Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Lake Meadow Naturals

I recently had the opportunity to visit Lake Meadow Naturals Farm in Ocoee, Florida and I have to tell you it was an amazing experience.  For those of you who know me, you know I was raised in a very rural part of the country. Laurel Fork, Virginia to be exact. It's beautiful there. Very lush and green with lots of dairy farms and cabbage crops that are worked by some of the hardest working people I've ever known.  It's a slower pace of life along the Blue Ridge but one I yearn to return to. I felt that same comfortable easiness from back home when I pulled into this beautiful farm nestled in a quaint rural part of Ocoee.

Lake Meadow Farm isn't huge by any means but it's plenty big enough to leave an impact on our area. I fell in love with the way this farm is ran. It's well organized with friendly hands that aren't to busy to stop, say hi, chat a bit and proud to show you around.  Dale, the owner of Lake Meadow Naturals, was kind enough to give us a tour of his farm and teach us a little about what he does and why he does it.
You can tell Dale really loves his work and cares a lot about animals, our environment as well as our next generation of farmers/consumers.

"I want children to know where their food comes from and not think that it just comes from a store." -Dale

It's comments like these that make it easy to see that Dale cares.
Today this valuable life lesson can be learned via the Pick-Your-Own area where your children can come and select eggs straight from the hens nests. I love this idea and I will be taking my kiddos over there very soon to do just that!

If you visit the farm you'll see several types of chickens, the ever popular Rhode Island Red, the beautiful Plymouth Rock and the Rhode Island White, with the Rhode Island Red being the most popular egg laying fowl on property. But this isn't a popularity contest. Everyone and everything here is equally important and each has a job to do.

What the Chickens do!
This farm has 3000 chickens that spend their mornings laying eggs. Then around lunch time the doors to the chicken coops open and they are released into the farms court yard to bask in the sun, stretch their legs and socialize with one another in the fresh air. As night time falls they then make their way back to the safety of their coops where they roost and bed down for the night. 

What the Farmers do!
Dale and his crew collect eggs several times throughout the day. After the eggs are collected they go into  a bath for about 15 minutes and then inspected and graded.

 I never knew how inspection and grading worked but it's a very simple process.
 Each egg passes in front of a light that reveals any cracks in the shell. See that egg above? It will be placed aside due to fractures revealed by the light. However, if the egg is free of cracks it is then weighed and dispensed in a trough with eggs of the same size and weight for packaging. The eggs are then placed into cartons and refrigerated.
Oh, and do you remember when all eggs came in those grey or off white paper cartons? Not those shiny pastel colored Styrofoam containers you see in your local grocery store or super markets today.
I'm talking the real paper egg cartons of yesterday.
 Well these lovely eggs are packaged in those same paper cartons. 
And these cartons have a wonderful twist.
 They are made from 100% recycled Orlando Sentinel Newspapers! 
And when you have used all your eggs you can return your carton to the farm where it will be broken down and recycled once more. I totally loved this! 
After the eggs are placed in their cartons
then it's off to the cooler for chilling where these eggs will briefly sit until delivered.

Where will these eggs end up?
Well for starters you won't find them at Publix.
But if you're a local and you want to get your hands on these just visit your local farmers market!
Don't have a farmers market near you? No worries.
These beauties can be found in health food stores such as Chamberlain's as well as other popular health food stores. Call your local health food store and inquire.
Don't live in Orlando and reside in Kissimmee/St. Cloud? Then hit up The Green Place.
It's no lie. 
These eggs are popular and 
hitting the the mixing bowls of some of Orlando's Top Chef's and are served to patrons of the most prized hotels in the City Beautiful.

If you get a chance you really should go for a hormone and antibiotic free egg that you know comes from a healthy happy hen. :)

Like I said earlier, I learned a lot during our visit and some of the facts were just amazing!

