Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Dark Chocolate…The What

In our quest to add more antioxidants to our diet, we havec talked about alfalfa sprouts… blackberries…broccoli…and corn…

…all of which may not seem very appoealing…

But there is one source of antioxidants that we can probably all warm up to…

Chocolate…

Specifically dark chocolate…

People have been enjoying chocolate for about four thousand years…starting in Central America by the Mayan population who enjoyed the chocolate as a fermented beverage that was mixed with spices or wine and had a bitter taste. These people used the chocolate beverage for ceremonial and medicinal purposes.

Chocolate was brought back to Europe from these groups of people in the early 1500s by Spanish explorers…and the Europeans soon started adding honey and cane sugar to to make the bitter chocolate sweeter.

.But where does chocolate come from?

Actually chocolate is deived from the the seeds of a cacao pod….which are fermented, dried, and roasted. After this process the shells of the beans are separated from the inside of the cocoa bean and then ground into a liquid called chocolate liquor…which is then processed further to produce cocoa solids.

There are basically three different types of chocolate…

  • Milk Chocolate
  • White Chocolate
  • Dark Chocolate

All chocolate contains the chocolate liquor mentioned above…as well as perhaps additional cocoa butter, sugar, lecithin, and flavoring…what makes them different is the milk content.

Milk chocolate contains 10-50% cocoa solids,

White chocolate does not contain any cocoa solids at all and simply consists of cocoa butter, sugar, and milk.

Dark chocolate usually refers to chocolate that doesn’t contain milk.

For decades most people ate only milk chocolate…but as dark chocolate has been noted as having health benefits. this decadent and delicious treat has become more mainstream.

Speaking of the health benefits of dark chocolate, let’s take a closer look…

Feathering the Nest, Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Making the Perfect Corn Smoothie

Combine all ingredients in a blender jar. Blend for thirty seconds or until all of the ingredients are fully incorporated and the smoothie is perfectly smooth.

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Making the Perfect Chowder

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Making the Perfect Elote…(Mexican Street Corn)

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Making the Perfect Corn on the Cob

Choosing Fresh Corn

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Making the Perfect Chili

The perfect chili will depend on your own person preferences…beans, not beans…beef of chicken…plain or served as chili dogs… burgers topped with chili… (usually without beans)….chili fries…chili mac…or Frito pie and flavored to perfection…(more on this later)…

As we all probably know by now, especially if you live in Texas, chili is a type of spicy stew that not only is great to serve alone…or as

And speaking of chili, chilii made in New York City may taste good…and chili made in Texas may be better…the best chili is made in your own kitchen because you are the boss, and you can choose what ingredients you actually like best, not what somebody thinks you’ll like.

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THE INGREDIENTS

The recipe that you actually end up using for your chili will probably vary from one person to the next…based on where you live and what you actually want to be in your chili…(such as beans or no beans)

Since the perfect chili is a matter of person preference, instead of simply giving you one single recipes for the perfect chili, let’s consider some of the ingredients that you could use in chili…so that you can tweak the recipe until you find the perfect chili that is perfectly perfect for you and your family.

 

 

 

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THE MEAT

Beef…Most of us like our chili to be good and hearty…probab ly stockpiled with lots of meat…chili con carne…as most of us already know, you can always substitute ground turkey for the ground beef.

Chicken,,,one of my favorite meals is white chicken chili…kinda like my favorite lasagna contains white sauce and chicken…instead of the typicaxl ground beef and red saucer.

No Meat…my daughter has decided to embrace the vegetarian era…meaning that I often have to disappointment my Mississippi husband by making meals that do nit contain any meat…

Pork…Chili can also be made with pork…such as chili verde…a ‘green chili that is made from chunks of pork.

 

 

 

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THE PEPPERS

Chili peppers, often in the form of chili powder…which we will talk about later)…is commonly used to spice up your chili.

What makes chili peppers so hot is an ingredient called Capsaicin, the same stuff that’s used to make pepper spray, many pain relief creams, insect-repellentproducts…(yum)…

 

Remember that the white part of the pepper is where most of this capsaicin…especially the seeds.

Five types of  chili peppers rhat you can consider using are…

  • Bell pepper
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Habanero pepper
  • Jalapeno pepper
  • Poblano pepper
  • Serrano pepper
  • Thai prepper
  • Wax pepper

As far as if the word is actually “chili” or “chile,” there is no clearcut answer. “Chili ” is typically what most of us call it here in the US, but “Chile” is the the word more often used in Mexico and several other Latin American countries.

