Friday, August 8, 2014

Where's My Other Flip Flop? (Finding joy amidst the chaos.)

In an effort to get me blogging regularly, I want to begin a feature called Family Fridays.  In these posts I'll give a little peek into our crazy life and let you know what's really on my heart.

"Someone please find Mommy's other flip flop!  Check under the couch.  Find the baby's pacifier, stop pounding on the piano, dry up that spill, let Mommy go potty in peace, and someone please pick up THAT BABY!"
This is one of my favorite shots of family chaos.

In a skinny little house with five rowdy, growing children, life can be pretty chaotic.  I'm no help, really.  I always have about 14 projects going on at one time, I have an extreme aversion to working after the kids go to bed, and I have an unenviable ability to overlook clutter.  In short, our wonderful little life is far from perfect, and I am far from being a "Supermom."  (Case in point, as I take the time to write this post I hear screams emitting from my girls' room upstairs.  I'm pretty sure they're being attacked by a tiny, crazy little man.  Don't worry; he's their brother.) Some days, it really gets the best of me.  I become overwhelmed and short-tempered.  I forget that I need to find joy in my children, and instead find only frustration.  I think about the things I need to do: starting a batch of yogurt, folding the laundry, mopping the kitchen floor, doing bookkeeping for my business.  I forget what is truly the most important thing.

But, by God's grace, more often come the moments when I realize that no matter how overwhelming and chaotic, this is truly the life I want.  People call us "brave" for having five kids...and maybe they're right.  But we didn't have a big family because we're brave, or to prove our bravery to all of you.  We did it because we longed for it, and because we knew that God would give us the strength to do life with a house full of children.  We always wanted a big family, and now that we have it, who am I to become frustrated at my kids for just being kids?  So when I become overwhelmed, I try to stop, breathe, and remember: this is exactly what I want.  I really was built for chaos.  Not that I don't demand order from myself and my family; I have to, I must.  The kids have chores, they have times when they are to be quiet and listen, they have times when they need to leave me alone to accomplish a task.  More often than not, though, we are all in the kitchen or the living room together, talking over each other, laughing, yelling, grabbing, reaching, crying, talking, giggling, hugging, and loving.  These are the times when I need to stop thinking about my list of things to do, and enjoy our life.

The other day, we were having one of those crazy moments.  I was sitting on the couch, baby propped up in my lap.  My husband stood in the middle of the room, probably attempting to walk away to accomplish an important task.  But he was stopped by our eight year old, Grace, who just had to tell him her newest joke.  (She loves to tell jokes.  They are long, involved, and often more perplexing than funny.)  As he listened, our three and a half year old, Adelaide, tried to interrupt in her very loud, piercing way.  "I NEED TO TELL YOU SOMESING!  I NEED TO TELL YOU SOMESING!"  This is Addy's favorite phrase; I hear it at least 80 times a day.  On either side of me were the final two pieces of this crazy puzzle, our six year old Evangeline, who was kissing and squeezing baby Jane, and our two year old son, Jude.  What Jude was doing sent me over the edge from overwhelmed and frustrated mom who just wanted the kids to get ready for bed, to blissfully ignorant lunatic who could not stop laughing.  He was methodically taking the raspberry bubble of spit from Janie's lips, and wiping it on to my nose.  Over and over and over.  I died.  And I remembered, this is exactly what we wanted.  Thank you, Lord, for ridiculous moments like this, to remind me to find joy amidst the chaos.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Black Beans and Rice

I first tried this hearty, simple meal at my good friend Maggie's house.  I loved it instantly, and I left with a full belly and the recipe! Since then it's become a bit of a joke between the two of us. We've eaten it for dinner at home and then served it to each other for lunch the next day. We've both brought our versions to church fellowship meals, and prodded our husbands to declare whose version is best. (It's hers, by the way.) Of all of the meals I've made over the years, this is one I keep coming back to.  My children love the taste, my husband loves the price of the ingredients, and I love the ease and quickness!  When I was pregnant with Jane, I taught my sweet husband (who is fabulous at many things but not much of a cook) how to make this, and now he has an easy go-to meal to make on nights when I'm out running errands.  In short, this is the real food kitchen answer to fast food. I know you're going to love it!

