Sunday, December 23, 2012

So hallowed and so gracious is the time...

No planets struck on 12-12-2012, but let us hope the other predictions of 12-12-12 opening the door to a thousand years of Peace does indeed come to pass.

The description Shakespeare used to describe what happens at the time of Christmas celebration causes me to hope the same "hallowed and gracious" time will apply for a thousand years.

The bird of dawning singeth all night long;
And then, they say, no spirit can walk abroad;
The nights are wholesome; then no planets strike,
No fairy takes, nor witch hath power to charm,
So hallowed and so gracious is the time.

Hamlet, 1.1.157

Wishing All my Readers a lovely holiday, whatever your religious beliefs...

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Tip for Preppies

Photo By SmartBoyDesigns

Salt. Many folks have stockpiled some salt in their prepper food lockers, hopefully iodized because iodine is SO important to health, and we get it from so few foods. However, just yesterday I discovered the iodine added to salt is fragile and dissipates rapidly, which means if the salt is more than a few months old, the iodine has virtually vanished.

This is equally important for those with thyroid problems who need the iodine, aqnd those at risk of goiter problems in the absence of iodine. Worldwide, iodine deficiency affects about two billion people and is the leading preventable cause of mental retardation. The USDA recommends a minimum of 150 mcg of iodine per day for both men and women. 

Iodine was added to salt around 1924, at the request of government initiatives, due to the growing need for regulation of iodine deficiency disorders. In the 1920′s era in the United States, the Great Lakes and Pacific Northwest region of the country experienced high incidences of goiter (a common thyroid-malfunction-based condition). This was because their soil levels were extremely low in iodine, and people weren’t eating iodine rich foods .

To be on the safe and healthy side, I suggest adding some dried kelp to your storage locker. Dried seaweeds are a good source of iodine as well as many trace minerals, and is often salty enough to use in place of salt, or with a lesser amount of salt.

I have several quart jars of seaweeds in my pantry, notably kombu (kelp), hiziki, dulse, nori (in sheets) and Wakame. Probably that's not enough to have in storage, and I live far from the coast where seaweed is easily harvested.

1 tablespoon of Kelp contains about 2000/mcg of iodine, 1 tablespoon of Arame contains about 730/mcg of iodine, 1 tablespoon of Hiziki contains about 780/mcg of iodine, 1 one inch piece of Kombu contains about 1450/mcg of iodine, 1 tablespoon of Wakame contains about 80/mcg of iodine. I recommend sprinkling them in soups or on salads.

If you have eaten a California Roll, you have eaten the seaweed called Nori. 

Nori Sheet by psd

Oarweed by La.Catholique

Here is a whole big thicket of oarweed kombu. In OR, no license is required for personal seaweed harvesting, although there is a limit of 10 lbs per person. For WA, you must obtain a license through the WA Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. It's also important to check for closures or other health risks prior to harvesting. See this site for contacts for WA state.

Kelp Drying in the sun, by garycycles3

I happen to like Dulse a lot; it makes a slightly sweet rather than salty snack just by itself. I am out of it, and I couldn't find a decent free photo on the internet to use here. Dulse is one of the red algaes, whereas kelp is considered a brown algae.

There are many edible seaweeds. Check out Edible Seaweed here.

How to prepare and cook seaweed.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

William Davis, MD, on Wheat Belly

The book Wheat Belly by the Cardiologist William Davis has been on my Wish List for months now, and I have read many favorable things about the book, and the connection of modern wheat to our obesity crisis. Just yesterday I came across a series of 6 YouTube videos where he explains the basis for his book.

I thought some of you may be interested in watching them if you have a lull in this hectic holiday season. By the Way, he has a cookbook, Wheat Belly Cookbook: 150 Recipes to Help You Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health that will be released Dec. 24.
Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

His Blog

I've been trying to eliminate a lot of wheat from my daily fare, but it's hard... wheat is IN everything! However, I have ordered some Einkorn flour to mix with almond or coconut flour for those few things I'm not yet willing to give up.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Liver Disease and Nutrition

Six and a half years ago, I was diagnosed with Liver Disease, and referred to the University of Virginia to see some liver specialists. The first thing they did was to refer me to the Transplant Program, where I underwent a battery of tests over several months to determine if the rest of my body was healthy enough to withstand the rigors of a liver transplant.

At the time, I was also having the same intermittent low thyroid symptoms I'd had for most of my life. I show all the symptoms of hypothyroidism, yet the thyroid tests always come back in the normal range. This time, the endocrinologist talked to me about foods that adversely affect the thyroid, most notably cruciferous vegetables and soy products. They are goitrogens, meaning they suppresses thyroid function and the uptake of iodine needed by the thyroid.

Cruciferous vegetables lose a lot of the goitrogens when cooked, but soy does not. I thought I had pretty much eliminated soy from my diet years ago... that is, until I discovered soy masquerades under 40 or more names as food additives. The first thing to eliminate from my diet was any food that came in a package with a long list of chemical ingredients on the label, many of which are soy-based (and from GMO soy).

The next thing to eliminate was sugars, high fructose corn syrup in particular. Fructose damages the liver and causes mitochondrial and metabolic dysfunction in the same way as any other toxin.

Sucrose (table sugar) is 50 percent glucose and 50 percent fructose. High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is anywhere from 42 to 55 percent fructose depending on which type is used. Glucose is the form of energy our bodies are designed to run on. Every cell in our body uses glucose for energy, and it's metabolized in every organ of our body; only about 20 percent of glucose is actually metabolized in our liver. Fructose, on the other hand, can only be metabolized by the liver, because the liver is the only organ that has the transporter for it. 

