Sunday, September 27, 2009

Variety is the Spice of Life - Menu Plan Monday

Well our drenched drive to Chattanooga to pick up our new dog was a wonderful end to the week. This week looks busy, but not unmanageable. I am ready, strange as it seems, for September to be done and to be into October, because it seems that October is when things finally start to get more exciting. At the same time, I'm glad for the last few days of this month, to help me get prepared for the month to come. I am very sad to see Summer go, since it is by far my favorite season, but now that we're into fall I am already looking forward to Thanksgiving, and to the Advent season. I actually got the last few components for our Advent Wreath a few months ago (I saw tapered candles in all the right colors, and I knew that the next time I thought of it they would be long gone).

I am also looking forward to some time to get Bee Beautiful back up and running. The crazy summer brought my as-of-yet unstructured business to a halt, and I am looking to getting my site back up and running in time for holiday gift shoppers.

I have heard some great recipes from friends and have been reading a few around in the blogosphere (it is cheesy, but I so love that non-word), so I'm throwing a few of them into this week's line up.

OK, so this week's menu:

Monday - Wild Rice and Chicken Soup, Spinach-Bacon-Feta Muffins with Whole Wheat
The soup a friend of mine made last Monday, and she let me taste some, it is AMAZING. She uses about half the butter and cream called for, I'm going to use all of it, but do milk instead of cream (raw cream is harder for me to come by, and dh just doesn't do well with pasteurized dairy). I may throw in some extra butter to make up for the cream difference.
To Do: (Night Before) Soak muffin batter, thaw frozen chicken stock

Tuesday - Cozy Quinoa Casserole (w/my homemade whole milk mozz, instead of the cheddar)
To Do: Soak Quinoa (Tues Morning...may have Jeff do it at 11 so it isn't soaking too long)

Wednesday - Sweet Potato Risotto , leftover dinner muffins- I saw this on EDIT: Christine's blog, though at this moment I cannot remember whose, sorry! It looked so yummy, though! We're going to be doing it with brown rice, so I may need to find a way to make it a little creamier. We LOVE sweet potatoes!

Thursday - Spaghetti, Multi Grain Garlic Bread w/a touch of BASIL!

Friday - Leftover night (Spaghetti! On my own for dinner)

Saturday - Breakfast for Dinner (Whole Wheat Pancakes, Bacon, Scrambled Eggs)
To Do: (Night Before or Morning Of) soak Pancake batter

Sunday - Chicken, Spinach, and Mushroom crepes. This is an old favorite of mine that I haven't done in a while...dh doesn't mind it, either! We may be having company so I thought I'd pull out one of the fancier ones, haha.
To Do: (Night Before) Soak crepe batter.

This is a part of Menu Planning Monday at Org Junkie. Visit Org Junkie for more great posts.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

An Addition to the Family

Jeff and I traveled about 3.5 hours to Chattanooga today to pick up Lulu, an American bulldog we're adopting from a breeder out that way. Lulu is an incredibly affectionate dog. If you are petting her, and you stop, her nose will find your hand and nudge it until you start again. She is a little intimidated by my big fuzzy slippers, and tries to attack them. So, I think I'll be giving those a rest for a while.

She has a beautiful brindle coat, with white "socks," and a mostly white chest and face. She is absolutely gorgeous. She handled the ride home in the truck very well - even including not-so-clever drivers who break when they hydroplane. Yes, long rides in the rain are less-than-awesome, sometimes. Thank the Lord my dh has such great reflexes, and a level head.

She bonded with us very quickly, the very first time Jeff left the truck at a rest stop, she got very antsy until he came back and was the same when I left, too. We had a lot of fun bringing her into PetCo (it was pouring out, but since the drive was so long we wanted her to get some walking in). She did alright on the floors (linoleum) for the most part, but it was actually very handy for when she tried to go in a different direction from us, because between the linoleum and the leash, she lost all traction on the floor and very quickly opted to follow us, instead. She was absolutely adorable.

We brought her into the house, and she headed into the kitchen and jumped up on the counter straightaway. All I said was, "Lulu, DOWN." and she was down. That does not mean she's not still tempted, but I try to say know when she only looks like she is going to jump. The same with our bed, and the same with our couch. Well...

She tried to get up on the couch when I was there, and I told her no and she got back down. She listens to Jeff very quickly, normally, but she also seems to be closer to him, already. She followed him onto the couch, and he bade her get down, and it took a little bit of time. I think she just really wanted to be close to him. I think she gets the idea of where she is not supposed to be, already, but it is going to take a while to build the discipline, of course. The fact that she will be an outdoor and indoor dog, I think, is going to make it a little harder, because the boundaries won't be completely consistent.

