10 Things You Can Do to Make Your Meals More Nutrient-Dense

Sometimes the prospect of making our diets healthier can be so overwhelming at the beginning. Sometimes we have the luxury of taking our time in the transition. But when there are dire health concerns in your family, you sometimes have to transition faster than you'd like. Here are ten easy, sneaky ways to make your meals more nourishing and nutrient-dense that your family most likely won't notice!

1)Replace white flour pasta with brown rice flour noodles. Trader Joe's has a very inexpensive line of brown rice pastas including spaghetti, macaroni, and fusili noodles. These taste great and work very well in any Italian dish! (Here are my favorite things at Trader Joe's).

Even better, if you need to go grain-free, low-carb, try delicious, low-calorie spaghetti squash. Bake the squash at 350 for about an hour, then when finished slice in half and spoon out the pulp in the center. Then fluff the rest of the flesh with a fork and spoon out the "noodles".

2) Buy pasture-raised, free-range eggs. No one will notice the difference and they will add tons of nutrition to your diet. Think it'll break your bank? Here are my thoughts on the real value of cheap eggs.

3) Replace juices with a refreshing iced herbal tea. Blueberry, raspberry, and strawberry are some of our favorites. Add a bit of stevia to sweeten and for very few calories you have a refreshing, tasty beverage to enjoy!

4) Make blender waffles or pancakes! These simple, frugal, whole-grain, versatile treats take minutes to prepare, and your family won't notice the difference! If you want a no-grain option, these fluffy, low-carb pancakes are made with coconut flour and are amazing!

5) Replace white rice with brown, and cook the rice in mineral-rich chicken broth (check out my easy crock-pot chicken stock recipe here). For even more minerals and nutrient-density, consider sneaking in a little bit of liver as seen in this versatile recipe! Make a basic, everyday dish like rice into a nourishing, one-pot meal!

6) Replace your boxed cereal with homemade, soaked oatmeal or a grain-free cold cereal that we like called Almond Raisin Bran (recipe to come!).

7) Replace pasteurized milk with real, fresh raw milk. Find a safe source from Real Milk's website.

8) Add coconut oil to your diet by using it in place of shortening. Coconut oil is naturally rich in monolaurin, which is a strong anti-viral and anti-fungal. It's a great source of Medium-Chain Fatty Acids which are converted to energy in the small intestine to provide quick energy. Here's where you'll find the best price on coconut oil!

9) Replace organic ground beef with grass-fed, pasture-raised ground beef. Even better, grind in a small amount of liver (no more than 1/4cup) or heart for added nutrition.

10) Think outside the bun. Even though you may not be sensitive to gluten, it's not a bad idea (for health reasons involving insulin and mineral absorption) to limit your intake of grains. Typically, it's easier to feed our families grain-rich meals because they tend to be more convenient. Challenge yourself to have at least two grain-free days per week and focus on good quality meat with fresh veggies! Soup is a great, frugal way to get nourishing, good quality meats and veggies into unsuspecting children!!! Here are some my favorite, simple soup recipes.

For more great Real Food Tips, visit Kelly the Kitchen Kop! and Food Renegade's Fight Back Fridays!

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Baby Steps for Transitioning to a Real Foods Diet: Part 1

A few weeks ago I was blessed to share some thoughts on "Nourishing our Families the Traditional Way" at a homeschooling conference in Seattle. My main talk involved 10 baby steps for making the transition. I thought I would, over the course of the next several weeks, share and expound a little on these baby steps.

The first baby step is to Arm Yourself with Support. Before you go dumping out all of your boxes of Mac N Cheese and making sweeping changes over your family's diet, take some time to really "count the cost" of what is involved. Make a commitment to begin the journey, but give yourself ample time to transition!

Partner up with a friend or mentor, if possible, who desires to make this transition as well, or who already has done so. Support can come in the form of a physical "accountability partner" or an online accountability partner. The web is full of resources for recipes, tips, and community discussion.