Since all fructose gets shuttled to the liver, when we eat a typical Western-style diet, we consume high amounts of it, so fructose ends up taxing and damaging the liver in the same way other toxins (including alcohol) do. In fact, fructose is virtually identical to alcohol with regards to the metabolic havoc it wreaks. 

According to Dr. Lustig (an endocrinologist at the Univ. of California), fructose is a "chronic, dose-dependent liver toxin." And just like alcohol, fructose is metabolized directly into fat—not cellular energy, like glucose. So when eating fructose, it just gets stored in our fat cells, which leads to mitochondrial malfunction. 

The liver is the major site for converting excess carbohydrates and proteins into fatty acids and triglycerides, which are then exported and stored in adipose (fat) tissue.  I was advised to cut my carb intake to 50 grams a day until my system got clean, and then keep the intake to under 100 grams a day. 

The last thing to eliminate was any meat and eggs from animals that may have been fed the same soy and grain I was to avoid, as well as avoiding all fresh produce grown in a chemical cloud. That meant local free-range eggs, grass-fed beef, lamb, pastured pork, free-range chickens, and the Farmer's Market for veggies I don't grow.

Well, let me tell you, for 2-3 weeks I thought I would starve to death! Giving up the obvious addictive sugars was hard enough, but giving up bread and pasta was even worse. That's when I really started to delve into Real Foods, and things started to turn around.

Within a month, my energy levels and mental outlook began to increase, and my liver enzymes improved enough in 3-4 months that my liver docs took me off all meds.

I also began to lose a little weight. I learned to always carry a wholesome snack when I was away from home, usually a hard-boiled farm egg, or a piece of raw milk cheese (for the enzymes not found in pasteurized cheese). (Do not believe raw milk cheese might harbor pathogens. By Law, they must be aged at least 60 days before they can be sold, and if there were pathogens, the cheese would be rotten before the 60 days were up.)

Unfortunately, I have fallen partially off the "good diet" wagon over the last 12 months, mostly due to the increased cost of food and utilities versus my income (just a monthly social security check) and partly due to laziness. Eating right requires planning ahead and making time to prepare nutritious foods. In the last 3 weeks, I've had 3 sodas because I was experiencing low blood sugar while away from the house. That's 3 more than I've had in 5-6 years.

It's time to climb fully back up on that healthy food wagon no matter what else I have to give up. (Or continue a downward spiral in my health.)

There are many, many good things I can make from cheap cuts of meat and bones. Slow cooking a crockpot full of bones produces an incredibly nutritious broth/stock that's like jello when cooled.  Stock contains minerals in a form the body can absorb easily—not just calcium but also magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulphur and trace minerals.  Bone broth also supports joints, hair, skin and nails due to its high collagen content. In fact, some even suggest that it helps eliminate cellulite as it supports smooth connective tissue.

Cooked long and slow, bone broth also contains the broken down material from cartilage and tendons, stuff like chondroitin sulphates and glucosamine, now sold as expensive supplements for arthritis and joint pain.

The "odd bits" like heart, liver, kidneys, sweetbreads, etc. contain so much more nutrition than the muscle meats, and they are much cheaper to purchase. I just received a Christmas gift of the book Terrine, plus I found a used copy of Terrines, Påtes and Galantines on ebay for under $4 earlier this year. (If you are not familiar with terrines, think meatloaf... and a galantine is just a meaty loaf encased in a pastry shell.)

What else did I eat when I felt so great?? Bacon, eggs, sausage, homemade yogurt, salads dressed with fresh lemon juice and a drizzle of EVOO, cheese, real butter, real cream in my coffee (not UP), fresh veggies, olive oil and coconut oil, sardines, not much fruit because of the sugar content, no legumes, no grains, and grass-fed meats daily. My one daily treat was a half-inch square of an 85% cacao bar at bedtime, and it was enough.

Eating those foods also brought the ratio of my Omega-6 to Omega-3 back into a better balance (about 4:1) than the SAD (Standard American Diet) which is as much as 40:1. 

All the meat and dairy provided the essential amino acids necessary to build proteins (essential because our bodies cannot produce them internally). The failure to obtain enough of even 1 of the 10 essential amino acids has serious health implications and can result in degradation of the body's proteins. Muscle and other protein structures may be dismantled to obtain the one amino acid that is needed. "Unlike fat and starch, the human body does not store excess amino acids for later use; the amino acids must be in the food every day.

I bought some wonton wrappers yesterday and intend to make and freeze some wontons (they contain just 4 grams of carbs per wrapper). A lunch of a wonton or two added to some home canned stock is quick, easy, and nutritious. 

It's a start. Salads will be scarce over the winter because I'm leery of bagged greens, even organic ones. Thankfully I froze lots of green veggies from my summer garden.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Minerals, and the Stalwart Scots of Old...

Two, three, and more centuries ago, the Scots in the Highlands (and those in the Southern Uplands) were stalwart, hearty men who were able to hunt or fight in battle all day without fatigue. We know they often raised sheep, and they fished and hunted deer, but their main carbohydrates were from the oats and barley they grew. 

I haven't found any descriptions of the nutritional value of the oats and barley they grew back then, but you can be sure they were more nutritious, especially in mineral content, than what is grown today. As Dr. Shanahan points out in her book, it was common practice to replace the thatching on their crofts every year, and put the used thatch on their gardens. One big difference in that practice, and the mulching we do today, is the mineral content of the thatch.

The Scots usually heated their crofts with peat fires where wood was scarce, and the smoke rose and escaped through loose areas in the thatch. The thatch itself collected minerals from the smoke. The cooking/heating fires were often directly on the floor, and crofts had a chain and hook hanging from the roof above. This could hold a potful of porridge, an iron kettle of boiling water, or a griddle for baking bannocks or flat oat bread. 