Okay, without further ado, here are the pictures:

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Cultures For Health Giveaway

My favorite giveaway is gracing another great blog!

Kitchen Stewardship
is hosting a giveaway, but there are only a couple hours left! Hurry up and get over there. I trust that you'll find some great resources there, even if you don't win the giveaway.

I'm looking at a new yogurt starter, or maybe finally getting some water kefir grains. The possibilities...well they're not endless, but there are quite a few :)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

My Battle with Kashi - Real Food Wednesday

So, last week on Fight Back Friday I posted about my discovery of Autolyzed Yeast Extract in some Kashi products. I emailed them about it, asking that they either label the ingredient as " (contains glutamate) " or remove it all together.

Well, I considered my action to be complete, until I received this email back from Kashi (bold type is my emphasis):

Hello Melody,

Thank you for contacting Kashi concerning our Heart to Heart® Cereals and TLC® Crackers. We appreciate your interest in our company and products. Our goal is to provide wholesome, all-natural foods that meet the high nutritional and taste standards of the Kashi consumer.

At Kashi, we do not add any MSG to our products, as evidenced by the ingredient statements on our packages that follow FDA labeling regulations.

Natural ingredients used to enhance the flavor of our products, including autolyzed yeast extract, are used in Kashi foods. Autolyzed yeast extract, which has been used safely as a flavor enhancer for nearly a century, contains naturally occurring free glutamate, an amino acid that is present in virtually all protein-containing foods including meat, vegetables, poultry and milk. Free glutamate is different than monosodium glutamate (MSG), which is glutamate bound to sodium.

We do not list glutamate in the ingredients as it is an amino acid present in most proteins, and makes up a part of the whole ingredient.

We appreciate your inquiry and hope this information will be useful to you when you make product selections for you and your family. We have forwarded your comments over to the appropriate department. Thank you again!

The only problem I have with the above statement is that it is a lie. Autolyzed Yeast Extract is Free Glutamate, and glutamate as it naturally occurs in protein foods is rarely free. It is nearly always a bound molecule. Here is my email response back to them, containing some very helpful and informative links:

While "glutamate" is found in many protein containing foods, it is not free glutamic acid. The glutamates in most of the foods that we consume are bound, which changes the way that our bodies process them. The testing done with free glutamates such as Monosodium Glutamate and Monopotassium glutamate have shown that MSG and other free glutamates consistently cause weight gain in mammals (original tests done on rats), are addictive, and can cause or exacerbate neurological symptoms. For people like myself, who have Asthma, it can also exacerbate asthmatic symptoms. Here are some links which point to studies linking free glutamates like Autolyzed Yeast Extract, Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, and MSG to these issues. (I know this link is to a forum but it contains links to some studies).

The only people saying anything like "AYE is safe for people who are allergic to MSG" are people in the processed food industry, and as someone who is sensitive to it, I am frankly very tired of doing research to see what I can and cannot eat, eating something that is presumably "safe," having a bad reaction, and then finding out that there is yet another form of free glutamate under another hidden name. I appreciate Kashi for many of your healthy and wholesome products. As I've said before, I make a lot of my own foods for meals and for snacking. When I am on the run, it is important to me to be able to quickly find something that is going to be wholly good for me. You can say whatever you like about Autolyzed Yeast Extract and its use in Kashi foods, but the studies I have seen (which are above and beyond the handful I've enumerated here) indicate that it is NOT the same as the bound glutamates found in naturally ocurring meat and vegetable proteins.

Hydrogen peroxide, when exposed to light, breaks down into water. That does not, by any means, indicate that it is safe to drink a bottle of it. True, H2O2 and H2O have the same components, but that tiny little difference in molecule structure makes a world of difference in toxicity.

I am a little bit angry right now. This person who emailed me may have just been sold the "company line," and not aware that they were peddling a blatant lie; but a company that is supposedly dedicated to our health shouldn't have this line. I do not understand why people saw a market for healthy foods, took advantage of that market, and now want to subtly infiltrate that market with the same additives most of us are striving to avoid.

Please email Kashi and tell them your thoughts about AYE and other Free Glutamates that we do not want in our food!

This post is a part of Real Food Wednesday, hosted by Cheeseslave
Re-Posting for Fight Back Friday, hosted by Food Renegade

Please feel free to post excerpts from this post, as long as you link back to me. I want to encourage everyone possible to write to Kashi, as well as other companies, to let them know we're not fooled by AYE and other deceptive names for free glutamate.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Gratituesday - So Thankful for the Sun!

