Wednesday, February 29, 2012


I was going back and forth about my March commitment.  I had and idea in my head, but just wasn't sure if I could afford to do it financially speaking.  One day, when I was playing around on Facebook, I came across this Cooking Oil Comparison Chart.  That sealed the deal for me.  I knew what I wanted to do for March.  I am switching my cooking oil!
Like many people, I fell for the clever marketing ploys that companies use to sell their products.  I had been using canola oil because it said, "no trans fat, cholesterol free, heart healthy" on the label; therefor it had to be true!  Companies have spent a lot of time and money looking for loop holes so that they can print partial truths on their labels.  I discuss that a little bit in my Fat-Free? Post.
Ok, so back to canola oil.  What I found out on the chart is that the conventional canola oil, that I thought was a smart choice, is actually genetically modified, usually high in pesticides, usually highly refined, bleached and deodorized and those Omega 3's that it's supposed to have are exposed to high heat so they are no longer of benefit to your body.  Geez!  I think the con's far out-weigh the pro's here, for me anyway!
What's a girl to do?!  All of the commonly known healthy oils are so expensive!  Yes, I buy extra virgin olive oil for some of my cooking, which is a great choice, but is pricey and adds a strong flavor to some foods.  It is low in the unhealthy fats and is high in flavonoids which protects your blood vessels and cells from damage and prevent excessive swelling in your body.  This is good stuff here.  The thing is, for the price, I can't afford to use it for ALL of my cooking.  Also, some foods take on the flavor of the olive oil and make it taste ... not so good.
Through conversations with a couple of friends, the idea of coconut oil was presented to me.  They said is is not expensive and that it does not add flavors to your food.  Hmm, sounded odd, but I thought I'd look into it.  Wow!  If you find good quality, organic, virgin coconut oil ... this stuff is great!  It is low in the Omega 6 bad fats and has no cholesterol or trans-fat.  Coconut oil is commonly referred to as the "healthiest oil on Earth".  There is a long, scientific explanation about the type of fat that's in coconut oil and how it is metabolized differently by out bodies.  You can read about that at Coconut Research Center.  I'll try to break it down the best I can.  50% of the fatty acid in coconut oil is called Lauric Acid which is turned into Monolaurin by our bodies.   
 "Monolaurin is the antiviral, antibacterial, and antiprotozoal monoglyceride used by the human or animal to destroy lipid coated viruses such as HIV, herpes, cytomegalovirus, influenza, various pathogenic bacteria including listeria monocytogenes and heliobacter pylori, and protozoa such as giardia lamblia. Some studies have also shown some antimicrobial effects of the free lauric acid."  (Coconut Connections)

The Nutiva brand that I found is cold-pressed (no heat to damage nutritional quality), organic, not refined, not bleached and is not deodorized.  The price was very reasonable.  I found it on Amazon for a great price and was able get a 15% discount and free shipping by subscribing to auto-shipments.  I am very excited about this and can not wait to give you all a review of how it goes!  Until then, I want to know how you are making commitments to better health!  Who knows, you may give me a great idea!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

It's Been Two Months!

Have you been following me since January?  Have you tried any of the modifications that I suggested?  Well, I'm going to break down the modifications that I've made and let you know how I'm doing with them!

Flaxseed ... I'm adding it to a lot of our foods and using in my breadings.  I have also used it many times as substitutes for things like eggs, oil etc.  It is so versatile!

More fruits and veggies ... I have been keeping TONS of fresh fruits and veggies in my house and using them to replace other snack items like crackers.  I have been adding pureed and finely diced veggies to my recipes and adding spinach to a lot of things!  Yay for spinach!  Definitely a power food!