There is a lot of room for experimentation here, but these are the basic ingredients I use:
Feeds 4-6 people
1-2 Tbsp. organic/grassfed butter
1 onion, diced
1 organic bell pepper, diced
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
4 cans of organic black beans, or equivalent amount of prepared dried beans. I've been using these beans from Target, there are no artificial preservatives and the box is BPA free!
1-2 cups of bone broth, organic chicken stock, or filtered water
Handful chopped spinach or kale
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 Tbsp. Bragg's raw apple cider vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
Serve over your favorite kind of rice or quinoa, cooked in bone broth for added nourishment.
Top with raw cheddar cheese, and organic sour cream.

In a large pot, melt butter over medium heat.
Add onion, green pepper, and some s&p. Cook until the onion is translucent.
Toss in crushed garlic, cook until just fragrant, take care not to burn the garlic!
Now add your beans and cooking liquid of choice. This is a great way to add extra nutrition with bone broth.
Bring the beans up to a boil, then lower temp to simmer.
Add chopped greens, oregano, and vinegar. Season with more s&p to taste. Let the beans simmer with the lid off for 10 minutes or more, to bring the flavors together. Serve over rice, top with delicious toppings, and enjoy this super easy, budget friendly, real food meal! If you're feeling extra generous, grab some organic tortilla chips and go crazy!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Eggs: Are they really so incredible?


Eggs are one of the many foods that have been the subject of great controversy over the last 30 years or so (maybe even before, but that's as far back as my memory goes).  From commercials touting the health benefits of the incredible edible egg, to doctors warning about the dangers of cholesterol, (For more on the cholesterol myth, read this article by Dr. Joseph Mercola.) eggs have a lot of people really confused.  So, the question remains: are eggs good for us, or not?

The answer is, yes and no. At our first visit to The Well , I was surprised to learn that Adelaide was allergic to conventional eggs, but not to organic ones.  I wondered why this would be, but when Megan told me, I remembered something I had already learned.  Conventional eggs come from conventional chickens, who eat corn and soy based feed.  Corn and soy are the most highly genetically modified crops in the US, (about 90% of corn and soy in America is GMO.) and all factory farm animals are eating feed made from these genetically modified grains.  Just as the poor health and nutrition of the pregnant mother passes on to her child, so does the poor nutrition of the chicken pass down to the egg.  Adelaide wassensitive to corn and soy, so of course she is sensitive to conventional, factory farmed eggs as well!  

This may be true of you as well.  Conventional eggs are not only affected by the GMO feed that the hens who lay them eat, but they are also far less nutritious than organic, pastured eggs.  

Pastured Vs Conventional Eggs
(Chart provided by Authority Nutrition)

So it seems that conventional eggs may not be good for us after all, but then what do we do?  There is an entire lexicon for the types of eggs available to us.  Should we buy cage free?  Free range?  And what are pastured eggs?  These terms have become highly politicized and are being used to make you think you're getting a much healthier product than you actually are.  The video below is a fabulous description of the terms used to describe eggs.

If pastured eggs are the way to go, where can we buy them?  And how can we afford them?  The best place to find pastured eggs is a local farmer.  Check out to find a farmer close to you that sells pastured eggs. If you are local to Burlington County, NJ, check out Kirby Brothers in Medford or Cheyenne's Road Market in Mount Laurel for some awesome pastured eggs (Cheyenne's also has fabulous organic produce!) Knowing the farmer that creates your food is such an awesome thing, and bringing home farm fresh eggs is such a blessing for the health and wellness of your family!  I encourage you to find the best source of eggs near you, and even if you thought you or your children were allergic to eggs, remember that not all eggs are created equal!

Your kids eat THAT?--5 simple tips to get your kids eating REAL FOOD!

It's a question I'm asked pretty often.  Probably at least once a week, someone comments on a picture I've taken of our meal, or a post about what I plan on making for dinner, and asks me how I get my children to eat whatever the meal may be.

