Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Portion control

Yes, portion control is out of control with me. I'm about the same in regards to having things in moderation. If I like it, I want it all the time. Both items being thorns in my side. I'm just like a little brat when it comes to those two.

If I have a plate of my favorite delight in front of me, I feel compelled to finish it all. Whether my belly has given me the signal or not.

Chris and I both use glass tupperware for work so that we can nuke our food in the same container. Remember folks, don't nuke your food in those plastic containers unless you don't mind having chemicals leeching into your food. I had recently broke my container and had to replace it. I replaced it with a smaller version. Hopefully to help with my portion control deficiency.

Summer Squash, Cauliflower and Portabello with Quinoa

  • 5-6 small summer squash sliced
  • 2 cups cut up cauliflower
  • 3 medium portabellos sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups white wine or broth
  • olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups vegetable broth or water

In a small pot put in the 1 cup of quinoa and 2 cups broth. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until liquid is absorbed.

In a large pan with some olive oil, cook the portabello slices for about 3 minutes. Add the cauliflower and crushed red pepper and toss for 3 minutes more. Add the squash, tossing for about 5 minutes before adding the salt, pepper and wine. Cook until liquid has reduced by almost half, add the parsley. Serve hot over the quinoa.

Super easy chicken and rosemary soup

I was originally following a grocery store recipe when I started this dish and I ended up abandoning it because I thought it needed "just a bit more" of this or that. I also noticed I had some spinach I needed to eat up fast and also wanted to add a little pasta to it. Even with my little additions, it came out good and quick.
  • 3 teaspoons fresh rosemary chopped
  • 1 lb boneless chicken tenders cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 can cannellini beans drained and rinsed
  • 3 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • 3 tablespoons julienne-cut sun-dried tomatoes
  • 3 cups raw spinach
  • 1/2 cup dried small pasta
  • salt and pepper

In the pot with some olive oil, cook the chicken about 3 mins add the rosemary and cook while tossing for another 3 mins. Add the broth, salt, pepper, beans, sun-dried tomatoes and pasta. Cook on medium heat until pasta is almost done. Add the spinach at the end as the pasta finishes.

The happy water elf and the diorama

Fun in the tub. Thought I would share our little happy bath elf. His hobbies are laughing, playing, blowing bubbles and running after his sister through the house while roaring.
Bella's giraffe diorama project for school. She had to select a book on her favorite animal, do a presentation book report and also provide a diorama display. We had a blast working on it. Did you know giraffes have the same number of neck bones (vertebrae) as humans? The tallest giraffe recorded was over 19 feet tall and their young when born are about 6 feet tall. They also have the heaviest heart in the animal kingdom.

Bella has always loved giraffes. When we go to the zoo we can't leave until she's visited them. She has a little collection plus her 5 foot stuffed giraffe named Jean that she put in Kristjan's room to keep watch over him.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Ingredients to know

I'm back again to inform some and annoy others with my food related data. I'm constantly reading and learning on the subject and I do care about helping others learn about what's on your plate! I'm always reading labels and I truly believe everyone should read the labels on all foods from a box, bag or package.

In a perfect world, I would always eat foods not requiring labels at all. Like fresh fruits, vegetables, grains, unprocessed healthy meats etc. To be honest, I do all I can to make whole foods a priority in my home, but I do sometimes get lunch meat, "Back to Nature" macaroni & cheese for the kids and other items. Bella likes pudding, Kris likes Goldfish crackers and I don't always have time to make my own bread, so I must buy bread. Even a loaf of supposed whole wheat, all natural bread has a list of unnecessary ingredients in it. I'm still perplexed as to why they add soy ingredients to bread.

I'd have to grow and make absolutely everything from scratch to live in my perfect food world. I can't fit all that in, work 40+ hours a week and tend to my family too. I guess I could forgo sleeping...

Since it's an imperfect world and we are sometimes forced to buy items that are made for us. We can at least do our best to select the better option. The fewer the ingredients the better. Even the "Back to Nature" brand macaroni & cheese has some mystery ingredients but it's a better option to me than the Kraft or Velveeta brands which have the trans fats and artificial colorings.

