Monday, December 30, 2013

Easy Veggie Patties



I love the simplicity of true health and wellness. It's not complicated. Eating real food, making sure it's mostly plant based, drinking lots of clean water, moving your body daily with exercise, and most of all staying in constant communication with God is what it comes down to in essence. 

In order to help myself keep things simple in our fast paced society while still trying to eat real food, I think it's super important to get into a routine of having certain foods prepared on a regular basis so you can easily grab them. For me this definitely includes organic brown rice, quinoa, and beans of some sort. These are integral to most of my meals. I usually use some type of bean each week and either brown rice or quinoa. Keeping veggies prepared is also really helpful; having them quickly cleaned and cut if I need to rush out the door is a huge bonus.

I love a good veggie patty. I refuse to call it a burger because truly a burger is made with meat of some kind. I'm not opposed to anyone eating a burger, just do yourself a favor and make it at home so you'll know what you're eating. I'm not a meat eater per say, but it's totally fine if you like it. Consuming unidentified objects that pretend to be food just doesn't appeal to me though...call me crazy! 

Veggie patties are delicious, versatile, and when made right should be fairly painless and easy. I adore them because you can make them with awesome textures and very savory. The sky is the limit and nutrition wise you can pack them with wholesome yummy goodness!

My favorite base for a good veggie patty is some type of bean, brown rice or quinoa, and eggs. After that add whatever you want to include. Spices and veggies whether sautéed a little bit or raw give the variety. It's a fantastic way to use up leftovers!

You can eat these on a bun if you want. I'm gluten free (GF) and choose not to mess with replacing what I used to eat before with GF versions of everything. Somethings I'm happy to live without, buns being one of them. Occasionally, I'll bake a loaf of GF bread. I prefer to eat mine on a large lettuce leaf, broken up on top of a salad, or just beside some veggies.

After you see how easy this is you might be making them all of the time. Kids will love these! Throw some homemade organic ketchup on it and your golden with your kiddo for sure! Feel free to double or triple the recipe. I've not frozen these, but I think they'd do fine.

Recipe yields about 3 patties.
Ingredients:

1 Cup Organic Cooked Chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
1/2 Cup Organic Cooked Short Grain Brown Rice
1 Large Farm Fresh Egg
Small Handful of Organic Kale, chopped
1 Large Garlic Clove, minced
1/4 of a Purple Onion, chopped
1 Tsp Celtic Sea Salt
1/4 Tsp Fresh Black Pepper
1 Tsp Organic Ground Tumeric
1-2 Tbsp Organic Unrefined Coconut Oil (for sautéing on the stove)

Directions:

Add the brown rice and chickpeas to the bowl. You can totally blend or food process this part if you want to do so or use a masher like I did.


Mash the rice and chickpeas fairly well.   Some chunks are okay and welcome.


If you use your food processor for mixing then it's simple to toss in the egg, chickpeas, and rice; you can throw the veggies right in there with them or for more texture take the mixture out of the food processor, put it back in the bowl, and then add the veggies.


Next I put the egg and veggies in the bowl.


Mix it well with salt, pepper, and turmeric.

 
Form into patties and brown each side in the coconut oil in a skillet.


Then serve it up however you want! I love these with my homemade mustard and avocado!


Get creative and make this your own! I'll share another veggie pattie recipe soon. Be blessed, be healthy, and be a good steward.


Saturday, December 28, 2013

Vegan Soy Free Mayo


Thought I'd share a quick little recipe I found for a great mayo substitute if you can't do eggs, don't want all that nasty soybean oil, or want deviled eggs and think all that egg between the mayo and eggs themselves is over kill. Whatever your reason, I think you will enjoy it. Use it in any recipe calling for mayonnaise.

The original recipe can be found in the Nourishing Friends Cookbook authored by Leanne Vogel. I keep these ingredients in my pantry on a regular basis, so it was easy to whip up a batch quickly. 

I think you could easily substitute the cashews for macadamia nuts and the raw apple cider vinegar for raw coconut vinegar, and hemp oil for the olive oil, if you wanted. It's a very nourishing recipe with the ingredients as is truth be told.

Coconut milk and oil are full of health benefits! The oil contains 3 anti microbial and antibacterial medium chain fatty acids. They are all a super boost to the immune system naturally. One of the acids in particular is called monolauric acid. In the body it is converted into a compound called monolaurin. Our bodies need utilize element to stay healthy. Make a note it is ONLY in organic unrefined virgin coconut oil. The only other food that contains monolauric acid is human breast milk. (This is one reason breast feeding  is so important.) The oil is in the milk. The milk is a blend of the flesh and water. It's packed with vitamins B, C, E, and many minerals like magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus.

Cashews contain healthy monounsaturated fat, and are high in antioxidants, special vitamins,that help deter cancer cells from forming. They are rich in magnesium, which is an integral mineral in our bodies it regulates nerve and muscle tone, controls how much calcium we receive, reduces high blood pressure, helps with going and staying asleep, and relaxes muscles. I get my cashews from Trader Joes or Nuts.com.

The recipe originally just calls for sea salt. Beware of that term. All salt is from the sea, so technically any salt can say, "sea salt." I specifically noted Celtic sea salt. Another acceptable salt would be Himalayan (pink salt). Celtic sea salt is from the coast of France. It has not been bleached or dyed white like table salt, all of the natural minerals are still in tact (over 75) like sodium, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and more. It also does not contain any scary anti-caking agents. I don't know about you, but I just want to eat salt.

Ahhh the wonders of turmeric, such an incredible little root! Used in Ayurvedic medicine for years, here in the USA we are finally waking up to its power. Turmeric is a deep yellow/orange root, first heard used widely in India, has wonderful immune health properties as well as a natural anti-inflammatory. I throw it in whatever I can.

Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is a super source of healthy omega 9. It has some omega 3's, but not much. Our bodies naturally make the fatty acid omega 9, so take it easy. It a healthy fat for the heart. Make sure to choose a true EVOO. Look for ones in dark glass bottles, with deep rich yellow/green hues, and a harvest date on the back. Many olive oils on the shelves in today's markets are not pure even if they say so on the label. California's olive oil standards are very high, so one from CA is a safe bet.

I actually drink a little raw "unpasteurized" apple cider vinegar (ACV) everyday in my water. It's great for digestion, regulates the pH in the body, burns fat, and helps our immune system function well. I like the Braggs brand. ONLY RAW ACV has the health benefits. 

Recipe:

1/2 Cup Organic Whole Coconut Milk
4 Tbsp Coconut Oil
1/4 Cup Raw Cashews (soaked for at least 20 minutes in filtered water in a glass jar or bowl)
1/2 Tsp Celtic Sea Salt
1/4 Tsp Organic Ground Turmeric
2 Tbsp EVOO
3 Tbsp Raw ACV

Directions:

Put everything in a food processor or blender.


