Monthly Archives: July 2011

Review: “Food Beware: The French Organic Revolution”

I wrote this post for the Milk and Honey Organics Blog and wanted to share it here too.

I recently came across a documentary made in France about a community that made the decision to provide organic lunches in all of the schools in their region. They brought in scientists and medical professionals and shared with the community about the benefits of local, organic products and the dangers of chemicals and pesticides in our food and water supplies, directly linking several diseases and cancers to the use of pesticides and other chemicals.

Also, within these schools, the children help with an organic garden to teach them how to grow and care for vegetables organically, as well as how to prepare them. Many of the families decide to “go organic” at home too. They found that their food budgets did not increase much; instead, they only bought the things they needed, opting for quality over for quantity, which, in the long run, was also good for their quality of life and health.

It’s an intriguing watch! If you’re interested in a clip, there is one available on YouTube. If you would like to watch the entire video, it runs just under 2 hours and can be watched via Instant Queue on Netflix or you can order it on Amazon.com for around $20. Enjoy the beautiful French landscapes, while experiencing another culture and learning more about organic living!

Some of my favorite quotes from the film include:

“We took our own stance, and are trying, today, to spread it. People throw the cost at us. But you can’t put a price on health. …You don’t listen to the accountant first. You listen first to your conscience. That’s the thing” ~Mayor of the Community that chose to go Organic.

“Do you manage to eat completely organic?” “Not everything? 100% is impossible. Well, it’s possible, but…” “I’ve stopped buying things that I don’t need. So that’s one effect.” “I prefer consuming in this way. I don’t feel such a sucker.” “Exactly! And you’re protecting yourself.” “You reali[z]e some things are unnecessary. As we’re in a society which eats too much, it can’t do us any harm to eat a bit less” ~Two mothers in the district.

“Farming all arable land according to organic precepts would produce enough to feed mankind” ~FAO Report May 2007.

“We have to stop poisoning the earth, the air and our food, with the false excuse that we’re feeding mankind, when in fact we’re starving mankind! This is why we need a total overhaul of the dominant agricultural model to conserve our health and the environment. I assert that we can produce in a different and sustainable way, healthy food in sufficient quantities, with economic performances well superior to industrial methods, if we’d stop replacing peasants [farm workers] with chemical molecules” ~Philippe Desbrosses, PhD in Environmental Studies.

“On average, for a lot of products from intensive industrial farming, you could multiply by three or four the price on the label. They get generous subsidies for producing in that way. The cost of cleaning up pollution, the health costs, the economic cost when there’s overproduction, prices plummet and they demand compensation… All those costs are externali[z]ed, they’re not added to the price, but they’re carried over to your taxes. If they put the real cost on the label, these seemingly cheap products would be more expensive than organic. This needs to be said loud and clear!” ~An educator and speaker.

“As for the children, their palates need educating. We don’t only eat organic, but it’s perfectly easy to go organic. It’s not more expensive. It just means paying attention to what you eat. Being aware” ~A father in the district.

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Fourth of July Weekend: We Are Family!

The Fourth of July fell on a Monday this year, so we had an extra long weekend. My brother’s fiancée (Lissa) flew in from L.A. and met him (Jordan) and my parents in OH, then they all came down here to spend a long weekend with my sister (Michelle) and me. It was fun to meet Lissa and I think she’ll fit right in with our family.

Left to Right: Michelle (my twin sis) and Baby Mark, her husband Alan, Bryan, me, Lissa, Jordan (my bro), Micah (7), and Jordan Elliot (5) - (Mom and Dad - not shown)

We had SO much good food while they were here. My sister hosted a BBQ dinner one day, and I made Carnitas, Black Beans and Cilantro Lime Rice for lunch another day. Lissa made her Ceviche to go with the Beans and Rice. And for our last breakfast together, we made omelet cups, scones, and a giant fruit display!

Brunch! Mom made the Scones, Bryan helped with the Omelet Cups, and I made the Fruit Tray. It's always fun to be in the kitchen together!

