I am a Mormon stay-at-home-mom of six. Yeah, I know, "that's a lot of kids"! Sometimes it truly is A LOT. Most of the time it's not. It's simply put...our normal. On my page you'll find spiritual thoughts, tales of trials, happy moments, recipes, funny stories, and more. Enjoy!!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Let's get back to basics!

Back to basics.  What does that mean for the food we eat? I love to over-think things sometimes and for the longest time just couldn't wrap my head around anything besides casseroles, spaghetti, fried/baked chicken, etc.  And while those dishes are delicious and yummy and simple, I have learned that there are easier ways to nourish your body.

It's really this simple:

There ya have it! It can get boring at times to eat just those items, so you have to get creative with it.  Why not take a large zucchini, slice it in half, spread some olive oil and seasonings and either bake it or grill it.  YUM!  Have some seasoned chicken on the side, or a handful of nuts.

Be aware that when buying nuts, especially when you are trying to eat healthy and use only natural ingredients, make sure the nuts you buy are only salted or plain.  I buy salted peanuts and plain almonds.  Both can be purchased at Walmart and Sam's Club...among other places.  Don't be confused...dry roasted, honey roasted and other kinds of nuts usually have unwanted ingredients in them.  Stay away from them.

When buying canned fruits be sure that it only contains fruit, sugar and water or...if you can be so luck to find it...fruit and water.  Put down the cans that use high fructose corn syrup and grab the healthier choice.

Veggies are similar...make sure the canned version has a veggie, salt and water or just veggies and water. When fresh is not available or too expensive, it's perfectly fine to consume canned goods.

I don't use beans very often, especially not those that are still hard and in a bag.  Haha! I am lost when it comes to what to do with them.  It's probably easy to soak and cook them but I just never get around to doing it.  I enjoy baked beans but have to read the label very carefully.  So, it might just be better for me to buy a bag...darn it.  We also enjoy black beans in our Mexican dishes.

Tacos are fun and can be very healthy too.  Make sure your taco seasoning does not have any form of MSG.  Good luck on that one!  Haha!  I had a hard time finding one so now I make it from scratch.  Here is the recipe I use:

Taco Seasoning
¼ cup chili powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. oregano crushed
2 tsp. paprika
2 tbsp. cumin
2 tsp. sea salt (optional)
1 tsp. black pepper

Place all ingredients into an airtight container.  Seal and shake.  Use about 3 tbsp. per one pound of meat.   

Also, try using corn tortillas for a change.  You can bake/cook them if you like.  They usually have less "GUNK" in them.  AND they are Gluten Free.  You can also make these from scratch.  Here is another recipe. And yet another one. Simply search for corn tortilla recipes. 

In my search for a healthier lifestyle I have read and heard MANY many times that a lot people are gluten intolerant and don't even know it.  I have wondered about it for myself several times but still have not done anything about it.  Yet...I'm starting to think I probably should.

Here is a link that is a quick read but has helpful information.

Happy and healthy eating!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Don't be afraid to ask

Some of our favorite foods now list ingredients like "natural flavors" or "natural colors".  This catch-all phrase has now become a HUGE red flag warning to me. We love chocolate chips and recently, when I renewed our Sam's Club membership, I purchased a couple of large bags of Nestle Toll House Semi-Sweet Morsels.  They say they are "all natural" right on the front of the bag.  I decided I should re-read their label, as I had read it quite a long time ago.  There it was...towards the end of the list..."natural flavor".  

Littlest Miss LOVES to have almonds, peanuts, and a few chocolate chips as a treat, but I didn't want to risk causing even more screaming by giving some unknown ingredient to her.  I began searching the web for the information I lacked.  I couldn't find it.  I picked up the phone and called Nestle and after a little while was passed on to a human being.  (Isn't technology grand sometimes!) 

I explained that my reason for calling was to determine exactly what ingredients were in the chocolate chips due to a child's food allergy. He was very helpful...especially when I used the word allergy. Hmmm.  It took him a while but he finally came back on the line and said the ingredient is vanilla.  According to him, the FDA is now allowing them to list vanilla as "natural flavor".  Stupid FDA.  Wouldn't it be better, more beneficial, cost effective, etc to simply list all the ingredients as they actually are? But then that would just be TOO easy wouldn't it. We wouldn't want people to truly be informed, would we.  I guess that is why they have helpful customer service reps in place to help you determine exactly what is in your food.  Silly.

Anyway...I asked him to clarify if this ingredient was PURE vanilla or vanillin, which is artificial flavoring.  He assured me that it is indeed pure vanilla and that the company used to use vanillin but changed it so the ingredients could be natural.  He then explained that Nestle is going to be changing many of their foods to have natural ingredients.  I told him that was wonderful and thanked him for his help and we ended the call.

There you have it. Now you know which chocolate chips can be on your list of safe things to eat.  So, don't be afraid to pick up the phone and call a company to find out exact ingredients in their foods.  

Now...below is a recipe I got from one of the girls at church.  She loves to bake and is good at it.  They were out of graham crackers but she still wanted to make these treats that she was craving so her mom suggested she use oatmeal instead.  I stuck around to see the results.  Umm....YUMMY!  I don't normally keep graham crackers in the house because they all contain high fructose corn syrup.  Yuck.  This is a great alternative that is healthier.  I left the graham crackers on the list of ingredients but I would recommend that you try the oats first. I used quick oats and she used regular.  It tasted the same to me...I think because we both blended the oats in the blender first to make them into a powder.  