Process really well until creamy.


That's pretty much it. Then put it into a glass jar or Pyrex type dish. It should keep for a few weeks in the fridge. Enjoy!
After being refrigerated the oil balls up a little bit and looks grainy. That's perfectly fine and natural. 







Friday, December 20, 2013

Homemade Elderberry Slippery Elm Syrup

Loving this fall weather, except for the gray days. Summer time is my absolute favorite season though. I love the hot sun beating down on me while I'm hiking on trails or walking on the beach. So since we have now walked into the holiday season immune defenses are going to be down because of all of the sugar and not so great dietary choices. This time of year is so tempting. If you'd like to skip cold and flu season all together, check out my post here. To keep a little insurance so to speak in our back pockets, I thought it would be great to show you how to make a kid friendly medicinal syrup to administer daily or weekly to boost your family's immune systems.

So colds and flues are viral. Viruses are not the same as bacteria. Viruses cannot replicate with a host cell, therefore they are not considered living organisms. Bacteria on the other are able to exisit and thrive without a host. Knowing the type of infection you have is key to treating it. Regardless, both types of infections can really take our bodies into an unnecessary tail spin...not fun! To keep myself and my children healthy I utilized some of God's finest from the outdoors and made a immune system boosting syrup. This is appropriate for age 1year and older. It does contain honey, so do not give it to a baby under a year of age. There is a particular bacteria, C.Botulinum that can cause death in infants.

Ingredients & Benefits

(1/2 Cup) Dried Black Elderberries: immune boosting, helps ward off viruses

(1/4 Cup) Slippery Elm Bark: soothing for sore throats, fights infection

(1/4 Cup) Ginger Root: anti-inflammatory, immune booster, mucous solvent

(3) Ceylon Cinnamon Sticks: anti-inflammatory, warming to the body, anti-bacterial

(1 Cup) Raw Local Honey: anti-bacterial

Here is how to make the syrup:

Mince the ginger root.


Then measure 3 cups of filtered water and put it into the pot.


Then put the elderberries, ginger, cinnamon, and slippery elm bark, into the pot.


Simmer on low heat for 1 hour. Next you will turn off the heat and use a mesh strainer to strain the herbs from the liquid. Add your honey. Store in a glass jar in the refrigerator.

Servings:

Adults: 1 Tbsp

Children under 12: 1 Tsp

Children under 4: 1/2 Tsp

You can use one serving daily for immunity support or take 3 servings at the onset of illness to fight an infection. Store in the fridge for 2 months.

Please give me a heads up if you make this for yourself or your family. Be healthy, be blessed, and be a good steward!


Thursday, December 19, 2013

Gluten Free Donuts!!!

Oh my goodness, need I say more? It's a dream come true right....gluten free and donut to be in the same sentence. Okay, so it's not exactly Krispy Kreme, but they are sweet enough and have a hole in the middle....score! These are even better because dare I say, they are actually good for you!

These delectable yummies are made with coconut flour. It's loaded with awesome fiber, healthy fat, and vitamins! Really, while they do contain some healthier sugar, you could almost serve these to the kids for breakfast and really not give yourself a guilt trip.

Ingredients:

Donuts

1/2 Cup Organic Unrefined Coconut Oil
1/4 Cup Organic Coconut Sugar 
1/4 Cup Organic Maple Syrup
1/2 Tbsp Organic Ceylon Cinnamon
6 Farm Fresh Free Range Eggs
2 Tsp Organic Pure Vanilla Extract
3/4 Cup Organic Coconut Flour
3/4 Tsp Baking Soda
1 Tsp Celtic Sea Salt

Chocolate Topping
One 365 Whole Trade Dark Chocolate Bar
1 Tbsp Organic Unrefined Coconut Oil

Directions:

I used a Pampered Chef fluted mini bundt stoneware pan. Go ahead and grease it with coconut oil ahead of time. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F.


You can use a blender or food processor. I opted for the food processor. Go ahead and add your eggs, coconut oil, coconut sugar, cinnamon, and maple syrup. Process them well.


Place a stainless steel mesh strainer over the open top of the processor bowl. In the strainer add the flour, salt, and baking soda to sift. Shake and sift the mix. Whatever doesn't sift through, dump into the processor bowl. Process it well.


Pour into greased wells of donut pan or fluted mini bundt pan. If you use the Pampered Chef fluted mini bundt pan it will take 30 minutes to bake. Using smaller donut pans? Cut the bake time in half.


While baking, break up the chocolate bar into a small pot. Add the coconut oil. Don't do anything with this yet. Once the donuts come out of the oven, put the pot with the chocolate on the stove. 


Slowly melt the chocolate. Then drizzle it over top of the donuts. 


I realize mine do not look super pretty. Perhaps you are an expert drizzler, I am not :) That's okay, they still taste fabulous! Put them in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. Then take them out and enjoy them! Please let me know if you try them with a comment on my blog. Be healthy, be blessed, and be a good steward!



Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Making Mustard


Condiments are huge in our culture. They add flavor, spice, and character to a meal. I firmly believe in being able to taste what the actual food we are eating tastes like and not loads and loads of processed sugar, salt, and artificial flavoring in heavy dressings or sauces. Yet using healthier condiments to accent flavor points in certain foods is wonderful!

Today I thought it would be fun to make an American condiment standard...mustard! Did you know that certain mustards can contain gluten? Mustard is not exactly a food you'd think would contain gluten. Mustard typically contains vinegar. Many white distilled vinegars are made with glutinous grains.

Here is how I make mustard. The cool thing in making your own is it makes quite a bit, and even using organic mustard seeds makes this an economical  condiment. I've sized the recipe here down, but feel free to double or triple it. It should last in the refrigerator for several months. Be sure to use a recycled jar you have lying around to store it in. 

Recipe makes about 1/2 cup.

Ingredients:

3 Tbsp Yellow or Brown Organic Mustard Seeds
1/4 Cup Organic Ground Mustard
1 1/2 Tbsp Braggs Apple Cider Vinegar
1/4 Cup Filtered Water
1 Tsp Celtic Sea Salt
*Optional: 1/2 Tsp Organic Ground Turmeric

Using a coffee bean grinder reserved for grinding seeds, grind the mustard seeds. Allow it to be a little choppy like in the picture below.


Next just add everything into a bowl and mix well. 


Mix it up!


Store it in a jar in the fridge. Remember not to use it for 12 hours. Let the flavors come together. It will be a little thick and spicy, so a little goes a long way.


Let me know if you decide to make some mustard of your own! Be blessed, be healthy, and be a good steward!


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Need Magnesium?