Let me get something straight.  My kids are NOT perfect.  They are wonderful, funny, smart, and fantastic, but they are kids!  They would rather eat a chicken nugget than a roasted chicken breast, a chocolate sundae than a cacao and kale smoothie, and a pile of fries than a pile of fermented carrots.  But then again, wouldn't you?  However, those options are few an far between in our house, part of the 80/20 (more often 90/10) rule of healthy eating that we try to implement.  80 or 90 percent of the time all that is offered, to my kids, my husband, and myself, is real food.  And guess what?  If that is all that is offered, even kids will eat it! 

My older daughters weren't exactly raised on real food.  My husband and I were just remembering  favorite "dish" he used to make the girls for breakfast, known as a Daddy Special. It consisted of Cheerios mixed into some low fat Yoplait yogurt, probably with a cartoon character on the packaging. 

After reading about this study, I became convinced that Cheerios aren't at all a health food:

"Four sets of rats were given special diets. One group received plain whole wheat, water, vitamins and minerals. The rats that received the whole wheat lived over a year on the diet. A second set was given water and white sugar. They lived for a month. Another was given nothing but water and the chemical nutrients. The rats that got nothing but water and vitamins lived for about eight weeks. The fourth group received Puffed Wheat, water and the same nutrient solution. The company’s own laboratory study showed that rats given vitamins, water and all the Puffed Wheat they wanted died in two weeks." ~Nourishing Our Children, Sandrine Love (To read more about the dangers of the extruded grains, look here.)

Yikes!  So much for that favorite "kid food"!  And the yogurt?  Thankfully is didn't contain artificial food dyes, but low fat milk and modified corn starch aren't exactly the best choices for growing young girls.

So how did we move our children away from the Standard American Diet (SAD) to a real food diet?  I'll lay out the basics in 5 easy steps!

Especially if you have older kids, change is going to be a little bit tough at first.  Throwing out the entire contents of your fridge and starting fresh is going to be rough on their palates, temperament, and your wallet!  So make gradual changes of just one or two items a month.  And you can even start with things they're not likely to notice, like getting rid of the canola oil/fake butter/cooking spray and cooking your food in butter, coconut oil, lard, or bacon grease instead (olive oil changes composition when heated and is better used at room temp).  Then, switch out the conventional peanut butter with natural, organic, or almond or sunbutter.  Next month take away boxed cereal and try soaked oatmeal, or homemade granola, or another breakfast alternative.  If you make slow changes it gives your kids taste buds time to adjust, and before you know it they will be happily eating real food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner!

2.  Use the 80/20 Rule.
Once you have your family on a real food diet most of the time, make sure you give yourself and your kids a break once in a while!  It's hard to do anything perfectly 100% of the time, so instead aim for 80%, allowing for some rule-breaking here and there to maintain your sanity!  In our house, this looks like an occasional pizza night (not homemade, to give Mama a break!), eating a delicious dessert at Grandma's house on Sundays, or a lunch at our favorite "fast food" restaurant, Chick-Fil-A.  There are a few things I try not to let slip through the cracks, even on a "20%" day--artificial food dye, high fructose corn syrup, and artificial sweeteners like aspartame are things I really don't want crossing my family's lips even sparingly.  It's also of course necessary to take allergies and food sensitivities into account, so on pizza night my daughter Adelaide (who is currently battling a parasite) enjoys some uncured organic hot dogs instead!

3.  Teach them why!
My older girls are 6 and 8, and they, like most kids their ages, have wonderfully curious minds.  So in the past year I've begun teaching them about food, healthy eating, and the unfortunate ways in which agriculture and food processing have taken a toll on our nation's health.  They know that most food found in packaging has nasty ingredients like GMO soy and corn.  They know about pesticides and why it's best when possible to choose organic produce, but they also know that there are some veggies we buy conventional because our budget matters too!  I've begun to teach them how to make good choices in restaurants, so even when fries are on the menu sometimes they choose carrot sticks or grapes instead (SOMETIMES).  It's a process, but I really don't want my kids' real food journey to end when they are grown and on their own, so it's very important to me to teach them why we choose to eat the way we do.  This year I hope to incorporate some kind of health/science into our homeschooling curriculum, and as I do I'll share it with you as well!

