Monthly Archives: January 2013

13 Banned Foods Still Allowed In The U.S.

photo-by-lauren-welter

photo credit: Lauren Welter

By Cristina Goyanes, Shape

You think the FDA has your back? Sure, they recently proposed two new regulations to up food safety measures, specifically how food processors and farmers can work better to keep their fresh products free of dangerous bacteria (remember that killer cantaloupe outbreak from 2011?). But while it may seem like the government is out to protect us from bad–even fatal–food-borne illnesses, which cause some 3,000 deaths a year, they don’t completely have our best interest–or health–in mind.

“For numerous suspicious and disturbing reasons, the U.S. has allowed foods that are banned in many other developed countries into our food supply,” says nutritionist Mira Calton who, together with her husband Jayson Calton, Ph.D., wrote the new book Rich Food, Poor Food due out in February.

During a six-year expedition that took them to 100 countries on seven continents, the Caltons studied more than 150 ingredients and put together a comprehensive list of the top 13 problematic products that are forbidden by governments, outside the United States, due to their detrimental effects on human health.

“If you see any of the following ingredients listed on the nutrition label, don’t buy the product,” Calton warns. “Leaving these banned bad boys on the shelves will speak volumes to grocery stores and food manufactures about what informed consumers simply won’t tolerate.”

Ingredients: Coloring agents (blue 1, blue 2, yellow 5, and yellow 6)

  • Found In: Cake, candy, macaroni and cheese, medicines, sport drinks, soda, pet food, and cheese
  • Why The U.S. Allows It: We eat with our eyes. “Recent studies have shown that when food manufacturers left foods in their natural, often beige-like color instead of coloring them with these chemical agents, individuals thought they tasted bland and ate less, even when the recipe wasn’t altered,” Calton says. This may explain why the use of artificial dyes–the most popular being red 40, yellow 5, and yellow 6–has increased five-fold since 1955.
  • Health Hazards: Back in the day, food coloring came from natural sources, such as saffron and turmeric. “Today most artificial colors are made from coal tar, which is also used to seal-coat products to preserve and protect the shine of industrial floors,” Carlton says. “It also appears in head lice shampoos to kill off the small bugs.”

Ingredient: Olestra (a.k.a. Olean)

  • Found In: Fat-free potato chips
  • Why The U.S. Allows It: Procter & Gamble Co. took a quarter century and spent a half a billion dollars to create “light” chips that are supposedly better for you, Calton says. They may need another half a billion bucks to figure out how to deal with the embarrassing bathroom side effects (including oily anal leakage) that comes with consuming these products.
  • Health Hazards: “This fat substitute appears to cause a dramatic depletion of fat-soluble vitamins and carotenoids, robbing us of the vital micro-nutrients,” Calton says, adding that many countries, including the U.K. and Canada, have banned it.

Ingredient: Brominated vegetable oil (a.k.a. BVO)

  • Found In: Sports drinks and citrus-flavored sodas
  • Why The U.S. Allows It: BVO acts as an emulsifier, preventing the flavoring from separating and floating to the surface of beverages, Calton says.
  • Health Hazards: “Because it competes with iodine for receptor sites in the body, elevated levels of the stuff may lead to thyroid issues, such as hypothyroidism, autoimmune disease, and cancer,” Calton says. That’s not all. BVO’s main ingredient, bromine, is a poisonous chemical that is considered both corrosive and toxic. It’s been linked to major organ system damage, birth defects, growth problems, schizophrenia, and hearing loss, which explains why it’s been nixed in more than 100 countries.

Ingredient: Potassium bromate (a.k.a. brominated flour)

  • Found In: Rolls, wraps, flatbread, bread crumbs, and bagel chips
  • Why The U.S. Allows It: This flour-bulking agent helps strengthen dough, reducing the amount of time needed for baking, which results in lowered costs, Calton explains.
  • Health Hazards: Made with the same toxic chemical found in BVO (bromine), this additive has been associated with kidney and nervous system disorders as well as gastrointestinal discomfort. “While the FDA has not banned the use of bromated flour, they do urge bakers to voluntarily leave it out,” Calton says.

Ingredient: Azodicarbonamide

  • Found In: Breads, frozen dinners, boxed pasta mixes, and packaged baked goods
  • Why The U.S. Allows It: While most countries wait a week for flour to naturally whiten, the American food processors prefer to use this chemical to bleach the flour ASAP.
  • Health Hazards: It’s not enough to just ban this product in Singapore. You can get up to 15 years in prison and be penalized nearly half a million dollars in fines for using this chemical that’s been linked to asthma and is primarily used in foamed plastics, like yoga mats and sneaker soles.

