Wednesday, September 28, 2011

0 Lettuce Wraps...but these are not like PF Chang's

A good friend of mine, Gareth, makes these quick and easy wraps often. They have a  mediterranean flavor and are pretty good for you too. Again, this is a versatile meal – you can have brown rice on the side, or put it in with the beef, or you can substitute chicken or black beans for the beef. This meal would taste good with sour cream cucumbers too.

Lettuce Wraps
1 lb 85% or better ground beef
1 onion, chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, chopped
¼ c raisins
¼ c diced dried apricots
small bunch of fresh parsley, chopped
2 Tbl olive oil
1 tsp turmeric
dash of cinnamon (literally one or two shakes only)
¼ tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
¼ c almonds, chopped or slivered (optional)
8-10 romaine, green leaf or red leaf lettuce leaves (I prefer romaine, it holds up better)

Heat oil in skillet over medium heat, saute onion and garlic for a minute or two, then brown the beef, add spices while browning. Add the raisins, apricots and parsley. Cook for 5 more minutes. Top with almonds. Serve hot, spoon meat mixture into lettuce leaves and wrap like a burrito. Serves 4.

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Monday, September 26, 2011

0 Miso Soup, it's not just for eating out...

I love miso soup – I usually have it for lunch or a mid afternoon snack and I find it gives me a boost of energy in the afternoons. It's very healthy and really pretty easy to make too. I make a big pot of it once a week and ladle it into serving size resealable containers to eat throughout the week.

Traditionally Miso soup is made with Dashi. What is dashi? It's a soup stock made from dried kelp and dried bonito flakes (small fish). If you're a vegetarian or if you are really taking cutting out processed foods to heart, you can make a dashi like stock from kombu (kelp) and shitake mushrooms. It's what I do and you really can't taste the difference. I use this home made dashi as a base for my vegetable soup too.

Miso Soup
1 Tbl dry Dashi mix (or 6 cups of kombu/shitake broth & omit water)
6 cups water
2 Tbl chopped wakame seaweed (this will expand when cooked, so chop it small)
4 Tbl miso paste
½ block tofu, cut into cubes
1 scallion thinly sliced

In a large pot bring water to a near boil, add dashi and seaweed. Cook for a couple of minutes, lower temperature to medium, scoop a couple of cups of liquid out, mix with miso paste and pour back into pot. Add tofu, simmer for 10 minutes. Serve, add scallion as garnish.

Vegetarian Dashi
6 cups of water
1 piece (4"x6") of kombu (kelp)
4 shitake mushrooms

Bring water to boil, add kombu and shitake, remove from heat and let sit 20 minutes. Discard kombu. Remove shitake and save for another meal (sometimes I chop them up and put them into the miso).

Shitake mushrooms, kombu, dashi, seaweed and miso paste, may be found in the Asian food aisle of your local supermarket, but is easily found in your local Asian market. I like shopping at Asian markets there's always something new that catches my eye.  I'm sure that they will be more than happy to help you find what you are looking for and they might even give you other ideas of food you can make with the ingredients that you're buying. One day when I was shopping at my favorite market and the owner told me that on hot days she makes a cold cucumber soup with the seaweed that I was buying – when I expressed interest in it, she gave me the recipe!

If your store or reheat things in plastic containers, make sure that the recycling label does not have a 3 or 7 in the code as those plastics contain BPA that may leach into your food, especially when heated. A lot of processed food products are in cans that are lined with BPA just another reason to eat fresh, whole, natural foods. The Breast Cancer Fund recommends eating fresh, whole foods, rather than canned as much as possible including cooking pasta and making your own sauce or using jarred sauce instead of pasta in a can, making your own soup or buying soup in a box instead of soup in a can, and eating fresh or dried fruit instead of canned fruit.

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Saturday, September 24, 2011

0 Americans eat too much meat...why should we eat less?

As Americans, we eat way too much meat. We consume three times as much meat as the rest of the world, twice as much as is recommended and nearly 25% of what we eat is processed (hot dogs, sausage, deli meat, etc.). Eating too much meat can contribute to cardiovascular disease, kidney disease and cancer. The extra protein that we eat does not get stored as protein either, it gets converted and stored as carbohydrates and FAT! Our love affair with meat (and of course processed foods), probably has something to do with the current obesity problem in America. Consuming an excess amount of meat can also cause a loss of calcium in bones and cause osteoporosis. As a side note, eating too much salt and drinking too many sodas also depletes the calcium in your body.

According to the USDA most men should consume only 6 oz of protein per day and most women should only consume 5 oz of protein per day – you read that right, that's PER DAY – not per meal as we are led to believe. You might be surprised as to what constitutes an ounce of protein. Here's an example from the USDA website - “In general, 1 ounce of meat, poultry or fish, ¼ c cooked beans, 1 egg, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter or ½ ounce of nuts or seeds can be considered as one ounce equivalent in the protein food group.” There are a lot of other ways to add protein to your diet too, certain grains like quinoa, legumes like lentils, tofu and even vegetables like broccoli. The USDA recommends that you eat seafood as your protein at least twice a week.

Energy and efficiency wise, meat is an inefficient and wasteful source of protein too. It takes about 20 pound of grain to produce 1 pound of beef. Every year, livestock consume about half of all the grains and oilseeds that are grown in the United States, thereby consuming more than 14 billion pounds of fertilizers and more than 174 million pounds of pesticides. If we cut down on our meat intake that extra grain could feed all of the starving people in the world.  So why not cut back on your meat intake, maybe have a meatless Monday or start from there and continue cutting meat out of your diet – you'll be doing your body a favor, helping the environment and saving money! Vegetarians & Flexitarians (those people who are not vegetarians but who don't eat meat everyday) have fewer health issues than the average American.

My cousin, Robynn, is a vegan and sent me a really good recipe for chickpea and quinoa pilaf (I believe that she got the recipe from Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook). I've made it myself and love it! I don't know what she eats it with, but I've paired it with steamed green beans and a salad, it is delicious. Give it a try...

Chickpea and Quinoa Pilaf
2 Tbl olive oil
1 sm onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ tsp ground cumin
1 Tbl coriander seeds, crushed
several pinches of black pepper
1 tsp salt
1 Tbl tomato paste
1 c quinoa
2 c cooked or 1 15 oz can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed
2 c vegetable broth

In a medium size pot over medium heat saute the onions for 7 minutes, add the garlic and saute for 2 minutes longer. Add the tomato paste and all of the seasonings and saute for one minute. Add the quinoa and saute for 2 minutes. Add the chickpeas and broth, cover and bring to a boil. Once the mixture is boiling, lower the heat to very low, cover and cook for about 18 minutes* or until the quinoa has absorbed all of the liquid. Stir occasionally and fluff with a fork when done. Serves 4-6.

