Archive for September, 2011

September 28, 2011

Oat Bran & Yogurt – So Happy Together

We have all heard of oatmeal and steel cut oats, but how many of you have tried oat bran?  It is actually my favorite hot cereal.  Oat bran is the outermost layer of the whole oat kernel.  It is a whole food containing protein, healthy fat, minerals, vitamins, and soluble fiber.  Fiber promotes weight loss by helping you feel full longer, stabilizing blood sugar, and facilitating healthy digestion.  A neat fact about oat bran is that in 1997 it was the first food the FDA registered as a cholesterol-reducing food.  This is due to its ability to bind to blood cholesterol and flush it from the body.  Oat bran can be eaten raw (e.g. in place of breadcrumbs, in granola, etc.), or cooked.

My favorite way to eat oat bran is for breakfast.  It is super easy to make in the microwave.  I actually do not follow the directions of how much water to oat bran because I think it makes it too soupy.  I’ve gotten to the point that I just eyeball the water and oat bran I put in.  But I would follow the directions for the first time, and maybe add more oat bran if you like it thicker.  I put the water and oat bran in a Pyrex dish, cover but do not seal, cook for 3 minutes, and let it sit for 2 minutes.  Sometimes I do this first thing in the morning.  It is sitting in the microwave at just the right temperature when I get it out.  My favorite way to eat it is with yogurt, especially lemon yogurt.  I just love it!  Also, I add any fresh fruit I have on hand.  Another great thing to add would be some nuts, but I think that would be pushing my luck with my kids.  I say we average this breakfast about two to three days a week, and I feel like it gets the girls that much better prepared for a morning of school and preschool.

(A quick word about yogurt:  So much of it is junk that contains WAY too much sugar.  A good goal is to make sure that it has less than 19 grams of sugar, which is still pretty high, but most brands contain 25+ grams of sugar.  One teaspoon of sugar is equal to four grams of sugar, so really watch out on so called ‘healthy’ yogurt; always check how much sugar it has because some brands might as well be ice cream.  I split one container between the girls.  Some experts suggest buying plain yogurt and mixing it with fruit.  I keep trying to like this, but I just can’t.  It really does lack that spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down.  You may also want to try looking at Greek yogurt.  The sugar is typically lower and the protein is higher.  I usually go to the health food section of the store and purchase whichever brand is on sale.  It can be kind of expensive, which is another reason why we split the yogurt between us.)   

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September 23, 2011

‘Gourd’eous Gourds

It is the first day of fall and according to Mother Nature, it has arrived.  I passed a farmer’s stand on the way to drop my daughter off at preschool.  The beautifully lined-up pumpkins beckoned me to take a closer look.  I then noticed huge boxes of various squashes, some I had never seen before, and some twice the size of a watermelon.  I then came to the gourds and was blown away–they are gorgeous!  Truly, take a minute to look at the color combinations, the shapes, the textures, even the angles of  the stems.  Is there a more creative artist then Mother Nature?  Seeing these fall crops made me feel excited for the season change.  It is time to get out the sweaters, warm some apple cider, try pumpkin and squash recipes, and unpack the fall decorations.  Perhaps your decorations will include some gourds as gorgeous as these.

September 19, 2011

Edible Kiwi Skin

Did you know that the skins on kiwi fruit are edible? I had no idea eating the kiwi with its skin is actually common practice in places like New Zealand until my friend Janelle offered me one.  As I looked at the hairy skin, I took it as a dare.  “All right, I’ll do it!” I said.  I ate it quickly at first, and then slowed down as I realized this was really quite good.  I imagined how much time I would save in the future and how much more of the fruit I would eat (since I am not so hot at peeling kiwi, and by the time I am done, there is only about half of the original fruit left). I decided to do some research and learned that kiwi skin contains high levels of flavonoids, insoluble fiber, and antioxidants.  On the other hand, the skin holds most of the pesticides (if they have been used) and pollution (if grown in areas with a lot of traffic). So basically, you can only eat the skins of organic kiwi.  So next time you see an organic kiwi, why not try eating it with the skin?  Go ahead, I dare ya!

