Category Archives: real food

Top 5 Green Actions

Lately I’ve been noticing that I am easily distracted. I get my mind set on doing something based on what an “expert in the field” is saying only to turn around and hear another “expert” telling me I need to be doing something else. With all the modes of communication available to me it’s easy to be bogged down with excessive information. I feel like they are just throwing bits and pieces of stories at me and hoping something will stick.

This is especially true when it comes to living green. There are about a hundred thousand things everyone could be doing to build a better world but it would be impossible for every person to do each of these things. I’ve narrowed it down to what I believe are the top five things. These are the actions I personally can see myself continuing to do or working toward doing more often.

1. Buying less stuff

We live in a culture where buying and having more stuff and a bigger place to keep it all is marketed as the fastest way to find happiness. I believe this to be wrong. Work on finding happiness within yourself through relationships, hobbies and activities. Collect only things that you actually need, rather than things that are advertised to make you think you want them.

2. Buying products from socially responsible companies

There are certain things you will probably never stop buying and for each person these special items may be different. Be sure that you are purchasing your favorite items from socially and environmentally responsible companies. Follow the links to my guides below for more information:

And be sure that when you do make purchases you bring your reusable bag.

3. Using alternative forms of transportation

The most significant change an individual could make toward reducing their carbon footprint is to cut down on how much they drive. Trains, buses, bikes, carpool. Avoid spending time in a vehicle occupied only by yourself and your imaginary friend. Read more in Getting Around.

4. Eating less meat and more sustainably grown and harvested food

Meat
Recognize the importance of knowing where your food comes from and what is being used to grow or raise it. Find out more, read Buying Food: The Naked Truth about Local and Organic. Decide for yourself whether fish should be on your menu: 

5. Conserving energy and water at home

When it comes to conserving energy and water, small adjustments can have a big impact. Protect the environment by conserving energy and water with these 100+ tips. Additionally, check out The Pros and Cons of Wind Power.

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My Fave Five Fab Food Blogs

I’ve made the move. I now am based in Portland, Oregon and I couldn’t love it more. It does rain though, nobody lied about that. It’s probably why there are delicious restaurants beyond counting on every street. Rain makes people gloomy, food makes people happy. You’ll see my point. People generally scitter about doing there day to day activities, not spending much time outside (although today the sky is quite blue and the sun is casting a glare on my laptop screen).

Gorgeous day hike at Horsetail Falls. Hiking here (PNW) is like hiking in a fairytale.

The grayer days throughout the winter months give a fantastic opportunity to hone up on cooking skills. Today I bring you my top five favorite foodie blogs.

1. 100 Day of Real Food (website)

When I made the commitment to real food, this was my first source of information and inspiration. It has an unbelievable amount of resources available for anyone interested in starting a real food lifestyle.

2. Budget Bytes (website)

A very clever title for a wonderful blog about eating well without breaking the bank. She details the cost per total, per serving and per ingredient.

3. The Fit Cook (website)

This blog teaches about the nutrition involved in each of the recipes she shares. It’s a great read and easy to follow with step-by-step pictures.

4. Vegan Sparkles (website)

I am not vegan, but lots of people are, and I like to know a few recipes to make if I know they might be coming over. Because that is the nice thing to do. This is my most favoritest vegan blog. A pleasure to read. (BONUS: vegan recipes are also vegetarian.)

5. Gluten Free Goddess (website)

Gluten-free diets are popping up all over the place these days (celiac or intolerant or simply fad-followers). Regardless of the reason, I like to know some gluten-free recipes and this is the blog I like to read.

Cooking Fats: Behind the Music

I didn’t realize I had so much to say on this subject but as it turns out I am quite passionate about cooking oils and fats. So passionate that I believe this is one of the longest posts I’ve ever written. Because of this epic of a blog post, I have included jump links so you can simply click on the oil you want to know more about to easily move around this article.

Recommended Oils

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is extracted from the brown meat of a coconut. It contains, 92% saturated fats, 6% monounsaturated fats and 1.6% polyunsaturated fats. These saturated fats were once considered unhealthy, but recent studies show they are a safe source of energy. Additionally, previous studies were conducted on refined coconut oil that contained hydrogenated oils (which are bad!). This is why you should be sure to buy virgin (processed without chemicals or high heat) coconut oil that is high in the medium-chain fatty acids, which absorbs quickly into the body.

Coconut oil also has important health benefits. It is rich in a fatty acid called Lauric Acid, which can improve cholesterol and acts against bacteria and other pathogens. Additionally, coconut oil provides a slight boost in metabolism and, compared to other fats, increases the feeling of fullness.

This oil is semi-solid at room temperature therefore it won’t go rancid for months or even years. I recommend using coconut oil for frying, due its high heat tolerance, due to saturated fat content.

**Side Note** higher saturated fats means higher smoke point, the smoke point is the point at which the nutrients in an oil or fat begin to break down).

Coconut oil can be used as a replacement for other oils in a typical recipe by a ratio of 1:1. You need less coconut oil than you’d expect when sautéing (due to low water content).

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Butter

8 Health Benefits of Butter – Dr. Axe
Like coconut oil, butter was also demonized in the past due to its saturated fat content (68% saturated fat, 28% monounsaturated fat and 4% polyunsaturated fat), but there really is no reason to fear real butter. Real butter is good for you and actually fairly nutritious. It contains Vitamins A, E and K2. It also contains the fatty acids Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA), which may help decrease body fat percentage in humans, and Butyrate, which can prevent inflammation, improve digestive health and fight obesity. For butter rich in Vitamin K2, CLA and other nutrients, make sure it comes from organic, grass-fed, unpasteurized cows.

When cooking with butter, it tends to burn at high heat, like for frying. This is because regular butter contains trace amounts of sugars and proteins. To avoid burning your butter, you can cook with ghee, clarified butter from which sugars and proteins have been removed, leaving only pure butterfat. I recommend using butter for baking, and cream-sauces and ghee for frying.

There’s a quick tutorial for how to make butter yourself at the bottom of my recipe for buttermilk cake. Here is a tutorial for clarifying butter.

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Olive Oil

Olive Oil Excellence

Extracted from the fruit of the olive tree, olive oil is loved for its heart healthy effects and is believed to be a key reason for the health benefits of the mediterranean diet. It can raise HDL (the good) cholesterol and lower the amount of oxidized LDL cholesterol circulating in your bloodstream. The fatty acids in olive oil are mostly monounsaturated (75% monounsaturated, 14% saturated, 11% polyunsaturated).

When buying olive oil, make sure to look for quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil, that is cold-pressed and unfiltered. It has much more nutrients and antioxidants than the refined type. It should appear cloudy and be golden in color. The bottle should be green to slow oxidation ( a process which creates free-radicals that are damaging to cells in the body)

To keep it from going rancid, store olive oil in a cool, dry, dark place. While olive oil is inferior to coconut oil for cooking at high heat, studies show that you can still use it for cooking or sautéing at lower heats (under 320°F). Olive oil is best used to drizzle on salads or other dishes after they have been cooked.

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Animal Fats – Lard, Tallow, Bacon Drippings

The fatty acid content of an animal depends on the animal’s diet: A diet primarily composed of grains results in higher proportion of polyunsaturated fats; if the animal is pasture raised or grass-fed, saturated and monounsaturated fats will be higher. That said, animal fats from naturally-raised animals are superior for cooking.

You can save the drippings from meat to use later, or you can buy ready-made lard or tallow from the store (just be sure to check the label for no hydrogenated oils).

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Avocado Oil

Avocado oil has a similar composition to olive oil: it contains primarily monounsaturated fats, with few saturated and polyunsaturated as well. Therefore, I recommend using it in similar ways to olive oil.

Recent studies show that avocados are a powerhouse of nutrients and healthy fats your body craves. Keep your eyes peeled for a post all about this wonderful superfood.

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Fish Oil

Fish Oil – Dr. Vlada Korol
Omega-3 fatty acids are DHA and EPA. This is old hat if you read my post about hemp, flax and chia seeds. Another way to satisfy your need for omega-3s can be found in a tablespoon of fish oil. The best source is cod fish liver oil, because it is also rich in Vitamin D3, a nutrient many people are deficient of. Due to its high concentration of polyunsaturated fats, fish oil shouldn’t be used for cooking. To unlock these health benefits, take it as a supplement, one tablespoon per day. Store it in a cool, dry and dark place.
Just check with the manufacturer to see where the fish came from and how it was caught and find it on you’re sustainable fish guide.

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Flax Oil

Flax oil contains lots of the plant form of Omega-3, Alpha Linolenic Acid (ALA), which I discussed in my post about hemp, flax and chia seeds. Due to the high content of polyunsaturated fats, this oil is also best used as a supplement: added to salads, smoothies and other cold foods. However, unless you’re vegan, fish oil is probably a better option. Some studies show that ALA is not efficiently converted to the active forms, EPA and DHA (both of which are readily available in fish oil) in the human body. Therefore, it is absorbed slowly into the body and should be used in small quantities.

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Nut Oils and Peanut Oil

There are many nut oils available and they are generally rich in polyunsaturated fats. They can be used as parts of recipes, but are a poor choice for high heat cooking or frying.

One exception is macadamia nut oil, which like olive oil contains monounsaturated for the majority. The taste may just make up for the step price if you’re willing to shell out the dough (that was a pun). Macadamia oil can be used for low- or medium-heat cooking.

Peanut oil is derived from peanuts, which aren’t technically nuts (they’re legumes). Peanut oil is popular in Asian cooking and some fast-food restaurants use it for deep-frying.

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Sesame Oil

Despite this oil’s high proportion of polyunsaturated fats (41%), it is stable enough for cooking at high heats. It also adds flavor when drizzled over a stir-fry. Sesame oil is a great source of Vitamin E and other nutrients, and is beneficially for maintaining blood pressure. Sesame oil keeps very well at room temperature but storing it in the refrigerator keeps it from going rancid for even longer. Make sure you buy the unrefined variety.