* I find that it takes about 30 minutes instead of 18 minutes for the quinoa to absorb all of the liquid.

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Thursday, September 22, 2011

0 Mmmm... Japanese Curry...

Years ago my friends Shuo and Miyako introduced me to Japanese curry. Wow! I had never had it before, I like it much better than Indian curry or Chinese curry. It's hard to describe the taste, but it's a little sweet, salty and hot, all at the same time, it's thicker than other curries, kind of like a stew. My friends use a mix and a lot of the time I do too but I did learn how to make it from scratch, it's got a lot of ingredients but it's not too hard to make – you can add more vegetables, like eggplant, to the recipe too.  A lot of people also add peas to their recipe - with a dish like this that's already got potatoes and is usually served with rice, I wouldn't use peas but it's up to you.

I don't know anything about the Japanese “food industry” vs the American “food industry”, I would assume (perhaps falsely) that like much of Europe, their food is more natural and healthier than ours – even though it's processed food. Most of the world actually eats healthier foods than we do in the United States – mainly because the food industry here has a lot of lobbyists in Washington and most other countries don't allow companies to tell the government what to do. I do know that they use a lot of MSG in Japan, but I don't think they are heavy users of corn byproducts, pesticides, overuse of antibiotics and growth hormones.

Japanese Curry

3 Tbl butter
¼ c flour
2 Tbl curry powder
1 Tbl turmeric
2 tsp cumin
1 Tbl ginger
4 cloves garlic
1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 Tbl soy sauce
1 Tbl worcester sauce

2 Tbl olive oil
1 Tbl bonito flakes
1 apple, pureed
1-1 1/2 Lb boneless skinless chicken breasts, cubed*
2 carrots, sliced
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 lg onion, chopped
2 potatoes, cubed**
6 cups water
1 Tbl potato or cornstarch (I prefer potato starch)

Melt the butter over medium-low heat, add the flour and curry powder, stirring until it's a thick paste. Add the other spices, and incorporate into the roux. Add the soy and worcester sauces, cook until the paste starts to crumble. Set aside.

In a large pot, heat oil over a medium-low flame, saute onions for a few minutes until tender, add chicken, turn up the heat and brown. Add the carrots, pepper, potatoes and water, bring to a boil. Add the salt, bonito flakes and pureed apple. Cook until the chicken is tender, about 30 minutes.

Add the cornstarch to the roux pot, ladle 2 cups of the hot liquid into the pot with the roux, whisk together until it's smooth. Pour back into the curry pot, stir until thickened. Serve hot over rice. Serves 6.

*You can substitute other meats, but I like the chicken. You can also substitute tofu for the chicken if you're vegetarian and drop the bonito flakes. Or you can just make it without any meat.

**You can substitute yams for regular potatoes for a different flavor and they have a lower glycemic index.

If you want to try the premixed version you can find it in the Asian food aisle at the supermarket – buy either S&B or House brand. I prefer S&B...

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

0 Last night's dinner....

I wasn't planning on posting anything today, but I felt so good after eating last night's dinner that I felt compelled to share.  I hope that those of you reading and following this blog regularly will someday get the same satisfaction from eating local foods and those things that you made, baked, cooked or canned yourself.

I started this blog too late in the year to share with you how to can fruits and vegetables, but I will put up a blog about how to do it next year when the time is appropriate.  I always get a good feeling when I can stuff - it's fun to do and you know you will enjoy great tasting produce all year long.  Last year, I canned peaches, tomatoes, pickled cucumbers and corn - and then ate them all year until fresh ones came into season again.

About three weeks ago I canned a few dozen jars of pickles - 2 dozen each of Bread & Butter and Garlic Dill and a dozen Japanese pickled carrots/cucumbers/radish.  So last night's dinner consisted of locally grown fingerling potatoes, yellow squash, home made/canned pickles from local cucumbers and salmon (I wish that part had been local too).  It was so delicious and especially satisfying because I knew most of it came from a couple of local farms. 

You never really know how pickles are going to turn out until you open the jar and last night was the first time I was able to open the Bread & Butter and the Garlic Dill pickles.  I wish I knew what kind of cucumbers I used for the Bread & Butter pickles.  I had never seen them before this year, they were a grey/green color and had ridges going down the length of them.  I had used them about 4 weeks ago for sour cream cucumbers and they were very crunchy, so I decided to use them for the Bread & Butter pickles too.  Well it was a good decision because they retained their crunch.  I saved a lot of the seeds and will try to grow them next year.  For the Garlic Dills I used regular & pickling cucumbers - they were tasty and had a nice snap to them too!  The Japanese pickles won't be ready to eat for about another 3 weeks.

For the rest of the dinner, I had broiled the potatoes, squash and salmon.  Mmmmm, good. 

I sliced the fingerling potatoes into thirds and the yellow squash into slices about 1/8" thick.  Laid them all on a aluminum foil covered cookie sheet with two pieces of salmon.  Brushed everything with olive oil.  Then I sprinkled a little salt on everything, some dill weed on the salmon, some garlic powder on the potatoes and the squash, a little oregano on the squash and then put the whole thing under the broiler for about 20 minutes.   When they came out, I sprinkled a little parmesan cheese on the potatoes and then served the whole thing on the cookie tray.  An easy and delicious meal in just under 30 minutes!

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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

3 Pork chops Manago....

I remember a few years ago when I was visiting the Big Island in Hawaii a friend had told me that he had eaten the best pork chops in the world at the Hotel Manago. So when passing through Captain Cook Town on my way to Kailua Kona, I had to stop and try them. Well it was worth the stop, not only for the chops which were delicious and tender, but for the side dishes and the pleasant conversation with the waitress. I told her how much I enjoyed the meal and asked what the secret was to the chops, she told me that they were actually very plain, just flour, salt and pepper, and slow cooked in an iron skillet with butter. Next, I asked her if the secret flavoring in the zucchini was bonito flakes. She looked at me kind of surprised since I was obviously not from Hawaii (or Japan) and told me that I was right. Since then I've cooked both dishes successfully at home. I hope you'll enjoy both recipes.

In Hawaii they have what they call plate dishes – a meat, two scoops of rice, and macaroni salad. Very high in carbs and not very diet friendly. I suggest that instead you try the chops with the zucchini, maybe some steamed string beans and this lighter rotini salad. Make the rotini first so that it can cool down while the rest of dinner is cooking.

Pork Chops Manago
4 Center cut pork chops (please don't buy them too thin, don't believe the “Serves more” sticker - just buy thicker chops and eat one! Thicker chops will be more tender.)
3 Tbl flour
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
1-2 Tbl butter

Mix the flour, salt and pepper together on a plate. Rinse the chops under running water. Dredge them in the flour mixture. Heat frying pan (or better an iron skillet) over a low to medium low flame, add butter. Once melted add the chops, cook about 7-10 minutes per side, depending on how thick they are. Serves 4.

