Thoughts on Health & Food

My Top 3 Ways To Keep Your Kids Healthy

3 Simple Things That Pay Big Dividends

People ask me what they can do to keep their kids from getting sick. I’ve worked at this because I have two great kids. I did most of the cooking when they were young. I loved to cook healthy foods and much my efforts were to keep my kids from getting sick. I felt bad when my kids were sick. And I’ll admit it- from a total selfish standpoint I wanted them healthy because it is miserable on parents when the kids are sick! No one is happy. Maybe I was lucky, but they hardly EVER got sick – I’m convinced most of this was they ate nutritious meals. Sometimes kids will get sick. I get that. But, here are the 3 SIMPLEST and EASIEST THINGS that I believe will keep your kids from getting sick during the upcoming winter. They are not extreme changes. SIMPLE DOABLE THINGS that will make a big impact on keeping their immune systems in fighting shape. Ok… here they are… drumroll please…

1) SWITCH THE WHITE BREAD FOR WHOLE GRAIN BREAD

Yep. That is number 1. Partly because it is so easy to do. Why is this my #1? You go from almost ZERO nutrition (white flour) to getting fiber and nutrients in WHOLE GRAIN BREAD. Whole grains are packed with key nutrients to help kids grow and I have seriously found they boost the immune system. The key is to FIND A WHOLE GRAIN BREAD THAT THE KIDS LIKE. As I have gotten older, I like heavy thick solid bread with grains and even seeds in it. But kids don’t usually like that. They like fluffy light bread. So, test and find a whole grain bread that has the nutrition but still a bit light and airy for kids. I actually found in my area (Utah) that Grandma Sycamore’s Whole Wheat Bread was our FAVORITE.

So how do you pick a bread? First, look at the ingredients. Make sure it is 100% WHOLE GRAIN FLOUR. Most “wheat breads” have “wheat flour” as the first ingredient. It has to say “whole wheat flour”. Wheat flour is just white flour made from wheat. Read the ingredients. Make sure it is a little light and soft – then try it out. Switch to the good stuff!

Two of my favorite breads. One for adults, the other for kids.

Two of my favorite breads. One for adults, the other for kids.

2) MAKE DELICIOUS FRUIT SMOOTHIES

Whole fruit is packed with vitamin C, fiber, minerals, live enzymes and antioxidants. Great for fighting off infections. The EASY way to get kids to eat fruit is to make a smoothie and let them drink it down! They love it and they get a shot of instant health! It helps to have a great blender (I own a VitaMix and have used it for every day for 15 years). If you don’t have one just use the best you can afford or have. Start with a base of apple or pineapple juice, or even unsweetened almond milk. For me a smoothie isn’t quite right without a whole banana. Banana to me is the superstar of smoothie land. It is creamy, rich, nice easy taste. Full of nutrients. I mean, the banana is the bomb for smoothies. During the winter I buy frozen packs of fruit and just experiment. Peaches, mangos, berries… whatever you like! Add some ice and blend away! Start your kids early on smoothies and they will love them. Basically you created a super healthy drink disguised as a treat!

3) HAVE 5 HEALTHY KID FRIENDLY MEALS IN YOUR ARSENAL

Ok, this is key. You’re probably not going to get your kids to eat perfect all the time. Won’t happen. But, if you have 5 SUPERSTAR meals that your kids REALLY love that are “pretty darn healthy” then you are in business. Now, note that I didn’t say TOTALLY HEALTHY. That is because kids won’t eat sautéed Kale very often if at all. So if you can get them to eat pretty healthy it is much better than having them push the food away and sneak off to their friends to eat junk. Then create a LIST and have it handy of your top meals that are EASY, FAST AND WINNERS. I had a couple that my kids (and their friends) would beg me to make. I’m going to brag a bit here, but I created meals that the neighbor kids would literally come over and beg me to make. Yet they were all quite healthy! My top 5 were:

1) Loaded Potato Soup – Packed with potatoes, corn and I sneak in cauliflower! But I did have exotic cheeses in it!
(*All time favorite – my kids and their friends still beg me to make it and they are in their twenties!)
2) Mexican Tortilla Patties – super fast, loaded with vegetarian refried beans.
3) Whole Grain Pancakes & Waffles – Fast easy breakfast, full of hearty grains
4) Vegetarian Chile – I perfected this recipe. Loaded with beans, yams, brown rice. Great topped with cheese & chips.
5) Grilled Cheese Sandwich on Whole Grain Bread – Serve with tomato soup! Quick way to sneak in whole grain bread!

Of course I have many others, but those seemed to be the favorites. Of course there are many other quick suggestions like not having too much sugar around the house, creating healthy snacks and expanding your meals to many many other healthy dishes. But you have to start somewhere. You can find these recipes on dancingcarrots.com. Experiment and have fun with this. I would be very interested to know what are your families favorite healthy meals! Share your insights as well. We would love to hear them.

Curt

3_Ways_To_Healthy_Kids

 

Mineral Drink, Leg Cramps, Herbal

Make Your Own Super Herbal Mineral Drink

By Brewing with High Mineral Herbs

I am always looking for ways to get minerals into my diet without taking pills. Minerals are CRITICAL as we age to stave off degeneration and for strong bones, nerves and hormone production. Women particularly need a lot of minerals during menopause to keep from having broken hips, faded memories, heart weakness and frazzled nerves! But us guys have issues with bone strength and nerve and brain health as well. I have found an affordable “do it yourself” method of getting minerals in a way that our bodies can EASILY ABSORB AND UTILIZE THEM. IT is called an herbal infusion… which is a fancy name for a super strong herbal tea! It’s super easy to make… here is how…

Herbs To The Rescue!

The herbs that seem to be high in minerals are the “weedy” sort of herbs. Yes, these lowly sometimes forgotten herbs that don’t get much attention are really the super stars in the “high mineral content” competition. These are Alfalfa, Oat straw, Red Clover, Stinging Nettle, Chickweed and Horsetail. The advantage of getting your minerals from herbs is that they are easily assimilated into the body. Most mineral supplements are comprised of “inorganic minerals” which are similar to getting minerals from rocks. They don’t absorb well and can cause kidney stones. “Organic minerals” on the other hand come from plant sources and have been absorbed through the earth into the plant that breaks down the minerals into a form we can assimilate. In other words, our bodies can use the calcium from herbs better than if you ground up a bunch of calcium from oyster shells and took them in a capsule. So how do we get the best results from our herbs we just listed? You make an infusion or a strong steeped tea…

Leg Cramps, Herbal Minerals

How to Brew Your Mineral Tea

What I recommend is buying 2 ounces or so of each of the herbs in bulk. I have a local herb store where I get my herbs (Good Earth, SLC Utah) They sell a 2 ounce bag for around $2 -$5 based on the herb. Then I mix the herbs all together into a big bowl. I then add about a 3/4 cup of the mixture into a big pot with purified water (about a gallon of water). Note, I am not scientific about this. I just kinda wing it and do what feels right… so sorry to all you exact measurement folk! Then I slowly heat up the water till it barely boils… I then let it slowly simmer for about 20 minutes. This really breaks down the herbs and pulls the nutrients out. Then I cut the heat totally and allow my strong herb tea to seep overnight as it cools. Allowing the herbs to sit in the water for at least 8 hours allows the tea to get rich and full of minerals. Then I simply strain out the tea with a standard wire mesh strainer into a pitcher and put it in the fridge. (I gently push down on the herbs and squeeze the tea out through the strainer to get all the good stuff out) That is it! You have a rich mineral tea! I actually like to drink it chilled better than warm. By the way, if you also want to add some great flavor add some mint tea to the brew to add a nice flavor twist. The tea is pretty bland in flavor alone but I actually like it nonetheless – but a little mint helps. (I buy a box of my favorite mint tea and drop a bag or two into the pot as it is brewing).

Drink and Watch Your Body Balance

I find this drink calms me down. I feel my body go into a more balanced state. It is gentle and easy on the stomach. From my research, the minerals in the tea feed the nerves and the brain. This high mineral drink supplies the nutrients that our bones and bodies need as we age and from staving off degeneration. Thanks to these wild and weedy herbs!
~Curt

How Alfalfa Cured My Leg Cramps

yes.. humble affordable Alfalfa is a NEW MINERAL HERO!

Dreaded Night Time Leg Cramps

I tend to get these crazy leg and foot cramps at night. When they hit it is unbearable. Leg cramps tend to come at night for some reason. Just when you lay down and start to doze off, BAM!, they hit. Crazy. It is like some sort of horrible torture. I’ve learned it is mainly due to lack of minerals in the body. When the muscles lack minerals they cramp up. Calcium, Magnesium and Potassium are some of the key minerals for muscles. I just recently discovered how alfalfa is full of minerals and has saved me… it also strengthens nerves and bones… read on…

Exercise Can Cause Mineral Loss

One of the reasons I lose so many minerals may be partially due to the fact I work out a lot playing this game called squash. It is an amazing workout. It is so fun that I end up actually working out longer than I reasonably should. I have a hard time quitting. When I am done I have sweated out a lot of minerals and I notice I cramp up. So I have been a bit of a student of finding a solution to this miserable problem! I’ve learned a little about minerals and also workout recovery. Minerals are key to having good nails, hair, skin, muscle, nerve function and when you work out. I usually take a mineral workout recovery drink. I get the kind you can buy in a little pouch and mix it with water from the health food store. (I really like EMERGEN-C ELECTRO MIX) I like that better than gatorade because it has more minerals and no sugars. They work really well for the most part. I also take Calcium and Magnesium, but I have learned that there are 2 kinds of minerals…

Alfalfa Smoothie

Organic vs Inorganic Minerals

Most of the minerals we get in supplements are from inorganic sources. Inorganic sources are like eating rocks. They are minerals, but hard for our bodies to use. And I have learned that they can also cause kidney stones if you take too many. Not fun. ORGANIC Minerals on the other hand are minerals that are from PLANT sources. Because they come from a plant, they are already chelated and broken down to where we can use the minerals better and absorb them better. So, I did a study, and found out that one of the greatest plants when it comes to minerals is ALFALFA! It is full of calcium, magnesium and potassium. It is also a high protein food. Higher per it’s weight than beef! (Alfalfa has 18.9% as compared to beef at 16.5%, milk at 3.3% and eggs at 13.1%) Now I grew up working on a farm in the summers in Idaho. Alfalfa fields are everywhere. I used to like to chew on stems of alfalfa. This may sound a bit funny, but I kind of like the grassy bitter taste. I just had no idea how full of nutrition this common plant was.

Alfalfa History

The benefits of alfalfa were first discovered thousands of years ago by the Arabs. They found that when horses ate alfalfa they were stronger and faster. These peoples then started adding it to their diet and notice they were healthier too! Convinced of its health benefits, they named it “Alfalfa” – meaning “father of all foods.” I would think that alfalfa would feel cool actually to be called that.

I have noticed that my cramps really diminish greatly when I take a alfalfa supplement. I mean, it REALLY HELPS ME. I like to get powdered alfalfa in bulk from the health food store (many companies sell it in powder form in containers) and just add a teaspoon or two into my smoothies. It seems easiest for me to drink it down this way. I also take “Bernard Jensen’s Alfalfa Tablets” (Amazon) but they can be just a tad hard to swallow. This grassy plant has really changed my life. My whole body feels better. Thank you alfalfa. Your a good little plant. Alfalfa has calmed my nerves, relaxed my muscles and is my new mineral hero!