Most of the fruit was from our organic produce basket from Milk and Honey Organics. The honeydew was from EarthFare (I had a coupon for a $2 watermelon, but they were out and graciously let me have the honeydew instead). I literally prayed on the way home that it would be a sweet honeydew (I’m not usually a big fan because they don’t always have a lot of flavor). This one was delicious!! I should pray over my grocery shopping more often!

Caught in the act: Jordan Elliot just couldn't wait for brunch! Those giant organic strawberries were just too tempting!

Not shown:

  • Bryan and Josh Spencer took engagement shots for Jordan and Lissa! I accompanied and helped pick out the shoot locations.
  • Lunch after the photo shoot at Mellow Mushroom.
  • Mom and Dad figuring out their new iPhones.
  • We had a showing on Friday before everyone arrived, so it made it easy to get the house clean for company. (Yes, the house is still for sale.)
  • Lots of laughs!
  • Inordinate amounts of coffee!

Recipe: Citrus Chicken with Roasted Peaches

Citrus Chicken with Roasted Peaches, served with Mixed Greens Salad topped with Goat Cheese, Walnuts, and Sliced Plums

Recipe: Citrus Chicken with Roasted Peaches

by Melissa McKinnon

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup orange marmalade
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 4 teaspoons raspberry blush balsamic vinegar (or any sweeter vinegar)
  • 1 teaspoon chipotle powder
  • 2 teaspoons organic olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh cilantro plus sprigs for garnish
  • 2-4 large peaches, halved and pitted
  • 1 small whole organic chicken, separated (2 wings, 2 legs, 2 boneless breasts, 2 thighs; or you could use boneless, skinless chicken breast)
Instructions:
Preheat oven to 350F. Whisk together all ingredients (except peaches and chicken). Place chicken and peaches on baking stone (or oiled baking pan) and brush with citrus dressing. Bake for 20-30 minutes (or until chicken is white throughout but still moist); you may need to flip the chicken and peaches half way through baking.
Note: If you have leftover roasted peaches, they would go perfectly with a scoop of vanilla ice cream!

 

Recipe: Mushroom Steak Topper (or Stuffed Mushroom Caps)

Bryan and I have worked on this recipe for a while. We’ve tried several different wines and think that Shiraz pairs with the Sharp Cheddar the best. As for the cheese, the sharper, the better! Garlic, butter, wine, and cheese: always a winner!

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8-16 oz. White Button Mushrooms or Baby Portabella Mushrooms (for steak topper, quarter whole mushroom; for caps, carefully remove stems)
  • 1/4-1/2 c. Shiraz Wine (feel free to use your favorite wine)
  • 4-8 oz. Extra Sharp White Cheddar Cheese (for steak topper, shred; for caps, cube enough for one square to fit inside each cap)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

First, clean your mushrooms gently with a brush or soft towel (note: you should not use water on mushrooms, as it makes them spongy; I recommend organic, to be on the safe side). If you are making Mushroom Caps, gently remove the stems and discard or sautée on the side; if you are making the Steak Topper, quarter each mushroom, including the stems.

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium low heat and add minced garlic. Add mushrooms to the skillet and brown (for caps, place top side down and flip half way through cooking). Sprinkle with salt and pepper as desired. Once the mushrooms are golden brown, add the wine to the bottom of the pan, cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Once most of the wine has reduced, top with cheese and continue to cook covered for 3-4 minutes.

Mushroom Caps are an excellent appetizer or side dish. We typically end up making them as a steak topper, as it’s a less time consuming process in the long run. The mushrooms also make an excellent baked potato topper! Bon Appetit!

Recipe: Lissa’s Ceviche

Over the July 4th weekend, I got to spend some time with my future sister-in-law Lissa! She was born in Guatemala, raised in NYC, and lives in L.A. now! She’s a great girl, who loves the Lord, and enjoys everything from fashion to cooking to photography. Oh, yes, and she loves my brother. 🙂 She showed me how to make Ceviche while she was at our house that weekend! I think I could eat it every day!

