Category Archives: The Lifestyle

10 Ways to Dress Up Boxed Macaroni and Cheese

10 Ways to Dress Up Boxed Macaroni and CheeseYes, we do our level best to eat right. We avoid highly processed foods, we put fresh fruits and vegetables on the table with every meal, and we even bake our own bread.

But when you live on a farm, sometimes the urgent takes top priority.

So what do you prepare for dinner when you’ve been moving livestock, running errands, or doing some other task that keeps you out of the kitchen?

Here’s a hint—start with boxed macaroni and cheese.

As America grows ever more real-food-conscious, our healthy eating options continue to increase. It is now quite possible to find boxed macaroni and cheese that is organic, whole-grain, carefully sourced—and affordable. This kind of macaroni and cheese frequently has the advantage of tasting like real cheese, too.

For the busy country family, then, it makes sense to keep a reserve supply of quality boxed macaroni and cheese in the pantry.

 

Mix It Up

While there are many varieties and flavors of real-food-based macaroni and cheese out there these days, sometimes a few extra (and very simple) touches makes all the difference between dinner in a hurry and a special treat. Whether you want to put more variety on the table or you want to beef things up a little for a family hungry after a day of hard work, these macaroni variations should help without adding too much extra time to the process:

  1. Serve with hot sauce.
  2. Stir in your favorite salad dressing.
  3. Add salsa. Homemade salsa is even better.
  4. Add sauteed all-natural turkey sausage and onions.
  5. Add your favorite shredded cheese and stir until melted.
  6. Combine with sauteed onion and fully cooked ground beef.
  7. Stir in pasta sauce, chopped onion, sliced olives, and sliced pepperoni.
  8. Top with leftover chili. Sprinkle with shredded cheddar. Serve with ketchup.
  9. Add taco seasoning (you can make your own, but that’s a subject for another post) and top with sour cream.
  10. Heat up leftover soup on the stove and stir in the contents of the cheese packet. Add the pasta and simmer until the noodles are completely cooked.

Enjoy!

$2.99 for a Limited Time Only—The Worst Jokes I Know

The Worst Jokes I Know (and I Know a Lot!)The Kindle edition of The Worst Jokes I Know (and I Know a Lot!): 101 Funny Bone Ticklers for Jokesters of All Ages by B. Patrick Lincoln is currently available from Amazon for $2.99—but only for a little while longer. Next week, the price will go back up to $4.49.

If you struggle to find clean, family-friendly humor that even youngest can share, The Worst Jokes I Know was created with you in mind.

These jokes were selected to connect generations with a good laugh. Lincoln has revived some old jokes with a new twist (Why is it inadvisable to read the contents of this book to an egg?) and added some wordplay of his own:

I must here apologize for having organized such a book of horrid jokes. The problem is, I couldn’t help it. I’ve always been a joker—a card, you might say.

Quirky illustrations add to the fun, while the puns and riddles themselves will help children expand their vocabularies and logic skills as they delight and entertain their families, friends, and pun pals. (And readers will finally have an answer to that nagging question of why the chicken really crossed the road.)

Free sample pages are available for download here.

Ready to give the gift of good, clean humor? The Kindle version of The Worst Jokes I Know is available for purchase here.

2019 Reading Challenge: Sustainable Agriculture

2019 Reading Challenge: Sustainable AgricultureStart 2019 right with some fresh inspiration! Try a reading challenge!

This year’s theme is sustainable agriculture. To complete the challenge, all you have to do is read 12 books, one from each of the categories listed below, by the end of the year. If you can read an average of one book per month, this should be no problem.

The categories are:

  1. A book published by SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program).
  2. A book written by Joel Salatin.
  3. A book about soil health.
  4. A book about sustainable practices written prior to 1950.
  5. A book about sustainable agriculture published in 2019.
  6. A book with the word organic in the title.
  7. A book about composting.
  8. A book about real food.
  9. A book about agripreneurship.
  10. A book about environmentally friendly farming.
  11. A book about natural pest control.
  12. A book about rotational grazing methods.

A few rules:

  • Books in electronic formats count.
  • Both fiction and nonfiction books count.
  • You can read the books in any order.
  • Books cannot be counted twice, even if they fit into more than one category.

