I have been really busy this fall and haven't been spending as much time baking as I'd like to. Yesterday, I went to make lunch for the kids and discovered one crumbly, very sad looking end piece of bread staring at me from the bottom of the sandwich bread bag :-( My next thought was, should I run out to the store as the temperature outside is dropping like a rock? No way! I'll make my go to recipe for no knead bread. No "need" to worry!
This recipe is extremely easy. You just have to plan a little...just a little, because this bread will have to sit and grow for about 18 hours. I use my cast iron stock pot and cook it at 450 degrees for half an hour. I don't use the cornmeal either, I just use extra flour on the towel and on the top. You can throw it together before bed and then finish the process the next day before dinner. Nice crispy hot bread for dinner!!!
You can get the full recipe here. Watch and see how easy it is. It's very, very difficult to mess this one up. I made this today, and when I put it in the oven it looked like a doughy blob of something I can't describe, but came out of the oven as a beautiful boule of artisan bread! It really makes me look like I know what I'm doing!
 
 
We're just past Halloween and I think my kids are on candy overload. I'm all for cheating now and then, but I think everyone knows that candy isn't very healthy and can make you put on the pounds. Not to mention all the artificial dyes and other unhealthy things it contains, but how would you feel if I told you that before your favorite steak was sitting on your plate, the cow was eating a diet of candy! Not just any candy, but old candy not fit for human consumption! Apparently, candy is cheaper (which sounds very familiar) than a healthy diet in the cow world. So, not only are a lot of people eating unhealthy, but the cow on their plate is eating unhealthy too. Well, it's true and to read the story click here!

If you can believe it, I have another one for you. Apparently bees like M&M's! In France the hard working honey bee taking candy colored sugars back to their hives, instead of doing their job and pollinating the flowers and carrying the sweet, sweet nectar back to their hives!
Click here for that story. 

I'm not sure how I feel about this, but I try to watch what I'm putting into my body and now I have to worry about what's being fed to my favorite cheeseburger. Yikes! Also, we have bees addicted to sugar instead of what nature has given naturally! It all sounds so familiar...
 

My Special Sauce

10/08/2012

 
One day I was planning on making some Ruebens. I love the contrast between the tangy swiss cheese, corned beef and sauerkraut. I had everything I needed (or so I thought) to make the sandwiches. I fired up a pan and suddenly realized I had forgotten the Thousand Island Dressing! I knew I couldn't make it without this "special sauce", and I knew the local grocer only carried Thousand Island full of preservatives and artificial ingredients. I had a thought... I would make it myself! I had some mayonnaise, sweet pickle relish and ketchup. Click here for this special recipe.
 
 
The past few days I've felt some relief from the hot, sticky days of summer. I don't do a lot of cooking when it's steamy out, so I'm ready to get cookin' again. During the summer we have a lot of dinners that my family likes to call snackin' dinners. I just put out a buffet of fresh fruit and vegetables, a variety of cheeses and dips, and some wonderful crispy artisan bread that was made in someone else's kitchen.
I had a HUGE basket of tomatoes staring me down, so here's a quick dressing that I tossed together to go along with one of our snackin' dinners. Delicious!
 
 
Can the environment affect your DNA?

In 2007, before I started my journey to eat better and take care of my health, I watched this program on PBS and tucked the information away in the back of my mind. When I started drastically changing my diet my mind kept returning to this program and I began to wonder about the affects of the chemicals in and on our food. I began to think about our genes as our "hardware" and the epigenome as our "software". You are born with the genes you have, but can the environment affect your software, the signals that turn those genes on and off? This PBS special completely changed my opinion about food and our environment. I have watched people drench their lawns in chemical sprays and days later their children are rolling through the grass. How is this affecting our children? I've heard people claim chemicals are safe, only to be recalled, or banned after a problem occurs. Take a look at history. You had DDT, PCB's, BPA, and now atrazine. Boric acid was a food additive until it was found to be toxic. There are now links to hyperactivity and artificial food dyes, and a link to nitrates and cancer. Recently in California manufacturers of soda were going to be required to put a cancer label on their soft drinks, because the "caramel color" is a known carcinogen. Instead of reformulating the soda and removing the coloring agent, they decided to lower the level and make it within the legal limits, thus not requiring the cancer label. Why not remove it, or find another option? I'm still shocked that the caramel color was not produced by the heating of sugar! 

