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Heifer International: Making a Difference

There are many charities that are working to end poverty and hunger in the world. Each charity has a different strategy in how to do that, from wealth redistribution to long term aid, from teaching literacy to job training. However, there is one charity that stands out among the rest and is truly making a long term difference in people’s lives all over the world.

Heifer International began after a Midwestern farmer, named Dan West, was passing out milk rations to hungry children during the Spanish Civil War. He realized these limited rations would not sustain the hungry people, and he was forced to decide who received help and who didn’t, ultimately who lived and who died. 

West returned home with a desire to end hunger by providing families with livestock and training so that they “could be spared the indignity of depending on others to feed their children.” And in 1944, the first shipment of heifers left York, Pennsylvania for Puerto Rico. Thus, Heifer International was born. 

Heifer International’s mission statement is to work with communities to end hunger and poverty and care for the Earth. Their approach is simple. They give families in need a source of food rather than short-term relief. That source of food comes in the way of livestock, which can then be turned into income. However, the one thing that makes Heifer International different from many other charities is their “Pass on the Gift” principle. Each recipient agrees to give the first offspring of their animal to someone in their community. They also pass on the knowledge and skills they have gained to help that person care for their animal. 

This idea of Passing on the Gift creates cycles of sustainability and deep community relationships, fostering cooperation and unity. It also restores dignity as recipients become donors. This story shows the power of Passing on the Gift. 

In Rwanda, Christine Makahumure showed the true meaning of passing on the gift.

In 1994 genocidal war that raked Rwanda destroyed everything Christine had. She saw her son and husband shot to death when they were caught in a crossfire. When the fighting ended, Christine was barely able to feed her daughter and parents.

But then she received a Heifer cow. The milk supplemented the family’s meager diet, and she was able to buy a small home with income from selling milk.

Christine gave her first calf to a neighbor – but she didn’t stop there. She provided money so her neighbors could build and apply for their own Heifer cow. And she adopted four war orphans and became a living example of passing on the gift.

The foundation of success that the recipients experience comes from Heifer’s 12 Cornerstones, which build into each life. They are Passing on the Gift, Accountability, Sharing and Caring, Sustainability and Self-Reliance, Improved Animal Management, Nutrition and Income, Genuine Need and Justice, Improving the Environment, Full Participation, Training and Education, Spirituality, and Gender and Family Focus.

Heifer is also committed to caring for the Earth. They realize that hunger and poor stewardship of the land go hand in hand. Wherever they work, they teach farmers about sustainable farming methods, including organic gardening, biogas, urban agriculture, and rebuilding soil.

Won’t you consider passing on the gifts you have been given, and changing someone’s life today?

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Ecumenical Lenten Carbon Fast Day 25

Climate change is happening today.  It’s a fact that cannot be denied.  Why it is happening is up for debate but many, including myself, believe that carbon emissions are at least partly responsible for the extreme climate change taking place.

If, by making small changes in your day to day lives, you could decrease some of the incidences of extreme climate changes and protect your community for your children, would you make those changes?

Day 25
What you can do today
Think about your children, grandchildren or children to be in the context of climate change. Learn more about the effects of climate change on children and what you can do about it.

Lose Weight, Save Money

Balancing your weight does more for your health than just looking good in your clothes. The cost of obesity runs into every aspect of life including your pocketbook. This infographic tackles the truth about how slimming down can create a positive change to your health and budget.

Lose Weight save money high cost of obesity

Coconut Milk Panna Cotta with Vegan Chocolate Sauce

Every time I step foot in Italy my first dessert at the end of my first dinner is inevitably panna cotta (literally meaning “cooked cream” in Italian).  I dream of that thick creamy perfect mound of cream on a plate smothered in chocolate sauce that comes from my favorite trattoria in Siena, smack dab in the middle of Tuscany.  I do a lot of dairy in the places I go in Italy because the milk came from the cow that morning and the cow came from the pasture on the farm down the street.  It was never pasteurized, homogenized, and there was never any Vitamin D added.  (I don’t take Vitamin D when I am in Italy because I spend all my time outside anyway).

Dairy is a whole food when I am in Tuscany and I eat it with abandon. When I am in other places especially home in the US, or in Doha, my access to raw grass-fed dairy is much more limited and I tend to stay away from milk based products and dramatically diminish cooking with dairy due to the hormones, antibiotics and cortisones present in the average commercially prepared milk.  I miss panna cotta.

I am currently doing a 21 day Clean Cleanse  by Dr. Alejandro Junger MD where I have eliminated all normal food allergens (and figured out I have a pretty bad wheat intolerance during the pre-cleanse) and that means that even if I wanted dairy, it is, for the next 20 days, verbötten.  Unfortunately for me, I had a mean craving for panna cotta yesterday and nothing would shake it. So I went to work and this is what came out of it.

