Buckeye Candies – Bake Some Christmas Spirit

My husband’s very favorite treat during the Christmas season is Buckeye Candies – chocolate covered peanut butter balls. And I didn’t think he would ever be getting any from me, until I discovered I could prepare them in a traditional, nourishing way. As part of the Holidays, I bake. And bake. I bake for myself, for my family, and as a way to spend time with friends. But this year hopefully the tradition will change slightly as I learn to keep Christmas in my heart all year long.

Hopefully, this year I will bake more, and talk less.

One tradition that I love around Christmas time is baking. As a child it was in the kitchen with my Grandma, spilling flour on my clothes and eggs on the floor. Now that I’ve grown a bit, friends will gather around the kitchen counter, putting hands in butter and sugar to prepare Christmas tins stuffed with baked goods to pass along as gifts. Champagne glasses half-full of Mimosas will be covered with greasy fingerprints, and tummies will be contentedly filled with batter and warm, just-out-of-the-oven confections.

Christmas is a time of giving, as they market well through every store you go in and advertisement you see. But it should also be a time of heart felt conversations, an intimate recounting of lives when time is spent apart – even if that can be accomplished while sharing a quick cup of coffee.  By keeping the Christmas spirit, I would like to continue those type of connections, instead of trading it in, as we usually do, for a menial garble of words that do nothing but drown out the silence.

Infusing the air with the inviting scent of cookies instead of slander, December brings cold breezes and warm hearts that dwell on something other than superficiality. I’m done with those type of associations. I long for December to take up residence in my relationships much as Scrooge learns to keep Christmas in his heart all year long. Warm, dense friendships like hot chocolate; not the carbonated, artificially sweetened relationships of year’s past. And to that I’ll toast to the Christmas Holidays, digging in elbow-deep and hopefully getting so involved that flour on my nose, chocolate in my hair, and butter stains on my clothes will go unnoticed by Christmas-spirited friends of a like mind.

And finally, chocolate covered peanut butter balls that I feel good about baking! Read more

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“PattyCakes” Biscuits for the Holidays

This Holiday season is the first in which my family will be attempting to make everything from scratch, using whole ingredients. Thanksgiving was a trial of sorts, taking many recipes we had always used, and tweaking them to be more nourishing. That, and finding completely new alternatives for store-bought items of the past.

One of these beloved staples that would not be making an appearance on our table this year were Brown and Serve rolls. You know the kind…they come in a pack of twelve, and have two slats down the top, allowing you to pull them apart once they are baked. But news travels fast in a small family, and when the low murmur grew to a roar, I realized that the Holidays wouldn’t be complete without something to sop up the gravy with. Coming up with a bread that would be healthy for us, while also not tasting like a brick, was a challenge for me…I had never baked bread! Queue the PattyCakes. Read more

Milk That Will Keep You Healthy, and Your Wallet Fat

You know the argument. “I would eat healthier, but it’s just too expensive.” I’ve heard it countless times myself, usually when touting the benefits of a “Real Food” diet. Perhaps the person you’re speaking to doesn’t go to the extreme of defending the McDonald’s Value Menu, but they will most likely talk about the price of grass-fed meats and organic vegetables compared with mass-grocery items.

Here’s where I can win the debate, at least in one area. When shopping at my local Whole Foods Market, I reached the dairy aisle and sighed wistfully as I gazed at the rows upon rows of pasteurized/homogenized milk that lined the shelves – countless versions of skim, low fat, and diet products that claimed to be healthy. In the state of Tennessee, raw milk is illegal, meaning that unless I own a cow, I can’t obtain truly healthy milk products. That is, until I spotted a local dairy manufacturer that had made its way to the shelves amidst the large scale producers.

The iconic glass bottle only adds to the value of this delicious milk!

JD Country Milk is low-pasteurized and non-homogenized, making it the healthiest alternative to raw, grass-fed milk that I can get my hands on. JD only pasteurizes his milk at 145 degrees for 30 minutes, which kills the “bad” bacteria and makes it legal to distribute. It’s also not homogenized, allowing the milk to retain some of the beneficial enzymes that make it a naturally perfect food. Even though some of the beneficial bacteria is killed in the process, it retains many of the great vitamins and minerals that mass-market milk lacks.

In fact, most store-bought dairy products contain nothing of benefit at all. Because the cows were not pasture-raised on grass, the milk would HAVE to be sterilized in order to be consumed. But once they sterilize it, they kill everything good that was in it, meaning the producers then have to add everything back in.  This may sound like an ideal solution, but most of the minerals and vitamins that are added can’t be absorbed by the human body. Calcium for instance, is added in the form of deposits from rock, which is useless to the human body and not absorbed at all!