My other tip for the day is stay away from margarine of any kind.  I KNOW it's cheaper.  But it's bad for you.  Use real butter.  I like using salted but many use unsalted.  That's all personal choice.  

Peanut Butter Bars

2 cups of blended oats OR crushed graham crackers 
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup melted butter
2 cups powdered sugar
1 ½ cups chocolate chips
4 Tbsp. peanut butter

In a medium bowl mix together oats, sugar, 1 cup peanut butter, and melted butter. Press firmly into a 9x13 inch baking pan. Melt chocolate chips and 4 Tbsp. peanut butter together and pour over the top of the oat mixture.  Freeze for one hour.  Cut, serve and enjoy!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Food Dye Sensitivity

Our littlest Miss has been a fussy little one.  She started out that way.  Recently though, we had been noticing that some days were much worse than others.  Some days she would cry, scream and throw tantrums and would not be consoled.  I had started to keep an eye on her to try to figure out what might be the cause of her sadness.  I had decided that I thought it might be dairy and/or food dyes.  But without any evidence it was hard to really figure it out.

My dad came to town to visit with us for a week.  One of his favorite treats to share with my kids over the years has been M&M's.  So, true to form, he took the little ones on a walk with my husband while I had the boys at Scouts.  They stopped and got M&M's for them and proceeded to have a GRAND old time.  When they told me what they had fed her I was a bit upset.  But my husband was not convinced that the food coloring made any difference in her mood at all....until the next day.

For the next 3 days we dealt with a lot of screaming, and tantrum throwing.  NOW my husband is a believer.

A couple of weeks later, when my mom was visiting, my husband made our favorite cereal treats with marshmallow and cheerios.  We didn't even THINK to check labels.  Everyone enjoyed yummy treats.  Later, in the evening, Littlest Miss, who was tired, began fussing.  This wouldn't be abnormal for most 19 month old children, but it was the way in which she fussed and carried on.  There was thrashing, flailing, screaming, kicking, arching of her back,biting, and she wouldn't let me hold her.  During her fit we discussed what she had eaten and looked online for a list of ingredients for the marshmallows. I finally ended up emailing the company to get the info.

After about an hour of this behavior she finally crashed and fell asleep on my lap.  But it was a fitful sleep.  She didn't sleep soundly for the rest of the night.  She woke several times and couldn't get comfortable.  In the morning I checked my email and LOW and BEHOLD at the very bottom of the list of ingredients was Blue 1.

Blue 1...I don't like you very much right now!  In fact I might just hate you! LOL!

So, now we are going to be CRAZY and INSANE label readers.

Here is a blog I found with some great info about food dye sensitivities.  I am very aware of how food can effect our bodies both positively and negatively.  It's a passion of mine and maybe that is why I was so aware of this.  BUT I was NOT like this years ago.  I gave my kids whatever I felt like...without a second thought.  Not anymore.  It's simply not an option for our family.  *sigh*

The above site also talks about the connection between milk and food dyes and other petroleum based ingredients.  Very thought provoking.  A friend of mine mentioned that her son couldn't even wear red clothing because he was allergic to the red dyes.  Basically anything that touches your skin could possibly cause a problem IF the individual has a severe enough sensitivity.  *wow*

Another great blog with a lot of useful, helpful insights on the terrible, awful, horrible-ness of petroleum based food dyes that are used ALL the time in the USA.

I will continue my research and hopefully arm myself with enough information to protect my family from the negative effects of food dyes and other artificial ingredients. My journey to rid my home of artificial ingredients and sometimes gluten and dairy has taken many years...8 1/2 years so far...and has evolved and morphed as I learned about different things.  If you have a desire to rid your home of artificial ingredients and preservatives, start small.  It can be very overwhelming at times. Just take your time and start small.  Here is a suggestion for where to start:

If you have a family you may keep peanut butter and jelly in the house all the time.  I know we do!  It's a staple in our home!  One of the first things I changed was the kind of peanut butter I purchase.  Look on the label.  Make sure it has simple ingredients like...peanuts, sugar or molasses or honey for sweetener, oil and salt.  Now, some people would just buy the ones with peanuts or just peanuts and salt, but I don't care for those as much.  We like both the Jif and Skippy natural peanut butters.  I prefer the one sweetened with molasses though.  The next thing is the jelly or jam.  Try to find one that has fruit and sugar.  The two that I am fairly sure are okay...notice I said fairly.  I don't have a jar in my house to check right now....is Smuckers Simply Fruit or the Polaner All Fruit.  And last is your bread.  Most breads have high fructose corn syrup.  Do some research of your own on that.  It's not good.  I will still use corn syrup once in a great while but NOT high fructose corn syrup.  It's been processed and really not good for you.  Anyway, look for a bread that is as healthy as you can get it for now.  If you don't recognize an ingredient go research it and see what it is.

I'll give you an example.  Do you know what cellulose powder is?  It's made from trees.  Tree pulp...if I remember correctly...it's been a while.  Some people say they add "sawdust" to bread and other pre-made products as a filler...well they're right.  My sister was the one who actually asked me what the ingredient was  and I looked it up.  We laughed.  I guess if you WANT to eat tree... that is up to you, but I'd rather not.

Also keep in mind that when they put "natural flavor" and "natural color" on a label you need to be cautious.  It's a "catch all" phrase.  It can mean too many things.  It can even mean MSG.  I try to stay away from it because it's a company's way of not being 100% honest about their ingredients.

Now I have spent far too long on the computer and the children are beginning to revolt!  Until later...