Other people prefer to use the word “chile” whenever referring to the pepper, and chili to talk about the stew.

 

 

 

 

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THE VEGETABLES

Vegetables, other than tomatoes, can also be good ingredients in your chili—vegetables such as mushrooms, zucchini, corn, squash, and beets…which is why I thought I could get by with a chili recipe while talking about the raw food pyramid, while talking about leafy greens, while talking about smoothies, while talking about antioxidants…if that made any sense)…

 

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THE  BEANS

The use of beans in chili has been debated for a very, very long time…especially here in Texas.

In fact the society that “governs” most of the chili cookoffs so populat around America have banned the use of beans in their cook-offs.

Here in Texas. supposedly we eat our chili without beans…(sorry…that doesn[t include me…I like my chili as heartless…I mean hearty…as possible).

While everyone else supposedly like their chili with beans, any type of bean—including

  • black beans
  • blacked-eyed peas
  • great Northern beans
  • kidney beans
  • navy beans
  • pinto beans
  • white beans

As far as chili beans, these are actually pinto or kidney beans that have already been spiced…which will obviously change the taste of the chili from what it would have been if you had used them by themselves.

When using beans, be sure to rinse them first to to remove the extra salt and starches.

 

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THE TOMATOES

 

The use of tomatoes…just like the use of beans…whenever making chili has been a topic of debate for a very, very lnog time.

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THE SPICES

What actually makes chili chili…at least to me…is the spices that you add…

Without the perfect blend of spices, you simply have another meat dish that contains tomatoes, vegetables, and perhaps beans…

NOT chili!!!

The spices that you use are what give chili its complex flavor.

Recipes exist with all sorts of different spice blends to flavor the chili….but the four most common spices are when making chili are…

  • chili powder
  • cumin
  • oregano
  • paprika
  • Other spices that I’ve seen in chili recipes include cayenne pepper, cinnamon,  dry mustard, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, and onion powder.

Any by the way, chili powder is not actually a spice in and of itself…and you can make your own without making a special trip to gT

 

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THE TOPPINGS

Toppings that you can add to your chili once it’s finished cooking include…

  • Cheese—such as Monterey Jack, cheddar
  • Cilantro
  • Crackers—such as saltine crackers or oyster crackers
  • Croutons
  • Diced avocado
  • Diced red or green onion
  • Jalapenos
  • Lime wedges
  • Sliced green onions
  • Sour cream
  • Tortilla chips
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THE MENU

Foods that go great when served with chili include cornbread,  tortillas, tamales, rice, and pasta.

 

 

 

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THE RECIPE

Meat

  • 2# ground beef or turkey

Vegetables

  • 1/2 large white onion, chopped

  • 1 onion diced
  • 1 green bell pepper seeded and diced
  • 1 medium yellow onion -diced
  • 1 jalapeno seeded and finely diced

Spices

  • 2 1/2 tablespoons chili powder…OR…2Tbsp cumin, 1/4tsp cayenne pepper -optional, 1tsp oregano, 1/2tsp paprika
  • 2Tbsp sugar or brown sugar
  • 1Tbsp garlic powder or 4 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 1/2tsp salt
  • 1/2tsp pepper

Tomatoes

  • 2Tbsp tomato paste…OR…8oz tomato sauce
  • 28oz diced tomatoes with juic

Beans

  • 19 oz kidney beans canned, drained & rinsed

Other

  • 1 1/2 cups beef broth…OR…beer
  • 1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • Toppings as desired

Cook for 6-7 minutes.

Just thought that I would throw that in there before you smart making chili for tonight’s dinner…it would be much better if you make it today and serve it tomorrow.

Heat olive oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat for a couple of minutes.

Add the onion. Cook five minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the beef, onions, garlic and some of the chili powder…cook for about seven minutes, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon.

Drain any fat.

Add remaining ingredients…making sure to stir until well combined.

Bring the liquid to a boil.

Reduce the heat to low or medium-low.

Simmer uncovered for at least twenty minutes….again stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon…the lower your cooking temperature and the longer you cook your chili, the more flavorful it will be.

Simmering you chili uncovered will allow the chili to naturally thicken without having to add cornstarch or flour.

Remove the pot from the heat. Let the chili rest for at least five minutes before serving.

Top with cheddar cheese, green onions, cilantro or other favorite toppings.