Follow the My Plate guideline... I have been doing ok with this.  I can't say that I knocked this one out of the park, but it's a process, right?  I try very hard to follow the guideline, but sometimes I do get a little lazy and slip.  However, for most meals our plates do look very similar to this picture!
Local raised, hormone and antibiotic free meat ... We got our cow the last week of January and I have not purchased any store bought beef since.  We already had some pork from a local hog that we had purchased, so I haven't bought any store pork either.  I have been buying chickens from the store, but I have been watching labels and buying them whole in hopes that they are less processed.
Local eggs ... My daughter's preschool teacher sells eggs, so I found a regular source!  This picture is pretty much exactly what our cartons look like!  Some white, some brown and some blue!  They have been delicious and I feel better feeding them to my family!
 I am thinking about March, and I am pretty sure that I have it figured out.  I decided on ONE commitment for March so that I can work on improving the "My Plate" commitment that I'm working on.  That's ok though.  If you only make one commitment versus twenty you are more likely to succeed and less likely to give up out of frustration or the feeling of deprivation!  Keep watching for me to reveal my March commitment!  I think some of you will be very excited!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

What's The Difference Between Cooking Oils?

Eating Rules
I always wonder what is the best kind of oil for me to use in my cooking.  I found this wonderful chart that breaks down the different oils very well!  Check out the whole chart at Eating Rules.  It is available in a PDF format so that you can print it!  This is a very informative chart that can be a very helpful aid when making healthy choices for your family.

Healthy-fied Tacos

I am trying to make the switch to whole grain tortillas, but my family is just not quiet ready for them yet.
What you need:
  • 1lb ground meat; beef, chicken, turkey (I used beef)
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 T milled flaxseed
  • 1 T carrot puree
  • 2/3 c water
  • 1/4 c Mom's Taco Seasoning (homemade)
  • 1 pkg tortillas, preferable whole grain ... my family just won't eat them yet
  • Your favorite taco toppings, we like; mixture of green leaf lettuce and spinach, tomatoes, shredded cheese, black olives, avocado (I didn't have any this night), beans (I puree pinto beans with a little cumin and garlic powder), sour cream (try Daisy...only 1 ingredient or try plain or Greek yogurt) and Salsa (a great condiment for lots of things!)
Make it:
  1. Brown your meat and drain any grease thoroughly.  
  2. Place meat back into pan and add the onions and garlic.  Saute until onions are translucent. 
  3. Add water, seasoning, flaxseed and carrot puree.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until sauce thickens.
  4. Well, you know how to assemble a taco ... Go For It!!

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    Monday, February 20, 2012

    Stuffed Shells

    Accompanied by a fresh tossed salad!
    What you need:
    • 1/2 pound jumbo shells, cooked according to box (make sure to rinse them thoroughly to avoid sticking together)
    • 1 pound ground beef
    • 1 small onion, diced
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1 T milled flaxseed
    • 15 oz carton ricotta cheese
    • handful of chopped parsley
    • 1 cup chopped, fresh spinach
    • 1 egg
    • 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
    • 1 jar pasta sauce, or use homemade if you have it!
    • 2 T pureed carrot
    Make it:
    1. Brown the beef and drain grease thoroughly.  Place beef back into skillet and add onion and garlic, saute until onion is translucent. 
    2. Add flaxseed, parsley and spinach to skillet and stir until incorporated.  Remove from heat and let cool.
    3. While the meat mixture is cooling, beat the egg into the ricotta cheese.
    4. Combine meat mixture and ricotta mixture, set aside.
    5. Mix the carrot puree into the pasta sauce and spread a little in the bottom of a 9x13 pan.
    6. Stuff your cooked shells with your meat mixture and place in the pan.
    7. Top shells with remaining pasta sauce and sprinkle with mozzarella cheese.
    8. Bake, covered, at 350 for 20 to 30 minutes until heated through and cheese is melted.  If you like your cheese to be a little browned you can take the cover off for the last 5 minutes.
    9. When you serve the shells, top them with a little extra sauce from the pan and a little sprinkle of chopped parsley.  Enjoy!!
    This recipe made approximately 16 shells for me.
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    Wednesday, February 15, 2012

    Sirloin Steak and Twice Baked Potatoes

    One big perk of buying a cow for butchering is that we get STEAKS for the same average price as HAMBURGER per pound!  Woo Hoo!  Tonight's menu; sirloin steaks and twice baked potatoes!
    One great thing about steak is that it is delicious with out lots of extra ingredients!  This sirloin is from the cow we bought this month.  It is local raised and is antibiotic and hormone free!