September 17, 2011

Chef Salad & How to Mix a Salad

 I love Chef Salad, especially if there are hard boiled eggs in it! I learned a trick this week regarding salad in general.  I had a huge bowl of a dry garden salad that I made (dressing on the side) for an event.  A lot of it was left over.  I took it home, and it almost lasted the full week.  (Avoid iceberg, it is the least nutritious and browns the fastest.)  I would just get some of the salad out, slice some boiled eggs (I cook eggs every week to help out for those times that I need some protein, so they were already made), add a few cold cuts if you like, shredded cheese, break up a cracker for a crouton taste, and use some pre-made dressing.  Later on in the week I added sprouts and cucumbers left over from other meals.

I should note that I am not a fan of dressing off the shelf.  It has unhealthy additives in it to give it a long shelf-life.  I am a big fan of homemade dressings.  But on the other hand, I am not always prepared to make a homemade dressing.  I think your next best purchase to homemade dressing is the dressing sold in the produce section (meaning it is refrigerated).  Those have fewer additives because they have to stay cold to not spoil and have a shorter shelf-life.  I also really like this yogurt brand from Litehouse.  Only 60 calories for 2 T and it tastes pretty good, especially when I’m in a rush. Another quick trick is to pour a little bit of Olive Oil and Apple Cider Vinegar or Balsamic Vinegar on your salad.

I learned the best salad trick of all at a country club in Houston while still working as a consultant.  You put a little bit of dressing on the salad, and add more as needed.  Then you cut the heck out of that salad with a knife and fork crossing in opposite directions until it is mixed beautifully and in perfect bite size pieces.  That helps you use less dressing, and spreads the taste evenly so the salad just tastes wonderful.  Do this step right before serving to avoid wilting.

September 17, 2011

Make a Used Binder Pretty

Binders are expensive and every year your kids need at least a few for school.  Also, I like to use binders and plastic sleeves to hold some of their artwork that I just can’t throw away.  Now I am not crafty in any way.  I appreciate the talent, but I just don’t have it.  That is why I was so shocked that it looked so darn good when all I did was put scrapbooking paper down the sleeves of a binder.  This binder looked old; it was all marked up.  But with some scrapbooking paper cut to size (not even in a straight line, because I don’t own a paper cutter), it looks almost stylish.

September 16, 2011

Meatloaf Recipe that Everybody Loves

I think it is kind of funny that I am posting a meatloaf recipe, because I actually strive to eat meat sparingly.  But I still do have it, and when I do, this might be one of my favorite recipes.  We have served this to various guests and kids (other than my own) and it always gets great reviews.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Mix the following ingredients together thoroughly:

* 1 lb. ground beef (I prefer organic, but I am lucky and have a local farm to buy it at for a reasonable cost.)
* 1 small onion, diced
* ¼ t seasoning salt
* 1/8 t pepper
* ½ c ketchup
* ¾ t Worcestershire sauce
* 1 egg
* ¾ c rolled oats (You can add more oats if you want to stretch out your meat.)

Pack into a loaf pan and place into the oven.  Bake uncovered for 40 minutes.  Let it rest 5-10 minutes before serving.  I love this with brown gravy and green beans.

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September 15, 2011

Sack Lunch Ideas: The Ever-Growing Slideshow

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I’m using my blog as a place to gather my ideas for planning my daughters’ lunches.  I’ve discovered these great bento boxes from amazon.com (BPA free) and really like them.  The only downfall is that liquid leaks, so marinara sauce, veggie dip, yogurt, etc. would have to be in a separate dip container.  My plan is to continue to add on to this slide show throughout the school year.  If you have any ideas, I would really love to hear them.

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September 14, 2011

Peanut Sauce Salad

I have fixed this many, many times and love it. It makes a lot, so sometimes I halve the sauce and noodles, but still add most of the cabbage. This a very easy way to eat buckwheat and lots of raw cabbage!