I noticed a quick and helpful article on the 9 Ingredients to avoid in processed foods on yahoo.com. I've included the listing below copied straight from the article for your information.

Ingredient: Artificial Colors

Why it is used: Chemical compounds made from coal-tar derivatives to enhance color.

Why it is bad: Linked to allergic reactions, fatigue, asthma, skin rashes, hyperactivity and headaches.

Ingredient: Artificial Flavorings

Why it is used: Cheap chemical mixtures that mimic natural flavors.

Why it is bad: Linked to allergic reactions, dermatitis, eczema, hyperactivity and asthma. Can affect enzymes, RNA and thyroid.

Ingredient: Artificial Sweeteners (Acesulfame-K, Aspartame, Equal, Nutrasweet, Saccharin, Sweet'n Low, Sucralose, Splenda and Sorbitol)

Why it is used: Highly processed, chemically-derived, zero-calorie sweeteners found in diet foods and diet products to reduce calories per serving.

Why it is bad: Can negatively impact metabolism. Some have been linked to cancer, dizziness hallucinations and headaches.

Ingredient: Benzoate Preservatives (BHT, BHA, TBHQ)

Why it is used: Compounds that preserve fats and prevent them from becoming rancid.

Why it is bad: May result in hyperactivity, angiodema, asthma, rhinitis, dermatitis, tumors and urticaria. Can affect estrogen balance and levels.

Ingredient: Brominated Vegetable Oil (BVO)

Why it is used: Chemical that boosts flavor in many citric-based fruit and soft drinks.

Why it is bad: Increases triglycerides and cholesterol. Can damage liver, testicles, thyroid, heart and kidneys.

Ingredient: High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)

Why it is used: Cheap alternative to cane and beet sugar. Sustains freshness in baked goods. Blends easily in beverages to maintain sweetness.

Why it is bad: May predispose the body to turn fructose into fat. Increases risk for Type-2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke and cancer. Isn't easily metabolized by the liver.

Ingredient: Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)

Why it is used: Flavor enhancer in restaurant food, salad dressings, chips, frozen entrees, soups and other foods.

Why it is bad: May stimulate appetite and cause headaches, nausea, weakness, wheezing, edema, change in heart rate, burning sensations and difficulty breathing.

Ingredient: Olestra

Why it is used: An indigestible fat substitute used primarily in foods that are fried and baked.

Why it is bad: Inhibits absorption of some nutrients. Linked to gastrointestinal disease, diarrhea, gas, cramps, bleeding and incontinence.

Ingredient: Shortening, Hydrogenated and Partially Hydrogenated Oils

Why it is used: Industrially created fats used in more than 40,000 food products in the U.S. Cheaper than most other oils.

Why it is bad: Contain high levels of trans fats, which raise bad cholesterol and lower good cholesterol, contributing to the risk of heart disease.


There are a plethora more ingredients that should be listed here. I'll do my research and get them listed for those that want to know.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Wide-Mouthed Frog

Kristjan's favorite book is "Wide-Mouthed Frog" by Keith Faulkner. Apparently this was a longtime favorite book of his at school. We recently stopped by Barnes & Noble to pick up some books when he saw this book on the shelf and became very excited. I got him the book and even after the purchase he would not let it go the entire afternoon until we got home.

Ever since, we've had to read him this book repetitively almost daily. Just once is not enough. He knows it now by heart and really loves it.

Here's Bella reading Kris his favorite book.

USA article on tainted U.S. beef

I posted a link to this article for all my facebook pals and thought I would share it here as well. It has me all fired up, so why not?

If you can take a moment, please read the article in USA Today online called "Growing concern over marketing tainted beef" . I feel it's important we inform ourselves of what is sitting on your plate and where it came from. There is beef in this country that contains pesticides, antibiotics, metals, E. coli, salmonella and other contaminants that is being sold to the public. Since no limits have been set by the FDA for the contaminants or routine adequate testing performed, harmful meats are being sold to consumers.

