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Archive for January, 2012


Happy last day of January!  Since it’s the end of the month I thought I would just share with you my changes for the month.  Some changes have been easy, some have been harder.  It actually only took a few hours to clean out the pantry, although the emotional trauma is still with me.  🙂  So, drumroll please:  in the healthy eating category I got rid of the bad oils, high fructose corn syrup, white refined sugar (see what I did with that here), and I’m working in kicking my Dr. Pepper habit.  I have begun soaking my oatmeal and I installed a faucet mount water filter for drinking and cooking.

In other areas, I have begun recycling (I know, right?) and I am doing a ton of research on whole foods, traditional ways of food preparation, and healthier alternatives to household products.  And I’ve been more consistent with my blogging! 🙂  My pantry purge also triggered a purging spree throughout my entire house.  If I don’t love it and/or use it, it’s outa here.  It’s been incredibly freeing to de-clutter.  And I love having less to dust.

So there you have it.  Some baby steps towards a better year and a better, healthier life.  Over this next month I hope to find healthier versions of some of our favorite foods, especially some of those packaged mixes the I like.  Switching to whole foods is a process and there’s grace for the journey.

Have you made some changes this month?  What has been the most challenging for you?

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I know you have all been impatiently waiting to read the continuing adventures of Pantry Girl, Food Avenger.  If you want to find out what happened before, you can read Part 1 here, and Part 2 here.

We now re-join our heroine sobbing in the middle of the kitchen floor surrounded by mountains of canned goods and boxes of “stuff” thinly disguised as food.  Battles can be emotional, and having just ninja chopped HFCS to near extinction, and Chuck Norris kicking MSG and artificial sweeteners to the curb, our pantry purging protagonist is portraying her passionate protest at the plight of our national provender.  Holy hyperbole, Batman!  Seriously, I could be a one woman reality show!  Ok, enough with the drama.  I really didn’t break down and cry, but it did kinda make me mad when I began to realize all the junk that is in so much of the foods that we eat.

To continue, the next things that got the boot where my half can of Crisco and my jug of canola oil.  (Repeat after me:  hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oil are not my friends!)  I have been using other oils for a while, so it was definitely past time to toss those!  I use butter or olive oil in most of my recipes and I just recently been introduced to organic coconut oil.  It is naturally solid at room temp and makes a great alternative to unnatural shortenings.  It comes in two ways: expeller pressed which has a neutral taste and no smell, and extra virgin which tastes and smells coconutty.  Yes that is too a word.  It’s good for pie crusts and frying things and that makes me happy cause I loves me some homemade french fries!  As an aside, don’t EVER try to fry homemade french fries in olive oil.  It will fill your house with smoke.  Really stinky, thick, black smoke.  And then your smoke detectors will go off because the detect the really stinky, thick, black smoke.  All of them.  Loudly.  At the same time.  And then you’ll need rescue dogs with earplugs to find your children.  At least, that’s what I’ve heard.  Because I would never be silly enough to use a low smoke point oil to fry french fries in.  I’m so glad we’ve gotten that out of the way.  🙂

Another change that’s in process is replacing refined, white sugar with raw organic honey and organic dehydrated sugar cane juice.  While I know that is not the least refined kind of sugar,  as I said before it’s a process.  I have quite a bit of white refined sugar in my pantry left over from some very good intentions I had about making goodie baskets for all those near and dear to me for Christmas gifts.  Unfortunately the goodie fairy never showed and now I’m stuck with lots of refined sugar that I don’t want to eat and I feel that it wouldn’t be good stewardship to toss all of it out.  (Now that I know how to make sugar body scrub it won’t go to waste!)  I am also continuing my search for healthier alternatives to some things I use frequently, like the onion soup mix, Italian salad dressing mix, and the ubiquitous cream of something soups.  There are several recipes online and I will keep trying them until I find one I like.

What pantry items have you deep-sixed for homemade, healthier alternatives?  Please share, it may be something someone else is looking for.  🙂

I linked this at Fight Back Friday.

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Last week a friend and I went to dinner at an Italian place.  My friend ordered a dish in a wine sauce and she let me have a taste.  I decided right then that I needed to come up with a recipe that had a wine sauce.  This is what I came up with using ingredients that I already had at home.

