What cooking does for my soul

I like cooking best when the kitchen is quiet. Kids napping. I think, perhaps, because I am creating something, making a new thing from other things, the door is opened for me to ponder. Pondering what is going on in my life, marveling at the good things God has brought to our family, considering what direction to take our family or how best to meet a need. I often pray when cooking. It just spills out sometimes, like a pot set on a back burner that finally boils over.

I love how it feels when I taste what I made, and it is good! Don’t you think, God must have had a lot of fun creating the world?!

My cooking specialty is in the Art of Tweaking. I love to tweak a recipe! Sometimes it is because I don’t have the thing on hand, sometimes it is because I know I can make it taste better or make the process go faster. Sometimes I plan to not tweak and then I forget and I do. Lastly, sometimes it is simply because I messed up!

My tweaking adventure from yesterday was all about biscuits. I measured the dry ingredients, and cut in the butter. Then I set the buttermilk next to the bowl and asked my 4 year old to mix it into the dry. (I was dealing with a 2 year old moment.) I came back, looked into the bowl, and it was a soupy wet mess of dough. I didn’t have enough butter to triple the recipe – I had added 2 cups of buttermilk instead of 2/3 of a cup. So I decided to add more flour and try my hand at making fried biscuits.

They were amazing!! I have never had my dad like a bread type of food that I made so much. I fried them in pork lard – a good source of fat. Yum yum!

The lesson I love from this is to try to solve the mess before you throw it out.

 ~ Savvy Food Mama

*How* we eat….

What a funny title for a blog post!!!  Well, I promised y’all that I would share how we avoid the conundrum of an open-house refrigerator. So here it is!

We feed the family 3-4 times a day. Breakfast around 7-7:15am, lunch @ noon-ish, snack about 3:30-4pm and dinner is usually between 5 and 5:30. The adults in the house may or may not have a snack. We use the French word for that, “goûter” pronounced goo-tay.

I usually do not allow any eating between meals. There are occasional exceptions, like a party or a special playdate.  Tough mama? Nope. Think back to traditional cultures where their survival depended on them working very hard for every thing they used – clothes, food, shelter. They didn’t have time to be grazing constantly!!! Do you remember talking about the “satiety switch” that is triggered by the good fats? ( Eating enough good fats is the key here to being satisfied for several hours. Gradually, one begins to get hungry again. And then it is time to eat. It does take a consistent effort on my part to make sure we are including enough good fats at a meal. I frequently ask myself, “what else can I do to add good fats in?” In America, we actually eat very little good fats. For our good fats, we focus on coconut oil, pastured butter and cod liver oil. I notice my little people do really well on 1 tsp of good fats/meal. An adult needs more like 1 Tbs.

It is so interesting to see what my metabolism is up to right now. I am pregnant with my third baby, and thus far, I have always thought that I was just “one of those” pregnant mamas that needed to eat 6 times a day. You know – breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner, snack. This is the first pregnancy I am not experiencing those cravings. I can tell the difference when I am eating enough of the good fats. Most of the time, I stop eating with dinner. On the occasion where I have forgotten or skipped the good fats, sure enough I end up hungry sooner or more frequently than usual. 

You know, it is no secret that the U.S. is considered unhealthy. The latest I have heard is that 1/3 of the country’s population is obese and another 1/3 is overweight. I don’t know how accurate that is, but it makes me wonder about this predicament we are in. Do you ever wonder if maybe it is because of the way we’ve learned to eat? With all the vending machines available and the habits of eating between meals or on the run, it is just so easy to eat very frequently.  What do you think?

~ Savvy Food Mama

Grass-fed beef and Wild-Caught Salmon, among other things…

What are important markers to pay attention to in our meats?  How do we tell if we are getting the good stuff vs. the yucky stuff?  What do I look for when buying meats?

I think right now there is a lot going on in the food supply, some things good and some not good. So here is what I look for:

1.  Is the animal I am eating (beef, chicken, fish – whathaveyou) itself eating a Native Diet? So, for example, cows are designed to eat grass and hay. Their stomachs are not meant to handle grains. What do you think happens when the cows eat grain? Same thing that happens to us when we consume things like processed foods – it converts into fat.* Excess fat!

Interestingly, this is considered a good economically because it has led to beef that is more marbled. On the flip side, we are seeing the unprecedented rise in obesity and being told “watch your fat intake”.

Okay, so we are eating beef that has been grown with food that is not native to the diet, i.e. ultimately toxic to the animal (see below*). What do you think would happen if we ate beef that only consumed grass? Less fat content, yet the beef itself contains high nutrients converted from plants! This is what my family tries to eat – beef that has eaten only grass.

2. Is the animal living in their Native Habitat? This is not essential for everything, but it does make a difference  – pigs always indoors vs. getting to run around outside, lots of fish crammed in a fish farm vs. swimming free in the ocean, cows on pasture vs. always in a confined small space.

3.  Check the lingo! This is really important. Grass-fed beef means it ate mostly grass, but it may have eaten grain at the very end.  Whereas grass-finished means it ate grass all the way through. Amish chicken sounds great, but you will still want to check that it is free range and not given hormones. A less well-known thing to check with your chicken is that it is not fed soy – soy feed is a (now) typical feed for chickens and is often Genetically Modified. Wild-caught fish are better than farmed fish as they get to live in and eat from their natural habitat.

Hope these three tips help! Do you buy your meats local? Ever try buying 1/2 cow? What is your experience – I’d love to hear it in the comments!

~ Savvy Food Mama

*Awesome article on what happens in the cow digestive process:

The Story of Flavor…part 3

So the sugar has to go somewhere….