Purchase Nourishing Traditions, Eat Fat, Lose Fat, The Garden of Eating,or Meals that Heal. Join an online forum such as DiscussingNT.yahoogroups.com, Traditional Foods Forum . Check out the Real Food Media Network.

Find your local chapter leader of the Weston A. Price foundation and get hooked up with a community of other like-minded folks. I was amazed at the wealth of information that was uncovered when I found my local group. They offer classes, resources, and a place to purchase some of those hard-to-find items that go with a traditional diet.

If all else fails, you can feel free to e-mail me: carriethienes [at] hotmail [dot]com for a personal cheerleader and coach!

So, if you are beginning this journey and you'd like to start to the "baby steps", your homework for this week is to seek out at least one of the above resources and spend 20 minutes this week just reading! Check back next week for Baby Step #2!

Photo Credit

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Contest Winner!

It is time to announce the winner of the giveaway with Chef Rachel! One lucky winner was chosen by the random number generator here. Read on to find out the lucky winner!

The random number generator chose the number 9. The 9th commenter left the following:

I really want to get her [Chef Rachel's] books (our library doesn't have them), so I will have to save my money. My son just started a GFCF diet a month and a half ago, and I am still having an extremely difficult time planning... I used to like menu
planning- now I DREAD it. I need fresh ideas!!!!! Thanks for this awesome
Congratulations, Keirlee!!!! You sound like a well-deserving recipient of this awesome prize! I'm jealous. Please report back and let us know how your 1 hour phone consultation with Chef Rachel goes!

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Goat Milk Formula Recipe: UPDATED!

Update, May 2011:

Since posting my son's story and this recipe several years ago, the response has been overwhelming. I have been able to connect personally to so many of you amazing moms who are taking this step towards providing the 2nd-best nutrition for your baby (obviously, we all wish we could breastfeed).

I get tons of questions every week about the goat milk, and if you don't hear back from me on the comments, please e-mail me: carrie (at) organicthrifty (dot) com and I would be happy to help you personally on this matter!

Also, I am now a trained and certified Nutritional Therapist and I use Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis to assess and evaluate my clients and to set up an entire, comprehensive nutritional protocol for them. I highly encourage you, if you are a recently post-partum mama to consider a consultation to help you repair and rebuild, especially if you have a low milk supply. This can be due to a low thyroid condition or heavy metal toxicities or many other mechanisms, and we can get to the bottom of it in a nutritional consultation with Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis. To learn more, please visit my Practice Website, Northwest Holistic Nutrition.

I am offering a special right now for my postpartum mamas and their babies on this formula: 2 for the price of one. Get yourself and your baby on a protocol to heal any and all imbalances and get you the right start! Please contact me and mention "2 for 1 for goatie babies" !

And as an update, my son Jonathan (below) will turn 4 next month, and he is doing fabulously. We have him on a Nutritional Balancing protocol and that additional nutritional support, specifically tailored to his unique physiology, is growing him into a strong, smart, energetic, and good-natured little boy! He is taller than nearly all of the kids in his little Bible Club class and he hasn't had a need to see the doctor for being sick in his whole life!

I am so thankful to Sally Fallon of the Weston A Price Foundation for her inspiration for this recipe, and so grateful that it has provided so many others with a healthy alternative to commercial formula.

To our children; our future!
May 2011


Several weeks ago, I shared the amazing story of my son, Jonathan, in his recovery from "failure to thrive" through the use of raw goat milk formula. In that post, I did not include my recipe, but have since gotten inquiries for it. Google searches for goat milk formula uncover various results, but here's what worked for Jonathan!

Disclaimer: It must be said that you should consult your health care practitioner for any and all infant feeding questions, and be certain that you have taken all measures in order to increase your breast milk supply if in fact you are supplementing for lack of milk as I was. Since I had thoroughly exhausted my efforts at increasing supply, I sought the most high-quality alternative under the supervision of two naturopathic doctors. Also, make sure to get a supply of goat milk from a farmer you can trust. If you must use pasteurized goat milk, you can do so as well.