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Avoid These

The following oils are created from genetically modified plants or must be highly processed before hitting the shelves at your local grocery store. This processing increases the shelf life but involves very high heats removing most of the natural flavor. It also causes oxidation, creating free radicals that can damage the cells of our bodies. The processing also creates a huge imbalance in Omega-6 to Omega-3, making them far too rich in Omega-6 fatty acids.

Many of these oils have been wrongly labeled as “heart-healthy,” but new research has linked them to heart disease and cancer. One study looked at vegetable oils commonly found in U.S. grocery stores and found that they contain between 0.56 to 4.2% trans fats. That’s why I continually strew the importance of reading labels. Trans fats are bad!

Trans fats increase levels of LDL or “bad” cholesterol and lowers levels of HDL or “good” cholesterol. It is found in hydrogenated, or partially-hydrogenated fat products like margarines and vegetable shortenings. It is also used in packaged snack foods and by fast-food and other restaurants.

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Canola Oil

Canola oil, best used in baking and frying, is derived from rapeseeds. Fun fact: its name comes from the phrase “Canadian oil, low acid” referring to the first canola plants. These were bred in Canada to have lower levels of erucic acid, which was believed to have adverse affect on the heart, at the time.

The fatty acid breakdown of canola oil is fairly good, with a perfect Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio of 2:1. That’s before the heavy processing, the final product is completely devoid of this natural ratio. Watch this youtube video to see the whole disgusting operation.

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Palm Oil

Palm oil is derived from the fruit of oil palms. It consists mostly of saturated and monounsaturated fats, with small amounts of polyunsaturates. Which is why I would recommend using it for frying. Red Palm Oil (the unrefined variety) is best. It is rich in Vitamins E, Coenzyme Q10 and other nutrients.

Palm oil is a tricky one for me to classify because there are many beneficial qualities associated with this oil. Unfortunately, harvesting palm oil is terribly unsustainable: in areas where palm trees are farmed specifically for the production of oil Orangutans, an endangered species, are losing their native habitat. So if you are very attached to using palm oil check with the manufacturer to find out about their farming practices and whether they are sensitive to the habitat of orangutans.

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Avoid these too:

  • Cottonseed Oil
  • Rapeseed Oil
  • Grapeseed Oil
  • Soybean Oil
  • Corn Oil
  • Sunflower Oil
  • Safflower Oil
  • Rice Brain Oil
  • Hydrogenated Oil
  • Any oil labeled refined, hydrogenated, or partially-hydrogenated

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What is your favorite oil or fat to use for cooking?

6 Real Food Kitchen Staples

In an effort to both save money and cut out processed food further I learned to make my own kitchen staples. In this post I will share a few recipes for items I like to make at home instead of buying the bottled-version in store (for less cost to boot).

*Here’s a tip: save your old condiment and spice containers to use as storage. 

Homemade Ketchup 

I love ketchup; it could be considered it’s own food group in my opinion (If I could live on ketchup and cinnamon I would… not necessarily mixed together). The ingredient list for Heinz actually isn’t that bad (especially if you buy the simply ketchup version, which doesn’t have high fructose corn syrup) but this homemade version is much cheaper.

Six in the Suburbs

Ingredients:

  • 12 ounces Tomato Paste
  • 1/2 cup Dark Brown Sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dry Ground Mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
  • 1/2 scant teaspoon Cinnamon
  • 2 pinches of Ground Clove
  • 2 pinches of Allspice
  • 1 pinch of Cayenne Pepper
  • 2/3 cup Water
  • 4 tablespoons White Wine Vinegar

Directions:
Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Store in an airtight container overnight for maximum marriage of flavors.

Homemade Mustard 

As much as I like ketchup is about the amount that I don’t like mustard. But I’m told that other people like mustard for some reason so I decided to include it. It’s actually fun to make mustard because you can use really whatever spices you like.

My research actually didn’t turn up any store-bought mustard’s that contain “bad” ingredients (even the store-brand) but I’m told that the better the mustard the higher the expense so now you can make gourmet mustard for a fraction of the cost.

Relishing It

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup yellow mustard seeds 
  • 3/4 cup apple cider vinegar 
  • 1/3 cup water 
  • 1 1/2 tsp. sugar 
  • Your pick of spices (to taste), optional

Directions:
Soak the mustard seeds in the vinegar and water, making sure the seeds are covered by the liquid. Leave soaking for 2 days.

Add the sugar and spices (allspice and turmeric are boyfriend’s preference) to the seeds mixture. Begin with about 1 tsp. of each spice. Blend mixture until it reaches desired consistency, adding water if needed. Let it sit in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a day or two before trying it out.

Homemade Taco Seasoning

This Old El Paso Taco Seasoning isn’t actually representative of the whole market. You can buy McCormick’s if you don’t want to make your own spice mix. I’m always partial to making it myself because I can use more or less to suit my own taste. In addition to being perfect for tacos, this mix is great for flavoring burgers and chili. See how I used this mix in Rainbow Chicken Fajitas.

Homemade Barbeque Sauce  

I also a huge fan of barbecue sauce. I like it like I like my men: hot and smoky (haha just kidding, sorta). My favorite brand is Stubb’s which is tangier (and less unhealthy) than most. Barbecue sauce, in general, has a lot of sugar in it so making your own can really cut down on this. You can also, as with everything else in this list, customize the flavor profile.

Food Network

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar 
  • 1 1/2 cups ketchup (you can use your homemade ketchup or store-bought) 
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar 
  • 1/2 cup water 
  • 2 tablespoons honey 
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons dry mustard 
  • 2 teaspoons paprika 
  • 2 teaspoons salt 
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper 
  • 2 dashes hot pepper sauce  

Directions:
Combine all ingredients, stirring until sugar dissolves. Store in an airtight container. To make it smoky tasting add 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke per 1 cup sauce. For a spicier sauce add 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper per 1 cup of sauce.

Homemade Salsa

For me, making salsa is more about flavor than anything else (including ingredients or cost). I’ve just about had it with the stuff you can buy at the grocery store. Click through to the tutorial for my favorite salsa recipe.

Homemade Ranch Dressing 

Ranch Dressing is one of those sauces that we like to put on pretty much everything. As you can see above the list ingredient in store-bought variety is pretty extensive. Here is a recipe for ranch in which you can really customize every piece of it.

You can use fresh or dried herbs. Depending on how you like your ranch (more creamy or more tangy) you can play with the quantities of mayonnaise (creamy) and yogurt (tangy) or you can use sour cream in place of yogurt. I’ve tried this recipe with buttermilk (which further enhances the tanginess), 1% milk (which is somewhat of a non-flavor), almond milk (my favorite, it rounds out the flavor in my opinion) and soymilk (sort of adds a sweetness). Finally, I have listed just a few optional ingredients you could use to further personalize your ranch; really there are probably hundreds.

Barefeet in the Kitchen

Ingredients:

  • 1 Clove (to 2 Cloves) Garlic 
  • Salt (to taste) 
  • 1/4 cup Italian Flat-leaf Parsley 
  • 2 Tablespoons Fresh Chives 
  • 1/2 cup(Real) Mayonnaise 
  • 1 cup Plain Greek Yogurt 
  • Milk (to desired consistency) 
  • Other optional ingredients (to taste): White Vinegar, Worcestershire Sauce, Fresh Dill, Cayenne Pepper, Paprika, Fresh Oregano, Tabasco etc.

Directions:
Crush garlic into a paste with a fork. Finely mince parley and chives. Whisk together the mayonnaise and yogurt. Add milk to desired consistency. Next, stir in garlic, parsley and chives. Add mix in seasonings to taste. Store in an air-tight container in fridge for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Well there you have it. Six new condiment recipes to add to your arsenal of real food eating. Happy Friday!

Yak Chili

My parents were vegetarian throughout my childhood and during my teen years they had added white meat (birds) back into their diet. Considering I was dependent on them very much for food my diet mimicked theirs. Therefore, when I started becoming interested in cooking, I watched my mom to learn from her by example. This meant I never really learned how to cook red meat (mammals).

A friend of mine has a yak ranch in Fairplay, CO and I bought a pound of ground meat. I had this meat that I didn’t know how to cook but was interested in trying. I scoured Pinterest for yak meat recipes. I found some ideas but in the end I used the recipes to teach me how to cook the meat properly and added it to a chili. Chili is the best.

To start you need to brown the meat. Yak meat needs to be cooked slowly in order to preserve the flavor. You can also use ground beef or turkey. Add a tablespoon of olive oil to the bottom of a large pot. Heat up the oil on medium low and add a pound of meat with one chopped onion.

Cook at a consistent, medium heat until meat is cooked through and onions are translucent.

mmmm steamy!

Drain the liquid from the pan to cut the fat, or leave it in to increase flavor. Add a can of diced tomatoes with liquid.

Drain liquid from three cans of beans. Use some combination of chili beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, black beans etc.

Then add the beans to the pot.

Add a can of tomato sauce, a cup of frozen corn,1 teaspoon paprika, 2 teaspoons ground cumin, 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1 teaspoon oregano, 2 teaspoons garlic powder.

Let the liquid cook out for about 20 minutes. Add salt to taste.

Serve topped with cheese with a side of bread or Fritos.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. of ground meat
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 can tomato sauce
  • 3 cans of beans (kidney, pinto, black etc.)
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder

Directions:

Brown the meat in the bottom of a large pot in a tablespoon of oil with chopped onions on medium heat. Add diced tomatoes with liquid. Drain beans of liquid then add beans to pot. Add the can of tomato sauce, corn and spices. Simmer on low for 20 minutes. Add salt to taste after cooking (salt makes beans tough, add it later to prevent this). Enjoy 🙂

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Homemade Any-Nut Butter

 
Nut butters are quick and easy way to make a meal, but unfortunately the cheaper one are packed with sugars that gives you an sugar spike in energy and then a super crash shortly after. The ones with less sugar are more expensive and sometimes it is hard to justify that cost. Lucky for you, now I’m going to let you in on a secret: nut butters are the easiest most mindless thing you can make in your kitchen as long as you have a food processor or blender. Making nut butter at home is so simple and cheap, you seriously won’t believe it’s this easy.

