Tag Archives: Kitchen

Tasty Tuesday: Sweet and Salty Popcorn

What do you cook when the entire meal will be appetizers? I knew that most people wouldn’t be hungry for a full meal so I planned out four appetizers instead. They all worked perfectly, except for this one. This took two tries but it was SO worth it. I got the original recipe from Sammie Kennedy. This stuff melts in your mouth. It’s gooey and chewy and crunchy. Salty AND sweet. YUM

I still had the microwave at this point but I was trying to wean myself off it. Turns out popping popcorn on the stove can be kind of tricky. This is where the first attempt failed. When I tried again the next day I was significantly less distracted and followed the instructions below to a tee. And of course it worked.

How to Pop Perfect Popcorn on the stove! – Simple Recipes

SweetSaltyPopcorn-Published

Sweet and Salty Popcorn (servings: 6, cook time: 25 minutes)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups popped kernels
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil
  • 1/3 cup coconut sugar (barely increases blood sugar)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 Tbsp sea salt

Instructions

  1. Pop the popcorn in an air popper or over the stove.
  2. In a small saucepan, melt the coconut oil and coconut sugar. Stir in the vanilla, honey, and cinnamon. Stir frequently. When it reaches a boil, remove from heat.
  3. Pour the liquid mixture over the popped popcorn. Add the salt on top. Mix gently with a wooden or plastic spoon so you don’t crush the kernels.
  4. Lay popcorn out on a baking sheet and refrigerate for 15 minutes or until hardened.
  5. Break off the sheet and serve. Enjoy! It will keep a couple of days until the popcorn goes stale.

Ashley Life Update:

Vitamix

 

We went and got the Vitamix last night! I’m so flippin’ excited. My week is insane so I won’t have much time to experiment but I’ll be using it whenever possible and I’m sure you’ll all be hearing about it. Also, we found a fantastic deal on Stainless Steel cookware. 20% off and a rebate for a Cuisinart bowl set. It’s gonna take a little bit of saving to bounce back but I am SO excited to use this stuff. This night was better than Christmas. YAY!

 

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Thriving Thursday: What’s in Your Microwave?

I’m not sure when or how the thought entered my head. I don’t know if my super health conscience Momma put it there or if it was the stirrings of the health community in general, but it’s time to make a change. A big one. I’m going to throw away our microwave. *GASP!*

Microwave

I did a lot of research for this post. I checked out articles from Harvard Med, GreenMed, New York Times, and Dr. Mercola, among others. People are divided. These very smart, highly informed sets of people can’t agree: are microwaves bad for you or not?

This is how it is now, though. Our current system doesn’t work. People are sick and more people are dying prematurely than ever before. I don’t believe we can implicitly trust the medical model for anything other than emergency care, but then who can we trust? How the heck do you figure out who’s right?

I know this sounds a little wonky but I tend to trust my instinct. If you put your face too close to a microwave, you will absorb small amounts of radiation, this is known. But your food is in there! Your food is being heated up in that box full of radiation. Then you’re gonna eat it! Doesn’t that seem a little backwards? However, I know most people don’t make their judgements based on my own personal judgement so here are the facts as well as I can decipher them (with a few opinions thrown in):

How it Works:

Microwave ovens heat food with oscillating electromagnetic waves. The waves energize the water molecules in your food. The polarized water molecules bounce off each other causing friction. That friction heats up the food. Microwaved water heats much more quickly than conventional methods resulting in shorter cooking times.

This form of cooking heats the food from the inside out. But wait a minute. I mean from the inside of the molecules on the outside of the food. It break and reforms the water molecules on the outside of the food in the heating process. Sometimes the distribution of water molecules is uneven which is why you sometimes get microwaved “hot spots.” Conventional cooking heats differently, from the outside of the molecules in.

Part of the opposition’s argument is that less heating time means higher nutrition retention. In general, I agree, but it’s not the length of the heating with microwave ovens, it’s the type of heating that’s the problem. If these electromagnetic waves can reach the interior of the food molecules, what else are they changing other than just the energy of the water?

