I’m Back, Maybe

So it’s obviously been a while since I have written anything.  When I expressed in an earlier blog that babies were time suckers I underestimated how much a toddler would steal my time!  I have a great support system here and a great preschool that my little man is going to so I am hoping to be able to get back into the writing game.  We will see.  I will try to be back here soon with more blogs to share.  Of course, you may not hear from me again till next year.  At least this is a start.

I wanted to share my new love of the bread machine with you!  I am crazy about my Cuisinart and have been making a loaf or two of bread a week I love it so much.  I cannot tell you how much fun it is experimenting with new recipes in this machine.  Not only because it is fun but because it is so easy that if it doesn’t come out right I’m not pissed that it didn’t work.  I just compost that sucker and start again (more on my composting at a later date).  The bread machine came with a couple of recipes that are great but I, of course, needed to make them my own.  The problem is making a soft whole wheat or whole grain bread.  So far I have not been successful with a true whole wheat recipe but I am going to share with you my favorite recipe so far.  I am going to keep trying and will share any improvements I come up with.

Multi-Grain Bread for the Bread Machine – 1 1/2 lb loaf

1 cup almond, soy, coconut, real milk (whatever you have in the house)

1/4-1/3 cup water (depending on how dry your climate is)

2 tablespoons butter

1-2 tablespoons honey (I usually don’t measure, just pour in a glob)

1 1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup bread flour

1 2/3 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup multi-grain hot cereal (I use Trader Joe’s found near the oatmeal)

2 tablespoons vital wheat gluten

2 1/2 teaspoon fast acting yeast

3-4 tablespoons seeds or chopped nuts of choice (I use 2 tablespoons of Trader Joe’s super seed & ancient grain blend then add a tablespoon of raw pumpkin seeds)

Warm milk, water, and butter in a microwave safe cup for about 1 minute or until the butter just starts to melt.  Place everything but the nuts/seeds in your bread machine according to the manufacturer’s directions.  I do mine in the order listed above.  Select the wheat setting if your machine has one for 1 1/2 lb loaf with medium crust color.  After the first mix check the bread to see if you need to add more water.  Where I live I use 1/4 cup in the summer and 1/3 cup in the winter.  My machine has a timer to let me know when to add the seeds/nuts but if yours doesn’t add them before the last rise.  Let the machine do the rest.  I do cool my bread with a clean towel wrapped around it to help keep the crust softer.  As tempting as it is to eat this right when it is done it is best to let it cool before slicing into it.

That’s it for now.  Hope you enjoy this recipe and let me know how it turns out or if you have any suggestions to make it better.

 

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What do you want?

I have decided to let you choose some recipes for me to makeover and make healthier….I’ve already received a request for a pecan pie makeover (which is definitely a challenge)!  We will see what I can come up with for that one!  I am looking for anything that you love but know is not a healthy choice!  I will choose a couple of your suggestions and make them over for my next post! 

Happy recipe hunting!

Fresh Produce

At the request of my smart, beautiful, talented sister-in-law, Candy (follow her blog at candysbrain.com and see for yourself), I am providing a couple of ideas on where and how to buy fresh produce.  Note that not all of these options are year round in some places so make sure to read the details at all sites/markets.

Option 1 – Find a Farm Co-op near you:

This option is a great way to explore what is in season and what fruits and vegetables grow around where you live.  In most situations you pay upfront for a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly box of fruits and/or vegetables from a local grower.  Some farms will let you pay per box but this is harder for the farmer as they need the money upfront to pay for the seeding and growing of the plants.  Depending on where you live you may be able to buy a full year.  I know by me (Midwest region) you can only get three seasons at the most, but it is  sooooo worth it!  This can be a pricy option upfront but compare what you normally pay for produce in the same time line and you will see that it may be very comparable.  If you feel that this might be an option for you I highly recommend http://www.localharvest.org/ to help find an organic farm near year.  I have to warn you that most of the time you do not get to choose what’s in the box, it is whatever is ready to be picked at that time and you may not recognize everything in the box.  If it is an unusual vegetable or fruit most farmers will provide a description of that item as well as how to eat/use it.

