Sweet, Sweet Sunday

16 Cooking Tips Just in Time for the Ucoming Holiday Baking Season

This time of year brings out the baker in me. The illsbury doughboy and I have an annual affair that ends at the same time that the Christmas tree is taken down.

Over our rhitty year relatinoshi, here are a few things that he has taught about baking a cake.

  1. Get an oven thermometer...It is important to always make sure your oven is heating at the correct temperature.  Even though your oven might say itself that it is at the right temperature, don’t trust it. If your oven isn’t at the right temperature, you might end up having a sunken, dry, or collapsed cake. Your best bet is to invest in an oven thermometer  and make sure that your oven isn’t telling you a lie.
  2. Consider whether you are using a glass or metal pan…Cakes baked in glass pans cook differently than cakes baked in versus metal bake differently. If using glass, lower your oven temperature by 25 degrees.
  3. Preheat your oven before you start mixing and prepping...It’s best if the oven is preheated for twenty to thirty minutes.
  4. Allow your ingredients to reach room temperature…Eggs, butter, milk, and any refrigerated ingredients should generally be used at room temperature. Cold ingredients could cause the batter to curdle.
  5. Prepare the pan…Make sure to properly grease and flour the pan before you add the batter. You may also want to try lining the bottom of your pan with parchment paper, especially when baking layer cakes.
  6. Take your time...When combining butter and sugar, take your time and cream them together for at least five minutes. This adds tiny air pockets to the batter and helps to ensure a lighter cake.
  7. Measure your dry ingredients exactly…Use a knife or other flat surface to level off dry ingredients in a measuring cup or spoon.
  8. Don’t skip the sifting...Sifting actually is important because doing this helps to add air and ensures that all dry ingredients are properly combined. If you don’t have a sifter, you can use a wire mesh strainer.
  9. Filling the pan…Generally, the cake batter should fill the pan by at least 1/2 and not more than 2/3, unless otherwise instructed.
  10. Bake the cake...Bake the cake in the middle of the oven.
  11. Do not open the oven door…Opening the oven door too many times while your cake is baking could lower the oven temperature. Wait until the cake is nearly finished baking before you open the door.
  12. See if the cake is done...Insert a dinner knife into the center of the cake. If the knife comes out clean, the cake is done…(we ALL knew that, right?)
  13. Let the cake cool properly…Remove the cake from the pan after allowing the cake to cool in the pan on a wire rack for five to ten minutes. Then invert it onto a plate or rack to remove it from the pan and allow it to cool completely.
  14. Wait to frost the cake…Allow the cake to cool completely before frosting. Even the slightest warmth from a cake can quickly turn your frosting or icing into a mess.
  15. Apply a crumb coat…First brush your completely cooled cake with a pastry brush (or your fingers if you don’t have one) to remove excess crumbs. Next apply a “crumb coat”—a very thin layer of frosting—to the cake. This helps seal in the crumbs. You also could make frosting the cake easier by refrigerating the cake for an hour after applying the crumb coat so that the crumb coat will harden slightly and really hold in the crumbs.
  16. Frost the cake neatly as possible…Start frosting at the top before finishing with the sides. Wipe the spatula clean each time you swipe frosting onto the cake. You may want to spread it on smoothly for a clean finish, or you may opt to swirl it decoratively around the cake.
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Getting Healthy, Sweet, Sweet Sunday

What’s Next?

When I started this blog, I had no intention of turning this into yet another food blog. There are enough of those out there already.

Instead I wanted to talk about my journey to take our family to a more minimalistic and healthier lifestyle, especially since my husband was recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

Some of the topics that I have learned more about so far in this journey have included…

  • How to deal with insomnia
  • Which cruelty-free products in my daily so-called “beauty” routine
  • What clothes to include as you switch to a minimalistic capsule wardrobe
  • How to read nutritional labels
  • What foods you can eat on a Raw Foods Pyramid

Even so, changing our lifestyle from the typical “Deep South” menu where everything is deep-fried or has lots and lots of cheese and heavy cream on it has taken priority right now.

So in these next few posts I’m going to be looking at the next rung of the Raw Foods Pyramid…

Leafy Greens…

Growing up in the Deep South, I never thought that I would actually enjoy eating, much less, cooking…things like turnip greens or collard greens. But now I actually enjoy eating them…especially when they’re served with lots and lots of bacon.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends that adults consume at least three cups of dark green vegetables each week.

Thankfully, there are several varieties of leafy greens out there…I find the idea of eating three cups of mustard greens or collard greens still repulsive, but my Mom would be so glad that I actually do eat them now instead of feeding to the dog while she wasn’t looking.

So which ones should you choose and how do you use these before they sit too long in your food rotter, if you’re anything like me…

All leafy are packed with important and powerful nutrients, and most can also be found year round. This makes adding them to your menu for the week quite an easy task.

