Sausage Party.

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Okay guys it has been a looong time.  A month or two of me sitting down to blog, and then getting up to clean up spilt milk, or break up toddler fights, or a million other things. (Truth: There may have been a few bright and sunny days where I shirked this off to go play outdoors and other times where I just sat down to write and then possibly took a few naps instead.)  But I’m here now.  And determined as ever. (Read: I’ve just napped.)

So for the two months I’ve eaten meat.  A lot.  Sort of my choice, but mostly ordered by a doctor.  (And I’m serious when I say that, the only way I could get out of a month of frequent injections of iron and B12 was to promise I would eat meat, at least 3-4 times a week.)

“What?” you say “But you eat a balanced diet and I know you get enough iron because I read your blog and there are ALWAYS meals high in iron content and you write stuff about nutritional components so of all people YOUR iron shouldn’t be low!!”

Oh my god I’m hearing voices now.

Truth be told even the best vegetarian consuming iron sources, isn’t getting the most bioavailable type. As a vegetarian we eat non-heme iron from plant-based foods.  And the absorption of that iron is inhibited by things we also eat: like oxolates in the greens, phytates in the grains, and calcium (say cheese!)  So although they are good sources of iron, if there is underlying pathology in the body affecting the ability to absorb or “bank” iron eating veg may not be enough.  The type that is most readily available to our bodies is the kind from meat.  The heme iron.  Like hemoglobin – one of the markers in our blood that we use to measure iron.  Long story short.  I need iron. What I was doing wasn’t working, and it was time to try something new.

Because hey, when there are bold alerts all over your lab sheet from your last 6 months of blood work it generally means something needs to change.

So change I did.  And happily for all my non-vegetarian friends I’ve included some of my favourite meat recipes here.  Or what I thought were my favourites.  After gradually cutting meat out to nill over the past 5-6 years it just doesn’t taste the same.  Especially when you HAVE to eat it 3-4 days a week.  Especially red meat.  Sorry, I’ll continue.

My meal plans consisted mostly of red meat or high iron shellfish 3-4 days a week (the highest sources of iron one can get).  Which consisted of a whole lot of leftovers, ensuring that I ate meat almost every day.  Plus a whole lot of supplements from the doctor, which I won’t get into.  I’m not that into supplements and did this begrudgingly.  But it was only a month.  And I’ve done worse…remember the 6 week dairy free diet?? Ugh.  I am a crazy person.

Week One (meat meals listed, the others consisted of my regular vegetarian go-tos and meat leftovers) :

  • Lasagna (my favourite) with garlic bread and vegan cesaer salad
  • spagetti and meat sauce with salad (Did NOT taste the same as I remember, I used to love this stuff!)
  • Rapini linguine with steamed clams

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Week Two:

  • Lasagna with cesaer salad
  • smoked mussels on crackers

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  • Pork shoulder butt roast with kale and roasted new potatoes (I loved this meal growing up.  It still brought back the fond emotional memories.  My husband called it war food.  No offence to those during war times.  Or to the recipe.  But be warned, without the emotional ties it apparently doesn’t taste the same.  Just ask EVERYONE in my immediate family.  So sad.  It was so good…to me.)

Week Three:

  • Dear god no more Lasagna.
  • Chicken cattacori with vermecelli and salad
  • More smoked mussles on crackers (In a tin…for lunch.  I was getting desperate to boost the iron and not have to eat any more red meat.  Or cook meat.  Or think too much about meat.  Do you know how gross it is to pull skin off of chicken? *shutter* I had forgotten.)

Week Four:

  • Lazy cabbage roll casserole
  • Turkey wraps (no recipe genius here, just hummus, smoked turkey breast, mayo and cheese in a wrap with a ton of veggies on the side.)
  • Smoked clams (So happy to be done the smoked mussels…some of them were kind of gritty *shutter*) on crackers
  • Breakfast sausages.  And bacon.  Because skiing weekend.  And they were served to me.  And they were greasy.  And SOOOOOO good. Not sure these actually count as there was likely more health repercussions from the artery clogging goodness than any iron benefit.  But it was my last week, and bacon.

So the meat eating is done.  And I’m awaiting results.  The one thing I do know is I got the worst flu I’ve had in years this month, and have felt overly tired.  The supplements made me anxious, as did trying to figure out what to cook…I had forgotten ALL my meat recipes. Also I’ve been less active and more sluggish.  I just don’t have my usual get-up-and-go attitude.  Is it the meat? Or the weather? Coincidence? No idea.

My conscience has also weighed on me heavily.  The fact that 3 chickens died so we could make one meal just didn’t feel right.  Although I think Astrid, Gloria and Peep lived a happy life in the middle of a green field loaded with grubs and felt no pain in the end. (At least the price and assurances on the labelled chicken led me to believe that.)   Same goes for Henry the cow.  And Cornelius the pig.  Not sure about the clams and mussels and oysters (sadly, too many to name).  The tins said “wild caught” and had other assurances, but I’m just not so sure about any ethically sourced seafood anymore.  I’m not really sure about anything anymore.  After all, a big portion of being vegetarian was health related.  Only I haven’t been healthy in regards to my iron levels at all, for months now, even on iron supplements and with fastidious attention to diet.

