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Monday, June 28, 2010

Book Review and Giveaway: Organic Manifesto

I'll admit it. When I am making food choices for my family, I am much more concerned about our health than about the greater good. The more I read, and the more I learn, the more I realize that they are linked. People can't be healthy if the environment isn't. We are all connected. This book helped me see the bigger picture-- what organic means for the earth.

I buy a lot of organic IF. I buy organic IF it's not too much more money. I buy organic IF it's in the budget. I buy organic IF the produce I'm buying is on the dirty dozen list. I'd love to say this book made me see the error of my ways and I will only buy organic from here on out. The truth is, we are on a budget, and there have to be some "ifs" if I am going to stick to it. But I think reading this book and better undertanding the consequences of chemical farming will cause me to think even more about getting that chemically raised food. Maybe if I can't afford it from now on I'll just skip it.

I want to get the message out about organics, so I am giving away a copy of Organic Manifesto by Maria Rodale.

Any of the following are good for one entry:

1. Follow or subscribe to this blog via email and let me know that you do in a comment below.
2. Leave a comment telling why you want to learn more about gong organic.
3. Share this giveaway with a friend on email, facebook, twitter or a blog; each good for one entry.

I'll choose the winner at random at midnight on July 7th. This giveaway is only open to residents of the continental U.S. Good luck!

This post is part of Tasty Tuesday Parade, Tempt my Tummy Tuesdays, Delicious Dishes and Two For Tuesday.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Renew You 2010

If you know me, you know I'm a big fan of FREE. I love getting something that I actually want without having to spend any money. This weekend we have that opportunity! There is a free teleseminar with amazing speakers called "Renew You 2010." All teleseminars are available 24/7 from June 24 to 28.

They will be speaking on the following topics:
■Karly Randolph Pitman: The Self-Care Pathway: Four Practices to End Emotional and Overeating

■JJ Virgin: Five Insider Secrets to Boost Your Energy, Shrink Your Waistline and Feel Your Best

■Brenda Kinsel: Defining Your Personal Style from the Inside Out

■Christine Arylo: Dare to be loved: Get the Love You Want by Loving Yourself First

■Connie Bennett: Break Free of Your Sugar Addiction with the Author of Sugar Shock!

■Rose Cole: The 3-Day Beautiful Skin Diet: Food for a Clearer, Younger & More Radiant Complexio

■Karen Russo: Discover a New Money Reality: The Love Path to Abundance

■Leanne Ely: Nurture, Nourishment and Nutrition: Saving You and Your Family One Meal at a Time

■Mary Tedesco: Inspired to Exercise: Get Active and Fit in 5 Fun Steps

■Laura Klein: The Smart Pantry: Time- and Money-Saving Foods for Health and Flavor

■Stephanie McWilliams: Your Space for Success: Designing Your Dream Environment for Greater Purpose, Passion and Profits

■LiYana Silver: Bringing Sexy Back: Decoding Desire, Attraction and Connection

■Melanie Dodaro: The Psychology of Permanent Weight Loss

■Alisa Vitti: Hot Sexy Hormones

■Jennifer Louden: Ending the Pain of Perfectionism
I am excited to listen and learn from these women. I will definitely be taking notes and hope to learn a lot that I am able to share. Click here to register and I'll see you there!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Black Bean, Corn and Zucchini Enchiladas

Near the end of the month, when most of my grocery budget (or all of it!) is gone, I try to find inexpensive meals that are still full of healthy, real food. Veggie and Bean stuffed enchiladas are delicious and a great way to stretch your budget. They are really filling and flavorful, and no one misses the meat. They are also gluten free. I served this last night with a side of cooked carrots. I included the cost breakdown. I make my own enchilada sauce, so it's really inexpensive. If you're purchasing it from the store, you may spend a little more.

Tortillas: 98 cents
2 Zucchini: 25 cents
1/2 pack corn: 50 cents
Black beans: $1
Enchilada sauce: .50 - $1.50
Cheese: $1
Total: $4.23 for 8 (or more) servings
Cost per serving: 53 cents!