As far as nutritional value, all leafy greens are typically low in calories and fat….and high in protein per calorie, dietary fiber, vitamin C, pro-vitamin A carotenoids, folate, manganese and vitamin K.

Studies have shown that eating leafy greens may lower your risk of type 2 diabetes by 14 percent, a fact that I wish that I’d known when I first got married 32 years ago. Leafy greens have also been shown to improve your eyesight, bone health and skin elasticity while helping your blood to clot normally.

And even better, there are so many more varieties that can keep you from feeling like you are simply eating the required bowl of bagged salad every single night, night after night…

Some options that we will be taking a look at are…

  • Arugula
  • Beet Greens
  • Bok Choy
  • Boston (Butterhead)
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Collard Greens
  • Edible Green Leaves
  • Endive
  • Iceberg
  • Kale
  • Microgreens
  • Mustard Greens
  • Rapini (Broccoli Rabe)
  • Romaine
  • Spinach
  • Swiss Chard
  • Turnip Greens
  • Watercress

 

Getting Healthy

Date-Sugar Sugar Cookies

Now that we know that date sugar is a healthy sweetener alternative for diabetics than standard granulated sugar…where do we find it?…how do we make it ourselves?…how do we use it in a recipe?

What are the benefits of using date sugar instead of regular granulated sugar?

  • Antioxidants…Dates contain the highest concentration of antioxidants of any dried fruits.
  • Caloric Content…Date sugar contains 288 calories per half-cup, as opposed to regular white refined sugar which has 387 calories per half-cup.
  • Energy Boost…Dates contain 29 grams of natural sugars—such as glucose, sucrose and fructose—and are one of the best snacks that you could eat to help you have more energy.
  • Intestinal Health…Dates helps increase the amount of “good” bacteria found is in the intestines and as a result help to keep you “regular” and prevent constipation.
  • Nutritional Value…Date sugar is loaded with vitamins and minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, iron, copper, manganese, and selenium; where white sugar does not.
  • Potassium Content…Date sugar actually has more potassium per serving size than bananas do.
  • Weight Control…Date sugar is loaded with fiber, protein and carbs which make you feel full much longer. This can help to curb hunger and help prevent weight gain.

Where do we find it?

Commercial date sugar made from unsulfured, organically grown dates is typically hard to find in actual local grocery stores and even health food stores. Your best bet is to buy your date sugar online from such sources as Thrive Market, Bob’s Red Mill, and Amazon.

How do we make it ourselves?

The problem with date sugar, however, especially organic types, is that they can be very expensive.

But it is possible to save money by making your own date sugar.

Making your own date sugar is actually quite simple. Simply buy inexpensive fresh or dried dates in bulk…It is not even important that the dates that you choose to make your date sugar are  the richest, sweetest, moist varieties. Just any old date will do.

Pit and slice them, and dry them using a food dehydrator or a very low-temperature oven. Once your date slices are fully dry, pulverize them in a food processor.

How do we use it in a recipe?!

Commercial or homemade date sugar can be substituted measure for measure for both granulated white sugar and brown sugar…but many people claim that this makes their baked goods taste too sweet, and reduce the amount of date sugar to only 2/3C date sugar for every cup of sugar called for in the original recipe.

Date sugar is particularly good when baking nut or fruit breads that will also contain whole pieces or chunks of another type of fruit or nut….such as banana-nut bread or an apple-walnut bread.

Date Sugar and Liquids…Remember that date sugar does not dissolve when stirred into water or liquids. Many chefs try dissolving the date sugar in boiling water before adding to the batter. This might work if water is already an ingredient in the given recipe. I personally hate changing ratios and proportions, and leave all this to the people who actually passed college algebra the first time that they took it.

Otherwise, just be aware that date sugar may show up as distinct, sweet flecks in cake, pancake or waffle batters.

Storing Your Date Sugar

Date sugar, just like brown sugar, tends to clump together…because they both are naturally “hygroscopic”…new word of the day, simply meaning “able to readily absorbs and retains moisture.”

So be sure to store your date sugar in an airtight jar or other container…probably in your pantry with perfectly-alphabetically-lined Mason jars containing brown sugar, coconut sugar, and now date sugar…

If you want to store your date sugar in a shaker, place a saltine cracker or two in the container to absorb any moisture.

Date-Sugar Cookies

Date Filling:

  • 2C chopped dates
    1C sugar
    1C water
    2 tablespoons lemon juice
    1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 pound chopped walnuts or pecans

Combine chopped dates, sugar and water in a 2-quart saucepan. Bring to a boil. Cover. Reduce heat to low. Simmer ten minutes. Add lemon juice and salt. Cool. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Dough

  • 1tsp vanilla
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1C butter or margarine, softened
  • 3 1/2cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½tsp ground cloves
    1Tbsp baking soda
  • Confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 teaspoons water
  • 1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350. Line baking sheets with parchment.