STAY TUNED as I will share in my next blog one more amazing way to AFFORDABLY get ORGANIC MINERALS. I love it as much as alfalfa! I am sure the suspense is unbearable…

~ Curt

ps. As in using any supplement learn about any warnings. For example there are some warnings about taking alfalfa when one is pregnant, experiencing allergies or taking some medications.

Make Your Own Essential Oil Infused Water

Did you know ingesting essential oils could help you curb hunger, lose weight and give you an energy boost?

I have always tried to drink a lot of water. I think it started way back around 1990 when I met a man that studied brain health and delved into ancient Egyptian studies. He explained that the Egyptian word for water was “memnon” and that is also the root word for “memory”. He believed we should try to drink about a gallon of pure water a day for long term brain health. He was passionate about it and explained that our brains are high in water content and that if we flood our bodies with water, our brains would be healthy as we age. I can’t verify his ancient Egyptian theory, but regardless, over the years it motivated me to drink lots of water! So even if his ancient Egyptian stuff was mumbo jumbo, it worked for me! I have noticed that the more water I drink the better I think and feel.

The Challenge 

OK… so now that I’ve said it, I ADMIT sometimes I just don’t like drinking water. Man, I feel bad saying that, but water can be a bit boring. Recently, I came up with a solution. I found a crazy cool way to drink water by making it healthy and delicious with essential oils. Yep, for all of you unsure about ingesting essential oils, it is a life changer! Let me explain how this came to be, and how amazing this is. Trust me, it is incredible!

The Experiment

Over the past few months I’ve been working to create some essential oil blends with my good friend and essential oil guru Lara Wright from the Green Valley Labs in St George Utah. We’ve collaborated in the past to create some fun things with essential oils including the absolute best pain relieving salve (“Muscle Balm”). Over the past few weeks, we discovered that ingesting essential oils in drinking water can help reduce hunger, assist in losing weight and boost energy. We started experimenting with this interesting idea of adding essential oils into drinking water. What we found was amazing!

First, we created a small test group of people to drink a citrus an essential oil blend with water every day. Within a few short weeks we heard reports about both weight loss and other incredible health benefits from this test group.

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Where To Begin

We’ve found the following oils are really good with water: Lemon, lime, ginger, tangerine, orange, peppermint, spearmint and my all time favorite, GRAPEFRUIT.

Starting is easy! Simply buy a small bottle of pure, high- grade and organic grapefruit essential oil and drop a couple drops into your ice water. Stir it up and and sip it down. Note that the oil will somewhat float to the top. It happens. You know what they say, oil and water don’t mix! Don’t let that deter you. Regardless of the floating oil, you’ll notice it still flavors the water perfectly. It isn’t sugary sweet, but a light, refreshing  twist of whatever oil you put into your water. Fair warning, this is addictive! Now instead of forcing myself to drink water, I crave it! I feel more energetic, I want to eat less, and my digestive system feels better.  Please note: Not all essential oils are safe to drink We have found that the citrus oils seem to be safe and effective as well as a few others we use for digestion purposes, which I’ll mention below.

Personally, I think the water bottle you use makes all the difference!  I love Contigo Water Bottles. Having a great water bottle makes all the difference. With this one you can shake up the ice, water and oils and it seems to really mix well. And as I mentioned, you can carry them anywhere without worrying about spilling etc.

The Best Blends 

Lara has created a couple dynamite blends that she is offering to our readers!

They are 15 ml. essential oil sizes, which should last a long time! One is called Citrus Slim  or an amazing Digestion blend that works wonders for anyone with digestion problems. I do and can vouch that it works! Can’t live without it now! As a special thank you to our readers Lara is offering both of these blends at a special rate: $13 for 15 ml – normally $25.  Just use the name GREEN GRAB to get the discount.

Here are the oils she uses for her blends:

CITRUS SLIM: Tangerine, Pink Grapefruit, White Grapefruit, Lemon, Bergamot

DIGESTION: Anise, Fennel, Ginger, Cardamon, Parsley, Clove Bud, Black Pepper, Peppermint, Blood Orange, Oregano, Allspice

Interested in scooping up some of her blends? Just contact Lara contact her through her website: www.greenvalleylab.com. Mention the word GRAB GREEN  to get the special price.

Whichever you choose,  start by adding a few drops to enhance your water. If you think you may have a sensitivity, start with just one drop and add more as you go. Ingesting essential oils allows you to drink more water and reap numerous health benefits all in one easy swig!

Let us know how it works for you. Hopefully you’ll find that like me  you suddenly love drinking water with the added benefits of essential oils!

Love this? I wrote this piece also for our friends at blog.grabgreenhome.com… check out their other great articles and support their great products.

How I Found Hope at Age 22

I’ve always struggled with my health. Since a little kid. I recall memories of being a young boy in the 1960’s stuck in uncomfortable and smelly doctor’s offices. I’ve always wondered why doctor’s offices were so sterile and uncomfortable. Hospitals feel much the same to me. As I grew into my late teens I began to have further health issues. Nothing too serious, till I hit about 20. Then it was like all the wheels just fell off the wagon. I got arthritis, skin rashes, chronic sore throats, coughs, congestion. My digestion went all haywire. I won’t go into details in this article, but let me say I was in bad, bad shape. I was pretty much laid up home bound for over a year. One specialist told me I would be in a wheelchair by age 30. Needless to say, I was scared. Discouraged. I could not believe this was my life! Plus I was in pain and physically felt miserable.

AN AMAZING DISCOVERY

Then, an interesting thing happened to me. My father, Doug Snarr, gave me a book. It was called “How To Get Well” by a naturopath named Paavo Airola. He said, “read this… it is amazing. I’ve been looking into this for you, and I think it could help you”. Now, just having someone encourage me, like my father, was huge. As I read the book, all sorts of lights turned on in my head. What the book explained, is that our food could literally HEAL US. Dr. Airola believed nature was more powerful in most cases than all the drugs and surgery in the world. Now I had exhausted myself with the medical industry… and I had nothing to lose. Something about the book rung true to me. It also gave me HOPE.

For the first time, I believed I could get well! I could not believe how amazing it would be if nature could heal me. It wasn’t expensive. Wasn’t super hard to do. Being a person of faith, I began to believe maybe God had things in control down here more than I had been taught. It dawned on me, maybe God did provide answers to those that were willing to follow simple paths. Maybe we weren’t dependent totally on science and medicine and drugs for our health. I started to get a bit excited about things.

That is what got me on a 30 year path of digging into natural health. But the key was I had hope. I believed it could work. This led me to change my diet and eventually led me back to health! Since then, I have spoken to many many people about their health issues. Friends and strangers. I have learned a couple things.

THE TWO THINGS I HAVE LEARNED

1) PEOPLE usually come in two camps. Those that BELIEVE eating right can make them healthy, and those that DON’T believe it – who just want to rely on their doctor who prescribes drugs and surgery. I usually find out within a couple seconds of bringing up the subject what camp they are in. Either I see a light in their eyes, or a look of total non interest. There isn’t much in between.

2) PEOPLE also come in two other camps. Those that WANT to try, and those who don’t want to try. Some people believe it can help them, but they DON’T want to change. They would rather risk being sick and even dying than give up their pizza and donuts. Others get really excited about it and look forward to changing. It is also very common for a marriage to have one partner in one camp, and the other partner in the other camp. I find this both somewhat amusing and sad, as it can be frustrating for marriages. Food can be a powerful addiction.

I personally WANTED to change. Of course, I had a powerful motivation. Maybe I would not have improved my eating habits if I hadn’t been so darn sick! So I am not being critical. In fact, I doubt I would have changed if I hadn’t NEEDED TO. I am never critical of those that either don’t believe as I do, nor want to change. I leave that to them and their own timing.

HOPE CAN CHANGE US

Once I read the book, I became totally committed. It took time, but I completely overhauled my diet. My health improved rapidly. It really surprised me how fast my body responded! One doctor could not believe my health changes. He was an arthritis specialist. When I explained how I had changed my diet and how I attributed my new health to diet, he became very angry. He scoffed at me… his face actually turned red in anger. I was somewhat flabbergasted! I thought he would share my joy in my new found discovery. I learned to never assume anyone’s reaction again. People’s beliefs don’t change easily – especially in the medical industry.

What I have learned over a lifetime, is that HOPE is critical. It’s not always easy to have by the way. I’ve had times when I have had hope, and times when my hope has been rather shaky. Life will try to break our trust and hope. I’ve found it is critical to somehow cultivate hope that we can be happy. Hope that we have a future. Hope that God loves us. Hope that we can mend our bodies. In fact, HOPE ALONE can actually help us get well- just the emotion alone! It has a powerful energy to it. Our minds will start to heal and our bodies begin to mend when we have the energy of hope running through us. If there is one message I would like to convey, it is that I have hope and a belief that nature can heal us. It will help us decide to feed our families nourishing meals, which is the best health care plan we can buy.

The Easiest and Quickest Way to De-Seed a Pomegranate

I love pomegranates and we have been eating them like crazy at our house. We’ve been fully stocked for at least a month. It really is quite time consuming eating them though. I always cut the pomegranate open and divide it into sections. Then we just pick at the seeds and pull them off one by one. Whew! It takes forever just to eat 10 seeds.

About 2 weeks ago I discovered a video that changed my life when it comes to eating pomegranates. A very clever man shows how to de-seed a pomegranate in less than 2 minutes! I tried it and it is amazing! Basically, you 1- score the pomegranate, 2- open it up so you have 2 halves, 3- take one half in your hand, hold it over a bowl, and hit or “spank” the backside of the pomegranate a few times with a wooden spoon. 4- Voila! The seeds fall out when you spank it and they all fall into the bowl. It’s that simple! Honest, I’ve done it a bunch of times now.

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I’ve been so excited about this new way of de-seeding, that I’ve been telling everyone I know. And I thought that maybe you would like to know too. Here is a link to the awesome video.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jJ7dk9nDR-k

There are a couple tricks that I’ve found very handy if you don’t want pomegranate juice to splatter on you. When you hit the pomegranate seed with your wooden spoon, make sure you do it in the sink. Put your bowl (medium sized) in your kitchen sink and then hit the pomegranate. Also, I highly recommend an apron just incase.

Have fun eating pomegranates!

 

Jodi

Hello!

Hello! I am friends with Curt and Jessica and am very excited to say I will be a new addition to this amazing site. I have been a big fan from day one, and have enjoyed trying the delicious healthy recipes. I am so happy to share some of my favorite recipes with you.

A little about me. In the summer you will find me mostly outdoors playing in the garden, or eating yummy berry popsicles with my daughter (who also loves them equally as much). Inside the house you’ll find a lazy dog snoozing next to my honey, bluegrass music in the distant background, baby cooing, little girl doodling, and me curled up in my favorite chair drinking chamomile tea.

Eating healthy is one of those essential things I’ve found I need in order to feel balanced, and have the energy to keep up with all the demands of everyday life. Trying to make cooking easy and super fun has helped my family continue our journey of nutritious eating.  This is also one of our goals at Dancing Carrots: to provide recipes and tips that will make it easy and fun for you to eat healthy and feel great.

Come along with us on some new culinary adventures, and I’m sure you’ll have some fun along the way.

 

Jodi

 

Speaking of fun… we are going to be doing some contests and giveaways in the near future.  We’ll be giving away groovy kitchen items that we love. Yay! Stay tuned for more info.