Option 2 – Supermarkets

Every supermarket has the potential to have great produce, you just have to be willing to take the time to find it.  As a rule of thumb buy what is in season.  For one it will be less expensive and two you will be more likely to find better quality items.  If you need help knowing what is in season the Eat Local app (as I mentioned before in Eat the Rainbow) is a great way to find what is in or you can go to http://www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org/what-fruits-and-vegetables-are-in-season and search by season before trekking out, they even provide some great recipes to try!    Also, make sure to check your produce before putting it in your cart as well.  I’ve listed below some guidelines on how to pick ready to eat fruit and vegetables.

Every region has a different set of grocery stores so I don’t think I can accurately suggest the best store to buy from but if you have a Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods near you these are your best options.  Not to say there are not other great stores, I just know these two to have a great variety and provide great organic produce.

Option 3 – Online

There are probably more options online than I can even begin to think of but I know only know of a couple and I personally have only tried one, PeaPod.  I am a big fan of PeaPod, especially in the summer and fall when they offer a box of locally grown vegetables that I can order along with everything else that I need from the grocer.  They also offer a year round “what’s in season” fruit box where they pick 8-10 in season fruits for you.  It’s fun not knowing what you are going to get and finding new recipes or trying something you’ve never had before.  I have had a couple of family members be disappointed in PeaPod’s produce but it has never let me down (yet)!  Another option is again http://www.localharvest.org/.  They have an option to search for an online store for items that you may be looking for!

Whatever option you decide is best for you here are a couple of tips for picking the best produce.

1.  The following should always be organic:  potatoes, apples, pears, nectarines/peaches, any berry (i.e. strawberries, blueberries, etc), spinach, celery, and bell peppers.  Anything that has a skin that is removed before eating is not as much of a concern of containing high amounts of pesticides as the above.

2.  Look for non-blemished, bright colored fruits/vegetables.  Not all fruits/vegetables should be squeezed.  Most ripe fruits will smell like that fruit (I know this sounds funny but an unripe peach will not smell like a peach, check it out the next time you go to the store).  Melons should be heavy for their size; cantaloupe, mangoes and avocado should have a little give when you push into them; and most vegetables your eyes and nose are the best way to know if they are ready to be used.

3.  Don’t panic if you realize when you get home that you didn’t see the blemish on that apple or two of the strawberries are mushy.  You can still eat that apple (do not throw it out because of one bruise) just cut that section off.  Those strawberries can still be eaten, just throw out the ones that are over ripe to prevent them from ruining the rest of the batch.   Use your best judgement, though, if it smells rotten or you see mold toss it!

If there is something here that I did not cover and you would like information about or more information about any of the above please ask!  I love inquiries and comments!

Uh Oh, Thanksgiving’s back

Well my fellow Americans one of our favorite (and diet scary) holidays is back.  I know that everywhere magazines and t.v. shows are telling you what to eat, what not to eat, how to eat it, etc.  I will spare you the do not eat list and caloric value of the traditional holiday foods and will just say a few things to help you out.

  1. Exercise….I don’t care if it’s the day before and after, the morning of, or after your meal.  If you want to feel better about your holiday do something physical (playing tag football with the family is a fun way to burn off some of those extra calories).  Then lets try to keep it a routine!
  2. Eat breakfast….I cannot emphasize this enough.  Make sure you eat within 1 hour of waking up.  If you are having a later meal and there is time, eat lunch too.  This will keep you from being “starving” when you get to your holiday destination and then gobbling down everything in sight!  (Pun intended)!
  3. Eat off a small plate….Eating off a small plate fools you into thinking you are eating more than you actually are.  If you can’t fit all you want on that small plate feel free to go back for seconds, but only after you’ve waited 20 or so minutes to feel how full you really are!
  4. Keep your serving sizes small….If there are 20 dishes to choose from please try to take a serving size of 2-3 bites of each (if you intend to try everything) and not a full serving size of everything.  The small plate will help with this as you won’t be able to put more than that on it anyways!
  5. Choose your dessert wisely….Like I said I am not going to give you a do not eat list but choosing a better dessert will make you feel better.  Instead of pecan pie or cheesecake eat a slice of pumpkin pie with a small dollop of homemade whipped cream.  You will be saving your self time on the treadmill if you do!