We need lots of vitamins and minerals to thrive. Magnesium is one of them. The best way to take in our nutrients is through our foods. Even a whole foods based supplement cannot compare with the food The Lord has given us. No, Centrum doesn't cut it. It's a rock that doesn't break down. Stop wasting your money.

There are lots of foods that contain magnesium like bananas, beans, lentils, brown rice, oats, quinoa, avocados, nuts, seeds, spinach, sea veggies, and more. 

Magnesium is a mineral that acts as a catalyst for so many areas of the body to function properly. We need it for regulating blood sugar, to eliminate properly, strength of the heart, for energy, as well strength and form of bones and teeth. The recommended daily allowance is 300-400mg.

 A vitamin D deficiency severely effects our magnesium levels. Be sure to supplement with a good vitamin D3 like pure drops in chocalciferol form or Garden of Life Raw D3. Most adults need at least 5000 IUs of D3 daily.

Magnesium deficiencies can be very dangerous. As you can see magnesium is a mineral found in plant foods. If yours or your child's diet is lacking in plant foods then you are highly likely to be deficient. Also depleted soils that are not mineral rich especially for conventionally grown crops is a problem. Organic or sustainably grown is a much better bang for your nutritional buck.

If you get headaches, have sleep issues, muscle or leg cramps, have chronic fatigue or nausea, you may be deficient.


Another super way to absorb magnesium is through the skin. This is easily done by using a magnesium gel or spray. Sure you can buy them, but they cost a ton. Here's how to make your own below.

Magnesium Spray

You'll need:
1/2 Cup Magnesium Chloride Flakes
1/2 Cup Distilled Water
4oz Glass Spray Bottle

Boil the water
Turn off the heat when it reaches a boil
Pour the flakes into the water
Stir until the flakes dissolve 
Let the water cool
Using a funnel pour the solution into the bottle

Once it's ready you can use it daily. The best place to spray it is on your stomach. You can spray it on your legs too. Use it after you shower or bathe so your pores are nice and open to receive it well. This is great for kids too! It's really difficult to get too much magnesium.

As always I'm your holistic health counselor, be healthy, be blessed, and be a good steward!


Monday, October 28, 2013

Get Up & Go Smoothie


It's a great morning and it's going to be a busy day for Kingdom Health and myself. We have such hectic lives! Taking advantage of super foods to super charge your day is an emphatic necessity. Our food supply has been so drained of nutrients due to genetic modification, chemicals/pesticides, and the manufacturing of lab created fake food like products that it's difficult to get authentic nutrition. 

Super foods are a great way to get a maximum health value on minimal amounts. I've done blog posts on my favorite superfoods before. There are several and truly there is debate about which foods should be classified as such. The foods are called super foods are named that way because their plant life hasn't been tainted like most crops.

Here is a favorite version of a super food smoothie that I love to drink. I'll list the basic benefits to each super food below. Try each super food out and see how they work in your body. Remember everyone is different. One person may do well with one food and another person may not react well to it at all.

Ingredients:

3 Tbsp Hempseed
2 Tbsp Raw Cacao Powder
1/2 Tbsp Ground Ceylon Cinnamon
1/2 Tbsp Chia seeds
3 Medjool Dates
1 Handful Goji Berries
1 Tsp Spirulina
2 Inch Hunk Peeled Raw Ginger
1 Tbsp Organic Gelatinized Maca Powder
Pinch of Ground Organic Cayenne 
1 1/2 Cups Filtered Water
1 Cup Ice

Basic Run Down of Nutrition:

Hempseed: complete plant protein, healthy gamma linoleic acid (that's a good fat), fiber

Cacao: (this is raw chocolate) energy, antioxidants

Ceylon Cinnamon: not all cinnamons are equal, this is the cinnamon with the most medicinal value for being anti-inflammatory and regulating blood sugar, its also naturally sweet and delicious

Chia Seeds: energy, omega 3 fatty acids, fiber, calcium

Medjool Dates: healthy sugar, fiber, just plain yummy

Goji Berries: iron, protein, fiber, encourages HGH (human growth hormone: the youth factor) to grow, libido stimulator

Spirulina: calcium, complete protein, iron, very detoxifying 

Ginger: anti-inflammatory, soothing to the gut, immune boosting, naturally warming, vitamin C

Maca: Peruvian root best used gelatinized meaning lightly steamed over raw due to digest ability and absorption, balances hormones, nourishes hypothalamus, energy, libido stimulator

Cayenne: naturally warming, regulates blood pressure, can be a natural blood thinner, improves circulation

Let me know if you try this out! Truly everything in this smoothie is optional. Play...see what your body needs and does well with then drink it up! Be healthy, be blessed, and be a good steward!


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Support Your Winter Wellness!


Tis the season for celebrating, family, friends, decorations, leaves falling, hay rides, school activities, and lots of sniffles and sneezes. Did you know it does NOT have to be that way? Did you know you CAN prevent the inevitable? Did you know you DO NOT have to get the flu shot? It is entirely possible to not pump poisons through your veins and stay healthy, unbelievable I know, but so true!

I blame cold and flu season on one word: SUGAR! Sugar falls under the category of white sugar, white rice, white flour, HFCS (high fructose corn syrup), corn syrup, maltose, dextrose, and maltodextrin. All of these unhealthy forms of sugar attack our bodies form the inside out. It breaks down our immune system, attacks our brains, and raises our blood sugar levels to unbelievable levels then quickly leaves us to crash splat on the ground beyond exhaustion.Sugar substitutes are also extremely dangerous like aspartame, sodium saccharin, and sucralose. These fake sugars are carcinogenic so steer clear. Choose better forms of sugar like coconut sugar, whole cane organic sugar (rapadura), dates, red bananas, coconut nectar, raw honey, and real organic maple syrup. Also you can use stevia, a natural plant used as a sweetener. Go for the leaves or whole concentrated organic drops, not the white powder.

The really super extraordinarily frustrating  factor....it can all be avoided! I work at a natural supplement store part time and this is the busiest season of the year for the store. First I want to say that I applaud anyone using truly natural supplements for supporting their health, no doubt! Truth, sometimes you get sick, even me, your holistic health counselor. What doesn't happen to me is that I do not get sick every week or month, get a cold I just can't kick, nor do I get the flu every year. Wanna know why? I don't eat that nasty bleach filled chemical sugar....and neither do my children. Sugar by certain health experts like Dr. Joseph Mercola, renowned osteopathic medical doctor, has called sugar a type of narcotic.