You can use this recipe for walnut, hazelnut, almond, peanut, cashew, pecan, etc. butter. Now my plant nerd is going to come out real quick so bear with me: not all of these are actually “nuts,” for example a peanut is actually a legume and an almond is a seed inside what is called a drupe. But in the world eating, we don’t specify such things and refer to them in an umbrella category of nuts… and I’m NUTS about each and every one… groan I let out my bad joke side too, sorry.

Ingredients:

2 cups of your favorite nut
Mix-ins such as salt, honey, cocoa powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, etc.

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place nuts in one layer on baking sheet and roast for about 12 minutes. This time may vary depending on oven, so keep an eye on it between 8-15 minutes. For raw nut butters: skip the roasting. Add nuts to a food processor and pulse. You will have to scrape down the sides about every two minutes or so. It starts out making a meal, but will eventually turn into a paste. Just continue to process and scrape down the sides. Add any mix-in you like and enjoy!

Peanut Butter

 no extra ingredients, just peanuts…

 A few pulses later,

and a few more,

starting to look like peanut butter,

Perfect! Took about 10 minutes. I keep old containers and rinse them out so I always have a few peanut butter jars around but any airtight container in the fridge is fine. Estimated cost: $2.00/12 oz (Average jar holds about 16 oz and cost around $5.00)

Almond Joy Butter

 Almonds… mmmm…


Add some cocoa powder and coconut flakes to taste

 Pulse…

 If it’s dry or chalky add some almond milk (about a tablespoon at a time until desired consistency)

 Looking good keep pulsing.

Done! This one took about 20 minutes of pulsing and it smells heavenly without any added sugar. Yay! Estimated cost: $7.00/24 oz (Average jar is about 16 oz and cost about $9.00)

Save money: check
Improve health: check
Winning

Tell me about nut butters you’ve made in the comments 🙂
 

What to Eat Prior to Working Out

It’s Workout Wednesday, and on this particular Workout Wednesday I would like to share with you a little secret about fueling your body for workouts.

We all know it’s a bad idea to exercise on an empty stomach, because your body burns muscle tissue when there is no food energy to use (contrary to popular belief, of burning fat in this situation). In fact according to this study, women who ate before working out actually ate less the rest of the day. But, did you know that there are many foods you shouldn’t eat before working out? Some can even cause cramping, dizziness and headaches. After some research I’ve come up with a few ideas of what to eat (and not to eat) before my runs and other workouts.

About 2 hours before:

Grab something full of carbs, protein and healthy fats:

  • Cooked quinoa and grilled chicken
  • Whole wheat pasta with cheese and veggies
  • Peanut butter and jelly sandwich
  • Greek yogurt with berries and almonds
  • Grilled fish, avocado and mango wrap

Avoid fibrous veggies:

  • Broccoli
  • Onions
  • Beans
Avoid high-fat foods:
  • Burgers
  • French fries
  • Ice cream

About 1 hour before:

Eat easily digestible carbs and a little protein:

  • Whole wheat toast with nut butter
  • Whole grain crackers or pretzels and hummus
  • Small bowl of cereal
  • Cheese and crackers
  • Yogurt and fruit
  • Some cottage cheese and grapes
  • Half a fruit and nut bar
  • Cheese stick and carrots

    Aviod gas-producing fruits:

    • Pears
    • Apples
    • Melon

    About 15 minutes before:

    Enjoy easily digestible carbs:

    • Banana
    • Applesauce
    • Some saltine crackers
    • Raisins

    Avoid large servings of protein and carbs and high-saturated fat and high-fiber foods:

    • Pasta
    • Bagel and cream cheese
    • Fried chicken
    • Granola bar (high fiber)

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      Why I Don’t Make Apple Sandwiches (anymore)

      I remember when I first discovered apple sandwiches on pinterest. I thought the idea was so novel and I’m sure you’ve seen the idea floating around the internet. I decided to try it out. It was seriously the best thing I ever tasted. I ate it at least once every day. This is the general process.

      Slice the apple. Using a cookie cutter or apple corer cut out the core, or a knife works too but it’s not as neat looking. Can we just take a minute to notice the lime green (I guess you would actually call it apple green) apple shaped cutting board and the lime green (again probably apple green) apple-picture apple corer. This is very matchey-match, is it not? Totally unintentional.

      Spread your peanut butter. I like creamy but crunchy works fine.

      Sprinkle some granola on two of your apple slices and add chocolate chips or raisins to the other two (or more granola).

      Then stick it together.

      After a while this process became irksome to me. Peanut butter does not like to stick to apples; I got more on my hands than the slices. The granola always landed everywhere but the peanut butter and precision with the chocolate chips was tedious. So now I cut apples like a normal person…

      Add some granola and chocolate chips to a small dish,

      Smear in some peanut butter,

      And stir it around. It’s the same flavor combination with about half the work. You’re welcome.

      Oh boy, you’re in for a treat!

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      Rainbow Chicken Fajitas

      Rainbow Chicken Fajitas are named such because they are made with a rainbow of vegetables. I’m sorry to disappoint those of you who were expecting to see the newest addition to the My Little Ponies family.

      This is Rainbow Fajitas; note the chile pepper cutie mark.

      Anyway, it’s Food Fun Friday so I’ll get on with the recipe. This is a meal I have been making since I lived at home. It was one of those my mom taught me: basic and quick for nights when we had a lot going on and she didn’t have time to be super creative. Now that I live on my own I make it quite frequently (I often don’t have time to be creative). The point:

      • It’s a delicious meal that doesn’t take too much time (prep, cook or clean-up), basically a one pan meal,
      • I have made it for friends multiple times and always receive compliments, and 
      • when I tell my boyfriend it’s fajita night the response is always enthusiastic (and he doesn’t even like bell pepper that much!)

           Start by preparing your vegetables. I used red, orange and yellow bell peppers because they were a dollar per pepper at the grocery store. I wanted to add more color so I also used a red onion and some zucchini. Any vegetable you have in your inventory would work beautifully; traditionally peppers and onions are involved. Cut everything into somewhat equal-sized sticks.

          Set aside the veggies while you cook the chicken. I always use chicken for fajitas because it’s how I learned; I’m sure it is just as simple to use steak. King Soopers just introduced a new meat brand, which is free range, so they were having a sale on all meat produced by this brand (meat sales are the best sales, especially free-range meat sales).

          Slice the chicken breast into strips. Heat oil in a cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add the chicken to the skillet.

          Let sizzle for about 3 minutes then flip chicken strips. It’s important to not stir the chicken around in the pan too much because it makes the meat very tough if jostled too much. If you are worried about burning it, reduce the heat (and increase the time cooked).

          After another 3 minutes cooking on the other side they should be cooked through, if they aren’t done you can continue cooking now. They also continue cooking while wrapped in foil and later, when added to the skillet again with the vegetables. So I wouldn’t worry too much.

          Lay out a piece of aluminum foil on the counter, remove chicken from the pan and place on foil.

          Wrap chicken in the foil to keep warm while veggies cook.

          Add a little bit more oil to the skillet and heat over medium. Add the prepared vegetables to the skillet.

          You can buy the packets at the store, McCormick’s is the only one that I know of that doesn’t pack their seasoning packets with preservatives. I make my own mix and keep it in a spice jar. I use it for tacos and fajita’s both. Sometimes I mix it in with ground turkey for burgers as well, and it’s great for chili. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: multi-purpose is a college girls best friend.

          Here is the recipe for my mix:

          Cook veggies until tender. Then add about half a cup of water and 3 tablespoons of fajita seasoning, stir the vegetables to coat them in the seasoning. 

          Now unwrap your chicken. Pour any liquid that has gathered in your packet out in the sink, then add the chicken to the skillet and stir. Cook until water mostly evaporates.

          Serve wrapped in a warm tortilla with beans (I made “refried” beans the same day, what a treat to have beans straight from the crock-pot), cheese, sour cream, salsa, lettuce, etc. Whatever suits your fancy! Smaller fajita tortillas are really the best for this recipe, we only had burrito tortillas and they worked fine. We just had monster fajitas!

          Don’t show these to Chipotle; If I ever need a job there, this is evidence against my burrito wrapping skills.

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          Slow-cooker (not so) Refried Beans

          I honestly had no idea the you could make refried beans at home. Or at least I never really thought about it. It’s most likely because I am probably the only person in the world who actually enjoys re-fried beans from a can, Rosarita vegetarian refried beans to be specific (which coincidentally have the exact same ingredient list as the ones not specifically marked vegetarian).

          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Slow-Cooker (not so) Refried Beans

          I pinned a while back a tutorial for cooking dried beans in the slow cooker over at Budget Bytes. As I was reading through it for the garbanzo beans I used in the Butternut Squash Autumn Stew, I noticed a recipe in the side-bar for “not refried beans.” I was intrigued so I clicked the link. I guess you can’t really call these “refried” or even “fried,” because they are cooked in the slow-cooker. But they do taste very like refried beans. In fact, I think they taste better because they aren’t weighed down with a million pounds of lard (actually there is no fat added).

          The story actually starts about a month ago. I bought this bag of pinto beans because it was $2.00.

          That’s right, that says 4lbs. So I had this bag of beans with not really a clue what I should do with it. And that’s when I discover the not re-fried beans recipe. It was fate. So I measure out the 2 cups of beans required for this recipe and got creative with my storage of the remaining 3 pounds (2 cups of beans equals 1 pounds, in case you were wondering. Now you know).