 

Goodbye Jessica! and Welcome Jodi!

It has been a fun couple of years working side by side with Jessica, my niece, building Dancing Carrots. It started a few years ago, when I approached Jessica with the idea of working together building an incredible group of healthy recipes, and offering it to the world on our blog. What blew me away is how talented Jessica is. I knew she understood nutrition and loved eating healthy, but I didn’t realize how good of a cook or how talented of a food photographer she was! We could never have gotten to where we are without Jessica! But, with her new baby and her busy schedule, she has had to take some time off and step away from our blog. That said, I want to truly thank her for her amazing spirit, dedication and work to bring our readers the recipes and ideas that we have created so far.

Now, some good news. Jodi is my associate designer in my design firm, Curt Snarr Design. I have worked with her for over 10 years. Jodi is also talented beyond belief. She is dedicated to eating healthy and is also an amazing designer and food photographer! So, (drumroll please), I would like to officially announce that Jodi will step in to help us as my partner now that Jessica has stepped down. What is also very cool, is that Jodi has been working feverishly on a new design for DancingCarrots! Within the next day or so, you will be seeing a brand new facelift for our site! Along with some new direction and exciting ideas coming to our site!

I am still here, and will also provide recipes, health ideas and we will just keep doing what we do to help all of us live healthier lives. Jodi and I are really going to focus in the future on bringing you the best recipes, the best ideas – anything we can that will help us all in our fast paced lives to keep happy, healthy and as balanced lives as we can. The one thing I am hearing more and more are requests for FAST, HEALTHY MEALS that are easy to make. Meals that work for kids and picky eaters. We will work hard to give you some amazing tools to help you create your healthy happy life! I think you will find Jodi’s input will just keep the DancingCarrots momentum going stronger than ever… so stay tuned… for the great things to come!

Signing Out

It is time for me to say goodbye to all of you wonderful readers.  I have loved working on Dancing Carrots with Curt and part of me really wants to stay!

Alas, I have two little girls at home that need me more than Curt & the rest of you do.  I have worked hard to minimize my responsibilities that take my time away from them and I have felt much happier and healthier ever since.  I guess I’ve finally learned my limits.  Cheers to a simpler life!

I’m excited to see what Curt does with the updated site.  I will always be a loyal Dancing Carrots follower not only because Uncle Curt is the BEST, but also because I need more of his amazing recipes!

May we all enjoy a happy and healthy summer.

🙂 Jessica

Creative dinners with your vegetable garden

Harvest Challenge

I love this time of year!  Finally enjoying the fruits of a summer garden is bliss itself.  Especially garden tomatoes.  Yum.  Lately I have made a goal to make the most of harvest time.  The goal is to use fewer recipes and go to the grocery store less often.  INSTEAD – I simply gather whatever ripe veggies I have from the garden and come up with a meal combining those veggies with other ingredients I already have.  It has been quite the creative exercise for me – and lots of fun.  I have found that I really like chard sauteed with potatoes.  A summer succotash of peppers, corn, zucchini, onion, cherry tomatoes, & basil stirred into scrambled eggs and a sharp cheese is absolutely divine for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.  The BCTs were even better that BLTs (I didn’t have lettuce so I used cucumbers instead with my bacon and tomato sandwich).  I plan on typing up some of these recipes to share, so stay tuned!  But even without a recipe – I challenge you to take the produce from your garden or whatever you gather from the farmers market and make something delicious from it.  I bet you will surprise yourself at the wonderful creations that come from your hands!

Smoothie Bible

A shout out to all you smoothie lovers – Holly from SkinnyTwinkie is giving away a smoothie recipe book entitled “The Smoothies Bible.” Hop on over to her site for details on how to enter to win.  Doesn’t a cold smoothie sound soooo refreshing in this summer heat??    -Jessica

Gadget for the Quickest & Easiest Healthy Frozen Treats

Every once in a while I like to highlight one of my favorite kitchen gadgets.  Ones that make eating delicious, healthy food also QUICK & EASY!  This is it.  The Rival 1 1/2 quart Treat Shoppe Electric Ice Cream Maker.  There are other brands of the same concept of course.  I just totally scored with this one because I got it at a yard sale for $2 and it has run perfectly for 4 years already.  Here is how it works:  You store the base in the freezer (Make sure you have some extra freezer space before you buy this because it takes up a fair amount of room).  When you are ready to make some ice cream, frozen yogurt, sorbet, etc you simply take the base out of the freezer, pour the mixture inside, attach the paddle and lid, and plug it in!  In 20 minutes or so, you have perfectly frozen yumminess!  This requires no dry ice, so salt, etc.  After you eat your treat, clean the base and put it back into the freezer so that it is ready for the next time.  Frozen treats bought at the store usually have a crazy mix of additives, not to mention lots of sugar.  Now you can be armed with the tool to create your own healthy versions.  I will be posting some recipe ideas for HEALTHY frozen treats that you can make in this.  Stay tuned for my favorite Tart Frozen Yogurt with Summer Berries recipe in time for the 4th of July!

Fun snacks for kids: ants and butteflies

Healthy & Fun Birthday Party Food!

My little girl turned 3 recently and we had her first friend birthday party.  (It was SO fun!)  I wanted to serve the kids something at least somewhat healthy while they were here and yet a birthday party isn’t a birthday party if the treats aren’t fun and yummy for the kids, right?  So here is what I came up with:

 

Ants and Butterflies on Logs (see above image)

3-in segments of celery with peanut butter spread inside.  Top with raisins and pretzels so that they look like ants and butterflies.

 

24 Chocolate Zucchini Cake cupcakes made into a butterfly

I had to double the recipe to get enough cupcakes.  The frosting is NOT healthy by the way.  They actually taste better without the frosting and I scraped mine off, BUT I couldn’t resist making a cute colorful butterfly.  If anyone has any ideas for doing so in a healthy way, please pass them on!

I got the idea for the butterfly formation on That Sweet Ang

Chocolate zucchini cake made into butterfly cupcakes for kids party

 

A total success!

 

Healthy & fun insect snacks made of celery, peanut butter, pretzels and raisins; chocolate zucchini cake cupcakes for parties. Healthy & fun insect snacks made of celery, peanut butter, pretzels and raisins; chocolate zucchini cake cupcakes for parties. Healthy & fun insect snacks made of celery, peanut butter, pretzels and raisins; chocolate zucchini cake cupcakes for parties. Healthy & fun insect snacks made of celery, peanut butter, pretzels and raisins; chocolate zucchini cake cupcakes for parties.

The benefits of drinking tea

Why You Will Love Herb Teas!


Inexpensive. Healthy. The Flavorful Drink.

What if there was a super healthy drink, with lots of varieties to help assorted health problems, and it was super affordable? The answer is THERE IS! It is herbal and green teas. These often overlooked and humble power beverages are my favorite flavored “snack drinks”. I have really gotten into brewing my own batches of different varieties of herb and green teas. During the day, most people get the munchies and want to either snack on something or be drinking some sort of sugary beverage. I’m much the same, though I have not had soda pop in ages. But I still like to drink something flavorful along with my normal goal of drinking plenty of pure water. The problem is, fruit juices are high in calories. Other flavored drinks are usually high in sugars too. The answer for me has been home brewed herbal and green teas, occasionally sweetened with just a bit of stevia.

 
So Many Benefits 
A few months ago, I talked to my nephew Derek Snarr. He had also, unbeknownst to me, been brewing teas. We collaborated on the healthiness of this affordable drink with it’s wide variety of flavors. We shared our favorite herbal blends and why we especially found green tea to be the overall “if I only had 1 tea” hands down choice. Personally, though, I like to vary the teas I brew. For one, there are a wide variety of health benefits with all the different herbs. And, I don’t want to get burned out on any of them, so I mix it up. We both were laughing at the fact that by brewing your own tea, it is super inexpensive, healthy, and easy to do!

 
Its So Simple.

Derek, however, enlightened me on a brilliant concept. He brews large batches at a time, about a gallon or so, and then puts it in a pitcher and sticks it in the fridge for cool tea during the week. Kind of a one time effort producing a weeks supply. If it is already made it makes it so much easier! I have become a big fan of cold teas. In fact, I like to pour them over ice. I also keep empty smaller glass store bought herb tea bottles, clean them out and refill with my favorite teas and leave them in the fridge. It’s a trick so they are handy when you don’t have time and are on the run. I have my own bottled stash ready to go. Keep making tea simple. Wether it is in a tea pot, or a big pot, just heat water to boiling, and pour over tea (either in bags or loose) and allow to steep. Strain off and you’re good to go!

 

Sweetening the Batch
I have tried adding a bit of honey to my batches of tea. But, I find that it can add a fair amount of calories. You can vary how much sweetener, if any, you want to add. Much of the time I don’t sweeten it at all. But, my personal choice is to add just a bit of the amazing herb STEVIA into the batch. I use the liquid drop concentrate. A couple drops adds just the perfect amount of sweet to the tea, giving it a full body and flavor. If you haven’t tried stevia you are really missing out. I put just enough in that it isn’t hard core plain. Just enough sweet that there is a hint. That’s my way to go.

 

Your New Healthy Snack Drink
One of the FIRST things I suggest you do when you’re changing how you eat, is to kick soda out of your diet, and start brewing tea. Talk about a 180 degree turnaround! Just research the horrible results from our culture drinking all the calories, chemicals and sugar from sodas. One of the BEST things you can do is to start brewing herb teas. Explore the different flavors. It is like drinking a rush of nutrients that taste good! My favorites are chamomile, green tea, jasmine tea, and home grown mint out of my garden. Make a big batch and join the ranks of herb tea fanatics!

Peaceful walking; walk your way to bliss

The Relaxing Workout. Walking. Fresh Air. Meditation. Movement.

Natures most basic workout exercise started when we were just a year or two old. It is like, everyone can do it. While there are a lot of exercise routines, and it is good to get a variety – walking is a great one for sheer simplicity and it’s a great place to start. Personally, I haven’t made walking a full time workout routine but I have totally benefited from it by incorporating it into my other routines. But I know people that have really gotten into it as their main choice of exercise.

 

THE SIMPLE ANYWHERE EXERCISE.

No gym memberships. Think of a quiet time alone with your thoughts. Adding to this is the rhythmic pace of the walk itself. LIke a meditative movement. I don’t want to get all mystical here, but in our hustle bustle day to day society one of the REAL advantages of walking is the somewhat simple slowness of the walking journey. I personally like to walk alone. I am overwhelmed by chatter from the rest of the day so my fragmented soul craves just me and the path. But, I may be a bit of a loner here. Some people are the opposite and enjoy a few fellow walkers to have enjoyable conversation along the way. That’s what makes walking so different is that it has a social/mental aspect to it due to the slowness of the pace. Find a route (preferably with some nature in it). Walk a set time or distance in order to push yourself and enjoy the one step half an hour or so of fresh air and inner transformation.

 

NO HARSH JARRING ON THE JOINTS

Low impact is a huge benefit of walking. Finding the right shoes is critical. Make it comfortable by getting the right clothing too. Plus, choose your own pace. You want to go strong enough to feel a workout, but you don’t have to get frenetic. When you were a young toddler you probably experienced the JOY of standing vertical and the thrill of this new found movement as you scooted along to the near by coffee table. Maybe deep down in your subconscious part of getting back to the simplicity of childhood could be accessed by “remembering” how amazing your personal walking journey can be! I personally like to walk fast enough to get my breath going, but I feel it is important that no matter what, there should be a certain “ease” about it. Like you are thoughtless and lost in the breath and surroundings.