I’ve waxed poetic to all who will listen about JD’s Milk. It’s amazingly tasty and comes in nostalgic glass bottles. The budget-friendly aspect of this milk is that once you’ve finished your bottle, you can bring it back to the store for a $2 refund. Our half gallon of milk, which was $2.99 when purchased, ended up with an out of pocket cost of only $.99. I could be mistaken, but I believe that’s cheaper than even private-label, generic brands.

And so my love affair with JD continues. In my home we currently have Whole Milk, Chocolate Milk (my husband’s breakfast accompaniment), and Half and Half. The buttermilk was superb for Thanksgiving biscuits, as well!

This blog is part of Food Renegade’s Fight Back Friday 12/3/10. Check out the other Real Food blogs, as well!

Creating a Wonderland in His Image

This morning I made homemade mayonnaise. After one failed batch, and the loss of half a bottle of olive oil, I can now say that I’ve come up with a decent recipe that tastes like store-bought (because in this instance, homemade WASN’T better). Now that that’s under my belt, I have chicken stock simmering in the crock pot, made with veggies and the bones of the chicken I roasted yesterday. A batch of soaked almonds that has just come out of the oven are cooling off, just waiting to be ground into flour. What can I say, I’m a convert to Real Food now.

It's Beautiful What Egg and Oil can Create

What I’ll also say is that since the inception of my family’s Maker’s Diet makeover, I’ve received some flack, not only from people that have heard of it and can’t fathom life without a Big Mac, but also from close friends. Is this a case of fearing what you don’t know? I can only wonder as I move towards a liberating, healthy lifestyle that will be good for my health now, and on down the road. The food is tasty, the ingredients wholesome and nourishing. Yes, it’s harder; yes, it’s a bit more time consuming than popping some Easy Mac in the microwave. But it TASTES better, makes me FEEL better, and I’m even willing to do some of the work for others, just so that they can benefit, as well!

What’s healthy about man-made protein powders and energy drinks? Why the need to hit the gym and work yourself into a stupor, just to go home and eat what you’ve been told is “the best food to build muscle and trim fat.” Everyone’s an expert, everyone can pinpoint something you’re NOT doing right. And when the protein fails, and the low fat diet causes you to crash, those experts can then point to some other area you need to improve on – maybe this time it’s your carbs, or your saturated fat, or the meat you had for dinner. Maybe they just don’t know. The only person who truly has the answers is God. We can’t constantly worry about creating ourselves into the images found on runways and in movies, we can only try to mold ourselves into His image. Man-made foods designed to “fix” our imperfections are costing us our health.

So please, don’t call it obsession that I’m creating a nourishing lifestyle; one that God himself outlined for us. Call it passion. A passion for food that doesn’t need an ingredient list, without fillers and “low fat” labels. A passion for the art of making something from nothing. I am a writer, a painter, and a cook. I may not be a culinary chef, but I can create an edible work of art that others enjoy. And while I’m doing it, I am healthy. I’m allowing my body to heal from years of abuse. Phase Two of the Maker’s Diet saw a change in sugar cravings, energy level, and satisfaction. Now that Phase Three is looking me in the eye, I can take it on without batting an eyelash, knowing that this phase will be for the long-haul.

This blog is also featured in Real Food Wednesdays, hosted by Kelly the Kitchen Kop. Go check out all of the Real Food ideas!!

The Maker’s Diet – Making a Believer Out of Me

I used to wonder how my 99-year-old Great-Grandmother could eat only the “white meat” of steak (aka the fat), every single day, with biscuits and sausage gravy rinsed down with glasses of whole milk, and still maintain a very slim figure throughout her very long life. Now I realize, it’s because the food she existed on is now in danger of extinction.

Channeling my inner Julia Child, I began a foray into yet another food adventure yesterday. Adventure is the key word, as it always involves a certain amount of risk. Ultimately, I’ve set a goal for myself that the Maker’s Diet will be more than just the standard 40 day plan indicated in Jordan Rubin’s book of organic, sustainable, and mostly local foods. The risk in this adventure is not to make it a “diet,” but a lifestyle change. Calling it an adventure is an understatement, however – trekking through Farmer’s Markets, weeding through dubious information online, and delving into the world of raw milk and grass-fed meat has been nothing less than mind-boggling.

But, hopefully I will be able to make things simpler for those of you that either a) simply don’t have the time, b) are skeptical about making this work in today’s world, or c) would just rather have someone else give you the information. 🙂

Meryl Streep, playing the convincing role of Julia Child as she shops for fish at a French Market

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