Zucchini Manago
2 medium zucchini, cubed
1 tsp bonito flakes
1/4 tsp sugar
1Tbl soy sauce

Put zucchini, bonito, sugar and soy sauce in a medium pot, add water to cover. Simmer for about 10 minutes or until zucchini is cooked, but firm. Serve with slotted spoon.  Serves 4.

Rotini Salad
1 pkg rotini pasta (tri-colored or whole grain)
½ – ¾ c cherry tomatoes, halved
½ red onion, chopped
½ green or red bell pepper
½ c sliced black olives
½ c crumbled feta cheese
1-2 Tbl olive oil

In a large pot boil water, add rotini and cook for about 12 minutes, rinse in cold water and drain. Put into a large bowl, add tomatoes, onion, olives and cheese, mix, drizzle with olive oil, mix well. Refrigerate, serve cold. Serves about 12.

This is another recipe you can really get creative with – you could add broccoli, spinach, asparagus, cauliflower, yellow squash, zucchini, cucumbers and/or mushrooms to it too! You can also add diced chicken breast (1-2 broiled breasts), ham (1-2 card deck size 1/4” slices), a small filet of broiled salmon or a can of drained tuna fish to this salad to make it a main course instead of a side dish – just be sure not to eat too much and to still have more veggie sides with it. Or don't add the meat but add a hard boiled egg. Remember you don't want to have too much protein in your meal, don't add egg and meat!

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Sunday, September 18, 2011

0 Home Made Meat Lasagna vs Stouffer's Lasagna with Meat and Sauce

I love lasagna, and I usually only like my own. However, if I were to buy it I would buy Stouffer's because I think they offer a product that tastes reasonably good. I don't make lasagna much for a couple of reasons, 1) it's a lot of food (but you can cut it up into squares and freeze it for a quick meal on another night) and 2) it's hot here in Arizona a lot of the year and I don't like to use the oven when it's hot, especially since I have no evaporative cooler or air conditioner.

I also don't usually make meat lasagna because I don't care for meat sauces in general, and my lasagna uses 3 cheeses so I couldn't compare to the 5 cheese lasagna so I went ahead and figured costs for a home made meat lasagna against Stouffer's Lasagna with Meat Sauce. It should be noted that Stouffer's Meat Lasagna only uses 2 cheeses compared to my 3 cheeses and weighs in at nearly 2 pounds less food. I suspect that they don't use a whole pound of beef in their lasagna, so it's more "meat flavored" than actually meat lasagna.

If you're vegetarian, you can make this same recipe just omitting the meat and/or using textured vegetable protein. You can also add vegetables to make a vegetable lasagna – popular vegetables for lasagna are spinach, zucchini, squash, carrots and peas. For a different taste you can use romano cheese and/or asiago cheese, instead of/or in addition to the parmesan. I'd also recommend trying a whole grain lasagna noodle, it's healthier (more fiber and less refined flour) and you'll never notice the difference.

Home made lasagna
1 pound uncooked lasagna noodles
2 qts tomato sauce (recipe in Sept 4th post, you should have it if you stored the extra in your freezer)
1 pound ground beef
1 pound ricotta cheese
2/3 c real grated parmesan cheese
¾ pound grated mozzarella cheese, reserve about ½ c for topping
1 egg
1 Tbl parsley
1 Tbl garlic powder
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper

Preheat oven to 350. Brown ground beef, and drain. In a separate bowl mix all the cheeses, the egg and the spices. Spoon a thin layer of sauce into an ungreased 13x9x2 baking pan and arrange a single layer of uncooked lasagna noodles, slightly overlapping. Add another thin layer of sauce, top with 1/3 of the meat and a 1/3 of the cheese mixture. Continue building up layers until all of the ingredients are in the pan, ending with sauce and then sprinkle the reserved ½ c of mozzarella on top.* Bake uncovered for 35-45 minutes until lightly browned and bubbling. Cut into squares and serve.

* Recipe can be prepared to this point, covered and frozen or kept in the refrigerator for a few days until you are ready to cook it. Bring to room temperature before cooking.

According to Stouffer's their 57 oz package makes 7 servings. So this recipe would make about 11 servings.


Price of home made lasagna: $16.79 – 88 oz, 19 cents an ounce

Price of Stouffer's Lasagna with Meat and Sauce: $13.19 – 57 oz, 23 cents an ounce or $20.24 for the same size as home made.

Ingredients for home made lasagna: Tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese, ground beef, lasagna noodles, parsley, garlic powder, egg, salt and pepper.

Ingredients for Stouffer's Lasagna with Meat and Sauce: Tomato puree, blanched macaroni product, part skim mozzarella cheese, modified cornstarch, nonfat milk, flavors, beef, water, dry curd cottage cheese, salt, wheat flour, dehydrated onions, sugar, spices, seasonings (soy sauce, autolyzed yeast extract, dextrose, soybean oil), dehydrated garlic, yeast extract, carrageenan.

Time to prepare home made: Approx. 10-15 minutes to brown meat and mix cheeses, 5 minutes to put together and 35-45 minutes to bake. Total 60 minutes

Time to prepare Stouffer's Lasagna with Meat and Sauce: 80 minutes

Alright! Here's a great example, we've created a meal 20 minutes faster than using a frozen lasagna, saved $3.45 and your not eating modified cornstarch, nonfat dry milk, flavors (what does that really mean?), wheat flour, yeast extract or carrageenan.

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Saturday, September 17, 2011

0 Delicious Apple Coffee Cake, Special Apple Coffee Cake, Sweet Apple Coffee Cake

Cool autumn air, beautiful foliage, and apples is the time. Cooler than a fashion piece of fresh apple coffee cake for this great old coffee cups and what good, what is better brisk autumn morning or evening? This old recipe may come directly from the recipe of Grandma small metal box. Good food on a cool fall or winter day, please enjoy the warmth of good memories.

Special Apple Coffee CakeSpecial Apple Coffee Cake

Apple Coffee Cake :
6 apples, than the core, and slice (about 3 cups)
5 tablespoons plus 2 cups sugar
5 cinnamon
3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
Baking powder 3 cups
1 tsp salt
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
1 / 4 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon vanilla
Chopped nuts 1 / 2 cup

Sweet Apple Coffee CakeSweet Apple Coffee Cake

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Combine the sliced apples with cinnamon sugar and 5 cups. Set apples aside. Flour in a bowl, 2 cups sugar, baking powder, sift together the salt. And make a well in the center of the flour, oil, eggs, juice, and pour in the vanilla. Beat until well blended. Excess water from the mixture of apple brain. 1 / 3 of the butter in a 10 inch tube pan spoon of oil. Apples, being careful to touch the sides of the pan, making a ring of 1 / 3 of batter over apple mixture. Sprinkle with 1 / 3 of the nut on top of apples.