It is easiest to boil the water for the Soba Noodles as you make the sauce:

* ½ c Peanut Butter (I use “MaraNatha All Natural,” found in the health food section)
* ¼ c Olive Oil
* ¼ c Soy Sauce (or Bragg Liquid Aminos, also found in the health food section)
* ¼ c agave nectar (a healthier, natural, sweetener found in the baking aisle)
* 2 t rice vinegar
* 1 t garlic powder (you can add more if you like)
(As always, you can lessen the amount of peanut butter and olive oil to lower the calories.)

* Add 1 package of cooked & drained soba noodles (an awesome Japanese buckwheat noodle found in the health food section)  These cook pretty fast, about 3-4 minutes.
* Add 1 package of precut coleslaw mix

Although this is quite good without meat, you can also add chicken. Other things you might want to add are peanuts or cashews, sprouts, green onions, or whatever sounds good to you.  The sauce is delicious, so anything you add will most likely be great!  This keeps really well in the refrigerator.

(The sauce comes from The Green Smoothie Girl’s 101 Healthy Lunch Ideas.)

September 14, 2011

Why Eat Raw?

To eat ‘raw’ means to eat food from nature that has not been heated (above 118 degrees) because heating food takes away a great deal of its vitamins, minerals, fiber, and live enzymes.  Live enzymes are particularly important because they aid in our body’s digestion, and if we do not consume them, they are leached from our body.

Some easy ways to eat more raw foods are to make green drinks, have lots of salads, eat fresh veggies & fruits, and prepare cold pasta salads with large amounts of fruits and vegetables.  I feel like a big trick to eating more vegetables is making sure you have yummy and healthy salad dressings and vegetable dips – they truly are the spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down.  (Check out my Salads & Dips section if you would like to see some of the recipes I use to eat more raw foods.)

Also, eating dehydrated food (not heated above 117 degrees), is an option.  Realistically, drying food requires the purchase of a dehydrator.  Instead of canning fruits and vegetables (heating them), try dehydrating them.  Also, you can dehydrate a one to one ratio of ground flaxseed and water, adding whatever you like to make it sweet or savory (such as honey and dried apricots, or cilantro and salt).  These are probably the most nutritious crackers I could dream up.

I suggest implementing more raw food into your diet gradually.  It can become too frustrating if you make it an all or nothing sort of thing.  A good place to start is with a goal to eat more raw vegatables and salads, and then follow this with learning to make green drinks.  You will feel so good that eating more raw foods will become something you actually crave.

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September 5, 2011

Simple Sushi

I have been taught how to make sushi not once, but twice in my life, both times by friends who just happened to be half Japanese.  They tried to teach me how to make it look as beautiful as their Sushi, but mine just doesn’t.  Kamiko and Erika, I apologize from the bottom of my empty Sushi plate.  I love making Sushi, I make it all the time.  It isn’t pretty, but it is still yummy.  Let me tell you about the latest roll I have been making.  Since I no longer live within walking distance to a Tokyo Fish Market and can no longer buy sushi-grade raw fish, AND since it is hard for me to plan ahead and have cooked fish ready, I came up with another idea that actually tastes great.  That’s right, I use wild canned salmon.

You will need the following:

 * A sushi mat to roll your sushi (go to YouTube if you have never done this before; I shouldn’t teach you, it would be a gross imitation of a true art form)

* Nori (the seaweed around your sushi roll, you can order this at amazon.com if you can’t find it at the store)

* White rice (if you can get packaging with Japanese writing, that will be your best choice)

* Avocados sliced lengthwise

* Cucumbers sliced lengthwise

* Cream cheese (easier to cut slices from a bar lengthwise, but this time I only had whipped and it worked just fine)

* Canned salmon, make sure it says ‘wild’

* Bowl with water to wet your fingers in to both wash them off when pressing down rice, and to wet the bottom of the nori when you roll it up to help seal the roll