I love you my readers, so please don't take this as me being harsh, rather me trying to save you hours and dollars spent the doctors office.So first things first, get out the fake sugar. Whole real sugar on the other hand in monitored amounts is perfectly fine. Lets be realistic, we like sweet stuff. In small amounts here and there it is totally fine in my honest opinion. Others may disagree, but I am a realist. I do not live in happy little healthy land where I never touch a brownie or cookie. I just make wiser choices, make them myself, and limit it to one or two. I use delicious real, whole, low gylcemic alternatives like coconut sugar.

Twelve Tips to Support a Healthy Season
  • Remove fake or unhealthy versions of sugar
  • Eat real, whole foods
  • Reduce or remove gluten filled foods
  • Drink raw unpasteurized apple cider vinegar everyday in your water
  • Eat foods with raw garlic each week like guacamole or put it in salad dressing
  • Make real chicken stock from a free range organic chicken, the store bought stuff is mostly salt and water; use this for all your soups
  • Put Thieves essential oil blend on the bottoms of your feet with organic, unrefined coconut oil after each bath or shower
  • Reduce or remove caffeine
  • Take digestive enzymes before you eat cooked food
  • Take probiotics daily
  • Use a neti pot at the first sign of anything in the nose or sinuses
  • Go to sleep between 9pm and 10pm
I hope this article helps you during this winter season. These tips are really simple, yet will make an enormous difference.  If you have any healthy tips be sure to share them below. Be blessed, be healthy, and be a good steward!

Resources:

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2010/04/20/sugar-dangers.aspx

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/05/02/is-sugar-toxic.aspx


Sunday, October 6, 2013

Pumpkin Pie Smoothie


I am so elated it is Autumn because of one word....Pumpkin! There are so many lovely varieties of this winter squash. It can be prepared in numerous fashions as well. What a joy to play in the kitchen!!! Pumpkins are so very nutritious in addition to being delicious! There is over half an ounce of fiber in one cup, 394 mg Potassium, 1.2 gr Protein, and 197% of the daily value of Beta-Carotene (precursor to Vitamin A). One handful of seeds is your zinc intake for the day.

Pumpkins are a versatile food. They can be eaten cooked or raw, savory or sweet. The seeds and flesh are edible. Getting our nutrition from our food, versus supplements is always a better route. There is not a supplement around, being an isolated portion of the food that will ever be just as good as the real deal.

Today I thought it would be fun to share a yummy recipe and video. Here is a great way to start your day...a Pumpkin Pie Smoothie! It includes "raw pumpkin puree." Watch the video to see how to make it!

Smoothie Ingredients:

1/2 Cup Raw Pumpkin Puree (organic canned will do)
1-2 inch Chunk Raw Ginger
1 Cup Whole Coconut Milk (homemade or organic BPA free canned by Native Forest) or Unsweetened Almond Milk (again homemade is best)
1/2 Tsp Raw Vanilla Bean Powder
1 Tsp Organic Allspice
1 Tsp Ceylon Cinnamon
1 Tsp Chia seeds
2-3 Tbsp Hempseeds
2 Medjool Dates
2 Cups of Ice
*Optional: 1 Tbsp Carob Powder
*Optional: 2 Tsp Maca (gelatinized)

Watch the video below to see how to make raw pumpkin purée!




Friday, September 27, 2013

Super Easy Healthy Popsicles!

When you are going the healthier, whole foods route some think you have to give up your favorite things. While that may be true with a few things for the most part there is a real, yummy, nutritious version of what you love to eat. Knowing what to substitute is exceedingly important when you have children!

We live in a society that makes it difficult to eat healthy and raise our children that way. I want my children to take care of the body the Lord has given them. 1 Corinthians 6:19 says, "Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own." We know not the day nor the hour when we will return with the Lord Yeshua, nonetheless preserving our health makes us good stewards so that we can be used at any time in any way.

Back to healthy choices, we simply cannot go around telling our children NO constantly. We have to pick our battles, and quite frankly should say yes if a request is within reason. A child's fond warm weather past time are Popsicles. Even I can remember as a child running for the ice cream truck. Knowing now what is in those cool desserts I gladly run in the other direction. Regardless, it doesn't take away the desire for a sweet treat.

Earlier this week I received my BPA Free Popsicle molds...I was so excited to try them out! So I figured I'd snap a few shots and share the process with you. I kept it fairly simple. I ordered the molds from Amazon.

Ingredients:

2 Cups Organic Frozen Mixed Berries
1 Can Native Forest Organic Whole Coconut Milk
2 Tbsp Coconut Secret Coconut Nectar


Next just put everything into your blender.


Depending on the speed of your blender make it smooth and creamy.


Then it is as simple as pouring into the molds. Truth be told this filled almost all of my molds completely. Just one was a tad short. I didn't feel like opening another can. I let them freeze for 3 hours.  


They turned out really well. Feel free to use any natural sweetener you like. Depending on the fruit you use you may be able to avoid it altogether. Tell me if you try them out! Be healthy, be blessed, and be a good steward!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Necessity of Enzymes


So anyone who knows me well knows my passion in holistic health along with building a strong nutritional base with real, whole foods is gut health. I will attempt to not drag out this post. I've been known to be quite long winded when it comes to talking about our digestive system. It is so important that is remain healthy in order for our immune system to be up to par.

Today's Topic: Enzymes

You might remember this word from high school or college, but not be all too familiar with what they are, do, or how they work. So simply put enzymes are little proteins in themselves that are catalysts for different systems in the body to work properly. Each system the body has its own limited store of enzymes in order to function.

The digestive system is the only system that does not have its own enzymes. There is a wonderful reason for this arrangement. We were designed by the living holy God, Yeshua, to get our enzymes from living foods. Enzymes from food are a crucial part of digestion. Our food cannot be broken down and digested properly without them.

Again we can only receive enzymes from raw, living foods. Enzymes die at 118-120 degrees F. That means most of America is eating enzymatically dead and deficient food. That is a huge problem in our culture because we are walking round with improperly digested food, which causes tremendous distress in our bodies.

Lack of enzymes causes stomach upset, malabsorption of nutrients, constipation, sugar cravings or addictions, and a range of other symptoms. Continuing to eat foods without enzymes breaks down our immune system and causes it to be ineffective in resisting disease. Other systems then become faulty like the nervous and endocrine systems.

What happens when we continue in this pattern is our bodies are so smart. They recognize the need for enzymes. When we eat enzymatically dead food a light bulb goes off in the body. So the body says to itself, "Mmmmmmm, time to eat.......but wait! Where are the enzymes? I can't digest my food properly? I know, I know, I will borrow enzymes from my body's own bank of enzymes."

Remember the body does have limited, key word being "limited" stores, of its own enzymes. When our bodies borrow from their bank of enzymes, something happens, it's not rocket science, there then becomes a depletion. So it's just like when you borrow $50 here and $75 there from your savings account. After a while your account becomes lower and lower. What happens if you write a check and you don't have enough in the bank? You go into the red or negative, right. The same concept happens in our bodies with enzymes.