The fires were seldom allowed to go out completely, and the thatch collected the smoke and minerals all year long. I suspect the carbon collected from smoke in the thatch was biochar. By putting this mineral-rich material back into their gardens when they re-thatched annually, they kept the soil re-mineralized.

We fail to do that today, not because we don't have peat fires and thatched roofs anymore, but because home garden advice stresses NPK, and occasionally calcium/lime to "sweeten" the soil. The ignored and overlooked micronutrients are so very important to good garden health, and therefore our own health.

If you truly care about health, give yourself the gift of a good soil survey (not the cheap kind from the Extension Service) that tests minerals and micronutrients. It's not necessary to do it very often once you get the soil adjusted. Your plants will thank you, and your healthy body will thank you.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Teaching our genes new tricks

One of the concepts in the book I'm reading (Deep Nutrition, Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food) speaks to our genes' ability to learn even as we age. I initially fought that concept as completely foreign to what I've been taught to believe, but over the last several months of trying to discard my preconceptions, I've had a change in attitude.

Dr. Shanahan writes of our cellular structure, and what has been learned from the Human Genome Project that has led to the new field of Epigenetics. Each cell in our bodies contains a nucleus, floating inside the cytoplasm, like the yolk of an egg. This nucleus holds 46 chromosomes, and each chromosome contains up to 300 MILLION pairs of nucleic acids. She says if we could stretch out the strands of all the DNA in a single human body, it would stretch to the moon and back more than 5,000 times!

That's a LOT of chemical information, but in reality our genes only make up 2% of the structure of a cell. The other 98% was thought to be "junk" because scientists didn't know what it was, or how it functioned.

Now epigenetic scientists are discovering the "junk" is really a massive, complicated regulatory center, assisting our biology in the never-ending, moment-to-moment decision-making. It responds to every molecule that we put into our bodies (and even the air we breathe), and when it's fed real food, it knows how to produce health. When it gets junk, it gets crazy, jumbled signals that ultimately lead to dis-ease.

Our genes make decisions based in part by the chemical information in the foods we eat. In effect, our DNA collects information from food, and it is in our best interests to give it the best food we can.

Plus, our genes have to be activated for results. One example the author gives is calcium and Vitamin D. If the gene for building bone gets both, then it can perform as it should. But if we are too low or even depleted of Vitamin D, all the calcium we can ingest will not build or repair bone.

Think about this: a single sperm cell mated with a single-celled egg to produce each of us. As the cells divided, how did our genes/DNA know whether to make an eyeball, or a foot?

At some point I will talk about Dr. Shanahan's food suggestions, although they are not a whit different than what I have posted about over the last 3 years. Sometimes we just need reminders.

This post is just a short distillation of some of her text on how our bodies actually function at the cellular level, something she takes pages and pages to explain. I could not begin to explain it, and can only encourage you to read her book if you want to understand and gain better health, and better genes to pass along to future generations.

Friday, December 7, 2012

A Duck, and my Birthday

A few things have been going on in my life lately, mostly piddly stuff, and although my posting is far behind, I'm finally regaining some energy after my long siege with a kidney infection and drug reactions during most of November.

I managed to stumble through making Thanksgiving dinner with a local pastured duck my sister bought. I'd never cooked a duck, and although what I roasted was merely passable due to my inexperience, I'm looking forward to doing a much better job the next time, maybe even this Christmas. I brined the duck (4.4 pounds) for about 6 hours in a citrus brine before roasting, and it was generally moist and tender. The orange sauce I made was terrific, but the pumpkin for a custard never made it out of the freezer.

I was disappointed that there wasn't much duck fat from the young duck, because I've wanted to make duck confit for ages. However, I was impressed enough overall with the duck that I'm considering the possibility of raising a few ducks instead of chickens if I can ever get a secure pen and housing built. The eggs are more nutritious, the meat is tasty... AND ducks don't tear up a garden by scratching up plant roots the way chickens do.

I had a birthday (#72!) early in November and a few gifts showed up, even some belated. One friend sent a Butter Bell. I had one years ago, but eventually broke it. I love having spreadable butter on hand!

Another friend sent a pair of porcelain egg coddlers. Have you ever had a coddled egg? Simply put, coddled eggs are eggs that are baked or steamed until the whites are just set and the yolks are gloriously runny. I really like soft boiled eggs, and egg coddlers take dealing with the messy shell out of the picture. My grandfather ate them all the time, but it seems to be one of those wonderful things that fell out of favor, and most younger folks today have no clue what they are.

On a sour note... I recently ordered a tin of Bremner Wafers, my all-time favorite cracker to serve with cheese for many, many years. They obviously have changed their formula, and now use canola oil. When I opened the can, the rancid oil smell was so strong I almost gagged. Not pleasant when you have friends over for a wine and cheese tasting.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Birthing New Traditions that Make Sense?

As the holidays approach, the giant Asian factories have been kicking into high gear to provide Americans with monstrous piles of cheaply produced goods -- merchandise that has been produced at the expense of American labor shipped overseas.

This year can be different if we so choose. This year we can give the gift of genuine concern for fellow Americans. There is no longer an excuse that, at gift giving time, nothing can be found that is produced by Americans' hands.

Because there is! Although largely service-oriented, some wonderful products are available too!

It's time to think outside the box. Who says a gift needs to fit in a shirt box, wrapped in Chinese produced wrapping paper? Everyone -- yes EVERYONE gets their hair cut. How about gift certificates from your local American hair salon or barber?

Gym membership? It's appropriate for all ages of people who are thinking about some health improvement.

Who wouldn't appreciate getting their car detailed? Small, American owned detail shops and car washes would love to sell you a gift certificate or a book of gift certificates.

