What Makes Us Different-Ground Beef

It may surprise you to find out that the United States imports beef. What may be even more surprising is that from Jan - July of 2015 over 2 billion pounds came into the U.S. according to Cattle Network. That is a LOT of beef, around 33% of the beef sold in the grocery store. That information reinforces how proud I have always been, to know that we offer our customers something different. Local meats from local farms, raised right here in the thumb of Michigan, nothing imported from other countries. Supporting a local “Farm” may have not been a priority to you in the past; but consider where that hamburger you are grilling is coming from. According to many sources the imported cattle are lower quality, destined for processing as ground beef. That fresh ground beef or frozen patties you purchase in bulk at the grocery store may be made with meat from Mexico, Chili or several other countries. It kind of makes you wonder, how exactly was it raised? Do they have the same inspections as the U.S. does? How did it get here? So many questions!

 

Do you ever wonder how the spread of E-Coli can affect thousands of pounds of meat at one time? Vast recalls seem to span cities and states for no apparent reason. One reason is because beef from hundreds, if not, thousands, of animals are placed in giant vats in huge processing plants and all ground together. One sick or contaminated animal can cause issues with the whole batch that is being ground together. What this really comes down to is that in every pound of ground beef at the grocery store you could have pieces from hundreds of cows. So imagine that, not only is there a good chance that your store bought beef is from hundreds of cows, but ⅓ has been imported. We pride ourselves on being able to offer our customers something different. Our grinder only holds 50 lbs. and we only grind 1 beef at a time. Once we grind a batch we immediately package it so that it is ready to be shipped or frozen for the farmers market.

We offer 3 different kinds of ground meat, each ground from our amazing grass fed beef. Ground chuck is made from the chuck which is a nicely marbled portion. We grind it using about 19% fat. This gives just the right amount for a juicy burger packed with flavor from the healthy fats, but not enough to have your meat swimming in fat when it is cooked. When I was out of town visiting friends, I couldn’t believe they actually had to drain fat out of their pan of ground beef. You don’t have to worry about anything like that when you try our ground chuck.

Our most popular is our ground round, which is a blend using 15% fat. We grind this using the beef round which is slightly marbled but leaner than the chuck. Most round steaks come from the round and even though it doesn't make a great grilling steak, it does make a great burger. Lastly, ground sirloin is our leanest option where we use only about 10% fat or less! This grind is made from the sirloin, the part that the very lean sirloin tip roasts are cut from. There is the least amount of fat in the grind and it is a great choice for those who want the leanest available. If you make hamburgers to grill out of this cut of meat, they will be delicious but may turn out dry if overcooked. No matter which ground beef you select from us, you can be confident that you are making a healthy choice by supporting a local farm. 

Meal Planning – Tip 1 ~ Freezer Meals

Meal Planning – Tip 1 ~ Freezer Meals

I love anything and everything that makes dinner time easy. With three little loves and another one on the way, I just do not have hours to spend in the kitchen. But making healthy real food from scratch is a huge priority to me. I would cringe every time my husband would call me to ask “What’s for dinner?”, often times I was silently asking myself the same question. Since he doesn’t cook, I knew I couldn’t count on him to quickly whip something up for our family to eat. Granted, he can make some good scrambled eggs now, and I will even eat them since he has had years of practice.  Alas, it is my job to make dinner and his job to clean up the mess. Finally, I was in search of ways to make dinner interesting and less of a challenge.

I was first introduced to freezer meals through the way of batch cooking. I would often make a large pot of chili and freeze half of it or make 3 lasagnas instead of just 1 for dinner. This allowed me to pull out a lasagna or chili when I needed something fast. This worked great for me for years but I became bored with the same rotating dinners. I bought so many cookbooks hoping to find new recipes to add to my rotation. But after trying so many recipes with hours of prep, I gave up. I became frustrated because my family didn’t seem to really enjoy the new recipes and the prep was exhausting.  So I began searching for other options, (processed foods were not an option) and I thought I was doomed to boring meals with hours spent in the kitchen in order to give my family the healthy meals we needed.

When my quest seemed hopeless and my 3rd baby was born I was introduced to Wildtree, an organic spice company that amazed me – Simple, Healthy Dinners. Yes! That’s what I needed! I needed something simple to prepare and simple to cook. I needed something healthy, because real food, using our John Henry’s Grass Fed meats is a priority. And, of course, dinner! Dinner time is a main event at our house and most often times dinner leftovers are packed up for us to eat for lunch the next day. That being said, it is important to me that my meals are big enough to allow for leftovers, as well as, the needs of my littles, aka. bottomless pits. My littles are definitely big meat eaters and that is definitely something I embrace. I want them stocking up on all the good protein and extra benefits they receive from our meats.