Here's a disturbing quote from the article: "Even when the inspection service does identify a lot of beef with high levels of pesticide or antibiotics, it often is powerless to stop the distribution of that meat because there is no legal limit for those contaminants."

Our bordering country of Mexico even banned the shipment of our beef due to the high level of contaminants. That's embarrassing folks. Mexico is not the only country that will not take our beef. Most European countries won't take it either. What does that tell you?

Contaminants also come from the water the cows are drinking that contains crop runoff (pesticides). The pesticides, antibiotics and other chemicals within the cow also transfer into the milk too. They found that veal calves have higher levels of antibiotics passed on from their mothers.

Am I the only one disgusted here? Please read the article and others like it. It's not cool to be eating food laden with contaminants no matter how good that steak or hamburger tastes or if society and culture has taught you to eat beef several times a week. Also, just because it's sold at your grocery store, from a brand you've eaten for years, doesn't make it safe.

It's a common sense thing to me. Having a meal with standard U.S. beef is like having a bowl of RoundUp weed killer with copper shavings on top, some E. coli and salmonella pie accompanied by an antibiotic and hormone added milkshake.

Would you eat that? You are if you're eating standard U.S. beef.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Jamie's Food Revolution

As promised, here I am to plug my main man Jamie and his efforts on this side of the pond to help improve the diets in this country. He has already changed the foods served to the children in schools in his country of England. It was a tremendous feat, but through hard work he did it. The English also suffer from essentially the "Western Diet". Our diet. Our lovely diet of fast foods and processed foods has spread around the globe. Countries that never used to have issues with heart disease and diabetes are now reporting them in record numbers. Thanks to the spread of fast food chains and prepackaged processed foods.

The schools in England were serving processed foods full of chemicals, additives, sugar, fats and questionable meats. Jamie came in and changed the food being served to whole foods. He taught them how to cook the foods while at the same time proving that you can eat healthy and remain on budget. He removed the sodas and candy machines and brought in water, fruit and vegetables.

He's also opened several restaurants in his home country where the chefs are actually troubled teens. These restaurants have been very successful in not only funding his cause but in helping these teens find purpose, fulfilling careers and happiness.

Let's get back to us. Jamie is currently working on this project over here in Huntington, West Virginia. This state currently has the highest obesity rate in the country. He's reaching out to the schools and community to teach them about cooking. In the schools, he has had some struggle in regards to the food provided. Currently foods are primarily processed and frozen. All the lunch ladies require is to reheat. He was appalled to see them serving pizza for breakfast then chicken nuggets for lunch. It was also interesting to see all the children drinking strawberry and chocolate milk. Whoa? I don't agree with the need of milk at that age anyway, but if they are still going to enforce its need, can't we have it plain instead of filled with dyes and sugar?

His battle here is economics, politics and the ancient food guide pyramid. The schools can't go over budget, so they purchase and serve cheap and processed foods. They also still go by the old food pyramid where there is more bread than vegetables and fruits.

I'm so happy he's here I can't stand it. I only wish I were closer so I could help out and learn. Jamie opened up a kitchen in that town where people can come in freely to learn to cook.

I asked Bella about the food at her school. She told me something very interesting. I asked her if she liked the pizza at school. She replied: "No, I don't eat it because it's way too big and oily."

It's a wonderful program and I hope he is successful. We need all the help we can get. Thanks Jamie.

Back to the toss about

I had no clue what I was making but started off cooking up some onions and red bell pepper to get me started. While I was stirring, a piece of bell pepper flipped out and landed on the counter. Using my 30 second rule, I of course plopped it into my mouth. It was so good. I realized how much I loved the flavor of cooked red bell pepper. So very sweet and rich. I could have just eaten those babies on some pasta and be done with it. But I didn't.

I ended up making this kind of Kapunata hybrid. I wanted that Kapunata taste, but didn't have the time to make it the proper way. I cheated really. It was still very good though. Just another toss about, this time over some red quinoa. First I cooked up about four potatoes chopped in my pan with olive oil until browned then set them aside. Then I cooked 1 chopped onion and 1 chopped red bell pepper until the onion was translucent. I added the mushrooms and then removed them, set them aside.