Radiation:

When I was little I LOVED to stare into the microwave and watch the food spin around in circles, ever so slowly. Every time an adult caught me they slapped my hand and told me to back away, this crazy stuff called radiation leaked from that thing and you didn’t want it getting into your brain!

Since they were invented, the FDA and other regulatory organizations have closely monitored the manufacturing of microwave ovens. There have been major improvements in the level of radiation emitted from the ovens. This is good. However, radiation doesn’t die, it accumulates. So depending on how frequently you use your oven and how old it is, your kitchen is very likely full of microwave radiation. This is bad. Also, the adults were right, the radiation increases exponentially as you move closer to the source and it’s more easily absorbed by your eyes. Don’t sit and watch that plate spin!

Also, a recent study by Dr. Magda Havas of Trent University tested the effects of certain frequencies of radiation on the heart. She concluded that 2.4 GHz of radiation (which is emitted by microwave ovens AND wi-fi routers) changes the heart rate and heart rate variability. Scary.

Nutrients:

As mentioned before, my common sense tells me that if microwaves can break apart and alter water molecules, what are they doing to the very delicate nutrients and minerals in our food? It is now well known that our food has lost a significant percentage of nutrients compared to food produced in the early 20th century. Crappy soil, terrible manufacturing methods, and tons of pesticides definitely play a part in this decline, but how big a role do microwaves play?

  • A study published in the November 2003 issue of The Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture found that broccoli “zapped” in the microwave with a little water lost up to 97 percent of its beneficial antioxidants. By comparison, steamed broccoli lost 11 percent or fewer of its antioxidants. There were also reductions in phenolic compounds and glucosinolates, but mineral levels remained intact.
  • A 1999 Scandinavian study of the cooking of asparagus spears found that microwaving caused a reduction in vitamin C.
  • In a study of garlic, as little as 60 seconds of microwave heating was enough to inactivate its allinase, garlic’s principle active ingredient against cancer.
  • A Japanese study by Watanabe showed that just 6 minutes of microwave heating killed 30-40 percent of the B12 in milk .
  • A recent Australian study showed that microwaves cause a higher degree of “protein unfolding” than conventional heating.
  • Microwaving can destroy the essential disease-fighting agents in breast milk that offer protection for your baby. In 1992, Quan found that microwaved breast milk lost lysozyme activity, antibodies, and fostered the growth of more potentially pathogenic bacteria.

While many of these studies were done using older microwaves, the evidence is clear. Microwave ovens ARE NOT a healthy way to heat your food. If you want to retain the precious nutrients still left in modern produce, eat it raw or heat it from the outside in.

* Word to the wise: If you continue to use your microwave, NEVER heat anything in a plastic container. It is undisputed that the toxic chemicals from the plastic heat and leach into your food not only killing nutrients but filling you up with lots of really terrible chemicals.

GAH! What do I do with all this information? I’m just going to cite Dr. Mercola on this one:

“Am I asking you to toss your microwave oven into the nearest dumpster? Not necessarily. It can be a useful tool for cleaning. But if real estate in your kitchen is at a premium, it should probably be the first thing to go.

You really CAN survive sans microwave—people are living quite happily without one, believe it or not. You just have to make a few small lifestyle adjustments, such as:

  • Plan ahead. Take your dinner out of the freezer that morning or the night before so you don’t end up having to scramble to defrost a 5-pound chunk of beef two hours before dinnertime.
  • Make soups and stews in bulk, and then freeze them in gallon-sized freezer bags or other containers. An hour before meal time, just take one out and defrost it in a sink of water until it’s thawed enough to slip into a pot, then reheat it on the stove.
  • A toaster oven makes a GREAT faux-microwave for heating up leftovers! Keep it at a low temperature — like 200-250 degrees F — and gently warm a plate of food over the course of 20-30 minutes. Another great alternative is a convection oven. They can be built in or purchased as a relatively inexpensive and quick safe way to heat foods
  • Prepare your meals in advance so that you always have a good meal available on those days when you’re too busy or too tired to cook.
  • Try eating more organic raw foods. This is the best way to and improve your health over the long run.”

