Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Is the Chicken You Eat Carrying Too Much Water Weight?

Does your chicken carry a lot of water weight?

Anyone who has ever been on a serious diet knows the meaning of water weight. It’s the weight you lose that first week or two after you’ve restricted your regular eating to baby carrots with dip and low-sodium chicken broth. Five pounds in a week! You can get the same results after a few days of the stomach bug. It’s just water and it soon returns. Water weighs a lot. I can attest to this every winter when I forget to drain the hose and end up hauling five gallon buckets of water from the pump to the barn.

So what does water weight have to do with chicken? Let me tell you.

If you’ve ever priced organically grown, grass-fed chicken you’ve probably been a little frightened by the sticker price. It is expensive. Plus it’s a little on the scrawny side, too. The first time I brought home a $30 chicken, my husband took one look at it and asked if we were having Cornish hens for dinner. I purchased this chicken at the farmer’s market from Lynn, whose farm I have visited where she regaled me with stories of her early days of raising hundreds of chickens and turkeys on their wooded property as a single mom to the horror of her teenage son. This chicken looked perfectly fine to me, but it certainly wasn’t plump and pink and perfect like the meat that stretches the plastic at the grocery store.

Want to know why? 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Saving Money on Organic Food (Deals, Discounts, and Delivery)

I recently ran across an article on the Internet entitled, How to Eat Organic on a Budget. Since this is the tag line for my Homemade Life workshop, I clicked on over. This article listed 75 ways to save money while eating organically, most of which I already do and a few that caused me to chuckle (get a couple of chickens and hatch your own eggs - really that's all there is to it? and skip the Starbucks -duh). It also listed sites where you could find discount coupons and deals on organic products. I was excited – this is useful information! So I spent the better part of an afternoon exploring these sites. And I learned two things –

If you spend two hours tracking down a coupon for 50 cents off a product, you probably haven’t really saved anything.

Most sites that make big promises are either for products you’ve never heard of and have no need for, or are full of dated information and expired coupons, but plenty of advertising.

And here’s the thing about coupons – they’re only useful if you were planning to buy that product anyway. Otherwise they’ve done exactly what the company had hoped when they hired that fancy advertising genius – they’ve tricked you in to buying their product.

A few of the sites did actually garner real coupons on products you might actually find in your grocery store. Now, I make no promises that your grocery store accepts these coupons. The world of coupons is lost on me mostly because coupons are for processed food – organic or otherwise, and I avoid processed food – organic or otherwise- as a rule of thumb.

All of that said, I will share with you the sites that looked promising because I know I’m an oddity and most people have no choice but to buy processed food (or starve) so I’d rather you bought organic processed food if you must buy processed food at all.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Live Intentionally

NOTE: This is an introductory chapter explaining my working title for my forthcoming book based on this blog. After WAY too much agonizing, I finally decided that my blog is about much more than eating. It's also about more than organic living. It's about living intentionally. So, that's the title (for now) - Live Intentionally. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this chapter. The manuscript goes to beta readers this Friday! 


What Does an Intentional Life Look Like?

An Intentional Life is a life that is authentic. It’s real. It can be trusted.  It means not just healthier eating, but knowing your food – where it came from, how it was prepared, and what it can do for you. It’s also enjoying that food and taking pride in the care you’ve taken in selecting or creating it.
It’s feeling good about how you spend your time and how your children spend their time. It’s taking care of your body and teaching your children to do the same. It’s exploring your own creativity and ability and not being a stand-by passenger in this life. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Are YOU a Camel, too?

Note: This is a chapter taken from my new book based on this Blog! I am still in the editing phases so if you notice a typo or grammatical slip-up, I’d appreciate the heads up. Also, if there is anything here that is cause for alarm or confusion, point it out. If you loved it, hated it, or think you know a better way – tell me that, too. You can do this by posting in the comments or by shooting me an e-mail at cara.achterberg@rocketmail.com.

Drink More Water (Plus a bonus Soapbox Sermon on Plastic!)

Drink more water. I know you’ve heard that before. I think I’m part camel because I'm able to go nearly all day without a drink. But I’m trying to do better.
Here’s just a few of the things water does for you (if you drink enough): increases energy level, reduces joint/back pain, prevents headaches, aids in digestion and prevents constipation, ensures proper circulation, increases metabolism and regulates appetites, and keeps us alive (we can live a month without food, but only a week without water).
Recently I read Stiff by Mary Roach. In Stiff, Roach investigates what happens to our bodies once we die. The book considers all the possibilities from donating your body to science to becoming human compost. It sounds gruesome, but it was a really fun read. This book taught me two valuable lessons.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Guess What!

Guess what Dear Readers??!! I’m writing a book! (Okay, if you know me very well, you know I’m always writing a book, but this is different!) This book is based on this blog! I’ve finally wrestled all (okay some) of the information down into a manageable format and I’m getting mighty close to having it ready for my Beta Readers. (Note: If you’re local and you’d like to be a Beta Reader for me, shoot me an e-mail.)