Leftovers…assuming there are any…will last from three to five days.

Freezing Chili…Chili can be frozen either in single sized portions for lunches or in freezer bags for a quick and easy weeknight meal.

Remember…If all else fails, you can always run back to Kroger or Albertson’s or Tom Thumb…or order from Instacart…to get some canned chili…people have been doing this since 1908 when chili first started being canned and sold in New Braufels, Texas…
Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Corn…The How

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Corn…The Why

As we have been climbing our way slowly up the raw foods pyramid, we honestly should be talking about leafy greens still at this point…but I got sidetracked on smoothies…which got me sidetracks on the health benefits of particular kinds of smoothies…landing me right now on the topic of antioxidants and which foods offer the most antioxidants.

We started out by talking about alfalfa sprouts…and then talked about broccoli…and now we are talking about corn.

Nutritionally corn can be very beneficial to the health of anyone…especially those who are concerned about maintaining the health of their eyes.

 

 

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Nutritional Facts

Corn contains lots of fiber and many vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.f

Let’s look more closely at how much nutritional valuer there is in about 1/4C boiled yellow corn.

1.Antioxidants…Corn boasts higher amounts of antioxidants than most other common cereal grains.

2. Calories: 96

3. Carbs…21 grams…Carbs are the main component of corn, as with all other cereal grains….particularly in the orm of starchm, which makes up anywhere from 1/4 to 3/4 of corn’s dry weight.

4. Fat: 1.5 grams

5. Fiber: 2.4 grams…Corn contains a fair amount of fiber, varying from one type of corn to another variety…but typically around 9–15% of the dry weight

6. Protein…3.4 grams…10–15% RDI…Zeins comprise anywhere from one-half to one-thired of the total protein content…and these zeins do not contain some of the essential amino acids…making corn not one of the best foods to choose it you are concerned with the overall protein quality of your diet.

7. Sugar…4.5 grams…Corn typically has a sugar consistency of 1–3% sugar…and despite of its name, sweet corn consists of only 8% of the dry weight.

 

 

 

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Eye Health

But let’s take a look at one jparticular benefits of corn…

Eye Health

Because of the high level of antioxidants—particularly carotenoids—corn is great for maintaining the health of your eyes and preventing eye disease—such as macular degeneration, eye infections, and cataracts.

Corn gives you about 70% of the caratenoids that your body needs.protect your eyes from oxidative damage, especially damage caused by blue light,mpaign for seniors ages 65 and up that can qualify for a free eye exam. .

And while we are on the topic of eye health, let’s look at a few ways to keep your eyes looking…and then looking good.

 

Having regular eye exams is important for the following reasons…

1.  To detect eye conditions… An optometrist can spot early onset signs of diabetes, high blood pressure, glaucoma, cataracts, hypertension, and high cholesterol just by conducting an eye exam.

During your exam, your eye doctor will look for eye muscle imbalance, vision disorders, and eye disease that could potentially cause future problems.

Having your eyes examined on a regular basis can help detect these problems before they escalate and affect not only your vision, but also your overall health.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends that you have a baseline eye exam at age 40, the time when the early signs of disease or changes in your vision may occur.

This baseline screening can help identify signs of eye disease at an early stage, when treatment can have the greatest impact on preserving your vision.

 

2. To determine if you need a stronger prescription, or if you need eyeglasses or contact lenses….Your eyes obviously change over time, especially after the age of 40. Having a current prescription reduces eyestrain and helps you see better.

 

3.   To improve your children’s school performance…Eye exams are an important part of healthcare for everyone, but especially for children.
According to the Vision Council of America, one out of every four children in the U.S. has an undiagnosed vision problem.

It is also estimated that 48% of parents with children under the age of 12 have never taken their children to see an eye care professional.

Vision problems and poor vision are two of the most common reasons why children fall behind in school each year.

Eye exams ensure normal vision development and can detect any vision problems that could contribute to possible learning and reading difficulties.

Early identification of such problems is crucial because children are more likely to respond to treatment when problems are diagnosed early.

 

4.  To keep from having headaches... If you have been having unexplained, constant headaches, the problem could lie with your vision. An eye care professional may be able to pinpoint the cause behind your headaches and help give you the relief you deserve.

5.   To prevent eye diseases, such as macular degeneration or cataractsMany serious conditions like these often have no symptoms, but an optometrist can detect early signs of such diseases, helping to prevent serious damage.