Cream together vanilla, eggs, sugar, milk, and butter until light and fluffy.

Combine flour, sugar, cornmeal, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and cloves.

Add to creamed mixture.

Cover dough with plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 2 hours for easier handling.

Roll out dough to 1/8″ thickness. Cut with floured 2 1/2″ round cookie cutter.

Cut out and remove 1″ round hole from center of half of the cookies. Return dough centers to remaining dough for rerolling.

Place the whole cookies on ungreased cookie sheets.

Spoon 1tsp cooled filling onto center of each whole cookie.

Top with dough ring. Press the edges of each filled cookie together with the tip of a fork to seal.

Bake for ten minutes. Let cool on pans two minutes. Remove from pans. Let cool completely.

Let cool. Dust with sifted confectioners’ sugar.

Getting Healthy, Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Black Strap Molasses—The Why?!

Since I started this journey toward creating a healthier lifestyle for my family, I have begun actually looking at nutrition labels before chunking anything and everything into my grocery cart, especially processed foods. My goal has been to create a Master Grocery List based on what I have learned as I go along.

Just like I did in a previous post on why we should all be eating avocado, this post will highlight the nutritional benefits of blackstrap molasses in a way that corresponds to these labels.

For years blackstrap molasses has appeared on almost every list of superfoods and been sold on health food store shelves for its many health benefits—including relieving PMS symptoms, stabilizing blood sugar levels, improving bone health, treating symptoms of ADHD,  preventing blood clotting, relieving menstrual cramps, maintaining the health of uterine muscles, combatting stress and anxiety, boosting skin health, promoting the growth of healthy tissues, serving as a natural wound healer, and helping you maintain clear and healthy skin.

So let’s take a quick run-through of the nutritional benefits of blackstrap molasses based on the elements that make up the nutrition label before we all place blackstrap molasses on our Instacart grocery lists.

 

1. The Serving Size…Obviously blackstrap molasses is actually an ingredient or condiment, not an actual food in and of itself…so you can’t really say what a typical serving should be…but the following statistics are based on 100 grams, or about 1/2C.

 

2.  Calories…One hundred grams of blackstrap molasses contains 290 calories, making it a food with an “average” or moderate caloric content.

 

 

3. Basic Nutrients…Now as for those specific nutrients contained in blackstrap molasses—such as carbohydrates, fat, protein, cholesterol, sodium, and sugar—that all of us typically eat in adequate amounts….blackstrap molasses provides the following percentages of these recommended nutrients to your daily diet…

 

 

a.  Fats…Blackstrap molasses contains zero fat.

 

b. Protein…Unless a food item makes a claim regarding its protein content—such as being “high in protein” or is marketed specifically for infants and children under four years old, this nutrient is often now shown. This is not a big deal because studies show that most of us actually do get enough protein in our diets already…zero protein

 

c. Fiber…Blackstrap molasses contains no fiber.

 

4.  Vitamins and Minerals…Blackstrap molasses has been sold as a dietary supplement for years and finds its way on almost every “official” list of superfoods…because one tablespoon of blackstrap molasses provides up to  20% of the recommended daily value of many important nutrients—including iron, calcium, copper, magnesium, potassium, vitamin B, and manganese.

 

a.  Iron…Blackstrap molasses contains 95% DV of iron per 1/4C. Not having enough iron in your red blood cells can make you feel tired, weak, crabby, lethargic, unmotivated, depressed, and anxious…definitely not something you want to be when you’re fifty years old chasing a “resident four year old.”

 

b.  Calcium…Blackstrap molasses contains a large amount of calcium, which is vital for maintaining strong and healthy bones and preventing osteoporosis.

 

c.  Copper...Copper is important for strengthening  your bones and blood vessels, keeping your nerves healthy, and boosting your immune system.

 

d. Magnesium…1/4C blackstrap molasses contains approximately 68% DV of magnesium. Adequate levels of magnesium are also crucial in preventing diseases like osteoporosis and asthma along with others that can affect your blood and heart

 

e.  PotassiumTwo teaspoons of blackstrap molasses contains 10% DV of potassium. Potassium important for strengthening bone density, helping your blood vessels and arteries to relax, lowering your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, cleansing your liver, keeping the body hydrated, and reducing your risk of circulatory problems—such as blood clotting, heart attacks, hypertension, high blood pressure, strokes.

 

f.  Vitamin B6…1/4C of blackstrap molasses provides 34% DV of Vitamin B6. This is important for helping to fight and avoid many health conditions—including morning sickness, depression, fatigue, stress,

 

g.  Chromium…Blackstrap molasses also contains a high level of chromium—an essential nutrient involved in controlling insulin, blood glucose, and cholesterol levels.