So what are these freezer meals all about? They are about giving you more time. All of Wildtree’s freezer meals are designed to be ready in about 30 mins. or less. There are also several crock pot options that make the meal even faster! The process to make the freezer meals is super easy as well. You can make it alone in the comfort of your own home or attend/host a workshop and visit while assembling your meals. The prep work is a dream as well. I will gladly spend an hour of my time to chop and prep veggies, knowing i am only dirtying the needed dishes and pans once instead of each time I make a meal. In addition, the time is well spent seeing that I am making 10 large meals to feed my family.  

Keeping my freezer stocked with Wildtree Simple, Healthy Dinners is now a top priority and not a fad or trend for me.  I just can’t imagine my life without my freezer meals. For my personal use, I make up a new bundle once every 3-4 weeks. This keeps a good supply going in my freezer as well as allowing us to have a variety of flavors.

 

Love, Katie 

Ready, Set Breakfast!

Breakfast

Do you find yourself skipping breakfast? Maybe 3 cups of coffee to hold you over until lunch? – It can’t be too bad, or can it?!

I used to be this person, well, minus the coffee part. I have never acquired a taste for the roasted beans many crave. But with little ones demanding my attention as I try to get them out the door, I would often forget about food until lunch time. I figured it was normal and that I was saving those calories for my next meal in hopes of keeping my waistline trim. And yet, I had a hard time getting the extra pounds, from my last baby, to come off. After a diagnosis of an autoimmune condition, and starting Dr. Axe’s Heal Your Gut program, I began to realize how vital breakfast really is. I always knew my kids should eat breakfast but thought that was just because they were hungry.  I had learned to ignore those hunger pains, so I figured they weren’t there. Once I decided to put my health first and help my body heal from the autoimmune disease, I started by making breakfast a priority. I still needed something fast and easy so I started making some highly nutritious smoothies. Dr. Axe provided some great recipes with combinations I would have never thought to use. Breakfast has now become a blessing I didn’t know I needed. I wanted to take time in this post to share some things I have learned about the importance of breakfast for adults and children.

Your body is designed to run like a machine or should I say, we design machines to operate like our bodies? Either way, our bodies have a rhythm for sleeping, eating, and working. Breakfast is so crucial because our bodies are ready for the eating cycle shortly or immediately after the sleeping cycle. When we adequately fuel up in the morning, we have helped our body to fire on all cylinders giving us better emotional stability, more energy, and we find it easier to maintain a good body weight. Blood sugar is usually low in the morning and your muscles and brain need it to work their best. Breakfast is like putting gas in the engine, it can’t run without it! That being said, it is very important that you are fueling up with the right things. Putting diesel fuel in a gas motor will cause some major problems, just like filling up with sugary junk, can cause problems. Our bodies are more forgiving than machines, so often times we over look symptoms that are telling us there is a problem until something major has developed. Let’s not do that with breakfast. Let’s choose healthy nutritious options that will keep our bodies running all day and keep illness away.

As I mentioned above, I started with breakfast smoothies. As an added bonus, my kids love the smoothies as well. My son requests the chocolate covered strawberry one almost daily. I am so happy that I learned of some great ingredients to include in them, without impacting the sweet flavor. I start off with homemade yogurt. I started making my own because I learned that letting the yogurt ferment for a long time, I prefer 36 hours, is a game changer as far as bacteria growth. After the average 6-8 hour mark that commercial producers use, the good, live bacteria start growing like mad. My yogurt was so thick; there was no need to strain it! I love Greek yogurt because it is strained (some whey is removed) to give it the nice thick consistency and higher protein content. But there is no need to waste any of the whey; the longer fermentation process will give me the same results. This is the base to my smoothies, because the protein and live cultures really help nourish our bodies.  I then add in some coconut milk, coconut oil, fruit of my choice, ground flax seeds and soaked chia seeds. In my chocolate covered strawberry smoothie, I also include chocolate grass fed beef protein powder, along with some cacao to increase the protein and add flavor. On occasion, we need to add a little sweetener to the smoothie because the yogurt can have a strong flavor of its own. I love adding some homemade vanilla extract and stevia for sweetness, without sugar.  This smoothie is a huge hit and I love that it includes lots of protein and fiber to carry my littles through their busy mornings as well as lots of healthy fats and medium chain fatty acids to support our brains.