Now…not that I am a “fashion and beauty” expert and blogger, bur as someone who used to never wear my glasses anywhere because I thought that I looked ugly, and now feel comfortable wearing them anywhere…let’s look at a few makeup tips for women who wear glasses… 

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Makeup Tips for Women Who Wear Glasses

Eyewear makes your eyes the immediate focal point of your face, so it’s imperative to apply your makeup in a way that’s flattering to both your frames and your face.

Less is definitely more. Applying makeup to wear with glasses is not a matter of piling on more and more makeup. Instead it’s about using the right makeup and techniques…things like keeping your eye makeup simple, using a light hand, blending everything carefully, and keeping your makeup tidy, well-defined and as close to “perfect” as possible.

Yet putting on eye makeup can not be thought of as merely a waste of time because any makeup that you apply will simply be hidden behind your glasses.

1.  Primer…Use a primer, such as NARS’ Smudge Proof Eyeshadow Base. This will create a canvas to prevent eyeshadow from flaking off throughout the day.

2. Concealor… If you wear glasses, your under-eye area is one of the first things people see on your face. Be sure to apply an under-eye concealer like MAC’s Pro Longwear Concealer.

3.  Eyeshadow…A full-out smoky eye would look slightly overwhelming. Stick to neutral shades. Get your color from liner, not eyeshadow.

4.  Eyeliner…Eyeliner is also essential. The thickness of the liner should correspond with the thickness of your glasses. If your frames are thick, apply a thick line of liner to the upper lash line…If your frames are thin, apply a softer line.

Wear colorful liners-greens, blues, or purples-such as these Urban Decay’s 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencils in a shade that is darker than your natural eye color.

5.  Mascara
…Finish with two coats of waterproof mascara.

6.  Highlighter…
Apply a highlighter like Benefit High Beam to the inner corners of your eyes.

7.  Brows….Eyeglass frames draw attention to the brows, so keep your arches well groomed. Pluck or trim and scraggly hairs. Fill in any sparse spots with a brow pencil or powder shadow.

8.  Lips…Go bold with your lips.

9.  Face…Keep blush and bronzer minimal.

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Corn…The What

Corn was first introduced to European settlers cultures by several

Native American tribes, such as the Iroquois of New England and the Pawnees tribes of the Great Plains.

And if we look back at what we learned in elementary school…or what our kids and grandkids are learning now…corn was introduced at the first Thanksgiving feast back iin 1779…(quite timely post since Thanksgiving was two days ago…and we all remember the story about the first Thanksgiving, right?!)

This corn which had been Native Americans had been cultivated in this continent as far back as 1000 BC.

 

 

 

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Facts Abour Corn

One interesting fact that I learned while doing research for the following posts is that corn always has an even number of rows of kernels.

Another interesting fact that I learned about corn is that the eat of the corn is the “female” part of the plant…while the tassel of the corn is the “male” part of the plan.

 

 

 

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Uses for Corn

Many products available on our grocery store shelves…or on the Instacart shopping list are refined or processed corn products…such as…

  • corn chips
  • corn flour
  • corn oil
  • corn syrup
  • cornbread
  • cornmeal
  • cornmeal flour
  • jpolenta
  • taco shells
  • tortillas
  • tortilla chips

 

 

 

 

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Types of Corn

There are currently hundreds of different types of corn, including these

 

 

1.Dent Corn…this is a type of corn that has small indentation (or “dents”) at the crown of each kernel that is typically grown for grain and animal food.

Actually there are two types of dent corn…white and yellow.

White dent corn is typically used to make masa, tortilla chips, snack foods, and grits…as well as producing food-grade starch and paper.

Yellow dent corn is the most commonly grown corn in the United States today…and is the corn mostly used to make cornmeal flour, corn chips, tortillas, taco shells….and even plastics,

 

 

2.  Flint CornFlint corn is called flint corn because the corn is as hard as flint, since each kernel of corn has a hard outer layer that protects the soft inner part of the kernel…. kernels that do not have the same “dents” that dent corn does at the end of each kernel.

The kernels of flint corn can range all over the color spectrum…not only from various shades of white and yellow,

This is the corn that many of us refer to as Indian corn and use to decorate our homes during the fall and especially and Thanksgiving.

 

3. Popcorn.,,Everyone who has been to a movie…or breathes in America knows what popcorn is, but in the next post we’ll learn even more about one of our favorite snacks…

..Ev