This recipe uses coconut milk and agar agar instead of cream and gelatin but you can use cream (organic and even raw if you have access) and gelatin with the same measures if this is what you have on hand.

Coconut Panna Cotta

Ingredients:

For the Panna Cotta
1 (400 ml) can coconut milk (not sweetened)
1/4 cup (50g) palm sugar or 2-3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon dried shredded coconut
1 vanilla bean (or 1 tsp. vanilla bean paste or extract)
1 teaspoon agar-agar

Directions:

1. Slice the vanilla bean lengthwise in 2 halfs.

2. In a medium sauce pan, bring to boil the coconut milk, add vanilla bean and the palm sugar.

3. Add the shredded coconut and on low heat stir or mix for 2 minutes. Add the Agar-Agar and bring to boil again, stirring for another minute.

4. Take out the vanilla bean. Rinse small porcelain bowls (or chinese tea cups) with cold water and fill in the coconut panna cotta. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

Vegan Chocolate Sauce

Ingredients:

1/4 cup raw cacao powder or other unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 cup water

2 tbsp agave nectar (you can use honey or brown rice syrup equally well)

2 tbsp. water

1 tbsp. cornstarch

Instructions:

Combine cornstarch with 2 tbsp of water and set aside.

Whisk cocoa and water together, then stir in agave and cornstarch mixture.

Gently bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently until the sauce thickens to desired consistency.

Add more agave if necessary. If it becomes too thick, thin it out with a little rice or almond milk. (or cream for a non-vegan fudge sauce)

Serve and Enjoy!

Bon Appétit!

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Ecumenical Lenten Carbon Challenge Day 24

Organic nutrition, eco-consciousness, and even living a greener lifestyle is often thought to be for the “upper class”.  Unfortunately, that case can be argued by the disproportionate pricing in eco-friendly and/or organic products and their availability to those in a lower socio-economic group.

Environmental racism goes one step further with a high negative environmental impact in lower income areas.  A chemical plant will look at dumping its toxic waste in low income areas perhaps with the idea that the disenfranchised will not have much of a voice within their communities.

Day 24

What you can do today

Environmental justice has been a concern of people of faith since at least 1987, when the United Church of Christ’s Commission for Racial Justice published a study, Toxic Waste and Race, and coined the term “environmental racism.” Read more about environmental justice athttp://www.ucc.org/justice/advocacy_resources/pdfs/environmental-justice/almost-everything-you-need-to-know-about-environmental-justice-english-version.pdf andhttp://www3.villanova.edu/mission/CSTresource/ecology/Methodist.pdf .

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Review: Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega-D3

Vitamin D is a steroid vitamin, a group of fat-soluble prohormones, which encourages the absorption and metabolism of calcium and phosphorous.Exposure to normal quantities of sunlight do not need vitamin D supplements because sunlight promotes sufficient vitamin D synthesis in the skin.  In this day and age with fewer and fewer people spending any time outside, more people using sunscreen on every millimeter of the body, and even the winter, Vitamin D deficiencies are one of the most prevalent health issues in our society.

Vitamin D is a heavy hitter in the world of vitamins and minerals.  It is imperative to bone health and immune function.  Deficiency adversely affects the ability to secrete insulin under increased insulin demand. Adequate Vitamin D can help regulate blood pressure and decrease the risk of developing high blood pressure.  Vitamin D deficiency has even been linked to ADD, and even autoimmune diseases such as Diabetes Mellitus, Rheumatoid Arthritis and Multiple Sclerosis.

Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega D-3 offers high quality Omega 3  with 1000 I.U. of Vitamin D3, a highly bio-available source of Vitamin D.  In gel cap form, it is easy to swallow with no fishy smell or taste.

Sustainable fishing is what makes Nordic Naturals  a standout among other fish oil producers.  Most of the fish that produces its fish oil is sourced from the seas off Norway which is one of the only countries in the world enforcing the protection of its waters from over fishing.  Joar Ophiem, CEO of Nordic Naturals, makes several trips a year to the manufacturing plant in Norway to oversee sourcing and quality control.  Many fish oils on the market today are sourced from farm raised grain-fed fish, however Nordic Naturals ensures high quality which means healthier more potent sources of Omega-3.

Nordic Naturals is also innovative with their multiple formulas for adults, children and even pets.  They have combinations of Omega 3.6.9 and even have a multi-vitamin that is a stellar alternative to conventional multi-vit supplements.

Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega D3 is an absolute must buy for anyone who gets little sun or for those who  wear a strong sunscreen all over.  Since I have discovered their Kenai Wild Salmon Oil it has gone to the top of my list of favorite Omega-3 supplements.

Ecumenical Lenten Carbon Fast Day 23

You may not be able to stop a raging tornado or turn back an out of control hurricane, but you can do your part to stem the tide of climate change due to carbon emissions.