 

NO EXCUSES. WALK YOURSELF TO HAPPINESS!

If you could enjoy the thrill of walking as a two year old there is no excuse to getting in your car every time you need transportation. Get in the habit of exercising every day at least a bit – and at least 2-3 times a week make walking one of the routines. Explore around your area and you may discover the best path for nature that you enjoy. Plug in your iPod and listen to music if you want. Or spend some time alone with God or whatever higher power you get inspiration from. Get your wind going. The fresh air will revitalize you. Mark your progress. I have a friend who has told me over and over his walking for an hour every morning is the BEST part of his day. He gets more inspiration from that time than any other time. Go at least 15 – 30 minutes… Walk Your Way to Bliss!

simple snack recipes

HEALTHY SNACKS can be KEY to YOUR SUCCESS!

They are the little meals between the meals. Lets face it, we all get hungry between meals and we don’t want to get off track. Small, tasty “mini meals” that are nutritious are the key to feeling good in these times. If you don’t have a list of tried and true healthy, portable snacks – you’ll either get really hungry or start wolfing down whatever is close at hand. So, first, make sure you keep it healthy. And, it has to be tasty. Keep them handy and maintain a list of YOUR favorite healthy snacks – then when the time comes, you’ll have healthy ideas at your fingertips. This is a great weapon in the battle of STAYING ON COURSE.

CREATING HEALTHY SNACKS
Get ideas from others, surf the web for ideas, and be innovative. Soon you’ll have some amazingly tasty little healthy mini meals to make your day fantastic. Have fun with it. Some of my favorite times are spontaneous moments when I have broken out combinations of super healthy foods and created mini meals over good conversation. Quick, delicious – around 200 calories or less, an hour or two before lunch or dinner. Take a few moments to enjoy a healthy snack and to keep your blood sugar steady. Studies have shown when you eat small meals throughout the day it is easier on our digestive system. It is also better for your emotions than binging and stuffing yourself, then going without food for several hours.

FAIL TO PLAN AND YOU’LL MOST LIKELY CRASH
If I fail to have healthy snacks around, and allow myself to get too hungry – I MAKE POOR CHOICES. Its WILL POWER versus ADJUSTING TO REALITY. For me, yes, there are times I can be hungry and stick it out and by sheer will power eat like a spartan – and for a day or so, come off victorious. Heck, but let’s get real. How many times have I encountered a moment of stress and I’m groping around for the quickest thing that is edible to chow down on? I have learned from my own experience, and that of watching others, that keeping a little nutritious food in your system (and keeping your blood sugar level) in the LONG RUN staves off BINGING. It is also just a whole lot more enjoyable to be able to eat when you’re hungry!

SOME OF MY FAVORITE HEALTHY SNACKS
Over the next few weeks Dancing Carrots will come to your snacking RESCUE! Our goal is to teach you our favorite healthy snacks! Hey, it’s the least we can do. 😀
We would also love to hear about YOUR healthy creative hunger saving snacks, please share them with us! You may have some delicious ones we’ve never considered. In the meantime, here is a short list to keep you on track:

• Raw Almonds (I have them by my desk all the time – high in nutrients and healthy fats)
• Guacamole & Multi Grain Chips
• Wasa Fiber Rye Crisps w/hummus & cucumber
• Sliced Apple & Peanut Butter
• Sliced Fresh Fruit Bowl – Orange, Pinapple, Banana, Apple
• Greek Yogurt, Fruit & Granola Parfait
• Kashi Whole Grain Crackers w/Laughing Cow lite Cheese Wedge
• Multi Grain Chips & Salsa
• Multi Grain Chips & Hot Bean Dip w/Salsa
• Raw Veggies dipped in Hummus
• Hummus & Multi Grain Chips
• Mozzarella Cheese Sticks & Turkey Rolled up (for the meat eaters)
• Mozzarella Cheese Stick in a stalk of celery
• Edaname & Sea Salt (really good)
• Whole Grain Bagel & Lite Cream cheese
• Small Bowl of Granola & Rice Milk
• Veggies Sliced up with a tasty Dip
• Giant Hamburger with triple cheese loaded with Bacon (No? …just say “No!” You guessed it – just making sure you’re paying attention!)

I can’t stress enough the importance of developing your own family favorites of healthy snacks. Keep building your list. You’ll be happier and you’ll stay your course for a healthier thinner you!

Curt

Recipe Book Blogging for Fishes

Great New Wishes for Fishes Recipe Book

Recently, Curt and I were asked to provide a few recipes to go into an awesome recipe book with 50+ recipes from more than 2 dozen food bloggers, called “Blogging for Fishes”.

This book is intended to raise money for the Fish family- two of their 5 children have an extremely rare inborn disease (called Leaky SCID’S) that has required an unbelievable amount of hospitalization and treatment.

We attended a fundraising dinner for them where we learned more about their history and let me tell you, it was heartbreaking.  No children should ever have to suffer as much as these two adorable little girls have.  It was also very inspiring to see how many people came together to do what they could to help.

You may read the Fish’s story and purchase the “Blogging for Fishes” recipe book in a hard copy or downloadable option (a .pdf version and a version for the iPad/Kindle) here .  100% of the profit goes to the Fish family.

Catch a glimpse into the lives of the Fish family in this inspiring video: The Natalie & Alice Fish Story

We’re honored to have contributed a few recipes to this amazing collection and delighted to help this grass-roots effort in any way, we’re sure you will be too!

STAYING THE COURSE

Achieving a goal is a series of little steps. At times, those small steps feels like you aren’t getting anywhere. And, most of us at times get off the path because of this! To go the long run, and achieve your goals, it is important to change the way you look at things and view those small steps as SUCCESSES. It is also important to REWARD YOURSELF along the way when you achieve small benchmarks on the way up. Mental attitude is SO important as even though we may be succeeding – when we do meet some failure – mentally it is very easy to get frazzled and then we stop.

 

WAYS TO KEEP YOURSELF STEADY

The truth is keeping the course is critical when it comes to eating healthy, because, it is a LIFE LONG JOURNEY! CELEBRATE your small successes! Don’t look at the whole goal as a ALL OR NOTHING thing. Lighten up! Get yourself a buddy to set similar goals and build each other up.  KNOW that you are going to have days of failure. Another way of putting it is ONE step back, and TWO steps forward. Put a picture in your mind of how you want to be. Thin, or strong or some one that has a peaceful mind. Whatever your goal is – allow your creativity to mentally picture it BUT recognize that change is a PROCESS.  Notice the gradual changes that will take place in you after several weeks if you just keep rewarding your small overall successes.  Again, it is important to take the time to begin the process by dreaming of the ultimate goal, BUT the long day by day getting there needs to be one of gentleness to ones self and focusing on the days you SUCCCEED and building on that.

 

Here are some specific TO-DO’S to implement this critical self nurturing of your emotions:

 

1) REALIZE days will happen that are DISASTERS!

2) When you have a GOOD DAY pause and mentally PAT YOURSELF ON THE BACK.

3) Remember, it is a LONG JOURNEY.

4) Take the time to DREAM of the ultimate goal, but realize it isn’t a TOTAL SUCCESS OR TOTAL FAILURE thing… it is a PROCESS.

5) GENTLENESS to one’s self – this is a case where supposed “weakness” is actually “strength”!

6) BUILD A SUPPORT NETWORK of others that care about you and are POSITIVE and have SIMILAR GOALS. This is CRITICAL.

7) READ something small daily that is positive about what you are trying to achieve.

 

Now, be kind to yourself, and REALIZE THAT OVERALL YOU ARE DOING GREAT!

So Easy to Add Live Raw Energy to your Body

Almost everything Americans eat these days has been compromised nutritionally. Empty calories are created when a normally whole nutritious food is tampered with by food manufacturers to make it lighter, sweeter and to tantalize the taste buds by removing the nutrition. Our meals are chemical filled, over cooked, over processed and filled with sugar. Notice the difference in how you feel after introducing good portions of fresh raw fruits and vegetables that are “live”. Raw fruits and vegetables are the simplest purest foods designed for optimal nutrition. They haven’t been tampered with by man.  Uncooked fruits and vegetables have raw energy because they are “live” – supercharged with nutrients and enzymes undamaged by cooking. They are the perfect foods for you to regain your health!

Yesterday I had the great opportunity to hang out with an old friend, Denley Fowlke, who has long preached to me how his life totally turned around when he cut out the “dead” foods and went “raw”! It has been years and he has lived healthy and is aging great. He puts in total live nutrition in his body every day – optimal fuel. He has tons of energy and he says it is super easy to do. While I may not go totally raw myself I know I must get a large portion of my intake from live foods. I feel so much better when I do!

For a simple way to ease into this I have experimented and here is what works for me. Make a commitment to eat 2 raw apples a day. They are portable and a superfood. There is an old saying “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” – those old timers knew what they were talking about. My nephew Justin recently came to me all excited over a new apple he discovered that was super crisp and tasted amazing. It is a “jazz” apple. Id never heard of it! They are delicious! They are my new favorite variety. I try to buy about 10 apples at a time and eat 2 a day for snacks. So easy and what a difference I feel. Then I try to eat some sort of salad for one of my meals each day – though I may add some protein to the salad if I need the extra umph!

Years ago I ran into this friend who had been very overweight. He was a big guy – a house painter. When I met his after not seeing him for a long time I was shocked as he was very thin. I asked him what his secret was. Salads! He said he ate lots and lots of salads and became a super salad maker! He loved it! It can be delicious and the live foods not only shed the pounds they fill you with energy and restore your health! I’m going to continue the live foods direction as I am convinced having a large portion of ones daily food being raw is the healthiest way to go! Over the course of the next months, we will try to share more raw recipes for easy ways to add life to your body with live foods.

Being Choosy about Peanut Butter

Theoretically, peanut butter is a great vegetarian protein source.  It contains lots of protein, fiber, and healthy fats.  It is also convenient – just open the jar and spread.  I say that theoretically it is a great protein source, because it depends on the kind you get.  Here is a quick review of the most common types out there:

Regular-Shmegular kind that is usually on the grocery store shelves:

nutrition facts for peanut butter

As you can see, in addition to peanuts it contains sugar, hydrogenated vegetable oils to prevent separation, and salt.

As much as I don’t love added sugars and processed oils, I prefer this type of peanut butter to the reduced-fat version:

nutrition facts for reduced fat peanut butter

Wow!  Check out that crazy ingredient list.  No, thank you.  I prefer healthy, natural plant fats to that assortment of fillers.

My favorite peanut butter is any all-natural kind.  You know, the kind with just ground-up peanuts with maybe a little salt- such as this:

adams all natural peanut butter

The problem with the all-natural kinds is that the oil from the nuts separates out at room temperature.  This isn’t a big deal, as it only takes a minute to stir it up with a knife and then it can be stored in the refrigerator to keep it from separating out again.  BUT…I have found that storing the peanut butter in the fridge causes it to be harder to spread – kind of like how cold butter is hard to spread.  Just recently I have learned that I would rather keep it in the cupboard to keep the nice silky spreadable texture and re-stir it before each use.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that after the initial stirring, not as much oil separates out, so it is quicker and easier to stir than the first time.  I have to put a knife in it to spread it on my bread anyway, so why not do a quick stir first with the same knife?   If you have never tried an all-natural peanut butter, I challenge you to try it out.  The first time I did I was surprised at how much better the flavor was.  It was pure roasted peanuts with a little added flavor from salt – that wasn’t masked by sugars and added oils.  Cheers to being choosy.