Ingredients: BHA and BHT

  • Found In: Cereal, nut mixes, gum, butter, meat, dehydrated potatoes, and beer
  • Why The U.S. Allows It: “Made from petroleum [yummy!], these waxy solids act as preservatives to prevent food from becoming rancid and developing objectionable odors,” Calton says. A better solution may be natural rosemary and sage. In a 2006 study, some organic herbs and spices proved to be efficient at preventing oxidative decay in meat, which ultimately could improve the shelf-life of these products.
  • Health Hazards: California is the only state that recognizes the U.S. National Institute of Health’s report that BHA may be a human carcinogen, a cancer-causing agent.

Ingredients: Synthetic hormones (rBGH and rBST)

  • Found In: Milk and dairy products
  • Why The U.S. Allows It: Gotta keep moo-ving things along. Dairy farmers inject cows with genetically engineered cow growth hormones to boost milk production by about 10 percent, according to Calton.
  • Health Hazards: “Cows treated with these synthetic hormones often become lame, infertile, and suffer from inflamed and infected udders,” Calton says. Humans who consume these cows byproducts are in no better shape, she adds: “The milk is supercharged with IGF-1 (insulin growth factor -1), which has been linked to breast, colon, and prostate cancers.”

Ingredient: Arsenic

  • Found In: Poultry
  • Why The U.S. Allows It: Big brother FDA permits arsenic in chicken feed to promote growth, improve efficiency in feeding the birds, and boost pigmentation. “The arsenic affects the blood vessels in chickens and turkeys, causing them to appear pinker and, therefore, fresher,” Calton says.
  • Health Hazards: The European Union has outlawed the use of arsenic since 1999, Calton says, and the Environmental Protection Agency classifies inorganic arsenic as a “human carcinogen.” Take matters into your own hands by sticking to organic birds only.

This article was written by Cristina Goyanes and published in Shape on January 15, 2013.

Photo by Lauren Welter

Bacon Cheddar Quinoa


So lately I’ve been trying to do a gluten-reduced diet. I also recently learned that I have a mild food intolerance to rice. This means that I have to limit my rice intake to about once a week. The gluten-reduced part means no more cous-cous either :(. So I’ve been playing around with quinoa as a lunch-time alternative. Quinoa is what is known as a supergrain because it is an amazing food. It is a complete protein, heart-healthy, contains fiber, folate, antioxidants, anti-inflammatory phytonutrients, and it’s low allergy risk making it a great choice for children/toddlers and the gluten intolerant.

So here is the first of many Quinoa recipes to be appearing here on Homemaker Chic.

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BACON CHEDDAR QUINOA

Here’s what you need:

  • 3/4 cup quinoa
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 strips of bacon, cut into small pieces (I like to use scissors for this)
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • Salt and Pepper

Makes 2 servings.

Here’s what you do:

how-to-cook-quinoa-homemakerchic.comIn a small saucepan, bring the quinoa and stock to a boil. Boil for one minute then reduce the heat and simmer on medium heat for about 15 minutes.

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In a non-stick skillet saute the bacon and the onions until the bacon is crisp and the onions are caramelized. Drain off most, but not all of the bacon grease, and set aside.

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When the quinoa is tender and most of the liquid is absorbed, pour the cooked quinoa into the skilled with the bacon and onions. Add the cheese, salt and pepper. Stir and cook until the cheese is melted and the quinoa is lightly sauteed- about 5 more minutes.

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Serve alone as a hearty lunch, or as a side dish to a meal.

Honey Pecan Brie Bites


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Some time ago I stumbled upon one of the easiest most delicious and -best of all- super impressive, little appetizer recipe. This recipe has become my go-to take along for parties because it is always a huge hit! I’ve made other things before that were good, but never have I made a treat so spectacular that I honestly have NEVER had leftovers on this one. Every single delicious bite is gone whenever I bring this along. So what is it you say?

HONEY PECAN BRIE BITES.

They are impossibly easy to make, and sinfully delicious. Your guests will devour them!

Here’s what you need:

  • 3 boxes (45 pieces) of Pre-made miniature filo shells (in the freezer section by the pie crusts)
  • 1 log of brie cheese
  • 1 cup of chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup of brown sugar
  • 2 T butter
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt
  • Honey for drizzling.

