Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Recipe Round Up: Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Now, Everyone loves a good chocolate chip cookie, and what's better than a chocolate chip cookie with the added wholesomeness of whole rolled oats?  This recipe will become a regular in your house and everyone will be running to the kitchen to enjoy one of these fabulous cookies.

1 cup butter, softened (not melted)
1 cup white sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
3 cups whole rolled oats
1/2 (11.5oz)package chocolate chips (I prefer dark chocolate)

Using an electric mixer cream together butter, white sugar, and brown sugar. Beat in the eggs one at a time.  Mix in the flours, by the half cup.  Mix in the baking soda and salt.  Using a spoon, stir in the cooking oats.  Add the chocolate chips and stir well.  Chill the dough for at least an hour. 

Preheat oven to 350.  Remove dough from refrigerator.  Prepare baking sheet with oil of choice (I use olive) and spoon dough onto the baking sheet by tablespoon, about 1-2inches apart. 

Bake for 7-9 minutes until edges just start to brown.  Remove from oven and allow cookies to sit for a minute or so.  Remove cookies to cooling rack, (if you can resist the urge to eat one right away), and allow to cool for another 5 minutes.  ENJOY!

 “Think what a better world it would be if we all, the whole world, had cookies and milk about three o'clock every afternoon and then lay down on our blankets for a nap.”
~Robert Fulghum

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Frustrated to Fantastic

Frustrated to Fantastic

You ever have one of those days?  The alarm goes off, you hit it....stare at it...and then wish with all your might that you could stay in bed.  Oh, today was that day.  I've been very frustrated lately.  I've had to learn that its ok to be frustrated.  I try my best to be as upbeat, patient, and personable as possible.....but sometimes.....its ok to just be frustrated. 

I'm even frustrated about multiple job leaves much to be desired, and the job market makes it inescapable.  I'm me....this town is practically wall papered in my resumes.  (pssst....if you know of anything let me know.)  :)   In addition to that frustration, I've had an ongoing ear infection in my right ear....for as long as I can remember really.  Tubes when I was little etc. etc. etc.  I had surgery to have it fixed three weeks ago...and on Monday of this week...pain...infected again.  DOH!

Today, when that alarm went off and the world started screaming my name to pack lunches, and be awake, and mobile, friendly, and alive....I just wanted to roll over and scream NO!  FIVE MORE MINUTES...or hours..... but alas....I crawled out of bed and I went to work.  I made it through the day, and to my Dr's appointment where I was told the ear still looks good...more an irritation from the procedure than an infection and was sent on my merry way with some new ear drops.  (Finger's crossed)

So how did all this turn out fantastic?  I went to the grocery store.  Those of you who know me will know that I have a sick obsession with food.  I can get my retail therapy buying groceries.  I didn't get much, but I had some fresh ingredients and was starting to feel better, and hopeful for what experiment I'd be making this evening.  I picked up my daughter from school, and we headed home chatting about what we would make for supper.  I said crepes, she said frittata....we decided on empanadas.  I'd never attempted to make an empanada before....but we did it. 

She mixed the dough, I cooked the chicken, veggies, and spices.  She helped me roll the dough out, and cut it.  She carefully spooned the filling onto the dough, and I cringed a little at the scrape of her metal spoon on my skillet.  She even helped fold them and do the fork crinkle on the edges, ever so carefully.  When my husband got home he beat an egg and started doing the egg wash on the ones that were ready to bake.  And there we were, all three of us in my little kitchen making dinner together. 

Frustrated to fantastic.  I started focusing on the positive instead of the negative.  The night ended up being awesome...and the empanadas were pretty fantastic too.  Does my ear still hurt...well..yeah.  My job isn't magically blissful either.  Is it ok to be frustrated sometimes?  Absolutely.  But today, I was able to shake it off and I'm glad I did, because I was able to open my eyes to the things that weren't being frustrating.   Will I pop out of bed with a smile on my face promises......

"I wake up every morning at nine and grab for the morning paper. Then I look at the obituary page. If my name is not on it, I get up. "
Benjamin Franklin

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Green Your Pet!

Green Your Pet

I am an animal lover.  I have a dog and cat at home, and the family just wouldn't be complete without them.  We love our animals, but how can we lessen their impact on the environment?  Here are some easy idea's for helping your furry friend be a bit...greener.  :)

The first thing I have to say is spay or neuter your pet.  Too many animals end up in shelters or euthanized because of lack of homes for them.  On that same note, adopt a pet from a shelter next time you get one....consider it a recycle a pet program.  :)  You'll save a life and gain a loved one all in one gesture!

Poopy Bags -
It's a dirty job but someone has to do it.  You love your dog, you walk him, you play with him....but everyone poops eventually, and what you do with that poopy can make a big difference.  If you live in a townhouse, condo, or apartment and have to pick up every time, I highly suggest the flushable bags.  You pick it up, toss it in the potty, and flush.  No lingering smell, no paper/plastic waste, just down the toilet with the rest of the family's poopy.  The trouble with the flushable bags for walks and what not is that if its humid or rainy, or the poo isn't completely.......solid.....the bag may break down before you get home for the flushing.  For these times I suggest a compostable, or biodegradable bag.  There's plenty out there.  You can even get them at your local pet supply store now. 