I hope you’re all having fantastic days! Just let me know if you have any questions. Love and hugs – Ash

Sources (articles):
Why Did the Russians Ban An Appliance Found in 90% of American Homes? – Mercola.com
Studies Show Microwaves Drastically Reduce Nutrients in Food – GreenMedInfo.com
The Claim: Microwave Ovens Kill Nutrients In Food – New York Times
Do Microwave Ovens Destroy Nutrients? – Livestrong.com
Microwave Cooking and Nutrition – Harvard Medical School

Sources (studies):
Vallejo F, Tomas-Barberan F A, and Garcia-Viguera C. “Phenolic compound contents in edible parts of broccoli inflorescences after domestic cooking”
Kidmose U and Kaack K. Acta Agriculturae Scandinavica B 1999:49(2):110-117
Song K and Milner J A. “The influence of heating on the anticancer properties of garlic,” Journal of Nutrition 2001;131(3S):1054S-57S
Watanabe F, Takenaka S, Abe K, Tamura Y, and Nakano Y. J. Agric. Food Chem. Feb 26 1998;46(4):1433-1436
George D F, Bilek M M, and McKenzie D R. “Non-thermal effects in the microwave induced unfolding of proteins observed by chaperone binding,”
Quan R (et al) “Effects of microwave radiation on anti-infective factors in human milk,” Pediatrics 89(4 part I):667-669

Thriving Thursday: Grocery Shopping Guide

In talking to people all over my community, I’ve discovered that very few of them know how to grocery shop. We have SO many options. When you’re trying to get healthy, what’s the right brand of healthy to buy? This is a simple beginner’s guide to healthy grocery shopping.

So here is a set of rules to help you navigate more quickly through the maze of choices.

photo 10

1. Always start with the whole foods. Start in the produce section and let yourself salivate over the deep orange bell peppers or in-season strawberries. If your store has them, move on to the bulk seeds and nuts. Then peruse the other sections, skipping processed foods whenever possible.  Focus your efforts where you can find the most nutrients: in whole foods!

SalsaNutritionPanel

2. Check the INGREDIENTS not the nutrition panel. Only buy processed food that you can’t find in a whole food form. We have been trained to look at the nutrition panel on all packaged foods. How many calories, how much fat, and sodium, etc. But new research and my personal observation shows that it’s the ingredients that matter, not the nutritional breakdown. The fewer ingredients the better and make sure you can recognize the name of everything in the processed food you’re eating.

photo 7

3. Avoid sugar like the plague. When you start looking at ingredients in processed food, you’ll notice that sugar is added to EVERYTHING. Check out this post for why sugar is bad. Aside from the obvious “sugar,” Anything ending in “-ose” is sugar including sucrose, fructose, and glucose. Any “gum” is considered sugar including lecithin gum and xanthan gum. And any kind of “syrup” is sugar including brown rice sugar. And finally, ASPARTAME IS EVIL. It’s a neurotoxin. Check the post mentioned above for more info.

photo 2

4. NEVER buy “low-fat” or “reduced fat” or “1%” fat or any product from which they’ve removed the fat. This includes milk. Buy whole milk! when manufacturers remove the fat, the concentration of sugar in the substance is even higher. They even add sugar sometimes (!) because the product tastes so bad without its natural fat. Seriously. So it has higher sugar content but a lot of those fats are actually very good for you. They are necessary for your bodies proper function. So just keep the fat in!

There are only a few guiding principles to the beginner’s healthy shopping but man they are whoppers. Budget double the time it normally takes you to shop, at least until you can find the brands you like. Once you’re adjusted you’ll zoom through the grocery store once again!

I hope you’re all having fantabulous days. Love and a big smile 🙂 – Ash

Tasty Tuesday: Banana Nut Bread

This bread is delicious. Really, really good. It’s moist and naturally sweet; and the texture is like butter in your mouth. Yummy. It can take up to 45 minutes to prepare and an hour to cook so do it on a Sunday and make a big batch. It freezes really well so leftovers are a good thing!