For example..
Did you know???
Lake Meadow Naturals chicken feed is ground in New Smyrna and doesn't contain any fillers, antibiotics or hormones. 
It's 100% CORN!
Imagine that!
They have a Pick-Your-Own area for children to hand select eggs straight from the hens nest for purchase. Keep in mind this is First Come -First Served and is a wonderful way to teach your children where their food comes from.

 The also have a country store on property where you can get wonderful heritage meats, cheeses and
 seasonal heirloom fruits and vegetables along with lovely canned jellies, jerky, and even some delicious GLUTEN FREE SPAGHETTI SAUCES!
{Ill be reviewing this lovely find in a separate post!}

Lake Meadow Naturals also raise Turkey. 
Now you can purchase your holiday turkey with none of the bad extras you get with a regular store bought turkey. 
Say bye-bye to the genetically modified turkey in your local store and hello to a beautiful bird free of antibiotics and hormones from Lake Meadow Naturals.

You'll also find lots of different cuts of Heritage Meats in their freezers as well!
Have no idea what Heritage meat is? Well neither did I!
I had however heard of Heirloom Seeds and Dale explained to me that Heritage means the stock has not been bred to heighten or selectively change a breed and they have been the same for fifty years or more.
Basically Heritage is a NON-GMO livestock, where Heirloom is NON-GMO plants.
Pretty cool, eh?

Another beautiful fact is...
Pesticides are NOT used on property.
They use the age old technique that was used back in the 1950's, the Guinea Hen!
These hens are amazing and eat bugs and larvae keeping the farm clean of insects without the use of harmful pesticides. 
Yes folks this is how farms kept insect populations in check before Monsanto!

Lake Meadow Naturals is home to over a half a million honey bees!
Sitting close to Orange groves, these bees make wonderful local Orange Blossom Honey. And when the Orange trees aren't blooming they make a wonderful Wild Flower Honey.
{I'm almost out of honey so I'm super excited about this find!!}

Lake Meadow Naturals recycle 75% of everything they use!
So as you can see Dale's operation is very environmentally friendly and is a finely tuned machine that works harmoniously with mother earth. 

They also produce and sell Duck eggs!
Amazingly duck eggs have a higher nutritional value than regular chicken eggs!
So if your iron is low...try duck eggs.
Duck Egg 15% Iron - Chicken Egg 5% Iron
And did you know that most folks who have an allergy to eggs can consume Duck eggs?

I know this is a ton of information and I haven't shared everything I learned with you. 
If you get a chance to visit this farm please do. It's a great experience I promise.
I'll close with this.
Me on a farm with dogs = Pure Happiness.

All photo credits go to JCPJR Photography.
Please don't use with out permission.

If you would like to learn more about Dale and his lovely farm you can visit them online at

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Taco Tuesday!

I deem this Tuesday

And with that I give you the Taco Pizza.

It's super easy to pull together and here's all you need.

Pizza Dough

1/3 cup Tomato Sauce
2 -1/2  Tablespoons of Pace Mild Salsa
1-1/2 t of Taco Seasoning
{You can always add more if you need more spice}

Pizza Toppings
Half a pound of Ground Beef
Homemade Taco Seasoning or Taco Seasoning Packet
Mexican Blend Cheese
Fresh Tomato

Put it all together.

Brown the ground beef and add 1/3 of the taco seasoning along with three tablespoons of water. 
Let simmer.

Spoon sauce over pre-baked pizza crust.
Cover with seasoned ground beef and sprinkle with fresh cut tomatoes.
Cover with as much Mexican Blend Cheese as you desire.

Bake at 375 for 15-20 minutes or until the pizza is golden.
Place directly on rack for a crispier crust!

I always remove my crust from the pan after the initial baking and after topping the pizza place it in the oven directly on the rack for the full 15-20 minutes.

 Serve with a side salad and enjoy!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Homemade Gluten Free Granola

I love granola. 
And I really love it in my yogurt and it always makes me a little sad when I see it somewhere and know I can't just pick one up.