 

The Healing Power of Water

Over the years, I have come to believe the single most important step that would produce the greatest result in ones health, is drinking more water. It is the one thing most people do NOT do. It is also one of the simplest most basic things we can do. I recently visited with a friend whose son had severe asthma. He and his son began studying and implementing the suggestions of one of the most prominent water cure experts in the world, Dr. F. Batmanghelidj. This Dr has had extensive experience with disease and the links to lack of hydration, and claims that most of the problems with asthma can be remedied by super hydration. By drinking one gallon of water a day his asthma disappeared. This doctor has written a great book on the subject of water called “The Bodies Many Cries for Water, and has a very informative website on the subject www.watercure.com. I highly recommend visiting his site and reading some of the information there. It will change your life.

One thing I do which affects my whole day is to drink plenty of water first thing in the morning. Just water. Make it a ritual to drink 2 – 3 full 16 oz glasses of water right off the bat.  Just flood your body with water to power your day on a good start. Your body actually perspires and loses a great deal of water during the night. Hydrating early will  fill your cells with water, and flush out toxins. Your mind will almost immediately synch in and life will begin to pick up. It is super refreshing and it is a way to get a good fourth of your water intake right away. You want to drink as much water during the day as you are able, but a rule of thumb is to drink at least half your weight in ounces – but probably more.

My personal goal is to drink a gallon a day. It isn’t easy to do this. One way for me to accomplish this is I keep a few 16 ounce bottles that were once used for commercial herb teas to devote to water. It is a perfect measuring container, and it has a lid so I can fill them with water and put them in my car, or by my desk – or wherever I go. I also like that they are glass as I don’t like using plastic of any kind if I can help it. I take them in sets of 3. I drink a set then refill them. If I can do that three times during the day, I have my gallon done. A gallon is actually 128 ounces which technically is only eight 16 ounce bottles. So, if I can get 3 sets of 3 in, then I have more than my gallon. I can usually get my first set in within the first hour of waking up. Then I try to get my second one in by noon. And my third in by 5pm. Done. When I do this, I feel more clear headed, stronger, and I can literally feel my my whole body just working better. Do your health a HUGE favor. Try it out. Read a some of the convincing research on water and if you don’t do ANYTHING else, empower yourself with water. Its cheap, easy, and actually kind of addicting in a good way!

Weight Loss Journey. Second Step.

It has been several months since I last posted. I have been so busy! But, I have also learned so much about losing belly fat. I have lost about 20 pounds, and am down to 180 which was my target weight. Success! And it really wasn’t hard… even the longest journey begins one step at a time. Over the next few blogs, I’ll share what I have learned so far. I credit a good friend, Marc Shrueder for coaching me and getting most of the information to me. I had always been thin, until just the last year or so. Losing weight humbled me and yet it is exciting and I would love to share my thoughts on this – though I have a lot to learn still.

 

THE SECOND THING I learned, is that you have to eat lean all day. Little light meals through the day – AND you don’t need as much food as your habits have trained you to eat. The goal is to eat till you are just comfortable. We don’t need more food than that. Once we eat till we feel even slightly uncomfortable – then you run into the problem of gaining weight. Most of our eating is EMOTIONAL. It is comforting to binge on food and brings temporary satisfaction. Go back, and think of your goal of being thin (the first rule) and the motivation and excitement of looking healthy and lean will take over your thinking – and will propel you to success! Then just eat till you have enough so your not weak – every few hours have a small portion of maybe the size of your fist of healthy foods. You will be amazed how much you will enjoy the food, and how you will have plenty of energy and how your body will adapt to where you really don’t NEED that much food anymore! Do NOT gorge on food. Keep your goal in mind. Your body and mind will adjust to where you are totally happy without overloading your digestive system after a few days. Rule NUMBER 2 – EVERY FEW HOURS EAT SMALL MEALS and EAT LIGHT.

 

More to come!

A JEWEL in the world of healthy cookbooks…

Healthy Bread in 5 minutes a Day.  It’s the name of the cookbook, and its TRUE!  Once you get the hang of it, this method of bread making is so so so fast and unbelievably delicious.  The basic gist of it is this:  You mix up a big batch of dough (no kneading required), and keep it in a covered bowl in the fridge.  Then over the course of the next two weeks you can use it as you will to make loaves of artisan bread, flat bread, pizza crust, pita bread,  hamburger buns, bagels, etc.  AMAZING!  (and may I add: much less expensive than buying these high quality artisan breads at the bakery?)  There are a variety of dough recipes all using different grains.  Truly a JEWEL in the world of healthy cookbooks!  If you want to try out the book before buying it, check it out of the library first.

 

Time saving gadget #2: MANDOLINE SLICER

The other time saving gadget that I got for Christmas was a Mandolin Slicer.  I tried researching these on the internet and got overwhelmed because there were so many different brands and types…they all seemed so similar and yet there were great variations of price.  My sister-in-law ended up getting me one that I LOVE!  Its the OXO V-Blade Mandoline Slicer.

And has it saved me TIME?  YES!  Making stir-fries, vegetable soups, oven baked fries, etc is so much less tedious now.  Because lets be honest here – as healthy as vegetables are, they take so much time to chop!

One thing that I have started doing with it is quickly slicing a cucumber, a red pepper, and a couple of carrots and sticking them in an air-tight container in the fridge.  Then as part of lunch and snacks each day, I pull out the container and nibble on them with my two-year old.  It is so much easier to eat more vegetables when they are already sliced and ready to eat.  And making a yummy sandwich like Curt’s Avocado Veggie Sandwich couldn’t be easier when the veggies are already sliced.

If you have any other amazing time-saving kitchen gadgets, please comment and share your knowledge with the rest of us!

 

Time saving gadget #1 – IMMERSION BLENDER

For all that I need to do each day, I spend way too much time cooking.  I briefly considered just eating more frozen meals and eating out more…then I realized – HELLO!  I love cooking and besides – I have turned into a small sort of food snob.  I would not enjoy eating frozen meals and eating out more even if it saved me time because I would feel sick and keep thinking that I could have cooked that better myself.  ha ha…  The solution:  Time saving kitchen gadgets.  I asked for two of them for Christmas this year.  The first one I received was an immersion blender.  I got this because Curt has one and he recommends one for anyone who is a “serious soup creator.”  I don’t know how serious of a soup creator I am, but I do make soups fairly often and I really dislike transferring a big pot of soup into and out of a blender in batches.   Too messy and too time consuming.  The immersion blender has solved my problem!  You just plug it in, stick it into the pot, turn it on, stir the soup with it a little bit and presto!  Smooth textured soup!  I have made two delicious soups with it and have decided it is a fantastic kitchen tool.  Because some things I make in too small of a quantity to justify pulling out the big blender, I also tried the immersion blender with guacamole, hummus, Cesar salad dressing, and home-made mayonnaise.  All turned out great – though I think the guacamole is still easier to make and has a better texture mashed with a fork.  Any other ideas of what to do with an immersion blender?

Healthy Christmas Gifts for the Neighbors

Every year I have a big decision to make about what to give to the neighbors for Christmas.  With all of the sweets already abounding during the holiday season I like to give a food gift that is healthier, yet still fun.  I have given homemade granola, homemade freezer jam, and homemade bread.  This year I have decided to give homemade whole grain pancake mixes.  I got the recipe from King Arthur Flour, and I think it is quite good.  Plus, it is so nice to be able to have the mix in your fridge so that when you want pancakes you can whip some up with very little mess.

I put a cup or two of pancake mix in ziplock sandwich bags, then placed the mix and a copy of the recipe in each cellophane gift bag.  I hope the neighbors like it!

The recipe can be found at

http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/homemade-whole-grain-pancake-mix-recipe

 

 

The Perfect Thanksgiving Dinner…

This year’s Thanksgiving meals (one with each family, right?) were probably my very favorite I’ve ever had.  Why?  AWESOME side dishes.  We always have turkey with cranberry sauce.  We always have mashed potatoes and gravy.  We always have stuffing.  And they are almost always delicious.  What varies from year to year are the side dishes.  The vegetables – yams, squash, green beans, and salad can be prepared in so many different ways.  And how are the traditional methods of preparation?  Usually  with lots of heavy sauces.  For instance:  Candied yams and creamy green bean casserole.  Yes, they are delicious.  But when EVERY dish on the table is heavy, you leave the table….well, heavy.  This year, along side the turkey and mashed potatoes we feasted on green beans almondine, roasted butternut squash, roasted yams with rosemary, a fruit and veggie tray, and a waldorf salad.  Each dish was fresh and flavorful – a great contrast, and therefore a perfect companion, to the other heavier foods served.

One day when I graduate to having Thanksgiving dinner at my home, instead of always going to my parents and in-laws homes, I know just what I will serve.  Here is the menu for my future perfect Thanksgiving dinner:

Turkey with home-made cranberry sauce – no cans!
Mashed potatoes with gravy
Whole grain stuffing or rolls – I really don’t think 2 bread items are necessary
Roasted yams or roasted butternut squash with light seasonings and herbs
Green beans almondine
Waldorf salad

Then for dessert a couple of hours later:
Pumpkin pie
Assorted fruits

It will be a beautiful plate of food with the brightly colored green beans, squash/yams, and cranberries.  It will have a great mix of textures: The crisp waldorf salad and the crunchy green beans almondine next to the soft, creaminess of the rest of the meal.  And what a great blend of tangy, sweet, and savory!

With a menu like this, as long as we eat slowly and enjoy the taste, texture, and beauty of the food we won’t overeat – and therefore we won’t feel sick afterwards.

Any favorite dishes from your Thanksgiving menu?

Craving Chocolate?

My second child was born a couple of weeks ago.  Yay!  I am so grateful that she is healthy.  She is a sweet little baby.  Now that I am no longer pregnant, I am amazed at how much more I can eat!  My stomach space is no longer being squeezed by a baby, I am no longer nauseated, AND I am hungry and/or thirsty almost all of the time since I am nursing.  What’s really strange is that while I was pregnant chocolate and other desserts rarely sounded good to me, but now I am craving chocolate and sweets like crazy!  I am assuming that it is my body’s way of making sure that I’m getting enough calories to feed both myself and my growing baby.  So my current challenge is to make sure that while I am hungry all day and having insane cravings, that I am eating mostly healthy foods.  One thing that is helping me is to drink lots of water.  When I start feeling like I need chocolate, I get a big glass of ice water.  Lots of times, I am really just thirsty and the craving goes away after I drink something.  Another thing that is helping is to eat a little bit of chocolate along with something healthier that will fill me up with nutrients.  For instance, a banana with peanut butter and chocolate chips on it.  Or Curt’s healthy applesauce cookies with chocolate chips in them.  I better not be craving chocolate this entire year of nursing!  One good thing that has come out of this is that I found an AMAZING recipe for pumpkin oatmeal chocolate chip cookies.  I made them whole grain and they are now one of my two all time favorite kinds of cookies!  I will post the recipe soon.

Out-and-about snack ideas

Stephanie, who is a loyal Dancing Carrots follower, submitted the following question:

“I wondered if you had any healthy snack ideas for when you’re out and about. I’m hypoglycemic so I have to balance my snacks with protein and carbs…Any thoughts?”

Yes, I do have some thoughts.