I found the recipe on another blog (Skinny Ms) and then tweaked it a bit. I took out the stevia and oat bran and added gluten-free oats and walnuts.

Because it’s high in protein, sugar-free, and very low in grains, you can eat it any time of day. We had it last night for dessert and this morning for breakfast. Toast it for a few minutes for an even more satisfying experience.

photo

Banana Nut Bread

Ingredients

  • 2 granny smith apples
  • 3 very ripe bananas
  • 8 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup almond milk
  • 1 cup almond meal/ almond flour
  • 1 cup whole, gluten-free oats
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 180°F. Lightly coat loaf pan with 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil.
  2. Peel, core, and dice apples into small pieces. Sauté with 1/2 tsp. cinnamon on medium heat until brown (about 5 minutes).
  3. In a large bowl mix together the almond meal, oats, baking powder, remaining cinnamon, and nutmeg. Set aside.
  4. In another bowl mix olive oil, eggs, almond milk, and vanilla.
  5. Slowly add the liquid mixture to the dry mixture (in about 4 batches).
  6. In the now empty liquid mixture bowl, mash all 3 bananas.
  7. Fold bananas and apples into the large bowl mixture.
  8. Spoon into the loaf pan. Cook for about 50 minutes or until a wooden skewer or toothpick comes out clean.
  9. Let cool in pan and then enjoy!

I highly recommend this one. It really is delicious. Let me know how it goes! A big hug and a smile. – Ash

 

DIY Friday: Meal Planning Board

So you’re trying to eat healthy? I bet you have tons of people in the wellness community telling you “it’s really not that expensive!” Well they are wrong. Eating healthy can be VERY expensive. To keep the cost manageable you have to do a lot of planning. You have you cook most of your own food and you can’t have any food waste. Unless you plan, IT IS time-consuming and expensive.

Mike and I have been gradually increasing our health factor over the last several months while trying to keep costs low. We have set up a system where, whenever either of us buys food, we put the receipt on the coffee table for the other to review. It holds us accountable and makes us analyze where money could be better spent.

Then I meal plan. I’m very organized and love to plan ahead so this isn’t too hard for me but I was lacking the necessary tools. That’s why I made this bad boy. My meal planning board.

photo 1 copy

 

My dinner system:

  • Cook double-portions every other day. This means only cooking from scratch 3 times a week! I cook half the meal only partially so it’s not overcooked when I reheat it for dinner the next day.
  • Eat leftovers on the days I don’t cook.
  • Have our “vacation meal” on the seventh day.

It’s quick and means that I can buy more in bulk. Our breakfast is the same every morning (Grainless Granola) and each of us takes care of our lunch separately. It’s a pretty nifty system but I was getting really confused about which meals I was going to cook and which food I needed on my weekly grocery shop.

So during our Simple Sunday this past weekend, the weather was nice enough to paint out on the porch. I finally did my Meal Planning board and I love it!

Supplies:

  • Pretty frame (mine was $5 at Goodwill)
  • Spray paint (for color)
  • Spray paint (for chalk or whiteboard coating)
  • clothespins
  • some cardstock to label the pins
  • fabric to hold the labels
  • hot glue gun
  • a little sandpaper to prep the frame glass
  • painters tape (if you want to do a pattern)
  • an old sheet to protect your floor

Instructions:

photo 2^ Make sure you have a surface to stick the pins to. This frame had lots of dips in it so I blocked it out with some chips of cardboard I had in the recycling bin.

photo 3^ Separate the frame and glass. Sand the glass so it will hold the paint. Spray down all pieces with however many coats they need. *I started with chalkboard paint but it didn’t work all that well. I went back and exchanged it for whiteboard paint and repainted the glass.

photo 4< If you want to paint a pattern, wait until the base layer is dry and then tape it off and spray. *I originally had yellow stripes in mine but it was just too much with the raised dots AND baby yellow. After I finished it I went back and repainted it all white.