I spoke with a doctor at the University of Minnesota and she told me that during conception there is an average of 20 to 30 genetic changes, or mutations that occur in utero. Without these genetic variations evolution would not occur. These can be things as simple as the size, or shape of your ear, to things that are far more serious that affect your health. Researchers are finding that many environmental factors can cause these changes. The things you eat while pregnant, whether you smoke, or drink, your exposure to chemicals, etc.

Here is an excerpt from the transcript 'The Ghost In Your Genes':

MOSHE SZYF (McGill University): We have this very, very static genome, very hard to change. It could be only changed by really dramatic things like nuclear explosions or, you know, hundreds of thousands of years of evolution. On the other hand, we have the dynamic environment that changes all the time. And so what there is here is an interface between the highly dynamic world around us and the highly static genome that we have. Epigenome is an in-between creature, built in a way, to respond to changes around us.

Here is the link to the transcript put out by PBS in 2007. I must warn you, if you don't find this fascinating it will be a very, very slow read, but I did touch on a few of the highlights above.
 
Here is a link to a video by the same name, but it is a BBC production about Epigenetics.

On a side note, I recently found out about a startup that will map your DNA for $299. The site is 23andme.com and the co-founder is Anne Wojcicki who is married to Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google. I've been poking around the site and it is really interesting, including the work they've been doing on Parkinson's research. I'm not sure what implications it may have psychologically to know what risks you may have, but it may give a person the power to make lifestyle changes. Maybe I'll have the courage to do it someday.

 
 
I was talking to someone that works as a personal trainer and she was drinking something in a cool, blue, water splashed terra pack. It looked very tropical and made me think of sitting on a beach in Honolulu, with the cool, salty air blowing through my sun bleached locks... ;-)

Back to reality. I asked her what it was and she was so excited that it was coconut water! I remember drinking coconut water as a child, but we referred to it as coconut milk, which I now found out was wrong. I decided to go home and check out this new super drink.

As far as I can tell, coconut water seems to have the same benefits as Gatorade, but without all the artificial stuff. Coconut water also appears to be something that I wouldn't need. I heard a Doctor recently talking about the fact that most people, when exercising, don't need Gatorade, but they need water for hydration instead. He said the average person does not exercise long, or hard enough and I would definitely fall into that category of people that do not need coconut water.

Here's a quick run down I found on WebMd: 
It has fewer calories, less sodium, and more potassium than a sports drink. Ounce per ounce, most unflavored coconut water contains 5.45 calories, 1.3 grams sugar, 61 milligrams (mg) of potassium, and 5.45 mg of sodium compared to Gatorade, which has 6.25 calories, 1.75 grams of sugar, 3.75 mg of potassium, and 13.75 mg of sodium.

Gatorade also contains things like wood rosin, vegetable oil and artificial colors. So, if I were running 90 minutes a day and running in marathons then I think my choice would be coconut water, but for people like me who participate in light workouts then I think I'll stick with the best hydration method on the planet...water! I am going to talk to my Doctor about the possibility of using it during a virus when you're dehydrated. In the past I've been told to use Gatorade, so the coconut water would probably be a better alternative.

Just as a side note, this post I found is worth reading and highly entertaining. The title is 'Gatorade is Stupid' and he refers to Gatorade as, "...a fecal bomb disguised as a health drink...". Good stuff  and well said. ;-)
 
 
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I went to the local farmer's market today and as I passed the stands most of the produce looked absolutely perfect. The last stand I passed had beautiful produce, but I noticed something different... bug eaten leaves. I took another look and I noticed a sign on their table stating CHEMICAL FREE PRODUCE. I asked the nice woman behind the table and she told me that they don't use pesticides on their farm.
This reminded me of a conversation that I had with a friend not long ago. She told me that she bought some organic produce and she seemed a little grossed out that the produce was full of bugs. I told her that was a great sign, and she seemed a little surprised. What I was thinking was, if they were using a pesticide, then it would definitely be bug free.
I also recently visited a friend that was telling me a story about pesticide free fruit on her parent's land. I believe her dad called the fruit "ugly fruit" and so they gave it to her, because she buys organic. She said she had tried some peaches from the grocery store and they were bland and dry. The "ugly fruit" was full of flavor and so juicy she said it was dripping down her chin.
I think that I would take the ugly produce over the mass produced, blemish free produce that appears to be perfect, but is it really perfect after all?