So I decided to make my own by modifying a recipe I found and wow did it turn out great!
This may turn out to be a great Christmas gift to give family, friends and neighbors. 
Trust me when it gets close to the Christmas Holidays I will be making some of this
and when I do I'll be hoping someone stops by because it fills your home with such a lovely warm cinnamon smell.

You know the nuts they roast and coat with a cinnamon sugar and sell at the mall, farmers markets and such? Well that smell is exactly what your home will smell like. mmmm

And even though this granola has a sweet smell while its cooking it's not at all overly sweet.
I would describe it as delicately kissed by sweet maple and cinnamon.

It's super simple and so easy to put together and gosh it's also pretty darn good for you too!
Here is what you'll need.

3 Cups of Gluten Free Oatmeal (Bob's Red Mill)
1 Cup Dried Fruit (We chose Cranberries)
1/4 Cup Chia Seeds
1/4 Cup Sunflower Seeds
1/2 Cup Walnuts
1/2 Cup Almonds
1/2 t Cinnamon
1/2 t Sea Salt
1/3 Cup Maple Syrup
1/4 Cup Coconut Oil
1 t Vanilla Extract

Mix all dry ingredients together in a large bowl.

Warm the maple syrup and coconut oil on the stove until warm and both combine with one another.
Pour warm syrup mixture over the dry ingredients and add vanilla.
Stir until well mixed and coated.

Place into a 9 x 13 jelly roll pan and bake at 325 degrees for 15 minutes.
Remove, stir and place back into oven for an additional 15 minutes.

Allow to cool completely and then package!

 Once you have your granola made you can pair it with all kinds of yummy things.
Like my layered to-go yogurt above.
I spooned a heaping teaspoon of honey in the bottom. Seriously, that is really all I put in the jar even though it looks like a lot more. Then scooped about 1/2 cup of Organic French Vanilla Yogurt on top of that then topped it with two and a half teaspoons of granola.
You can tighten the lid on it and toss it into your bag and have breakfast when you get to work.
Or make ahead of time and keep in the fridge for quick grab-n-go breakfasts and snacks.
{minus the granola you don't want it to get soggy :0}

These cans hold 8 ounces and make the perfect on the go containers!

I have to give credit to Green Plate Rule where I found this lovely granola recipe. :) 
So head on over to her site and take a look around she has tons of healthy recipe ideas.


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Do you know what's really on your table/plate/tongue?

I know Fridays are supposed to be Inspiration Friday's with an image and possibly a short blurb but this Friday I have to share something I feel is critically important to get out.
And that is...
Do you really understand what you are eating?

Let me explain.

 Going Gluten Free has opened my eyes to more than just gluten in the foods we eat. It has opened my eyes and broadened my vision and honestly what I've seen has scared the hell out of me.

Ever since my diagnosis I have been on a mission to learn as much as I can about the foods my family ingests and it's just so shocking what I've learned and continue to learn daily.  When I think back on my grocery shopping days before I was diagnosed I picture myself pushing a cart through the isles blind folded and raking food off the shelves into my cart.
Oblivious. Just buying. No label Reading.

I'm being very honest here when I tell you this. 


I'm scared of what I've unknowingly done to myself and my family. For years I have mindlessly placed dangerous food on my table all because I trusted and believed if it was in the grocery store it had to be regulated and safe. Oh how I have been so wrong.

Sadly our food supply is being manipulated and controlled by scientists and the big companies who employee them.
It's more about money than safety.

I refuse to allow my family or myself for that matter to continue being a human science project.

My hope is that I can reverse the ill affects these chemicals have imposed on our bodies with fresh organic Non-GMO foods.
If it's too late for me hopefully making these changes now in my children's diet will help them long after I am gone. I want them to know what I know and understand that food is here to nourish us not make us sick. It's so important for me to teach them that we have to be vigilant and read and learn as much as we can so we can remain healthy. 