Stick the clothespins down with hot glue. If that doesn’t hold, graduate to the messier but much stronger Gorilla Glue.

photo 2 copy^ Cut out your cardstock. And write out any of your favorite dishes. Hot glue your fabric pockets to store them in. Then label the pins with the same cardstock. Mine are for each day of the week and then Snacks to take to work for that week. Here’s the template I made for my labels:  MealBoardLabels

Another idea, for complicated meals, write the ingredients on the back of the card so you don’t have to look back to the cook book every time.

photo 1 copy

And now you have a meal planning board! I’ve only been using mine for a week and I already love it. It takes the strain out of meal planning and makes cooking SO much easier. I will say it looks a little sad and bland with all the white and gray but I’m hoping I can paint the walls our next kitchen so it will just be a pretty accent on a sunny yellow wall. 🙂

Let me know if you have any questions. And HAPPY FRIDAY! Love and a toothy smile. – Ash

 

 

Tasty Tuesday: Chunky Eggplant Sauce

I hesitate in calling this dish a “sauce.” It’s chunky with creamy eggplant and can almost be eaten on its own. But the flavors are so strong in their deliciousness that it has to be paired with something more basic.

It was an adaptation from a Veggie cookbook I haven’t opened in years. It’s hard to find yummy eggplant recipes that aren’t coated in cheese! But I found one, this is a winner.

Eggplant Sauce- Published

 

Chunky Eggplant Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 1 large eggplant
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 Tbsp sun-dried tomatoes, chopped (I keep a jar in the fridge at all times)
  • 1 Tbsp tahini (also keep a jar of this)
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • meat if you want- I used chicken breast leftovers from Indian takeout.
  • something for the base- I used quinoa

Instructions:

  1. Trim the ends of the eggplant. Cut it further into 1/2″ slices. Cut those into quarters.
  2. Steam the eggplant 6-8 minutes or until softened.
  3. While it’s steaming, chop onion and tomato. Sauté them on medium heat together with the olive oil. Now add the meat if you want.
  4. When the eggplant is done steaming, strain it in a colander. Press the juice out with a spoon.
  5. Add the strained eggplant and tahini to the sauté and turn off the heat. Let sit for 5 minutes.
  6. Add it to something basic like quinoa and Enjoy!

Let me know how it goes. Love and a giant smile. -Ash

 

Thriving Thursday: Zucchini Boats

Grains and sugars before bed are bad. Grains hit your tongue and turn into sugar. Sugar is digested and stored in your body until you use it. If you don’t it turns into fat. In that vain, I’ve been trying to cut pasta and other grains out of our dinner plates and limit the amount of dessert I have. How do you make a delicious dinner with a base of vegetables rather than pasta??

Most of the recipes I have posted fulfill this requirement but Zucchini Boats are some of my favorite. (check out the panel at the top of this page for “recipes”) Zucchini Boats are fun to make, really tasty, and the name is just awesome. I adapted this recipe from my Maximized Living Nutrition Plan book.

photo 1

Zucchini Boats (2-4 servings, I doubled it for the next night)

Ingredients (As many organic as possible! Especially the meat)

  • 2 medium zucchini
  • 3/4 lb ground turkey
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 5 baby bella mushrooms, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Butter or line a baking pan with parchment paper and set it aside.
  2. Trim the ends of the zucchini then cut them in half lengthwise.
  3. Scoop out pulp, leaving a 1/2″ thick shell. Chop the pulp.
  4. Over medium-high heat, cook zucchini pulp, ground turkey, onion, mushroom, and peppers. For about 10 minutes, until meat is brown. Drain the juice.
  5. Remove from heat and add the remaining ingredients. Mix well.
  6. If you’re saving some for tomorrow, seal up half the boats in a glass container (or plastic if you must)
  7. Place the remaining shells in the baking pan. Spoon the mix into all the zucchini shells.
  8. Bake the boats for 20 minutes.
  9. Enjoy!