4.  Get them involved!
We've all heard this advice before, but I have to confess, it's really hard for me!  My husband, who is still doing a lot of learning himself in the kitchen, is much better at allowing our children to be by his side in the kitchen. For me, cooking dinner is a high-stress time (toddlers are waking up from naps, baby is often crying, Daddy is running late at work), so I prefer to go it alone with my radio on and my knife chopping quickly.  But I have seen and believe in the value of having your kids help in the kitchen.  So when it's feasible; I invite my kids into the kitchen to watch me work and help a little.  It's also great to allow them to help with the food shopping, so on a low-stress day when we have plenty of time, I have them look for items on the shelf, carry the list and read it to me, and help me determine what are the best deals!  These things definitely make life a little more chaotic, but allowing the kids to take ownership of their meals will broaden their minds, and hopefully their palates, to the world of real food.

5.  Insist on a "No Thank You" bite.
I learned this one years ago from friends of ours.  Often, if there is something new, different, and "weird" on their plates, kids will turn their noses up without even a bite!  Mine will say, "I don't like this!" to which I respond, "How could you possibly know that?  You've never tried it before!"  Now, I have looked at food and written it off without a taste before as well, but I'm trying hard to practice what I preach!  So when new foods are offered, my kids have to take a bite before they say "No thank you."  And if they don't like it, they don't have to finish, but nothing else will be offered.  More often than not, they love what they taste and eat it all up!  On the rare occasion when they don't like the main part of the meal, they will almost always eat enough so they aren't hungry.  Kids don't starve themselves, trust me.  Please remember that when you're staring down the barrel of a box of mac n' cheese.  Your child will eat that steak eventually, you don't have to offer an alternative!  (Of course, you have to keep your expectations reasonable, especially based on the age of your child.  I ask much more of my almost 9 year old than of my 2 year old, for example.) 

So, those are some (hopefully) helpful tips for how to get your children and family eating real food!  What tips do you have?  What trials have you faced as you try to get your family eating healthily?  Do you follow the 80/20 rule?  Tell me more in the comment section! 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Jude's Birth Story, or Hey Jude!

So I'm writing this as I remember it.  I guess that's always the case with birth stories, since a birthing mother is not likely attuned to every last detail at the time of birth.  But it's been more than 5 months, and I'm feeling a bit unsure of myself as I document the beautiful birth of my fourth child.  That's part of it, I suppose.  I never wrote a birth story for any of my daughters, and while I know it isn't too late, I feel a bit guilty to be starting here.  But I'll have to start somewhere.

I was so blessed to be cared for by a wonderful midwifery practice during my pregnancy with Jude.  I felt respected in a way I never had before in a pregnancy.  Pam and Louise were gentle, sweet, funny, knowledgeable, and at times a bit bawdy.  If God blesses us with more children, I can't imagine having them without the help of my midwives.  But the problem with midwives is that they never hesitate to remind you of the promises you've made, to yourself and your baby.  I had promised that I would let labor come about naturally, and that I would wait for God to decide when Jude would be born.  But when my due date of January 29th came and went without a whisper of waters breaking, even though I knew the truth about due dates, I was...well, bummed.  Adelaide was born on her due date, and I had been having contractions for so many weeks, I thought he was bound to be born "in time."  I am not a patient person, but Jesse, my midwives, and my beautiful doula Maggie all reminded me that babies are born when they are ready, so I waited.  I walked, jumped, squatted, massaged, and waited.