Delicious Apple Coffee Cake IdeasDelicious Apple Coffee Cake Ideas

Making another ring of apples and nuts 1 / 3 of the spoon batter over nuts. Batter, top with the rest of the apples and nuts. More than an hour until 1 / 4 and bake at 375 degrees. Look at the top, if it is too brown, cover lightly with aluminum foil. Before removing from pan and cool cake in warm water first.

More information about Delicious Apple Coffee Cake Recipes or Apple Coffee Cake Ideas

Friday, September 16, 2011

0 Organic & Local Farming vs Factory Farming (Monsanto, Tyson Foods, etc)

Why should you buy organic? Good question.... I won't lie, I typically don't, although I do purchase from my local farmer's market and directly from local farmers when I can. I think there are times when it's a good idea to buy organic and I wish I bought organic more often, but to be honest just like a lot of people I can't afford it. 

If you do buy organic though, find out where it came from.  Not only do you want to buy products that come from areas near where you live to lessen your carbon footprint, but I read something recently that got my attention about some organic products - 80% of organic products are imported from China!  I don't know about you but with all of the news reports lately about the poorly regulated food industry in China, I'm not sure I would trust that their organic products are really organic.  Now as far as this country, the food industry is working hard to lower "certified organic" standards and a lot of the time your local farmer/gardener can't afford to get “organic” certified, but you're getting the same or better quality product so buy from local farmers or shop your local farmer's markets.

If you can grow your own vegetables that's a good start to eating healthier too – organic, local farms (that don't use chemical fertilizers) and home gardened fruits and vegetables have more nutrients. If you grow your own, look for heirloom varieties – some of them are better for you too. Our “factory farms” grow for quantity not quality. Some people are raising their own chickens for eggs too. As a matter of fact a nearby city just changed their law regarding raising chickens within the city limits because so many people are wanting to have their own fresh eggs.

Remember the egg salmonella scare last year? That won't happen with organic or farm fresh eggs! Is it worth buying organic honey or maple syrup? Doubtful – I mean really, how can the honey producer guarantee that his bees didn't fly across the road to the non-organic farm and what kind of poison did they put on the maple trees that's going to get into your syrup? If at all possible though I think you should consider buying your meat & dairy from a local farmer – preferably one that feeds grasses to their animals and lets them spend a lot of time in the pasture.

If you've seen Food Inc. then I don't think I need to say anything about genetically modified corn or other genetically modified organisms, animals full of growth hormones, antibiotics and pesticides, caged chickens with oversized breast that can hardly stand up, pigs that can't turn around and are forced to live in their own feces, rBGH milk or cows that have been fed stuff like corn that they can't digest and huge “manure lagoons” that overflow into our rivers and streams.

If you haven't seen Food, Inc. – watch it! You'll be shocked by what the food industry is growing, processing and feeding you. For instance, some companies are now using a hamburger meat filler cleansed with ammonia hydroxide to help kill E. Coli. I don't want to get E. Coli, but I don't want to eat chemicals either. Remember, 70% of processed foods have some sort of Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) – the food industry fought against having to label foods as GMO and won! Whenever possible you really should buy meat, and in season fruits and vegetables from a local farmer and cook your own foods. Not only is it more healthy, but it will help the environment by saving fuel and pollution too. Just transporting food throughout the world emits 30,800 tons of greenhouse gasses.

It's not just about how they raise the animals and the poisons that are left on fruits and vegetables, it's also about non-sustainable farming methods. It's about air, soil and water pollution. If we stand up, vote with our money and buy more organic and local farm products we'll be sending a message to the “food industry” and perhaps they will start changing the way they farm and do business.

Now as far organic fruits and vegetables – they are expensive but they have more nutrients, however, if you can't afford them or to save money you can buy them from your local supermarket, but when you get them home give them a Clorox bath*. Put 1 tsp of Clorox to one gallon of water, put your produce in the sink for 30 minutes (leafy vegetables only need 15 minutes), rinse with water, and dry them on a towel. This won't get rid of all of the chemicals that were sprayed on them, but it will help.

According to the Environmental Working Group the following 20 fruits and vegetables have the most pesticide residue in descending order (worst to least):

Sweet Bell Peppers
Imported Grapes
Green Beans
Hot Peppers
Domestic Grapes

According to the Environmental Working Group, the following 20 fruits and vegetables have the least pesticide residue in descending order (least to worst):

Frozen Sweet Corn
Frozen Sweet Peas
Winter Squash
Sweet Potatoes

*You can also use apple cider vinegar, or ¾ c 3% hydrogen peroxide, or wash them with a vegetable cleaning product such as, Bi-O-Kleen, Organiclean or Vermont Soap Organic's “Wash dem Veggies”

Fruit Salad
Cut up and mix together your favorite fresh fruits**,
put into a resealable container and squeeze a little
lemon juice on them, seal and shake.

**I like strawberries, blueberries, bananas, kiwi and pineapples....yum!

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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

0 Burritos! Another quick meal....

A friend of mine sent me a video of Jamie Oliver yesterday giving a speech at the TED Conference. It was very inspiring. He's working to teach Americans how to cook again, to help save lives, to educate our children on what real food is and how to cook also. I was shocked that school children didn't know what a tomato, cauliflower, beets, eggplants or even potatoes were!  Check out the video - click here. 

The reasons that Jamie is doing what he's doing is the same reason that I started this blog. Please continue reading, send in comments and questions. Obesity, heart disease, diabetes and cancer are killing us – and many of them can be cured by cutting out processed foods, eating more real food, whole food, local and in season foods. Thanks, George for sending me that video – it makes me want to spread the word all that much more! Really cooking from scratch isn't that hard, doesn't take that long, it can help you lead a healthy lifestyle and loose weight.

Burritos are a quick, easy and versatile meal. You can have them with beans and/or meat (or textured vegetable protein), add lettuce, avocado, tomatoes, sour cream, salsa, cheese, etc. As a matter of fact, you can make them fairly bland (cut the jalapenos out) and let everyone make their own by putting all of the sides on separate dishes and letting them add what they want. A lot of store bought tortillas are unhealthy, they contain a lot of lard – please check the labels carefully, buy whole-wheat and don't eat too many!

Black bean burritos
2 Tbl olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
½ red bell pepper, chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 jalapeno, minced
1 tsp cumin
1 15 oz can black beans (low sodium), drained and rinsed*
3 oz cream cheese, cubed
½ tsp salt
2 Tbl fresh cilantro, chopped

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat, add olive oil, onion, pepper, jalapeno and garlic. Cook for 2 minutes stirring occasionally. Pour beans into skillet and add cumin, cook for 3 minutes. Add cream cheese and salt. Cook for 2 minutes, stir in cilantro.

