways that it was or was not my fault). There is a TON of information out there; studies, advice, books, theories (whacked out or otherwise). One of the main themes I discovered was our environment. It makes sense that where and how we live affects our bodies and our minds.


Wonder where I am going with this?

I have decided to start letting all of you know about the journey we have been taking to improve our lives!

I will write about everything, from the changes we have made in the way we eat and clean, to the daily struggles/impatience/fun of having a special needs child (and his sassy 4-year-old sister). I will also be letting you know about a few decisions I have made over the summer. Oh yeah...and throwing in some fun projects and recipes, because that's what I like to do!!:)

Change is always best in small doses (at least for me...can you say "OCD neurotic mama!"). The changes we have made throughout the past few years have been gradual, but I believe that they are right for us, and could possibly make a difference in someone else's life too.

I hope that you will come back soon! (Like tomorrow, when I explain how I am s-l-o-w-l-y overhauling our diets)


Saturday, August 6, 2011

I've Got a BUTTON!!!

It has seriously been


I plan to be posting regularly again soon...

After the CRAZY summer starts winding down.

I have some fun things in store for this little blog of mine...

Starting with my new BUTTON!

Which took my ohhhhh...


to figure out.
(computer genius I am NOT)

Let me know what you think!

Be back soon...
(says the girl who practically disappears off the face of the Earth for long periods of time;))

Have a super Sunday!!


Exploring the Upper Peninsula...and a Few Yummies

I am going to make this short...because I am desperately trying to be more intentional with my time.  Spending less of it on my phone or com...