Archive for May, 2009

My Story – Why I Made a Lifestyle Switch to Traditional Foods

This is the story of the life I spent eating processed foods and paying little attention to my health and body. I was always a small-boned, petite person. It seemed as though I could just go on forever, eating whatever I wanted. After all, my parents were small people, had no visible health problems, and my metabolism worked overtime which made it difficult to gain weight. What could I possibly have to worry about?

When I was a child, my mother served rice or pasta about once a week for dinner – usually spaghetti with meat sauce or fried rice with meat and vegetables. Our meals were a standard fare of “meat and potatoes” with a good variety of fresh vegetables cooked with oil and real butter. I’m sure my mother used vegetable oil, although I do remember her using olive oil sometimes. Although meats and dairy were a part of our diet at home, I’m sure much of it was processed and full of chemicals. Factory farms were definitely around when I was a child. I would not have known then that eating whole foods was rapidly becoming despised and villan-ized, because processed and packaged foods were starting to take their place at the head of the dinner table in most households, and would do so more and more in the years to come. Read the rest of this entry »

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Solar Water Heaters – An Introduction to Solar

The idea of solar power is nothing new. When most people think of solar they imagine a costly and exotic set of solar panels. At around $15,000 (including professional installation) for a family of four, a modern, and efficient photovoltaic (PV) system is similar in cost to an inexpensive car. But as your vehicle sits in the driveway depreciating, your solar panels will continue to deliver cost savings, long after the car is worthless.

If the idea of  PV solar still seems a bit costly but you’re still interested in going solar – at 1/3 the cost of a PV system – a fantastic introduction to solar savings is to consider a solar water heater.

Consider this: your traditional electric water heater consumes approximately 25 percent of your overall power usage, making it the most expensive appliance you own. Natural gas is a bit more efficient, but with the continuing rise in utility prices, this will dramatically change in the coming years.

At about $5,000 for a professionally installed solar water heater for a family of four, you can reduce your electric bill by around 22 percent, or significantly cut the cost of your gas bill – year round!

A 30 percent tax credit is available through the federal government. So let’s say you purchased a 5K system, you would receive a $1500 tax credit on your federal income tax. In Idaho there is a 40 percent tax deduction the first year, and for the subsequent three years following that you would receive 20 percent deduction.

For incentives in your area go to the to the DSIRE website.

It is important to know that if federal and local government would provide bigger incentives for innovators and installers – such as what people are already doing in Spain and Germany – the United States could lead the world in technology jobs, and solar systems would be much more affordable. With the enormous emphasis on alternative energy sources, the government needs to place more financial support into this important investment. Now’s the time to contact your local legislature reps and national senators and start putting on the pressure to make these incentives a priority! Get involved locally as well and learn how you can impact your neighboring communities by influencing builders, contractors, and government officials to place their money where their mouths are and go green by going solar.

Looking into getting a solar water heater installed in your home right now is a great cost saving idea, and we can look to the near future for PV to become more and more affordable. A January report from USA Today announced that prices for solar equipment, including installation, would be on the decrease by 15 to 20 percent in 2009. Costs decreased around ten percent in October of 2008.  The combination of high worldwide manufacturing capacity for solar equipment and the ongoing recession are credited for this occurrence.

Check back soon on this site for more articles about the benefits of solar energy. Save money and the environment – go solar!

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Is Reactive Medicine Cheaper than Prevention?

Photo credit – Michelle Lanter

Are you in the habit of eating poorly and then taking medications regularly when you become sick? If so, you may want to consider what you spend on medications, insurance premiums, and low-quality food versus preventative care and good quality food. In the long run, preventative care can save you thousands of dollars in prescription drugs and trips to the doctor and hospital. And it can certainly afford you a much better quality of life and avoid suffering, pain, and misery.

As one example, if you went to the doctor and received a prescription for Levaquin, without insurance you would spend approximately $161.00 for ten pills. This medication is used for illnesses such as sinus infections, bronchitis, and pneumonia. If you are insured, you are still required to pay a monthly insurance premium to offset the cost of prescription drugs – which will vary according to your plan. Depending on your insurance plan, you will receive certain “benefits” and reductions of those costs. Insurance premiums are only slated to increase over time.

The bottom line is, you are still paying a hefty sum for prescription drugs which may or may not make you well. In general, prescription drugs (at best) will remedy symptoms for a short period of time – but over a longer course of time the problem often remains unchanged and then you have other issues that are caused by the drugs such as side-effects (both short and long term), nutrient depletion, and the fact that what is causing your health issue has not been addressed.