Kitty Litter-The most popular type of cat litter is clay.  It is mined, shipped to a factory, ground into pellets, powder or flakes and then packed to be used as kitty litter; either clumping or standard.  I want to go back to that last sentence.  It is mined....strip mined to be exact.  It's not a byproduct of something else, they strip mine the clay specifically for kitty litter.  In fact, the US Geological Society estimates that about 85 percent of the nearly 2.6 million tons of clay used in the US per year is used for absorption of pet waste.  This is something I didn't learn until just now.  The waste must be scooped into baggies of some sort, and disposed of.  The litter is not flushable, and once dumped ends up sitting in a landfill for eternity.  If that wasn't enough, your typical clay cat litter also contains silicon particles, known to cause cancer in humans, so when you dump your kitty litter or scoop and your gagging on all that dust....there might be something even nastier getting into your system.  

OK....I'm done putting down the clay cat litter...lets look at alternatives.
 - You've got your Silica cat litter.  This one isn't clumping, but is very absorbent.  You scoop the poo, but only change the litter once a month or so depending on the number of cats in the house.
 - Plant based litters are probably your most sustainable.  World's best cat litter is made from corn.  Swheat is made from wheat, and Feline Pine is made from...well...pine.
 - Recycled material kitty litters are typically made from recycled paper or newspaper pressed into pellets such as Yesterday's News.

My pets:  Ozzy (the cat) and Jax (the dog)

Now we all know kitty is finicky, so choose a litter that your kitty will actually use.  In addition, the silica, corn, and wheat litters are flushable, although there is some concern over toxoplasma being flushed with it.  The plant based and newspaper litters claim to be biodegradable, but this is of course only if you plan to compost them yourself.  They, unlike the clay litters, will eventually break down in a landfill.   

Food -
The most important thing I can say about pet food is to try to get a high quality food made in America.  The next step after that, if your pocket book can handle it, is to find organic foods, or try the raw diets if you want.  Buying a food made in America makes a huge impact, and is safer for your pet. (remember the pet food recall a few years back of several foods made in China?)  You're food will be fresher, and won't have to be shipped as far.  Check out Canidae, Evo, Wellness, and Orijen.  A lot of people also like to feed their animals canned food.  Keep in mind these cans, or plastic containers take a lot of energy to produce, are probably leaking BPA or other harmful chemicals into the food, and are probably not necessary for the health of your pet.  They're actually bad for dental health.  If your animal has a medical condition that requires wet food, check the container for recyclability. 

Toys -
The first rule here for me is reduce, reduce, reduce.  I can't tell you how many times I walk into someones house and see cat or dog toys all over, and I mean really, how often do they play with all those toys!?  My dog has one ball.  That's it.  One.  (He's a seek and destroy dog....nothing stuffed stands a chance, and his 80lb chompers can rip apart almost anything)  My point here is, get a good quality toy that will last a long time.  Our ball is 2 years old.  There are lots of options out there now for toys made from recycled, and/or natural materials too.  Hemp cat toys, the orbee dog toys, and simply fido organic toys are all great options.  You can even grow your own catnip (doesn't get much greener than that) and stuff it in the toe of some old pantyhose for hours of kitty fun. 

Out pets make our houses into homes.  They just need a little help lessening their carbon "paw"print along the way.   

 "Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened."
~ Anatole France 
Jax and his best friend (my daughter)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Recipe Roundup - Pizza Dough (Bread Machine)

This is a great, and flavorful pizza dough recipe.  I use my bread machine to do the hard work.  Put the ingredients in the machine in the order suggested by the manufacturer, and select the dough setting.  This makes enough for two large pizza's.

1.5 Cups Warm Water
1 Tablespoon Honey
2Tablespoons Active Dry/or bread machine Yeast
1/4 Cup olive oil
2 1/2 Cups Unbleached All Purpose Flour
2 Cups Whole Wheat Flour
1/2 Cup Flax Meal
1 teaspoon salt

I grind flax seeds into meal at home, but you can purchase flax meal at the store as well.  I add everything to the bread maching and include garlic, oregano, and other herbs for extra flavor.  I've even been know to throw in some sundried tomatoes on occasion.  :)  You can just toss in a bit of whatever you like for flavor, or nothing at all.

When the dough is done rising preheat the oven to 425 and dump the dough onto a lightly floured surface.  Cut the dough into two balls.  (You can freeze half if you don't need two large pizza's.)

Oil a pizza pan or baking sheet.  Take one dough ball and spread onto your prepared pan working from the middle to the edges until desired thickness is reached.  Roll any excess dough onto itself at the edges to creat the outter crust.  Use a fork to poke holes in the crust.
Bake at 425 for 8-12 minutes.  The longer you pre-bake it, the crispier your crust will be.  Remove the crust from the oven and top with whatever toppings you like and return for the oven until cheese begins to brown.  I like to hide spinach and finely chopped onions between the sauce and the cheese, for the little one that thinks her slice is only pepperoni (or in this case veggie-roni).  Sometimes I brush the crust with butter, garlic, salt, and oregano for a garlic breadstick flavor. 