My future sis-in-law Lissa and my brother Jordan

If you’re not familiar with Ceviche, it’s amazing! In my experience, it’s kind of like salsa, but with more coarsely chopped, raw vegetables in a lime and cilantro dressing. Here’s Lissa recipe:

Ceviche de Camaron (Shrimp Ceviche Cocktail):

“The dish basically consists of combining seafood cooked or not fully cooked with fresh vegetables and lime juice. The lime juice works as a cooking agent and helps finish cooking the shrimp.

  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 pound medium shrimp
  • 1.5 pound of tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 3/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

——–

“Additional ingredients one could add:

  • 1 cup chopped peeled cucumber
  • 1 cup chopped sweet bell peppers
  • 4 tablespoons of Worchester sauce – gives it a nice kick. Or hot sauce for more of a kick 🙂
  • Adding fish, scallops, crab — results in a richer taste.

“**Ceviche, tastes well on its own or can be paired with various dishes. It tastes very good when paired with a well marinated steak or chicken, beans, rice and or guacamole — as the juices from the steak and from the other side dishes secrete and blend with the ceviche, a nice rich and unique flavor result from the mix. Yum yum yum.” ~Lissa

Here’s a recent sample I made with avocado but without shrimp, served with Quesadillas and Greek Yogurt:

“Award Winning” Chili Con Carne

I used my Mom’s recipe for Chili Con Carne in our “Office Olympics” Chili Cook-Off this week and took Bronze! So, it is officially “award-winning”-ly awesome!

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tblsp. butter
  • 1 large onion, diced, divided
  • 1 lb. ground chuck (bison or venison works well too)
  • 1 lb. ground sausage
  • 1 – 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 8 oz. sliced baby portabella mushrooms
  • 2 – 15 oz. cans tomato sauce
  • 2 – 15 oz. cans light red kidney beans
  • 1 – 15 oz. can beef broth
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 Tblsp. chili powder or more to taste
  • 1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 Tblsp. sugar

Instructions:

  1. Melt butter in Dutch oven.
  2. Sauté half of the diced onion for about 5 minutes.
  3. Add ground meat and brown.
  4. Add rest of ingredients and simmer for one hour. (Once you get it mixed you can of course put it in a crock pot to heat – I don’t know if I would do that all day – maybe just four hours on low.)

Great the day you make it – even better the next day. Serve with grated cheddar cheese, the rest of the diced onion, sour cream if desired, a sprinkle of celery seed and red pepper flakes or Tabasco sauce. It’s also great with corn bread.

 Yields: 1 Dutch Oven, 10 servings

Bronze Medal in Chili Cook-Off 2011

 

Cool Resource for Healthful Meal Ideas

I came across this website in my weekly routine of creating a meal plan. It’s created by a Registered Dietitian and has some really great ideas. It’s a good resource for those who are having a hard time coming up with simple meal ideas (especially when you’re on a shoe-string budget). Enjoy!

Breakfast:

http://www.dietriffic.com/2008/03/26/25-easy-breakfast-ideas-for-the-bleary-eyed/2/

Snacks:

http://www.dietriffic.com/2007/06/17/healthy-snack-ideas/

Lunch:

http://www.dietriffic.com/2009/01/19/healthy-lunch-ideas/

http://www.dietriffic.com/2009/02/10/18-healthy-lunch-ideas/

Dinner:

http://www.dietriffic.com/2008/03/05/25-meals-5-ingredients-or-less/

A Smoothie for Dinner!

After getting caught in the rain in the middle of mowing the lawn tonight, I came in and took a fast shower and then came downstairs to figure out dinner. Bryan’s sleep schedule got thrown off over the holiday, so he had a hard time falling asleep this morning (which means I’m letting him sleep and eating dinner alone).