Chicken and Broccoli in Wine Sauce

Here’s what I used:

3 small boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces (preferably organic, free range)
2 bunches of broccoli, cut into bite sized pieces
1 medium onion, thickly sliced and the slices cut in half
4 oz button mushrooms, thinly sliced
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
2 c homemade chicken stock
1 c white wine (I only had a white zinfandel, so that’s what I used)
1 tsp fresh minced garlic
pinch of sea salt
ground pepper
thyme
toasted sesame seeds
Put the chicken stock, wine, minced garlic, and 1 1/2 tsp sea salt in a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil.  Continue boiling, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is reduced by about half.
While the sauce is reducing, heat the olive oil in a large skillet.  Add onions and saute until they are translucent.  Add the mushrooms and chicken.  Cook, stirring, until the chicken is no longer pink.  Put the broccoli in the skillet.  It will steam beautifully just sitting on top of everything else.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Check sauce and adjust seasonings if necessary.  Pour the sauce over the mixture in the skillet.  Sprinkle with fresh thyme and toasted sesame seeds.  Stir to distribute sauce and seasonings.  Serve with a green salad and garlic toast.
This was a really quick and easy meal and it made the house smell really good.  The kids liked it so much that they ate it all and didn’t leave me any leftovers for today! 😦  You could serve it over pasta or rice for a more filling meal, or if you want to stretch it.  This will easily served four adults, or in my case, 1 adult and two teenagers.  I just love it when an experiment works out!
Do you experiment in the kitchen?  What has been your favorite experiment so far?

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Today I am thankful for the rain we’ve had this week.  One whole night we had a steady soaking rain, and rain showers at other times.  After the hottest summer on record and drought conditions I am so grateful for every drop we get.  I am continuing to ask Father to restore the water levels in the region.  Our farmers and ranchers were hit particularly hard, with some having to sell parts of their herds for lack of water.  So thank You, Father for the rain!  May it continue.  And I promise to not make any jokes about growing webbed feet… 🙂

What are you thankful for today?  Will you share with us? 

If you have a blog post that you would like to link, click on Mister Linky below, or you can share with us in the comments box.

Blessings.

 

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Soaked oatmeal that is.  Soaked?  What’s that?  I’m so glad you asked. 🙂  Soaking grains, beans, and nuts helps them to be more digestible and allows our bodies to absorb more of the nutrition in them.  I’m going to be posting about that in detail in a few days.  In the meantime, I want to share with you one of my new favorite things for breakfast. 

Soaked Oatmeal

1 cup organic rolled oats

1 cup filtered water

1 tsp raw apple cider vinegar, buttermilk, lemon juice, yogurt, or kefir

1 cup milk

2 tsp cinnamon

pinch of salt

Combine the first 3 ingredients in a bowl and mix well.  Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and leave on the counter overnight.  It needs to soak for 8 to 24 hours.

You want to make sure that the oats are just covered by the water

  

Oats soaking under my cute little tea towel

When you are ready to make the oatmeal, put 1 cup of milk in a saucepan and bring it to a boil.  While the milk is heating I usually drain and rinse the oats to help remove the sour taste.  If I’m using raisins, I add them to the milk as it’s heating to soften them up. 

Can you see the raisin trying to hide?

When the milk comes to a boil, add the oats, 2 tsp of cinnamon, and a pinch of salt. 

Combine all the ingredients

Reduce heat and cook, stirring occasionally,  until it’s the consistency you like. 

Perfect, creamy consistency

It doesn’t take very long to cook at all.  Add some butter and the sweetener of your choice and serve.

Since I am the only one who eats it here, I actually just use 1/4 cup of oats and reduce the other ingredients accordingly.  I’ve made it plain and with raisins and cinnamon.  I think next time I may chop up part of an apple and some pecans and add that in with the cinnamon.  Just as a side note, if you are using nuts or seeds, you should add them to the oats and soak them as well.

Breakfast is served!

Why don’t you give it a try?  What do you like to put in your oatmeal?

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Interior Design is one of my passions.  I get such joy from being invited into a room, often haphazard and accidental, and being allowed to turn it into something beautiful.  I also enjoy watching design shows on TV.  Among my favorites are the ones where the designers go into people’s attics and basements and storage areas and find things that have been tucked away because they didn’t quite “fit”.  They are dusted off and maybe given a new coat of paint.  The designer then takes all these seemingly unrelated objects and by carefully placing them in the perfect spot, creates a cohesive, intentional, and uniquely beautiful room.  If you watch the shows often enough, you will begin to see that most designers have a signature style; something that is common to all their designs, that puts their “stamp” on it.

