Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Maple Syrup!

It is that time of year! Sap is pouring down lines and into buckets. Around 40 gallons of this precious liquid makes 1 gallon of maple syrup.

Maple syrup is one of the best sweeteners out there. While sweeteners as a whole should be limited and not staples, maple syrup is a delicious way to sweeten life without the health risks and guilt refined sugar brings you.

Here's a video about the benefits of maple syrup.

Here's a link to Rodale's article on the 11 healthiest foods, including maple syrup.

To make sure you buy the best, stick with locally made maple syrup from trusted farmers, or buy organic maple syrup in the grocery store. Years ago, formaldehyde was used to increase sap output. While this practice is not supposed to occur, it is possible that larger groups may still use the method. Also, some larger groups may add additives or artificial colorings to enhance the look of their maple syrup. (Reference)

Never, I repeat, NEVER buy the "pancake syrup" available in the grocery store. It is little more than GMO'd high fructose corn syrup with artificial colors and flavors.

Here are a couple of additional resources of buying maple syrup locally around New York State:

New York Maple (includes searchable map)
Maple Weekend (March 17-18, 2012 in New York State)

Personally, my brother makes a delicious maple syrup from his own trees, but to supplement, I like to go to Alp Farms in Ephratah, NY. He sells maple syrup at the best price I've ever found, and it is a delicious (and nutritious) dark amber, perfect for baking.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Heirloom and Organic Seed Companies

Seed purchasing time is approaching! Do something a bit better for yourself and the environment by purchasing heirloom and organic plants and seeds. Here is a list of companies I've found that you may be interested in:

And just a few FYI's:

Local sources:

Also, check out your local craigslist or seed or plant exchanging. It never hurts to ask!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Coconut Oils

Coconut oil has hit mainstream. Is it another health nut fad or is there something behind the claim to healthy fame?

Rest assured, you can thank the fad for bringing this healthful oil to the forefront.

Organic Facts has an excellent article on the benefits and workings of coconut oil.

Coconut Oil has also been used to help lessen the impact of Alzheimer's! This is important to me since my dear Grandfather was afflicted with Alzheimer's. Video

Coconut oil has a wide variety of uses, not just in the kitchen, but in the bathroom, too! Here's a list:

Organic Unrefined coconut oil tastes like coconut. You can eat it raw. My daughter loves it!
Coconut oil works well in baked goods, too.
I use refined coconut oil (no coconut flavor to it) to pan fry and to oven fry with excellent results.
Melt organic unrefined coconut oil in a small pan on the stove and pour it into your smoothie while mixing in the blender. Yum!

Coconut oil is great for your skin and hair, too:

Make deodorant (although, I recommend using organic unrefined coconut oil rather than LouAna and arrowroot powder rather than cornstarch)
Smooth your hair (just smooth it into your dry ends and brush through with a gentle brush)
Moisturize your skin (just massage it in gently)
Heal damaged skin (just massage it in gently)
Soothe diaper rash and chaffing (just rub it into the skin gently)

When purchasing coconut oil, look for organic to be sure you are free from pesticides and chemicals.

Unrefined coconut oil is very white when solid and smells and tastes like coconut. This is the healthiest as it has been rendered and processed the least.

Refined coconut oil is a bit off white when solid and has no coconut smell or taste. It is still good for you, but get a reliable brand such as Spectrum to avoid any possible hydrogenation.

Also, make sure you get food grade coconut oil. There are coconut oils on the market that are labeled for cosmetic use only.

Coconut oil is solid at room temperature and melts around 76 degrees. It is a very stable oil, slow to oxidize (slow to go rancid, so don't be afraid to buy in bulk) and it is ok for it to go liquid and return to solid many times.

Some coconut oils may seem a bit gritty, especially the unrefined, but it is not rancid. It is ok.

Some placed to purchase coconut oil:

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Gluten and Casein Free?!

Last week on Facebook, Far Above Rubies had a Q&A with Shoshanna from Bulk Herb Store. I was able to ask Shoshanna what I should be doing now while pregnant to ensure that my milk supply won't dry up before a year like it always has. She suggested a gluten and casein free diet.

I admit, I'm a carb and dairy-a-holic. Could I really do this? Would it really help? Shoshanna suggested this as a way for my body to heal and avoid the added phytic acids, hormones, estrogen-like compounds, and other hormone-attacking gunk. Basically, she said that for some reason my hormones aren't telling my body what to do correctly. That makes sense to me. But can I really go gluten and casein free?

I'll be honest, I don't think I can. Unless I knew absolutely for sure that taking this route would give me breast milk until baby decides to wean, it probably isn't going to happen. But Shoshanna is right about being mindful of our gluten and casein. I've decided I can take steps such as limiting my gluten and casein intake. I can also modify it by soaking my grains and culturing my dairy. I can remove cheese (well, maybe not feta). I can refuse any product with soy in it. I can research more gluten-free options.

I can also research and ask advice.

If you are gluten and/or casein free, please tell me how it has improved your health.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Quinoa Salad

Isn't it a shame that you even have to be careful of store-bought prepared salads? Rarely are they made with anything organic. Often, the cheese product is laced with cellulose*, the chicken conventional or breaded*, the dressing made with rancid vegetable oils*, the list goes on!

I believe in getting a lot of bang for your nutritional buck. If you're going to consume calories, make them count! Quinoa* is healthful when prepared properly and making your own dressing isn't hard.

Here's my latest Quinoa Salad recipe:

1 to 1 1/2 cups quinoa soaked overnight in water and 1 1/2 tablespoons of whey* and then cooked and cooled.
a couple of handfuls of shredded organic greens
organic baby carrots, sliced
2 tablespoons organic sunflower seeds*
1/4 cup organic unsulphured raisins
a pinch of sea salt
feta cheese to taste


1/4 cup Olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons waterwater
1 small clove of garlic smashed and chopped
squirt of honey

Blend dressing into quinoa salad and enjoy!

