This Is Me

Jessie Bee
I am a seeker of God, a help-meet to my husband and a mother to my 3 children. I love hot lattes, good books, cold weather and anything that inspires me to be creative. I desire simplicity and authenticity, but often have to remind myself to seek those .
View my complete profile
Powered by Blogger.

My Friends:

Monday, April 25, 2011

Food 101: Organic

Wow.  I knew it had been awhile since I posted, but not THAT long.  Nearly 2 weeks?  Sorry guys.  Especially now that I realize just HOW many readers I have.  I had no idea!

If you were to come over to my house, about 85% of the time you'd find me in my kitchen.  I love everything food:  cooking, shopping, creating, baking, even composting, haha.  But I also love researching.  And that research has extended beyond looking up recipes that I cook; it also includes the food that I buy.  Well, if you follow my reading list (in fact, if you have ever even just once looked at my reading list...because I update that WAY less than my posts!), you'll notice I've been reading a book called "To Buy or Not to Buy Organic."  I finally finished it a couple weeks ago and wanted to condense the information for those of you who like to incorporate organic foods into your diet, but don't know where to start.

In our country, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) all have a hand in regulating conventional (read: pesticide) farming.  Well, I guess they technically don't have a hand in it, more like just a couple fingers.  They are not efficient or all-encompassing when it comes to what they watch, know, see, and regulate.  In fact, much of what is done in OUR country is completely banned in other countries.  Why?  Because other countries have a concern about their people, not about what big corporations are writing 7-figure checks to the government.  Sorry if I sound bitter.  But when over 50 of the pesticides used on our produce is considered carcinogenic (read: cancer-causing), you have to wonder why they don't stop it?  

Thankfully we can do something about it.  I read another book once that told me we vote for organic food every time we purchase it.  In fact, most milk is now rBHS hormone-free because people kept voting for it (by only purchasing from suppliers who offered it).  Even Costco has a wide selection of organic products because the customers keep asking for it.  And its relatively easy to find - just look for the little seal "USDA Organic."

Okay, I know, I know, organic food is expensive.  And that's probably the BIGGEST turn off for most people, especially since most of us live on a budget and strive to be frugal.  My first answer to that is start small.  Make one change.  Our family started with organic, free range eggs.  One of my good friends worked on several organic farms in New Zealand, one of which was a chicken farm.  She said she would only ever buy organic free-range eggs from that point on because she saw a stark difference in the treatment of those animals.  I trusted her and started there.  That was 3 years ago. Now approximately 60% of our food is organic, including our most of our milk, butter, ground beef, canned goods, produce and garden.  =)

Here is a sampling of our organic food.  The little onion is from my garden, the half and half, butter and beef came from Costco, produce and milk are from Henry's, and the other stuff comes from organic lines found in Vons and Trader Joe's.  The clementines in the background are NOT organic, and the mint in the background is from Henry's, but I don't believe its organic.

My second answer to navigating the high price of organic foods is to shop in season.  For instance, strawberries contain an obscene amount of residual pesticides at the time of consumption, and should really be organic.  Last week Henry's was selling non-organic strawberries for $2 a container, whereas the same size container of organic strawberries was $2.50.  Not a huge price jump, and if you bring your own reusable shopping bags instead of using their plastic ones, they take off 5 cents for each bag saved.  If you use 5 bags while shopping, you just saved yourself 25 cents, knocking the organic strawberries down to $2.25.  =)  Also, conventional gala apples were on sale for 99 cents a pound.  Organic gala apples?  Also 99 cents a pound.  Not a difficult decision.  Potatoes are usually the same price, as is organic spinach.  Usually the biggest price differences are seen when purchasing something out of season.

Now, to get to the book.  I'm going to keep this basic, but hopefully "hopeful" for those of us who can't buy strictly organic.  The good news about organic foods is that many tests have been done on produce to figure out the levels of pesticides/herbicides/etc that remain on them by the time they're ready for consumption.  Based on those tests, its easy to cut out about 90% of the pesticides consumed in our diets.  Here is an awesome shopping list for those interested:

TO BUY Organics:
-apples (including juice)
-baby food (or make your own from organic foods!)
-herbs, which are very susceptible to bugs, and thus have higher pesticide residue
-carrots, which are pesticide leeches.  Also, they absorb any heavy metals found in the ground.
-dairy products (including milk, butter, cheese - where does one buy organic cheese? - yogurt, etc)
-juice, esp. if your kids drink tons of it. - this is the HARDEST one for us!
-lemons and limes, if you commonly use the zest.
-lettuce, spinach, leafy greens
-nectarines and peaches
-peanuts, peanut butter - peanuts grow underground and absorb the toxins from the soil.  Ugh.
-pears, plums
-raspberries and strawberries!!  - these are heavy hitters when it comes to pesticide residue.
-rice, OR buy imported.  Like I mentioned earlier, the US uses more pesticides than most other countries.