Here’s what you do:

Cutting Brie

Slice off the ends of the brie log. Cut in half so its easier to handle. Using a vegetable peeler, peel off the white rind on the outside. (Don’t worry if there are a few little pieces you can’t get to.) Slice the logs in half length-wise, then cut into pieces a bit less than half an inch (So like 1/3 of and inch). If you cut them this way you will have exactly enough cheese for 45 bites.

pecans and butter

In a skillet (I like nonstick for this) melt together the brown sugar and 1 T butter. Add the pecans, 1 T butter cinnamon and salt. Stir thoroughly to make sure all the pecans are coated with the brown sugar mixture. Cook on medium heat for about 5-7 minutes until the pecans are lightly toasted. You will smell the sweet nutty aroma when they are ready.

pecan bitesPlace all of your shells on a greased cookie sheet. (The only reason you need to grease it is because sometimes the brown sugar and honey will spill out and it will cause the bottom of the pan to become sticky and you won’t be able get some of the shells off.) Place a piece of brie into each shell. Top each shell with a generous sprinkle of the pecans, then drizzle each cup with honey.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 10-15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Allow to cool then serve! These are yummy even at room temperature, so you can make them a couple hours in advance if you like.

Get ready to be asked to bring these delicious treats with you every time! They are so yummy and so easy to make!

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10 Steps to Remove BPA from Your Body in Less Than a Week

Many of you know about my struggle with recurrent miscarriage. Though we are so excited about the prospect of growing our family through adoption, I’m still concerned that something is wrong in my body and the doctors just can’t seem to figure it out. This year I’m taking my health into my own hands and instead of looking to the medical profession who up to this point have completely failed me, I’m looking inside my own body for the answers. This year I’m seeking to get my body back to to a whole, healthy, and healed place. One way I’m doing this is by eliminating BPA from my diet. You can also learn about the Real Food diet and how to cut out processed foods by reading this post.

What is BPA you ask? Bisphenol a (BPA) is a synthetic estrogen used to harden polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resin. Yes, you read that right. SYNTHETIC ESTROGEN. An estimated 6 billion pounds of BPA are produced globally annually, generating about $6 billion in sales. It is fabricated into thousands of products made of hard, clear polycarbonate plastics and tough epoxy resins, including safety equipment, eyeglasses, computer and cell phone casings, water and beverage bottles, DENTAL FILLINGS, and epoxy paint and coatings. Despite research that has proven this chemical to be hazardous it is still approved for use in a shocking amount of products. What’s so bad about it? Trace BPA exposure has been shown to disrupt the endocrine system and trigger a wide variety of disorders, including chromosomal and reproductive system abnormalities, impaired brain and neurological functions, cancer, cardiovascular system damage, adult-onset diabetes, early puberty, obesity and resistance to chemotherapy. The most disgusting fact of all is that the highest levels of BPA have been found in baby bottles, and liquid infant formula. Seriously.  (Source: EWG)

When I first started researching this and found out that women who have recurrent miscarriages are found to have much higher traces of BPA in their systems I was horrified. I’ve been systematically poisoning myself and I didn’t even know it. When I was pregnant I probably ate 2 cans of Campbell’s soup and drank tons of bottled water. I also have fillings in my mouth that are composed of 50% BPA. There’s nothing I can do about that now (hopefully most of the harmful chemical has dissipated and been flushed out by my body by now). I use so many plastics and canned goods and never could have imagined in my wildest dreams that it could be contributing to my miscarriages. So its OUT WITH BPA.

There is some good news folks. BPA has a VERY short half-life. That means it can be flushed out of your system in less than 24 hours. Just a few days of going BPA free can get you completely back to normal, you just have to be vigilant. Here’s how to do it.

BPA is Everywhere.

It’s in everything we touch, everything we eat, everything we buy: it’s hidden in grocery store receipts and beauty products, in coffee cups and soda cans, in the very food and water we need to live. So, what’s the big deal? We’ve survived so far. Or… have we? Cancer and autoimmune disease rates continue to rise steadily. In 2009, EWG tests found estrogen-disrupting  levels of BPA in 9 of 10 umbilical cord blood samples. We all have BPA in our bodies. There’s nothing we can do about it. Right?

You can Remove BPA from Your Body.

And you can do it in less than a week. BPA is metabolized by the body very quickly. A recent study found that participants were able to reduce the levels of BPA in their body by 65% in three days just by avoiding packaged foods¹. By eliminating additional hidden sources of BPA in your environment you can increase that number, as well as reducing many other toxic chemicals that are found in plastics like phthalates, and polyethylene. Here’s how.

1. Just Say No to BPA-loaded Receipts

Did you know that some receipts contain 250 to 1,000 times the amount of BPA typically found in a can of food?²  If that isn’t scary enough, BPA transfers readily from the receipt to skin and cannot be washed off. Different types of receipts contain varying levels of BPA. If you aren’t sure whether or not a merchant uses BPA in their receipts, either ask directly or let them know early in the transaction that you will not need your receipt. Gas station receipts are particularly notorious for containing huge amounts of BPA.