You can heat the tortillas in the microwave for about 25-30 seconds each, spoon mixture into tortillas, add sides and wrap. Makes 2 burritos, serves 2 people.

Not only is the burrito versatile in the toppings, avocado, salsa, etc - but you can add other ingredients to the filling too like spinach, cooked brown rice, corn, etc. 

*You can substitute ½ lb chicken or ground beef for beans – if you do, omit the cream cheese

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Monday, September 12, 2011

0 Salsa... Home made salsa vs. Old El Paso salsa

Salsa is very easy to make and it will taste much better fresh! You can eat it as a dressing on a salad, top a baked chicken breast, or a baked potato with it, add it to burritos (hmmm, maybe my next article) or dip your chips in it.

Many of the ingredients in salsa are good for you too!  Tomatoes are a healthy addition to your diet, they contain A,C, K and B vitamins, potassium, chromium, copper, iron and other nutrients, they help your immune system and guard against degenerative diseases, peppers also have vitamin A, help the immune system and stimulate your metabolism, garlic aids in digestion, helps lower cholesterol and blood pressure. 

See you really can eat your way to health - just avoid processed foods, excessive salt, too many carbohydrates and HFCS.  Eat natural foods, lots of fruits and vegetables, eat mea (protein) and carbohydrates in moderation.

4 tomatoes, halved
½ c fresh cilantro
½ small onion
½ bell pepper
2 cloves garlic
3 Tbl olive oil
2 Tbl lemon or orange juice
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded
¼ tsp black pepper

Put all ingredients into a food processor, pulse until all ingredients are combined but still chunky.

Price of home made salsa: about $2.70
Price of Old El Paso Salsa: $3.79 16 oz jar

Ingredients in home made salsa: Tomatoes, cilantro, onion, garlic, bell pepper, olive oil, lemon juice, jalapeno pepper, black pepper.

Ingredients in Old El Paso Salsa: Crushed tomatoes, fresh onions, fresh jalapenos, dices tomatoes, vinegar, salt, dehydrated onions, garlic, natural flavoring

Time to prepare home made salsa: 5 minutes
Time to prepare Old El Paso Salsa: None

Five minutes worth of work saves you about $1.09 and it will taste better and fresher. Put the extra in a resealable container... You might need it for the burritos in a couple of days.

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Saturday, September 10, 2011

0 High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) and why to avoid it

I just read a finance article the other day saying that grocery prices are going up again due to shortages of wheat and corn. Bread, cereal, soda, pet food and most preprocessed foods prices are on the rise. One of the reasons why is because so much of the corn grown today is used for ethanol, so when there is a shortage it directly effects the prices of processed foods which are loaded with corn byproducts. In fact the article recommended cooking your foods from raw materials to save money! Wow, not only can you eat healthier but now you can save even more money too!

If you start reading labels you will notice that one ingredient is in nearly everything on the shelves of your local grocery store – High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS). Sometimes it doesn't matter if the item is sweet or salty, it's in there. Sometimes even if what you're eating is naturally sweet, it's in there. Sometimes it's added even if they've already added sugar or regular corn syrup too. There's really no reason for this. So much of processed food is just clever rearrangements of corn (here are just a few examples of the additives that are derived from corn: cellulose, saccharin, polydextrose, xanthan gum, maltodextrin, and HFCS. Look for those ingredients on processed foods and avoid them!

The “food industry” and the government are telling you that HFCS is no different than sugar, in fact the “Corn Refiners Association” is lobbying the government to change the name to “Corn Sugar” to make people think that it's a healthy alternative to real sugar. While eating a lot of sugar isn't good for anyone, I think that eating real sugar in my food is better for me than eating HFCS and it tastes better too.

Why? Because HFCS is made by mixing corn syrups, corn starch and other ingredients together and then undergoing a process to makes the fructose content higher, which makes it sweeter. HFCS also has at least one genetically modified enzyme in it too. Food made in a lab... YUCK.

Studies have shown that HFCS in soda makes it richer in harmful carbonyl compounds. According to one study1, carbonyl compounds are elevated in people with diabetes and are blamed for causing diabetic complications such as foot ulcers, eye and nerve damage. Another study2 concluded that foods with increased fructose “produced significantly higher fasting plasma triacylglycerol values than did the glucose diet in men” and “if plasma triacylglycerols are a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, then diets high in fructose may be undesirable”... sounds like something I want to avoid. Not to beat a dead horse but, according to an article in the SF Chronicle3, “The body processes the fructose in HFCS differently than it does in old-fashioned cane or beet sugar, which in turn alters the way metabolic-regulating hormones function. It also forces the liver to kick more fat out into the bloodstream.” Sounds like enough information to make me want to avoid it, if possible.  If you're buying processed food, remember to read the labels, avoid HFCS and any product with more than 5 ingredients or ingredients that you can't pronounce.

1 A study by Dr. Chi-Tang Ho, Rutgers University Food Science Dept.
2 A study by Allocca and Selmi (2010)
3 San Francisco Chronicle, February 18, 2004

Oatmeal Cookies
¾ c flour
½ tsp salt
½ tsp baking soda
½ c butter
½ c light brown sugar
½ c sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla
1 ½ c quick cooking oats
½ c chopped pecans or walnuts

In a bowl sift together flour, salt, baking soda. In another bowl, cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla, mix in dry ingredients, oats and nuts. Divide dough in half, turn out onto a lightly floured board and shape into 2 rolls about 10” long and 1 ½” in diameter. Wrap in plastic and chill well. Preheat oven to 375, slice rolls 1/4” thick and arrange 2” apart on a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes or until tan. Cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet then transfer to a plate to cool completely.

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Thursday, September 8, 2011

0 Steak rubs, premixed spices and home made breaded topping vs Kraft Shake 'N Bake

Here's the rub...  Rubs, premixed spices, toppings and marinades aren't worth what you're paying for them. You can buy all of the spices necessary for a rub and mix them together as needed for just a few cents a meal, McCormick Grill Mates seasonings cost almost $3.00 a package! And if you're buying a marinade, at almost $4.00 a bottle you're spending most of your money on water and thickener!

I was in the store the other day and a woman was looking for steak rub. I asked her why she didn't just use a little garlic powder, pepper and paprika. With the look she gave me, you'd think I was from outer space! But if you look at the ingredients in the McCormick's below, you'll see that's about all that's in it.

Another time I saw a mother and daughter looking for “Pumpkin Pie Spice” - this time I didn't bother talking to them, but I did listen. When the mother discovered that the premixed spice costs $9 she decided it wasn't worth it and told her daughter that she'd go home and “look up a recipe” for pumpkin pie. It would probably cost less than $9 total to buy all of the spices individually and they only cost about a penny per teaspoon per spice to use!