The days leading up to and following my due date I went to bed with serious contractions almost every night.  I would go through the same conundrum each time.  "I know I should get my rest, but this is exciting!"  "I need to call my mom and let her know she needs to get the girls, and she's going to bed any minute...let me just time a few more contractions...oh shoot, now she's already in bed."  "I don't want to call Maggie and alarm her if this is nothing, but she lives an hour from the hospital, so she needs to know soon..." You get the picture.  Every night, for about a week.  Then, on the night of February 1st, I finally told Jesse that it was the real thing.  My contractions were about 10 minutes apart, and starting to get painful.  I was nervous about getting all of the pieces in place in time, and I really didn't want to be in hard labor for our 45 minute car ride to the hospital like I was with Adelaide.  So I made all the calls, and we got the go-ahead from Pam to head in to the hospital.  (By the way, all of this hoopla is just one of the reasons I hope to be able to have a homebirth some day!)  On the way there, I felt my contractions slowing down, but I didn't want to say anything.  However, after making my entire birth team (including my poor mother, who is the CEO of her company and couldn't take off from work the next day) get up and drive from their beds in the middle of the night, it was determined that I was, in fact, a doofus, and I was not, in fact, in labor.  No one called me a doofus, let me make that clear.  But seeing as this was my fourth baby, and I should really know what labor feels like by know, a doofus is precisely what I felt like.

Over the next few days, something bad happened in our house.  We started to get sick.  The girls had colds, fevers, runny noses, and coughs, and I knew Jesse and I weren't far behind.  I washed my hands like a crazy woman, rested as much as I could, and tried to resist kissing my sweet little Adelaide (that didn't work), but I caught the bug.  So, when my mom took off on Friday the 3rd, (if you're counting, this is now 5 days past my EDD) and offered to watch the girls while we walked to try to bring on labor, I was already starting to feel pretty icky.  But we dropped them, with a meticulously packed suitcase and an apology for the little bug they were bringing along.  We went to the mall, because it was February, so where else could we walk?  And Jesse held my hand lovingly as I waddled from Macy's to Nordstrom to the food court and back again.  It was only when we were driving home, trying to figure out what to do next to get this baby out, that it occurred to me that my skin was on fire and my head was going to explode.  I had a cough, a cold, and a pretty bad fever.  And I needed a Big Mac, fries, and a Coke.  Immediately.

After our organic, gourmet meal of McDonald's, I took some Tylenol...which, in hindsight, was still in my system when Jude was finally born, so maybe this wasn't a natural birth after all.  At this point the details get a bit fuzzy, but I imagine that it went something like, "Oh yes, these are real contractions now.  Let's call Maggie and the midwives."  And the next thing I remember, we were in the big, beautiful hospital room, and I was watching my lovely midwife Pam knitting something with lots of tiny knitting needles.  Her project was green.  I think it may have been a mitten.

The next few hours were lovely and pleasant...which is precisely why all of the nurses at the nurses station guessed that I would be sent home, because I didn't "look uncomfortable."  They were right, of course, but I was happy to walk the halls of the hospital with my husband and doula, carrying on a conversation about something other than birth, and listening to the woman down the hall express herself at a rather high volume while pushing out her own sweet miracle.  Every once in a while I would stop and squat, hoping that my water would miraculously break and the baby would be born painlessly in a matter of minutes.  I have no real memory of how many centimeters I was dilated, or how often my contractions were coming.  I just remember feeling like I was sure I was really in labor this time.  The one thing that hung in my mind was the laboring Jacuzzi that waited just across the hall from my room.  I wanted to be in that tub, to feel the warm water take away my pain and ease my mind and ready me for birth.  I asked Pam when I would be able to get in the tub.  Apparently, the warm water, while it takes away a lot of the pain and pressure of labor, also slows labor down after a while, so Pam wanted to make sure I didn't get in until I really needed it.  So, through the wee hours of the morning, I walked, squatted, peed, and occasionally got monitored.  Around 7:30 in the morning, Pam decided it would move things along to break my water.  She was right.

Again, the next few hours are a blur.  I remember Maggie putting pressure on my back, in the same way she did when I was laboring with Adelaide, but this time it wasn't what I needed.  I know that I kept comparing this birth to the last one, my two natural (besides the Tylenol) births, only 16 months apart, and I kept trying to make them the same, but they weren't.  I remember holding my husband's hands, as if they could bring me the relief I longed for.  I couldn't let go of him, I just closed my eyes, breathed, and held on through each contraction.  I remember trying a lot of different positions, on all fours, leaning against a chair, using the birthing ball...none of them really hit the spot.  But then came the amazing moment when Pam said those beautiful words, "Yes, you can get in the tub now."  A little background on me, I LOVE baths.  I love the warmth, I love the water, and I spend most of the winter taking nightly baths just to soak my cold bones before bed.  But this was the best bath I have ever had.