The environmental impact of eating meat is also something that is concerning to me.  From the farming practices, to the waste produced in the the processing and transportation of meat products, I’m just not sure I’m ready to jump back in to being a full-time omnivore.  I tried to eat locally sourced meat, ethically and organically treated/raised/processed but it’s hard to trust a system (that you can’t check up on yourself) when so much bad media on the matter is available.  I’m conflicted.  Currently my health is the priority, so it was easy to me to sweep the other concerns aside for just a month or two.  But what if being vegetarian doesn’t work for my body?

What then?

Time will tell.

Birds and The Bees.

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It feels like spring where I live.  Even though in most places this is still the heart of winter.  Flowers are blooming and birds are chirping.  I even saw a honey bee yesterday.

Bee-utiful!

They do so much for us, those little bees.  Recently I was shocked to learn that now honey is being used in scams (who knew there was super-expensive, ‘high-quality’ stuff that is in such high demand some people try to counterfeit it?) They do this by removing the pollen from the honey.

Say what?

I am not an expert, a farmer or know anything about bees.  And I certainly don’t pay $50 for a jar of exclusive honey.  But the thing that got me was by doing this, the black market honey is flooding our markets claiming to be something it is not (fraudulent ‘high end’ honey or run-of-the-mill).  And local honey producers, even small honey producers are being pushed out because imported honey is cheaper (due to the excess in other countries like China.)  So it’s not just happening in the ‘exclusive honey areas’ anymore.  Nobody can verify where it comes from, as they would need to test the pollen (which has been removed) to know if it came from a cactus flower in Texas, or an evergreen on the west coast.  With local and small farmers being pushed out, the bee populations could suffer.  In turn creating issues with pollinating crops and pushing the price of produce up.

imageWe NEED bees.  I would like them to stick around so I can grow things in my garden and be able to buy local farmers produce (and not pay $5 for an orange in the grocery store because there weren’t enough bees to pollinate the fruit and the crop was minimal.)  If the bees aren’t around to pollinate then we are all in trouble.

Long story short everything is connected.  Pay attention to your food.  Get close to the source.  Understand how things work together and become a part of that.  It’s really not that hard.  Even if the best you can do is try for the local or organic section at your grocery store.

Use your money to vote for things you believe in.

Maybe it’s the ethical treatment of animals, and buying off an actual butcher or farmer where you can get information about how the livestock is raised.  Or buying organic because you want less harm in the world (pesticides, herbicides etc.).  Or buying seeds or starter plants and starting your own garden.

I happen to know a local farmer, who has started her own bee colony.  I think I will ask about purchasing her honey.  My mother and aunt have done this for years, from a farmer who keeps bees in order to ensure his crops are pollinated.  They order them in 5lb buckets and keep it for months on end putting the little bit they use weekly in a jar in the pantry. And they are in Canada where the growing season is short!

Don’t change the world, get to know your world.  By better knowing where your food comes from you better know how you are fuelling yourself.  I don’t know if our honey producers are in actual trouble.  I have a hard time believing what I read now a days.  But I do know that I can get closer to actual local honey – so why wouldn’t I?

Since I like the birds, and the bees.

Here’s the link to the counterfeit honey article I read, in case you are interested.

Closer to the Source.

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One of the things I aim to do is make our meals and snacks out of ingredients that are as close to the source as possible.  I believe that the closer we get to the source of our food, the healthier it is.  It has spent less time in transport (or storage, or being handled) which means it is fresher.  The fresher something is, the more nutrients we get from it.  And if we are able to go directly to the source (our garden) or close to the source (say a farmer’s market) then we might even be able to know much more about our food.  How is is grown, where it is grown and what is in it.  Or more importantly what is not in it (pesticides, antibiotics, herbicides etc.)

Recently I started using dry beans.  I buy them at the same store as the canned beans I used to buy…but they are closer to the source as they are less processed.  And less processed means less meddling with my food (and potential to add things like preservatives, and salt).  I don’t like the thought of “extras” in my food.  Especially when they are unnecessary and an alternative is readily available.

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A recent article was published stating that there are over 4000 intentional food contact materials (FCM) used today.  They do not know all of the ramifications of what those packages leak into our foodstuffs but they are concerned about the side effects of long term exposure.  So my question is then, why wait to find out what the side effects are?  If you can choose to get closer to the source, use less packaging on your foods and cook with less processed item why don’t you?

Digging a little deeper many of the FCM include formaldehyde (remember high school science class…the stinky stuff that pickled the frogs you dissected?), BPA (much media has been put forth on this on being linked to possible hormone disruption…cancer anyone?), amongst many others I don’t even recognize.

I was adamit to only use glass bottles of expressed milk for my baby (for the few times I wasn’t around to actually feed her.)  I was terrified of the BPA in plastic bottles and links to hormone disruption.  Only to find out that the canned goods I has been using my entire life were coated on the inside, with BPA.  And even more scary, that acidic things (like tomatoes) were more likely to have the BPA leach into the food.

Fear mongering?  Maybe.  There is a lot of that in our society already.  But why be scared when we can just choose to eat whole, recognizable foods instead?

When I lived in Bermuda one of my mantras was “If the bugs don’t eat it, neither should we.” (Bugs including mould…) And there were a lot of bugs there.

Luckily we’ve moved since then and don’t have to battle too many bugs.  But the philosophy is the same.  And everyday I get a little bit closer to cutting out processed foods.  Maybe we’ll even get some chickens so we can have our own backyard eggs…on second thought I’m not sure if I’m there yet.  But I am trying.

To get closer to the source.