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Saving Money on Your Organic Life

Who says organic isn’t affordable? Would you like to save money on organic products you buy? There are various merchants who provide online coupons for these healthy foods. Here are just a few:

    Here are some other ways to save money on organic:

    • Look for store brands featuring organic items. Many stores are now featuring an in-house brand or off-brands which are more economical such as Whole Foods 365 line, S&W, Private Selection, O Organics, and Eating Right. Be sure to notice which of these products are actually healthy to consume, as many products are labeled organic but are still processed and contain sugar or are artificially high in carbohydrates. Look for the Natural Value brand, a line found in most health food stores which offers economically-priced organic products.
    • Shop locally and seasonally as well. These foods are always cheaper, fresher, and more nutritious. Check this list of fruits and vegetables that are in season, month-by-month.
    • If there are good organic brands you like, go to their web sites and check frequently for coupons and special offers. Sign up for newsletters to get on the brands’ list for coupons and special offers. Also, if you contact the company to make a suggestion or ask a question, many companies will send coupons to you in the mail.
    • Don’t buy processed foods; buy fresh, whole food ingredients
    • Keep your eye open for sales
    • Be willing to substitute one thing for another if the item is cheaper (don’t skimp on quality though)
    • Shop at your local farmer’s market.
    • Join a co-op or CSA. These groups provide benefits and extras to their members.
    • Grow your own in a home or community garden.

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    Strawberry-Frosted Coconut Flour Cupcakes

    I made these cupcakes on Valentine’s Day this year for my son and his friends. The results were fantastic and everyone loved them.

    It was the first time I had baked with coconut flour, and I realized how many possibilities there were from this wonderful, nutritious substance.


    1/2 cup of organic coconut flour, sifted (I use Bob’s Red Mill)

    1/2 teaspoon sea salt

    1/4 teaspoon of aluminum-free baking soda

    6 pasture-raised eggs

    1/2 cup of real butter or organic, extra-virgin coconut oil (raw is a plus!)

    1/2 cup of Lakanto

    1 tablespoon of real vanilla extract


    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
    2. Combine coconut flour, salt, and baking soda in a medium-sized bowl and set aside
    3. Mix eggs, butter, Lakanto, and vanilla in a smaller bowl
    4. Mix wet ingredients into the dry. Use a mixer to blend until you have a smooth consistency
    5. Pour batter into muffin tins – grease with butter or use muffin cups
    6. Bake in oven for about 20 minutes
    7. Allow cupcakes to cool for about 20 minutes, then spread strawberry frosting on top

    Strawberry frosting:

    1/2 cup frozen organic strawberries (feel free to use fresh…when I made this recipe it was still the dead of winter here, so no fresh were available)

    3 tablespoons of Lakanto (depending on your preference, you can add more or less)

    1/2 cup of real, organic butter

    I let the strawberries thaw out for an hour or so on the counter, then chopped them up into small chunks and set them aside in a bowl. Then I melted the butter in a pan, then added the Lakanto sugar (I did this to taste because one recipe I read advised adding 1/2 cup and that seemed like way too much). I stirred the Lakanto continuously with a wooden spoon until it melted. You can add more butter if you want your frosting to be really creamy. Then I poured the butter/Lakanto mixture into the bowl with the strawberries and mixed together by hand, then got out the mixer and blended it all until it was smoother (you’ll still have small chunks of strawberries, which is fine) and more like the consistency of whipped cream.

    This makes 12 – 14 cupcakes (depending on how much batter you spoon into each muffin cup).

    Then I let the kids spoon the frosting onto the cupcakes and decorate with raw, unsweetened coconut and some gluten-free sprinkles I had from the store. The frosting will be a bit runny, but it is soooo good! You could also use other fruits if desired such as blueberries, raspberries, or blackberries.

    As you can see, the kids were all smiles.

    The final product was  a smash…Betty Crocker, eat your heart out!

    This post is linked to in Kelly The Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Wednesdays Carnival.