We simply need enzymes to live. So we get them two ways, From either raw food that has NOT been cooked as well as digestive enzyme capsules.Taking digestive enzymes capsules right before you eat any cooked food can make a world of difference. Different types of foods require different types of enzyme strains. Each digestive enzyme has a different function in when it breaks down that particular food.

You can purchase specific enzymes or products to help break down one particular type of food. I think it is far more beneficial to purchase a supplement with high potency and lots of different enzyme strains. This is especially true at a restaurant. You never know kitchen practices or what is used. Those of us with specific eating intolerances or even allergies really need to use enzymes before eating food not prepared in your kitchen. 

Knowingly of course, if you have an allergy or auto immune disorder do not think taking specific enzymes beforehand gives you a license to be careless. Always avoid those foods. However, accidents or cross contamination does occur. Taking enzymes prior helps the body adjust and know what do.

In general without getting too specific the enzymes and their jobs are as follows:

Protease breaks down protein.

Lipase breaks down fat.

Cellulase breaks down cellulose/fiber.

Amylase breaks down carbohydrates.

Lactase breaks down dairy.

Raw foods were created for us to be consumed in tact so that we could absorb as much nutrition as possible. Making raw foods a regular part of your regimen is crucial, whether it be salad, grabbing a piece of fruit, unroasted nuts and seeds, cut up veggies, fermented veggies, or unpasteurized and unhomogenized milk. Yes, I said raw milk! That may surprise some of you newbies to this realm or there may be some of you with your own cow or goat in your back yard. It's become a hot topic so I just want to touch on this one subject to open eyes. I kind of went there in my post about ghee. I already promised this would not be a three page post on gut health.

So dairy is not the devil. Oh I am so gonna get it, I hear it now, its okay. There is NO such thing as lactose intolerance. Gasp! Lactose is the sugar/carbohydrate in milk. Breast milk has more lactose than any other animal milk. Babies are intended to consume breast milk. That of course is in a perfect world. This is not a post on breast feeding, nor is it about moms who can't produce. I love all you mommas out there breastfeeding or not. I've helped clients make homemade formula. I'm just speaking typically.

In order to digest dairy properly, guess....guess what you need, c'mon.....enzymes! Raw milk naturally has lactase, the enzyme needed to break down the lactose so we can digest it. When we consume processed nasty puss, that's my term of endearment for store bought milk, our bodies do not know what to do with it. They get confused. It's not food anymore because those high temperatures didn't just kill the enzymes it altered the chemical structure of the milk. The heat also killed the healthy bacteria. I will not talk about probiotics even though I really, really, really want to right now! I'm not even going to talk about casein, the protein in dairy, and the differences there. Really, check out my post on ghee to learn more about cows, milk, and the differences for nutrition.

So my whole point is there are a lot misunderstood healthy foods out there. We are simply not being given accurate information because that might actually keep us healthy. Oh that is another soapbox.

The Big Picture

All of our bodies and practices are different. The older you become, the less enzymes you have so its really important to replace those enzymes. You can even take enzymes specifically for immune function, but we will get into that another day. You cannot ever get too many either. So don't let that concern you. What you need to know now is enzymes are important. We simply do NOT contain unlimited stores. We need to consume raw foods (anything uncooked or heated under 118 degrees F for enzymes to be alive). If we eat cooked food, the only way for it to break down properly is with enzymes. Taking a high quality, potent, multi-strain enzyme capsule before each cooked meal/snack will decrease stress on the body, preserve enzyme capacity so the enzymes put there can do what they are supposed to do in that particular system, and keep the digestive system functioning at optimum level.

Hope this post sheds some light on what enzymes are and why they are so important! Be blessed, be healthy, and be a good steward!


Friday, September 20, 2013

I Love Fat!


 We live in a very confused culture and time. What scripture says about what is right being called wrong and what is wrong being called right was so spot on for so many areas of our lives. Food is definitely a category where that deems accurate. There are more dietary theories and misconceptions than I can count. The dangerous part is with many of them there is a little truth mixed in with a little lie and in a case like that it is easy to blur the lines and truly understand nutrition.

In the 1990's the rage was zero to low fat made foods. I can remember being in high school and priding myself on all of my low fat recipes, especially using the low fat dairy products. I was famous for my zero fat sour cream dip at parties (barf!!!!!!). It's really amazing how different someone can be over the course of 6-7 years. Now it seems all I eat are lots of veggies, a minimal amount of animal protein, some fruit and gluten free grains/pseudo grains, and quite a bit of fat. I consume what some would consider an extremely high fat diet. Yet, I weigh what I did in high school as a teenager who danced ballet and jazz 4 nights a week in a studio and worked out for an hour each morning. I am active now, but no where as rigorous. I've had two children since then and it was only when I started eating this way that the weight I gained from getting pregnant came off.

Fat is such an important part of the foods that we eat. We need it for digestion, brain, heart, immune, lung, and joint health. It is imperative that we consume enough of it to function properly and have energy. It is necessary for healing, especially if you are healing from a gut related issue like candida, crohns, colitis, gastritis, or diverticulitis. I still see low fat being touted in products on the shelf. I give healthy grocery store tours so it is part of my job to know the products lurking around for the consumer. It is so easy to be deceived, incredibly so much so if we do not read labels. Marketing and propaganda are tricky my friends. There are different kinds of fats so being aware of what they are for and why we need them may be of assistance to you on your own health journey.

Types of Fat: Unsaturated and Saturated

The key to eating well with fat is knowing which ones to consume more regularly. Our bodies need balance and only a bit of healthy fat at a time. The more variety we eat in our daily diet, especially fruits and veggies, the better off we will be. Fats come from plants and animals. Both can provide us with healthy and unhealthy fats. Don't believe the hype on a label, do your research. Oh and please, please do yourself a favor, if you happen to watch a particular commercial or "doctor somebody" on television...continue to be a detective for your health. Just because it is on TV or the latest craze doesn't mean it's trustworthy...yes?...Say yes, Marie, yes.

Unsaturated fats are broken up into two categories: polyunsaturated and monounsaturated. These fats come from vegetables and fish sources. Usually monounsaturated fats like olive oil are suggested for health benefits. Soybean oil is technically a monounsaturated fat and I would not in any way recommend this for consumption. Processed unfermented soy (organic and conventional) is a stressor on the thyroid, a hormone disruptor, as well as a catalyst to the inflammation in the gut. It is very difficult to digest. We really want to restrict and stay away from polyunsaturated fats and trans fats. Some polyunsaturated fats are sunflower, safflower, canola, and corn oils. Sesame oil in small amounts is okay al beit a polyunsaturated fat. Trans fats (hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils) are polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fats that have been processed with high heat so that they will resist rancidity and stay solid. These are found in crackers, cookies, cakes, cereals, and margarine (ewwwww).