    I sprinkled the steak with a little salt and pepper on both sides and let it sit for two hours.  Some reason I have it in my head that this helps the seasoning "work".  Also, I let the meat come up near room temperature before cooking it, it helps the meat cook evenly.  A Food Network chef, not sure which one, said that once and it stuck in my head.  Now, I used a cast iron grill pan because it was cold and snowing outside so the BBQ grill was not an option for me.  Cast iron gets REALLY hot, so on my stove medium or just above medium heat was perfect.  Spritz the pan lightly with a small amount of oil.  (I have this awesome thing from Pampered Chef that lets me turn regular oil into spray with out the addition of extra chemicals.)  I was going for a medium "doneness", so I cooked my steak for about 5 minutes on each side.  Let the meat rest before cutting into it, at least 5 minutes.

    Twice baked potatoes:
    Preheat oven to 425.  Wash your potatoes (I used red), dry and wrap in aluminum foil.  Place them on the center oven rack for approximately 1 hour.  When the potatoes are finished baking, unwrap them and scoop the insides of them into a bowl, leaving the peal intact like a cup.
    With the part that you scooped into the bowl, make mashed potatoes.  I made mine by adding a few tablespoons of real butter, some chopped parsley, salt and pepper to taste and just enough milk to make them the consistency that I like.  Now fill the potato shells with your mashed potatoes, you can set them in a muffin tin to help them stand up-right if you need, then sprinkle with a little paprika.
    Bake the stuffed potatoes for 20 minutes at 400 degrees.  Top with a piece of sliced cheese and place them back into the oven until the cheese is melted.

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    Tuesday, February 14, 2012

    Preparing for My Spring/Summer Garden

    My Garden Map
    I am doing a lot of preparing for planting my spring/summer garden.  I am hoping to have a large amount of fresh, organic produce that I can freeze or can.  I am planning to do what they call a square foot garden.  My 16' x 8' garden will be divided into square feet and then I will plant a specified number of each item in that square foot.
    You can see on my map that I noted how many plants per square foot and when they should be planted.  The marigolds are there for organic pest control.  I have never tried this before, but I have heard many people swear by them!  The black spots are paths for walking ... can't forget those!  I may alter my plan slightly, but this definitely gives me a jumping off point!  I will be posting about my garden progress as I go along.  Maybe some of you want to plant as well, but just don't know where to start!

    Now is the time to start your seedlings indoors, especially if you plan to start tomatoes or peppers from seed or if you plan to plant lettuce, broccoli or other delicate plants.  I have lettuce, broccoli, onion, marigolds and strawberries in my plan; they all get planted a little earlier than the other items.  You can buy seedling pots or you can make them from newspaper or empty toilet paper rolls.
     Remember that seeds do not need tons of water.  Keep the soil moist, too much water will cause the seeds to mold.  Trust me, this has happened to me before!  Place them in a nice, sunny spot and watch them grow!

    The other thing that I have been doing for a while now is nourishing my garden soil.  The way that I do this is to throw certain garbage items in my garden area.  You must be careful what you throw out there!  The stuff that I commonly throw out there:  banana peels and unfinished bananas, apple peels, potato peels, ends of celery stalks, bread ends and crusts, egg shells, coffee grounds, onion and garlic scraps, fruits and veggies that I would throw out as being "bad", carrot peels.  These are all items that break down and release various nutrients into the soil.  If you have a wood fireplace, I have also read that you can use your ashes as well.  Do not throw out things that are not going to break down, do not throw out meat scraps or fats, do not use pet or human feces (gross I know but some people equate it to manure and it's not the same) and be careful about acidic scraps like orange peels.  You can do this year round ... even when the garden is planted!
    I usually just grab a bowl or pot out of my sink to throw stuff in through out the day.  This one is ready to go!
    So, that's where I am right now with my garden.  I will have seeds with in a few days to get them started inside and will update at that point!

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    Monday, February 13, 2012

    How Do You Like Your Steak?