That's a basic shopping list for organic foods.  Now, for the foods that you can buy conventional and not have to stress over.  =)

NOT TO BUY organic:
-bananas!!  Most bananas are grown outside the U.S., so naturally have less pesticides.  Also, their peel isn't commonly used for cooking and protects the fruit from absorbing much, if any pesticides.
-dried beans
-cabbage - pesticides don't work well on cabbage, haha
-cooking oil
-radishes - don't appeal to most insects.  Not sure why.  ;-)
-grapes grown in U.S.
-mandarin oranges (including clementines, yay!)
-onions, all types
-orange juice
-potato chips (though its wise to avoid these in excess, haha)
-sweet potatoes
-melons, including cantaloupe, watermelon, honeydew, etc.  Avoid imported, though.

These lists contains most of the foods discussed in the book.  If you have questions about anything not listed, please please please ask me.  Or if you're curious why a certain food is placed on a certain list, let me know and I'll tell you what the book says about that.

Now, the last thing worth discussing is imported, transported, or local.  Some people weigh out the gas vs the pesticide usage, etc.  It's nice to have organic eggs, but if they're coming from Texas, should I buy them?  The easiest way to absolve that guilt is to visit your local farmers market.  If its a good market, don't concern yourself with looking for the USDA Organic seal.  In order to be certified organic, farms have to go through a rigorous process and pay lots of money.  Despite the fact that most small farms practice organic and sustainable farming, many don't want to shell out the money just to get the label.  Just ask the farmers what their growing practices are, or better yet, visit the farm!!

I don't intend to overwhelm people with this post.  The world of pesticides, organics, conventional, and the government is so scary and foreign to most of us.  But no matter how small a positive change is, it's still a positive change and worth making.  So my encouragement to you is to avoid one small conventional purchase this week, and instead buy it organically.  A tomato, an apple, a container of strawberries.  Eventually all those little votes will add up to something big, and I believe organic foods will be widely available and affordable.

P.S. I posted the pita bread recipe in the comment section of the last post.  Sorry for the delay for those who asked for it!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Food 101: Pita Bread

So I was having a conversation with a good friend of mine (who has started her own blog, btw) and she was telling me about her lunch - a pita sandwich stuffed with goodness - and my mouth started salivating.  I couldn't get my mind off how delicious that sounded.  Then when I ran across a recipe for pita bread the very next day, I heard what sounded like angels singing and printed off the recipe.  Yesterday, with the "help" of my two girls, I got to work making our own uber delicious stock of pita bread.

The dough was simple enough.  I added all essential ingredients (minus about 50% of the flour) into my kitchenaid with the dough hook attachment.  Once combined, I slowly started adding more flour until it formed a soft dough.  Pulled that out of the bowl and kneaded for a few minutes.  I then let it stand for about what was supposed to be 45 minutes.  I forget what I was doing while I was waiting, but whatever it was, I was too enticed by the lure of fresh pita that I only lasted 40 minutes before resuming with the dough. I formed appr. 16 balls of dough and handed one to each of the girls.  Here they are working on them:

My 4 year old was rolling out her "cake bread" and I corrected her - No, its pita bread.  She replied, "I know.  I just call it cake bread."

Then my 3 year old pipes in, her voice a good 10 notches louder than ours, "I call it MOTHER bread."  Umm, ok.  So here she is with her mother bread...

At one point, my sassy 3 year old decided she needed a little more "powder" for her dough.  

I was a little more intentional with my dough.  I rolled each ball to just over the circumference of my yellow bowl and, with a knife, cut away the excess.  This made perfectly round circles - just like a pita.  However, I'll let you in on a little secret - it wasn't necessary.  I tried both ways (keeping it irregular vs cutting it perfect) and when it puffs up, it loses its perfect shape anyway.  So don't bother with this step.

A good tip I read regarding pita bread is to cook it on a cooling rack instead of a cookie sheet.  Doing so gives it less grip and promotes puffiness.  Well, I don't think the word puffiness was used.  But that's what happened.  So once on the cooling rack, into the oven they go...

They came out of the oven 7 minutes later and they were amazing!  

Not to mention the magic of the pocket that pita bread is so well known for.  I have no idea how it happens, but it does.  Perfect for stuffing with pb&j or, in my case, turkey and romaine.