Need some help finding the books? Check out The Homestead Bookshelf to browse our favorite titles. Then sign up for On the Range, your free weekly country living update (learn more here). At the end of every month, we’ll suggest a book for one of the categories.

Let us know what you decide to read! We’d love to hear from you!

Free Today (November 14, 2018): The Worst Jokes I Know (and I Know a Lot!)

The Worst Jokes I Know (and I Know a Lot!)Did you get a chance to read The Worst Jokes I Know (and I Know a Lot!) for free last week? If not, we’ll give you another opportunity!

The Worst Jokes I Know (and I Know a Lot!) by B. Patrick Lincoln is a collection of 101 Funny Bone Ticklers for Jokesters of All Ages. Young jokers (cards, you might say) will learn side-splitting riddles and jokes, all in a small, illustrated book made to be shared. Kids will enjoy trying out corny wordplay on their family, friends, and pun pals.

For example:

A very prudent gardener planted dollar bills throughout his entire garden. One’s first thought might have been that he wanted to grow the mythical money tree. But no, the gardener knew better than that. He was merely trying to ensure that he had rich soil.

Fortified with an arsenal of good clean humor (including a few turkey jokes), your child will keep them all laughing at the Thanksgiving family gathering this year!

A paperback edition is also available. Download free sample pages here.

Free Today (November 5, 2018): The Worst Jokes I Know (and I Know a Lot!)

The Worst Jokes I Know (and I Know a Lot!)As the season slows down and Thanksgiving approaches, it’s time for fun and family! How about adding some humor to those cozy fall evenings?

The Worst Jokes I Know (and I Know a Lot!): 101 Funny Bone Ticklers for Jokesters of All Ages by B. Patrick Lincoln is free today on Kindle. This illustrated collection of clean puns and corny wordplay will answer those questions young jokers (cards, you might say) have always wanted answers for:

  • Why is it inadvisable to read the contents of this book to an egg?
  • Why was the ground delighted with the earthquake?
  • And why did the chicken really cross the road?

These clean jokes and riddles are suitable for children ages 4 through 104. After all, you’re never too old for a good joke.

A paperback edition is also available. Download free sample pages here.

What Causes Wool Allergies?

What Causes Wool Allergies?Did you know that many people who think they have wool allergies actually do not?

Many people who appear to have an adverse reaction to wool have sensitive skin that is harmed by the rubbing and abrasion of scratchy wool fiber.

Even people with a true allergy problem are actually reacting to substances in the wool, not the wool itself.

 

Wool Allergy Vs. Sensitive Skin

Wool allergy symptoms are typical of any allergen. They include:

  • Red, puffy, itchy, or watery eyes.
  • Runny nose.
  • Nasal congestion.
  • Coughing.
  • Sneezing.
  • Wheezing.
  • Rash, which may take up to a week to appear after exposure to wool.

A problem caused by wool rubbing on sensitive skin is strictly confined to the skin, with no respiratory or other allergy symptoms. Symptoms of delicate skin that has been physically abraded by wool include:

  • Itchy skin.
  • Rash.
  • Hives.

Also note that wool sensitivity symptoms will appear when the affected person comes into contact with any coarse, scratchy fiber, not just wool.

 

Tips For Identifying a Lanolin Allergy

It is possible to be allergic to the naturally occurring lanolin found in wool. Lanolin, also known as wool wax or wool grease, is a natural protective grease that contains alcohols. These alcohols are thought to be the cause of true wool allergies. Note, however, that lanolin allergies are extremely rare.

A lanolin allergy can be hard to identify. What makes it easier (particularly for women) is that lanolin is common in many beauty creams and similar products due to its properties as an emulsifier. If you have a known issue with some beauty products, pull out the ingredient list—lanolin might be culprit.

Other products that often contain lanolin and thus can be used as a litmus test include:

  • Moisturizers.
  • Shampoos.
  • Sunscreen.
  • Shaving cream.
  • Hairspray.
  • Steroid creams.
  • Veterinary ointments.
  • Shoe polish.
  • Leather.
  • Air fresheners.
  • Printer ink.