2. Avoid Packaged Food

True, you might have to give up potato chips. But, maybe that’s not such a bad thing. So, what will you possibly eat? There are many safe options available to replace the packaged staples in your kitchen. You can buy fresh bread from the bakery in paper, milk in glass bottles, bring a glass container for cheese and meat from the deli, buy cereal in bulk, get beans and grains from the bulk bin in your own cloth or paper bag. Forgo the packaged salad greens for unpackaged – use cloth or paper bags in the produce aisle.

3. Switch to a Safe BPA-free Water Bottle

You know that funny taste that your plastic water bottle gets when you leave it in the sun? That’s the taste of chemicals leaching into your water. Doesn’t sound very refreshing, does it? There are many safe stainless steel and glass alternatives to plastic bottles. My favorites are those made with 100% safe glass, with stainless steel or silicone in place of a plastic top. Three great options are from VesselBottles UP and Bkr. If you choose a stainless steel option, make sure to get one that is not lined with plastic. Kleen Kanteen is a safe choice. While you’re at it, skip the water cooler for fill-ups. Those big plastic jugs are loaded with BPA too. Tap is safer.

4. Store Food in Glass

Did you know that even “safe” plastics can leach toxic chemicals³ once they are washed in a dishwasher or scrubbed with detergent and a sponge? Why take the chance? Ditch those plastic tubs in place of safe all-glass alternatives. For on the go or smaller items, forgo plastic wrap and plastic sandwich bags in place of small glass containers, wax paper bags, or parchment paper.

5. Avoid Canned Foods

92% of all canned food is lined with BPA coating. Look for alternatives in glass jars (most will have BPA lined lids but overall contamination is much less) or stick to these safe BPA-free brands: Eden Foods (except tomatoes), Wild Planet tuna, Vital Choice tuna, Native Forest  and Native Factor canned goods.

6. Give up Soda

Believe it or not, even aluminum soda cans are lined with BPA. If you can’t give up soda, you can always buy a brand that comes in a glass bottle.

7. Eat at Home

Most  food  in restaurants originates from highly packaged sources or is stored in plastic. As a result, almost all restaurant food is loaded with BPA. Eating at home and bringing your lunch to work more often will help reduce the BPA in your body.

plastic-free coffee

8. Make your Own Coffee

Unless you’re lucky enough to have a local coffee shop that brews in glass, a cup of  to-go coffee comes in contact with BPA during each stage of the brewing process. From the plastic bag the beans are stored in, to the hot plastic coffee maker it’s brewed in, the thermos it’s kept hot in, and the plastic – lined cup it’s served in.

For a BPA- free brew, buy beans from bulk, store in glass, and drip brew with paper filters, a stainless steel  Coava filter and Chemex glass carafe, or stainless steel french press. Pour into a ceramic cup and, voila! BPA-free coffee to go.

9. Buy Personal-care Products in Glass, Paper or Metal.

BPA, phthalates, and other toxic chemicals can leach into beauty products from a plastic container and absorb into your skin. Work to eventually phase out these items by replacing them with safe-packaged alternatives as they run out. If you are on a budget, most beauty products can be made from simple ingredients.

 10. Replace Plastic Items with Safer Alternatives

Because BPA, phthalates and other plasticizers are not chemically bound to the plastics they’re added to, they are continuously released into our air and transferred to our skin when touched. Begin to replace plastic items in your household as you are able. Children are especially vulnerable to plastic chemical exposure. Gradually replace children’s toys and tableware with safer, non-plastic options. Even choosing natural fibers over synthetic clothing (did you know spandex is made of plastic?) can reduce the amount of plastic chemicals stored in your body.

Of course, we can never completely eliminate plastic from our lives

But, the more plastic we avoid, the less BPA in our bodies. Have I eliminated synthetic clothing? Um, no. And I do eat a bag of chips now and then. Although it can be done in 3 days, gradual changes will result in a slow and steady reduction of BPA too. It’s all about knowing how BPA gets into our bodies and cultivating an awareness of plastic so we can consider opportunities to avoid it. It’s about empowering ourselves with the knowledge to make healthy choices.

How to Clean Fan Blades (without a Dusty Mess!)

Dusty Fan Blade Homemakerchic.comSo the other morning My Hubby and I were snuggling in the bed when I looked up and noticed how dusty my fan blades had gotten. I mean they were really bad! I remembered a clever little trick I had seen awhile ago and decided right then and there to try it out. Lucky for you he decided to film me doing said trick. So you get the benefit of both my very first video on Homemaker Chic, and also a very nifty way to clean your fan blades without getting dust all over the place. Enjoy!