 

Finally blackstrap molasses proves to be a great source of organic compounds—such as antioxidants, lactic acid, carotenoids, and flavonoids.

a. Antioxidants…Blackstrap molasses contains many antioxidants, substances that help neutralize the effects of free radicals that have been linked to various health conditions—including cancer, cardiovascular disease, vision problems, premature aging, and cognitive disorders.

b.  Anti-inflammatory…The anti-inflammatory properties in blackstrap molasses are important for relieving the symptoms of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

 

 

So does blackstrap molasses earn a spot in my grocery shopping app, or not?!

Definitely…Blackstrap molasses is definitely a more nutritious alternative to refined sugar.

Blackstrap molasses has a low glycemic index, which is very important for people with diabetes. Blackstrap molasses helps stabilize blood sugar levels, increases glucose tolerance, balance blood glucose levels, and give us stable energy.

Blackstrap molasses has also been proven to help treat the symptoms of ADD/ADHD…which is very important when you have a “resident four year old” to take care of.

 

 

 

 

 

Getting Healthy, Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Avocado—The Why?!

  • Antioxidant phytochemicals (such as beta-sitosterol, glutathione and lutein) — To help protect against various diseases like macular degeneration and cataracts, it’s a good idea to eat a diet rich in phytochemicals like avocados. Antioxidant phytochemicals prevent oxidative damage (also called free radicals) that have the power to change DNA and result in cell mutations….
  • Folate — Because of its high supply of the crucial nutrient folate,
    avocado benefits include preventing certain birth defects like spinal bifida and neural tube defects. Research has even suggested that folate-rich foods can help prevent strokes!…Phytonutrients (polyphenols and flavonoids) —
  • Anti-inflammatory compounds like phytonutrients are key to reducing the risk of inflammatory and degenerative disorders that can affect every part of the body — including joints, the heart, brain, internal organ systems, skin and connective tissue.
  • Avocados are a high-antioxidant food that contain lutein, a type of carotenoid that protects eye health and preserves healthy, youthful looking skin and hair. Carotenoids are the group of antioxidant phytochemicals found in veggies like carrots, squash and sweet potatoes that are known for blocking the effects of environmental toxins like pollution and UV light damage….Research shows that dietary carotenoids provide health benefits related to decreasing the risk of diseases, particularly certain cancers of the skin and age-related eye disorders like macular degeneration. (8) Lutein appears to be beneficial for eye disease prevention because it absorbs the type of damaging blue light rays that enter the eyes and skin, changing DNA and causing free radical damage. Research also shows that adding avocado to a meal helps further carotenoid absorption.
  • As you now know, avocados are one of the best fruit sources of fiber. Depending on the size of the avocado, one whole fruit has between 11–17 grams of fiber! That’s more than nearly any other fruit and most servings of vegetables, grains and beans too. High-fiber foods are important for anyone with digestive tract issue because fiber helps shift the balance of bacteria in the gut, increasing healthy bacteria while decreasing the unhealthy bacteria that can be the root of some digestive disorders. Fiber also helps add bulk to stool, makes it easier to go to the bathroom, and helps pull waste and toxins through the intestines and colon.

 

 

One of my goals in this “What Now” section is to begin looking at nutrition labels as an informed consumer, so that that deciding which foods to add and which foods to eliminate from my family Grocery IQ app will be much easier.

I have even made a commitment to actually at least glance at the nutrition labels before actually tossing stuff into my cart, or letting the “resident four year old” do so.

Getting into the habit of always checking the nutritional label, as well as thinking about foods in a way that corresponds to these labels as I plan our grocery lists, will hopefully help me not only make smarter food choices now while I am learning about developing healthier lifestyle, but also make shopping for groceries easier and quicker further along this journey.

But first of all, I need to know what the heck I’m looking at and how to use this information.

So let’s take a quick run-through of the elements that make up the nutrition label, and how this applies to our first added food—the avocado.

1. The Serving Size…The first thing to consider when starting to weed out your pantry or fridge in the game called “What Not to Eat” is the “Serving Size.”
Serving Size cannot be ignored…sad, but true…

Knowing all of the nutritional value in the Serving Size given on the actual package does not do a bit of good if you’re not actually eating the size that they supposedly tell you that you’re supposed to be eating. If you eat the whole entire box of Cap’N Crunch cereal, you have obviously eaten way more calories than the number of calories that they had expected you to have eaten. And not only have you eaten way more calories, you have also jacked up all those other supposedly important nutrient numbers also…

The recommended serving size of an avocado is smaller than you’d expect. One medium avocado is actually considered to be five different servings.