 

Other Substances in Wool That Might Cause an Allergic Reaction

Again, lanolin allergies are quite rare. Typically, the real culprit is one of these substances:

  • Cleaning chemicals. These are sometimes added during the process of yarn manufacture and can be a major problem for those with chemical sensitivities.
  • Dyes. Likewise, some commercial dyes can cause allergies.
  • Dust mites. Wool fiber tends to hold in a great deal of foreign matter that can cause allergy symptoms. If you have a known dust allergy, there is a good chance that the dust trapped in your sweater is causing your symptoms.
  • Pet dander. Likewise, pet dander is easily trapped in the coarse fibers of wool. If you happen to be allergic to dogs or cats (or are knitting for someone else who is), keep your yarn and garments away from pets.

 

Now What?

If your problem is actually sensitive skin, there’s good news—you can continue to wear wool! Here are some tips for enjoying this fiber in comfort:

  • Dress in layers, making sure that your skin is protected from all contact with the wool garment.
  • Avoid wearing wool on days when you are likely to sweat. Sweating makes skin irritation worse.
  • Find a fine wool or wool blend. Most people with sensitive skin do not have a problem with fibers less than 22 microns in diameter. Merino is often a good option, while a blend of merino and cashmere is even better.

If you have a lanolin allergy, you will need to find a different fiber to wear, such as llama, alpaca, or cashmere. You might also enjoy working with plant fibers, such as cotton or bamboo.

Those with chemical allergies may enjoy working with yarns that have not been dyed. Or they might have fun dying their own yarns with natural substances!

And, finally, those with dust or pet dander allergies may need to avoid wool garments altogether. Wool rugs can also be a source of difficulty, so purchasing new rugs may be in order.

Eat Your Colors: Blue and White, Plus Menu Tips

Eat Your Colors: Blue and White, Plus Menu TipsHaving fun eating your reds, oranges, and greens? On to blues and whites!

 

Blue and Purple

Blue and purple colors in produce are created by the pigment anthocyanin. The darker the color, the greater the amount of pigment present.

Nutrients found in the blue/purple group include:

  • Fiber.
  • Flavonoids.
  • Vitamin C.

Blue/purple fruits and vegetables are serious soldiers on the front lines of your body’s defense systems. They keep the immune system in peak condition, actively fighting carcinogens and combating inflammation throughout the body. The blues and purples improve the absorption of calcium and other minerals, keep the blood pressure balanced, and keep the digestive system running smoothly. They may also promote circulatory health by preventing clotting. To top it off, the anthocyanins concentrated in these fruits and vegetables have been linked to a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, according to the Harvard School of Public Health.

Eager to tap into the powers of the blues and purples? Try some of the purple varieties of this produce:

  • Asparagus.
  • Blackberries.
  • Blueberries.
  • Cabbage.
  • Eggplants.
  • Figs.
  • Grapes (and raisins).
  • Plums.
  • Peppers.
  • Pomegranates.
  • Potatoes.

 

White

Can white fruits and vegetables offer any nutritional value? Yes! They receive their unique color from anthoxanthins—pale pigments with antioxidant effects.

Check out some of these nutrients:

  • Allicin (a natural chemical that promotes heart health).
  • Beta glucans (necessary for white blood cell health).
  • Potassium.

The whites have surprising amounts of immune-boosting ability. Furthermore, they offer nutrients critical to maintaining a proper balance of hormones throughout the body.

What fruits and vegetables have white varieties? Try some of these:

  • Bananas.
  • Cauliflower.
  • Corn.
  • Dates.
  • Garlic.
  • Ginger.
  • Kohlrabi.
  • Mushrooms.
  • Onions.
  • Pears (brown-skinned varieties).
  • Potatoes.
  • Shallots.
  • Turnips.

 

Suggestions for Eating Your Colors

Take a look at the color of your current diet. Could it best be described as beige? That probably means you are eating too much processed and packaged food (e.g., crackers). Time to incorporate the rainbow into your diet!

There is no specific formula to follow here. The key word is variety. The idea is to regularly incorporate a mix of colors into your diet, and this can be incredibly simple. One recommendation dieticians sometimes make is to check your grocery cart and make sure you’re buying several categories of produce—if you only have one color represented, swap a few items out with produce of other colors before you make your purchase. Gardeners, notice that each category includes both cool-season and warm-season plants; if you aim for variety in your planting schedule you should be able to harvest a rainbow throughout the season.