As I mentioned in my previous posts, we've been having a great deal of rain here. Sunday alone we got 9.3 inches of rain, which caused some major flooding in some areas. The forecast yesterday indicated the rain and clouds would continue for the rest of the week, straight through this next Sunday.

Today, though, God had a surprise in store. Today began very dark and gloomy, like every other day in the last week, but suddenly, late in the morning, the SUN came out! I had to head out on my lunch break to fill up my car, and I drove with the windows down, enjoying sunshine and warmth, so very grateful for a break in the rain. Even checking the forecast later to see that they still predicted rain until Sunday didn't dampen my spirits.

It just made me think of the way that God prepares and strengthens us for what is to come, by meeting us where we are with His grace and goodness. God does not always take the obstacles away in our spiritual lives, or in the "reality" of the day to day, but He does always equip us with exactly what we need. The sun came out today and dried off the roads, warmed us up, and brightened our spirits. I know it seems corny, it may even seem trivial, but if there is anything you can glean from being soaked for a week straight and not having running water, it is what little things we take for granted.

The ability to just turn on a faucet when I get something sticky on my hands while cooking, the privilege of taking a shower, the blessing of being able to wash dirty dishes so they are not attracting bugs, the joy of being able to wash your clothes; all of these things are things I take for granted. The last two are things that I often consider to be "chores." But when you turn on your faucet and nothing comes out, your perspective changes.

So I am very grateful for sunshine, and for the reminder of all the things it is easy to take for granted.

See more Gratituesday posts at Heavenly Homemaker.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Menu Planning in a Flood (With No Running Water)

So yesterday, shortly after my post here, our water got shut off. See, it has been raining for a week straight, but Saturday night that turned intona torrential downpour. The water treatment plant / pumping station across the street (and down hill, thank the Lord) was completely flooded, the main main there (no pun intended) burst, as did several others throughout the town. So, no water.

They are beginning to turn the water on in most of the town, but our street is the closest to the largest main break, they say it may take the rest of the week. So...I had this menu plan made Saturday, and we'll see how the week to come (and the inability to do dishes) changes things! I'm just going to list dinners this week.

Monday - leftover lasagna from Sunday's family party

Tuesday - Chicken w/Red Potatoes & Vegetables (slow cooker)

Wednesday - French Toast and Scrambled Eggs (Mmmm...breakfast for dinner!)
To-Do - make the rest of the cheese-designated milk gallons

Thursday - Blueberry Barbecue Chicken, veggies, rice.
To Do - Soak Rice in the AM

Friday - Leftover Chicken (from Tues) Jeff-less since he's working :(

Saturday - Stirfry a la Jeff (didn't actually happen last week)

Sunday - Porkchops and sweet potatoes

See More great Menu Plans here:

Organizing Junkie

So, hopefully at some point in the next week our water will be back on. We have plenty of bottled water for drinking, and even some to spare for dishes (dishwashing will need to be very strategic, I'm thinking).

My very clever husband (I'm so grateful for him), instantly put all of our empty buckets up under the eaves to collect rainwater (yup, it's still pouring, supposed to rain straight through Saturday), and has poured full buckets into the bathtub, so we have plenty of water for flushing toilets. I went to a friends' today to do laundry and take a shower (she has well water). We have a gym with showers at work, but until this evening I was not sure that the water there was all that clean. I have been assured that it is, so I will probably be going into work early to shower there. I washed just enough laundry today to get me through the week.

Hopefully by the end of the week when the rain is dying off we'll have our water running and it will be potable. Boil warnings make me nervous, because you can kill the bacteria, sure, but what about dirt and sediment? so do you boil it, cool it down, and then filter it? I've never been in a situation like this before so I'm just not sure. I guess we'll figure it out!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Getting Settled

This has been a busy week, and it has gone by so quickly. The week ahead will probably do the same. I am okay with that, I want the weeks to fly by until the sun comes back out.

It has been raining here since Tuesday, which limits us to the indoors during a time I was hoping to be able to enjoy what is left of the waning summer. I realize that, living in Georgia, there will be days and even whole weeks of summer-like weather during the day right on up through October, interspersed with weeks that are so autumnal you wonder how it could have been 80 degrees yesterday. Still, the real summer ends Tuesday, as autumn begins, and it will still be raining then.