Another staple for us is, of course, bacon and eggs. I love that our John Henry’s bacon is nitrite free and that our chickens are out pecking in the dirt, eating bugs. I make a big breakfast for my family every Saturday morning that includes eggs, hash browns, bacon, gluten free biscuits and gravy and anything else I feel like throwing together. But during the busy week, it is usually scrambled eggs and bacon or scrambled eggs with onions, Canadian bacon cut into small cubes, and cheese. This “one pan meal” is super easy and I love how fast it cooks.

Let go of the Eggo!!!! Wow, was I ever shocked when reading the ingredients on these waffles! Why do they seem to put food coloring in every “kid friendly” food item at the grocery store? Ugh, so annoying! Anyways, I will get off my soap box. I usually make homemade grain free waffles for my littles and they LOVE them. The base is eggs and cashews so again they are getting lots of good protein and fat. The best part is – they are great the day I make them and still amazing reheated in the toaster for days to come. They freeze great and make breakfast quick!

Breakfast doesn’t have to be boring or a challenge. The hardest part for me was just taking the time to make it a priority. It has paid off big time for me and I know it will for you. 

Cubed Chicken Breast

Cubed Chicken Breast

Have you ever heard of cubed chicken? It isn’t what you think! This is not chicken breast cut into square cubes as many would expect, but rather it is prepared in a completely different way. This cut of meat is made from our delicious John Henry’s boneless skinless chicken breast; and they are a huge hit with all the hungry tummies at my house. We absolutely love how fast this form of chicken can be prepared all while being tender enough to cut with a fork.  I bet you are wondering how this is possible, chicken in 10 minutes and you don’t even need a knife?!

For my littles, this is the closest they come to a chicken “nugget”. The texture is similar to the nugget being that it is very easy to chew and almost seems like a ground meat. I usually prefer to cook my cubed chicken breast in a skillet on the stove top. They cook fast so you have to be watching closely so not to overcook. Cubed chicken breast can be used in many different dishes. Some of our customers like to use them to roll up special blends.   Others prefer to bread them with a panko crust, or flour coating. We personally love to eat them with an almond meal breading seasoned with Wildtree’s Adobo seasoning blend. This gives us a great gluten free option with some extra protein.

 This handy, dandy contraption makes this all possible. Our butcher cuts a chicken breast in half, and then drops it into the slot on top where it falls through a wheel of pointy teeth that tenderize it. Our butcher catches it, turns it 90 degrees and drops it through a second time to make sure that it is ready to go. We package 2 pieces per pack and that usually weighs in at around 1 lb. A word of caution, because they have been tenderized you must handle them with care when preparing to cook them. A cubed chicken breast will want to start to fall apart if it is handled too much. Once I am ready to cook them, I will carefully take each piece out of the package and hold it in the palm of my hand to help it keep its shape. I will then flip it over into my coating mixture treating it like a pancake. If I am only adding seasoning I would sprinkle the one side with my favorite blend and then flip it over into my heated pan. This cut is definitely kid friendly, mother approved. Because it is a staple at my house, I wanted to make sure all of our John Henry’s customers were able to benefit from this easy lunch or dinner idea. 

Why our bodies need FAT

Our bodies need FAT.

                Many of us have been led to believe that fats are bad for us. The marketing slogans of “Low Fat” and “Fat Free” have led many to believe that by selecting these items, they were choosing a “Healthy” option. Unfortunately, those phrases do not mean health, in fact, it is often the opposite. I remember when I was growing up my parents had a friend who was consumed with keeping her small figure. She often stocked up on “Fat Free” snacks. I was always mesmerized by the thought that she was eating cookies and crackers all while thinking she was doing great with her health because they were “Fat Free”.  Fast forward a few years, I realized that those phrases were all just a marketing ploy to sell more cookies and crackers. The thought of fat being such a horrible thing always stuck around in the back of my mind but I was always conflicted. How could all fats be bad? Why did I witness others having a chicken breast to avoid extra fats, while I was having a burger or a nicely marbled steak? I grew up on our amazing grass fed beef, pastured pork and our free range chickens and never had a worry about the fats found in our meats. To me, there was definitely something suspicious when people would avoid fats in meat but fill up on “Fat Free” snacks. Let’s dive into some science to find out where the truth lies.

Our brains are made up of 60% fat, so it only makes sense that it needs fat to work correctly. Good nutrition, and consuming the right kinds of good fats, is key to maintaining a healthy brain. When we fuel our brain with fat, it encourages ketosis, which provides energy and helps protect against brain disease. A diet that is high in monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) can also increase the production of a neurotransmitter that is important for learning and memory. A great food source for MUFAs is Avocado. I love this creamy green superfood in guacamole or in my morning smoothie!