    We have a tradition with my parents, whenever it is someone's birthday they treat us to dinner out.  Whenever it is on the menu, I order a steak!  Usually a ribeye if they have it, medium well ... closer to the medium side.  (I am becoming braver and might just go medium next time!)  My mom usually has the same two remarks; first that she doesn't like steak and then a squeamish look and a "yuck" when she sees the pink in my meat.  I tell her that the reason she does not like steak is because she's never had a good one and she's never had a good one because she won't eat it less than well done.
    As you can probably guess, growing up I was not fed steak and I was certainly not fed any meat that was less than well done!  It took a while, but I finally gained the courage to try a steak with some pink a few years ago.  It was AMAZING!  I never thought I could stomach the idea of eating raw (as I called it back then) beef!
    I am trying to learn how to make and amazing steak at home.  I think I am definitely getting there!  An important thing to know is the differences between the levels of doneness, which in my experience is not always consistent from one chef to another. 
    Through my research, I have found this to be consistant through cooking websites, magazines, restaurants and steak companies. 

    Levels of doneness:
    Rare - 125 degrees; very red, cool center; 75% red
    Medium Rare - 130 degrees; red, warm center; 50% red
    Medium - 140 degrees; pink, hot center; 25% pink
    Medium Well - 150 degrees; hint of pink, hot center
    Well - 160 degrees; no pink at all
    I found a great "Doneness Chart" at Cook Perfect Steaks.  It also shows you how to test the meat while cooking it with out cutting into the meat.  I didn't want to risk copyright infringement by pasting their picture here.

    When cooking meat, you should remove it from the heat when it is 5 degrees below desired temp and then let it rest.  The residual heat creates what is known as carry-over cooking and will bring it up to the desired temp.

    So there you go!  Be brave, try something new!  I did!!

    Thursday, February 9, 2012

    Make Your Own Laundry Detergent

    I decided to try making my own laundry detergent this past fall.  I had heard how much money you can save and how great the detergent works.  I went to the store and purchased my items, which cost me roughly $20, and I used the empty bucket from my store bought detergent (it says 32.5 lbs on the bucket).  I honestly do not remember where I found the "recipe" for this detergent, it was a long time ago.

    • 12 c. Borax
    • 8 c. baking soda
    • 8 c. washing soda
    • 8 c. Fels Naptha soap, grated
    This is a hard water mixture, for soft water you leave out the baking soda.  You can also add a few drops of essential oil for scent, but I found that the Fels Naptha has a very pleasant scent that I enjoy.  So, as you know, I am NOT about measuring anything!  Here is how I made my detergent.  I went to the laundry aisle at Wal-Mart and bought the supplies, you can get big boxes of baking soda there instead of buying a hundred little ones!  I mixed 2 boxes of Borax, 2 boxes of washing soda, 1 1/2 boxes of baking soda and 4 bars of grated Fels Naptha.

    To use this detergent you only need 2 tablespoons per load!!  That is A LOT less than the huge scoop that my old detergent called for!

    To wrap up this story, that bucket of store bought detergent supposedly washed 200 loads.  I filled the empty bucket with my homemade detergent, it was approximately as full as it was when I originally bought it.  I have been using that ONE recipe of detergent for FIVE MONTHS and it is still about half full!  I average one load of laundry per day, there are only 4 of us so I can get away with that.  Five months is approximately 150 days, which means approximately 150 + loads of laundry (some days I do two or three loads).  If I got 150 + loads out of half the bucket ... I will get over 300 loads out of $20 worth of detergent!  Wow!!  Previously I was spending $10-$20 per month on detergent, this is averaging out (so far) to just over $20 per year!!
    If you have a larger family or go through more laundry than us, it will not work out quiet the same, but I bet you could still save quiet a bit of money!

    Some extra info:  I use warm/cold setting and it works just fine; my hubby's clothes were always very tough to get odors out because of the smoke, sawdust, grease, etc. smells and this works great!!  I think the baking soda makes a huge difference there.

    Oh, and mix as you go ... do not try to dump it all in and then mix.  That's what I did, and it was very difficult!