Essential Fatty Acids

So these are the "hot fats" everyone is discussing. First of all I can recall a customer at work asking why these fats are called essential. Well, there is a simple reason to the question. Anything considered essential is a fat or other component that our bodies cannot produce on their own, therefore making it essential for us to consume it. This is where marketing gets tricky.

In health food stores you will see essential oil products with the numbers 3, 6, and 9 on them. So the numbers come from the amount of atoms in those particular fats so we can distinguish them. Our bodies need all of these fats. Truth be told we make omega 9 from the unsaturated fats already inside us and we do not need to take it in extra supplement form. Too much of it can even be a detriment. Olive oil actually is mostly made up of omega 9, not omega 3, as stated in marketing. Olive oil is still wonderful, just only consume the extra virgin cold pressed oils, and don't cook with it. It has a low heat tolerance. Use it more on top of foods and for homemade salad dressings. To be sure of getting a good extra virgin olive oil look for ones sold in a dark glass bottle with a harvest date. The best olive oils are currently coming from California, go USA!

Omega 3 and 6 on the other hand our bodies absolutely must take in from our food supply. In the standard American diet (SAD) most are very unbalanced as far the essential fatty acids are concerned. A good ratio of omega 3 to 6 is pertinent to health and inflammation levels. Too much linoleic acid, which is an omega 6 fat, that happens to be prevalent in the SAD causes high levels of inflammation. This can be found in unhealthy plant oils like soybean, sunflower, canola, and corn. Since many of our livestock animals are eating foods like genetically modified corn and soy, instead of grasses and grubs, they too have high levels in their bodies. Now don't totally get down on omega 6, we need it for sure, we just want to try to consume much more of the better kinds.

Now gamma-linoleic acid (GLA) on the other hand, which is an omega 6, is highly anti-inflammatory and immune system supporting. You can take this in supplement form from borage or evening primrose oils. My preferred way to utilize it is from hemp. Oh how I love hemp. Hemp was one of the super foods that I blogged about a while back, check it out here. So hemp seeds, protein powder (just the ground hemp seeds), and hemp oil all contain GLA. The seeds are delicious, light and a little almondy. Throw them in salad, in smoothies for protein, in homemade raw bars, mix with rice, quinoa, or millet, or top your soup off with some. Just don't cook with the oil, its great for salad dressings though. I say don't cook with it because this particular fat, much like olive oil, has a very low heat tolerance. Heat can change certain fats structures then making them toxic to the body.

Ah so on to the sacred omega 3 fats. Omega 3's help reduce inflammation and improve immunity. They also increase our lung health and cognitive function and brain development. Remember being told when you were young that fish are brain food...well, there is something to that statement. This is why fish oil sales are through the roof. In the fish oil we receive fatty acids called DHA and EPA. These are important for brain and eye health. I'll be honest with you, I think a high quality fish oil supplement, in the right form being triglyceride form, is great! We do this at my house. If I miss a day I don't worry too much since I eat a wide variety of foods with omega 3's. My favorite is fermented cod liver oil by Green Pasture. Fermented versus distilled is better because the fermentation keeps all of the natural health properties in tact, where distillation removes some of them, like some of the natural vitamin D. If you don't have access to fermented I still think a high quality distilled is fine; Nordic Naturals is a good brand for those. Not all brands are equal kids, there are too many rancid fish oils sitting on the shelves of America. Do yourself a favor, go to the local health food store, and pick up your fish oil. Do not buy it at a superstore or regular pharmacy...yuck! If you have EVER burped it up, that means you were consuming the rancid stuff.

Just so you know fish oil is high in omega 3 because of what the fish eat, not because fish naturally contain it. Omega 3's are found in the plants like seaweed that the fish eat. Omega 3's are found in green plants. This is why grass fed cows are so important! Grass has omega 3's, unlike soy and corn with omega 6, so grass eating cows are healthy cows. Healthy cows give us healthy beef and milk (not that I currently consume either). Yay grass fed!

Other fabulous foods that give us omega 3's are raw walnuts, flax seeds (ground unheated), chia seeds (unheated, don't need to be ground, awesome source), sea veggies like dulse and kelp, green algaes such as chlorella and spirulina, truly free range eggs from pastured-free range chickens, wild salmon (not farmed salmon because they eat corn and soy), wild rice (because it is grass), avocados (have omega 6 also; my favorite food), and black beans! The walnuts and flax give us a fat called alpha-lineleic acid. These turn into DHA in the body. Avocados actually provide a spectacular cooking oil because the smoke point and heat tolerance is actually 520 degrees. The draw back is it is very expensive.

Saturated Fats: Oh the Controversy

Saturated fats typically come from animals. The skinny on this fat though is that they aren't bad unless they come from animals who aren't being fed properly. Remember how grass fed cows and true free range pastured chickens give us omega 3's.....well, soy and corn fed animals give us WAY TOO MANY omega 6's. That linoleic acid is very inflammatory. It's the linoleic acid that packs on the belly fat and clogs the arteries.

So here's the thing for years modern medicine has said saturated fats were bad and that they raised bad cholesterol. That's unfair and only partly true, all saturated fats are not equal. My favorite oil happens to be a saturated fat, organic unrefined coconut oil. I will not go into all of the benefits of coconut oil here. Just know its spectacular and super healthy to go on the body and in the body. Most saturated fats are long chain fatty acids. Coconut oil is a medium chain fatty acid, these are magic in the body. For more health facts read my post on coconut here . It has a very high smoking point, so the tolerance to heat for baking is wonderful.It speeds up metabolism and can assist in weightless. Only buy organic, virgin, unrefined coconut oil. Try this one.

Grass fed butter and ghee are saturated fats. These are natural, fairly easy to attain, delicious, and good for you. Now don't go eating a whole stick of butter, lets not get too crazy. Be responsible, bigger is not better. Ghee is a little bit more exotic, it can be found at local health food stores, online, and in Whole Foods. Trader Joes carries it, but I'm not sure it is from grass fed cows. You can also learn what ghee is if you don't know and how to make your own ghee here.

Another spectacular saturated fat is red palm oil. It is from the palm tree, not be confused with the coconut palm. Outside of the USA, palm oil is the most widely used oil. When unprocessed it has a red hue. It is actually extremely beneficial to the body. It can help UNCLOG arteries and keep them clean. It also has an extremely high smoking point of 410 so its perfect for stir frying some of your local, fresh, organic veggies! Look for it virgin and cold pressed. Try this one.

Hope this was helpful to you! What fat is your favorite? Remember to be healthy, be blessed, and be a good steward.