I felt like something cool and refreshing, and knew I needed to get a few more fruits and veggies in, so this is what I came up with (and, boy, was it good!):

  • 1 frozen organic banana
  • 2 1/2c. frozen organic spinach (loose leaf, not packed)
  • 1 1/2 c. fresh blueberries (picked by my sister’s neighbor girl)
  • 1 to 1 1/2 c. organic milk
  • 1/2 c. sweetened coconut flakes
  • 1/8 tsp. of cinnamon
  • dash of cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 c. of nutty granola (on top, if desired)
Add all ingredients except the granola to a blender and liquify until smooth. Top with granola and enjoy! Serves 1 meal portion (or 2 smaller portions). The cayenne and cinnamon give it a nice little kick on the finish. 

Another “Catching Up” Blog Post

Recently, it seems like my life has been in survival mode. I have all these great ideas to blog about at work, but it’s against the rules, and by the time I get home, I just haven’t felt like blogging. Well, lots has been going on. Let’s recap over the last few months:

  • Bryan started working night shift. This has been a total change in meal planning, sleep schedules, and social activities, but we’re thankful he has a job.
  • Bryan bought a motorcycle to get to said job. This wasn’t my first choice for transportation for him (okay, it was probably my last choice…still kinda freaks me out each night when he leaves), but it was affordable and he seems to really enjoy it. It definitely saves on gas money, though he jokes about being a good omen for rain – ever since he got the bike, it seems like it’s dry on his days off and rains every night he has to go in. So, he really hasn’t had to ride a ton. I told him not to be surprised if I ask him to give it up whenever we have kids. He responded by telling me not to be surprised if he says no, to which I responded by telling him not to be surprised if I don’t take no for answer on this one. He just smiled, resigning to reality.
  • I started a new job, still working for the same company, but in a different role with a lot less stress.
  • My sister had a baby! Baby Mark is SO cute and really is a good baby! I’m so happy she gets to stay home with Mark and her two older boys Micah and Jordan for now.
  • My brother got engaged! We finally got to meet Lissa over 4th of July weekend, and I think she’s going to fit in just splendidly. Wedding will likely be in NYC, which makes me even more excited because visiting the Big Apple is on my bucket list.
  • I stopped doing personal training for my clients.  It frees up an extra evening or two, which is ultimately supposed to give me time to study for my personal trainer certification test. Definitely still something I want to do, but I’m enjoying the break for now (though I do miss my clients). I have the materials. I just have to sit down and study now.
  • I started blogging for Milk and Honey Organics. I get “free” produce for blogging for them, which is about the same cost/value as I got from personal training, so I pretty much come out even on this. I would love to become a blogger/editor on the side eventually and be able to come home full-time.
  • We’re still trying to sell our house. Anyone want a cute 3 bedroom-2.5 bath home with a screened in back porch and fenced in back yard?! We have great neighbors too!
  • Bryan’s considering another degree to become either a Nurse or Dental Hygienist.
  • I helped hang sheet rock and install porch railings with Homes of Hope on some houses our company is helping build. Homes of Hope started as a Christian rehab organization and then the guys who make it through the Overcomers program help build homes for those in need in their local community, thus learning a trade that will help them get steady jobs in the future. It’s a really cool program!
  • I went to TN over Father’s Day and helped Dad work on the farm (got to use the Hydraulic Wood Splitter for the first time!). I also took my oldest nephews, Micah and Jordan, with me to see “Grandpa and Grandma” and give my sister a break and some time alone with her husband and the new baby. We had a lot of fun and listened to Bullfrogs and Butterflies (Christian music from when I was a kid) almost the whole way there and back!
  • I attempted (and failed) to fix both of our lawn mowers last Saturday. Fortunately, our neighbor was able to get one of them going (the one we borrowed from Bryan’s grandma). The other one was beyond hope, so I gave it to the neighbor to see if he could scrap some parts (he’s very handy like that).
  • Throw in Tuesday night pizza nights, church, work, family activities, etc., and it’s been one busy spring and early summer.