Are you one of those extravagant givers who think nothing of plunking down big bucks on a Chinese made flat-screen TV? Perhaps that grateful gift receiver would like his driveway sealed, or lawn mowed for the summer, or driveway plowed all winter, or paid tee times at the local golf course.

There are a bazillion local owner-run restaurants -- and most offer gift certificates. And, if your intended isn't the fancy eatery sort, what about a half dozen breakfasts at the local breakfast joint? Remember, this isn't about big National chains -- this is about supporting your hometown fellow Americans with their financial lives on the line to keep their doors open.

How many people wouldn't love an oil change for their car, truck or motorcycle, done at a shop run by the American working guy?

Thinking about a heartfelt gift for Mom? Mom would LOVE the services of a local cleaning lady for a day.

My computer could use a tune-up, and I KNOW I can find some young guy who is struggling to get his repair business up and running.

OK, you were looking for something more personal. Local crafts people spin their own wool and knit them into scarves. Or they make jewelry, or pottery, and beautiful wooden boxes.

Plan your holiday outings at local, owner operated restaurants and leave your server a nice tip. And, how about going out to see a play or ballet at your hometown theater (if there IS one)?

Musicians need love too, so find a venue showcasing local bands.

Honestly, do you REALLY need to buy another ten thousand Chinese lights for the house? When you buy a $5 string of lights, only about fifty cents stays in the community. If you have those kinds of bucks to burn, leave the mailman, trash guy and babysitter a nice BIG tip.

You see, Christmas giving is no longer about draining American pockets so that China can build another glittering city.

Christmas giving is now about encouraging American small businesses to keep plugging away to follow their dreams. And when we care about other Americans, we care about our communities, and the benefits come back to us in ways we couldn't imagine.

Source: Okay, I admit I stole most of this from an anonymous email, but it rings true for me. Hopefully it will for you too.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Apocalypse? Change in Consciousness?

I confess to not liking TV in general, although I have enjoyed most of the shows on "Ancient Aliens" because they seem plausible to me.  For months now the same channel has carried segments about The End Times (Apocalypse) delivered by various prophecies from the Mayan Calendar and the Hopi Indians to Nostradamus. The chapters of Revelations from the King James Version of the Christian New Testament fits right in, with descriptions of gruesome stages to destruction.

I'm sure there are people who hold the subconscious fear that the prophecies may be right. There have been days when even I have thought it would be fitting and justified, in order to wipe out the greed/evil being carried out this lovely blue planet. But, would it, really? I worry that any survivors would still carry the concept of greed in their hearts.

Wikipedia has this to say: An apocalypse, translated literally from Greek, refers to a revelation of something hidden, although this sense did not enter the English language until the 14th century. In religious contexts it is usually a revelation of hidden meaning - hidden from human knowledge in an era dominated by falsehood and misconception. 

In the Revelation of John, the last book of the New Testament, the revelation which John receives is that of the ultimate victory of good over evil and the end of the present age. In chapter 20, John receives a vision of a thousand-year reign of the Christ/Messiah upon the earth. 

I interpret that reign as a Time of Peace and Love regardless on one's religious beliefs, and the end of an "age", not the end of the world. I also don't think it will be a pleasant passage, as greed/power doesn't give up easily.

Not everyone follows the Judea-Christian beliefs, but most of us in this country have grown up exposed to them, along with the many other religious faiths around the world that hold in common the belief in good vs. evil. 

However, I think in order to wipe out Evil, there will have to be a change in Consciousness rather than mass destruction with few survivors. The possibility that Monsanto, on Dec. 21, 2012, would awaken with a change of heart staggers my imagination.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Toughest Battles...

My toughest food battles start here at home. I share a house (a quasi-duplex) with a half sister nearly 10 years my junior. We seldom share meals, other than an occasional holiday meal I prepare, and I know she heats and eats lots of junk food rather than cook for herself.

She and I had a long conversation about food last night, and I discovered she really IS a true product of American advertising. It's amazing what she believes to be healthy. She believes margarine is healthier than butter, and that GMO canola oil is better than any other oil. Nothing I said had any impact, even with connections to proven research.

I suspect she is typical of many Americans, and that's really sad. Deaf Ears.

If I cannot convince my own sister about nutritionally better foods, how could I possibly hope to influence anyone else to at least LOOK and consider the newer research... research that's peer-reviewed and NOT paid for by BigAg?

The funny thing is that my sis knows my background in engineering and then home-building, and she will take my advice on anything in that field without question.

Friday, November 30, 2012

When an Elder Dies...

"When an Elder dies, a library burns to the ground." ~Old African saying

This quote is from from an exciting book I'm reading (Deep Nutrition: Why Our Genes Need Traditional Foods), and it really has made me think about a lot of things, not just food. (Posting here my Thanks to a Reader who suggested this book!) That quote has stirred a lot in my mind relating to the things that just my grandparents and their grandparents knew, and now are lost, never mind what the earlier generations knew. My grandfather tasted the soil. How would I even begin to know what I was tasting, and what it means?

I'll be posting thoughts from time to time that have risen from my second reading of this book, but what comes to mind at this moment is longevity.

I've been hard at work (again) on my family genealogy, and I've begun to notice how many of my ancestors lived for several years past 100, and how very many lived well into their 90's full of vigor. These are people born between 1700 and 1830 who kept a milk cow, a beef and a hog or two plus chickens, raised their own vegetables, and ate a healthy homemade diet.

They cooked with lard, made loads of butter and cheese from unpasteurized milk still full of healthy enzymes, and fermented many garden vegetables (fermenting increases nutritional content) for the lean winter months. 