 
 
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I'll start by saying that I was not a fan of curry, or Indian food. My hubby and I were invited to a friend's house for dinner and they had roasted sweet potatoes with curry on the menu. I always try to be the best guest possible and I knew that I would have to try the dish, but I had already decided that I wouldn't like it. Well, I tried it and I was pleasantly surprised how the curry brought out the sweet, delicious flavor of the sweet potato. I realized that I needed to go home and take another look at curry.
I had heard people refer to curry as "the spice of life" and I wanted to find out more. I believe that turmeric is more commonly called "the spice of life", and turmeric is essential for making curry. The  curry powder in my cabinet contains cumin, turmeric, coriander, chile pepper, mustard, cardamom, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, red pepper, cinnamon, black pepper, and safron. Researchers are finding that curry may be useful in warding off Alzheimer's, certain cancers and possibly some forms of arthritis.
I wanted to start taking a closer look at many of the spices found in my cabinet. In the early nineties I had a friend that would make her own herbal supplements using garlic, cinnamon and other spices. She purchased the capsules at a local herbal supplier because at the time you couldn't readily purchase spices in capsule form (now you can even get odor free garlic). Her father had just been diagnosed with high blood pressure, so she wanted him to try a combination of garlic and cinnamon. Under the care of his doctor he started the capsules, along with a diet change, and his blood pressure lowered. She let me borrow a book with all natural remedies and I found it intriguing. I remember the author stating something to the effect of, "This is what the drug companies don't want you to know." At the time I remember people stating that taking herbs was "quackery", but many of the supplements I read about are now being validated with research. I also remember hearing the drug companies stating how dangerous the side-effects of herbal supplements can be, all the while, the side-effect list on many prescription drugs was growing. Just something to think about, and possibly discuss with my doctor. In the meantime, I'll continue using my all natural curry full of wonderful spices that have been in use for centuries.

 
 
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About a year ago I had made the switch from fat free sour cream to an all natural full fat kind. 
Here is the ingredient list on the fat free version I had been using:
Cultured Lowfat Milk, Modified Corn Starch, Whey Protein Concentrate, Propylene Glycol Monoester, Artificial Color, Gelatin, Sodium Phosphate, Agar Gum, Xanthan Gum, Sodium Citrate, Locust Bean Gum, Vitamin A Palmitate.
I decided, now knowing what was in the fat free, that I was probably better off using the full fat and just adjusting my portion size. I liked the regular sour cream, but it was difficult to use in recipes requiring large amounts. Some fat is good, but I would cringe every time I looked at the HUGE amount of fats in it.
My next thought was to take a look at a low fat version. 
Well, here was the ingredient list of the low fat:
Cultured Pasteurized Grade A Milk and Cream, Agar, Vitamin A Palmitate, Enzymes. 
It seemed to be that in order to make the lower and fat free sour creams palatable, the more fat removed, the more additives they have. 
Then, da da da dummmm, Trader Joe's to the rescue! I found an all natural, fat free sour cream called Simply Sour Cream! 
Here's the ingredients:
Grade A Cultured Pasteurized Non Fat Milk, Vitamin A Palmitate.
This sour cream tastes great and I can use it in all of my dips and feel a lot less guilty! It's only 15 calories for a two tablespoon serving and no fat.

 
 
It was really, really expensive to find an all natural ice cream made with organic ingredients. The largest brand of an all natural ice cream was pretty pricey too! I really, really love ice cream and really, really wanted to make my own. I even tried one recipe where you mixed the ingredients together, put it in the freezer, and I went back every half hour and mixed it with a spoon. Aggggghhhh! I've always wanted an ice cream maker, but most of them seemed to be beyond what I was capable of. I didn't want to mess with salt and ice and I always pictured what a disaster I could make of that.
One day I was walking around Costco and I found a  great deal on the Cuisinart Ice-20. This ice cream maker stated on the box that you pour in the ingredients and press on. Ahhh, my kind of ice cream maker. I bought it and pulled it out the box, put the bowl in the freezer and waited until the following day. The next day I bought some organic ingredients, came home and mixed them together, put them in the maker, and voila, the most delicious ice cream that was made with my love. I know it sounds a little dreamy, but oh it was good!
I've used this thing weekly and i even make healthy treats. I've put yogurt in it, orange juice in it, and even pineapple juice in it. It makes a great healthy slushy, or you can put the slush in the freezer for later and it turns out like an italian ice kind of treat. My next plan is to try a watermelon granita!!!!
Click here for the recipe I used from Cuisinart, which could be used in any ice cream maker.
 
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