The rain also brought with it a tiny band of ants that thought they should invade my newly filled pantry. I was horrified. I've never even had a pantry of my own, and only a few weeks in I am confronted with a band of marauders seeking shelter from the wet weather and my food. I was not horrified for long, though. I remembered reading at Passionate Homemaking that Lindsay had a great ant trap recipe. I set to work, and I must say it was almost frightening how I gleefully watched the ants march to their demise. But they got into my Nutella, and I had to throw it out. It was war.

The rain has been good, though, too. First of all, the state has been in a drought for years. We obviously need the rain, and now there is plenty of rain to go around. Secondly, It has given me ample opportunity to do nothing but take care of the inside of our house. My kitchen is finally completely unpacked, organized, and accessible.

To celebrate, I had the most productive day of my life, yesterday. Our family down here is having a family birthday party this month (any month when there are birthdays, there is a get together one day that month for all the celebrators of nascence (a.k.a. the birthday boys and girls). This month dh is part of that celebration, as his birthday was on the sixth. This last week had my niece Cora and my Nephew Tobin, both my brother and sis-in-law's kids, so Jen and I are providing main course and birthday cake. The menu is lasagna, and I'm making mine with homemade mozzarella cheese (the ricotta is not homemade, because it just seemed like too much work for yesterday, and even homemade ricotta is not a raw process, so it is pasteurized either way. As long as there is a little raw-milk-product present, Jeff handles the pasteurized dairy fairly well). We are of course having 2 lasagnas, because there will be a great deal of people, and also because not everyone in my family is so into the raw milk thing. Probably about half of us are.

So yesterday I made scrambled eggs, sausage, and toast for breakfast, made mozzarella cheese, made a black forest cake, made a batch of chicken salad for lunch, fought an epic battle with that ancient nemesis of mankind - the ant - and seem to have won, made us baked chicken with apples and barley (meal got switched up earlier in the week because dh was sick and just wanted scrambled eggs), and made the sauce for my lasagna. AND, for the first time ever in my life, I cleaned up after every single project. There are no dirty dishes hanging about, and not a crumb on a single countertop. I'll admit, the ants had a good bit to deal with that. Still, first time ever accomplishments should be celebrated. And I have never dirtied, cleaned, redirtied, cleaned, redirtied, and cleaned again. Usually that last "cleaned" gets left off. I slept sooooooooooooo well last night, having gotten so much done (and being pretty worn out). I can say that my house now smells more like baking foods and pasta sauce, and less like paint, and I am entirely enthused about that prospect.

The rainy weather also gave us an opportunity to sleep in - maybe a little too much, but still I'm grateful - and enjoy a slow-paced morning together. During that time we got online and found out about a dog being given away. A beautiful female American Bull Dog, 4 years old, all with records and up-to-date. We called the gentleman who is giving her away, and he seemed adamant that she go to a good home where people would take good care of her. So this looks much "safer" than our last experience (about a month and a half ago we got a dog, and the next day she died from heartworms.), but still just because of that last experience I am a little afraid of getting our hopes up. From the ad and from the pictures it looks like she is a great dog. Greate with people in general and especially children, and very protective of her home. So, this Saturday we are driving all the way out to Chattanooga to meet her and this gentleman, and hopefully bring her home with us!

We still have a couple rooms to get unpacked and set up (namely the office and Jeff's fish room), and presently the entire unscathed inventory of our pantry is on the diningroom table, but otherwise, this is really beginning to feel like home.

Friday, September 18, 2009

With Friends Like These, Who Needs Enemies - Fight Back Friday

I have always loved Kashi's products. They make great products using at least seven whole grains in everything. While I have been learning that I enjoy making my own snack foods, I often eat Kashi if I'm on the go and don't have time.

The other day in the cracker aisle, I was looking for a healthy something to snack on at work. I grabbed the Kashi Heart to Heart crackers in Roasted Garlic. Because I have an MSG allergy, I read the ingredients on everything. This being Kashi, though, I almost didn't. I am so glad that I did, because right there in the ingredients was "autolyzed yeast extract."

Autolyzed yeast extract is a food additive used to enhance flavor. While it is not technically MSG, it is basically the same thing arrived at through a different process. It still contains Free Glutamic Acid, which triggers the allergic reaction in many to MSG (including my own allergic reaction). So, for all intents and purposes, it may as well be MSG.

I was infuriated that they had it listed as AYE instead of MSG, the only real reason to do that is to prevent people from saying, "Oh, this has MSG, I'm not getting it." And Kashi is a company that promotes physical health and well being, being conscious of what you're putting in your body.