2. Calories…Calories provide a measure of how much energy you get from a serving of this food. Needless to say, far too many Americans consume way more calories than they could ever actually need. Yet they hardly ever even come close to meeting the “official” recommended intakes for the many different nutrients that our bodies need.
As a general reference for looking at calorie content when looking at a Nutrition Facts label, remember that…

  • Any food item containing somewhere around forty calories is considered to be a low-calorie food item.
  • Any food item containing somewhere around a hundred calories is considered to be “average” or moderate.
  • Any food item containing four hundred calories or more is considered a high-calorie food item.

Avocados have a lot of calories. One serving, which is only one-fifth of the typically-sized avocado, has about fifty calories…meaning that if you just ate the entire avocado, you just ate 250 calories.

3. “Limit These” Nutrients…The next section of the nutrition label details the specific nutrients contained in the food item.

The actual specific nutrients listed first are those nutrients that all of us generally eat in adequate amounts. These are shown as a percentage, showing what percentage of the amount of the recommended nutrients that food item contributes to your daily diet.
The nutrients included in this section are carbohydrates, fat, protein, cholesterol, sodium, and sugar.

a. Carbohydrates...Each day we should strive to eat 300 grams of carbs. One serving of avocado contains three grams on carbohydrates.

b. Fats…No daily recommendation has been formally established by the FDA at this point, so your main goal is to limit “bad” fats and get enough “good” fats…One serving of avocado contains a total of 4.5 grams fat—1 gram “bad” fat, and 3.5 grams of the “good” monounsaturated fat. Avocados and avocado oil are some of the richest sources of monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) in the world. These monounsaturated fats have been shown to reverse insulin resistance and regulate blood sugar levels.

Avocados also contain oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat that can improve memory and brain activity. Oleic acid in turn helps the body with carotenoid absorption.

c. Protein…Avocados having the highest protein content of any fruit,

Unless a food item makes a claim regarding its protein content—such as being “high in protein” or is marketed specifically for infants and children under four years old, this nutrient is often now shown. This is not a big deal because studies show that most of us actually do get enough protein in our diets already.

d.  Sugar…No set-in-stone daily value has actually been established for sugar either, but obviously it’s important to limit the amount of sugar you consume each day.

The amount of sugar shown will include both any naturally-occurring sugar and those sugars actually added to a food or drink. Check the ingredient list for specifics on added sugars…

Avocados have the lowest sugar content of any fruit, including a very low amount of fructose.

Also, the type of sugar contained in avocado is a specific 7-carbon sugar, which is a relatively rare form of sugar that inhibit the enzyme hexokinase. In newbie-nutrition-nerd language, this fact means that avocados control the way that our bodies process glucose, and as a result protecting the overall health of diabetics.

4.  “Get Enough of These” Nutrients…The nutrients listed next are those nutrients that hardly any of us generally eat in adequate amounts. These nutrients include fiber, vitamins,

a.  Fiber…The recommended daily amount of fiber that each of us should be eating each day is 25 grams.

Fiber helps keep the digestive system running smoothly—bulking up stools, ensuring the smooth passage of food through the intestinal tract, stimulating gastric and digestive juices so nutrients are absorbed in the most efficient and rapid way, promoting healthy bowel function, and reducing the symptoms from conditions like constipation and diarrhea.

Avocados contain more soluble fiber than most foods and help stabilize blood sugar levels, facilitate proper bowel regularity, and maintain proper weight control.

Avocados supply 40% of the daily requirement of fiber per serving, making them a very smart choice for optimizing your digestive health.

Not only that, eating avocados also helps prevent bad breath.

b.  Vitamins…Avocados are a good source of many important vitamins, including vitamins C, B6, B-12, A, D, K, and E—such as 4% of the recommended amount of vitamin C and 6% of the recommended amount of vitamin E.

Vitamin B is important for helping to fight and avoid diseases and infections. For example, pregnant women can avoid the nausea and queasiness of morning sickness by making sure that they get enough Vitamin B6.

Vitamin K…It is important that pregnant women get enough vitamin K in order to prevent vitamin K deficiency-related bleeding (VKDB), a bleeding disorder caused by a deficiency in vitamin K that is sometimes seen in newborn babies whose mothers have not taken in enough vitamin K while they were pregnant. Avocados contain a very high amount of vitamin K—almost 40% of the daily requirement per serving.

Minerals…Avocados are also a great source of many essential—such as calcium, copper,  phosphorous, selenium, and zinc—all of which help to improve the density of your bones and lower your risk of getting osteoporosis.

  • Calcium...The recommended daily value for calcium is 1,000mg.
  • Copper…In addition to helping to strengthen your bone density, copper also strengthens your blood vessels, helps keep your nerves healthy, and boosts your immune system.
  • Folate…In addition to helping to strengthen your bone density, folate also boosts brain function, and is crucial for cell repair and during pregnancy. Avocados provide 10%DV for folate..
  • IronAvocados provide 2%DV for iron.
  • Potassium…In addition to helping to strengthen your bone density, potassium helps relax your blood vessels and arteries and reduces your risk of circulatory problems—such as blood clotting, heart attacks, hypertension, high blood pressure, strokes. Avocados provide 6%DV of potassium. You would need to eat two bananas to meet the potassium content in just one whole avocado.