Maggie had packed in her doula bag an electric candle, and that was the only light I needed as I slipped into the large laboring tub and let the relief wash over me.  I have since told friends that it was like an epidural.  I laid in the water, still clutching Jesse's hands through every contraction, and I vaguely remember my wonderful nurse, midwife, and doula checking in on us every once in a while, but for the most part it was just the two of us.  Well, I guess it was just the three of us.  After almost an hour in the tub, I started to sweat.  I had thought I might want to deliver in the tub, which was not exactly allowed by the hospital, but I had warned my midwives that I might just have to let him slip out while I was in there.  However, I got to a point when I just couldn't get cool enough, and the effect of the water had mostly worn off, and just as I had read in so many birth stories, I wanted to be on dry land!

Now, here is when the story loses it's PG rating...but it's also the part that my closest friends think is totally hysterical.  I had seen many births where the mother felt the need to be totally unencumbered by their clothing.  I had never been that woman; in fact, the thought of being completely naked while giving birth really freaked me out.  But here I was, soaking wet and ready to push, and I had to make it back across the hall and into my room.  By the time I got there (shielded from sight by my fabulous birthing team) I had neither  the time nor the inclination to get semi-dressed again.  So, I pushed...naked, except for the beautiful earrings that had been made, along with a birthing necklace, at my baby shower.  When Pam broke my water there had been meconium staining, so there was a neonatologist and his team standing by in case Jude had breathing problems.  This may sound intrusive, but our second daughter Evangeline spent 3 days in the NICU for fear of a lung infection from breathing meconium, so I was thankful.  That is, until they started talking about what they were going to have for lunch.  Here I was, 10 centimeters dilated, moments from giving birth to my first son, more exposed than I had ever been in my life, with my amazing birthing team supporting me every second in quiet encouragement, and this doctor was talking about a buffalo chicken wrap! (Maggie filled me in on that specific detail later.)  I was so disturbed, I had to quiet them.  As I remember, I said kindly but firmly to Jesse, "Tell them to please be quiet.  What I am doing here is very important, and it requires an intense amount of focus."  What I actually said, according to my husband, was "ShhhmmmmnnbbShhhhnnnhhhuuuummmShhhhhh."  But, thankfully, he got the idea, and soon enough the room was quiet once again.  

When you read about natural birth, you hear a lot about the different positions that are desirable for birthing. I had talked a lot about this with Pam and Louise leading up to the birth, because I had always birthed on my back, but I wanted to try something different this time.  So I tried getting up on my knees, and the two pushes from that angle were nothing short of terrifying to me.  Partially because Adelaide had come out in 2 pushes, and I was afraid when Jude didn't just slide right out.  It felt like an eternity, getting back on my back where I was comfortable, trying to hold my own legs when I really didn't feel like I had the strength, the thought in the back of my head that this strange neonatologist was seeing me in my birthday suit, but 9 minutes after I had started pushing, all of a sudden there was a warm, wet, beautiful, tiny person laying on top of me.  That moment is incredible.  Every time, it's like a dream.  One moment ago I was experiencing intense pain, and now, in my arms, looking up into my face, is a little life that God has given to me to care for.  I think Jesse and I looked at each other.  I know we looked at Jude.  We may have cried.  I know Maggie did (she had been, in fact, for quite some time.  And that's why I love my doula.)  I had wanted to delay cord clamping, but since he needed to have the meconium sucked out of him before he breathed it in, he was whisked away from me quickly, but unlike any other hospital I've been to, the priority was to have him in my arms as soon as possible for skin-to-skin contact, so I honestly don't even remember him being away from me.  I just know that he was back on my chest, his little warm body against mine, and that I held him, and looked at him, and kissed him for a long, long time.  He had blue eyes, and Jesse and I were both astonished.  I was so thankful to everyone who had stuck with me for that long time, and I was mostly thankful to God for giving me strength that I didn't even understand in order to birth my sweet Jude Nicholas.  