Day 23

What you can do today

A brand new study shows that 4 out of 5 Americans have been affected by weather-related disasters. It’s time for people to learn the new reality that increasingly, weather is related to climate change.  Look for 350.org to promote a campaign that will help people make connections between their weather-ravaged towns and climate change.  Checkhttp://www.350.org/ for a new spring campaign.

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Ecumenical Lenten Carbon Fast Day 22

They say war is hell but for the environment it is murder on the eco-system.

Day 22

What you can do today

War is harmful, costly and opposed to life in so many ways that its obviousness as a threat to a sustainable eco-system makes it at once redundant to state and easy to overlook. Advocate for peace today by any life-affirming means which feels right to you.  To learn more about the specific harm to the eco-system caused by war, please seehttp://www.lenntech.com/environmental-effects-war.htm  and http://www.enviroliteracy.org/article.php/588.php

Ecumenical Lenten Carbon Fast Day 21

Civil disobedience is a powerful tool in letting the powers that be know that there needs to be a change in policy.  Just allowing your voice to be heard, preferably right alongside your community, is enough to make some serious changes or keep negative ones from happening!

Day 21

What you can do today

In 2011, environmental activists from all over America brought the risks of the Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline to the nation’s attention, guaranteed that it would be an election issue in 2012, and prompted the President to take a stand.  Many are people of faith.  1,252 people acted in the long tradition of non-violent civil disobedience articulated by Thoreau, Gandhi, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and others by getting arrested in front of the White House in August - making this the largest environmental civil disobedience in history.  In January 2012, over 800,000 people sent a message to tell their senator to say “NO!” to Keystone.  Learn about this key issue: http://grist.org/climate-energy/keystone-xl-the-story-of-a-big-ass-pipeline-proposal-so-far/ Consider what you will do in the coming months as opportunities emerge for advocacy and action in this ongoing struggle.  For the latest updates, checkhttp://thinkprogress.org/tag/keystone-xl/ frequently.

Banana Oatmeal Pancakes

Pancakes are a big deal in our home.  When I met my husband he had never eaten them so I had a blast making his first real buttermilk pancakes of his life.  As I discovered I do better when not eating wheat, pancakes fell by the wayside as I found many of the gluten-free mixes turned out to be “bitter” disappointments.  That’s figuratively and literally unfortunately. One thing I still love is oats.  I rotate my grains pretty often and only eat oats once a week or so but when I figured out that in under 30 minutes and with only a few ingredients  I always have in my kitchen I could create the fluffiest creamiest pancakes this short of paradise I was doing back flips in my kitchen.

My husband declared these were definitely our new “weekend” brunch breakfast.  (He has asked me to make them 3 times this week already!)

Ingredients:  

3 small bananas (9.5 oz.or 270g), mashed

2 tablespoons coconut oil or butter, melted

1 tablespoon lemon juice (about 1 small lemon, juiced)

1 teaspoon honey, brown rice syrup or maple syrup

2  free-range organic eggs 1 tsp. vanilla (optional)

1 cup organic oat flour*

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

* I used 1/2 cup oats lightly spun in food processor and 1/2 cup finely milled oat flour.  Play around with the different consistencies to find out which works for your family.  All oat flour will produce a great pancake with no “bits”  while lightly chopped oats will produce a little texture. Note:  I use my handy dandy Kitchen Aid to throw these pancakes together in a snap but the directions below are for hand mixing and are just as easy.  I can be a wee lazy on the weekends.

Directions:

  1. In a medium bowl, stir together the mashed bananas, melted coconut oil (or butter), lemon juice and honey (or brown rice or maple syrup).
  2. Beat in the eggs.
  3. Add vanilla if using and stir to incorporate.
  4. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the oat flour, baking soda, salt and spices.
  5. Form a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients. With a big spoon, stir just until the dry ingredients are thoroughly moistened. Do not overmix or the pancakes could be on the tough side.
  6. Let the batter sit for 10 minutes. If pancake batter appears too thick, thin out with a little milk or rice milk.  I find them easier to flip on the thicker side.
  7. Heat a heavy cast iron skillet (or nonstick griddle) over medium-low heat. If necessary, lightly oil the surface with vegetable oil, butter, or coconut oil.
  8. Once the surface of the pan is hot enough that a drop of water sizzles on it, pour 1/4 cup of batter onto the pan. Let the pancake cook for about 3 to 4 minutes, until bubbles begin to form around the edges of the cake.
  9. When the pan is just beginning to set, flip it with a spatula and cook for another 90 seconds or so, until golden brown on both sides. You may need to adjust the heat up or down at this point.
  10. Serve the pancakes immediately or keep warm in a warm oven.

These pancakes are so sweet and creamy only very little syrup is needed, if used at all.  We had some dark amber maple syrup and extra bananas with some coconut and hazelnuts lying around.

Serve and enjoy!

Bon Appétit!

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