In the same pan with more olive oil I cooked up one eggplant cut into 1/2 inch cubes until tender. I then added back the onion mixture, 1 tablespoon or so capers, 1/2 cup kalamata olives and 1 can chopped roasted tomatoes. I let that simmer a while before I added back the potatoes. At the end I added a handful of chopped basil to finish.
The red quinoa cooked and ready. Doesn't it look interesting? I love the stuff and it's the perfect food. It's high in fiber, minerals is gluten free and is a complete protein.
Served my toss about over the quinoa. Good stuff. I can imagine you could mix and match many other vegetables for this. I guess that's what most of my toss abouts are all about!

Just too darn cute

Sometimes I wish they could just stay little forever. I know they must grow and I must allow them to do so. I love them both so very much. Even when they're driving me insane.

Bella's EEG scan came out normal which gave us much relief. She doesn't need to go back to the neurologist again unless she where to have an unprovoked seizure. Unprovoked meaning, she didn't have any blood sightings or other "traumatic" matter prior. She got a bill of good health. I am thankful.
Her new treat time. Barbie.com and playing hair and dress up online. This is her first interest in dolls of any kind.
Asleep again in the high chair.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

My brewmaster is back

Finally it warmed up enough for some brewing! He is gearing up and creating some delights for summer sipping. To start things off we made a 10 gallon batch of wheat beer which is the perfect summer beer. I'm hoping he will make some IPA for his next batch.
Both resting a bit before the yeast it added.
Chris adding in the yeast and giving them a little shake.
This is his copper immersion chiller. He uses a pump within a bucket of ice water. The chiller is immersed into the kettle and then the chilled water is pumped through the coils to cool the brew. The temperature must be cooled before you can add the yeast.
The kettle, made from a beer keg with the top cut out with a temperature gauge and hose attached.

Now the wait. The carboys are in the frig fermenting, then after this week he will bottle. About two weeks later we will give them a taste but probably won't be ready to pour for about another five weeks.

Easter weekend

For the first time in years I actually go Good Friday off. It was nice to have another three day weekend to enjoy. Well, I really didn't get to "enjoy" Friday that much because a cold grabbed hold of me and I wasn't feeling that great. I didn't get to any of the projects I wanted to tackle. It's either a cold or the pollen from all the oak trees down here.

The kids had a fun weekend. The kids received some beautiful baskets from Grandma and Grandpa to enjoy. We attended a small party for a neighbor that is on short leave from Iraq. The kids got to play, hunt for eggs and even do a little water play. Sunday the Easter bunny came and hid their baskets. Then Nanna and Nannu came over for dinner and brought them baskets with more treats and fun to enjoy.

Dude! I want to be a kid again.
Nanna and little Kris cooling off their feet. The kids just can't wait to get in that pool. It's still a chilly 69 degrees. Too cold for me, way to cold for the little ones. I think by the end of this month, we may be able to get in, all depends on the weather.
Bella enjoying painting her garden gnome that was in her Sunday Easter Basket. She was getting him all ready to place near her peas to protect them from those pesky squirrels.
There he is. Beat it squirrels!
My pretty Bella.
Nannu grilling up the Cornish game hens for Easter dinner. There's something about the smell of grilled meat that really gets my stomach rumbling.
Now here's the classic "I'm 2 and it's way past my nap time, and I think I'll be miserable" look. And indeed it was my friends. He didn't want to go down. When he did, it was only for about twenty minutes. At least he fell asleep early for bed that night.

Oh yeah, I haven't forgotten. I'm still going to post about the Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution. Perhaps all the build up with get you really interested. I actually need to see the recent episode that I missed due to household chaos. Not a problem though, Chris has his magic way of finding those things for me to watch later and without commercial breaks!

Food?! What food? I'll get crackin on getting more recipes on here too.

I hope all of you had a nice Easter, and many more to enjoy with your families.