          So, since it’s Food Fun Friday, I will now instruct you in the delicate art and science of slow-cooker beans. Measure out 2 cups of beans (1 pound). Sort and wash the beans, then chop up one medium-sized onion and add it to the slow-cooker.

          Then add 2 minced garlic cloves, 1 tsp cumin, 1/2 teaspoon chili powder and 1 tsp black pepper.

          Next, add the sorted and washed beans along with 6 cups of water and, say it with me now “Set it and forget it.” (Set it: low, forget it: 8 hours or 4-5 hours on high). Return to a heavenly smell and this:

          Removed some of the liquid (about 1 1/2 cups) to make it easier to mash the beans. Then using a potato masher start smooshing (this is a technical term) the beans. You could also use a hand mixer.

          Smoosh until there are only a few recognizable beans remaining. Then store it all in airtight containers.

          The original recipe says that this make about the same amount as 3 cans, but this quantity shouldn’t scare you because it is freezable. It was wonderful in the burrito I had for dinner (There really is no better taste than re-fried beans and melted cheese). It would be a perfect layer in 7-layer dip or by itself with tortilla chips.

          Burrito Making 101:

          Spread the beans
          Sprinkle the cheese
           Broil on lo in the oven for about 10 minutes
          Enjoy every bite!
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          Butternut Squash Autumn Stew

          The air feels crisp and cool, leaves are creating a beautiful mosaic of colors across the landscape and the days are growing shorter, which means it’s time to make soup!

          Every year I always elect to craft a butternut squash stew; to me it screams fall. Therefore every year as the sales on butternut squashes begin I pick one up. I must be blocking the fact that every year it’s actually me who’s screaming (and fall is not mentioned once in said screaming). I wonder why I never remember how awful it is to deal with butternut squashes probably some psychological blockage. Well I am reminding you now to save you the trouble. They are literally the worst vegetable. And here’s why:

          1. They are impossible to slice into when raw. Are they made of steel or what?
          2. You also cannot peel them when raw. They wear the armor of the gods.
          3. After you cook them, you can’t peel them without burning the skin right off your fingers.

            On the other hand, butternut squash is also one of the most delicious vegetables and they’re packed with vitamins and other wonderful things your body needs. So here’s my solution, buy a bag of frozen, cubed butternut squash and save yourself the hacking, prying, swearing, and crying.

            If you, like me, enjoy torturing yourself this is how you tackle the Monty-Python-and-the-Holy-Grail-bunny-like squash:

            (Aside: this is a somewhat obscure reference so I will spell it out for you: the knights in the movie, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, underestimated the rabbit because it was cute and cuddly and did not intimidate them; then the bunny lurched at one of them and ate his face off. The butternut squash appears inviting and agreeable but then it turns on you becoming an impenetrable fortress. Was this allegory too much of a leap?)

            Right, sorry about the silliness… Back to squash (which is in no way silly):
            1. Preheat the oven to 375°F
            2. Cut the squash in half. Spoon out seeds and goop (technical term); save seeds.
            3. Pour a thin layer of water into a baking pan or cookie sheet with sides.
            4. Place the cut side of the squash face down in the water.
            5. Slide tray into oven and bake for 40 minutes or until fork easily pierces flesh of squash.

            Toss the seeds with salt and toast in toaster oven until crispy 🙂

            While the squash is baking, prepare your other veggies. Finely chop 1 medium onion, peel 3 potatoes and an apple, then chop, setting one potato aside from the others.

            Bring 3 1/2 cups of chicken broth to a boil. Add 1 1/2 pound chicken thighs and boil until cooked through, about 15 minutes. Remove chicken from broth and place on a plate to cool. Pour broth into a bowl.

            Meanwhile bring about 3 cups of water to boil in a separate pot. Add the apple and two of the potatoes. Cook until tender then drain water and add to a food processor. When squash is finished baking scoop half of the squash into the food processor and set the other half aside to cool. Pulse the potato, apple and squash until smooth. This thickens and adds a creaminess to the soup/stew without adding fat.

            Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onions and the third potato cook until onions are translucent, add 2 minced cloves garlic, 1 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (we enjoy spicy food here, feel free to reduce or omit this ingredient if you prefer non-spicy), 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/8 teaspoon allspice and 1/8 teaspoon ginger, 1/8 teaspoon ground mustard, and 1/8 teaspoon celery salt. Stir until you catch a strong whiff of garlic (about 30 seconds), then pour in the reserved chicken broth. Reduce heat to simmer.

            With a fork and knife and fingers… remove the skins from the chicken. Then remove the chicken from the bones. Add chicken to simmering pot. Then add pureed potato, apple, squash mixture to the pot. Add one 15-oz can petite diced tomatoes as well (with liquid).

            Return to the other half of the squash that you set aside. Cut cubes into the squash and remove skin. Add squash cubes to the pot. Then add 1 cup (ish) chickpeas/garbanzo beans. Stir until everything is heated. Add 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper (or to taste).

            Serve over cooked quinoa or brown rice or with bread.

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            Ingredients

            • 1.5 pounds butternut squash, halved and seeded
            • 2 tablespoons olive oil
            • 1.5 lb chicken thighs
            • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
            • 1 can diced petite tomatoes
            • 2 cloves garlic, minced
            • 3 1/2 cup chicken broth
            • 3 large russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
            • 1 apple, peeled and cubed
            • 1 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
            • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
            • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
            • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
            • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
            • 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
            • 1/8 teaspoon ground mustard
            • 1/8 teaspoon celery salt
            • salt and pepper to taste (about 1 teaspoon each)
            • 1 cup garbanzo beans

            Well that’s a long list now isn’t it… trust me it’s worth it! (See that bowl of apples? my grandma gave me even more after I made the apple butter… look out for apple cake and applesauce posts coming soon!)

            What’s your favorite fall soup?

            Just say no . . . to canned beans

            It’s Food Fun Friday, and after you read this post you will seriously be kicking yourself that you haven’t been cooking your own beans in the slow cooker all along.

            3 Reasons to buy dried beans over canned beans:

              1. Money – You can get three cans worth of beans from a single bag of dried beans. Taking that into consideration it’s cheaper in the long run.
              2. Health – Canned beans have a ton of sodium in them. All that extra salt is unnecessary and unhealthy. Dried beans on the other hand are simply beans, not other ingredients (except the occasional pebble, which you should refrain from eating as a rule of thumb)
              3. Environment – buying in bulk is better for the environment because there is less packaging and therefore less waste.

              Are you convinced yet? If not, perhaps the ease of the process will help… To the tutorial!

              Empty the beans onto a flat surface and remove any bad looking beans, pebbles etc. Pour into a colander and rinse with warm water. Add beans to your slow-cooker.

              For every pound (2 cups) of beans add 6 cups of water.

              Leave to cook on high for 4 hours or on low for 8 hours. There will still be water in the cooker even when they are done. They should be tender.

              Remove from slow-cooker either by draining in a colander or with a slotted spoon. Store in an airtight container. This makes about three cans of beans, but don’t worry about the quantity, if needed beans are freezable.

              This tutorial applies to all kinds of beans. We don’t discriminate here on Maggie’s Mind Mumbles.

              Keep your eyes peeled for Fall-is-here stew using these chickpeas/garbanzo beans!

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              Questions? Comments? Leave them below.

              Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts

              On the first day of October it only seems fitting to post a recipe for pumpkin muffins…

              Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts

              Whenever I make up a new recipe it is always a messy process. The first step is always the idea that acts as a catalyst for the rest. In this case the trigger was pumpkin. As the chill in the air gets stronger I always start craving pumpkin everything. It doesn’t help matters that Starbucks incessantly advertises the pumpkin spice latte, or that the scent of pumpkin bagels can be detected wafting halfway across campus, or that people insist on pinning every pumpkin recipe that comes under detection. Regardless of how the idea came to me, come it did.

              The next step is generally in what form do I want to eat the craving (sometimes this is linked to the first step, as in “I am craving tomato soup,” rather than simply tomato). I decided muffins would be the best mode of consumption. Muffins are compact on-the-go type foods. Sometimes you need that kind of thing around the house.

              Then comes the Googling and the comparing and the improvising. I tend to have about 13 web pages open along with at least two cookbooks on my lap. “A cup and a half of oil; that’s outrageous! I’ll need to reduce that, Maple syrup? Nope don’t have any of that, I’ll use brown sugar… What’s the conversion factor again? Baking powder, baking soda, salt… How can I slip some flax seed in? Can I use almond milk and yogurt instead of milk?”

              It’s a nightmare, honestly. But, it’s definitely rewarding when something wonderful comes out of all this hard work. Luckily this is one of those times. This is what my recipe card looked like after all of that.

              Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts

              I wanted to use flax seed to give them some more nutrition. Flax seed can increase the fiber, unsaturated healthy fats, phytoestrogens and omega-3 content when added to foods.

              Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Flax seed

               In a medium-sized mixing bowl add 1 3/4 cup flour, 1/4 cup flax seed, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1 teaspoon baking soda and a pinch of salt.

              Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts

              I wanted a lot of spice flavor so for the spices I used cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger and allspice. I prefer the flavor of ceylon “true” cinnamon because it is sweeter than the cassia variety (most of the store bought cinnamon is cassia). Cinnamon is my favorite flavor, in Maggie’s world, we look for excuses to add cinnamon.

              To the flour mixture add, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger, 1/2 teaspoon allspice and 1/4 teaspoon cloves.

              Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts

              Libby’s 100% Pure Pumpkin is the best pumpkin puree out there. I’m not usually able to tell the difference between store-brand and name-brand products so I tend to stick with store-brand because they are cheaper. In this case there is no comparison. I am generally disappointed with the quality of the store-brand pumpkin purees.

              Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts

              Pour the entire 15-ounce can of pumpkin into a larger mixing bowl. (Be sure to remove any large metal items that fall in).

              Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts

              Add 3/4 cup brown sugar to the bowl.

              Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts

              Next add 1/4 cup plain greek yogurt.

              Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts

              Then an egg…

              Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts

              Mix it all together then add the dry ingredients.

              Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts

              Whisk together all the ingredients until just mixed.

              Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts

              Then add about 1 1/2 cups of your mix-ins (I used 3/4 cup walnuts and 3/4 cup dark chocolate chips).

              Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts

              Spoon into greased muffin tins. Each cup should be between 1/2 and 2/3 full. (I hope this picture doesn’t give you vertigo. I’ve rotated it every possible way, it’s just a weird angle).

              Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts

              Bake for 20-25 minutes at 375 degrees.

              Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts

              Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts

              Cool in pan for ten minutes then remove and continue cooling on a wire rack.

              Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts
              Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts
              Yummy! Hello autumn; I welcome you with open arms…
              Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts

              …as long as I can eat one of these everyday for the duration of the season. Please and thank you!

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              Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese

              I’m not really sure when or why this obsession started but I am an absolute grilled cheese fanatic! And don’t even get me started on tomato soup. Campbell’s tomato soup is a staple in my kitchen. But wouldn’t you know, it’s not really the healthiest of choices: it’s packed with sodium and sugar (as most condensed soups are), so I have been avoiding buying it lately.

              The other night I had an extreme craving, it was intense (like camping… get it? *nudge nudge*). And, can you believe, I had nary a can of the delicious red stuff, like I said I’ve been avoiding it. BUT, I did just happen to have four large tomatoes. I thought to myself, as I often do, “I could probably whip together some tomato soup from these… How hard could it be?” Later that night, as I was enjoying my wonderful warm cheesey sandwich covered in tomato-ey soupiness I answered myself: “Not hard at all… not… hard… at all.”


              So here’s what I did. (I only made enough for two bowls because I didn’t want too much leftover, so double or even triple to recipe for a larger batch).

              First, I cored the tomatoes (no goopy middle in my soup!) and cubed them. Then I sliced half an onion, crushed a LARGE clove of garlic, (seriously, it probably was about 3 regular sized cloves). I put all of this into a large pot and then I added 2 bay leaves (they’re kinda old so I have to use two). I also poured in a cup of water, and tossed in a chicken boullion cube, 2 teaspoons of black peppercorns, and 1 teaspoon cloves.


              I brought this to a boil and left to simmer, covered for 20 minutes.


              After 20 minutes I poured it into the food processor and blended until it was smooth. (For a thinner soup, run it through a food mill instead of the food processor. I don’t have a food mill but I’ve been told it’s a magical experience to make soup with one.)


              I then made a roux in the empty pot using 2 tablespoons of butter, melted, and 2 tablespoons of flour. I cooked that over medium heat until it was light brown and then poured the vegetable mixture back into the pot. (look at that beautiful moment captured on film, a bubble popped… electric) (<— that was a Gwen Stefani reference)


              I added 1 teaspoon salt and 2 teaspoons sugar and brought it back to a boil. Then I let it simmer again while I made my grilled cheese.

              I melted some butter in a pan,


              placed a slice of bread on top and spread it around to coat the bread in the butter,


              sprinkled some cheese over the bread (ALWAYS use shredded cheese in grilled cheese. It may be a bit more technical to flip but it melts much more evenly),


              topped it with another slice of bread,


              and cooked until the cheese was mostly melted, (oops! slightly burnt)


              Before flipping I added some more butter and let that melt, then I placed the sandwich over the butter and spread it around again.

              Then I dished out some tomato soup into a bowl, cut the sandwich in half and settled down to watch an episode of Futurama. 😉


              Oh my, that looks so good; I’m going to have to make this again!


              One thing is certain, I will not be needing to buy Campbell’s in a can anymore.

              Stop looking because these are the best brownies you will ever find…

              As many of you know I am a firm believer in eating healthy. I am also a firm believer that denying yourself something is not healthy, especially when that something is chocolate. So to clarify my firm beliefs… Moderation is key. That is why everyone needs to have a good brownie recipe. I honestly think it should be included in life’s handbook. 

              Here’s some information on chocolate (*I am not a doctor, please consult your doctor for more information on the following*):

              • Cocoa contains flavenol, a type of flavenoid and natural occurring antioxidant, which researchers suggest may protect neurons (Huffington Post, 2012)
              • The antioxidants in cocoa can also prevent aging caused by free radicals, which may lead to heart disease (Cleveland Clinic, 2012)
              • Dark chocolate may lower blood pressure and cholesterol (Longevity, 2009)
              • Dark chocolate contains theobromine, caffeine and other stimulating substances (Longevity, 2009)
              • It also contains serotonin, which acts as an anti-depressant (Longevity, 2009)
              • Dark chocolate also increases endorphin production, which increase pleasure (Longevity, 2009)
              • Surprisingly dark chocolate can prevent diabetes (Women’s Health, 2012)
              • It can reduce stress (Women’s Health, 2012)
              • And help protect against sun damage (Women’s Health, 2012)
              • On top of all this it tastes goooooood!
              Like I said, moderation is key and be sure that your grabbing a quality bar of dark chocolate, and you can receive some of these benefits and more.


              So brownies… My idea of the perfect brownie is crispy crust, gooey inside, chocolate chips, not frosting, no nuts, and not too cakey or fudgey. This is it. This covers all bases for my ideal brownie. This recipe has a short ingredients list so be sure to use quality chocolate.

              Add 1 1/2 cup sugar to a mixing bowl,


              Pour in 3/4 cup flour,


              Then add 3/4 cup cocoa powder (I used Ghirardelli dark chocolate cocoa powder).


              Crack three eggs into the bowl…


              Add 3/4 cup melted butter (I have no idea why the butter looks neon in this picture)


              And 1/2 teaspoon salt (I skipped this because I used salted butter). Then mix it together; don’t mix too thoroughly just enough to combine the wet and dry ingredients.



              Mix in chocolate chips (I used Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate chips).


              Pour the batter into a greased baking dish. That is the best looking chocolate batter I have ever seen. I’m totally drooling.


              Bake at 325 for 30 minutes (sorry it’s a bit blurry, I was shaking with happiness). Test with a toothpick for doneness (remember there are chocolate chips in there so your first poke might not come out clean.


              Let cool on a wire rack for about 5 minutes (or as long as you can wait… I made it 2 minutes). Cut into cubes and serve with a nice cold glass of milk.


              I had almond milk which was quite delicious…


              Brownies: seriously the best things on the planet. These are the perfect balance between fudgey and cakey, with the signature brownie crispy crust.

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              Parmesan Chicken

              I have been making this recipe for parmesan chicken longer than any other. In fact it was the first dinner I ever cooked on my own. I was in a Food Fun class in middle school and one of our assignments was to cook dinner for our family. We had to present pictures and the recipe in a presentation to the class. (I wish I still had the pictures from then; they’re probably in a box at my parents house somewhere). It is really simple and easy to modify for variety.

              Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Parmesan Chicken


              I like to make an assembly line of my ingredients: 

              • Chicken (free-range, hormone free, on sale yay!), 
              • Two eggs, slightly beaten (I usually used a stick of butter, melted but I didn’t have any…), 
              • Some breading mixture (The original recipe 1/4 cup parmesan and 1/2 cup italian seasoned bread crumbs. I used 1/4 cup parmesan, 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs and some paprika, black pepper, salt, italian seasoning, oregano, garlic powder and onion powder… I didn’t really measure just added what I thought looked good… it was for science), and
              • A greased baking dish,
              • All lined up to next to the oven, pre-heated to 450.
              Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Parmesan Chicken

              I took a total of zero pictures during the following steps; if you try this recipe you will see why. My hands were quite literally caked in bread-y goodness and it would have just been a big old mess. So you will just have to use your imagination skills.


              Basically you take your chicken and coat it in the eggs. Then roll it around in the bread crumb mixture and place it in the pan. Repeat for all your chickens.

              Usually if there is leftover butter I will pour it over the chicken but since I used eggs I didn’t do this. Butter really works much better from my experience. I also sprinkle leftover breadcrumbs over the chicken. Bake for 40 minutes.

              Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Parmesan Chicken
              Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Parmesan Chicken


              Serve with salad, bread and your favorite beer. Yummy!

              Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Parmesan Chicken
              Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Parmesan Chicken

              Variations:
              1. After baking 20 minutes remove from oven and pour marinara sauce over chicken and bake for an additional 10 minutes. Serve over spaghetti with more marinara sauce.
              2. Like I’ve said, use butter instead of eggs.
              I’ve taken the leftover chicken for lunch in a quesadilla…

              Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Lunch Ideas
              chees and chicken quesadilla, carrot sticks with ranch and some seaweed 😉

              And to add to this salad…

              Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Lunch Ideas
              Hard-boiled egg, pile o’ veggies and some chicken goodness.

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              How do you use your leftovers? 

              Slow-cooker Apple Butter

              In my plum cake post I talked about the plums my grandmother gave me. Well, the same day she gave me a dozen apples. I knew I needed to make something with the apples to use them up before they went bad. Enter: Apple Butter

              Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Slow-Cooker Apple Butter

              I started by gathering my supplies: washed apples, bowl for peels, peeler. And found a comfortable place with a nice view: my porch at my outdoor table.

              Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Slow-Cooker Apple Butter

              It took about an hour to peel all the apples… (Julia Child never had this kind of problem peeling apples… then again Julia Child probably had an apple peeler)

              Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Slow-Cooker Apple Butter

              I turned it into a bit of a game; here’s my longest peel (the whole apple without breaking) I am an apple peeling champ!

              Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Slow-Cooker Apple Butter


              Then I cored and cubed the apples and added them to the crock-pot and gathered the remaining ingredients.

              Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Slow-Cooker Apple Butter
              Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Slow-Cooker Apple Butter

              Next, I added 1/2 cup water, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon allspice (next time I will probably use less sugar because it turned out very sweet since the apples add their own sweetness).

              Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Slow-Cooker Apple Butter
              Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Slow-Cooker Apple Butter

              Then I left it for 10 hours and checked it.

              Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Slow-Cooker Apple Butter

              It was still pretty liquid-y so I gave it a couple (2) more hours until it was mostly all evaporated. I put it all in the blender to blend it smooth.

              Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Slow-Cooker Apple Butter

              And poured it into jars… I froze the little one and left the big one in the fridge.

              Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Slow-Cooker Apple Butter

              Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Slow-Cooker Apple Butter


              It tastes wonderful by the spoonful but a few suggestions: added to plain yogurt and mixed with granola, mixed with boiling water for apple cider or spread on toast.

              Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Slow-Cooker Apple ButterMaggie's Mind Mumbles//: Slow-Cooker Apple Butter

              You can make most fruit butters this way. I’d like to try pumpkin butter this fall.

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              How have you used apple butter? What other fruit butters have you tried?

              Crispy-Outside, Soft-Inside Baked Tofu Cubes in Stir-Fry

              Here’s a story for you, the other day I went to the grocery store for a block of tofu and some yogurt. I went to the yogurt section (which by the way, I am convinced they move everything around before I arrive just to confuse me) and picked out a tub. A strange sight uncovered itself as I approached the tofu display: a large group of people clustered around curiously eyeing the suspicious white blocks of soy bean curd.
              I have never seen so many people looking at tofu. Here in Fort Collins most people pass by without batting an eye. Not today, it was tofu awareness day and I missed the memo. I excused myself through the ten or so people, checked prices, and grabbed a block of firm for $2.99.
              As I started to walk away one woman called after me, “Excuse me but, we’ve just been discussing and, how do you cook that?”
              Feeling like Martha Stewart must every day of her life, I walked back and told them.
              I said, “You can cut it into any shape and size pieces you like, slabs or cubes, whatever. Most people I know fry these in oil in a pan, which works just fine, but I personally have another technique…”
              cooking tofu, stir-fry, veggies

              I went on to describe the following procedure, which results in crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, restaurant-like tofu cubes. In this method, the tofu is baked and not fry you can cut back on some (minimal amounts of) fat. I used the tofu I bought in a stir-fry.
              Cut the tofu into slabs, cubes of your preferred size. If you want to get real crazy, pull out some cookie cutters. Nothing says fun like star-shaped tofu!

              cooking tofu, stir-fry, veggies

              Lay a cloth towel on the counter (NOT terrycloth, unless you enjoy bits of fuzz in your food). Arrange the tofu cubes on the towel in a single layer. Cover with a second cloth (again, I cannot emphasize enough, NOT terrycloth). I used a single cloth folded in half because I only had one clean.

              cooking tofu, stir-fry, veggies

              Place a flat surface, like a cutting board, over the towel. Then put something heavy on the cutting board. Leave for 20 minutes. (Or skip all that nonsense and buy a tofu press).
              cooking tofu, stir-fry, veggies

              While you wait cut up some veggies (yes I did make a yin-yang out of my peas and carrots). Use any combination of veggies you like. I’d recommend broccoli, carrots, snow peas, soybeans, water chestnuts, onions, bamboo shoots, bell peppers, corn, zucchini or other squash, tomatoes, mushrooms and potatoes. Really any vegetable is great. That’s the beauty of a stir-fry: you can use whatever is in your refrigerator or pantry at the time.
              Mix your sauce: I made a simple sauce of water, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sugar and cornstarch. This is another great thing about stir-fries, you can use whatever sauce you want. There are infinite combinations of sauces and vegetables.
              cooking tofu, stir-fry, veggies
              After 20 minutes spray a baking sheet with cooking oil (I love my misto) and line the tofu cubes on the baking sheet. Set to the side.
              cooking tofu, stir-fry, veggies

              Start cooking some rice, or noodles according to the package directions. Heat some oil in a large pan or wok over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and add some minced garlic and red pepper flakes. After about thirty seconds add your veggies and stir.
              cooking tofu, stir-fry, veggies

              Turn your oven to broil and place the baking sheet in the oven for 5 minutes. The cubes like to jump around (sometimes off the sheet!)
              cooking tofu, stir-fry, veggies
              Continue stirring veggies (Don’t forget to check on your rice or noodles!)
              cooking tofu, stir-fry, veggies

              Remove the baking sheet of tofu from the oven and flip the cubes over to cook the other side for 5 minutes.

              cooking tofu, stir-fry, veggies cooking tofu, stir-fry, veggies
              Add the sauce to the veggies; keep stirring. When the tofu is done add the cubes to the stir-fry (if you can stop yourself from eating them all straight off the pan).
              cooking tofu, stir-fry, veggies

              cooking tofu, stir-fry, veggies

              Serve with rice. 🙂

              cooking tofu, stir-fry, veggies

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              40 Real Food Kitchen Essentials

              As I am a poor college student, many of these tools and appliances are still but a dream. However, I have compiled a list of everything I either use currently or know would be useful to me in my quest to eat only real food.

              Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: 40 Real Food Kitchen Essentials

              Tools:

              ziploc, food storage, lunch


              Ziploc Divided Lunchbox
              This is great for taking lunches to work or school. Cheap, comes in a pack of 2, and it doesn’t leak at least not between compartments. I bought mine from King Soopers but I’m sure is available at many stores.

              $6.78 on Amazon
              to go coffee cup


              Ceramic Coffee Mug
              It’s tempting to stop for coffee in the morning (especially now that there is a drive-thru starbucks on my way to school). I see these all over local coffee shops in all kinds of patterns. Save money AND no waste.

              $11.90 on Amazon

              thermos, soup

              Thermos Jar
              I will admit that I actually did buy this thermos jar with the Hello Kitty print. It’s awesome for taking oatmeal on days I get to school early, or when I want soup for lunch. Definitely worth it if you like a variety for lunches.

              $15.99 on Amazon

              popsicles, homemade, molds


              Popsicle Molds
              I love frozen treats but most store-bought are packed with sugar. I like to make smoothies and pour them into the molds for healthy popsicles (what a concept). I bought some very like these at a party store.

              $6.40 on Amazon
              colorful mixing bowls, food preparation


              Melamine Mixing Bowls
              My wonderful Aunt bought me a set of mixing bowls for a birthday present. They are somewhat like these: colorful, nesting and come with lids. I love them because I can use them for storage too (double-duty is a college girls best friend).

              $33.45 on Amazon
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              High Quality Pots and Pans
              Something I really want, but can’t justify the price tag when I have a set that cook just fine. These are very expensive but I bet they cook beautifully. Plan: gradually add a new pan as the old ones wear out.

              $239.99 at Kohl’s
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              High Quality Knives
              Another item on my wish list: knives. Chopping is a big part of cooking from scratch and higher quality knives last a lot longer. Keep them sharp with a sharpener.

              $179.99 at Kohl’s


              stainless steel measuring cups, cooking, food preparation

              Stainless Steel Measuring Cups and Spoons
              I have used five sets of measuring cups and spoons since I’ve been living on my own and it is so annoying when the painted measurement rubs off. Stainless steel sets usually have the measurement stamped into the metal and are more durable than their plastic counterpart.

              $7.15 on Amazon

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              Cast-Iron Skillet
              My fabulous grandmother bought one of these for me for a birthday gift. Sometimes a slightly high-maintenance addition to my kitchen, still one I could never live without. Don’t forget to season it! (Also BAM! cuz mine is from Emeril)

              $32.99 on Wayfair

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              Misto
              The newest addition to my kitchen, and I’m so excited about it! Fill with your favorite cooking oil and use in place of cooking spray (cut out all those nasty propellants). I bought this one at a local cooking store for $9.99. There were many options to choose from.

              $18.86 on Boncui

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              Mesh Strainer

              I bought this when I tried making almond milk last spring. Now I use it in place of a juicer (tried using a real juicer for a while but found it to be too messy and hard to save the pulp for making crackers). Also useful for making chicken or vegetable stock.

              $17.99 on Wayfair
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              Ice Cube Tray With Lid
              I use these for obvious things like freezing water (I don’t have a fancy refrigerator that makes ice cubes), but also for freezing small portions of pesto, chicken or vegetable stock, leftover wine, fresh herbs (for use in the winter), applesauce, and marinara sauce. The lids make it less messy.

              $5.52 on Wayfair

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              Apple Slicer/Corer
              A basic kitchen essential. I usually prefer to just slice apples with a knife since this doesn’t remove all the seeds usually but when I’m in a hurry this is perfect for quick jobs.

              $9.99 on Wayfair

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              Whisks

              Another basic kitchen tool, but one I use often. Just the thing for scrambled eggs, pancakes and mixing sauces, Don’t find yourself without one. (Before I bought one of these I just used a fork).

              $19.95 on Sur la Table

              An obvious addition to any kitchen that wants to protect their counters (I DO want my security deposit back). There is controversy over wooden versus plastic cutting boards, after some research I found that it really doesn’t matter (I have one of each). Just find one that doesn’t warp or stain.

              $18.32 on Amazon

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              Ladle
              An additional basic kitchen need ladles can be used for serving a million different dishes. Before I bought mine (which came in a set of spoons), serving dinner was a much messier task.

              $13.00 on Sur la Table

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              Spoons (Wooden and Plastic)
              One more kitchen basic. I have three of each (possibly a bit excessive but it happens when you combine kitchens with someone else). Wooden spoons sometimes stain so I only use them when cooking pasta or stirring dry ingredients.

              $15.99 at Kohl’s

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              Rolling PinA somewhat recent addition to my kitchen, I use this mostly for pie crusts (we love pie!) but it’s also essential during Christmas cookie season. I bought mine at target and there are so many varieties that it’s best to just find what works for you.


              $17.00 on Sur la Table


              tortilla press, sur la table



              Tortilla Press
              I’ve been told that tortilla making is easy, especially when you own one of these presses. I don’t yet own one but it is another item that you can find on my wish list.