As mechanized food production came into being, the mortality age began to drop, and that was long before fast food and GMO's, which continue to decrease the mortality rate in spite of vaccines. Out of 25,000 people in my family database, I have only seen Diabetes as the cause of death in 2 people before 1850, and only a handful with heart complications (including cerebral hemorrhage). To be sure, there were many women who died in childbirth, and men killed in hunting accidents or while felling trees, but those were not food-related. There were also the occasional widespread outbreaks of cholera, but those too were not food related, merely a lack of immunity.

Many families in the 1700's and early 1800's had a stone grain mill at home unless there was a water gristmill within a day's travel. Those home mills were still in use into the late 1800's. (There's a name for them, but I fail to recall it. It was a homemade version of the machined stone mill above. You fed the grain through the hole in the top, and the flour emerged around the bottom ring. Beats hitting the grain with a rock!) 

If you were lucky enough to have a mill within a day's ride, you received a sack of flour in exchange for your grain, less a bit as payment to the miller. You didn't ask if it was really your grain you got back, because all grains grown then were organic and there were no toxins in the air until factories came about. I you didn't properly fertilize your garden with aged manure and what we now call compost, your grain production would be too small to mill anyway.

Water mills have been around for centuries. In England in 1086, there were over 5,000 water mills, and the much later European immigrants to this country brought the knowledge with them (along with how to brew the grains into a beverage). Water mills for grinding grains were eventually replaced by newer mechanized mills that generated heat in the milling process, destroying valuable nutrients. Even though we can purchase "stone-ground" grains today over the internet, I'd be willing to bet most of the processes generates heat.

I have been fortunate, just once, to visit a defunct but still operational neighboring water mill and have the man grind some grain for my mother and me as a favor. There must have been a hundred feet of leather "straps" connecting the water wheel via several gears to the grinding stones. 

There is a defunct water mill about 3 miles from my house. There's not much water in the creek anymore, but a good long mill race could compensate, at least seasonally, because there's a good head to the creek waters. The problem is that today no one understands (or cares) about the nutritional difference in stone-ground grains, so it would not be profitable. 

In today's society, "health" does not exist because it's not profitable. Yeah, lots of companies offer things to regain health... but do they? Only treating our ills is profitable.

Here's another interesting thought... the Scots several hundred years ago were fierce fighters, stalwart beings, and ate a diet heavy in oats. Today oats are highly recommended, but nutritionally lacking. The difference? The Scots thatched their roofs, and cooked and heated with peat fires. Every year they replaced the old thatch which was full of minerals from the smoke of winter fires, and added it to the garden where they grew oats.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Wanna Move to Peru?

Peru has officially passed a law banning genetically modified ingredients anywhere within the country for the next ten years.

In a massive blow to multinational agribiz corporations such as Monsanto, Bayer, and Dow, Peru has officially passed a law banning genetically modified ingredients anywhere within the country for a full decade before coming up for another review.

Peru’s Plenary Session of the Congress made the decision 3 years after the decree was written despite previous governmental pushes for GM legalization due largely to the pressure from farmers that together form the Parque de la Papa in Cusco, a farming community of 6,000 people that represent six communities.

They worry the introduction of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) will compromise the native species of Peru, such as the giant white corn, purple corn and, of course, the famous species of Peruvian potatoes. Anibal Huerta, President of Peru’s Agrarian Commission, said the ban was needed to prevent the ”danger that can arise from the use of biotechnology.”

While the ban will curb the planting and importation of GMOs in the country, a test conducted by the Peruvian Association of Consumers and Users (ASPEC) at the time of the ban’s implementation found that 77 percent of supermarket products tested contained GM contaminants.

Research by ASPEC confirms something that Peruvians knew all along: GM foods are on the shelves of our markets and wineries, and consumers buy them and take them into their homes to eat without knowing it. Nobody tells us, no one says anything, which involves a clear violation of our right to information,” Cáceres told Gestión. GMOs are so prevalent in the Americas that it is virtually impossible to truly and completely block them, whether through pollination or being sneaked in as processed foods.

There is an increasing consensus among consumers that they want safe, local, organic fresh food and that they want the environment and wildlife to be protected,” wrote Walter Pengue from the University of Buenos Aires in Argentina, in a recent statement concerning GMOs in South America. “South American countries must proceed with a broader evaluation of their original agricultural policies and practices using the precautionary principle.”

Note: This decree was signed into effect on April 15th 2011. I guess agribiz corporations didn't want it widely known!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving Morning

Thanks-giving Morning and Every Morning...

"When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength. Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself.Tecumseh

(I copied this from another blog, but it's a great quote to remember.) 

Blog Update

Several people have emailed me about my absence from blogging, so I thought it was time to respond to everyone.

At first I was just busy busy, and very distracted from my blog.

But now I've been sick as a dog for 3+ weeks. Kidney infection, and so far have had allergic reactions to 4 different meds. If the infection continues, they will admit me, and administer IV drugs. Yuck, I'd have to eat institutional food! (Starving might be better!)

I don't have the energy for anything, can barely get from the bed to the bathroom, or bed to the computer, and have been nauseated 24/7 for 3 straight weeks. The new script for nausea seems to work and I've had 2 nausea-free days. I hope it continues, at least until I can get TG dinner on the table.

I have a free-range local duck (Peking) and hope I don't cook it improperly since I've never cooked a duck. Cooked a goose once but that was so far back in the dark ages that I don't remember much.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A Rat's Tale


Genetic Roulette - The Gamble for Our Lives
Watch the whole movie free until 31 Oct 12012


Friday, October 19, 2012

Einkorn, an Ancient Grain

I've been reading a lot about industrialized wheat, and its impact on human health from the book, Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health, by William Davis, MD, a renowned cardiologist. What got my attention was connecting his theories and remembering two years ago when I gave up ALL grains from my diet... I lost 30 pounds and felt great.