Use a pillow case to clean fan blades homemakerchic.com

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23 Heart Shaped Foods for Valentine’s Day


Well Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, and with it comes heart shaped EVERYTHING. What is it about heart shaped foods on Valentine’s day that makes people feel like they’re in some way showing extra love for somebody? My hubby and I aren’t big on Valentine’s day because we make an effort to show love for one another every single day of the year! This being said, heart shaped foods are super adorable and make me giggle. Here are some really cute ideas for heart shaped foods for Valentine’s day and EVERY day! Don’t forget to tell someone today that you love them too. :) (Click the images for original posts.)

BREAKFAST:

What goes better with heart shaped eggs than heart shaped BACON! Cutest bacon I’ve ever seen. Source: The Paper Mama

You can’t forget about heart shaped pancakes! Here’s one way to do it. Make two different colored pancakes, cut hearts out of each, then swap the hearts for a contrasting color. Cute idea.                                                                Source: Gatorade Military

Here’s the other way to do it. Just pour the batter in the shape of a heart. If you have a large heart shaped cookie cutter, you could also set that in the hot pan, and pour the batter into it to get a perfect heart shape. Source: Martha Stewart

Here’s a nice collection of various sized heart cutters. About $10. Click Image to BUY NOW.

LUNCH:

Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup always makes me happy. The only way it could make me happier is with heart shaped sandwiches! How about floating a few heart shaped cheddar cheese slices in soup. Delish!

Why stop at grilled cheese? You can get super creative in the heart shaped panini department! Do I hear turkey and cranberry? Just make a regular panini and cut it out with a heart shaped cutter.

What else would you serve with your heart shaped sandwiches than… Heart Shaped fries? Seriously, this is getting out of hand. How cute are these? All you do is slice potatoes, and cute out heart shapes, then fry and top with salt. Clever indeed.

Or perhaps you’re in the mood for a warm hearty soup… with heart shaped carrots. Talk about comfort food. If someone made this for me I would totally believe they loved me.

Grape Tomato Hearts. Cutest. Tomatoes. Ever!! Just slice the tomatoes in half and flip one side over, then stick an arrow toothpick through them. Gluing a little piece of paper to the ends of toothpicks seems easy enough. How sweet!

SNACKS:

These pretzels are made out of canned dinner rolls! You roll out two rolls into a rope and then twist them into shape.

Here’s an adorable little snack of heart shaped corn tortilla chips and salsa. Wouldn’t this be great if you used flour tortillas instead, topped them with cinnamon and sugar, and served with a hot apple chutney? Yum!

Talk about heart healthy! Heart shaped fruit, with yogurt dip. This snack is simple, sweet, healthy, and adorable!

DINNER:

Heart Shaped Pizza, with heart shaped pepperonis! My husband would be so happy if I served this up. Make it a white pizza for a prettier look. Sliced ham in heart shapes would add a pretty pink color to the pie.

I’m imagining a scene from the Sex and the City movie involving sushi and Valentine’s day. :) Maybe Samantha would have had better results if she had made these precious heart shaped rolls!

These heart shaped saffron buns would be a delicious complement to a valentine’s night dinner.

Heart Shaped Chicken Parmesan with fresh heart shaped mozzarella topped with marinara sounds delectable for a Valentine’s Night feast!

DESSERT:

Charming little pear raspberry hand pies. Source: Martha Stewart

Making a heart shaped cake doesn’t require a heart shaped pan. All you need is one square pan and one round pan. Set the square cake on a diagonal. Cut the round cake in half, then put each half on one side to make the rounded top. So easy!

Sweetie pie pops would be the perfect little bite after a lovely Valentine’s dinner. They are sweet, light, and the sky is the limit with fillings. Check out full instructions by clicking the image above. Source: Our Best Bite

This Valentine’s day maybe you might get to make some whoopie… pies that is. ;) Try these red velvet whoopie pies with cream cheese frosting. Mmmmm!

Make your honey happy with these Honey Green Tea Sandwich Cookies. So good, and good for you! Plus, aren’t we tired of pink and red for Valentine’s day?

Infertility in the Bible


As I was doing my Bible reading yesterday it suddenly occurred to me that there are quite a lot of women in the there who suffered from infertility. Yet these women were not forgotten by God, and were eventually given a child in God’s perfect timing. I believe that everything that is mentioned in the Bible is something quite important to God if He saw fit to include it in His Word. As I’ve struggled with recurrent pregnancy loss I’ve often found myself longing for the God of Hannah, and Sarai, and Elizabeth to miraculously come through and bring us a child. I stumbled upon this article and it seems that I’m not the only one who has thought this way. I hope you enjoy this excerpt from Alysssa who wrote this article on the blog When you Rise.  She has such an insightful way of looking at this topic. I hope you are blessed by this as I was.