I am one of those crazy people who suffers from extreme mommy amnesia.  All I can think now, as I have just shirked the duties of laundry and dishes to write this story (which took all day), is that I want to do this again.  My poor husband.  

Ready to meet my sweet baby boy.
My wonderful, tired husband in the wee hours of the morning.
Jude Nicholas Kafka, born February 4, 2012 at 11:37 am, 7 pounds, 15 ounces.
He was perfect.
Back in Mommy's arms
Totally in love with our sweet baby boy.
My midwife Pam and our wonderful nurse, who had had 5 natural births of her own!
Me, Jude, Jesse and our sweet friend and wonderful doula Maggie
I can never get over those first moments.
He was so peaceful and sweet.
Looking up at Mama

Chicken Soup for the Soul: The wonders of bone broth

All fixed up and ready to simmer!

When we set out on our real food adventure, one of the first things I started making at home was chicken stock.  We eat a whole chicken about once a week, and I loved the idea of truly using every part of the bird for nourishment.  I had also read quite a bit about the benefits of chicken stock, or as it is more commonly referred to in the real food community, bone broth.

Bone broth is another one of those foods that has been nourishing people for thousands of years.  When ancient tribes hunted for animals, all of that work meant that every part of the animal was going to be put to use, down to the bones themselves. Bone broth is made with bones (possibly with some meat left on them), vegetables, seasonings, and filtered water.  The difference between bone broth and typical, store bought chicken stock is the amount of time that it cooks.  Bone broth can simmer in a crock pot or pot on the stove for up to a week, until all of the nourishment has been leached from the bones.  The first time I made broth, I followed my recipe's suggestion that if the bones crushed when squeezed, all of the good stuff was now in the broth itself.  It was really exciting to see the bone crumble between my fingers and know that we were now going to be able to consume all of those nutrients!  (I know that sounds weird.  Real food problems.)  The old wisdom about chicken soup being good for a cold is true!

 "Rich homemade chicken broths help cure colds. Stock contains minerals in a form the body can absorb easily—not just calcium but also magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulphur and trace minerals. It 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." ~Weston A. Price Foundation

Bones are also rich in amino acids and minerals.  The amino acid glycine helps your body to detoxify and supports digestion.  This is one of the reasons bone broth is so good for healing Leaky Gut Syndrome!  One of my favorite things about bone broth is that it is a great way to consume gelatin.  Wait, I know what you're thinking:

Yuk, ick, NO!  NOT that kind of gelatin.  But its true, even the store-bought totally nasty stuff is made from bones.  Bad bones.  Don't eat this stuff.  (Can you tell I hate Jello?)  Bone broth gelatin, however, comes from the good bones of your chicken, preferably an organic, free range or pastured one!  And why is this my favorite thing about bone broth?  Well, because gelatin is known to combat wrinkles, cellulite, and stretch marks!!!  "Hey, I have some of those!" you may be thinking.  If so, bone broth is yummier, and cheaper, than plastic surgery.  Gelatin also supports digestive health, which makes it another key ingredient in battling that wicked Leaky Gut so many people are plagued with.  

Now that you know a little bit about why bone broth is so good for you, you may be wondering how you should eat it.  In our house, there is often a crock pot of broth simmering on the counter.  I make a new pot about once a week, maybe more often now that it's for sale at Mama's Mason Jars.  We typically use our broth to make soups in the winter, and rice and quinoa year round.  It is more delicious and a lot more nourishing to use broth in your rice than water, and it's just as easy!  Many people also drink their broth.  Addy's clinician Megan drinks hers from a portable coffee mug!  If you are interested in making your own bone broth, I base mine off of the Nourished Kitchen recipe for Perpetual Soup.  I use Bragg's Raw, Unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar to help break down the bones, and throw in lots of yummy organic vegetable scraps to give great flavor.  I also always use Himalayan Pink Sea Salt instead of table salt, because it provides so many good minerals.  If you are interested in buying broth from my store, just send me a message at Mama's Mason Jars!  And if you would like to read even more on the virtually endless benefits of bone broth, check out Nourished Kitchen and Mommypotamus 

Why So Much Fermenting?