Home made rub – 1 Tbl garlic powder, 2 tsp paprika, ½ tsp salt, ½ tsp black & ½ tsp red pepper = .20 cents

McCormick Steak Rub – Salt, spices (including black and red pepper), garlic, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, natural flavor and exractives of paprika. = $2.98

Lawrys Caribbean Jerk Marinade – High Fructose Corn Syrup, Water, Distilled Vinegar, Lime Juice, Salt, Papaya Juice, Onion Powder, Spices (including allspice, chili powder and cilantro), modified food starch, garlic powder, molasses, caramel color, sugar, anchovies, xanthan gum, potasium sorbate, sodium benzoate, natural flavors, tamarind, paprika, oleoresin, coloring

Ugh, look at all of those unnatural ingredients! Just make your own – get creative, you can do it! Try some vinegar, orange juice, garlic powder, chili powder, salt and paprika...maybe some brown sugar...I bet it tastes very similar.

Home made breaded topping mix
1/3 c Bread crumbs (or 1 slice of whole-wheat whole grain bread – toast it in the toaster and then crush it up)
1 tsp garlic powder
¼ tsp paprika
½ tsp oregano (optional)
¼ tsp salt (optional)

Price of home made topping mix: About .18 cents or less
Price of Kraft Shake 'N Bake: $3.25

Ingredients in Home made breaded topping mix – This is difficult... whatever's in your bread or bread crumbs, garlic powder, paprika, oregano, salt.

Ingredients in Kraft Shake 'N Bake - Enriched wheat flour, riboflavin, folic acid, wheat flour, maltodextrin, partially hydrogenated soybean and cottonseed oil, bleached wheat flour, salt, paprika, malted barley flour, spices, mustard flour, natural flavor, yeast, dextrose, caramel color, dried garlic, sugar, dried onions.

Time to prepare home made topping mix: 3-5 minutes (how long does it take to make toast?)
Time to prepare Kraft Shake 'N Bake: None

Well, as far as ingredients this is probably not that different, depending on your bread crumbs or bread used. But, holy cow! You're saving $3.07 on your topping alone!!!

Before I get to today's recipe I just wanted to say I got an email from a reader (thanks for the email, Cheryl) concerning portion size. She is trying to figure weight watcher points. I have a hard time with this because everyone eats differently.  I did promise however that if I am comparing to a name brand, I will give their recommended portion size. Future articles will discuss adding more vegetables to your diet, which ones are better for you and which ones are better to avoid, eating less meat, eating more seafood, etc.  You can email me directly at

In today's recipe it calls for 2 to 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts – I recommend you buy them deboned and skinned because they're not that much more expensive than whole breasts and you will throw so much weight away in just bones alone, it's also healthier to throw the skin away. If you're looking at a whole breast of chicken, meaning a right breast and a left breast – one half would be a portion.  If it's a Dolly Parton size breast, eat only half of that! While you may think I'm joking, they are growing them bigger these days with genetic manipulation and special feeds, those poor chickens can't even stand up.

We only need about 5.5 oz of protein a day and eating more of it only hurts your body (eating too much meat can cause osteoporosis, kidney disease, heart disease, cancer, etc), so keep your meat portions small, increase your veggie intake, cut your carb intake and cut out processed foods! Half of your plate should be fruits/vegetables, your meat/protein should be no bigger than a deck of cards, the remainder of the plate should be your carbs (made up of whole grains if possible). Please keep coming back and reading future articles, I'll be covering more about nutrition over time.

Breaded Chicken Breasts
2-4 skinless boneless chicken breasts
home made breaded topping

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place topping mix on a plate. Rinse chicken breasts under running water. Dredge chicken in topping mixture. Put on an lightly greased baking sheet, bake for about 20-25 minutes. Serves 2-4 people.

You can  make these without the breading and they're just as delicious, just season the chicken with the spices - be careful not to overcook.  In addition, you can add more spices - ones that YOU like...that's the point of cooking yourself, you get it the way you like it, not the way someone else thinks you'll like it.

This is a 30 minute meal and would taste great with pickled beets (September 2nd blog), a side salad and corn on the cob (or frozen corn or low sodium canned corn).

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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

0 Do you hate to cook? Do you think cooking is stressful?

Here are some ideas to make cooking less stressful –

1 Plan ahead - Don't wait until the last minute to decide what to cook.

2 Choose easy to prepare meals - make something with just a couple of ingredients.

3 Read the recipe ahead of time and get everything out and within reach ahead of time.

4 Count backwards from when you want to serve dinner and figure out when to start cooking each item so that everything is done at the same time.

5 Clean as you go - if you leave all the cleaning until the end, you'll hate cooking but if you clean as you cook it's much easier.

6 Make ahead or partially prepare for when you're busy - cook more complex or time consuming meals on your days off, somethings like lasagna you can assemble a day or two ahead of time and then pop in the oven when you're reading to cook them.

7 Delegate/share cooking with others, have someone wash/cut veggies, make a salad or set the table

Cooking really can be fun. Get your creative juices flowing. What do you like to eat? How can you make it taste better, make it look better or make it more interesting? When planning a meal try to keep it simple, that will make it less stressful and more fun.  

Try mixing different flavors within each meal – how about a salad with a balsamic vinaigrette (tangy), broiled salmon with a teriyaki glaze (sweet/salty), cucumbers in sour cream (creamy/spicy), steamed broccoli with garlic, crushed red peppers & olive oil (spicy), and a baked yam (sweet). This dinner is tasty, easy and quick to make – if you make the cucumbers in advance, this entire meal shouldn't take more than 20 minutes to make.
The key to putting a meal on the table quickly is to take advantage of your cooking times to make other things. In this example you have 10 minutes that the Salmon is going to be broiling and the yams are going to be baking, during this time you can make your salad. While you're either putting the dishes on the table or plating your food, you can steam the broccoli.

Balsamic Vinaigrette
1/4 c Balsamic Vinegar
3/4 c Olive Oil
¼ tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper

Put into a glass jar, seal, shake and serve. You can also add a crushed garlic and ¼ tsp oregano for more flavor.

Salmon with Teriyaki Sauce
2 Tbl Soy Sauce
1 tsp Mirin, or dry sherry
¼ tsp brown sugar
1/8 tsp ginger
2 salmon fillets

Put soy sauce, mirin, brown sugar & ginger into a small glass bowl, mix and heat in microwave for 30 seconds. Drizzle teriyaki sauce over salmon, broil salmon for about 5 minutes on each side.

Cucumbers in Sour Cream – see previous blog entry (September 2nd).