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    Embrace and Perfect Your Home-Keeping Skills

    People underestimate the power and importance of good home-keeping. Home-keeping is an amazing lost art that can save a great deal of time and money, and should be viewed as an excellent way to preserve the environment and health as well. Key factors in smart home-keeping include using minimal resources, healthy foods and ingredients, finding ways to shorten your time in doing various activities and tasks, and learning about how to do things in a more economical and health-friendly way. Here are some tips for smart home-keeping:

    • Unless it is a special occasion, do most of your eating from home. An occasion can also be made more special if you prepare a home-cooked meal. You will save money and over time you will develop ways to make groceries last longer than you thought you could.
    • Definitely eat leftovers and make more than you need for one meal to freeze for later. Leftover meats, rice, beans, vegetables, and whole grains can be used in soups and casseroles and quick home-made ethnic foods like tacos, curry, tamales, and enchiladas.
    • Resist the urge to purchase packaged, processed foods. Not only are these foods more expensive, they are never as healthy as those made at home, and usually involve some type of packaging that will pollute the environment.
    • Buy and eat whole and traditional foods. Think farmer’s markets, local farmers and food growers, and your own backyard.
    • As much as possible, buy local, fresh, in season, and organic foods.
    • Consider making from scratch things you would normally buy in packages and cans – home-made corn chips, salsa, nut butters, butter (from real cream), cereal (with whole, soaked grains), jams, salad dressings, mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard, horseradish sauce, yogurt, kefir, barbeque sauce, desserts, and soups. These things take a bit of time, but when you make them at home they are much more nutritious and ultimately, cheaper.
    • Instead of purchasing packaged items for the home, think of ways to save money by creating or making them yourself. Home-made cleaners and solutions for just about any type of preparation for sanitation are right in your cupboard – vinegar, baking soda, apple cider vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, lemon juice, borax, rubbing alcohol, and essential oils can do the job economically and without toxic side effects. Visit The Family Homestead for ideas on how to make your own cleaners.
    • Discard your modernistic views of getting tasks done. Stop using a microwave and start using your stove and oven. Your food will be healthier — microwaving effectively removes nutrients from your food and should be considered a dangerous method to cook. Microwaves have also been determined to expose us to radiation and electromagnetic waves that can cause cancer. Whenever possible, don’t use your dryer – let your clothes dry naturally. And, don’t ever use dryer sheets. They are full of toxic chemicals that can absorb into your skin from your clothing. Always trust your “mother’s intuition” about things that seem like they may not be healthy – if you have a doubt, you are probably correct.
    • If you choose to become a stay-at-home-keeper, don’t allow what others who may be working full-time are doing to otherwise influence your choice. Many people who stay at home are busier than those who work out of the home. This is one of the most important jobs you will ever undertake, so march forward and don’t feel guilty about taking it seriously!
    • Learn to partner with other individuals who share your zest for home-prepared foods and other items such as homemade soaps, candles, cleaning solutions, gardening, knitting, crotcheing, canning & jarring foods, sewing, jewelry-making, wood-working, furniture-building, and raising animals for food and other necessity items (such as for clothing, etc.). You may even consider a cooking co-op where you agree with others, perhaps in your own neighborhood, on a schedule of preparing foods where each family only cooks once or twice a week.
    • Buy in bulk when you can, but be aware that some products stored in bulk bins have been sitting around for a period of time and may be rancid. If in doubt, purchase whole grains, rice, and sprouted flours in the package. You can always freeze these items if you do not use them all at once. Also, be aware that other items bought in bulk can be from irradiated or genetically-modified sources. Make sure what you are buying in bulk is organic.
    • Think creatively about preparing a variety of meals at home for your family. Use the Internet for recipe ideas as they are free and vast. Borrow cookbooks from friends or check-out from the library. If you find that you have a hard time sticking to recipes, experiment with your own whims and tastes. Often something really spectacular can come from a crazy idea.
    • Plant a garden, or help start a community garden in your own neighborhood or area of town.
    • If you are so inclined, raise your own animals and fowl for food. Feed them the food nature intended them to eat and treat them humanely by allowing them room to roam and safety from antibiotics, hormones, and other toxic chemicals.
    • Prepare everything you can from scratch. You may be wondering, “where will I ever find the time??” If you re-prioritize your life a bit and make time to prepare home-cooked foods, cleaners, clothing, and other home items, you will find a quiet satisfaction as well as enjoy better health from your efforts. You will start to realize that you can do more from scratch if you just allow yourself the extra moments needed, and your life will start to order itself around these important tasks instead of you ordering yourself around a great deal of other activities that may not be as critical. When you start to slow down, prepare things, and savor the very act of doing these things for your family, you should eventually notice the peace you will feel, improved health, and satisfaction of having put in an afternoon’s or mornings time on such fulfilling work.
    • Work on reusing, saving, recycling, and rethinking everything you do to save money, time, and the environment. Use glass containers you get from foods purchased at the store. Eliminate plastic from your house as much as you can and replace with reusable containers made of wood, metal, glass, ceramic, and enamel. If you must use plastic, recycle. Recycle glass, paper, and other items whenever possible.
    • Make at least one meal a day a sit-down occasion at the table with others where no other interruptions prevail. This should be a focused, relaxed time to enjoy healthy food that will nourish your body and join with family or friends, be social, and catch up. Turn off the television and put on some music that will get you in the mood, but will not distract from the task at hand – eating your meal in peace and being able to connect with important people in your life.
    • Don’t panic if you cannot get everything done in a day; rarely anyone can. The beauty of the home is that it will always be there tomorrow. And unlike a thankless job you have to go to five days a week, you probably won’t have a nasty boss breathing down your neck telling you that you may not go home until you have cleaned the toilets. If you have family members breathing down your neck about such items, it’s time to sit down and have a talk about all that is involved in maintaining a house and/or caring for children or other family members.
    • Spend time teaching home-keeping with your family members — in particular, your children. Getting tasks accomplished for the common good allows you to spend time together and bond over something everyone in your house cares about. Teach children to help with laundry, dishes, taking out the garbage, mowing the lawn, vacuuming, dusting, baking, tidying up their own rooms and personal items, and cooking meals. Play music, laugh, and have fun while you are engaged in these tasks. As Mary Poppins always says, “Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down!”
    • When your daily tasks are done, instead of going out enjoy a family game or movie night at home. Invite friends or other family over to share your evening. This is a great way to save gas, promote personal relationships, and avoid activities that tend to separate us as human beings such as being on the computer/playing video games/ watching television.