The Bible and Barrenness — What does it have to do with Infertility today?

by: Alyssa

STRUGGLE #1: BARREN WOMEN HAVING KIDS. Have you ever noticed how many barren women are in the Bible? And they all miraculously have kids. Every single one of the Patriarchs has a “barren” wife: Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Rachel. Later we see Manoah and his wife, Elkanah and Hannah, and finally, in the New Testament, Zechariah and Elizabeth.

 
Let me tell you, after two years on the “trying for kids” roller-coaster my heart is raw to these miraculous stories. And at the end of each month my heart weeps as life pours out of me and my hope deflates. It hurts. Barrenness feels like death.
 
STRUGGLE #2: PROMISES OF CHILDREN. Have you ever noticed how many promises of children are in the Bible? I’ll quote just two:
 
Psalm 128:3-4 
Your wife will be like a fruitful vine 
   within your house; 
your children will be like olive shoots 
   around your table. 
Behold, thus shall the person be blessed 
   who fears the LORD.
 
Now, I don’t know if I even want my children to be quite like “olive shoots” (that implies a LARGE number of kids), but really, where’s the love, God? You tell me that the person who serves and fears you will be blessed with children. With the grace of Jesus I strive to be that person, so where’s the blessing? Why haven’t you “visited” me like you visited the barren women of the Bible?
 
Exodus 23:25-26
You shall serve the LORD your God, and he will bless your bread and your water, and I will take sickness away from among you. None shall miscarry or be barren in your land; I will fulfill the number of your days.
 
And that Exodus quote was pretty fantastic, wasn’t it? Food for everyone. No sickness. No barrenness. Everyone lives to a ripe old age. Wait . . . that doesn’t sound like reality at all!
 
That’s because what we have here is a picture of restoration to how things used to be—a new Eden.  When God brought his people out of Egypt it was a mini-new-creation. But because of the messiness and sin of our world the ideal went unrealized. In the Exodus, God may have created a new people for himself, but he had not yet dealt permanently with sin.
 
This helps me understand these “unanswered” promises. Everywhere you find such fantastic promises in scripture—like Psalm 128—it is God painting a picture of Eden. Of the ideal that was lost because of sin, but that will one day be restored. And in the meantime we get real-life glimpses of it!
 
Let’s jump back to the barren women of the Bible, because they offer a few of those “real-life glimpses.” What do they all have in common? It’s that when God finally blesses them with a child, it is a VERY IMPORTANT CHILD.
 
            Sarah – Isaac (Patriarch)
            Rebecca – Esau and Jacob (Patriarch)
            Rachel – Joseph (his wisdom saves the known world from starvation)
            Wife of Manoah – Sampson (delivers the people from the Philistines)
            Hannah – Samuel (prepares the people for David)
            Elizabeth – John the Baptist (prepares the people for Jesus)
 
Do you see what is going on here? Barrenness—death—is emphasized in all these stories to make it really obvious that God is doing something miraculous in the world. God is overcoming death. These stories give us glimpses of Eden—of new creation.
 
I believe that Elizabeth is the last story of a barren woman in scripture because her son prepared the way for Jesus. After Elizabeth, there is no more need for “glimpses” because the new creation has come. Jesus has dealt death a fatal blow. With poetic symmetry, God chose to cure the barrenness of the world with a little baby.
 
Already but not yet. Baby Jesus brought with him new creation. Yet Earth is not Eden. Jesus, in his mercy, is letting sin and messiness persist for a time so that more people might come to know him. So in the meantime, his people live in messiness too.
 
Do I still weep when I read Psalm 128? Absolutely! Do I hope for the day that God will give me a glimpse of new creation in my own life in the form of a child? Yes! But I wait, knowing that my struggle with infertility is only a small part of something bigger going on in the world. And I draw hope from the stories of the barren women in scripture—not because I expect a physical child—but because they show that God is always on the move with something bigger than we in our pain can see.

How to Bake Perfectly Flat Cakes


So today I was foraging around the interwebs looking for awesome cake tips and I came across this amazing post by Annalise at Completely Delicious. Aside from the fact that she and her blog are both totally adorable, she’s got some serious baking chops! Definitely read the post for some more amazing tips. Here is the best one in my opinion. If you, like me, have felt very very sorry to throw away (or scarf down) cake scraps from cutting off the rounded tops, then you will LOVE this tip. Where has this secret been all my life?