This recipe is adapted from Dr. Mary Enig & Sally Fallon's Milk-Based Formula recipe in Nourishing Traditions:

Raw Goat Milk Formula

36 ounces:

2 cups raw goat milk (Why raw? Raw milk provides numerous enzymes, and allows the proteins to stay in tact while pastuerization renders them denatured. While raw milk will give optimal nutrition, it is my opinion that pastuerized and even powdered goats milk may be perferable, in some cases, to cow's milk for children with extreme sensitivities.)

2 cups filtered water (As the child grow, you should adjust this water-to-goat milk ratio by increasing the amount of goat milk and decreasing the amount of water. This can begin gradually at about 9 months. If stools become more difficult for the child to pass, then increase the amount of water and try again in another month).

1/4 cup liquid whey from goat yogurt or kefir (contains lots of good probiotics and is very nourishing; making it more like breast milk. To get whey simply strain goat milk yogurt or fil mjolk from Cultures for Health. (I get a lot of questions about the whey. You can also make it by straining plain cow milk yogurt, as long as there is no severe intolerance. Some people omit the whey, but I think it's very important)

1 -2 tsp organic blackstrap molassas (start with less, add more if needed. This provides B-vitamins, iron, trace minerals, and helped relieve constipation.) (If stools are too loose, decrease amount!)

2 tsp raw agave nectar (adds carbs, necessary for brain growth. Alternatively, you could use lactose, but I wanted to avoid this as I could not find a source that was made from goat milk since Jonathan was reacting to anything made from cow milk. Organic Brown Rice Syrup is also an option, but I didn't like the processing involved here. Obviously honey is out.) Update: Grade B, organic maple syrup is looking like the most ideal option out there in terms of sweeteners, so consider this if you are concerned about agave nectar. My son did fine with the agave, and he is not addicted to fruit or carbs (I have him on a sugar-free, low-starch and low-fruit diet).

1/4 tsp of bifodobacterium infantis (I used Metagenics "Bifidus" which is a dairy-free culture and of high quality. Also, Bio-Kult is a strong probiotic that has been used with infants as well. Consult your ND! Available through naturopaths, chiropractors, and other practitioners)

1/2 teaspoon high-vitamin cod liver oil (I used the Quantum brand from Radient Life) but any will do.

1 tsp unrefined sunflower oil (Rapunzel brand) for Vitamin E

1 tsp extra virgin olive oil for monosaturated fats

2 tsp virgin coconut oil (this is very important, as it contains lauric acid which is a medium-chain fatty acid. It's an important antiviral, antifungal that's found in breast milk)

2 tsp nutritional yeast (this is also very important as it contains the B vitamins. I like Lewis Labs Nutritional Yeast because it's gluten-free and full of a wide spectrum of minerals ) If your child is gassy or has reflux on this formula, remove the yeast first and see if it improves. Yeasts vary from brand to brand, and I can only recommend Lewis Labs.

1/4 teaspoon amla or NOW acerola powder (I prefer amla, as it does not contain any extra additives, and I found this for cheap in an Indian store)

Blend all ingredients together in a blender. Pour into individual glass bottles or one large. To warm, place in a pan of simmering water. Never use a microwave. This formula is best made daily to preserve freshness and to optimize nutrition.

Notes: Many recipes say to add frozen, raw goat liver for the purposes of replacing B vitamins. I never did this, but did begin feeding my son pureed chicken liver at 6 months.

Updates: Yes, you can add liquid B-vitamins such as Folic Acid and B12 rather than the Yeast. B-vitamins should be given at 1/4 of the adult dosage listed on the label.

Coconut oil can be difficult as it is solid when cold. You will notice it forming clumps on the surface of the formula. It can help to liquify the coconut oil by melting it slightly before blending. Then, when you warm up the formula in a hot water bath, the coconut oil will liquify and you can shake it up. The oils are the biggest bugaboo, honestly, of this formula, and if they don't work well for you, you can omit them and it won't be the end of the world nutritionally :)

Any questions or comments are much appreciated, although I will NOT be debating the issue of feeding raw goat milk to a baby, for it is a real, nourishing alternative to the limited, nasty canned formula options on the market, which are laden which ultra-high temperature processed, denatured milk with a myriad of refined corn and soy oils, with corn syrup added. This stuff is not food. Wet nurses were not an option for me, and neither was starvation. This is what worked, and worked amazingly well!