More than that, these crackers have additives that are good for your heart. Glutamate/MSG, however, can contribute to weight gain, which puts you at risk for high blood pressure / high cholesterol / general heart issues.

Why would a company that is this health-conscious choose to put this unnecessary and unhealthy additive in their food?? Better yet, why would they be so dishonest about it; encouraging people outwardly to make healthy choices but also subtly contributing to health issues.

Now, I don't want to simply bash Kashi in general, because if not for them I would lack many of the on-the-go foods that enable me to stick to my food standards. But regarding this and a few other flavors of their crackers, I am extremely disappointed.

If you feel the same way, go tell Kashi about it!

This post has been a part of Fight Back Friday hosted by Food Renegade. Find more great posts there!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Menu Plan Monday September 14

We are all moved into our new house, but not quite all settled yet. While our kitchen was half packed up menu planning was definitely a difficult task. Now that I have a kitchen - not just a kitchen, but a kitchen with ROOM to spare (!!) - we are getting fully back into the swing of things.

I am so excited, and feeling so much less tired, now that we are making more of our own food again. And, what is more than that, I am discovering the joy of cooking and cleaning when there is actually room to move around. It has been much easier for me to keep up on housework since we've moved into a roomier place!

We've only just gotten settled in and there is already a lot on the horizon. This Sunday is our family birthday party for this month, at my brother and sister in law's house. Jeff's birthday was on the 6th, and then this week my niece Cora and my nephew Tobin each have a birthday as well. Jen (my awesome sister in law) and I are each making a lasagna (mine with raw cheese so Jeff can eat it) and a cake, everyone else is bringing salads, breads, and drinks. It will prove to be a ton of fun, as always, and soooooooooooooo delicious :) Of course, never having done this cake with wheat before (I'm making an incredible Black Forest Cake), I'll have to do a trial run. How sad to have extra cake around!

Once we get fully unpacked and settled, you can definitely expect pictures of our new abode, complete with the incredible paint-job my very handy husband did (with the help of some good friends, too!). Until is this weeks menu plan:

Breakfast: Kefir / granola
Lunch: Leftover Barley Burgers (from the dinner we had w/some friends Sunday Night)
Dinner: Sweet Orange Grilled Chicken Salad* (see "recipe" below)

To Do: Make Black Forest Cake (Trial run for party later this week, haven't made this cake w/the freshly milled soft white wheat before), also make egg salad for Tuesday lunches.

Breakfast: Kefir/Granola
Lunch: Egg Salad Sandwiches
Dinner: Chicken (a la Jeff) in the slowcooker :)

Start boiling chicken for stock (and lots of chicken Salad)

Breakfast: Kefir / Granola
Lunch: Egg Salad Sandwiches
Dinner: Stroganoff

Breakfast: Kefir / Granola
Lunch: Chicken Salad Sandwiches
Dinner: Baked Chicken with Apples and Barley

To Do: Soak Barley in the AM

Breakfast: Granola / Kefir
Lunch: Chicken Salad Sandwiches
Dinner: Leftover Stroganoff

To Do: Soak Waffle Batter

Breakfast: Eggs, Sausage, Whole Grain Waffles
Lunch: Eating Out (wahoo for dates :) )
Dinner: Stirfry (once again a la Jeff...I love my husband)

Make cheese for lasagna, make Black Forest Cake.

Breakfast: Granola / Kefir
Lunch: Lasagna w/whole real milk mozzarella (homemade)
Dinner: Leftover Stir Fry

To Do: Make Lasagna in the AM

This has been Menu Plan Monday. Find more great Menu Planning ideas at Organizing Junkie!

Sweet Orange Grilled Chicken Salad

Place desired amount of Chicken Breast in a marinade bag (a freezer bag will do) with the juice of 2 medium sized oranges and 2 T honey. Marinate for several hours. Sautee on medium heat in the oil of your choice (due to an allergy, we can't use coconut oil, so we generally use olive oil).

In a bowl, toss together salad greens (we used baby spinach and red baby butter lettuce), sliced almonds, and mandarin oranges.

In a jar, combine 4 T Olive Oil with 1-2 T apple cider vinegar. Add about 1 tsp. sucanat, as well as a pinch of garlic powder, ginger, cinnamon, Italian Seasoning, and the juice of half an orange. Put a lid on the jar and shake vigorously. Pour desired amount onto waiting salad greens, oranges, and almonds. Toss again and place into bowls. Slice grilled chicken and top salads.