Special thank you to my awesome friend Shane over at Environmental Booty for sharing this short must see video on her blog this week.  I now pay it forward and share it with you.

Genetic Roullette

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Perfect Hair Band

Ties, Bands, Bows, Clips
Pony Tails, Buns, Braids

No matter how you prefer to pull your hair back you have most likely gone through a process of elimination to find the best fit for your hair type, the shape of your head and what feels and looks best on you.

And just like you, I have gone through the same process but I'm always on the look out for something pretty, functional and cool that I can pull my hair back with.
My requirements are quite simple I think, but sadly many products have fell short.

In my book a great hairband must meet the following requirements in order for it to earn a spot
in my bathroom drawer. 

Keep my hair out of my face.
No Headaches Please.
Quick and Easy
Not to Tight
Stay Put

Not so much to ask for, right?
I certainly don't think so.

I've been on the lookout for a while now searching for a hairband I can wear on my runs that will keep all those tiny little baby hairs around my face, out of my face. You know the tiny hairs that never seem to grow up and always seem to be wild and unmanageable.
{If you don't know what I'm talking about, May I say... You're so lucky!}
So I started noticing girls wearing bands around their heads years back and decided to give them a try. I purchased the ever so popular Scrunchie brand and while in the store I was thinking this is it! This is going to work, it has the no slip tacky strip on the back and it's nice and slim too.
I tried it and the thing flew off my head after a few steps out the door. 
Not to mention how darn tight it was. To be honest, if it had stayed on my head for my whole run I would've had a migraine for sure. So needless to say those went into the trash!
Wasted Money!

I need something that's not tight at all around my head otherwise I get a raging headache. 
I can't do a lot of head bands because they dig into my head behind my ears and are so tight they bring on the pain. So I'm always looking for something nice and loose fitting.

It also needs to be quick and easy. Just as easy as putting my hair into a pony tail. 
And I mean NO MIRROR REQUIRED kind of easy.
Seriously, come on you never know where you are going to have to put your hair up, am I right?

Staying Power is major with me, as I'm sure it is with you girls as well. 
{And I must include the boys in this too because I see more and more guys wearing hairbands now too!}
You don't want to be out and about and have to keep fiddling with your hair.
We are looking for set it and forget hair management here. :)

it needs to be pretty
Yes, Pretty is Key.
I mean I can do black till the cows come home but if I want a splash of color I'd really like the option.

So with this long laundry list of requirements let me tell you about a new product I tried out this morning that I've fallen for. 
And Ladies let me tell you, I think I'm smitten!

ok ok let me get on with it.

I tested out a lovely product called

I have to admit because these bands are so soft and you can't feel them on your head I was really skeptical on whether they would work or not.

The question that kept going through my mind was...
How can something so soft and so flexible actually stay put and hold while I'm bouncing all over the place on my runs?

Well after this mornings run I can report that this little hot pink beauty didn't move. 
She kept my hair out of my face
I never got a headache, thank you!
She was so easy to put on.
Wasn't tight at all.
She stayed put!
Yes, was oh so pretty. 
I just loved the pop of color in my hair. :)

This product really met all my requirements and for that I have to give

5 Stars

They work great.
Are you wondering where you can get some of these?
Well it just so happens that I am doing my very first blog giveaway and it's

I'll be giving away some lovely Twistbands to one lucky winner
and all you need to do is ...
follow the Rafflecopter Widget below and you'll be entered in the drawing. 

Is it a style, a function or a color that you look for?
What have your experiences been and why do you need Twistbands?
Come on...tell me girls!!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

In the mean time...
learn more about the Twistband company and check out all their beautiful colors and other fun products they offer by clicking here!