Note that to gain the maximum benefit from most of these fruits and vegetables, you should eat the skin whenever possible, as that is where many of the pigments and nutrients are stored. We recommend using this natural veggie wash to remove wax, dirt, and other contaminants first.

What about winter? Never fear! Frozen fruits and vegetables retain much of their color and nutritional value, making frozen produce a viable and very healthy option for those times when you just can’t get it fresh.

Cooking up a balanced blend of vitamins and minerals can be simple! Just enjoy a mix of colors on your plate on a daily basis.

 

Helpful Resources

Vegetables
Our own guide to growing, storing, and preparing produce simply.

Cookbooks
Need more tips for making the most of fruits and vegetables? Try out some of these real-food-focused cookbooks.

Eat Your Colors: Red, Orange, and Green

Eat Your ColorsTired of counting calories? Some health experts are now proposing an alternative—counting colors.

The pigments that give fruits and vegetables their varied, luscious hues are associated with nutrients important for peak health. Eating a variety of colors helps ensure that we receive a balanced mix of vitamins and minerals.

Here are some common colors and their associated nutrients.

 

Red

Some red fruits and vegetables, such as tomatoes and watermelons, derive their color from lycopene, an important antioxidant. Others, such as grapes and strawberries, receive their rosy hue from anthocyanins.

The red family of nutrients includes:

  • Folate.
  • Lycopene.
  • Quercetin (a natural antioxidant and allergy fighter).
  • Vitamin C.

This nutrient group contains important antioxidants that remove free radicals from the body and reduce the risk of some types of cancer and tumors. Fruits and vegetables in the red family are associated with lowered blood pressure and LDL cholesterol levels. They appear to have beneficial effects in arthritis patients.

Ready to eat your reds? Try the red varieties of some of these fruits and vegetables:

  • Apples.
  • Cherries.
  • Cranberries.
  • Grapefruit.
  • Grapes.
  • Radicchio.
  • Radishes.
  • Raspberries.
  • Rhubarb.
  • Onions.
  • Peppers (sweet or hot).
  • Potatoes.
  • Strawberries.
  • Tomatoes (including sauce; cooking tomato sauce lowers vitamin C levels but enhances the absorption of lycopene).
  • Watermelon.

 

Orange and Yellow

Nutrients commonly found in this color family include:

  • Folate.
  • Carotenoids, including beta carotene.
  • Flavonoids.
  • Lutein (protects the eye from cataracts and macular degeneration).
  • Lycopene.
  • Potassium.
  • Vitamin C.

This group can be divided into two groups—citrus and everything else. Citrus does not boast the beta carotene levels of vegetables like carrots, but it is much higher in folate and vitamin C.

Not surprisingly, there are many antioxidants and immune boosters in this group. But there are more goodies that you will find here! The orange/yellow group promotes the building of bones and connective tissue, and it helps ensure healthy pH and blood sugar balances in the body. And, of course, the lutein and beta carotene in carrots and other orange produce will keep your eyes healthy by protecting them from cataracts, inflammation, and age-related degeneration.

Try some of the orange and yellow varieties of these plants:

  • Apricots.
  • Cantaloupe.
  • Carrots.
  • Corn.
  • Lemons.
  • Mangoes.
  • Nectarines.
  • Oranges.
  • Peaches.
  • Peppers.
  • Pineapples.
  • Potatoes.
  • Squash (summer and winter).
  • Sweet potatoes.

 

Green and Yellow-Green

That beautiful green color in fruits and vegetables comes from the pigment chlorophyll.

Here are some of the benefits of eating your greens:

  • Beta carotene.
  • Calcium.
  • Fiber.
  • Folic acid.
  • Isothiocyanates (natural compounds that stimulate the liver to flush out carcinogens).
  • Lutein.
  • Vitamin C.
  • Vitamin K.

Note that this group can be subdivided into two categories—green crucifers (plants in the mustard family) and yellow-green noncrucifers. The crucifers are rich in isothiocyanates, while the noncrucifers supply an abundance of lutein.

This group boasts superb immune-boosting powers. And the high fiber levels associated with these plants will have a positive effect on your digestive system, as well.