Finally avocados prove to be a great source of organic compounds—such as antioxidants, phytosterols, carotenoids, and flavonoids.

a.  AntioxidantsAntioxidants neutralize the effects of free radicals, the dangerous byproducts of cellular metabolism. This is important because free radicals are responsible for dozens of serious conditions in the body—including cancer, cardiovascular disease, vision problems, premature aging, and cognitive disorders.

  • Lutein…Lutein prevents problems with your eyes—such as cataracts, eye diseases related to age, and macular degeneration. Lutein also reduce your risk of cartilage defects—such as osteoarthritis).
  • Xanthophyll…Xanthophyll is an antioxidant which studies have shown could possibly help to decrease signs of the aging process on various parts of your body.

b.  CarotenoidsCarotenoids are chemical compounds that give certain fruits and vegetables their bright yellow, orange or red color. Carotenoid benefits include lowering inflammation, promoting healthy growth and development, and boosting immunity, among others. Beta-carotene is one of the most common carotenoids.

c. Flavonoids…Avocados contain antibacterial flavonoids, which help kill bacteria in your mouth that can result in bad breath.

  • improved heart health, hormone balance, better digestive health
Getting Healthy

Daddy Always Said, “If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It”

Most likely whenever you look at the ingredients label for any typical packaged food, you won’t have a clue what many of the ingredients listed are, and probably won’t be able to pronounce many of them either.

Those ingredients are most likely artificial chemicals that have been added for various purposes—such as to make the foods hopefully taste, look, and have the texture of unprocessed or minimally processed foods. These ingredients are also used to disguise undesirable qualities of the final product, increase shelf life, disinfect and deodorize, hide odors, and sweeten our foods.

Big food companies must think that they are doing both ourselves and themselves a huge favor…by making our foods more palatable, while at the same time making a larger profit themselves.

In fact, as consumers get used to the taste of a certain food, even more and more of these additives are usually added to those food items by the “food engineers” of these big -brand food manufacturers in order to keep them or make them even more addictive.

And as if that list of ingredients shown on the package that you just looked at isn’t long enough already, most also contain even dozens more additional chemicals that aren’t even listed on the label.

However adding all these additives can affect the health of everyone who eats that manufacturer’s products…including their own workers.

Health problems that can result because of all these additives include allergies, heart issues, hyperactivity, diabetes, obesity, irregular menstrual cycles, acne, hair loss, and even cancer.

For example, the Coalition for Safer Food Processing & Packaging periodically conducts laboratory testing of foods. One study involved the testing of thirty different macaroni and cheese products.

One chemical in particular, that the Coalition was looking for was phthalates, a hormone-disrupting chemical that manufacturers use when making rubber, plastics, adhesives, sealants, and printing inks…and that also poses a serious threat to the health of pregnant women and children.

The Coalition found phthalates in 29 of these 30 items, including eight of the nine Kraft cheese product items tested.

Another study conducted by the University of Hawaii of almost 200,000 people found that those people who eat the most processed meats—such as hot dogs and bologna—have a 67% higher risk of getting pancreatic cancer. Sorry, Oscar Mayer, but my dad died from pancreatic cancer. Crossing hot dogs and bologna off my grocery list permanently.’

We should all learn how to avoid such additives.

One way is to refuse to buy products with ingredient lists that…

  • are longer than the Santa wish list of my “resident four year old”
  • contain the words “artificial flavor. “Artificial flavor” is not actually an ingredient. Who in the heck even knows what “artificial flavor” is?
  • have words that are too hard to pronounce
  • have words that have more than twenty syllables

What exactly do the words “artificial flavor” mean?

Just like we previously learned, when doing a previous “What Now” unit on taking the perfect cruelty-free shower…as far as health and beauty products are concerned, the word “fragrance” can be code-name for a whole slew of we-really-don’t-want-to-tell-you-because-if-we-did-tell-you-then-you-probably-wouldn’t-buy-this ingredients…and when it comes to food, the words “artificial flavor” are basically code-name for that exact same thing.

Any time that you see the words “artificial flavor” listed as an ingredient, you should realize that this is a proprietary blend of several different ingredients that are considered “trade secrets.” For “marketing” reasons, manufacturers can get by without listing exactly specific ingredients make up their “artificial flavor.”