Steamed Broccoli with Garlic & Red Pepper
1 head fresh broccoli, cut into florets
1 tsp water
2 Tbl Olive Oil
1 garlic clove crushed
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Put olive oil, garlic & red pepper in a small glass bowl, mix and heat in microwave for 30 seconds. Put the broccoli into a microwaveable bowl, add 1 tsp water, pour olive oil mixture over broccoli, cover with plastic wrap and microwave for 2-3 minutes.

Baked Yams
You can bake the yams in the oven for about 1 hour or microwave them for about 8-12 minutes depending on the wattage of your microwave. Remember to pierce them with a fork before cooking. Serve plain (they're naturally sweet), or drizzled with olive oil, or with butter, or butter and brown sugar. 

The USDA recommends that you eat seafood instead of meat at least twice a week.  Yams and sweet potatoes have a lower glycemic index than baking potatoes and a lot more natural flavor.  Try using them in other meals that call for potatoes.

Tell me why you don't like to cook and maybe I can help you find a way to make it more enjoyable.  You can email me directly at

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Sunday, September 4, 2011

0 Home made marinara sauce vs Hunt's Traditional Spaghetti Sauce

Okay, this is a very basic recipe that I'm very excited about sharing because once you've made it you can do so much more with it. You'll have extra left over too, so not only can you put it on your spaghetti, but you can use it to make lasagna or a pizza. You can also add ingredients to make other types of sauces.

Now in my recipe I am going to use canned tomatoes, tomato sauce and paste, but you can use fresh tomatoes or tomatoes you've canned yourself. If I get tomatoes cheap during the year, I can them either for recipes like this, or for just eating heated as a side dish. In a future article I'll discuss how to can your own fruits and vegetables.

I like my sauce thick, so I use paste but if you don't like such a thick sauce you can leave it out. I also like a lot of garlic so you might want to use less. When purchasing your canned tomatoes and sauce be sure to read the labels. Remember the goal here is to buy what has the least number of ingredients and steer clear of any that have high fructose corn syrup, corn solids, corn syrup or sugar in them. You would think a can of tomato sauce would just be cooked crushed tomatoes and it should be, but I know of at least one major brand that adds corn syrup to their tomato sauce. You probably won't be able to find any that don't have salt added, if possible buy low sodium.

If you like you can just buy a couple of cans of crushed tomatoes and omit the tomato sauce, but I'm trying to make this recipe something you can put together quickly and it will take a little longer to cook the crushed tomatoes down to a sauce.

If you use fresh tomatoes, heat a pot of boiling water, put the tomatoes in the water for a couple of minutes, remove and put them into ice cold water (and I mean ice cold – drop a couple of ice cubes in the bowl). Once they've cooled down you'll be able to pinch the skin right off of them, then you can chop them up for your sauce. Also, if you're using fresh tomatoes, add about a ½ tsp sugar to the recipe – when it starts to heat you'll notice a bit of pink frothy stuff come to the top of the pot this is excess acid, skin it off with a spoon and throw it away.

Shiratki Tofu Noodles in Marinara Sauce with Mushrooms and Textured Vegetable Protein
Basic Marinara Sauce:
1 28 oz can of diced or crushed tomatoes
1 29 oz can of tomato sauce
1 6 oz can of tomato paste
3-4 cloves garlic - crushed
1 Tbl parsley
2 tsp oregano
2 tsp basil
2 bay leaves
2 Tbl olive oil

In a large pot, saute garlic in olive oil until it begins to get a golden color. Add the tomatoes & tomato sauce, stir well. Add the spices, when the sauce begins to bubble add the tomato paste and stir. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring now and then. Remove bay leaves before serving.

Price for 63 oz of home made sauce: .08 cents an oz or $5.00 for 63 oz
Price for 63 oz of Hunt's Traditional Spaghetti Sauce: 26.5 oz can = $1.89 or .07 cents an oz, total of $4.49 for 63 oz

Ingredients for home made sauce: Tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, garlic, parsley, oregano, basil, bay leaves, oil (salt & citric acid, that's was in the canned tomato products).

Ingredient for Hunt's Traditional Spaghetti Sauce: Tomato Puree, water, high fructose corn syrup, salt, corn syrup, soybean oil, dehydrated onions, sugar, carrot fiber, spices (including soy lecithin), citric acid, natural flavor.

Time to prepare home made sauce: About 5 minutes to open cans and add spices, 30 minutes to heat, 35 minutes total.
Time to prepare Hunt's Sauce: About 15-20 minutes

Well, the comparison results show that Hunt's Traditional Sauce costs about .51 cents less, but I think you'll agree that my sauce recipe tastes better and it's definitely more healthy. Best of all it only took about 15 minutes longer to make and you'll have a lot extra that, in the future, will only take 15 minutes to heat. By the way, the larger the batch the cheaper it is to make – you can buy some really big cans of tomatoes! Freeze the extra sauce in resealable containers or zip lock bags (these takes up less space in the freezer than the containers). Or you can bottle it yourself in canning jars. To me Hunt's Sauce has one of the better tastes and it's cheaper than most prepared sauces, if you were to compare home made to a higher priced brand you'd probably wind up saving money by making your own. Remember to have fun cooking, experiment with different ingredients and tastes!

We've finished making the sauce and we've seen the comparison so now here's the fun part. You've made a basic sauce but you can dress it up a number of ways. Get creative that's part of having fun cooking!  Below are some ideas for you....

Bolognese* – Brown about 1 ½ - 2 pounds ground beef with the garlic breaking up with a spoon, then proceed as directed.

Mushroom Sauce – Prepare as directed but add about ½ – ¾ of a pound of sliced mushrooms about 10 minutes before serving.

Putanesca** - Just before serving add 2 2oz cans of anchovies and a can of sliced black olives.

Fra Diavalo – Add 1 tsp of chili powder and 1 tsp of crushed red peppers.

Scottish Sauce – Add 1 ½ – 2 pounds ground beef, 1 onion (chopped), 2 carrots (sliced), 8 oz of fresh sliced mushrooms.

Sausage – Add about a 1 ½ – 2 pounds of sweet or hot Italian sausage.

Pizza Sauce – Use the tomato paste, maybe even add a second can.

* Vegetarians can use 1 c textured vegetable protein soaked in 2 c water instead of ground beef, drain well before adding to sauce.

** Vegetarians can add a couple of tablespoons of miso paste instead of anchovies.

Oh, I almost forgot! If you're gluten intolerant, diabetic or just trying to loose weight, I found some great noodles from Japan – they're called shirataki noodles. The Japanese have been eating them for a thousand years, so I think if there were any health hazards associated with these noodles we'd know it by know. You might also find them advertised by American companies as “Miracle Noodles”. They're made from an Asian root, similar to a yam or taro root – these noodles when made plain contain no calories, gluten, carbs or fat. Sometimes they are mixed with tofu to make them a bit more like spaghetti even then they are still very healthy – no gluten, no fat, only 20 calories and 3 grams of carbs!