 

It is important to eat when we are hungry between meal times.  Most of us should eat something every 3-5 hours.  Someone who is hypoglycemic or diabetic needs to be especially vigilant about not letting their blood sugar drop too much between meals.  It is a good idea, therefore, for these people to carry snacks with them so that they will be available when needed.

 

So what kinds of snacks?

Stephanie, you are right.  Balancing protein and carbs in snacks is important for all of us, but is especially important for someone who is sugar-sensitive like someone with hypoglycemia or diabetes.  Eating high-carb snacks like candy, cookies, white bread, etc can cause a spike in blood sugar.  What goes up must come down, so after that spike there is a blood sugar drop which makes us feel yucky: sluggish, irritable, etc.  On the other hand, eating a snack which has its carbs balanced with protein, fiber, and/or healthy fats keeps your blood sugar more stable.  The protein, fiber, and fat keep the carbs from leaving your stomach as fast, and from entering the blood stream all at once.  This means that you will also feel full longer.  Snacks with this balance of nutrients also tend to be healthier.

 

Consider the following options:

 

  1. White bread (practically pure carbs)
  2. Whole grain bread (carbs with fiber)
  3. Whole grain bread with peanut butter on it (carbs with fiber, protein, and healthy fat)
  4. A peanut butter and banana sandwich on whole grain bread (carbs with fiber, protein, and healthy fat + a fruit or vegetable which adds more fiber and vitamins/minerals)

 

The peanut butter and banana sandwich on whole grain bread would be the best snack for stabilizing blood sugar, keeping full and satisfied longer, and getting more nutrients.  BTW if you have never tried a peanut butter and banana sandwich, you are missing out.  I love them!  Apparently so did Elvis. You’ll have to google that one.

For someone like Stephanie, who is sugar sensitive, you may or may not be able to tolerate bananas and bread in the same snack since bananas are a high-carb fruit.  If you feel that spike and drop in blood sugar when eating this, instead of the banana include a different fruit or vegetable.

 

To summarize – there are 3 rules of healthy snacking:

1 – Choose a complex carbohydrate (whole grain item) and balance it with some             protein and/or healthy fat.

2 – Include a fruit or vegetable as much as possible.

3 – Minimally processed foods should outnumber highly processed foods.

 

 

Here are some out-and-about snack ideas that don’t require refrigeration for someone who is sugar sensitive and needs to carry some easy snack foods with them.

 

  • Peanut butter sandwiches (can also use tortillas and pitas for variation)
  • Ants on a log (celery with peanut butter and raisins)
  • Whole grain cereal
  • Granola (choose a kind lower in sugar)
  • Whole grain crackers
  • Granola bars (choose ones with lower sugar, whole grains, and with minimally processed ingredients)
  • Pita bread with “hummus to go” (hummus that is shelf stable and in individual serving packaging)
  • Whole grain muffins (choose ones lower in sugar)
  • Healthy cookies (check out Curt’s recipe in our archives – oatmeal applesauce cookies)

 

 

These things could be made in large batches at home and then packed in individual ziplock baggies to bring with you each day:

Trail mixes with nuts, seeds, and dried fruit

Chex mixes

Lightly seasoned popcorn

Spiced and/or roasted nuts

 

Whole fruits and vegetables like apples, carrots, clementines, sugar snap peas, and grapes can be kept in the car or a purse throughout the day to accompany other snack items.

 

Nuts, seeds, soy nuts, and nut butters are the easiest high protein items I can think of that can be mixed and matched with other snack items and that don’t require refrigeration.  If you won’t be out more than a couple of hours you could bring some greek or low-fat yogurt, cheese sticks, hard boiled eggs, or cottage cheese.

 

 

 

I hope this helps, Stephanie!

 

 

Butter vs Margarine – the great debate continues…

Margarine used to be considered healthier than butter because it contained less saturated fat, which was associated with heart disease.  A few years ago, however, it was discovered that *SURPRISE!* margarine was actually more harmful to our hearts than butter because of the TRANS fats it contained.  TRANS fats come from taking vegetable oil (healthy) and altering its chemical structure in a lab (not healthy) to make the oil solid so that it is similar to solid butter fat.

Since this discovery, margarine has not fallen off the market, and in fact there are a lot more variations of it to try with their varying pros and cons attached.  Consider just a few of the following butter and margarine products available:

Regular Butter:
1 Tbsp = 11 g fat, 7 of which is saturated; 0 trans fat; 30 mg cholesterol
Ingredients:  cream

Stick Margarine (Land o Lakes brand):
1 Tbsp = 11 g fat, 2 of which is saturated; 2.5 g trans fat; 0 cholesterol

Ingredients:  Liquid Soybean Oil, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Water, Buttermilk, Contains Less Than 2% Of Salt, Soy Lecithin, Sodium Benzoate (Preservative), Vegetable Mono And Diglycerides, Artificial Flavor, Vitamin A Palmitate, Colored with Beta Carotene (Provitamin A).

Smart Balance margarine spread:
1 Tbsp = 9 g fat, 2.5 of which is saturated; 0 trans fat; 0 cholesterol

Ingredients:  Natural Oil Blend (soybean, palm, canola, and olive), water, whey, salt, natural and artificial flavor, vegetable monoglycerides and sorbitan ester of fatty acids, soy lecithin, vit A, vit B6, vit B12, vit D, vit E, lactic acid, beta carotene color, potassium sorbate and calcium disodium EDTA (preservatives)

Brummel and Brown margarine spread:
1 Tbsp = 5 g fat, 1.5 g of which is saturated; less than .5 g trans fat; insignificant amount of cholesterol

Ingredients:  water, vegetable oil blend (soybean oil, palm oil, palm kernel oil, canola oil), salt, gelatin, nonfat yogurt, soy lecithin, vegetable mono and diglycerides, potassium sorbate, calcium disodium EDTA (preservatives), lactic acid, artificial flavor, vit A, beta carotene (color).

Spreadable Butter with Olive Oil or Canola Oil (Land o Lakes brand):
1 Tbsp = 10 g fat, 4 of which is saturated; 0 trans fat; 15 mg cholesterol
Ingredients:  cream, olive or canola oil, salt

There are pros and cons associated with each of these products.  For instance:

  • Stick butter or stick margarine is best for baking
  • Any of the tubs of margarine or spreadable butter are nice and easy to use for spreading
  • The margarines are less expansive than the butters
  • The margarines have less saturated fat and cholesterol than the butters since they are made predominantly or entirely from plant oils instead of animal fats
  • The margarines usually have trans fats since they are needed to make the plant oils behave more like butter.  The few that don’t have any trans fats have other ingredients  added that give similar qualities.
  • The butters have only 1-3 ingredients, all natural and recognizable, so there is little risk of finding out later that something in them is harmful like trans fats have been discovered to be.  Whereas the margarines have many ingredients and preservatives.

Depending on what your nutritional philosophy is and how your taste buds register each of these choices, you may or may not agree with what I choose to buy.  But here is what I use:

I use regular stick butter for baking and I use spreadable butter with olive oil for spreading.  I like the taste, I use them only moderately, and I feel good about their natural quality and lack of trans fats.

Popcorn is…..HEALTHY!!

Ok – not all popcorn is healthy.  It certainly depends on what you put ON it, right?  But plain popcorn is a pure whole grain.  3 cups popped = one of your servings of whole grain for the day.  And if you are munching on 3 cups of popcorn, that means that you aren’t munching on 3 cups of m&ms.  Here are some ideas for making our popcorn yummy without turning it into a less healthy treat:

  • Olive oil and a little bit of salt (sounds weird, I know, but it is actually my favorite way of having popcorn now.  The olive oil has a great flavor!)
  • Olive oil, and a little bit of curry powder and salt
  • Agave nectar and salt (tastes like kettle corn but you can control your own level of sweetness)
  • Olive oil and parmesan cheese
  • Olive oil and garlic powder or garlic salt
  • I hear hot sauce is good – I’m not a huge hot sauce fan, so I wouldn’t have an opinion
  • Make a mix with popcorn and nuts

An alternative to drizzling with olive oil is spraying the popcorn with an oil spray that the seasonings can then stick to.  I haven’t tried this since I like the taste of the olive oil, but I hear it works well.

Any other suggestions?

Healthy and Delicious Office Snacks

My husband came home from work today with a great blog-post idea:  A list of snacks that could be left out all day at the office without refrigeration.  At his work, when there is  a special occasion and someone brings food to share for everyone to munch on throughout the day, it is almost always unhealthy because they don’t have a fridge in their work space anymore.  Think:  donuts, cookies, candy, potato chips.

Here is my list of healthier food options that he could bring next time:  

Dried fruit – Costco has a really yummy mango/berry blend
Mixed nuts/seeds
Pistachios
Whole grain crackers with peanut butter, jam, or some Laughing Cow (shelf-stable brand) cheese
Popcorn!  –  It is a whole grain and depending on what you put on it, very healthy.
Whole fresh fruits like apples, clementines and bananas that are easy to peel & eat
100% juice boxes
Granola bars – Kashi brand bars are less like cookies and have lots of whole grain
Larabars
Fruit leather
Yummy fresh bakery bread with jam or almond butter
Pita chips

Another thing to consider is that even though you may not want certain foods like salsa, sliced cheeses, and veggie trays to be out ALL day – you could have them out for a few hours without risk of food borne illness.  Keeping this in mind, chips and salsa, crackers and a cheese platter, and a veggie tray would all be good options that would last a few hours and when they are gone, you could pull out the popcorn and fruit/nut mixes.

Not only are these options healthier than donuts and candy, I think they sound much yummier and more satisfying!  Hope this helps.  Any other ideas?

Captain Vegetable – Hero or Villain?

Captain Vegetable – Hero or Villain?

For Halloween this year, I was Captain Vegetable.  ONLY my mom knew who I was.  Does no one else remember Captain Vegetable from Sesame Street?  Perhaps I remember him only because I thought he was terrifying.  No, he did not motivate me to eat more vegetables.  Actually, as an adult watching his clip on Sesame Street, I think he could scare kids into NOT liking vegetables!  He not only looks scary and has a somewhat creepy sounding song, but he actually makes a kid’s pile of candy disappear and replaces it with a huge plate of carrots and celery.  Traumatizing…   Here is the link to watch Captain Vegetable in action. Its pretty entertaining 🙂   Enjoy!

 

The Freezer: Our Friend

I love my freezer.  It is so much easier to make spur-of-the-moment healthy meals when you have some key foods always available in your freezer.  So what do I always keep in mine?

Frozen fruit (at least bananas and berries) and orange juice concentrate- for smoothies.  Serve a smoothie with a bowl of oatmeal or a piece of toast for breakfast. What could be easier?  We ALWAYS have smoothie ingredients on hand.

Whole wheat hamburger buns and veggie burger patties  – If I ever find myself without anything to serve quick for lunch or dinner (not even sandwiches because I’m out of bread!)  I know that I can always fall back on my frozen veggie burgers.

Frozen vegetables (usually corn, peas, and broccoli) – These are a must.  They are so easy to microwave and then add to your lunch or dinner as a side dish if you are out of fresh veggies.  They are also great to add to pastas or soups or as toppings on a baked potato.  Sometimes chopping and cooking fresh veggies just takes too long.  If you are having a day like that, don’t go without vegetables.  Simply fall back on your frozen ones.

What do you always keep in your freezer?