2 Tbsp butter
2 cups diced zucchini
1 (10-ounce) package frozen whole-kernel corn
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
3 cups Enchilada Sauce, divided
Cooking spray
20 corn tortillas
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided
Sour cream (optional)


Preheat oven to 350°.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 cups zucchini and corn; sauté for 5 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Remove from heat, and stir in beans and 1 1/2 cups cheese.

Heat 1 cup Enchilada Sauce in a saucepan over medium heat. Heat tortilla in sauce until hot, about 45 seconds on each side. Spoon about 1/4 cup zucchini mixture down center of 1 tortilla and roll up. Place seam-side down in baking dish. Repeat procedure with remaining tortillas, and zucchini mixture. Heat more enchilada sauce as needed.

Top enchiladas with any remaining enchilada sauce and cheese.

Bake at 350° for 20 minutes. Top with sour cream and serve.
(This recipe is adapted from Cooking Light.)

Notes: I make my own enchilada sauce ahead of time and can it. I like knowing exactly what's in there, and it's more cost effective too.
I also make the beans ahead of time and can those. If you're really ambitious, you can soak the beans the night before, let them cook slowly all day, and then add them to the enchiladas to retain the most vitamins. That's what I do, only I add the step of pressure canning them and putting them in my pantry so I can use them whenever I need them.

This post is part of Two For Tuesdays and Real Food Wednesdays.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Produce Buying Club

Every Saturday at 10:00, you can always find me at the same place. I am picking up produce at a beautiful resort/ farm. A group of us gather there to pickup our organic fruits, vegetables, herbs and eggs. Some of it does come from overseas, but some comes from just a mile away. A member of our group made the videos below with some of the farmers who grow the produce and the eggs for our group.

We talk a lot about moms cooking things with love-- well, when I watched these videos, that's what kept coming to mind. These farmers are farming with love. Watch as Mr. Guldseth carefully pulls a radish from the ground. He knows how it will taste; he has a passion for what he is doing.

Betty's eggs are the most colorful eggs I've ever seen. A mixture of blue-green, brown and speckled eggs fill those clear cartons, and the yolks are bright orange and so tasty. Most remarkable to me in the video was how much she cares about what she's doing.

If you've seen Food, Inc. compare the images of the henhouses, or the industrial crops being sprayed. Growing food with passion and love is better for everyone.

I was also impressed by the gratitude these people have that we're buying from them. They are able to do what they love, and we are better able to feed our families.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The G-Free Diet

I picked up a copy of the G-free diet by Elizabeth Hasselback at the library last week. To be honest, I don't think I'll ever go gluten-free, but I thought the book might be interesting, and the cover looked so cute I thought I'd check it out.

There was a lot of great information on celiac disease, which causes the body not to tolerate gluten. The first thing I learned from this book was that it takes constant work to make sure you aren't eating gluten! If any of you reading this haven't heard of Amy's blog, Simply Sugar and Gluten Free, make sure to check it out. She has lots of great recipes and resources for those who are G-free.

The part of the book that I could most relate to is the Chapter "G-free and slim as can be!" Elisabeth explains healthy principles that can guide all of us in our food decisions, whether we are eating gluten or not.

From The G-Free Diet:

 "Gone are the days of living off foods with mile-long lists of ingredients, or one dimensional starches that left me forever craving more... without providing my body with the nutrients that it needed to thrive. I have more energy than before. I have more stamina to train and work out more efficiently. By default, when those factors are in synch, I tend to want to eat in a healthier way.

You, too may find that by building your diet around basic foods close to their natural state--foods direct from the earth such as fish and meats, fruits and vegetables and nuts-- you will nourish your body, instead of merely cluttering it with empty calories and unpronounceable chemicals...

We obsess over fat and calories but pay very little attention to actual ingredients in the foods we eat, and the essential nutrients that they should be delivering. Somehow, we lose sight of the fact that, quite simply, some foods are healthier and more nutritionally dense than others. Some foods fill us up and leave us happy and satisfied; other foods leave us constantly hungry for more. Foods that carry maximum nutritional impact are crucial , whether you have embarked on a particular diet out of necessity or by choice.