*Those are affiliate links & banners through the blog. Anytime you click on one you are not just purchasing a high quality product, you are supporting this blog and my work, which I so appreciate!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Making Ghee

Over the past several days I have been playing in the kitchen quite a bit and experimenting. This time around I decided to make my own ghee. Ghee is another word for clarified butter. When it is clarified the butter is cleared of the protein, other wise known as casein. Why would someone do this you ask? Well, for the past 4 years my children and I have been cows milk free due to allergies and sensitivities. It was one of the greatest God led decisions that I ever made. It changed our lives. Homogenized, pasteurized cows milk with S-alpha 1 casein is poison to our bodies. Removing the protein allows us to enjoy the healthy fat in butter without reacting to the casein.

The difficult part is knowing that cows milk is not in and of itself bad. The Lord created cows to give us milk. We were not created with allergies, sensitivities, or intolerances. Unfortunately, we now have animals not eating what they are supposed to eat, not living in conditions that they were meant to live, and being treated with complete and total disrespect. Cows were made to eat grass. Cows were made to roam in the fields. Cows who eat grass and roam in fields with fresh air and sunshine are healthy, happy cows.

This aversion to the S-alpha 1 (S-A1) casein comes from Holstein cows, which are the cows used on most commercial dairy farms. S-A1 casein is very difficult to digest, especially after homogenization and ultra-pasteurization. These high temperatures turn the milk into toxic puss. We need the enzymes and good bacteria in the milk that are naturally there to digest it. What might be interesting for some of you to know is other cows, like the Jersey breed, do not produce S-A1 protein. Holstein cows are a newer breed.

This aversion is what is masked in our culture as lactose intolerance. There is no such thing as lactose intolerance. Babies are born to process lactose with the enzyme lactase. Breast milk has more lactose than cows milk. If we did not process the milk, and drank it raw as intended with the right protein type, we would not have the issues we have today. Need I mention how cows are not supposed to be injected with hormones so we can make them produce more milk than we are supposed to and have them impregnated so much that the poor things can barely stand up?

Healthy happy cows make good milk for us. It's perfect just the way it is and nothing needs to be done to it. When animals eat a proper diet, they stay healthy, and do not need unnecessary medication. (Kind of like us.) The food and environment is their medicine. I digress.

Back to ghee, so the process of clarifying butter is not some new thing. Ghee is used in traditional Indian cooking. It is a healing food. It has even been used in medicinal treatments in Ayurveda.Being 100% fat it aids foods in being digested. Ghee is made best from 100% grass fed cows. Grass fed ghee contains gamma linoleic acid. This healthy fat aids in boosting the immune system.Ghee also has a burning point of about 482 degrees F; that is spectacular for cooking and baking!

So here is the process of making ghee:

First I took two 8oz blocks of Kerry Gold Irish Butter and put them into my cast iron skillet. I used Kerry Gold because it is from 100% grass fed cows without hormones from milk that only been pasteurized. Ultra pasteurization and homogenization does not take place.Their website also states that if a cow should become ill that antibiotics are used, however that cow is supposed to become segregated from the rest of the cows and her milk is discarded until she recovers. The milk is said to be constantly tested to be sure it is free of the antibiotics. The website doesn't state what kind of cows are used on their dairy pastures. I did email and ask. I am still awaiting a response.




Next I melted them completely.



See the white stuff...that's the casein. Let that rise to the top.




I skimmed all of the casein off of the butter oil.



Discard the casein. You can use it for something else, but I can't eat it, so bye bye casein it went.


Some casein will stick to the bottom and brown,; that is normal, but don't burn it.



Using a stainless steel mesh strainer filter the butter oil (ghee) into a glass jar.



 So here is the finished product! I really like it. The kids and I have enjoyed using our own homemade ghee. You can leave it in a liquid oil state on the counter for about 3 months or you can do what we did and put in the fridge to use solid like butter. Have you ever made ghee? Do you add any herbs or spices? The sky is really the limit. You could even let it cool on the counter and add then raw honey and cinnamon...oh yum! Remember to be blessed, be healthy, and be a good steward!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Use It Up!

When was the last time you went through your cupboards, pantry, fridge, or freezer to really see what was there? You may be surprised what you find. Writing things down makes it easier to keep an inventory for your kitchen. This whole process though possibly daunting will allow you to see what you have in stock, what you don't, what you need, and what you need to give the boot! 

One suggestion is to keep a long, narrow dry erase white board on the wall need the cabinets or pantry in order to keep a list, and since its erasable you can change it as need be. Make it a habit, keep the dry erase marker close by, and save your sanity. This will help you to avoid buying the 4th bag of quinoa, and to replace the unsulphured sundried tomatoes.

Get creative with meal choices using all you have in the house.Don't limit yourself to food that typically in the USA is only eaten at certain meals. Eat whole, real, nutritious foods. Involve a lot of greens whenever the chance.

Here is a quick recipe to use up all you have!

Rainbow Quinoa

2 Large Handfuls of Organic Kale
2Fresh Garlic Clove. minced
2 Organic Carrots, sliced
1/2 Small Red Onion, diced
2 TBSP Organic Coconut Oil
2 Cups Cooked Quinoa
1 Cup Real Chicken Stock
1 Fresh Organic Lemon, squeezed
1 Tsp Celtic Sea Salt
1/4 Tsp Black Pepper

Directions:

In a large skillet add coconut oil and saute the kale, garlic, carrot, red onion. Once soft, add everything else. Simmer on low-medium for about 10 minutes to allow flavors to combine. Carnivores add pasture raised chicken.



Friday, August 16, 2013

Mini Double Chocolate Strawberry Shortcakes

Today is my older son's 13th birthday. For the longest time he's been asking me for strawberry shortcake. I've been trying for a very long time to make a dairy free,soy free, sugar free, nasty vegan butter free (its a mixture of oils that are not good for you, especially canola) frosting or cream that doesn't melt in two seconds. It's been quite the challenge.

I was determined to come up with something for his birthday. Shuffling between other fabulous blogs out there, sorting through my fridge and pantry, as well as keeping in mind what has worked in the past I melted multiple ideas into success!

I can't really take credit for the separate recipes. I really do like the blend between the two though. For the cake part I used Elana Amsterdam's shortcake recipe with a sweetener tweak. Then for the cream recipe I borrowed from Sugar Free Alex. I didn't change a thing except for the amount of vanilla because it was perfect otherwise! This cream is so decadent! You won't believe what's in it...so lovely!


I call them Mini Double Chocolate Strawberry Shortcakes! In the picture is the little station I set up for the birthday boy, his brother (who is 10), and a good friend. I allowed them to build the shortcakes. The three boys had fun putting these together. My youngest doesn't like strawberries, so I set out some organic peanut butter. You'll need some fresh organic strawberries. 

