Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Real Food Wednesday - MSG-Free Taco Seasoning

We make the food decisions we make for various reasons. For some it is health, for some it is cost, and for some it is taste. Although there are many good reasons - from a health point of view - there are myriad reasons to avoid MSG, I have the added incentive of being allergic (as many of you know). Since learning that - even when the name is different - most of the seasoning packets for making just about anything contain MSG, I've been striving to restock my collection of seasonings with good MSG-free options. No one wants life to be flavor less, and I am particularly un-fond of migraines and stomachaches, so something had to be done.

Before I get to this great recipe I stumbled upon, a few MSG-related facts.

Aside from MSG, you may see it listed on an ingredient label as autolyzed yeast extract, hydrolyzed soy protein, maltodextrin, sodium caseinate, or the ever ambiguous, "natural seasoning." The way they made it may vary, but the end result is just the same.

Aside from allergy, some other reasons to avoid MSG are that it is known to assist in weight gain (and, really, who wants help with that?), and has also been shown to exacerbate conditions such as lesions on the brain.

Alright, so that is the real deal about MSG and why it should be avoided at all costs. Now here is the recipe.

What we do differently: We do not add onion powder or garlic powder. Instead, when we cook the ground beef (preferably grass finished), we saute freshly minced garlic and onions along with it. We feel like it is much better flavor, and of course you get the health benefits of onion and garlic that simply are not present in the powdered form.

This post is part of Real Food Wednesday. Visit Kelly the Kitchen Kop for more great posts!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Real Food Wednesday - Great News (and a Great Giveaway)

OK, so last week I posted about the whole weight loss endeavor, and I failed to mention (intentionally, actually) that part of the other reason that I am very satisfied with slow weight loss is...

We are pregnant!!!!!

We were waiting until we saw the little one on screen to say anything. And at this point, while I realize I am still only 20% of the way to my weight loss goal, I'm giving up on having any kind of focus on it. Still going to be eating well, still going to be using my treadmill desk, and hopefully anything unnecessary will slip away while I retain what I need for Baby, but no weight loss focus anymore.

Eating right for Baby

DHA is an essential omega-3 fatty acid that is essential for brain development in children. Naturally, this speaks to a need for moms-to-be (and those trying to conceive) to get a lot of DHA in their system. How do you do this?

One great source of DHA that is also an amazing source of Vitamins A & D is fermented cod liver oil (fclo). I have used fclo because omega-3s are also great for persons with ADHD, and can attest that it was a huge benefit to my health and to my focus as well, not to mention that Vitamin D helps prevent just about every type of cancer, because it is essential for cell regulation (cancer = growth of abnormal cells, so that makes sense). So, even if you are not pregnant, there are plenty of good reasons to start taking fclo.

Energized by returning home from my trip to the doctor's office, clutching the ultrasound picture of my still minuscule baby, I was thrilled to see that Kelly the Kitchen Kop is hosting a giveaway on her site for FCLO!! Of course I already take it, but being stocked up throughout my pregnancy is a priority for me, and it an be expensive. Though it seems that, health wise, it could more expensive to go with out it.

If you're at all interested in trying cod liver oil, you should definitely head over to the giveaway and check it out!

Other Ways to Get DHA

Other foods you can eat that are high in omega-3 oils in general - including DHA - are eggs, certain fish, and flax oil supplements (not as high as fclo but still a good source). The eggs should be from pastured hens, because chickens that are able to eat grass and protein-rich insects are the healthiest chickens, and healthy chickens lay healthy eggs. Good omega-3 rich fish include salmon, cod, and tuna. If you are pregnant, you should not eat these fish more than 2-3 times a week (largely because of mercury levels), and there are certain types of fish you should not eat. Talk to your health care practitioner, be it midwife, doctor, or other. If you want to take flax oil, and you prefer to take the liquid to capsules, do not cook the liquid, as heat is likely to make the oil go rancid, and even create free radicals that are very harmful to your system.

This post is part of Real Food Wednesday hosted by Cheeseslave. Check out the other great posts here.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Menu Plan Monday

Okay, I know everyone is saying this, but is it really March already??? I know February is the shortest month and all, but where on earth did it go? On Saturday I am hosting a friend's baby shower in my home (my friend asked me to help her plan it, along with another friend, and of the three of us I have the largest home - which, sadly, isn't very big - so we're having it here). I am very excited about it, but I cannot believe it is in 5 days! I have so much to do to prepare!!!

I had been asking the guy we get real milk from if he had any cream available, and he's always telling me no. So I have been frustrated because the only options nearby are "ultra pasteurized" cream, and I know that is not optimal. Well, apparently I just needed to send my husband. Jeff went out to pick up the milk this time, drove up in his ginormous truck and talked farm animals for a moment. Asked him if he ever just skimmed cream for anyone and now he'll have 2 gallons for us on Friday. I know that seems like a lot, but I'm hoping to experiment in making cultured butter, and freezing some. As well as keeping some on hand to make sour cream and such. soooo excited about that!!

OK, so on to the menu plan:

Monday - Stroganoff with Venison cubed steak, steamed veggies.

Tuesday - Wild caught cod. We're actually doing our version of fish n chips in our continuing to learn about frying with lard. Instead of normal "chips" we'll be doing Sweet Potato Fries.

Wednesday - Pizza! Great whole wheat crust recipe I got from Passionate Homemaking.

Thursday - Chicken & Biscuits

Friday - Stirfry (a la Jeff), with MSG-free organic Tamari. mmmmm.

Saturday - Beef & Barley Burgers with grass finished beef. A low key meal for a busy day!!

Sunday - Pork Roast (also a la Jeff. He loves his roasts).

For Saturday's shower I am making my classic guacamole, as well as getting a fruit tray with a yogurt dip (I will admit, I cannot get enough of them), making coffee punch (not a health food, but so yummy. Decaf for the mommy-to-be), and I think that's it. I cannot post the recipe for the coffee punch, sadly, but my recipe for my easy and awesome guac is as follows:

5-6 Avocados - very ripe but not overly mushy
1/4 of an average sized onion
1 tomato
3-4 cloves garlic
salt & pepper to taste
fresh chopped cilantro (to taste)
Juice of half a lime
(optional) 3-4 small chili peppers (I generally leave this out because it is a little too spicy for me)

Chop avocados, onion, tomato, garlic in a bowl. Juice lime, add cilantro, salt, pepper, and chili peppers. Blend with a fork until mashed, but avocados are still chunky. This almost ends up more like an avocado salsa than a standard smooth guacamole.

This has been a part of Menu Plan Monday. See more great menu plans at Org Junkie.

Last Minute Edit: Wanted to share a picture of my incredibly delicious pizza! Chicken, spinach, and mushroom.