Most people can relate to episodes of overeating. Many times, you might feel a persistent dissatisfaction, even after a monster meal. Sound familiar? No matter what quantity of food you are eating, if your body is not getting the nutrients that it needs, it will continue to want more. Your body has an internal checklist of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that it needs every day to flourish. If your diet is not checking off every item on that list, your body sends signals to "keep on searching," to fill those nutritional deficiencies... thus throwing us into "overdrive eating."...

The secret to long-term health and fitness is not counting calories and fat and leaping on the scale first thing every morning. (I have done all of the above.)  Though these numbers may make you feel more in control, the critical information is what's behind those numbers. You can get triple the amount of fat from a bag of almonds than from a bag of M&M's, but the nutritional content isn't even in the same ballpark. In terms of heat and energy burned, 2000 calories is 2000 calories. That said, eating 2000 calories of junk a day would leave you with a significant mineral and vitamin deficiency-- and a significant lack of energy. Eventually, your body is going to cry uncle. Going G-free forces you to step up and start looking at the big picture."

EAting healthier for most of us doesn't have to mean going without gluten. It does mean making conscious decisions about our food. We need to choose whole over processed foods. We have to pay attention to what we're eating so that we can nourish our bodies.

Here are my suggestions to put this into practice:

1. Cook! Make something you would normally buy. If you make it, you can be sure of the ingredients.
2. Try something new. Quinoa. Kale. Flaxseed oil.
3. Read the list of ingredients rather than the nutritional facts on packages. Find out what your food is, rather than how much fat or calories it contains.
4. Take a look at your wheat intake. Try going wheat-free for a meal, a day, or more.

This post is part of Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays, Two for Tuesdays, and Tuesday Tag Along.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Spaghetti Squash with mozzarella and chicken

This was one of the first meals I learned to cook when my husband and I got married 10 years ago. That means it's easy, because I was not much of a cook back then. So, beginners, rest assured- this is right at your level.

This dinner's perfect as the weather warms up, because it's light and fresh. If you use the microwave, it won't heat up your house, but I like to use the oven to cook the squash to keep as many vitamins intact as possible. When I first learned this recipe, I used only extra virgin olive oil, but adding some butter makes it melt it your mouth. Oh, and speaking of melting- don't be afraid to add extra chunks of cheese. Those gooey, creamy bites of cheese make this dish.

Spaghetti Squash with Smoked mozzarella and chicken

Prep: 15 minutes

Microwave: 12 to 14 minutes

Oven: 45 minutes


1 medium spaghetti squash

1 Tbsp. Olive oil

1 large onion, thinly sliced

2 medium tomatoes

2 ounces smoked mozzarella or gouda cheese

12 ounces chicken breast cut for stir fry

½ tsp. Salt

¼ tsp. Ground black pepper

¼ cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced

3 Tbsp. butter


1.With tip of sharp knife, pierce squash in about 10 places. Microwave on high 6 to 7 minutes. Turn squash over and pierce in another 10 places until squash is soft to the touch. Alternately, cut squash in half and bake for about 45 minutes, cut side down, in a 375 degree oven.

2.Meanwhile, in nonstick 12 inch skillet, heat olive oil and 1 tbsp. butter over medium heat. Add onion and cook until tender and golden, about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3.While onion is cooking, dice tomatoes and cheese.

4. Add chicken, ¼ tsp. Salt, and 1/8 tsp. Pepper to onion and cook until chicken loses its pink color throughout, about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. (This is also a good recipe for leftover cooked chicken if you have some around.)

5.If using the microwave: When squash is done, cut lengthwise in half; discard seeds. Microwave or oven: With fork, gently scrape squash lengthwise and lift pulp out in strands as it becomes free; place in large bowl. Discard squash skin.

6.Mix tomatoes, cheese, ¼ tsp. Salt and 1/8 tsp. Pepper with hot squash. Spoon squash mixture into four individual bowls; top with onion and chicken mixture. Sprinkle with basil.