What’s a Beta Reader you ask? I didn’t know myself the first time I stumbled across the term since the only Betas I know wind up floating dead in my youngest son’s fish bowl a few months after we buy them. Well, a Beta Reader is a person who agrees to read a book when an author has done all she can do with it but before she’s taken the next step to actually publishing it. Beta Readers must be brave and, more importantly, have time on their hands. They read for content and flow and accuracy. They make notes and offer feedback about the scope, format, and content of the book. Some Beta Readers (but not all) catch grammar mistakes and typos. Basically, they tell the author what they like and don’t like about the book. They give an opinion on what works and what doesn’t.

There’s no pay offered (since most authors have no money), but there is extreme gratitude offered. In my case this gratitude will come in the form of homemade applesauce, fresh eggs (if my new girls ever start laying), a free copy of the book when it’s published, and probably some lovely wine and snacks during the final focus group.

I’m hoping to have my manuscript ready for Beta Readers by September 12. That’s a completely unrealistic goal, but I’m setting it anyway. I like a good challenge (as you’ll discover if you read my new book!). That said, I must take a breather from this blog. But don’t despair Dear Reader because while I may be taking a breather from creating new content, I will be posting a chapter from the book each week. That way you can be a virtual Beta Reader. And, if you’re so inclined, you can offer your own edits, thoughts, etc. You can post them in the comment section for all the world to see, or if you’d rather, you can e-mail them to me directly. I’ll post a link to do this at the end of each chapter, along with a few questions to get your editing juices going. Look for the first post this Wednesday!

Want to be one of my Beta Readers? Live nearby? (this is required so that I can ply you with wine at our final focus group) Let me know and I'll send you all the juicy details!
cara.achterberg@rocketmail.com




Thursday, August 14, 2014

My Quest for the Perfect Pickle

Pickles have always been my nemesis. The first year I learned to can, I put up nearly 15 quarts of pickles. They were “bread and butter” pickles which makes absolutely no sense to me because why would pickles be associated with bread and butter? Once upon a time did people eat butter and pickle sandwiches? All that aside, bread and butter is not sweet and sweet is what these pickles were, plus mealy and more of a brown color than green. I worried with every bite that they’d gone bad. I had a new baby at the time and like most new parents I was stricken with a paranoia that everything was out to kill me or my babe. So I placed the jars in a neat row above the bulkhead in my kitchen and they stayed there for nearly five years until we moved. They looked really nice up there and people often commented on how clever and quaint I was to can pickles. Luckily, no one ever asked to taste those pickles.

In our tiny kitchen at our next house there was no bulkhead so when I finally came across the jars (packed by the movers three to a box with insane amounts of paper and bubble wrap), I promptly opened them up and dumped their contents in the compost bin.

I took another shot at pickles a few years later and created beautiful dill pickles that were so bitter they left an aftertaste that didn’t go away until hours after I’d dumped the last jar in the compost. The next year I tried a new recipe and the pickles turned a completely unappetizing watery brown color which was fine since they had no taste at all. So the next year I went out and bought a kit. (Yes, they do make pickle kits.) The pickles looked gorgeous, but once again they were mealy and super sweet. I didn’t dump those jars and pulled them out on occasion to make egg salad, but they certainly weren’t the pickles I’d been dreaming of. (Yes, some people do dream of perfect pickles.) I’m fairly sure I still have one of those jars in the back of my cabinet.

I moved on to sun pickles, refrigerator dills, and sweet pickles marinated in an old fashioned crock to mediocre results. A few years ago I tried using the recipe out of the Ball Jar cookbook which is my go-to cookbook for all my canning adventures. The pickles turned out so salty they became a family joke. My oldest son was about 14 at the time which is just the right age to eat something for the sole purpose of freaking out the people around you. He ate several to prove he could, but then decided he liked them. “They’re so bad, they’re actually kind of addictive,” he said. I decided he had a salt deficiency and finally hung up my pickle hat. (No, there is no such thing as a pickle hat.) I was really good at applesauce, salsa, pizza sauce, pepper jelly, and tomato-basil soup. Who needs homemade pickles?

My decision to quit pickle-making was affirmed when I discovered the pickle stand at Eastern Market. Oh, those pickles! Sweet-hot, Garlic-dill, JalapeƱo, so many wonderful crispy delicious pickles! Never mind that they cost $8 a quart and I had to drive nearly 30 minutes to reach the stand which was only open on Fridays. Problem solved.

And then this summer a new pickle stand opened at Central Market, the market I frequent weekly. Lancaster Pickles makes delicious, fresh pickles and gives free samples. The owners were friendly and fun to talk to. One day while making my purchase of fresh garlic-dills and Sweet horseradish chips, I shared my pickle problem with them. I told them of my salty, bitter, mushy attempts. Kate, one of the owners (and a serious pickle master. And Yes, there are such things as pickle masters.) asked me a few questions and then gave me a five minute tutorial on how to make crispy, delicious pickles.

I hurried home, picked my cucumber vines clean and set to work. And guess what! YES! Finally – crispy, delicious, perfect pickles! Now, before I share the secret with all of you, you must promise me that you’ll stop by the Lancaster Pickle stand at Central Market. Say hi to Kate – she is my hero.