Saturday, April 9, 2011


Our house is constantly full of laughs so I wanted to share a few of them with you:

A few weeks ago I was fortunate enough to go to an amazing women's retreat.  In an effort to keep the kids alive while I was gone (only joking, my husband is an EXCELLENT daddy), I purchased some instant oatmeal.  Our son and older daughter both know how to prepare it, but apparently our 3 year old doesn't because last week when I found her eating the oatmeal for breakfast...

...she ate it DRY!  Can you see it?  Silly girl.


One of Stuart's favorite foods is slushes from Sonic.  Sometimes I wonder if he purposely picked his truck mechanic by location, because his mechanic is out in Lakeside (20 miles away) and the closest Sonic to us is a few miles away from his shop.   Hmmm?  Well, he recently had to make the drive out there and, surprise of all surprises, he stopped by Sonic on the way home.  When he had to leave the house a few minutes later, he left his strawberry slush with me. 

I was having a really hard time slurping up the rest of it, so I opened up the lid and behold:

  Lemons.  Is this normal?  I don't drink enough of these to know.

Sorry this next pic is so blurry, but I still thought it was worth posting.  We ran out of pull-ups for our 3 year old's bedtime so we've been frugal and have her use the rest of the diapers we have (bought a huge Costco box about a week before we potty trained her...what was I thinking?).  So bedtime came and we told her it was time to put on her bedtime diaper.  Well, she listened.

[picture has been removed]

So what about you?  What made YOU smile (or laugh) this week?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Gardening 101: Composting!

Before beginning my own blog, I read blogs on blogging.  Many of these blogs had lists on what makes a good blog, and all of these lists included one thing:  having a theme.  Essentially by focusing on what you already excel at and blogging about it, you should have a decent blog.

Well, I don't excel at any one thing; I'm merely decent at a LOT of things.  So I thought, fine, I'll just have categories that focus on my interests:  food, health, gardening, and possibly creative stuff.  I had grand visions of blogging daily and filling up those categories with tons of useful information.  Well obviously THAT isn't going to happen anytime soon.  Now I simply stick to those titles because I'm borderline OCD and I'd go mental if there wasn't some sort of organization to this blog.  I'm not sure why I gave you this little preface, other than I'm beginning another segment (gardening).

Now, to focus on the actual post: composting.

I have a passion for gardening.  It kind of ends the passion part.  I don't have a gift for gardening, I don't have endless motivation for gardening, and I definitely don't have the right color thumb for gardening.  As one of my good friends said one time, "I can make good dirt, I just can't grow anything in it."  That's essentially what I'm doing now.  Making good dirt.  Well, that and limiting how much unnecessary food waste enters the landfill.

So last month I went to World Market and, armed with a coupon and $10 in rewards cash, I picked out this adorable countertop compost bin.  

Countertop bins are NOT meant to actually do the composting.  It's just an efficient way to collect scraps throughout the week so you don't have to walk out to your real bin every time you crack an egg or cut tops off of strawberries.  Which is what I did.  And you'd be surprised at the stuff that can go into a compost bin:  any fruit or vegetable waste, grains, breads, coffee grounds and tea bags, spices, crushed egg shells, corn cobs and husks, etc.  Although we consume nearly all of our leftovers at later meals and freeze veggies and fruit before they spoil (good for stews and smoothies later on), we still manage to create waste.  So for the past two weeks I have been putting these scraps into my countertop bin.  When it finally filled to capacity yesterday, I went to the store and spent $5.47 on a basic plastic tub.  I drilled air holes in the lid and drainage holes in the bottom.  Here's a picture of the drainage holes:

When that was done, I put some green matter and brown matter into the bin.  When I read about composting, I found out that its important to include browns and greens in your compost mixture to ensure efficient breakdown of the food.  Green matter (nitrogen rich) is usually grass clippings, weeds, vines, and plant stalks.  Brown matter (carbon rich) can consist of sawdust, cardboard, shredded paper and hay.  You generally want more browns then green.  Here is my starting mixture (I'll be adding shredded paper to it also):

With that done, I dumped out my food waste into my bin and covered it with the lid (I would have showed a pic of the food scraps, but it was NASTY!).  I read that a good way to prevent tiny pests from sneaking into the bin is to line the holes and rim with newspaper.  Still breathable, but creates a decent barrier.   When moist, just add it to the compost and re-line!  Then go out and stir the mixture once a week (or each time you add more food waste).

I figure it should take several months to fill this bin.  At that time, I'll buy one more plastic tub and start over in that one while the first bin is finishing its decomposition.  It will probably take around 6-9 months for this first bin to create a good mixture.  If all goes as planned, we should only ever need the two bins, which we'll alternate filling as they become full.  