With all of this stuff (for lack of a better word) going on, I’ve had a harder time being in the Word. I’ve listened to some good sermons and read tidbits here and there, but I’m ready to really dive back in and soak it up again. For now, I’m going to keep going through the Psalms (with Charles Spurgeon’s help) and see where I end up.

We’re also going through the Minor Prophets in Sunday School, and they’ve been a real blessing. I’m thinking of pairing my Psalms study with whichever Minor Prophet we study on Sunday, to get a broader take on Scripture. This last week was about Nahum (a prophet about whom I sadly didn’t remember much). He was a prophet of comfort to Judah, but the comfort came through the destruction of Ninevah, a city that 100 years prior had turned to God after hearing Jonah’s testimony to them, but had departed again. I’m glad that I am one of God’s people, and that there is comfort for me in this weary world too.

I started mowing the lawn tonight after work and got rained out. I barely got the back yard and side strip done before the deluge hit! At least all I have to do in the morning is the front yard (that’s the easy part). Then I think I’ll go for a swim with my sister and nephews. Seems like a good thing to do on a summer Saturday, don’t you think?! So, what are your plans for this weekend?

Veggies for Breakfast?! Why Not!?

If you’re like me, you grew up eating fruit with breakfast and veggies with lunch and dinner. But why is this? For some reason we associate sweet with breakfast. However, sometimes you want more than OJ and a cinnamon roll. We often eat “breakfast for dinner,” so why not try “dinner for breakfast”? Here are some ideas for how to jump start your day with veggies:

  1. Go Gourmet with Omelets! Shredded carrots, chopped peppers and onions, and even sliced tomatoes go great with eggs. Spinach and Asparagus are great in a cheesy omelet too.
    • If you’re not good at flipping omelets, try adding the same veggies to a Baked Egg Casserole.
    • For a Southwestern flair, top a Breakfast Burrito with Salsa and Sour cream or Greek Yogurt. (Note: Salsa counts in your veggie intake, since it’s almost all veggie!)
  2. Try a Sweet Potato Pancake. Top with a dollop of Greek yogurt and honey, or you can use whipped cream and syrup if you’re more traditional.
  3. Hashbrowns with Cheese, Sautéed Onions, Peppers, and Mushrooms are fun. Top with an egg for some added protein.
  4. How about Zucchini Bread or Carrot Muffins? You can mix and match with these too. Find your favorite zucchini bread recipe and substitute carrot for all or part of the amount called for.
  5. Top your oatmeal with some Pumpkin Puree, Honey, and Cinnamon!
  6. Explore other cultures.
    • When I travelled in Eastern Europe one summer, we often had open sandwiches for breakfast, which included various deli meats, cheeses and vegetables. My favorite was the cucumber, dill, and cream cheese on toast combo. Other veggies work well too. Try some Neufchatel and chopped veggies on a whole grain toast (think veggie pizza: carrots, broccoli, tomato, peppers, etc.).
    • A traditional Persian breakfast is warmed pita with butter, feta cheese, mint, and sliced radishes. It sounds strange, but it’s oddly refreshing.
    • Italian leftovers are quick and fun (and tomato sauce counts as a vegetable too)!
    • In Egypt, whole wheat pitas with falafel (made with fava beans), pickled vegetables, boiled eggs and cheeses are popular.
    • In Japan, a typical breakfast would include miso soup, rice porridge, fish, and pickled vegetables.
  7. When all else fails, make a smoothie. Smoothies are a great way to sneak vegetables in to the beginning of your day. A handful of spinach or kale, a cup of carrot juice, or even some sliced beets. Carrots and beets are naturally sweeter vegetables and blend nicely with berries. Leafy greens hide well too and give it a fun green color that kids like.

Whatever you do and however you add veggies to your meals, be creative, have fun, and enjoy! Don’t be afraid to try a strange combination; you never know what might be the next big food craze!