    Wednesday, February 8, 2012


    I have been hearing some things about diet foods that were a little, make that a lot, disturbing.  I decided to do some research and here is what I came up with.  This is meant to be informative only, use your own discretion when making food choices.
    We try so hard to make wise choices with our food. We select fat-free, light or diet versions of various foods in hopes of cutting calories and losing or at least not gaining weight. Is this a good solution? You may be surprised to hear this, but NO it is actually more harmful for your overall health than the full fat versions!
    • According to USDA and FDA labeling laws, foods labeled fat-free do NOT have to be fat-free! They just have to have less than 0.5 grams of fat per serving. Low-fat foods must have 3 grams or less per serving. Reduced fat must have 25% less fat than the full fat versions, and Light must have 1/3 less calories or 50% less fat than the full fat version. So now you can see how the labels can be misleading. Also, many times people tend to eat MORE of the food because of the label, and may end up inadvertently eating more calories and fat than they would have with a standard serving of the original!
    • Next time you are at the store, compare the labels of a full fat and a fat free counterpart of any given food. We will use Daisy brand sour cream as an example. The ingredients in Original Daisy Sour Cream: Grade A Cultured Cream. Fat-Free Daisy Sour Cream: Cultured Skim Milk, Modified Food Starch, Carrageenan, Vitamin A Palmitate. One, natural ingredient compared to four ingredients! Modified food starch is a starch that has been changed through chemical, enzymatic or physical ways to enhance some quality of the starch (ie gelling, thickening, stabilization). Carrageenan, do you even know what that is? I had to look it up! It is extract from seaweed used as a thickening agent. Vitamin A Palmitate is found in fish and fish liver oil but is most commonly made synthetically by chemically altering Vitamin A (which is very unstable on its own). Why do I need all these extra ingredients when the original version only needed CREAM? I know what cream is, where it comes from and how to pronounce it! I had to look up all the other ingredients!
    • Basically, to make foods fat free, light, etc the manufacturers take out NATURAL ingredients that contain the fat and calories and replace them will modified or chemical ingredients to try and achieve a flavor that resembles the original version. To me it seems obvious that if something is NATURAL, it has to be better for me than a chemical! Your body knows what to do with the natural ingredients; it was made to process them. When you eat synthetic foods your body doesn’t know what they are or what to do with them so your body reacts adversely and sometimes toxically to them; creating free radicals that damage healthy cells or being broken down and stored as fats! They create the opposite effect for which you were trying!

    Sources: WebMD, 100 days of real food, shop well, Bodyecology,, Dairy-House, Be Food Smart, Experience Life,
    Collaborators: Laura Schaefer, Lisa Harman

    Tuesday, February 7, 2012

    Crock-Pot Beef Roast

    First let me apologize that I forgot to take a picture of this.  Second, this dish is a staple in my house and my extremely picky 7 year old claims this as her favorite dish!

    • 3 to 4 lb. beef roast (any variety)
    • 1/2 cup homemade onion soup mix (recipe to follow)
    • 1/4 ground flaxseed
    • 4 medium potatoes, cubed
    • 1 cup baby carrots or carrots cut into larger size chunks
    • 2 stalks celery, large dice
    Make It:
    1. Place all ingredients in crock pot and cover with water, enough to barely cover.  
    2. Cook on low for 8 hours.
    3. If you want gravy you can place the cooking liquid in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Then stir in a small amount of cornstarch slurry (water with a little corn starch stirred in).  Reduce heat and simmer until desired thickness.
    Onion Soup Mix
    Combine the following ingredients in an air tight container.
    • 2/3 dry onions
    • 1 T onion powder
    • 1 t. salt
    • 1 t. sugar
    • 1 t. dry garlic or garlic powder
    • 1 t. dried parsley

    Saturday, February 4, 2012

    Perfectly Cooked, Hard-Boiled Eggs - Power Food!