Hope this helps you have a wonderful day.  Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!!!!

Eat the Rainbow

No I don’t mean Skittles!  I mean fruit and vegetables.  Everyone knows that we need to eat our fruits and vegetables, but why?  Fresh fruit and vegetables help our bodies to maintain a healthy weight, boost our immune system, reduce heart disease, reduce our risk of certain types of cancer, and can even help with problems that naturally occur from aging like vision loss.

Keeping variety with your fruits and vegetables also means that you will be eating a lot more vitamins and minerals.  You can get away with not taking a multivitamin just by eating them in natural foods.  Plus you get all the healthy fiber, phytochemicals (natural occuring compound in plants that may help to reduce cancer risk), and antioxidants (helps maintain and promote good cell growth) that a multivitamin cannot provide.  I highly suggest that all your fruit and vegetable choices be fresh.  If you must, frozen is the next best choice but stay away from anything that comes with a sauce on it.  Canned fruit tends to have a lot of sugar added to as well as dyes and canned vegetables almost always have sodium added to them.  Both tend to lose a lot of the essential nutrients that is found in their fresh and frozen equals because of the canning process. 

I understand that price is sometimes a concern and that the only thing some can afford are the canned options.  If you feel this is your only choice, rinse the fruit or vegetable under cold water in a strainer to remove as much of the canning liquid as possible.   I do want to say, though, that there are many inexpensive fresh choices if you buy what is in season!  The abundance of these fruits and vegetables allows the markets to sell them for less.  How do you know what’s in season?  Well, the internet is a great way to find out but my favorite is an app called Eat Local.  It tells you everything to look for right now!  For example, right now (Mid to late November) Eat Local says apples, cabbage, onions, peas, and squash are all in season.   Now when I go to the market I can go straight to these items and know that I will be getting a fresh inexpensive choice.

So on to how to eat the rainbow.  Below is the rainbow as I learned it in school ROY G BIV.  Some of the colors are combined as they offer the same benefits. 

Red 

  • Some fruit choices are: Raspberries, tomatoes, strawberries, pomegranates, and watermelon.  
  • Some vegetable choices are: Beets, red peppers, rhubarb, and red onions.

Orange/Yellow: 

  • Some fruit choices are: Oranges, peaches, cantaloupe, pineapple, and yellow figs.
  • Some vegetable choices are: Yellow/Orange peppers, carrots, butternut squash, and pumpkin.

Green

  • Some fruit choices are: Avocados, green apples, green grapes, kiwi, and honeydew.
  • Some vegetable choices are: Spinach, brussel sprouts, broccoli, lettuces, green beans, (so many to name here)!

Blue/Indigo/Violet

  • Some fruit choices are: Blueberries, purple grapes, plums, raisins, and figs.
  • Some vegetable choices are: Purple potatoes, eggplant, black olives, purple asparagus, and purple cabbage.

White

I know that this is not a color but this category should not be ignored.  White fruits and vegetables offer many immune boosting nutrients. 

  • Some fruit choices are: Bananas, white flesh nectarines/peaches, and pears.
  • Some vegetable choices are: Cauliflower, kohlrabi, ginger, garlic, onions, parsnips, jicama, and potatoes.

I challenge you to go outside your box and try something new at your next meal.  You’ll be surprised at how many different types of fruits and vegetables there are out there.  If you are looking for an extra challenge buy something you’ve never heard of and then look up different recipes for that item.  I never had kohlrabi until this past summer and I found that when grilled it has a very mild sweet taste that’s goes great with white fish.

For help on how to prepare and cook vegetables one of my favorite books is Vegetables Every Day by Jack Bishop.  It has saved my butt a couple of times and I have to thanks my sister-in-law for purchasing this book for me.  Not sure I could do with out it!