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Low-carb, Grain-Free Menu

Well, even though it's a little late in coming, here's the menu plan for the week. Just for the record, I *did* have it written up Saturday night! Unfortunately my two-year-old attacked my computer keyboard so some key letters are missing, making it a bit difficult to type. I'm hoping this won't affect my posting this week!

eggs, salsa verde, avocado
L: zucchini-onion-shittake mushroom saute
D: herbed meatloaf, sauteesd broccoli
*make crispy walnuts, make macaroons

B: green smoothies and scrambled eggs
L: BBQ Turkey, baby carrots
D: grilled chicken breasts, avocado, roasted cauliflower

B: squash pudding
L: miso soup and smoked sardines w/ avocado and salsa
D: veggie and kelp noodle stir-fry

*Begin sprouting lentils

B: goat milk yogurt parfait with bluberries and crispy walnuts
L: hot dogs, carrots, raw cheese
D: bacon-ground beef-cabbage-onion saute
*Make GF bread

B: grain-free coconut pancakes topped with strawberry sauce
L: almond butter and peach jam in GF bread, carrots
D: sprouted lentil soup, GF garlic toast, salad

B: waffles, smoothies
L: leftovers, hot dogs
D: low-carb burgers, grilled onions, oven fries, salad

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Tips for Saving Money at the Farmer's Market

May is an exciting time for the Organic & Thrifty Oregonian, because so begins the season of Farmer's Markets!!! I know I'm not alone in this joy, for hundreds of like-minded folks come out every week for the most healthy, grassroots "carnival" there ever was! But with prices so high at the market (comparably) how can we support local farmers without breaking the bank?

First of all, I believe that it's sort of a myth that farmer's markets are inherently more expensive. I think for the quality and freshness, markets are actually much cheaper than their organic health food store counterparts.

Secondly, I am very choosy about what I purchase at the farmer's market. There are lots of items that make lots of money for the farmers at the market, and these I tend to avoid.

Here are my tips for saving your green while being green at your local farmer's market (by the way, if you're a local-yocal and haven't familiarized yourself with Portland Metro Farmer's Market Culture, go here. EcoMetro has a fabulous map and directory of all the local markets!!

1) Avoid fruits. As tempting and delicious as they can be at the market, I see fruit as the "candy" of the Farmer's Market and you wouldn't spend your week's allotment of funds on candy any other time, would you? As great as they look, avoid the urge to buy those juicy apricots and blueberries. Instead, plan an outing to a local berry farm or orchard and get a crew of otherwise unoccupied elementary school children and stock up on all of these amazing fruits by picking them yourself! Not only do you pay a fraction of the cost, but you get exercise and an outing in the sun!

2) Stick with the items you'll use in your weekly meals that will stretch, such as eggs, cheese, cabbage, chard, zucchini, radishes, spinach, lettuce, sweet onions, cauliflower, broccoli. I find that I get my fill of these fibrous, low-carb veggies and less is more.

3) In general, get your "pickling" and "storage" veggies farm-direct. Green beans, tomatoes, and pickling cukes are items you want to buy in bulk for canning, and thus you will want to buy farm-direct. This isn't that complicated, as most of the market vendors have a farm on which they directly sell their items for cheaper. They might even offer a U-Pick. And don't forget, there are plenty of great farms out there that are such small operations that they can't afford the staffing for market sales. Watch craigslist for these. My favorite is a mom and pop farm stand set up outside the farmer's house in Cornelius, Oregon, called "Mike and Debbie's Produce". They keep their overhead low and pass the savings on to you!.

4) Eat breakfast before you go! Although the food there is delicious and tantalizing, it will drain the cash you should be spending on next week's food! And besides, Saturday should be your "clean out the fridge day" where you consume the odds and ends you have leftover from the previous week.