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Saturday, September 3, 2011

0 Special White Chocolate Cake, Perfect White Chocolate Cake, Delicious White Chocolate Cake, Sweet White Chocolate Cake, Simple White Chocolate Cake

Perfect White Chocolate CakePerfect White Chocolate Cake Idea

To make this delicious layer cake to impress your family and friends. I think they even started panning experts! This cake starts with a simple box of white cake mix, from which will convert into a masterpiece. White chocolate cream cheese frosting - WOW. Making this cake for Valentine's Day, decorate with fresh raspberries on the big heart.

6 ounces white baking chocolate
1 stick butter
1 PKG (18.5 ounces) white cake mix
1 cup milk
3 eggs
1 tablespoon raspberry extract
Drops of red food coloring 2-3
1 cup fresh raspberries, optional

Special White Chocolate CakeSpecial White Chocolate Cake Image

E-butter white chocolate in a bowl and microwave stirring every 15 seconds until blended. Cool slightly. Large mixing bowl, cake mix until moistened with an electric mixer on low speed, milk, eggs, raspberry extract, mix together the butter mixture. Increase the speed to medium, beat 2 minutes or until well blended. Pour cake batter evenly into a floured 9-inch pan and grease two. Bake 35 minutes until 350 degrees, which is out XDarwin about wooden toothpick inserted in the center thereof. After that, please cool in the pan for 10 minutes to remove from pan to wire rack to cool completely.

Simple White Chocolate CakeSimple White Chocolate Cake With Strawberry

8 oz cream cheese
Stick butter 1 / 4 cup
6 ounces white baking chocolate melted
Raspberry Extract 2 TSP
2 cups powdered sugar

Beat the butter and cream cheese in large mixing bowl at medium speed until well blended. While chocolate and raspberry extract, add, and mix well. Beat in powdered sugar until light and fluffy gradually.
Sweet White Chocolate CakeSweet White Chocolate Cake For Wedding

The construct is: Take the 3 / 4 cup of frosting, add red food coloring from the cake ingredients. Stir until well-blended colors. Take place one cake layer in the center of the cooking dish. Spread evenly colored top layer cake with frosting. Place a layer of frost on the other. Sides of cake with remaining frosting on top and frost. If necessary, arrange fresh raspberries around the periphery of the top and bottom of the cake. Put some fruit on top or middle.

Delicious White Chocolate CakeDelicious White Chocolate Cake Picture

Friday, September 2, 2011

0 Why cut out processed foods?

As I've mentioned I have almost always cooked from scratch, I enjoy cooking, prefer the taste and know what I'm eating is better for me.

But I have on occasion fallen into the processed food trap. Sometimes it's because I've worked from 8 am to 8 pm, for six days in a row and all I want to do is take a bath, eat and watch TV.  So it's convenient to throw a frozen pizza in the oven.  Or, sometimes it's because I'm having a huge dinner party and the last things I want to do are peel fruit and wash more dishes when all I have to do is pop a frozen apple pie (in it's own pan) into the oven just before dinner is ready and it's bakes while we're all eating. But I also know doing such things only every once in a while and not daily won't do too much damage to my body either.   

I have always known that eating processed foods doesn't lead to a healthy lifestyle and I really try to avoid that trap. But after reading books like “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” & “In Defense of Food”, watching “Food, Inc.”and “The Future of Food” and reading blogs like “” I've decided to be even more vigilant in eating more healthy and to reach out to others to help promote healthier eating.  Here's a statistic that you may not have heard before - 70% of processed foods have some sort of Genetically Modified Organism (GMO)!  The food industry fought against having to label foods as GMO and won...  Stay tuned for future articles to learn specifically about what these processed foods do to you.

Below is a list of reasons why you should cut out processed food.

1.  Making smarter food choices now may reduce healthcare costs later in life.

2.  Cutting out processed foods could lead you to experience a variety of benefits such as having more energy, losing weight, lowering your cholesterol levels, lowering your blood pressure, lowering your risk of getting diabetes, improving regularity, or just feeling healthier. 

3.  Coronary heart disease, diabetes, stroke and cancer – four of the top ten chronic diseases that kill most of us – “can be traced directly to the industrialization of our food” according to Michael Pollan, author of In Defense of Food.  

4.  The food industry has proven that it is not very good at seasoning our foods by adding too much salt, sugar, and/or oil to almost everything.   

5.  Processed foods often appear to be healthy (with claims like low fat, low carb, vitamin fortified, no trans fat, etc.) when these foods are in fact the very thing making a lot of Americans unhealthy, sick, and fat.  

6.  Why would you want to eat a processed food-like substance that is scientifically designed to never rot?

7.  When you eat white bread and other foods made with white flour you are basically consuming empty calories with far less nutrition than the whole-wheat or whole grain alternatives.  

8.  It is estimated that up to 90% of processed foods* in the supermarket contain either a corn or soy ingredient in the form of an additive under a variety of different names.

9.  Rather than counting calories, watching fat grams, or reducing carbs for “healthy eating”, simply eat whole foods that are more a product of nature than a product of industry.

10.  It just makes sense to fully understand what you are eating, be able to pronounce everything on the list of ingredients, and know exactly what's in your food.

*Statistic courtesy of a food scientist interviewed on the documentary “Food, Inc”

Here are two of my favorite summer salad recipes and they're super easy, thanks to Aunt Midgie and Grandma Flynn for passing them on to me...

Pickled Beets
4-5 beets cooked and sliced or 1 can of sliced beets (look for plain beets, there is probably salt added get the low sodium if you can)
½ onion sliced thin
¼ c vinegar (I prefer to use rice vinegar it's more mild but you can use white vinegar)

Put the beets and the onion sliced into a bowl, add the vinegar and mix. Cover and refrigerate for about an hour, serve cold.

If you buy pickled beets in a can – read the ingredients!   Beets are already sweet, but you'll find that the processor might have added sugar and/or high fructose corn syrup to the can.


Cucumbers in Sour Cream
2-3 cucumbers sliced thin
1/2 onion or 2-3 scallions sliced thin (optional)
1-2 tsp salt
3 Tbl sour cream
1 Tbl vinegar (again I like rice vinegar but you can use white vinegar as well)
1/4 tsp dill weed

Put the cucumbers in a bowl, add salt, mix. Put another smaller bowl on top and add a weight of some kind (I usually use a small pot full of water). Let sit for about an hour. Drain, rinse and drain again. Get as much water out of them as possible. Add onion, sour cream, vinegar and dill to the cucumbers and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for about an hour, serve cold.

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