 

Making Dinner Plans

20 Organic Food Subscription Boxes

 

Chamomile; German Chamomile; Hungarian Chamomile; Camomile; Matricaria recutita; Chamomilla recutita; Matricaria chamomilla

While we’re on the subject of healthy snacks, I thought that this would be a good time to share this list of twenty food subscription boxes again…

1.  Blue Apron

  • Who:  People who want to experiment with fun and creative recipes, avoid grocery shopping, and adventurous chefs who enjoy trying new ingredients.
  • What:  Fresh ingredients with seasonal recipes that are never repeated during the year.
  • How much: Prices start at $59.94/week (for a 2 person, 3 meals a week plan) and $69.92/week (for a 4 person, 2 meals a week plan)

2.  Batch

  • Who: People who enjoy Southern hospitality and food
  • What:  limited-edition, themed collection of handmade goods from Southern makers from Nashville, Memphis, Austin, and Charleston
  • How Much:  Batch’s holiday subscription box ships twice: February and May.Cost: Two-month subscription boxes cost $98 for standard or $198 for deluxe boxes. Their one-off, non-subscription boxes make fantastic gifts, too, and run from $39 to $119 a box.

3.  Carnivore Club

  • Who:  discerning carnivores
  • What:  Each month members receive an impressive faux-wood box filled with four to six of the very best artisanal curated cured meat,  featuring artisans from around the world. Each month’s box is themed around one producer specializing in a particular style of cured meats—such as French Charcuterie, Italian Salumi, Spanish Chorizo, South African Biltong and Artisanal Jerky.
  • How much:  Carnivore Club has a range of delivery options including monthly, bi-monthly, or quarterly.Cost: $50/month.

4.  Cocoa Runners

  • Who:  Chocolate connoisseurs
  • What:   A box of four different full-size chocolate bars, made from high-quality artisanal chocolate from around the world
  • How much:  $30/month

5.  Degustabox

  • Who:  adventuresome and trendy Foodstirs
  • What:  11-15 full-size food items that are new to the market.
  • How much: Regularly $19.99, but use coupon code DEGUSTA10 to get your first box for $9.99.

6.  Farm to People

  • Who:  people who are addicts to shopping at a farmer’s market.
  • What:  three to four products for “The Casual Foodie” box, or five to eight for “The Food Critic”…small-batch, artisanal goodies made with sustainable ingredients straight from farms across America… no GMOs and nothing artificial, ever.
  • How much:  $30/month for “The Casual Foodie” or $50/month for “The Food Critic”

7.  Graze


  • Who:  people looking for healthy, properly portioned, and nutritious snacks
  • What:  subscriber’s choice of eight of the 100 available choices of snacks…
  • How much: $11.99 for 8 snacks per box

8.  HelloFresh

  • Who: people who enjoy cooking healthy home-cooked meals
  • What:  meal subscription boxes that deliver fresh, nutritious, pre-portioned ingredients—including meat, fish, produce, and grains—along with chef-inspired recipe cards
  • How much:  offers options 3, 4 or 5 meals per week for 2 or for 4 people for basically $10-11.50/per person per meal

9.  Healthy Surprise

  • Who: people on a “clean eating” or paleo diet
  • What: a selection of all natural, 100% guilt-free, gluten-free, GMO, soy, corn, wheat, and gluten-free treats
  • How much:  starts  at $50/box for 15 full size snacks.

10.  Love with Food Tasting Box

  • Who: healthy snackers who like to “give back”
  • What:  12 to 15 natural and organic gluten-free and celiac-safe snacks and sweets…no trans fats, no hydrogenated oils, no artificial flavors/colors, and no high-fructose corn syrup
  • How much:  $10/box for 8 snacks…plus for every box Love With Food sends out, two meals are donated to a food bank in America.

11.  Mantry.

  • Who: men who like trying new snacks, liquors, prepared sauces, and mixes made in America.
  • What:  Branded, lidded wooden crates containing six full-size, non-perishable, stereotypically male-marketed artisan dude-friendly food products such as snacks, liquor, prepared sauces, or flavor enhancers…each box has a particular theme…past themes have included Bacon Nation, Tailgate Tour and Bourbon BBQ.
  • How much:  Each box costs $75.

12.  Nature Box

  • Who:  snackers who want to choose exactly what snacks go in their pack
  • What: a choice of 100+ super-healthy, super-delicious snacks, from chocolate hazelnut granola to sriracha rice crackers
  • How much:  $20 for 5 full-sized snack bags

13.  Orange Glad

  • Who:  people with a taste for exotic treats
  • What:  a gourmet dessert subscription box featuring tasty delights like Russian tea cakes and chocolate almond macaroons
  • How much: $20-$22/month depending on subscription length

14.  Peach Dish

  • Who:  people whose goal is to cook dinner more often and enjoy trying new recipes
  • What:  a meal kit delivery service offering Southern-infused seasonally inspired recipes to cook at home. Each kit includes all the ingredients along with a detailed, step-by-step instruction card needed to prepare for two dinner of the eight different meals offered each week (four meat/fish and four vegetarian). PeachDish also has a separate store on its website with desserts, jams, spice blends, flavored salts, meats, cookbooks, and more.
  • How much:  Prices vary based on how many servings you order. The minimum order is $50, which is the standard box that includes two meals each for two individuals, breaking down to $12.50 per person.