Puffed Grains – The Miracle Baby and Toddler Snack

Cheerios are a pretty good snack that most babies/toddlers love.  Very low sugar, mostly whole grain, and provide very little mess!  The second ingredient in Cheerios, however, is “modified food starch” which provides minimal if any nutritional value.  It’s pretty much a filler that adds to the texture of the finished product.

SO, when I discovered puffed grains at my local health food store I had to try them out on my little one.  And the consensus was…..she loved them!  Arrowhead Mills makes puffed cereals made from wheat, rice, millet, kamut, and corn.  They are all 100% whole grain, organic, and have no other ingredients added.  Just pure grains!  My daughter’s favorite is the puffed kamut.  I love hearing her ask for “puffs” because she has no idea that she is asking for health food.

This is the description of kamut off the Arrowhead Mills website:  “Kamut (kah-moot), the “Great-Great Grandfather of Grains”. Derived from the ancient Egyptian word for “Wheat”, this high-energy grain was discovered thousands of years ago. With kernels two to three times the size of its modern relative, Kamut delivers rich flavor and great nutrition for a valuable addition to any diet.”

They are easy to munch, don’t pose a choking hazard, don’t make a mess, and are yummy even without salt or sugar.

Hope your kiddies like them as much as mine does.

A Favorite Kitchen Gadget

About a year ago I purchased one of my favorite kitchen gadgets:  A digital food scale.  I am super cautious about buying new kitchen gadgets because I consider myself a minimalist and don’t want things cluttering up my life unless I use them often.  I am actually surprised at how often I use my scale and how much I enjoy doing so.

Before the food scale I did a lot of estimating in recipes, which usually worked fine.  But sometimes I really didn’t know how to estimate well.  How much is 5 oz of swiss chard??  If I bought it at the store, I could weigh it there, but what about if it was from my garden?  And even if I wasn’t going to follow a recipe exactly, I still liked knowing a correct reference point so that I was at least AWARE of what changes I was making.  The food scale has also come in handy when baking with a cookbook I have that is Australian.  Yes, Australian.  It was a gift, and I actually quite like it.  The only problem was that it would take me forever to convert all the grams of ingredients into cups and tablespoons….  Now that I can simply weigh my flour, sugar, etc. I love how fast the recipes are to prepare AND there is something super cool about knowing that you have the EXACT amount of flour – to the tenth of a gram!

Anyway…If you don’t already have a digital food scale, this purchase just may change your cooking life like it has changed mine 🙂  I got mine for $20 or so at Bed Bath and Beyond.  I’m sure you could pay more and get an even better one.

Jessica’s Opinion Corner: Denmark’s Fat Tax

Recently, Denmark’s “fat tax” went into effect, which in essence raises the price of foods with a high saturated fat content.  They have already banned the use of trans fats and have placed taxes on sugary foods like soda and candy.  An interesting idea, don’t you think?    There are certainly pros and cons of such a system and I am interested in seeing how things play out for them in the long run.

The pros?  People really may be motivated to buy healthier foods if they become relatively less expensive.  I truly believe in preventative health and the power of healthy eating to increase the quality of life through aging.  A decreased consumption of unhealthy foods across the United States could have far reaching effects including longer life spans, less chronic disease, a decreased burden on the health care system, greater happiness!

The only con I can think of would be the possible increased hardship on low income individuals and families who tend to buy cheap fatty foods and who may not have much access to healthier foods.

BUT consider what could be done with the funds from such a tax:  Some speculate that a penny per ounce tax on sugary sodas alone would raise $10 billion a year.  That is a lot of money that could be used to provide low income neighborhoods with local grocery stores to give them access to healthy foods.  The funds could also be used to help subsidize the health care system and to support national campaigns for healthy eating and anti-obesity efforts.

Cigarettes were taxed, and that seemed to be a successful way of discouraging U.S. citizens from destroying their health.  I think a “unhealthy food tax” on highly processed, fatty, and sugary foods is worth a shot.

What do you think?

Deceptively Delicious? To Trick or Not to Trick your kids?

I have mixed feelings about Jessica Seinfeld’s (Jerry Seinfeld’s wife) popular cookbook.  It is called Deceptively Delicious, which is a very appropriate name because the recipes are foods that kids like – such as cookies and cakes- but are made with hidden fruit and vegetable purees.  I get that parents can be desperate to make sure that their kids are getting good nutrition.  What concerns me about this way of going about it is that if kids aren’t SEEING that they are eating fruits and vegetables, they don’t KNOW that they are.  Therefore, they can grow up getting the vitamins and minerals they need from hidden purees, but never learn to ENJOY eating fruits and vegetables.  They can grow up into an adult who still only likes “kid food” and will not continue their mother’s habit of sneaking purees into it.  Tricking your kids into eating hidden healthy foods is a short term solution for a problem that if not correctly handled can have long term consequences.

A better alternative?  I am not completely against the idea of using fruit and vegetable purees in cooking.  I say – go for it.  But then if your kids like the recipe TELL THEM afterwards what was in it.  My mom used to make my brothers and I “Chocolate Zucchini Cake” (the recipe is on our website).  We loved the fact that there was zucchini in it because it sounded so gross to our friends, and yet we knew how yummy the finished product was – and that it was so yummy BECAUSE of the zucchini.

I am also an advocate for serving fruits and vegetables that kids can SEE at every meal.  Even if they don’t currently like them, just having a little bit on their plate consistently can go a long way in helping them eventually nibble on them and then one day deciding that they like them after all.  There is no need to force a child to eat healthy foods – just consistently place them in front of them in a positive fashion and be patient. Its ok if they don’t eat them.  If you are worried about wasted food, you can eat their leftovers (preferably in front of them so they can see how much you like their broccoli). One day they will most likely eat what YOU eat.  So, what are you eating?  Perhaps paying attention to that is the most important thing you can do for your kids’ long term nutritional habits.

Does anyone have a favorite recipe with hidden fruits or vegetables in it?

The Discovery of an Awesome Egg

Think all eggs are the same?  Think again.  Depending on what a chicken is fed can greatly determine what the nutritional content of her eggs will be.  The ideal situation would be to have your own chickens where you could control exactly what they were eating and have super fresh eggs whenever you wanted them.  Someday I would love to have my own chickens!  But until then, I have discovered a second-best alternative:  the EGG-LAND’S BEST brand of eggs.  The chickens producing these eggs are fed an all-natural, all-vegetarian diet containing only healthy grains, oil, rice bran, kelp, alfalfa meal, and Vitamin E.  The chickens are also never given hormones or antibiotics.  The result:  Eggs that have less cholesterol, 25% less saturated fat, twice the level of omega-3 fatty acids, twice the amount of Vitamin D, 3 times the amount of Vitamin B12, and over 10 times the Vitamin E of most “regular” eggs.  If you eat eggs very often, this can amount to a big nutritional difference!  I was so excited when I discovered these.

Egg-land’s best eggs also have cage free and organic varieties with the same nutritional benefits as their standard egg.  I have seen this brand of eggs sold at most of the grocery stores near me, so hopefully you can find them as well!

The Joy of Garden Tomatoes

The harvest season is almost over for my garden.  It’s always a little sad knowing that I will soon have to go back to buying store-bought tomatoes.  We had a long, wet spring this year- hence planting late and not having quite enough sunshine to get things going.  Most of the garden failed, so I feel fortunate that my very favorite crops still came through for me fairly well:  tomatoes, basil, and summer squash/zucchini.

Seriously, what is better than a fresh garden tomato?  Ok – a fresh garden tomato with fresh mozzarella and fresh basil 🙂  Yum.  This was my favorite treat this summer and I made it repeatedly.

I planted several varieties of tomatoes and this year my favorite was a yellow cherry tomato called “SUNSUGAR.”  They are a beautiful golden color and their sweet flavor is incredible.  I will definitely be planting these every year from now on.

I didn’t have great success with the big, slicing tomatoes this year.  Do any of you readers have a favorite big, juicy slicing tomato that you planted?  Or any other favorite crops?

Eating Well during Pregnancy

I am currently expecting my second child – due this month!  So I thought that before the baby is born I would blog about some things I have learned that have helped me eat better during pregnancy.  Everyone’s pregnancies are different, so my experience may be different from yours, but I hope that some of the strategies I found for eating well during this time can help you or someone you know.

Getting good nutrition during pregnancy is super important for both the mother’s and the baby’s health, and I’ll be the first to say that its not always easy to achieve it.  At least in my experience, my body is so different during pregnancy that I needed to come up with all new strategies of eating well – and those strategies needed to change a couple of times during the 9 months, since my body kept changing.

The first half of my pregnancy:  SICK.

It was certainly hard for me to get good nutrition when I had difficulty keeping food down and the thought of preparing or eating food made me nauseous.  Strategies I found that worked for me during this time are:    

Telling my doctor how sick I was and getting on anti-nausea medication as soon as possible.  Ondansetron (Zofran) is fairly new (the generation before mine never had access, and I pity them).  In my book- it is truly a miracle drug.  Minimal if any side effects, and as far as we know now – no potential harm to the baby.  In my book – any possible cons of taking this drug during pregnancy are outweighed by the super big pro of being able to get some food down.  Babies need good nutrition to develop properly, which may not happen if you are throwing up too much.

Getting enough fluids.  Dehydration can compound nausea.  I got super dehydrated at one point and it was amazing how much better I felt after I got some IV fluids.  Don’t wait until you get to that point.  Make sure to at least get fluids down.  Fluids with nutritional value such as milk and 100% fruit and vegetable juice can also really help you get come calories, vitamins and minerals, if you can keep those down.

Getting access to foods that I didn’t have to prepare myself.  Get help from family or friends.  Spend some extra money to get already prepared foods and/or go out to eat.  Not having to think about what to prepare, and not having to smell or be around the food too long really helped me to be able to eat more.

Eating gummy or chewable vitamins.  These often stayed down better.  Try to get ones that still have folate, as folate is super important during the first part of pregnancy.

Making a big effort to get solid food down.  At least for me, it was much less nauseating to eat things like fruit, yogurt, and other soft, sweet things.  Yet I found that if I could get down some more filling, substantial, solid foods (like bread, potatoes, eggs, etc) my nausea would go away for a while.  Some ways I was able to achieve this were to: Start with eating the easy, soft foods and then slowly progress to the more substantial ones;  Distract myself while eating by reading or watching something that was interesting to me;  When I did throw up, eat something substantial right afterwards while I still had a little window where I was less nauseous.

For me, the second half of pregnancy is much easier.

The focus then shifts from me just trying to get ANYTHING down to eating a really healthy, balanced diet.  Of course there are some differences from how I normally eat:

Eating small frequent meals.  As the baby gets larger, I have less and less space for food in my stomach.  Even when I am really hungry, I feel full after not eating very much.  And then I get hungry again much quicker than expected.  That’s ok and normal.  I just plan on eating 5-6 smaller meals evenly spaced throughout the day.

Focusing on fiber, fluids, and exercise.  Not only do foods with natural fiber (like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains) contain lots of healthy nutrients for you and the baby – they also help prevent constipation.  Getting enough fluids and regular exercise also help with this.  I have found that I feel better all the way around anyway, (less achiness, more energy) when I focus on getting enough fiber, fluids, and exercise.

Waiting a while after eating before going to bed.  Can help with heartburn.  Though I find that I still need TUMS when I lay down at night.