When I was a youngster, both of my grandparent's families raised wheat in Kansas. I can remember visiting, and walking in the fields. The wheat was just over 3 feet tall, and lots was lost when the combines harvested the crops because many of the tall stalks had fallen over before harvesting.

So I did a little more reading on wheat. BigAg started to "improve" wheat around the early- 1960's, and crossbreeding resulted in much shorter (dwarf) wheat stalks with fuller heads of grain. The new wheat grew faster too. As a result, the per-acre wheat yield of modern wheat far exceeds the yield of old wheat varieties.  

"That wheat has been hybridized is not, in itself, a reason to think that wheat is bad. The bad part comes by way of a little-known situation that resulted when wheat was hybridized. Unlike with most other plants, when wheat is hybridized it is genetically altered by the addition of chromosomes. New genes that were never present in either parent were created. As a result, modern wheat varieties are profoundly different from the wheat that mankind ate for centuries prior to our industrial age. For example, the wheat mentioned in the Bible is most likely Emmer wheat, which has 28 chromosomes, while modern wheat varieties have 42 chromosomes." Source

By the way... "modern (hybridized) wheat" is NOT THE SAME AS GMO wheat!

According to Dr. Davis, modern wheat with its new genetic code, and the newly-created constituents that came with cross breeding, is largely responsible for widespread obesity (wheat bellies), but it is also doing damage to people’s bodies in other serious ways. Dr. Davis provides convincing evidence to suggest that, in addition to heart disease, modern wheat is a player in such diseases as diabetes, bowel cancer, asthma, schizophrenia, autism, hypothyroidism, and dementia, not to mention Crohn’s disease.

The earliest known ancient wheat, Einkorn, has just 14 chromosomes and is being grown organically in Tuscany (Italy) and sold in many product forms by Jovial. It's also now being grown in a small pocket in the Western US and Canada. According to Dr. Davis, Einkorn naturally crossed with wild goat grass to make Emmer wheat (with 28 chromosomes). Both of these grains are available today, although not likely in your supermarket. In fact, the 2-3 health food stores within a hundred miles of me don't carry them either, so I had to order mine online.

I bought a package of Jovial™ Einkorn pasta to try, and I have some Einkorn flour coming soon. Baking bread may be a challenge simply because using the grains is a bit different, but there's a good tutorial here.

I cooked the Einkorn pasta for spaghetti last night, and I found it really did have a slightly nutty taste. Other than that, it was just pasta. One other thing I did notice... cleaning the pot. All the pasta I have ever cooked has always left a thin starchy film on the pot, but the Einkorn did not.

Wheat is in almost everything we eat, and giving it up totally is really, really hard... no cookies, breads, cakes, hamburger buns, crackers, biscotti, muffins, pizza, sandwiches, breakfast cereals, pasta, thickened gravies and sauces... the list is almost endless.

It will likely be several months before I will really know if I can have some wheat in my diet (in the form of Einkorn or Emmer) and still have the benefits of weight loss and increased energy from my no-wheat diet of 2 years ago.


Thursday, October 11, 2012

Growing Belgian Endive

I am halfway into my experiment with Belgian Endive, because today I dug up the roots that grew all summer in the garden. The summer greens are edible, but quite bitter except the very tiny, baby leaves, so none were harvested. 

Some of the roots grew long and very fat, and a few grew long and skinny, and a couple grew gnarled. Of course, I broke several of the roots off at the tips because I didn't dig deep enough. (I only dug as deep as my shovel would go.) I doubt it will matter, but it will be interesting to see what kind of buds each type of root produces this winter, or if it even makes any difference.

I trimmed the tops to about an inch long, depositing the tops for composting, and then trimmed the tops again down to about 1/4 inch before putting them in a bucket for cool, dark storage.

I didn't have any sand, which is recommended for the root storage, so I used a left-over bag of potting soil to support the roots in the bucket. The potting soil had become very moist from sitting on the ground (probably had a hole in it somewhere) and I hope the roots do not rot before I am ready to expose them to light, some in January and some in February.

Once the roots are exposed to light (and some warmth), it takes about 3 weeks for them to grow the pale white and yellow-tipped torpedos we find at the grocers (at exorbitant prices).

The growth over the last 6-7 weeks was hearty, and I'm sorry I didn't take a photo today before I started digging them. The photo above was taken in late August, artichokes on the left and Belgian endive on the right. I didn't plant many as this was a trial run.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Slow, but Steady Progress


I bought and planted a tiny American Hazelnut 4 years ago. It was so small I wasn't sure it would survive, but it did. Last year was the first year it bore any nuts... a whopping 15 nuts!

This year was much better, probably about 125 nuts! I'm encouraged, and intend to plant more hazels next spring. 

Hazelnuts (aka filberts) are used in confections to make pralines, and in some hazelnut paste products (such as  Nutella). In the United States, hazelnut butter is being promoted as a more nutritious spread than its peanut butter counterpart, though it has a higher fat content.

Hazelnuts are very high in energy and loaded with numerous health-benefiting nutrients that are essential for optimum health. 100 g of nuts provide 628 calories. The nuts are rich in mono-unsaturated fatty acids like oleic as well as essential fatty acid linoleic acid that help lower LDL or bad cholesterol and increase HDL or good cholesterol.

They are are an excellent source of vitamin E; containing about 15 g per 100 g (providing 100% of RDA). Vitamin E is a powerful lipid soluble antioxidant, required for maintaining the integrity of cell membrane of mucus membranes and skin by protecting it from harmful oxygen free radicals. 

The nuts are packed with many of the important B-complex group of vitamins such as riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine (vitamin B-6), and folates. They are rich source of minerals like manganese, potassium, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, zinc, and selenium.

What's not to love?

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Coincidence, or Anticipation of Change?