This post is part of Two for Tuesdays, Tasty Tuesdays, Tempt my tummy Tuesdays, and  Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays and Delicious Dishes.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Milk at the Grocery Store

Reading labels on milk can be confusing: organic, rBst-free, pasteurized, skim, whole, etc. What do they all mean and what is the best kind to buy?
If you have access to it, I'm a big fan of raw milk for health reasons. 
If you are limited to your local grocery store, you probably won't see raw milk on the shelf. 

What you will see:

Organic milk: I'm all for organic milk. In fact, the raw milk we buy (when we can afford it) is organic. The bad news is that most of the organic milk you find in the store is ultra-pasteurized. Ultra-pasteurized milk is heated to high temperatures. This kills off bacteria and enzymes that actually aid in digestion. So, why do they do it? Well, mainly it's to give it a longer shelf life. Ultra-pasteurization means that the milk can last on the shelf longer without spoiling.

Not all organic milk is ultra-pasteurized, but a lot of it is, so be sure to read the label.
The difference with organic and traditional milk is a simple question of if what the cow ate was treated with pesticides. No pesticides+ following lots of government regulations = certified organic.

rBst free milk: rBst is a growth hormone. It boosts milk production in cows by about 20 gallons per day. People in favor of using it say that it has no known effects on humans and that it is similar to a naturally occuring hormone in cows. Besides increasing milk supply, rBst also increases udder infections, which can increase the need for antibiotics. Your best bet is to find milk that comes from cows not given rBst. Many brands proclaim "rBst free" on the label. Walmart's Great Value milk has been rBst free since March 2008 (Source).

Skim milk, 1% and 2%: The first thing that is a problem with these low-fat milks, is that the body needs fat to use the vitamins in them. When the fat is taken out, the body is unable to absorb fat soluble vitamins. To make the milk thicker, powdered milk is added to 1 and 2% milk. Powdered milk is made by spray drying milk. This damages (oxidizes) the cholesterol, and has been shown to increase cholesterol in our bodies. This kind of milk does not do a body good! In Real Food, What to eat and why, by Nina Planck, Nina reminds us that in the olden days, the poor would sell off their cream and be left with only skim milk... and sickly children.

My recommendation: When I can't buy raw, organic milk and I have the normal grocery store selection, I would first look at the organic milk. Does it say "ultra-pasteurized" or UHT on the label? If so, skip it. It's great the cows never had pesticides, but since everything (good and bad) has been cooked out anyway, that is almost irrelevant. If it is pasteurized only, go with organic. If not, look at your whole milk selection and choose one that says rBst free on the label.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Kitchen Blunders

The past couple of days have been spent canning tomatoes. I mentioned last week that tomatoes went on sale (for 50 cents a pound), and I canned whole tomatoes. For Memorial Day the same store had a three day sale for 33 cents/ pound Roma tomatoes. That was too good a deal to pass up. I spent the last couple of days in my kitchen canning spaghetti sauce and tomato soup.

I used my huge stockpot to simmer the spaghetti sauce. That's when disaster happened. Either the heat was too high, or the spoon was too short, or a combination of the two; either way, I ended up with a big mess at the bottom of my pan. And worse, a burnt taste in 50 pounds of spaghetti sauce!!! I googled it to find out how to get the taste out. One suggestion was a potato, but many other sites said this would not work. (However, if ever you put too much salt in your soup or sauce, it sounds like throwing a potato in and boiling will remove the salt.)

Instead, the suggestion that I kept coming across-- and people were all saying it worked-- was to add peanut butter. I put a small amount of sauce in a bowl and mixed in a little peanut butter. Then I tasted. No burnt taste. No peanut butter taste either. Amazing! I'm so thrilled to have saved my $16 of tomatoes, and even more important, my hard work! If ever your food starts burning and sticking to the pan, the best thing to do is ladle out the top half before you stir. Stirring just mixes in the burnt taste all throughout the food. But if you've already stirred, add some peanut butter to get rid of the taste.

The pan was another challenge. I had about an inch thick of charred tomatoes stuck to the bottom of my stainless steel pan. The best suggestions I found online were to soak in vinegar or baking soda. One said to soak in baking soda, boil baking soda water, then cool and scrape it off. It took a lot of elbow grease too, but I ended up with a usable pan again.

What kitchen blunders have you had, and what tips do you have to fix them?