In many ways, Father is the Master Designer.  After all, He designed heaven and earth and all the galaxies.  He designed all of nature in its vast, diverse array of shapes and colors and textures.  And He designed each one of us.  What joy it must bring Him when we invite Him into our lives and allow Him to create something beautiful!  We are not called to be a copy of someone else’s life.  We are fearfully and wonderfully made; knit together in our mothers’ wombs to be unique and beautiful!

My prayer for you today is that you will invite Father into your life as Master Designer, however haphazard and accidental it may appear to be.  That you will bring out all the gifts and talents and dreams that He gave you, but that you’ve kept tucked away because they didn’t quite “fit” who or what you thought you should be.  Dust them off.  Maybe give them a fresh coat of paint.  And surrender them to God.  Then watch as He takes all of those seemingly unrelated things and puts them exactly where He created them to be, and turns your life into a cohesive, intentional and uniquely beautiful thing.

And when people meet you, they’ll know God was your designer.  Because He left his stamp on you.

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So, here is installment number two of my “New Year, New You” journey.  If you missed number one you can find it here.

The very first change I made had to do with food.  I decided that it would be easier to eat better if I didn’t have stuff around I was trying not to eat.  Thus began the Great Pantry Toss.  If pantry cleaning was an Olympic sport, I would be wearing the gold medal!

I started with simply getting rid of everything that was out of date (in the pantry) or unrecognizable (in the freezer).  I found more than a few mystery packages in the freezer.  You know, all those things you didn’t want to waste 5 seconds labeling because you know exactly what it is?  Because you know, that’s 5 whole seconds of your life you’ll never get back!  Then you spend an hour letting it defrost enough to be able to tell what it is, and it’s not what you thought it was so you toss it back in the freezer, again without labeling, because you’re not gonna forget what it is now after all of that!  So now you have all those sad, lonely, unlabeled surprise packages being tossed around the deep freeze as you search for something that is labeled to feed the hungry hoards.  I am happy to report that the sad, lonely, unlabeled surprise package population of my freezer is now a big fat zero.  Yeah me!  And, in an effort to maintain population control I even bought some cute little freezer labels and put them in a convenient place in my kitchen so I’ll actually use them.  I am also happy to report that all of the stray Y2K supplies that I found while spelunking in my panty met a similar fate.  Seriously, I don’t know what I was thinking; Spam?  Does anyone really eat that?

As I said earlier, one of my goals this year is to eat healthier.  I’m not talking about going on a diet and I’m not talking about some hard to find, esoteric “health food”.  I’m simply talking about eating more in line with what my body was created to eat.  So I’m going to be focusing on unprocessed (or at least less processed), organic (where possible), whole foods.  I am giving myself much grace in this process, because it is a process.  Will I ever eat 100% unprocessed, organic, whole foods?  I really don’t know.  But if I don’t, I’m not going to beat myself up about it.  What ever changes I do make will be positive and I will celebrate those changes no matter how small.

Ok, back to the pantry.  At the top of the 10 Most Not Wanted list was high fructose corn syrup.  As I began reading labels I was both shocked and amazed at everything that had HFCS in it.  I gotta tell you, reading labels ain’t for wimps!  Some things were pretty obvious like pancake syrup and cold cereal.  Some things surprised me, like “pure” vanilla extract and Lipton onion soup mix.  Seriously?  Onion soup mix?  So I made a decree that henceforth HFCS would no longer find respite in my dwelling place.  I made similar decrees about artificial sweeteners and MSG.  And loudly proclaiming things like, “Off with their heads”, they were unceremoniously tossed across the kitchen into the trash.

To be totally honest with you, though, I didn’t toss everything that should have been tossed.  And I’m ok with that for now.  There is grace in the process.  Some things were purchased by or for my teenagers and I’m not going to toss their stuff.  We have had some discussions about things I don’t want them to bring home anymore though. J  There are some other things that I will not purchase again once they are gone and others that will be phased out as I find healthier alternatives.  I’ve been making my own vanilla extract for about a year now, so the “pure” vanilla extract with high fructose corn syrup did get tossed! 🙂

Next time I’ll talk about #2 on the 10 Most Not Wanted list.  Until then, why don’t you share the weirdest thing you’ve ever found that had HFCS in it?

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