5)Soaps, oils, honey, and treats are fun, but only purchase them if they are needs. It's great to support small, handmade operations but buy only what you need!

6) To add some thrifty fun into your experience, be sure to take advantage of all the free samples and savor them in place of purchasing things you don't need. Strike up a conversation; make a connection. Give feedback! Don't feel bad if you aren't going to purchase anything today; maybe next week you'll need that herbed chevre!

I hope these 6 tips will take the fear out of farmer's market shopping. It's fun to just take out $10 and see how much you can purchase (or whatever your budget allows!)

Happy farmer's marketing!

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UPDATE!!! Giveaway: One hour phone consulation with Chef Rachel!

It's time for the awesome giveaway I've been so excited to tell you about! How would you like to talk with one of the smartest health gals around about how to transition to a healthy, real food diet? The Healthy Cooking Coach, Rachel Albert-Matesz, author of The Garden of Eating Diet and The Ice Dream Cookbook will help you with transition tips, recipe makeovers, and menu planning/shopping suggestions for greater health!

This is awesome folks; Chef Rachel is a genius, if her book is any indication! Please take advantage of this awesome opportunity. To participate, here are the simple rules:

1) Followers and subsribers who leave a comment are eligible for the prize. (To become a follower, see the side bar below at the right). Leaving a comment earns you one "chance" at the random drawing. In your comment, tell why you would like to win this contest!

2) For an extra vote, write a post on your blog about this giveaway and link back!

NEW EXTENDED DEADLINE: The Winner Will Be announced Thursday, May 14th!

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Natural Sunscreen Protection with Real Food

As we head into the summer months, the question on every good mother's mind is how to naturally protect our loved ones from sunburn and skin cancer. As a mother to two very fair children and a husband who burns in the shade, this is a big concern of mine.

Now we've all been told for as long as we can remember to "protect yourself from the sun". After decades of slathering on the sunscreen, are we any better off? According to the World Health Organization:

In the U.S., one in two cancers is skin-related(estimated skin cancers in the
U.S. annually, 1.1 million). These figures are on the rise, and the WHO expects
the skin-cancer epidemic to accelerate: The annual incidence rate for melanoma
is estimated to have more than tripled in the last 45 years in Norway and Sweden
and to have
doubled in the last 30 years in the U.S."

So, all the hype about sunscreen and sun protection has done seemingly little good. The stats above lead me to wonder: Is there another factor that contributes to sun burn and skin cancer?

After some research into the topic, I keep finding this connection between Omega 3 essential fatty acids and healthy skin. Specifically, studies are finding that an optimal balance of omega-3s to omega-6s (3:1, or better) is critical for many, many health factors, including heart health and skin health:

According to a study published in the American Health Foundation Journal:

"Epidemiological, experimental, and mechanistic data implicate
omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) as stimulator's and long-chain
omega-3 PUFAs as inhibitors of development and progression of a range of human
cancers, including melanoma."

[Read the entire study here]

Omega-3 fatty acids are found and best assimilated from animal products such as fish, pastured chickens/eggs, and grass-fed beef. Americans are eating far too many omega-6 oils:

"In 1900 the average American only consumed about a pound of vegetable oil (high
in omega-6) per year. Now we are consuming over 75 pounds each every year.
Vegetable oil is a totally new product that our body has no idea how to digest."

Therefore, it's probably safe to include that the average American's ratio of omega 3's to omega 6's is pretty far off of the ideal. With all the warnings about mercury from fish (not to mention the expense), fish consumption among Americans is not increasing to meet the amount of omega-6s consumed.

So what can we do?

Here are 3 simple tips for upping your omega-3s and optimizing that 3-to-6 ratio in your diet, and thus reducing your risk of sun damage:

*Switch to "rapidly growing grass" fed (pastured) beef. Even if you can't afford to buy as much, you can get more nutrition with less meat than with conventional feedlot beef. We love US Wellness Meats. They have weekly promotions and offer bulk discounts. Since their meet has "60% more omega-3s than beef from cows that have been raised on a low-omega-3 grain diet" you can get the most bang for your nutritional buck! US Wellness meats is a one-stop online shopping mart for all kinds of meat, all raised on grass, including chicken, rabbit, goat, pork, and bison.