Cakes naturally bake with a slightly domed top, which isn’t so good if you want to stack them. You can cut the tops off, but I feel like that’s a waste. There are also wet strips you can wrap around the pans to get the layers to bake evenly, but that seems way too complicated. Want to know what I do?

reduce the heat from 350 degrees F to 300 degrees F and increase the baking time. The lower temperatures bake the cake slower, which prevents it from doming. A good rule of thumb when you reduce the temperature is to bake it for one and a half times as long as the recipe originally suggests. So if the recipe says 60 minutes at 350 degrees, it will take approximately 90 minutes at 300 degrees. But keep an eye on it! Check it periodically after the original suggested time to be sure you don’t over bake it.

Now you know my secret to perfectly level layers!

Even layers

Craft Room Ideas

Lots of awesome and exciting things are happening this year, and one of those things is that we’re finally buying a house! Its a short sale, so there’s no telling how long it will take to close but we’re hoping it’ll be in the next 60 days. Yay! What this means for me, and for this blog, is that I will finally have my own craft room and blogging office. This is really going to make a huge difference toward getting Homemaker Chic organized and efficient. So I’ve been scowering Pinterest for decorating and organization ideas and here are some really nifty ideas that I want to try. Enjoy!

First things first. I will need shelving. LOTS of shelving. I LOVE the idea of utilizing the closet space. I’m thinking that some IKEA items will do just the trick. Here are some great solutions.

IKEA Billy Bookcases make a great full wall shelving solution. Source: Censational Girl

IKEA Hemnes Storage Group. Its a bit pricey new but I see items like this on Craig’s List all the time for much cheaper. Source: IKEA

The Husband and Wife Team at Sew Woodsy Blog created this wonderful custom desk that works into the closet space. I absolutely love this!            Source: SewWoodsy.com

 

Now for the Craft Table/Desk. I’m going to need lots of space for paper crafts, sewing, and painting. I found some awesome ideas that are super cheap and easy to put together.

This big spacious work table is so simple to make. All you need is 4 book shelves from Walmart or IKEA and two doors. How Clever! I think I’d probably make a skirt to hide to the underside of the table. Click the image for full instructions.                       Source: The Ivy Cottage Blog

 

This variation is a bit smaller but I really like the look of the cube storage. I know the 9×9 cubbies sell at Target for about $36 and I’m sure IKEA has them also. I like the idea of using butcher block instead of plywood for the top. There are detailed plans at the website if you click the link. Source: Ana White- Homemaker

Here’s a spin on the Cube Storage Units but this one uses 4 instead of 2. I like this a lot! Way more storage space. Only problem is there is no place to put your feet if you want to sit at the table. This works better if you like to stand while you craft. Source: Georgia Peachez

Real Food: How to Cut Processed Foods Out of Your Life

Among my New Year’s resolutions this year is the desire to become healthier and to eat better. I will be talking a lot in the coming weeks about all the different things I’ll be changing about my diet this year. One of the benefits for you is that you will be seeing a lot more nutritious, healthful recipes on Homemaker Chic in 2013. This week I want to talk about Real Food. I am learning about it from Lisa Leake author of the blog 100 Days of Real Food. The basic idea is to cut out processed foods in exchange for REAL healthy simple foods from nature. Check out the link for more information from Lisa about the 100 Day challenge.

 

I didn’t think I was really all that unhealthy to be honest. I eat a lot of fresh vegetables. I don’t use a lot of packaged products. I steer clear of anything that seems über unhealthy. But when I began reading the ingredients lists of basic foods in my home (like Peanut Butter, Tomato Soup or Pickles) I was shocked at all the junk in there that I did not want in my body! Why do pickles need to have 16 ingredients? With all the supposed benefits from science and technology, why is it that people seem to be more sick than ever before? Cancer, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, celiac disease, anxiety, depression. All of these health problems are more rampant today than ever before. With all these “advances in medicine” shouldn’t we be getting better and not worse? Something just isn’t adding up here. With all the problems I’ve had with pregnancies, and the battery of tests they’ve put me through to find out what’s wrong, none of my doctors thought to ask, “Hey what are you putting in your body?”

Sorry medical profession, you’ve failed me. I’m taking things into my own hands.

So this year I am taking the plunge, and going all in. I’m getting back to basics. Basically if a food requires some sort of technology or treatment to be prepared I’m not buying it. Only fresh, simple ingredients this year (and hopefully beyond!) I will also be talking next week about going Gluten Free, so keep an eye out for that post, and for some yummy GF recipes this year!