Make sure some of these greens have a place on your plate from time to time:

  • Apples.
  • Artichokes.
  • Arugula.
  • Asparagus.
  • Avocados.
  • Broccoli.
  • Brussels sprouts.
  • Celery.
  • Cucumbers.
  • Grapes.
  • Green beans.
  • Green onions.
  • Honeydew.
  • Kiwifruits.
  • Leeks.
  • Lettuce.
  • Limes.
  • Okra.
  • Pears.
  • Peas.
  • Peppers.
  • Pistachios.
  • Spinach.
  • Watercress.
  • Zucchini.

 

Next in series: Blue and white, plus menu tips

Milk Substitutes: Coconut, Flax, Oat, and Pea

milkscfopCoconut Milk

The name “coconut milk” may be confusing at first glance, as many people assume that it refers to the natural juices of the inside of the coconut. But what is sold as coconut milk, the dairy substitute, is actually freshly grated coconut pulp mixed with water. The resulting milk may be sweetened or unsweetened.

Benefits include:

  • Few allergens. This milk is naturally soy- and gluten-free; just check to make sure it was processed in a facility free of allergens.
  • Medium-chain triglycerides. These highly digestible fats are believed to boost the metabolism, promoting weight loss.
  • High potassium content.

Some of the downsides are:

  • Low protein content.
  • Low calcium content.

Other characteristics of coconut milk include:

  • Consistency very close to whole cow’s milk (creamy) due to higher fat content.
  • Nutty taste that complements cereals, most baked goods, and some savory dishes, such as Asian cuisine, nicely.

 

Flax Milk

Flax milk is manufactured by taking cold-pressed flax oil and adding water. Some varieties are then sweetened.

Benefits include:

  • Few allergens. That means no soy or gluten.
  • High fiber content.
  • High levels of omega-3 fatty acids. These nutrients are believed to be very beneficial for cardiovascular health, perhaps even lowering blood pressure, curing hardened artery walls, and preventing heart attacks.

The main drawback of flax milk is that it contains very little protein. The sweetened type can be alarmingly high in sugars, but this is easily avoided by purchasing the unsweetened beverage.

Other characteristics of flax milk include:

  • Consistency varying from thin to remarkably dairy-like.
  • Naturally sweet flavor. Blind taste tests involving people who regularly drink cow’s milk revealed flax milk as the closest alternative in flavor. In cooking and baking, this makes flax milk a surefire substitute in any recipe calling for dairy milk.

 

Oat Milk

Oat milk is easier to find in Europe than in the United States, but it can be done. The manufacturing process starts when oats are soaked in purified water. The manufacturer may then opt to pulverize and blend the oats to release additional fiber. Solid materials are strained out and the result is oat milk. Oat milk is typically sweetened.

Some of the advantages of oat milk are:

  • No tree nuts, making this a good choice for some people with food allergies.
  • High fiber content, good for long-lasting energy.
  • Some protein. Although oat milk only contains about half the protein of dairy milk, it is still superior to many of the non-legume alternatives.
  • Some minerals. Even when unfortified, oat milk does contain a little bit of calcium (though not nearly as much as cow’s milk) and some iron.
  • Phytoestrogens, compounds that mimic estrogen in the body. Associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, hot flashes, and breast cancer recurrence.

Disadvantages include:

  • Gluten. If you suffer from gluten intolerance, you will want to choose a different milk.
  • High sugar content. Unsweetened oat milk can be hard to find in the United States.
  • After long-term consumption, phytoestrogens tend to interfere with normal hormone function.

Other characteristics of oat milk include:

  • Thick, creamy texture much like dairy milk.
  • Slightly sweet earthy (but not bitter) flavor. It can complement most cereals, baked goods, and some more robust savory dishes, but it can overwhelm foods and sauces with delicate flavors.

 

Pea Milk

Sound strange? Well, maybe. To avoid disagreeable flavors and colors, yellow peas are highly processed to isolate the most nutritious part without the baggage. Sunflower oil is sometimes added to make the product creamier. Assorted gums may be added to enhance the texture, as well. It can be purchased in both sweetened and unsweetened varieties.

The primary benefit is the high protein content, comparable to cow’s milk.

Drawbacks include:

  • High levels of processing.
  • High levels of omega-6 fatty acids. When unbalanced with omega-3 fatty acids, the omega-6s can produce an inflammatory effect on the body.

Note that pea milk has a floury taste. You definitely will want to purchase a small quantity the first time out to see if you can drink it.