Winner will be announced Friday, August 31!!
Best of luck to you all!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Caprese Salad or Insalata Caprese

Stare into this image and tell me you don't want to be there right now. 
Even as heavily populated as this tiny portion of the island is it still emits a sweet calming glow.
If I close my eyes I can imagine taking in the view from this very spot while feeling the breeze coming off the shore as the sun rests and the moon starts it's rise into the sky. Oh gosh how I would love to sit right here and over look this amazing view with mi amore and a crisp glass of sweet white wine.
This my friends is the beautiful island of Capri, located just off the coast of Italy near Naples.
And "Caprese" refers to something that comes from or is in the style of Capri.

Tourists know the island mostly for its villas, grottos and jutting limestone towers. 

Culinarily speaking, it's best known for its namesake salad, the insalata caprese -- fresh tomatoes, basil and mozzarella. 

The name of the island comes from "capra", the Italian word for "goat". (In English, "caprine" refers to anything having to do with goats.) A real insalata caprese, though, is not made with goat's milk cheese, but with true Mozzarella di Bufala Campana -- buffalo's milk mozzarella made in certain designated areas of Italy -- Naples included. 

Sigh...Wow would I love to visit here. There is something so amazing about Italy. It calls my name often and one day... very soon I hope to dip my toes into the salty sea off her coast.
Until then I will dream and cook and dream some more.
If you would like to have a little taste of Capri along with me you certainly can.  
This salad is so easy to prepare, takes next to no time to put together and is so beautifully rich with color that it practically pops of the plate.  And did I mention the flavor?  
It will leave even the pickiest of pallets begging for more. 
{Trust me my hubby was so pleasantly surprised that he kept coming back for more.}

All you need is
Fresh Tomatoes, Basil, Mozzarella and Balsamic Glaze.
Combine however you wish and serve.


Monday, August 6, 2012

Building the Perfect Salad!

To me there is nothing better than a fresh salad. I swear I could eat them all day, every day.
Ok well maybe not for breakfast but the other two meals I could so do it.
And when you build your meals ahead of time it makes it so easy to eat healthy which brings me to one of the main reasons I like to make these ahead of time is

The more you make eating healthy easy and convenient the more you will do it.
 I have been on a Cobb Salad kick lately and so this weekend I decided to put the salad trays to use that I had saved from my last minute lunch runs to my local Publix.
Now I have four stacked in my fridge. Ready to Grab and Go and at a fraction of the cost!

I love trying new ingredients and testing them out on my family and they always seem to really love my salad combinations.

I do have a few rules I stick by when making my salads though and presentation is huge for me.
Well because as you all know....
I love pretty food. 
Yep and that's my first requirement on my list of building the perfect salad.

Believe it or not but pretty food makes my heart skip a beat and I believe no matter how healthy it is if its pretty it will make you want to eat it all the more. 
So use your imagination and built it pretty.

Color excites the eyes and makes us want more. Eating healthy also requires that we 
"Taste the Rainbow" so to speak.
So I like to try and have as many pretty colors happening in my salads as possible.
It adds to the pretty and the healthy.

Don't think you have to stick with what you've seen used before. 
Fill a salad with your favorites. If your ideal Cobb Salad has strawberries then go for it!!
After all it has to be what YOU love and not what the supermarket dubs the perfect salad.

Well that's it, my three easy rules to designing the perfect salad.
Don't you feel inspired to go build a pretty, colorful and tasty salad now???
Go WOW your family!!!!

My Cobb Salad Ingredient List
{Go Organic where you can}

Romain Lettuce
Organic Cherry Tomatoes
Organic Carrots (Greenwise from Publix)
Boars Head Blue Cheese
Red Onion
Boiled Egg
 2 slices Boars Head Ovengold Turkey Chopped
Half a Haas Avocado Mashed
{I use avocado for my salad dressing it's naturally gluten free and packed full of good stuff}
Cobb salads most often come with bacon so you can add that if you like as well.

That's it!
Pull up a chair, dig in and enjoy!

Wanna share your favorite salad? Don't be shy tell us what you love piled high on your greens. :)