*Take your Cod Liver Oil. I strongly recommend Green Pasture's Fermented Cod Liver Oil. Read more about why
CLO is good for you in this post.

*Eliminate polysaturated vegetable oils in favor of butter, ghee, lard, tallow, and coconut oil. According to
WikiPedia, some of the oils highest in omega-6s (with virtually no omega-3s) are soybean, cottonseed, peanut, and corn oil. To best avoid these, eliminate packaged food, fast food, and prepare fresh, whole food from scratch.

So, can food really protect you from skin cancer? It's a big risk to go out into the sun without sunscreen. But I think sunscreen poses a bigger health risk. The chemicals in sunscreen are very harsh and are rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream:

"The Center for Disease Control (CDC) released a new study showing that nearly
all Americans are contaminated with oxybenzone, a widely-used sunscreen
ingredient. This chemical so far has been linked to allergies, hormone
disruption, and cell damage, as well as low birth weight in baby girls whose
mothers are exposed during pregnancy. Oxybenzone is also a penetration enhancer,
a chemical that helps other chemicals penetrate the skin. So where has the FDA
been on this?"


Personally, I can attest to the effectiveness of using real food for skin protection. For the past 3 summers, since implementing the above changes, I haven't used sunscreen on myself or the kids. We've had only healthy, rosy summer complexions and NO sunburns!

Recently, we went on a trip for 7 days to Sunny California. We spent hours on end outdoors, sans sunscreen, in 75 to 80 degrees every day. We took our cod liver oil, coconut oil and ate our omega-3 rich veggies and meats. In all of our sun exposure, the most we had was a blush of pink that quickly faded into a nice base tan.

Thrifty and nourishing, without the harsh chemicals of sunblock, you can feel confident that by increasing your omega-3's, you will not only enjoy the myriad of other heath benefits associated with these EFAS, you'll also be exposing your body to optimal amounts of vitamin D, which is essential for optimal immune and endocrine function.

This is what
Works for Me on this Real Food Wednesday!

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Menu Plan: Week of May 4

It's hard to believe that the first of May is already here. My "baby" niece turns one today, and that's unbelievable because I can vividly remember going to see her at the hospital just a few months ago it feels. Happy Birthday, dear Susannah! What a blessed, happy, chunky baby she is! Nourished by her mama with real food and real milk, it's so amazing to see that radiant health is possible, by God's grace, in this fallen, broken world. Nutrition for families and children. This was the topic of conversation at the Northwest Family Homeschool Conference that I was blessed to speak at this past weekend. I am so honored and was overjoyed to meet so many amazing, inspiring families whose faith is foremost in their lives! I had so many wonderful conversations with folks who are on their own difficult, challenging health journeys like our own.

Meal planning is something I often speak about, so if you're just tuning in to Organic and Thrifty, here are my thoughts on meal planning.

Here's what's cooking this week:

eggs, salsa verde, avocado
L: leftover sloppy joes
D: birthday dinner for niece
*make gluten-free bread in bread machine, make lacto-fermented ketchup

B: green smoothies and gluten/grain-free bread toast
L: leftover roast beef stew
D: turkey meat (from freezer) and spinach enchiladas, avocado, cortido, salsa, chips

B: squash pudding
L: miso soup and smoked sardines
D: veggie-lentil pancakes (use leftover Greek potatoes, salad, green beans

B: grain-free coconut pancakes topped with strawberry sauce
L: leftover enchiladas
D: grain-free lasagna (using sliced zucchini in place of noodles...we didn't end up doing this last week)

B: cinnamon toast (GF), green smoothies
L: kelp noodle pad thai
D: grain-free "mac n cheese" (steamed cauliflower topped with butternut squash cheese sauce)

B: waffles, smoothies
L: leftovers, hot dogs
D: kima curry, alloo muttar (curried potatoes and peas)

Be sure to check out more inspiring menu plans over at The Organizing Junkie! Have a great week!

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