15.  Plated

  • Who:  people who don’t have the time or the energy to plan what’s for dinner, go to the grocery store, and get everything you need for the week
  • What:  all of the ingredients — except for salt, pepper, olive or vegetable oil, and eggs — and step-by-step cooking instructions printed on recipe cards for your choice of seven different meat, seafood, and vegetarian dinners
  • How much:  $48/box…all of the meal kits serve two people at $12 per person. You can choose anywhere from two to seven dinners per week. You can also upgrade any dinner to a Chef’s Table dinner, which includes specialty cuts of meat and seafood, for additional $2 to $18 per person, per dinner…and add dessert to the box for $4 per person, per dessert. The most popular kit is three dinners a week for $72.

16.  Treatsie

  1. Who:  chocolate lovers and those with a sweet tooth
  2. What:  a box of up to $25 worth of delicious artisan sweets—cookies and chocolate to candies and caramel—from three different candy makers each month—indie candy labels, small batch artisanal sweets, and other under-the-radar goodness. You can also choose a subscription that only sends candy bars.
  3. How much:  $20 per month

17.  Try The World

  • Who:  world travelers with foreign tastes
  • What:  tasty treats from other countries, such as cookies from Paris and turkish delights from Turkey
  • How much:  $29-$39 per box

18.  Turntable Kitchen

  • Who. hostesses that would like to find rising artists, enjoy an original menu, get to know unique ingredients, and wow their friends with a playlist of the best new music each month.
  • What:  Pairings Box with perfectly coordinated soundtrack and menu—includes  three seasonal recipes, one or two dried ingredients, a digital mixtape, and a limited-edition vinyl record.
  • How much:  $25/month

19.  Vegan Cuts

  • Who:  vegans and other people interested in finding new gluten-free snacks
  • What:  10 or more vegan-certified snacks (from soda to kale chips
  • How much:  $20 per month

20. Vegin’ Out

  • Who:  vegetarians and vegans interested in having convenient, completely pre-made, customizable meals
  • What:  3 vegetarian vegan entrees, 4 vegetarian vegan side dishes, 1 vegetarian vegan soup, and 5 vegan cookies
  • How much: $128-$170 depending on location
Lasting Through Lunch

On the Lunch Menu Today…Baked Fish Filet Sandwiches…Better Than McDonald’s

  

Baked Crispy Fish Sandwiches

  • Tartar Sauce…1/2C mayonnaise, 3Tbsp pickled relish, 1Tbsp chopped fresh dill, 1Tbsp Dijon mustard, Dash hot sauce
  • 1Tbsp olive oil or butter
  • 1-1/4C panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 pound white fish (halibut, tilapia, cod, etc.)
  • 1tsp salt
  • 1/2tsp pepper
  • 1/2C mayonnaise
  • 1C all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 to 1-1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • Hamburger or potato buns, split
  • 4 slices of American or cheddar cheese
  • 2 medium tomatoes, sliced into rounds (optional)
  • Shredded lettuce

    1.  Prep…Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Heat just the baking sheet for 30 minutes.Remove pan from oven.  Drizzle with oil.

    2.  Make the tartar sauce...Stir together 1/2C mayonnaise, relish, dill, mustard, and hot sauce together in a small bowl. Cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate.

    3.  Toast the panko…Heat the oil or butter in a large frying pan over medium heat until shimmering or melted. Add the panko and 1/4tsp salt. Toast, stirring frequently, until evenly light golden-brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer toasted panel to a pie dish or large shallow plate. Let cool completely. 

    4. Bread the fish…Cut the fish fillets as needed into pieces that will fit in the buns. Mix the toasted panko, flour, salt, pepper, and garlic powder in a pie plate. Whisk the egg and milk together in a shallow dish. Dip the tilapia in the egg mixture, allowing any extra to drip off. Dredge in the toasted panko mixture to completely coat, shaking off any extra. Use your hands to press the crumbs into the fish as needed. Place on the heated baking sheet. Drizzle fish with a little vegetable oil.

    5.  Bake the fish…Bake until the fish is golden-brown and flaky, 12 to 14 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish. 

    6.  Make the sandwiches…Lightly toast the rolls cut-side up directly on the oven rack, about 3 minutes. Top each piece of fish with a slice of cheese. Return them to the oven until the cheese melts. Spread the tartar sauce on the cut sides of both the tops and bottoms of the rolls. Place some lettuce on the bottom half of each roll.  Top with the fish, and top half of the roll.