              $19.99 on Sur la table

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              Tortilla Warmer

              Not just for Mexican restaurants anymore this tortilla warmer is perfect to keep homemade tortillas warm and fresh. (Not yet owned, on my wishlist).

              $9.95 at Sur la Table


              ceramic, mortar and pestle



              Mortar and Pestle

              I was so excited when I bought my little mortar and pestle at a spice store. I use it for crushing both dried and fresh herbs.

              $9.31 on Amazon

              tofu press


              Tofu Press
              I had no idea these were so pricey. If you have to cash they’re exceptionally useful when preparing restaurant worthy tofu (tofu tips to be published soon). Two cutting boards works well for me currently.

              $41.95 on Amazon

              salad dressing bottle, measurements, homemade

              Salad Dressing Bottle
              This is the best for making salad dressings at home. I don’t have one because we’re using up our vast stores of store-bought salad dressing (for some reason we buy one almost every time we go to the store).

              $6.74 on Amazon


              tea-rex, tea strainer

              Tea Ball
              I just have a regular old mesh tea ball, but the TEA-rex makes me laugh. I love these for loose-leaf teas you can buy at most tea shops (or collect herbs in the wild).

              $9.98 on Amazon


              Appliances:


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              Food Processor
              This is another recent addition to my kitchen (thanks to my grandma). I’m so excited to finally have one because I’ve been noticing a definite need for one. Salsa, pesto, hummus, and a million other things… here I come!

              $159.00 at Sur la Table
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              Mini Chopper

              I’ve had this for quite a while. It’s awesome for shopping ginger, garlic, or small batches of anything I would use the large food processor for.

              $59.99 at Kohl’s
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              Crock-Pot

              I am still amazed by (and learning about) all the things you can do with a Crock-pot. I love mine for days I know I’ll be home late. What a great feeling to come home and dinner is already prepared.

              $59.99 at Kohl’s
              george foreman grill



              George Foreman Grill
              I am a huge fan of grilled cheese so I love this appliance. Mostly I use it to make sandwiches more interesting but we have tried burgers and chicken on it with success. I actually found mine at a garage sale.

              $32.95 on Amazon
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              Ice Cream Maker
              There are not words to describe how badly I want one of these. After trying home-made ice cream on one of my ranch visits last summer I just don’t enjoy the taste of ice cream from the box (as much) anymore. Plus you can control the amount of sweetener and the flavor you add. One day I will have you my pretty.

              $59.95 on Sur la Table

              Bread Maker
              My boyfriend’s father has a bread-maker and he makes the BEST bread in the world. I would like to give bread-making a try and this model has caught my eye. My friend bought a bread-maker on Craig’s list for $5.00 (that actually works) so that’s probably where I’ll start looking.

              $141.99 on Wayfair

              waffle iron


              Waffle Iron
              Try as I might, I can’t live without waffles. I don’t like Belgium waffles though. It took me a very long time to find a non-Belgium waffle maker, but I love it very much!

              $40 at JC Penny

              Probably my most used appliance (at least before I got the food processor) because it did double-duty. I love smoothies in the morning so for me this is essential.

              $29.99 at Target

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              Food Dehydrator
              One more item on my to-buy list, a dehydrator seems extremely useful to me. I plan to use it for backpacking food, homemade fruit leather and homemade jerky and I’m sure I could come up with a few other ideas.

              $99.99 at Kohl’s

              Books and Movies:

              omnivore's dilemna, michael pollan, book cover


              by Michael Pollan


              in defense of food, michael polla, book cover


              by Michael Pollan


              food rules, michael pollan, book cover


              by Michael Pollan


              food inc., documentary, movie cover


              a Documentary


              quick-fix vegetarian, robin robertson, book cover, cookbook


              By Robin Robertson


              ancient grains for modern meals, maria speck, book cover, cookbook


              By Maria Speck


              my father's daughter, gwenyth paltrow, book cover, cookbook


              By Gwyneth Paltrow


              the future of food, documentary, movie cover


              a Documentary


              fast-food nations, eric schlosser, book cover, documentary


              by Eric Schlosser

              Edamame Hummus

              Hummus is one of the best things in life, and adding a few soybeans can only help. The first time I had edamame hummus was my freshman year at CSU. There was always some hummus at the salad bar and very rarely they served edamame hummus. Those were good days, but now I make it at home whenever I want.


              Gather your ingredients: some edamame hummus recipes use only soybeans and no chickpeas, but I love chickpeas so I use both, tahini is optional but tastes yummy (I didn’t have any), ¼ cup water, lemon zest and juice, smashed garlic, salt, cumin, coriander and olive oil.



              Boil the edamame (fun fact: edamame is actually the Japanese word for soybeans in the shell, when you buy shelled soybeans they’re actually called, “mukimame”) according to package directions. Drain and add to a blender or food processor.



              Add the drained chickpeas to the blender or food processor.



              I’ve never figured out if it’s easier to zest first and juice after or vice versa. I juice first. Roll the lemon on the counter to loosen the juices before cutting it in half and juicing it.

              Then add the water, lemon zest and juice and olive oil (I used 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1 tablespoon sesame oil to add a little of that sesame flavor since I didn’t have tahini)… Followed by the tahini (if using) garlic, salt, cumin, and coriander.


              Pulse the blender or food processor until smooth. Add more water if mixture is too thick; add more soy beans if it’s too runny. Taste test and adjust spices to preference.


              Serve with vegetables, pita chips, pretzels, or whatever you fancy. This stuff is blended gold my friends. 🙂 AND now you have another dip to serve at your next St. Patrick’s Day party (besides guacamole I mean). Yay!

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              Total Time: 15 minutes Difficulty: Easy Yield: 1 ¼ cup


              Ingredients:

              • 1 ½ cup frozen shelled green soybeans
              • 1 can drained chickpeas
              • ¼ cup tahini (optional)
              • ¼ cup water
              • ½ teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
              • 1 lemon (about 3 tablespoons), juiced
              • 1 clove garlic, smashed
              • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
              • ¾ teaspoon ground cumin
              • ¼ teaspoon ground coriander
              • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

              Suggested serving: Sliced cucumbers, celery, olives, and pita

              Directions:
              Boil the beans in salted water for 4 to 5 minutes, or microwave, covered, for 2 to 3 minutes. In a food processor, puree the edamame, tahini, water, lemon zest and juice, garlic, salt, cumin, and coriander until smooth. With the motor running, slowly drizzle in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and mix until absorbed. Transfer to a small bowl, stir in the parsley and drizzle with remaining oil. Serve with the suggested vegetables, or refrigerate, covered, up to 1 week (this time is very finicky, check for signs of spoilage such as ingredient separation, off taste or smell and slimy appearance).

              Fruit by the (almost) Foot

              As a kid I was a huge fan of fruit gummies like Fruit by the Foot, Fruit Roll-Ups and Fruit Gushers (though I very rarely received them at home). Now, that I’m an adult (sorta) I have had a few cravings for them.

              If you take a look at a box of strawberry flavored Fruit By the Foot by Betty Crocker you might see these ingredients:


              From the name you would assume there’d be a lot of fruit in it but actually you find it’s just sugar and preservatives. It’s number four on a list of 9 Kid Foods to Avoid created by Time.

              Here is a recipe for fruit leather from Out of the Box Food. Tastes delicious, not too difficult to make, and you can adjust the amount of sweetener, the flavor, and the size to suit your fancy. I am seriously in love with homemade stuff!

              I got mixed berries because… berries. Other fruit combinations can be found at the end of this post. I used agave nectar because it doesn’t add much flavor but honey or maple syrup can be used as well (or none of the above).

              Start by cutting the two sheets of parchment paper to fit the cookie sheets. Rub some butter on the paper so the rolls will peel off easily and set them aside. I’m not sure how necessary the greasing step is but I am afraid to test these without it.

              Add all ingredients to the blender (not the butter, like I said it’s for greasing).

              Then blend the heck outta those fruits!

              At this point you could strain the puree to remove the seeds (there are soooo many seeds). I didn’t because I like to keep things simple and don’t like washing dishes… These are life-changing decisions, my friends. Divide the puree evenly between the two cookie sheets and spread thin with a rubber spatula.

              This is my third time making these and I elected to use the sun to dry them in order to save energy. I was worried about bugs and stuff but then I decided to not worry about bugs and stuff. If you do worry about bugs, heat the oven to 150 °F (or as low as yours goes) and place the two cookie sheets in the oven as it is heating up. If your oven has a convection setting this would be an excellent occasion to use it. If you’re lucky enough to have one this recipe is perfect for a dehydrator. My oven only goes to 170 °F so the first time I made these I let the oven heat up all the way gave it five minutes and turned it off. After 20 minutes I’d turn it on again. It was very tedious but it worked. The second time I made these I forgot to alternate heating times and the rolls got super crispy around the edges, and pretty much all over, which made me angry.

              When the rolls aren’t wet any longer take them out of the oven (or bring them inside). Wait for them to cool, which doesn’t take long, and cut into whatever size and shape you want. I leave the parchment paper on the rolls as I roll them up so it’s on the outside (like a real fruit by the foot). Store in an airtight container. As far as I can tell they last forever if you don’t eat them all at once.

              Somewhat of a high maintenance recipe since you really have to be around the whole time they are drying (unless you use the sun and are not worried about bugs or wind, then you can just leave them out all day). One idea is to make these and refrigerate the puree until just after dinner. Turn the oven on until bedtime and turn it off when you go to sleep.

              MORE FRUIT COMBINATION IDEAS:
              Yellow: 1 fresh mango, 7 oz dried apricots, the juice of one orange
              Purple:  20 oz frozen mixed berries and 1 fresh banana
              Green: Kiwi, mango and mint leaves
              Blue: Blueberries and grape juice
              Red: Strawberries and banana

              Spices to try: Allspice, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, ginger, mace, mint, basil, extracts, citrus juices and peels, nutmeg or pumpkin pie spice. Use sparingly, start with 1/8 teaspoon for each 2 cups of pureé.