Now I just need to create a bigger better garden so this compost can go to good use!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

When Life Happens

Life can be sarcastic sometimes.  Like when you wash your car and park it under a a tree...where birds gather...and drop, umm, stuff.  Or when you arrive at an awesome movie early enough to be too late and there are only front row seats left and the guy 6 rows back thinks its funny to throw popcorn at your head and then they have to interrupt the movie to escort that said guy out, which is ultimately a good thing but why you just spend $22 for that experience, you don't even know.

Or when you wake up with a muscle spasm.

Let's take a deeper look at the latter.  Sometimes muscle spasms are a good reminder to take things easy, but they don't make sense when the only thing you did was SLEEP.  However two Thursdays ago, I did wake up with a muscle spasm.  "Whatevs," as my sister would say.  But a few days later, that muscle spasm turned into a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad neck pain.  And I mean VERY BAD.  I talked with my twin sister about it because she went through a nearly identical (no pun intended) experience a couple months back.  When she went to her doctor's about it and found no remedy there, she visited a chiropractor who luckily got her on the road to healing.  One of my favorite quotes says that "smart people learn from their mistakes; wise people learn from others."  Taking that advice, I visited my local chiropractor first in hopes of finding relief.    I laid face down on the bed and had the chiropractor prod my spine looking for my C5 and L3 and tell me I had things like a "presenting octopus" (or something like that).

When my session was finished, I felt absolutely no better.  I wanted to cry, mostly because having 3 children and no housekeeper made this pain feel intolerable.  Well, no, the pain actually was intolerable.  I've given birth without an epidural and because that pain had an obvious purpose, I considered it 'tolerable'.  But this?  No, absolutely not.  It was virtually unbearable, and my poor sweet husband had stayed up with me or woken up to my crying because of how awful it was.  Thankfully he was very patient about it and sat with me, rubbing my shoulder, until I could relax enough to fall asleep.

Because I thought what I had was a muscle spasm, I kept trying to rest my neck, but there was very little indication of it getting better.  Since my husband was going out of town this weekend, I was getting increasingly worried that I was going to have to watch my three kids alone when I could barely roll out of bed myself.  However, my mom readily volunteered to pick the kids up and let them stay over.  That accomplished two things:  I was able to rest a whole lot, icing my neck and shoulder, and secondly, I was able to get to the doctors this morning.  Diagnosis: I have a SPRAINED NECK.  Who has ever heard of such a thing??  Once again I wanted to cry as the doctor said there was no quick fix - I have to wait it out.  But I did receive a bit of good news: I'm allowed to move.  He said being up and about is actually a good thing for healing, which is the best news any injured mom could hear.  Then the doctor asked me which pain medication I preferred, and went on to list several types.  I sat there a bit confused, as I only recognized one of the names (vicodin) and sheepishly told him that I've never taken prescription pain medications before.  I've given birth 3 times and had all 4 wisdom teeth removed - and still have never taken prescription pain meds.  Well, I guess I've taken the prescription strength Motrin at the hospital after giving birth.  So he prescribed what he thought would work best, and now I'm home and resting.

On another note, one thing that really helped in taking my mind off the pain was picking up Francine River's 'Redeeming Love.'

I read this book over a decade ago and knew it to be a good one, but since it had been awhile since I read it, I decided to pick it up again.  It required no deep thinking on my part so thankfully (!!) the story helped get my mind off the pain.  However, I finished it in a day and because I'm desperately trying to declutter my home, I see no reason to leave this sitting on my bookshelf.  So, I'd love to give it away to someone who wants to read it.  Doesn't matter if you've read it before or not, but I would prefer it go to someone who won't be storing it on their bookshelf for several months before getting to it.  If you're interested, feel free to leave a comment (or Facebook message, if you're a FB friend) saying so.  I'll be using the highly technical name-in-a-hat drawing method on April 6th so you have until then to let me know!

(I feel funny writing this post, but this is my life, and this is what's going on.  Also, want to give a real quick thank you to Jenny, for answering my late night calls; Mom, for rushing over at my worst time and getting me to the chiropractor; Megan, for your willingness to sponsor my children (and ultimately letting Cadence come sleepover with his best buddy), Connie, for messaging me and lending her knowledge, and my husband and kids for their help, patience, flowers, and Rubios!  I feel like I'm writing a book or cd cover.  I'm not, but I'm super grateful to these people.  This was a hard week, but I lived!)
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Blog Design by Delicious Design Studio