I sometimes wonder if The Universe is trying to tell me something. Two years ago my yard became infested with chickweed, which is edible. 

Now just in the last 6 weeks or so, my lawn is sprouting Yellow Dock in quite a few places. Yellow dock is also edible. It's best when the leaves are no larger than 2½-3 inches. Caution: The leaves usually contain high levels of oxalic acid. In very small quantities they can be eaten raw; eating large quantities means that the oxalic acid can lock-up other nutrients in the food, especially calcium, thus causing mineral deficiencies. The oxalic acid content is greatly reduced if the plant is cooked. (Cook like spinach.) Even the seeds are edible: Yellow Dock Crackers.

Broadleaf Yellow Dock

I've been leaving all the dandelions in place, since they draw up minerals from the deep. One narrow bed along the walkway is almost solid in dandelions now. Half a cup of dandelion greens contain more calcium than a glass of milk, and more iron than spinach. The leaves have more vitamin A than carrots. And, they’re also packed full of protein and fiber. The flowers make great fritters!

Plantain seeds

There is also a lot of Plantain coming up in the edges of the gravel driveway. Sesame and Wilted Greens Recipe. My sorrel has managed to spread itself into several plants, and it regrows quickly after being cut for soups or greens.

Jerusalem artichokes in bloom (Click to enlarge)

Three years ago I planted 5 Jerusalem Artichoke tubers. Last year they began to multiply a little, and grew to about 6 feet tall. This year they have grown like crazy, with most being over 10 feet tall. I suspect there are hundreds of tubers underground. I'll dig some tubers to transplant along the fence, try to sell or trade some tubers, and leave the remainder in the ground for winter storage.

There are a few other wild edibles coming up here and there but I'm not very knowledgeable about them yet. Nor am I fully informed about the medicinal values of the plants above; it's my "winter job".


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Institutional Food and Pink Slime

I had the unfortunate experience for 2-3 weeks of "Meals on Wheels" about 5 years ago when I was recuperating from surgery. It was disgusting stuff, like all institutional food, whether for nursing homes, hospitals, or school cafeterias. I hope to die quickly so never have to eat that crap again!

I read Water for Elephants last week while sitting in waiting rooms for medical appointments. The main character Jacob says: "I am ninety. Or ninety-three. One or the other." At the beginning of Water for Elephants, he is living out his days in a nursing home, hating every second of it, but especially the institutional "food". (The book is mainly flashback stories about his days working in a circus as a young man, and is an interesting look at circus life.)

Remember Pink Slime (lean, finely textured beef)? Well.... it's coming back, sort of anyway, possibly from a new player: Cargill. When the reports about it from ABC News surfaced last spring, many institutional customers stopped buying the stuff, forcing one of its main makers, Beef Products International, to shut down three of its four plants.

"But now pink slime, or at least the company most associated with it, is back yet again, and with a vengeance. The Twitterverse is atwitter with news that BPI is launching a $1.2 billion defamation suit against ABC News and three whistleblowers—two federal employees and a former BPI worker —who spoke to the news network. 

ABC News is calling the suit "frivolous,"  AP reports, and that seems right. All ABC and the whistleblowers did was to describe in detail how the stuff is made. You can't convincingly blame the messenger because you don't like how the message went over with the public.

Meanwhile, Cargill, the vast agribiz company, is quietly contemplating ramping up its own production of "lean, finely textured beef." A company spokesperson recently told the trade journal Food Navigator (registration required) that it had done focus groups on the stuff shortly after the media storm last spring, and found that concern over it was already "in consumers' rearview mirror and fading fast." The spokesperson added that some of its customers—big institutional buyers of ground beef—have expressed interest in buying pink slime again. Cargill is even prepared to start labeling products containing the elixir with the phrase, "includes finely textured beef," it told the trade journal.

Whereas BPI famously uses ammonia to kill the pathogens lurking in the meat scraps that go into pink slime, Cargill uses citric acid, Food Navigator reports. That strikes me as a bit more palatable than ammonia." Source

Sunday, September 23, 2012

California Homemade Food Act Passed

Last week, the Governor of California signed the California Homemade Act, A.B. 1616 into Law. That sounds like great news, but my sentiments run more along a bloger's post written on the subject back in July, where he said " thanks... for giving us what we should already have...?"

Here's the text of his post; the bold emphasis is mine.

"The legislation is meant to offer people a bit of freedom taken away by the Department of Agriculture that decided moms and sweet little old ladies who fed their families for generations aren’t as smart as the closed-door factories producing our food on conveyor belts, soaking foodstuffs in preservatives, irradiating and pasteurizing to the point of needing “natural flavors” to make the food product taste like eating.

How ludicrous is the current state of food prep and selling due to restrictive regulation? As of right now, my wife could make a loaf of bread and some blackberry jam. A friend could offer to buy that loaf of bread and jar of jam. But if that bread and that jam are not produced in a professional kitchen, that purchase would be considered a misdemeanor in California. Never mind that both parties know each other. Never mind that Rachel is certified by Sacramento County as a Master Food Preserver. Nor that she is an engineer and “wired” a bit more to the, er, meticulous side. Nor mind our kitchen is as spotless as any professional kitchen. Doesn’t matter. The friend who wishes to buy that jam and bread- no matter how much trust there is in Rachel’s food prep, no matter how confident in Rachel, no matter that the friend sampled a loaf and jam from the same batches- that food is ”bad” and cannot be legally sold. My wife, food bootlegger. Of course, she can give it to the friend, that’s ok. But exchange $10 for it, and the food is unfit to eat because it hasn’t been given the Department of Agriculture’s stamp of approval. Snap on the cuffs. Go to jail. Do not collect $200. (Actually, pay a fine, you incompetent and unsanitary food producer, you.)