    This post is part of Food Renegade’s Fight Back Fridays. Please check out the other great articles listed there.

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    Fancy Spring-Time Chicken Salad

    This is not your average salad! When my husband made this the other day, I was awed by how beautiful it was and full of color. I was even more delighted to find out that it is crunchy, sweet, savory, and satisfying. This salad combines the best of juicy chicken, blue cheese, nuts, tomatoes, and greens (with a few surprises!). This is a perfect meal for lunch or dinner. You will definitely be full when you are finished eating this, and your stomach will be happy!

    This salad can be made for one or several people; if you are preparing it for more than just yourself, add more of everything to the recipe.

    Chicken salad mixture:

    • Baked or pan-cooked pasture-raised chicken (with skin on) pieces of your choice
    • Homemade mayonnaise – use the amount preferred – some like more, some less
    • Pinch of salt
    • Pinch of pepper
    • A few shakes dill weed

    Cook chicken with coconut oil and salt and pepper (either oven or pan-cook). When cooked, set aside to cool for a few minutes in a bowl or on a plate. When sufficiently cooled, dice up into small pieces. Place diced chicken in bowl and mix together with mayo, salt, pepper, and dill. Set aside (you can put this in the refrigerator until you are ready to eat with greens and vegetables).

    Then prepare the following:

    • Fresh greens – good ideas are romaine, collard, chard, or mustard greens, escarole, spinach, radicchio, arugula, green, or red leaf lettuces. If you have a heads of lettuce or greens, chop them up. Otherwise, spring mixes can be used the way they come.
    • Sliced tomatoes or cherry tomatoes
    • Sliced cucumbers
    • Chopped scallions
    • Raw nuts – almonds, cashews, walnuts (or a combination of those)
    • Dried fruit – raisins, dates, and goji berries
    • Blue cheese crumbles – we use Rogue Creamery raw blue cheese – to die for!
    • Homemade salad dressing – we use olive oil and a bit of cold-pressed grapeseed oil, balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar, salt, pepper (note, oil to vinegar is 2 to 1 ratio and 90 percent red wine, 10 percent balsamic). Put all salad dressing ingredients in a bottle and shake well. You can make more dressing than needed for recipe and use for later as we do, to avoid having to prepare dressing for each meal. When you have used salad dressing, place in the refrigerator.

    Dice up vegetables into small pieces. Cut up chunks of the blue cheese. Arrange greens on a plate or medium-sized to large bowl. Cover with chicken salad mixture, blue cheese crumbles, scallions, tomatoes, and sprinkle dried fruit and nuts on top. Pour desired amount of dressing onto salad. If you prefer dressing under chicken, pour after laying out your greens.

    This post is part of Hartke is Online! Healthy Recipes/Natural Cures and Cheeseslave’s Real Food Wednesdays Carnivals. Please check out the other great recipes featured there.

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