    For the month of February, one commitment to health that I added is to buy only fresh, local eggs.  This means I know where the chickens are from, how they are fed and I know exactly how fresh the eggs are!
    Eggs are a very nutritious food!
    • Rich in vitamin B choline which helps your body produce healthy nerves and cells and can reduce chronic inflammation.
    • They are packed with protein which is essential for good health.  Protein builds muscles, boosts your immune system and makes healthy hair and nails.
    • Some studies have shown that eggs can actually help increase weight loss when dieting.
    • They are jam packed with lutein and zeaxanthin which protects your eyes from sun damage and those free-radicals that we discussed previously.
    • Can help keep cholesterol levels in a healthy range.
    • Some studies have shown that the choline in eggs can even help prevent breast cancer.
    Eggs are incredibly versatile!  If you say that you do not like eggs, I bet that if you experimented enough you would find some way that you like them!  Quiche, casseroles, scrambled, fried, omelet, hard boiled, soft boiled ... the list goes on!
    My favorite is a hard boiled egg sprinkled with just a touch of salt and pepper.  Maybe it's just me, but I have seen A LOT of people who can not make a well cooked, hard boiled egg.  The egg should not be runny at all, that is soft boiled.  The yolk should not have that weird, greenish tinge, that means it's overcooked.  The shell should be easy to peel away.  The membrane should peel away with the shell with out taking chunks of the white with it.  I am here to help!
    1. Start by placing your eggs in a pot and cover them with cold water.
    2. When your water comes to a rapid boil, cover the pot and remove it from the heat.
    3. Let the eggs sit for 20 minutes.  Do not remove the lid!  The residual heat of the water will gently cook the eggs to perfection!
    4. After 20 minutes, drain away the hot water.  Watch out for steam ... it can burn you!
    5. Next,shake the eggs around in the pot to get the shells cracked and cover with cold water.  Let sit for a few minutes and peel! 

    Women's Health

    Thursday, February 2, 2012

    Share the Love!!

    Dear Readers, thank you so much for your interest!!  I hope that by reading my blog, I can inspire you to examine your own health and take steps to make it better!  I also hope that by blogging about my venture, my readers will keep me accountable so that I can not just give up and revert back to old habits!
    I recently met a beautiful woman named Slava who writes a blog about my hometown.  She has the same ideas about health, wellness and educating consumers as I do!  I want to share her blog with you as a compliment to mine!  While I will be sharing with you little facts that I learn, changes that I make and recipes that I come up with, she will share important information that you may not have thought about before. Make sure to add her to your list!!
    Re-Discover Washington - Health and Wellness

    Water!!! Drink some!!

    Here is a very well written article about the importance of water by a new friend of mine! 
    Water or Coke

    My Makeover :)

    Here is a link to the blog post from Re-Discover Washington.  She tells such a cute story!!
    A Modern-Day Cinderella Story

    Wednesday, February 1, 2012

    It's a Beautiful Day for a Make-over!

    A couple of weeks ago I won a contest, the prize was a hair makeover at a local salon.  Today, I went for my makeover!!  I met Jessica, my stylist at Trashy Roots Salon.  What a beautiful and sweet woman!!  We chatted quiet a bit during my cut and color.  I learned that we both have little girls, close in age, that share the same dislike for any hair accessory that keeps hair out of their faces!  Also, small world, her younger sister is a friend of mine!  We went to school together from 3rd grade through to high school graduation and she now helps with taking care of my grandma in the nursing home!
    Jessica was so helpful with selecting the right color for my hair.  I wanted something natural but noticeable, and she hit the nail on the head!  Her talent did not stop there!  My cut looks exactly like the picture that I gave her!
    Also, I had the opportunity to chat with Slava, the writer of Re-Discover Washington.  Her love for local business was infectious!  We covered several topics while waiting for the dye to set.  We both share an interest in healthy eating and educating people about food!  She told me about a place called Global Market, I must go!!  Food selections from around the world, all at my fingertips!!  I think I may have found another "food buddy"!  Lisa, Laura and Slava ... it has a nice ring to it!  LOL  Slava blogs about nutrition as well, I will definitely be reading those posts!!
    In the end, I had a wonderful afternoon that turned my day around and met two very lovely women!  This mom of two girls, that would be me, who never does anything for herself because diapers and "kid stuff" comes first, GREATLY appreciated this prize!
    If you are local, check out Slava's Re-Discover Washington blog!  Supporting our local business will keep our local economy healthy!  We live in a wonderful area, rich with history and beauty!  Go out and discover it!!

    Oh, I will post a picture of my new hair a.s.a.p. and I will also make sure to share Slava's blog post about it too!