It makes you think, “Hey, we need a law that would make such a sale legal.” Hence the The California Homemade Food Act, AB 1616. Many are excited about this. I’m not as excited for the simple reason that I don’t feel grateful to the powers that be for “giving us” (through this legislation) a reduced portion of the naturally held right we once had- the right to sell what we make.  I’m not excited about the CDA holding the underlying assumption that we need to be protected from ourselves and our neighbor’s poor sanitation in the kitchen. It’s insulting, patronizing, if not outright degrading. In its way, such over-reaching regulation has made people frighteningly uneducated about what they are eating- its health and quality.

While I half-heartedly support the spirit behind the bill, the other half of my heart holds onto the outrage of being patted on the head, handed a crouton, and told I should be grateful for the fine loaf of bread I’ve just been given." Source

There are similar laws in at least 33 other states (including my state of Virginia), none of which have reported a food-borne illness from non-potentially hazardous foods. In Virginia, home kitchens have to be inspected, and must have a separate food storage area for all the ingredients used in a product, including refrigeration. 

If a product requires a teaspoon of salt, you cannot use the regular box of salt in your kitchen, but have a separate box in a separate area. Further, each and every product must have the exact recipe submitted for approval, and have a USDA approved label. It is a very tedious process, and probably the fees are high. As much as I might have a market for my biscotti, I'd fail going through the hoops.

I'm all for Food Safety, particularly in my own kitchen for my own consumption. However, I would never buy home canned goods like green beans (which are not allowed by Law anyway) because I'd never know if they were properly canned to prevent botulism.

"Prior to the California Homemade Food Act, outdated statutes and local ordinances strictly prohibited everyone from home-based, artisanal bread bakers to small-scale, jam and preserve vendors from selling their products. Now, cottage food producers will be permitted to produce and sell every-day foods such as breads, tortillas, dry roasted nuts and legumes, cookies, granola, churros, jams, jellies and other fruit preserves to their communities. 

Producers choosing to sell directly to consumers will register with the local health department, and those choosing to sell to local retail shops, such as the neighborhood coffee shop or corner store, will be subject to initial inspection and permitting by the local health department. All producers will also be required to complete a food processor course, verify that the home kitchen meets specific standards, and disclose on the product label that the product was made in a home kitchen." Source

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Speaking out of both sides of the mouth

The most important opportunity to affect the control the Corporate Agribusiness has over our foods is Proposition 37 on the California ballot in November. Prop. 37 is the Right to Know (what's in our food), mandating GMO labelling.

All Proposition 37 does is require clear labels letting consumers know if foods are genetically modified. We already have food labels showing nutrition, allergy information and other facts consumers want to know. This measure simply adds information telling us if food is produced using genetic engineering, which is when food is modified in a laboratory by adding DNA from other plants, animals, bacteria or viruses.    

I think the California vote on Prop. 37 is perhaps even more important that the Presidential vote. After all, no matter who is elected President, he will still have 535 Voting Members of Congress to deal with anything he wants to change or accomplish. However, if Prop. 37 passes, it will ultimately inform every one of us in the U.S. who purchases food because it will be too costly and cumbersome for corporations to have different food labels for foods sold in different states.

Most of us imagine that anything "organic" (by Law non-GMO) would automatically be on the side to defeat the proposition, yet many large corporations that produce or market organic foods have helped put over $26 MILLION into the war chest to defeat the initiative. How can these corporations market some foods as good for us, yet refuse to label what's in the other foods they market?

        Kellogg’s (Kashi, Bear Naked, Morningstar Farms);
        General Mills (Muir Glen, Cascadian Farm, Larabar);
        Dean Foods (Horizon, Silk, White Wave);
        Smucker’s (R.W. Knudsen, Santa Cruz Organic);
        Coca-Cola (Honest Tea, Odwalla);
        Safeway (‘O’ Organics);
        Kraft (Boca Burgers and Back to Nature);
        Con-Agra (Orville Redenbacher’s Organic, Hunt’s Organic, Lightlife); and
        PepsiCo (Naked Juice, Tostito’s Organic, Tropicana Organic).

On the other hand, there are many smaller organic leaders supporting the Proposition. By enlarging the poster above, you can see the companies donating to the cause. Please support them and their products when possible!  
The current Administration has deregulated more genetically modified foods than ever. From plums to alfalfa and even sugar beets. But it's not just that so many crops are modified (93% of all soy, 86% of corn, and 93% of canola seeds are now genetically modified) it's that there's currently no labeling system in place so that we know what we're buying. 

We are one of the few industrialized nations that doesn't require labeling of GMO foods. In the past year alone 19 U.S. states have attempted to pass GMO labeling laws, but each time Monsanto and biotech lobbyists have threatened to sue. Only Alaska, with its huge wild salmon industry, has passed a biotech seafood labeling law.

Most of us would like to believe that our foods come from nature, but that's far from the case. In 40 countries, including Australia, Japan and all European Union nations, there are significant restrictions or outright bans on the production of GMOs because they are not considered proven safe.

Update: Giant pesticide and big food companies have so far donated more than $37 million to defeat Yes on 37 to label GMOs in California. Earlier this spring, the Grocery Manufacturers of America (GMA), of which Monsanto is a leading partner, declared that defeating Prop 37 was its single highest priority for 2012.

Monsanto just funneled another $2.9 million dollars to defeat California’s Prop 37 to label genetically engineered foods. This comes on top of their $4.2 million dollar pledge only weeks ago and brings Monsanto’s combined total to more than $7.1 million dollarsThat’s a huge pile of cash and it’s dedicated to only one thing – denying us the Right to Know what’s in our food.

My Question: Did Monsanto just kick in more $$ because they are concerned the People might actually WIN??