Avoiding the “no-no during pregnancy” foods:  Cold cut deli meats, cold hot dogs, raw or undercooked eggs/meat/fish, fish with high mercury levels (shark, sword fish, tile fish, and king mackerel), unpasturized milk/cheeses, and of course alcohol.  Eating these foods during pregnancy can potentially cause big problems to the unborn child – including miscarriage.  They should be avoided during the entire pregnancy.

Focusing less on the amount of weight gained and more on eating really healthy.   I was paranoid about this during my first pregnancy, because no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t gain “enough” weight.  Fortunately my current OBGYN has assured me that it doesn’t matter how much weight I gain as long as I am eating regularly and getting good nutrition.  Bless him.  There is a healthy weight gain range published for pregnancy.  Gaining 25-35 lbs during the course of the pregnancy is recommended for those beginning at a normal/healthy pre-pregnancy weight.  However, this is a guideline, not a rule.  Every body is different, and some people are not able to gain that much – even if they try.  Others may have great difficulty only gaining that much no matter how hard they try.  So here is my advice.  Pay attention to the rate of your weight gain compared with this standard.  If you are gaining less – make sure that you are eating enough.  Eat regularly throughout the day and every time you feel hungry.  If you are gaining more- make sure that you are not filling up on high calorie foods with little nutritional value.  Many pregnant women crave ice cream and brownies and could eat lots of those – excluding the healthy stuff.  Some treats are fine – just make sure they are treats, meaning that they happen occasionally and are not a staple in your diet.  If you are truly eating a good amount of healthy food – especially lots of fruits and veggies and whole grains, you shouldn’t need to worry about how much weight you gain.

Do you have any tips that have helped you eat better during pregnancy?  If so, please comment!

Kids Love to DIP!

I had heard before that kids love dipping their food into sauces.  But I never really realized the health-power of this phenomenon until now.  My 28-month old daughter has recently gotten into dipping – and it is remarkable what I can get her to eat now.  It first started with her dipping a corn dog into ketchup.  Not so healthy, right?  But then she started asking for ketchup to dip her carrots, cucumber, watermelon, etc into.  I was hesitant at first, but then realized that the amount of fruit and vegetables she was eating was doubling and tripling as long as she could dip them into ketchup.  Ranch dressing soon became another favorite dip.  Today I discovered that if its DIPPING that kids like – it might not matter too much what kind of dip it is.  Watermelon doesn’t exactly go with ketchup, right?  And she liked that.  So I might as well try some healthier dips.  Today I pulled out marinara sauce for the veggies, pasta, and bread to get dipped into.  She was hesitant at first because it was new, but then got right into dipping (and right into eating all her food groups!)  Next on my list to try as dips:  peanut butter and yogurt.  Try out the dipping idea!  I would love to hear about how it works for your kids.

 

 

Jessica’s Opinion Corner: My thoughts on MyPlate.gov

 

In June, First Lady Michelle Obama unveiled the federal government’s new food icon, MyPlate.  If you haven’t seen it yet, here it is above.  My opinion:  FANTASTIC!  Just at a glance you can see that if your plate is about 1/2 fruit and vegetables, 1/4 grains, and 1/4 protein you will be getting a balanced meal.  Much simpler than the old pyramid icon and you don’t need to worry about keeping track of all the servings/day.  Of course, a larger person would usually require larger portions of each food group than a smaller person, but that is something that can be determined on a personal level much more effectively than by making a blanket statement about portion sizes.

This method of using a plate icon to guide food choices isn’t new.  I have been using this in my practice as a dietitian for a few years.  It is called “the plate method.”  And I really believe it works.  I also use it as a guide when I prepare meals myself.  If I am planning on making a casserole, I look at the recipe and make sure that it contains both protein (beans/meat/etc) and whole grains.  If it contains some vegetables, I plan on serving it with a side salad.  If it doesn’t contain vegetables I either modify the recipe and add some to it or I serve smaller portions of it along side a salad and some other vegetable side.  The idea is that whatever meal is served to your family has the approximate proportions of 1/2 fruit/vegetables, 1/4 lean protein, and 1/4 grains (whole grain as much as possible).

The only real qualm I have with MyPlate is that the icon implies that dairy must be a part of every balanced meal.  This simply isn’t supported by research.  The only necessary nutrient that dairy products contain that wouldn’t always be covered by the other food groups is calcium.  So in my opinion:  don’t feel like you have to have a glass of milk, cheese, yogurt, or ice cream with every meal.  Just make sure you are getting enough calcium.  Calcium can be found in a variety of foods, including:
dairy products
dark green leafy vegetables – like broccoli and kale
fish with soft bones you can eat – like sardines & canned salmon
calcium-fortified foods and drinks – like soy milk, tofu, cereal, and fruit juices
In general, one serving of any of these foods will provide 300-400 mg calcium, which is about 1/3 of the amount of calcium required by most people.  So just choose any 3 of these foods per day and you should get enough!

Goodbye pyramid, hello plate!

Weight loss journey. First step.

Once i realized i had about 20 pounds around my waist, I became passionate about getting back to when I was really healthy. The first step – of any venture – is getting your head straight and to get positive about hitting a goal. I SAW myself thin. I BELIEVED I could do it. Others had done it. I literally got pictures of myself when I was thin and looked at them every day for motivation!  VISUALIZE your ideal picture. FEEL it pulling you. What is a miracle is that answers will come to you – as you infuse your subconscious with a magical vision of your positive future reality.  Your body literally becomes programmed with this new excitement.
To take it a step further I began to notice people in my age bracket who looked at the right weight. THAT was the category I wanted to be in. I thought myself into that group. BUT I was still 20 pounds overweight!  I had set a positive goal however!

The second step and hard truth I had to face was I was EATING TO MUCH. Even though it was mostly very healthy food. Home cooked and everything. But often when finishing a meal I felt very full. Too much at one meal. In my next blog I’m going to share my experience of an amazing lunch meeting, where a friend and nutritional expert changed my life with one piece of advice. More to come!

My experience with losing 25 pounds

I’ve always eaten healthy and have been fortunate to be pretty thin all my life. I took it for granted. When I got into my late forties I hit a metabolic wall. What? I started slowly gaining weight especially around my belly. It crept up on me rather stealth like. Before I knew it I was battling with belly fat and had almost hit 200 pounds!
Wow! I was eating healthy and working out like crazy but in the mirror I saw something was wrong! I was passionate about getting thin. After all I teach people about eating well and being healthy. Plus I knew that packing excess weight not only slowed me down but was not healthy.
I took action. I spike to a dear friend who is a health guru. We met at a little cafe and he laid the law down for me. I looked at him and he lived his theory. He was thin and fit. He lost 50 pounds when he had the same reality years ago. Over the next few blogs I am going to share some amazing healthy lifestyle ways that easily produced the results I needed. I’m so excited. They are healthy and I’m going to live them as I’m going to keep thin as a lifestyle. First rule: Get a mental picture the ideal thin you!  You have to have a target and a mental image and FEEL the emotion of how GREAT you will feel WHEN you succeed. Not if, when! More to come…

Easy Buttermilk Substitute

I was making a recipe that called for buttermilk a couple of days ago, and was so grateful for a tip I have learned along the way – because who wants to make a trip to the store to buy a quart of buttermilk when you really only need a cup or two?

What to do: 
When you see that the recipe calls for buttermilk, pull out whatever kind of milk you prefer (skim, 2%, whole – it doesn’t matter) and some lemon juice.  For each cup of buttermilk called for, use 1 cup milk and 1 Tbsp lemon juice (vinegar can also be used, but I usually prefer the taste of lemon juice).  My recipe called for 2 cups of buttermilk, so I got out a liquid measuring cup and put 2 Tbsp lemon juice in the bottom.  Then I added milk to the 2 cup line.  It needs to sit for about 5 min. for the acid in the lemon juice to work its magic, so during this time you can pull out the other ingredients you need or start working on a different step of the recipe.  When you are ready to use the “buttermilk” you will notice that it has turned lumpy – this is because the acid in the lemon juice denatures the protein in the milk.  The recipe will turn out just like if you had used real buttermilk.  You will never need to buy buttermilk again!

 

~ Jessica

Quick Meals

My life, like most everyones, is getting super busy and hectic. I’m finding that one has to be almost ruthless to cut back and to simplify. It is a battle of hand to hand combat for sanity somedays! Not to get all melodramatic, but it seems that we are having to really choose between a lot of important choices and if we cut something out, it is still something valuable and important. But, one can’t do it all.

One of the helpful tricks is to have a LIST of tried and true HEALTHY SUPER FAST MEALS for times when one must just get something out on the table fast. Try something out, and if it works, keep it on your list. Scour recipe books and keep your eyes open for things that come across your way. This could be one of those things that keep you from being overwhelmed on those crazy days.

I’d like to share one of my recent creations that I whip up. It is super easy, but when I serve them up, they seem to be a hit. I have been trying different “Veggie Burgers” on the market. I like many of them. Costco has a Black Bean burger, and man, they are good. Sure one can make your own, but when it comes to speed finding quality frozen ones work best. What I do to make them snazzy, is I throw the frozen burger in some olive oil on my cast iron skillet. (Love cast iron as it gives a nice crust to the burger, and actually gets iron in your blood!) If you don’t have cast iron, no worries, use a standard skillet. I slowly brown one side, then flip it over. As the second side is browning, I add some cheese to the top… (last night I made one with gouda, swiss and a hint of gargonzola) then cover the skillet with a lid keeping the heat trapped in. This creates an oven effect melting the cheese on the burger. Let that melt over the burger then I serve them topped with fresh avacodo, sprouts and salsa. I don’t even use a bun. Just plain. Easier, less carbs, and you can pile the fresh stuff on high!  Be creative and see what you can top them with, or how you can snaz them up.

I plan on finding more fast quick meal solutions and will continue to post them. They could be the difference between your life running smoothly or getting bogged down in one more thing on your list that you have to choose from. 🙂

Curt

Twitter

We are now officially on Twitter, so don’t forget to follow our tweets!

http://twitter.com/#!/dancingcarrots

 

Eat Light. Feel Great!

Some pearls of wisdom here based on experience. Light, even meals, throughout the day – enough that you don’t get too hungry is a KEY to health. From my personal experience feeling a tad light or barely hungry through the day feels good. Small, nutrient dense meals, that keep you just satisfied is optimal health. And, I have found that once you get into a habit of light tasty nutritious meals, your body feels energetic, balanced and whole. Ones body will find an optimal weight because you aren’t burdening it down with heavy meals. Going a “tad” hungry also seems to reset the metabolism, like burning lean efficient fuel. I emphasis, that one of the keys is eating NUTRITIOUS small meals. Get foods into your body that are quality, that feed the brain, and that have the minerals and nutrients so that the small to moderate amounts of food you eat will make you feel fantastic. Small powerful meals. Your brain will feel better. Your body and soul will rejoice!      🙂

Kicking the Sugar Habit

Lets face it, sugar tastes amazing. The use of sugar has crept into the American culture at an alarming rate over the past few decades. Studies show the average American eats roughly their weight in sugar every year! Isn’t that crazy! Much of the sugar is “hidden” sugar. For example, ketchup is loaded with sugar. Other packaged foods have sugar loaded into them in order to make them taste good. Food processors and manufacturers KNOW that added sugar will help them sell their products. But beyond that, most of us just can’t stop eating sweets, drinking our sodas, chugging down the ice cream and munching on donuts. In my own opinion, sugar is the biggest culprit in destroying our immune systems and creating weight gain. More to come!….