Another healthy fat type is saturated fats; they are actually one of the main components of brain cells. Maybe you have heard of the benefits of coconut oils in regards to preventing and treating Alzheimer’s or other brain diseases. In one study, it was found that people who ate more saturated fat reduced their risk for developing dementia by 36 percent. Saturated fats are also necessary for proper hormone balance along with good immune and liver function. Some great examples of saturated fats are beef, lamb, pork, butter, coconut oil and palm oil.

Polyunsaturated fats contain the well-known essential fatty acids omega-3 and omega-6. These are so important to our brains ability to function properly but our bodies cannot produce them; we must include sources of these fats in our diet. An omega-3 known as DHA is also very important and has been shown to help improve conditions such as depression, bipolar disorder and even ADHD. If you are suffering from one of these conditions, consider taking a closer look at your diet. You must make sure that you are eating foods high in DHA such as:

  • Algae
  • Fatty fish, like anchovies, salmon, herring or tuna
  • Organ meat, like liver
  • Fish oil
  • Poultry and eggs in small amounts

Fats in our diet are so interesting and very much needed for optimum health. Please be sure to choose healthy foods with healthy fats that will help your brain instead of harm your body. Stay away from Trans Fats and hydrogenated oils that can be harmful and choose some of the fats above to nourish your brain. 

Ground Turkey

Ground Turkey

Ground Turkey has revolutionized the choices we have for our favorite ground meat meals. From burgers to chili, spaghetti sauce to meatloaf now a days many are choosing to do turkey instead of beef in these popular meals.  Whether it is a conscious decision to avoid excess fat or you just prefer the taste of poultry over beef, ground turkey is all the rage. You may have thought you were opting for the “healthier” option when standing in line at the grocery store but some ground turkey may hold a dark secret.

What is in ground turkey? “Just ground turkey meat” is how I would have answered before learning that often times ground turkey is produced using the bi-products left over from other turkey cuts. That in itself is not too disturbing but when I learned those other things could also mean fillers like “skin” and “natural flavorings” I pondered how that could possibly be healthier. These fillers are added to keep costs low and give it a more palatable flavor. Luckily, you do not need to worry about that craziness when you choose John Henry’s Ground Turkey. We use only our highest quality free range turkey. We have created a special blend boneless, skinless breast and thigh meat. No flavoring, fillers or extras of any kind are added to our ground turkey.  

Turkey packs a punch when it comes to health benefits by providing important vitamins B-6 and B-12, niacin, choline, selenium and zinc. It is also high in protein which is a necessity in a healthy diet, 3 ounces of turkey will provide your body with 26 grams of protein. Lack of protein in your diet can lead to lack of energy, feelings of weakness, jitteriness or spaciness. The high protein in turkey can keep your energy up for whatever your work/school day throws at you. There is no need to grab your third cup of coffee in the afternoon if you are nourishing your body at lunch time with some turkey.

One of my favorite ways to incorporate a little more turkey into our dinner routine is the “John Henry’s Homestyle Meatloaf”. This was a huge hit when I made the Simply Wholesome Wildtree Freezer Meal Bundle for my family last year. This meal changed my opinion about meatloaf and we even offer it to our John Henry’s customers as one of our Easy Meals. It is made with half ground beef and half ground turkey with Wildtree’s Red Pepper & Garlic Blend, coconut flour, egg and onion. I was very leery at first and wondered how that combination was going to work. But my dinner was a big success and I love that I am able to feed my family grass fed beef and free range turkey the way it should be – without fillers.

 

Love, Katie 

Danger Signs of Vitamin D Deficiency

Danger Signs of Vitamin D Deficiency

I am ready to say so long to the gloomy winter and hello summer sun, but not just for the instant mood lift. My littles have been cooped up for many months and even though I bundle them up and send them out to play as often as possible, they are not reaping the rewards of summer sun.  I hope this post can show you why our bodies desperately need Vitamin D.