Shortcake Ingredients (Makes about 17 minis)

1 1/2 Cups Almond Flour (I use Trader Joes)
1/4 Cup Coconut Flour (I use either Coconut Secret, Nutiva, or Tropical Traditions this is my affiliate link)
1/2 Tsp Baking Soda
1/4 Tsp Celtic Sea Salt
2 TBSP Raw Cacao Powder (I order from nuts.com)
3 Eggs
1/3 Cup Coconut Nectar (I use Coconut Secret)

Directions:

Mix everything well in a bowl. 
On parchment paper on a baking sheet scoop out I full TBSP size scoops.
With clean fingers roll into a nice ball, then gently press down on parchment.
Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes.
*While these are baking make your frosting/cream.
Let them cool.

Chocolate Cream Ingredients (This makes quite a bit)

2/3 Cup Baked Sweet Potatoes (Bake these the night before to make life easier)
1/2 Cup Pitted Medjool Dates
1/4 Cup Raw Cacao Powder
3 TBSP Organic Unrefined Coconut Oil
2 TBSP Almond Butter (I used some I had made, if you are buying though Traders Joes Raw Creamy Unsalted would be good)
1/2 Cup Almond Milk (I made mine, go here to see how)
1 TBSP Pure Vanilla Extract

Directions:

Just put everything into the food processor and mix well. Put into a glass container and put into the fridge to set for at least 20 minutes. Really it's fine to use right out of the processor, but I think refrigerating it makes it better.

Building the Mini Strawberry Shortcakes

So once the cream is set and shortcakes are cool go ahead and build away. You are free to do this in ANY fashion you like. I chose to slice the strawberries thin to medium in width.  Slice the mini shortcakes in half, be gentle. Then with a butter knife or spreader put a layer of cream, then a strawberry slice , then cream, then a strawberry slice, then cream, and finally the top.

We really enjoyed them! Hope you do too!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Healthy Meal Planning

As per request of my BFF in San Diego I am writing a short entry on meal planning. This to some is pleasant and to others a necessary evil. Really I think it's all about how deep you want to go. Meal planning is practically a MUST for living a healthy lifestyle. It doesn't need to be difficult or overwhelming. I'll share what I do and hopefully it's helpful to you. The pros to meal planning are saving money, saving time, and less waste. Also keep in mind if you know what you are going to have its more of an incentive to keep those family meals eaten together. The age of everyone eating together has kind of faded due to schedules, time, tastes, and more. Maybe family meals are mandatory in your house. For those of you with traveling spouses, are single parents, or have other issues going on in the home that may not be the case. If that busy teenager with a job and a license knows Mom is having their favorite grass fed burgers and sweet potato fries on Tuesday night they may be more inclined to have dinner at home. Just a thought :)

Break Down of Meal Planning Basics

  • Choose the plan that works for you ( you are not your best friend, Martha Stewart, or myself, you are you and must do what works for you)

  • Put food on it you like, keep favorite recipes accessible

  • Stick to it (but plan for the unexpected like meals out here and there)

There are a plethora of meal planning programs for sale and for free. You can download excellent spread sheets made just for meal planning. I suggest making your own to tailor your needs. If you don't have time for that then most definitely take advantage of what is available. If you have specific food demands, picky eaters, lots of allergies or sensitivities then using a blank form versus one with meals already plugged in may be more effective for you. Some have room for complete recipes, some having a shopping list form available, some are by day, week, or month.

Helpful Websites: 

  •  http://moneysavingmom.com/downloads/meal-menu-planners (This is my favorite)

  • foodonthetable.com 

  • 100daysofrealfood.com

  •  http://frugalliving.about.com/od/grocerysavings/tp/Free-Meal-Planners.htm

First think about what you and your family likes to eat. That's really important. Who wants a meal plan with food no one will touch?!!! I would also say to not completely cater to the family. Its good for everyone to try new healthy foods. How you handle people trying foods, finishing foods, and having different foods available for the picky people is all up to you. Moms and dads, you know what's good for you and the kids. I say this because if you decide to display the meal plan for easy access on a cork board or the fridge just know this is your tool and you put on it what is helpful to you. They don't need to know you put zucchini, carrots, and spinach in the tomato sauce. Displaying the whole recipe may not be in your best interest. We parents need our sanity after all.

Keep a binder with your go-to recipes as well as recipes you'd like to try. I suggest dividing it into sections. Your section titles will vary. You could be as vague as breakfast, lunch, snacks/desserts, and dinner. On the flip side if it works be specific like smoothies, breads, soups etc. If you are that super organized type A personality then go nuts and use sections within sections like breakfast: eggs, smoothies, and baked goods. Maybe you are a techno geek and would prefer everything stored on your device, hey go wild. This has to be conducive to what YOU will actually do. This will make the meal planning process easier.

The way I meal plan may be too boring for you. What works for me is having the same breakfast meal each day of the week because I don't usually have time for much flexibility in the morning. The kids don't have to guess and neither do I. So my week looks like this for breakfast: Monday is yogurt with fruit and something I've or the teenager has baked like muffins or zucchini bread, Tuesday is eggs, Wednesday is pancakes, Thursday is oatmeal, Friday is French toast or smoothies, Saturday is pancakes again because we just love them around here, and Sunday is eggs again. Smoothies are always acceptable substitutes if someone doesn't want what is being served.

Lunch if the Paleo bread is made may be sandwiches, or there's always leftovers from dinner. Again a smoothie for lunch in my book is also perfectly fine. Dinner is planned with room to move. For dinner I don't always have an exact recipe in mind, but I know to some degree what I'll be using for the main dish. Everything else depends on whats in the house at the time. I will explain :) Monday is grass fed beef, Tuesday is organic free range chicken, Wednesday is pasta, Thursday is fish, Friday is pizza, Saturday is either pasta or brown rice/quinoa and beans, and Sunday depending on the season is usually soup, chicken in the crock pot (crock pots make me do a happy dance), or whatever I have the energy to muster up after being at church for 5 hours.

Plan the complexity of your meals according to the type of day you will have. Use labels in your pantry or cabinets. Its easier IF you can have a regular spot for foods in the fridge and pantry/cabinets. I say IF because I know some of you live in a shoe and have so many children, well you know the rhyme, that having a regular place for anything is close to impossible. Leave yourself room, but stick to the plan for the most part. This will encourage healthy eating, help your budget, and decrease stress. If you know you need exact recipes or you won't make something, then do that. I don't need that much structure to get a meal made. I eyeball when I'm cooking and just typically throw things together. Make it yours! You know you better than I do...capisce?!!! (That's Italian for understand.)