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              MAKES: 12, 2” x 14” rolls
              TIME: Preparation – 10 minutes, Drying – 5 to 7 hours with convection oven; 8 to 10 hours with standard oven; more if drying by sun. Also depends on thickness of puree.

              INGREDIENTS:

              • 20 oz. frozen fruit
              • ¼ cup agave nectar, honey, or maple syrup (can use less or omit completely)
              • Butter for greasing

              DIRECTIONS:

              Cut parchment paper to fit on two cookie sheets with raised edges. Grease parchment paper with butter. Defrost berries and add to blender with sweetener. Blend until smooth. Divide puree between cookie sheets, spread thin with a spatula. Heat oven to 150 °F (my oven only goes down to 170 °F so I watch them carefully so they don’t burn). Another option is to leave rolls out in the sun to dry. Or better yet, use a dehydrator. When fruit is dry remove the cookie sheets from the oven. When cool cut into 2” strips, roll tightly and store in air-tight container.

              What flavor combinations have you tried?

              Zucchini Bread – Homemade Style

              One thing I forgot to mention in Summer Lovin’ post last week is all the fresh produce from my mom’s garden. I probably forgot since I don’t live there much in the summer anymore, but my childhood is full of baby carrots covered in dirt, tomatoes that I can only describe as nature’s candy, and zucchini bread (or at least those are the things I loved the most from her garden).

              I wanted to make zucchini bread but my mom warned me that many of the recipes contain a lot of oil. After a lot of research and some improvisation I think I’ve concocted perhaps the perfect recipe. You be the judge.


              Start by preheating the oven and preparing an 8-inch loaf pan (I got to use my Misto!).

              Grate zucchini(s); you can peel them before hand, I personally like the peel in the bread so I don’t. I used the largest grate size on my 4-sided cheese-grater. You can use the smallest side (or an attachment on your food processor)… it really depends on preference.

              Mix together flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg in a medium bowl.

              Doesn’t that just look sooooo appetizing? Whisk together egg, oil, applesauce, yogurt, honey, and vanilla in a larger second bowl. The honey is from the bee hive on some land my Range Club manages just north of Fort Collins… Yay local stuff!

              Add flour mixture to the larger bowl and stir until well combined.

              Fold in grated zucchini.

              Pour batter into prepared pan and bake until risen, deep golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean – 50 to 60 minutes.

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              Cool in pan on wire rack for 30 minutes, then remove from pan and continue cooling on rack.

              Ingredients:

              • Cooking spray
              • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
              • 1/2 teaspoon salt
              • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
              • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
              • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
              • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
              • 1 egg
              • 1/4 cup oil
              • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
              • 2 tablespoons nonfat plain yogurt
              • 1/2 cup honey
              • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
              • 1 cup grated zucchini

              Instructions:

              Preheat oven to 325 °F. Spray an 8-inch loaf pan with cooking spray and set aside. In a medium bowl, combine flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg. In a separate larger bowl, whisk together egg, oil, applesauce, yogurt, honey and vanilla. Add the flour mixture and stir until well combined. Fold in zucchini, then transfer batter to prepared pan and bake until risen, deep golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean – 50 to 60 minutes. Cool in pan on rack for 30 minutes, remove bread from pan and continue cooling on rack.

              Restaurant-Style Salsa at Home

              Salsa is a big deal in my world and I am very picky about it. I hate chunks (except in fresh pico de gallo) and I love cilantro… a lot of cilantro… like the whole bunch, and it’s gotta be spicy. I’ve tried many a jar of salsa in my life (all 22 years of it) and I keep coming back to homemade (which is good since I’m all about homemade everything now). It tastes better, you get to choose your preferences, it’s super simple (if you have a food processor or blender), it’s cheaper and you can make as much (or as little) as you want!


              I see no downside.


              Three tomatoes (Reid used half of one of these tomatoes for breakfast without knowing they were for the salsa, it’ll be interesting to see how I will peel this one), one onion, one jalepeño pepper, one (two small) Fresno chile (from my garden), two cloves of garlic, lime juice (it’s best fresh but I didn’t have one), salt, cumin, cilantro

              Peel the tomatoes by placing them in boiling water for a few minutes then and submerging them in ice water. Skins practically fall off. It’s okay to skip this step, there will just be some skins in the salsa but that’s really not noticeable.

              Dice half an onion and chop the tomatoes. Add the onion and tomato to the food processor.

              Mince the garlic and cut up the peppers; keep the seeds, you’re tough and can handle it. Then add the garlic and peppers to the food processor.

              Add ¼ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon ground cumin and about three tablespoons lime juice.

              Now, add ½ to 1 cup cilantro. I seriously love cilantro. If you don’t like cilantro much use less (but I will mock you).

              AND pulse, pulse, pulse… a couple more times, and a couple more, about 10 to 15 times oughta do it. I like NO chunks. If you like chunkier salsa… pulse less.

              Be sure to taste test and alter seasonings/add more cilantro. Then if you can avoid the temptation of gobbling it all up right then, cover it and put it in the refrigerator for about an hour so the flavors can fuse and stuff.

              Doesn’t that just look awful? I’ll take one for the team and eat it all. You owe me one. (Those tortilla chips are La Favorita brand, ingredients: ground yellow corn, water, soybean oil, salt, trace of lime. Not bad.)

              Prep Time: 20 minutes Difficulty: Easy Servings: 12

              Ingredients:

              • 3 Medium Tomatoes
              • 2 whole Jalepeño peppers
              • ¼ cup Chopped Onion
              • 2 Clove Garlic
              • ¼ teaspoon Salt
              • ¼ teaspoon Ground Cumin
              • ½ cup Cilantro (more!)
              • ½ whole Lime Juice

              Instructions:

              Peel tomatoes. Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor. Pulse until salsa is the consistency you like. Test flavor; adjust spices. Refrigerate for at least an hour. Serve with tortilla chips, nachos, tacos, quesadillas, burritos, fajitas, eggs, etc.

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              I’ve made this salsa from The Pioneer Woman many times. With my new “real food” kick I shied away from using canned tomatoes because they contained calcium chloride. At the store I had no idea what this was so I bought fresh tomatoes and peppers (and had some from my garden). After doing some research (and remembering my chemistry… duh!) I’ve learned that calcium chloride is basically harmless (and is found in most milk products in higher concentrations than a can of tomatoes). The more you know…

              However, I am very pleased with the results using fresh tomatoes so really it’s a moot point.

              Eating Real Food

              It was June, it was HOT and I needed something with the word ice in it desperately to cool me down. I pulled into the local grocery store, headed for the frozen food section, relished in the cold air, and searched for that special treat. It came down to three things for me: price, flavor and whether or not my boyfriend would want to eat it too (he has a Who-sized sweet-tooth gene). I grabbed a 12-pack of Weight-Watchers dark-chocolate-dipped raspberry ice cream bars. They sounded heavenly, they were the cheapest for the number of bars and I thought Reid would at least not cringe at the thought of eating one or two.

              I will not lie; I got to the car and dug in. The chocolate bar was steaming with sublimation in the hot car and I enjoyed the heck out of every bite of it. When I returned home I put them in the freezer and left it at that. When Reid came home he was having a fit about having to watch TV commercials that day at work. We don’t have cable so we have forgotten about commercials (and I’m pretty sure they’ve gotten dumber since the last time they were forced on me, but that’s a story for another day). He described one commercial he had seen to me through gritted teeth. It was a commercial for some kind of metabolism booster that allows you to eat whatever you want regardless of calories or nutrition. You shake this substance on hamburgers or ice cream and it makes you look like the skinny girls in the commercial, dancing around in their bikinis.


              Then he saw Weight Watchers ice cream bars in the freezer. “I bet these aren’t even ice cream, they’re probably completely synthetic,” says he. When we looked at the label, he wasn’t ALL wrong.


              That’s when we, here at the Miller/Haseman Estate (HA!) decided that while something may be edible it might not be digestible. He learned in microbiology and passed his knowledge on to me that there are many “food” items we ingest every day that our bodies look at and say “dafuq?” then stores in fatty tissue if it ever has need of the foreign substance. Our culture in America tends to guide us toward the quick fix, the fast, and the easy, which leaves the wholesome and nutritious forgotten in the dusty cobwebs of our minds. Our society has become dependent on processed foods. They are an illusion of nutrition that lists claims such as, low-carb, no added sugar, high-protein, high-fiber, vitamin fortified etc. But when you take a look at the label you see words like “Polydextrose,” “Azodicarbonamide,” and “Natamycin.”


               


              Now, this has turned into a project that I have taken on: making EVERYTHING from scratch (almost). When we go to the grocery store we pick up items, look at them and I say, “I could make that.” And then… get this… I actually DO make it.

              I will admit that it definitely helps that I have an open schedule (especially this summer) in which to lull away the day. It has been nice to have something to fill my time that will benefit my creativity, deductive reasoning skills and my body all in one shot. (Side note: What’s that saying? Kill two birds with one stone. My mom always found this barbaric and changed it to feed two birds with one seed. End side note).

              Regardless of your schedule I believe it is possible to cut out most of this junk from our diets.

              Why cut out processed foods:

              1. Like I said before, processed foods are an illusion of nutrition.
              2. Healthier body, mind and soul… and a foundation for continued health in later life.
              3. Michael Pollan says it best when he explains food should be the product of nature, not the product of industry.
              4. Variety: 90% of processed food is estimated to be a derivative of corn or soy (Food, Inc.)
              5. Plain and simple, common sense: I’d like to know (and have the ability to pronounce) what I’m putting in to fuel my body, wouldn’t you?


              I would love to hear from you. What do you do to cut back on processed foods?