Here are some of Lisa’s rules about what to eat and what NOT to eat if you decide to try the Real Food Lifestyle. I hope you’ll consider this for you and your family. Being healthy and vibrant is the best gift you can give yourself this year.

 

What you CAN eat:

  1. Whole foods that are more a product of nature than a product of industry
  2. Lots of fruits and vegetables (we recommend that you shop for these at your local farmers’ market)
  3. Dairy products like milk, unsweetened yogurt, eggs, and cheese
  4. 100% whole-wheat and whole-grains (find a local bakery for approved sandwich bread and check the Understanding Grains post for more info)
  5. Seafood (wild caught is the optimal choice over farm-raised)
  6. Only locally raised meats such as pork, beef, and chicken (preferably in moderation)
  7. Beverages limited to water, milk, all natural juices, naturally sweetened coffee & tea, and, to help the adults keep their sanity, wine and beer!
  8. Snacks like dried fruit, seeds, nuts and popcorn
  9. All natural sweeteners including honey, 100% maple syrup, and fruit juice concentrates are acceptable in moderation
  10. Also check out the Recipes & Resources page for a more detailed list of meal options including links to recipes

What you CANNOT eat:

  1. No refined grains such as white flour or white rice (items containing wheat must say WHOLE wheat…not just “wheat”)
  2. No refined sweeteners such as sugar, any form of corn syrup, cane juice, or the artificial stuff like Splenda
  3. Nothing out of a box, can, bag, bottle or package that has more than 5 ingredientslisted on the label
  4. No deep fried foods
  5. No “fast foods”

     

    How to Avoid Processed Food in General

    If you feel that you have the will, but not the skill to do the 10 Days of Real Food pledgethen here are some general lifestyle changes to consider instead…

    1. Read the ingredients label before buying anything. For years, if I even looked at food labels, I was reviewing items such as fat grams, calorie count and sugar content. While this may be important to some, the best indicator of how highly processed a food is can actually be found in the list of ingredients. If what you are buying contains more than 5 ingredients and includes a lot of unfamiliar, unpronounceable items you may want to reconsider before buying.
    2. Increase your consumption of whole foods especially vegetables and fruits. I am sure you’ve heard similar advice a thousand times, and I hate to tell you that it couldn’t be more true. This will help to displace the processed foods in your diet, and will actually make your food selections in general very simple. No more counting calories, fat grams, or carbs when your only concern is selecting whole foods that are more a product of nature than a product of industry.
    3. Buy your bread from a local bakery. I actually used to eat white bread, but what I bought for my husband from the grocery store was what I thought was whole-wheat bread. When we finally checked the ingredients and found 40 different items on the list, including white flour and sugar, we decided it was time for a change. Why would there be so many on the list if it only takes a handful of ingredients to make bread? We since started buying our bread from Great Harvest Bread Company. Not only do they grind their own wheat every morning, but their honey whole-wheat loaf only has five ingredients – whole-wheat flour, water, yeast, salt and honey.
    4. In addition to your bread choice, when selecting foods like pastas, cereals, rice, and crackers always go for the whole-grain option. And don’t just believe the health claims on the outside of the box.  Read the ingredients to make sure the product is truly made with only 100% whole grains – not a combination of whole grains and refined grains which is unfortunately how a lot of “whole grain” products are made. The white flour or other refined grain alternative is simply high in calories and low in nutrition.
    5. Avoid store-bought products containing high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and those “that have some form of sugar (or sweetener) listed among the top three ingredients” according to Michael Pollan. Despite the mixed research on if HFCS is really worse for you than good ol’ white sugar, it just happens to be “a reliable marker for a food product that has been highly processed”.
    6. Don’t order off the kids’ menu. The next time your family is out to dinner try to avoid the kids menu. Those selections are most often things like pre-made chicken nuggets, fries, and pasta made with white flour, among other things. Instead try assembling some sort of side item plate (like baked potatoes and whatever else your kid will tolerate) and/or try sharing some of your meal.
    7. Visit your local farmers’ market the next time you need to restock your fridge.According to Michael Pollan not only will you find “food that is in season, which is usually when it is most nutritious”, but you will also find a selection of pesticide-free produce and properly fed meat products. It is also better for our environment to purchase locally grown products as opposed to the supermarket produce, which travels on average 1500 miles from the farm to your plate.
    8. Lastly, to once again quote Michael Pollan, he says to “eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself.” If you had to peel, chop and deep fry potatoes every time you wanted French fries then you might not eat them very often. Only eating “junk food” such as cakes, sweets, and fried foods as often as you are willing to make them yourself will automatically ensure the frequency is appropriate.