Our bodies absorb Vitamin D in two main ways – exposing our skin to sunlight and by taking Vitamin D supplements. Though there are some foods high in Vitamin D,  you cannot get enough through food alone. The best way to get the optimum amount of Vitamin D Is exposing your bare skin to direct sunlight (UVB rays). Sitting in a car and letting the sun shine in on you while driving, doesn’t cut it. Unfortunately, the glass blocks those special rays and your body can not produce Vitamin D. It is easy to be in the direct sun during the summer or if you are vacationing to a warmer climate. You don’t need to burn or even tan to produce the beneficial vitamin. It is estimated that over one BILLION people worldwide are deficient and over 75% of American children 12 and under are either insufficient or deficient. I was shocked to learn this but growing up in Michigan, during the cold winter months, my body rarely sees the sun from November to April.

I find the deficiency numbers staggering because as I walk into my local drugstore I can see the SUNBLOCK aisle stretching nearly the entire length of the store. It has definitely grown since when my grandma was a little girl. I watch my friends cover their kiddos in the white cream throughout the day unknowingly BLOCKING all those beneficial UVB rays. I am not suggesting sending those babies out to play all day without protection because allowing our skin to burn can definitely cause damage and has been proven to lead to cancer. But while the risk for cancer has grown, sunscreen products do not seem to be the clear answer. Sunscreen, in every form, is found in almost every store around the world, yet the risk is still there. Often the most dangerous forms of skin cancer are detected in places where the sun does not reach, between your toes for example.

So what can be done?

Be intentional to get sun on your bare skin for short periods of time. Don’t sun bath for long periods of time, move to the shade to relax. Find a sunscreen that is full of beneficial nutrients to the skin versus toxic chemicals.  Change your diet to REAL foods and eliminate processed junk. Those who have modified their diet and have eliminated grains, polyunsaturated or hydrogenated oils notice a much higher resistance to the sun. I can definitely attest to this. My littles rarely wear sunscreen yet they never burn. If we happen to be going to a place where extended sun exposer is unavoidable, I will use a natural zinc oxide based cream but those times are very few. I found this so intriguing because my kids are outside all the time, mostly with very few clothes on and barefoot. I used to be concerned until I read Dr. Axe’s book “Eat Dirt”, now I send them out to play and know their little dirty feet are pulling microbes from the ground that will benefit their immune systems.

Why is it so important?

You must have ample amounts of Vitamin D for your body to absorb calcium. I am sure we have all seen the commercials about calcium enriched breakfast foods for “strong bones” in kids. Calcium is so important to our body and bones, without it, children have soft, fragile bones and adults suffer from osteomalacia.

Here is a real world example of how lack of Vitamin D and calcium can affect children:

My son’s best bud was over playing at our house over the summer, he fell from the monkey bars on our swing set and he came running in crying holding his arm. I was so worried and after a long night in his mother’s arms, she knew it must be more serious than a bump or bruise. It turns out, he actually fractured his elbow. His pediatrician told them that it was imperative to get more calcium into his diet because it was a pretty significant break. The need for calcium in our daily lives is very important, however if our bodies are not getting the adequate amount of Vitamin D, it will not and cannot absorb the calcium we are consuming. This knowledge is crucial.

Vitamin D deficiency has also been linked to several kinds of cancer, heart disease, depression, weight gain and other conditions. It’s definitely a bad deal and sometimes our bodies do not let us know there is a big problem until something major happens. It is very important that we take control over our health to protect and heal ourselves.

Inflammation – this is a big No-No for those with any form of autoimmune disease. Lack of Vitamin D can cause inflammation in the body. If you suffer from an autoimmune condition or maybe just have symptoms of soreness or achy joints, you definitely need to get in the sun and cut out inflammation causing foods. According to a study in the Archives of Internal Medicine “Researchers have found that the deficiency may negatively impact immune function and cardiovascular health and increase cancer risk.”  I found this fascinating because exposing 25 percent of our skin to sunlight for 10 minutes a day and a minimum of 3 times a week will help maintain our Vitamin D levels. However, people with beautiful ebony skin may need a little bit more.  This should encourage us to get outside as often as possible and send our little ones out to play even more.

What do we do during the cold months?

When you do not have direct access to the sun for an extended period of time, you will need to supplement. You may want to get your blood levels checked to make sure you are in the optimum range, if not, hit the beach before the winter and start taking a high quality Vitamin D supplement.

These foods provide Vitamin D also:

While these foods do provide Vitamin D, your diet alone is unlikely to give you all you need. According to the Vitamin D Counsel, adults need 10,000 IU/day and children need 2,000IU/day per 25lbs of body weight. Those are some big numbers and I can totally understand why there would be such a large percentage of people deficient in Vitamin D. With the increase in technology, and so many more people living in large cities, adults and children struggle to get enough sunlight. So plan to take a walk, ride your bike, or just plain get outside to enjoy the sun, you’re worth it!