*Breaded chicken is often breaded with rancid hydrogenated vegetable oils and a soy-based flour. MSG or other flavor enhancers may be added.
*Rancid vegetable oils
*Whey is made when you drain yogurt. You can either drain store bought organic plain whole milk yogurt in a muslin lined colander, or your homemade yogurt. If whey isn' t on hand, you can use lemon juice or vinegar.
*Sunflower Seeds should be soaked in a salt water and then dried in the oven or dehydrator to remove the phytates and make them more digestible.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Coconut Cut-Out Cookies

We all know that cookies aren't the healthiest thing to eat, but there are times we just want a sweet treat for ourselves or our families. Rather than running to the grocery store and buying their junk cookies, making them yourself is far healthier.

Here's my recipe for Coconut Cut-Out Cookies

1 1/3 cup organic all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp aluminum-free baking powder
1/4 tsp sea salt (not coarse)
1/2 cup sugar (or rapadura or Florida Crystals)
1/3-1/2 cup flaked coconut

Mix well and then add:

3 tablespoons butter, melted
3 tablespoons unrefined coconut oil, melted
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon coconut extract

Blend well, shape into ball, cover and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Remove from fridge, break ball in half, knead until just soft and roll out onto a floured surface. Cut out shapes and bake on greased cookie sheet at preheated 375 degrees until just browning on the bottom (4-8 minutes...I have a finicky oven). Remove, place on wire rack and cool. Yields: approx. 36 cookies

Saturday, February 18, 2012

In a Pickle!

Spring is just around the corner even though it doesn't feel like it. With Spring comes the picnic planning. And what's a picnic without pickles?

As my label reading obsession grows, I grabbed a jar of pickles off the shelf at the grocery store. I turned it over and discovered that it contained artificial coloring. I put it back and grabbed another brand, and another, and another. They ALL had artificial coloring in it.* The pickle juice isn't naturally that color, after all. I finally settled on an expensive jar of the store brand organic pickles that contained only all natural ingredients. Thankfully, the taste is worth the price. Far tastier than the conventional brands!

Better yet, make your own quick pickles at home! Slice up your cukes and place them in a bowl of vinegar, olive oil, and your favorite seasonings and let them sit in the fridge overnight.

Even better, lacto-ferment your own pickles! (Nourishing Traditions)

So, watch out for those sneaky artificial colors!

*Why are artificial colors so unhealthy? Find out HERE, and HERE, and HERE

Friday, February 17, 2012

Make Your Own Yogurt, Greek Yogurt and Yogurt Cheese

It is so easy! Why spend all that money on store bought yogurt that often contains additives, artificial sweeteners, and even colorings?

Pour 8 cups of whole milk (not ultra-pasteurized) into a crock pot.*
Cover and turn crock pot to the 8 hour setting.
Let it sit, warming up for 2 1/2 hours.

After 2 1/2 hours, turn the crock pot off and let it sit for 3 hours.

After 3 hours, stir in 1/4 cup store bought organic whole milk plain yogurt* or 1/2 cup of your previous batch*.
Cover with the lid and cover and wrap the crock pot in a thick towel.
Let it sit for 8 hours.

Pour the yogurt into glass mason jars and enjoy throughout the week!

If you want a Greek yogurt, pour the yogurt into a muslin-lined colander that's resting in a bowl. Put it in the fridge and allow the whey to drain off until it reaches your desired thickness.

If you drain all the whey off, you'll have yogurt cheese which is a great substitute for cream cheese!

*If you live in the Upstate NY area, buy a local milk for best results. Stewart's, Crowley, or the Hannaford Brand are all from local farms.
*Stonyfield Plain Whole Milk yogurt works the best, I've found.
*I've noticed that my previous batches eventually lose their culture, so approximately once a month I renew by purchasing another container of Stonyfield and starting the cycle again.


The fat and calories in whole milk yogurt is not detrimental to your diet and health. You get more "bang for your buck" nutritionally speaking, plus the fat content helps fill you up longer and keeps you satisfied, making you less likely to overindulge later.


Those who are used to the flavored (often artificially so) yogurts may find themselves puckering at the taste of plain yogurt. Give it a chance. If you need to, add some fruit and/or honey until you can develop a taste. It is worth the effort and you'll soon find plain yogurt to be extremely tastebud pleasing!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The First Post

Welcome to Beyond Granola!


I am a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom. I am not a doctor or nutritionalist. I have no formal training in this arena. What I do have is a lifelong desire to glean more and more about healthful living. Please take whatever is on this blog as simply information. What you do with that information is completely up to you. Always check with your healthcare professional.


I chose the name Beyond Granola because oftentimes when someone starts a lifestyle of healthfulness, the first thing people think is that they've jumped on the granola wagon. Actually, granola isn't really that healthful for you. There's WAY more to a healthy lifestyle than just crunchin' on granola!


This blog is going to be about my findings and experiences in healthy living. It'll cover all aspects of health. Not just diet and exercise. It'll also be a place to collect articles I've found as well as a resource and review center for products, services, businesses, etc pertaining to healthy living. There will be a focus on such things in my local area, but will from time to time extend to the internet and national/international market.

It'll really be mostly an information gathering point. I'm not trying to plagiarize or copy anyone.


Two rules, really. 1. Remember always that I am just an information gatherer. I am NOT an expert. It is completely up to you to do what you will with the information gathered here.

2. Please keep comments civil. If you disagree and have information to the contrary, please share respectfully. Inflammatory, insulting, degrading remarks will be removed. It's ok to disagree and discuss. It is not ok to fight.