At the Mama's Mason Jars store, my goal  is to provide people with healthy, delicious, and nourishing foods to people in my community.  Many of the foods that I sell are fermented foods, so a friend on Facebook asked a very important question:

"Why so much fermenting?"

My usual answer to a question about why I make fermented foods for my family is something like, "Lots of good probiotics and stuff in there!"  While that may be true, it isn't quite eloquent enough to explain a business model.  So I've done a bit more research to find out what is really all the hubbub about fermented foods.  The first thing I learned is that fermenting is an extremely old practice.  Like, ancient civilizations at the beginning of history old. I take great comfort in food practices that have been around for hundreds, and even thousands of years.  Before the age of medicine, people had to figure out how to make themselves well through food, and fermented foods were one that ancient cultures used across the globe.

"Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food." ~Hippocrates

Speaking of the age of medicine, did you know that antibiotics kill good bacteria along with the bad? Your gut is filled with good bacteria that are meant to help you properly digest food and absorb nutrients.  If you have been on antibiotcs in your life (and I feel sure that all of us have, some more than others) your gut has seen some damage to its good bacteria.  That bacteria can be built back up through probiotics.  And this is where the ever-popular yogurt comes in.  

Many people know that yogurt contain probiotics, and if you or your children have been on frequent antibiotics, your doctor may have even recommended eating more yogurt to balance out your gut flora (a fancy way of referring to the bacteria in your gut).  This is definitely a step in the right direction.  But I'm here to tell you that there are lots of other fermented foods that you can make (or buy!), eat, and enjoy!  Fermented dill carrot sticks are a favorite in our house.  We also drink kombucha, which is a very delicious fermented tea.  My husband loved the fermented sauerkraut I made, and pickles are a big hit anywhere!  My favorite fermented food, however, is sourdough. There is nothing so diverse as a sourdough starter, and nothing so delicious as hot from the oven sourdough bread!  Buyer beware: the sauerkraut, pickles, and sourdough bread you buy at the store have probably not been made using ancient fermenting methods.  Two buzzwords for detecting a food that hasn't been truly fermented are "vinegar" and "yeast" which are used to speed up the process.  I am a firm believer that good food takes time!

My first loaf of sourdough.  I was so proud!

Beyond containing good bacteria for your gut, fermented foods also contain enzymes.  According to Food Renegade, “Your body needs [enzymes] to properly digest, absorb, and make full use of your food. As you age, your body’s supply of enzymes decreases. This has caused many scientists to hypothesize that if you could guard against enzyme depletion, you could live a longer, healthier life.”
I learned  at The Well of Life that if your digestive system isn't working properly, you may not be properly absorbing all of the nutrients you're eating, which can make you super hungry!  Megan noted that Adelaide was eating raw almonds like they were going extinct, and suggested that after we implemented her new diet and supplements her appetite may start to wane.  I would LOVE for my kids appetites to be a bit smaller, since food can get pretty expensive, but more than that I want to make sure that their little guts (and mine and my hub's slightly larger ones) are able to absorb the good nutrients in our food!  Fermented foods help us in that quest! Fermented fruits and vegetables also last longer, so fermenting fresh produce in the summer can allow you to enjoy the harvest all winter long!  

There are so many benefits to fermented foods; I feel like I have barely touched on them here. However, if you are interested in learning more about fermented foods and how to make them yourself, you can visit Cheeseslave, Mommypotamus, and Nourished Kitchen.  Or, if you'd like to skip the part where you spend half an hour peeling carrots, a week starting a sourdough culture, 10 days fermenting komucha tea, and a day watching the thermometer rise and fall for slow-cooker yogurt, check out my page Mama's Mason Jars to purchase some yummy fermented foods!