Picture that huge wheelbarrow full of sugar in the last post on flavor – 130lbs/year for average Americans – and think for a minute about your own body. It has a digestive track that pulls nutrients from food and sends them where they are needed all over the body. However, if most or lots of what you are consuming is sugar (or converts to sugar) that has to go somewhere!  The medical evidence is finding that cancer lives on sugar.  (See video clip below.) Metabolic syndrome, a fancy name for a large waistline, is connected with excess sugar. Type 2 diabetes and Obesity are connected with over-consumption of sugar. Sugar is a key known aggravater of inflammation.

Typical breakfast

Lets look at an often, typical version of a day’s food.  Breakfast: doughnuts and coffee (or just a big soda). Morning snack: pop tarts from the vending machine @ work. Lunch: Sandwich and chips. Afternoon snack: a candy bar from the vending machine. Dinner: Spaghetti and garlic bread.

Okay, so breaking this down, how much of this would actually convert to sugar in the body??? Doughnuts, soda, pop tarts, bread on the sandwich, chips, candy bar, spaghetti and garlic bread. Whew! Most of it!

Nutritious option #1

Nutritious option #2

Now lots of us do better than that. We get in a salad at lunch, or we opt for a granola bar for a snack. The point, though, is not to slay ourselves for what we have been doing.  The first point is to recognize what we are eating, to create an awareness of what we are eating. Done that? Score!

Okay, the second point is to choose to swap things out. I love doing this in BABY STEPS!

So….bring a hard boiled egg with you out the door for breakfast. Maybe get up 5 minutes earlier and make a smoothie. Or pack some snacks that give more protein instead of simply carbs. Ideas – nuts, or nut butters. I’d love to hear more ideas in the comments!

One more reason why this is so important: remember how we talked about that “satiety switch” triggered by the good fats? When we remove some of these excess carbs/sugars and replace them with proteins and good fats, that “satiety switch” will be triggered thus allowing us to experience a true sense of satisfaction.

~ Savvy Food Mama

I would like to suggest that you check out this 15 minute clip on what the medical community is finding with sugar. I found that it helped me understand why so many people are suffering from chronic diseases. It also helped me understand why keeping tabs on my sugar intake could make a big difference in my health.

*Awesome link to an article on Sugar and Inflammation for further reading:

The Story of Flavor…part 2 or How to Track your Sugar Consumption

Fat provides flavor. So, as fat was understood to be bad for you and consumers didn’t want to eat it, companies began removing fat from food.  What do you think they replaced it with to make food taste good?


But how much you ask? Good question! The top 2 types of sugar used in foods are refined white sugar and high fructose corn syrup. The amounts vary in different foods, yet sugar is often present, and in higher amounts than you might think.  Let me show you.

Heinz Ketchup:

Heinz Ketchup Nutrition Facts

You’ll notice it says “serving size 1 Tablespoon”. If you look down the @sugar amount, it says 4 grams. What that means is that in every 1 Tablespoon there is 4 grams of sugar.

Now 4 grams of sugar = 1 teaspoon. (This is an easy way for you to figure out how much sugar is in what you are eating.) Since, 3 teaspoons = 1 Tablespoon, we know that in every serving of ketchup, 1/3 of that serving is sugar.  I am going to show you one more label and let you do that quick check – divide the grams by 4 and you’ll know how many teaspoons of sugar per serving are in that food.

Yoplait yogurt:

Yoplait Yogurt Nutrition Facts

Did you get that amount? That is a lot of sugar!!!

What does all the sugar in things mean for us? It means that we are often consuming sugar without realizing it, and thus contributing to the quantity of how much sugar we eat per day.   I want to show you what the ramifications of eating lots of sugar, often unnoticed, looks like.  Here it is in a image:
Nursing Your Sweet Tooth

This content is hosted @


Baby step B: Track your sugar. If you are reading the labels, you begin to become more aware of how much sugar you are consuming. Then it becomes easier to tweak how/what you consume. For example, you might decide to eat plain yogurt and sweeten it yourself. Then you control how much sugar you eat at that time. Or, you might use less ketchup. Or you might decide that as the cereal you are eating has sugar already, you won’t add any more. See? It is easy. Baby steps!!

Ok, up next: That sugar has to go somewhere!

~ Savvy Food Mama

The Story of Flavor…part 1

Once upon a time, everyone ate their food with the fats intact that were natural to the food. Particularly the fats from animals (such as beef). Food tasted delicious and the fats triggered a “satiety switch”, flipping that in the brain.

Then, in order to find a cure for heart disease and other chronic conditions, research was done.  The common understanding of what happens physiologically became:  high cholesterol means “I am consuming too much fat”.  Or, in other words, eating fat equals fat on me. Here is the scary truth today:

           “Despite the fact that 25% of the population takes expensive statin medications and despite the fact we have reduced the fat content of our diets, more Americans will die this year of heart disease than ever before.” *

  • About 600,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year–that’s 1 in every 4 deaths.**

So where does that leave us?

The medical community has begun to understand the link between inflammation and chronic disease.

Any guesses as to what is the biggest factor in causing inflammation?

“the overload of simple, highly processed carbohydrates (sugar, flourand all the products made from them) and the excess consumption of omega-6 vegetable oils like soybean, corn and sunflower that are found in many processed foods.”*

Processed CARBOHYDRATES! Yikes!

The worst ones are from the store and in a box, can, or package.

What can we do instead? I like to focus on replacing things before I look at tossing them out the window. This makes for a gradual process that is easier to maintain, particularly when there are other family members to consider. So,

Baby step A: replace processed carbohydrates with whole foods (like fruits, veggies) or make it yourself.  I have several tricks up my sleeve to make this easier, because life is busy. Stay tuned for these tricks.

Do you have tricks for eating less processed carbs? How about on the go? Or for dinners? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

~ Savvy Food Mama