And Voila, you have a beautiful tastey pizza that your family will love.  Enjoy!

“When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that's amore.”
Jack Brooks

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

What's that Mean?? Animal Products

Chapter two in a series of common questions and terms compiled with some researched answers, and some added personal opinion to help everyone understand what's become of food over the last few years....After all, if you are what you eat, shouldn't you know what you're eating? Feel free to email questions, or terms you’d like clarification on. If I don't know the answer, I'll find it!

What's That Mean??
Animal Products


Grass Fed – There is currently no USDA official definition of grass fed, but the understood definition is a cow that was raised eating grass. (This does not always include the finishing process)

Grass Finished – The last 90-160 days of a feed cows life are spent getting fattened up. Typically this is on grain. Grass finished cows eat nothing but grass until the day they are processed.

          Why grass fed? Well, 100% grass-fed meat is not only lower in saturated fats but also slightly higher in omega-3 fatty acids. Meat and milk from grass-finished cows also have more conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which studies suggest may help prevent some cancers, diabetes and more. Grass-finished meat is higher than grain-finished meat in vitamin A and vitamin E, two antioxidants thought to boost resistance to disease.

Most, but not all Grass Fed Beef is also free range. Check the label for a free range grass fed beef.

Poultry and Eggs

Free Range – this typically the chickens are raised in large flocks in big open warehouses rather than in stacked cages. They can walk around, flap their wings and preen their feathers a little. They are allowed access to the outdoors, although it may be very little access as the producer doesn’t actually have to disclose the amount of access.

Cage Free – This just means the chickens are not kept in cages. The term doesn’t add any other regulations.

Pastured – These chickens are raised in outdoor pens that are moved from pasture to pasture, and typically fed an organic diet. The chickens are able to eat a wide variety of natural foods from greens to grubs and are typically antibiotic free. Many people find these eggs/chickens to taste the best, and there have been some studies to indicate they may be more nutritious.


Certified Humane – This isn’t regulated by the FDA, but a few smaller organizations, the largest of which is Humane Farm Animal Care, are working to come up with a common definition. HFCA has a certification process with standards that include a nutritious diet without antibiotics or hormones, animals raised with shelter, resting areas, sufficient space and the ability to engage in natural behaviors.

Hormone Free – The USDA does not allow the use of hormones in Pork or Poultry. However, for Beef etc. Hormones are administered to make the animal grow larger and faster. Milk producing cows are often treated with an added synthetic hormone to increase milk production. Some controversial studies tie the increase in the use of hormones in feed animals to early onset puberty, and breast cancer. (Hormones are not allowed in organic meat or dairy products, or in those products that are certified humane)

Antibiotic Free – Oh this one could be a blog in and of itself so I’ll try to control myself. Because industrial/conventional feed animals are kept in such despicable conditions they get sick….a lot. To keep them from getting sick the entire flock/herd/group is treated with therapeutic antibiotics…meaning they are given a pretty much constant stream of antibiotics. Scientists estimate that nearly 70% of all antibiotics in the United States, more than 24 million pounds per year, are routinely put into the food and water of healthy livestock. Do you know where all that ends up? Well the animal waste products are often sprayed onto pastures and absorbed into surface waters, and the rest, ends up on our plates, contributing to the rise of antibiotic resistance in people.

So in short, animal products from Industrial/Conventional farms = bad, and small local ethical farms = good. :) But no really, the more you know the easier it is to decipher the label and know your food.

"Just as appetite comes from eating, so work brings inspiration, if inspiration is not discernible at the beginning"

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Know your food!

Everyone has a different definition of healthy. Personally, I consider healthy to be natural, minimally processed, no pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, additives, preservatives, etc. So, if you consider healthy to strictly mean low fat/low carb/low sugar/ then....we're going to have some work to do. :)

I feel like people have lost all respect for their food. We don't know what's in it; we don't know where it came from or how it’s made.....and yet we put it in our mouths and eat it. This is a problem....for me at least. If you don't know what it is, why would you eat it?

For instance there's the eternal battle of butter vs margarine. Well, let’s look at the ingredients. The ingredients on butter are typically cream and salt. As far as ingredients lists are concerned, shorter list with recognizable ingredients are better in my book. So I know what cream is and I know what salt is. Heck, if you wanted to you could make your own butter pretty easily. (I might just have to try that.) Now for margarine: Liquid soybean oil, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, water, whey, salt, vegetable mono- and diglycerides and soy lecithin (emulsifiers), potassium sorbate and sodium benzonate (to preserve freshness), artificial flavor, phosphoric acid (acidulant), vitamin A palmitate, colored with beta carotene (source of vitamin A).'re not making that at home. I don't even know what all that is, and so, I wouldn't eat it. I wouldn't feed it to my child, I wouldn't cook with it, and I wouldn't consider it healthier than butter. Butter will have more calories, fat, and cholesterol than margarine, but you actually need ALL those things in your diet, just in small quantities.

We're so into the fad diets. We give up carbs; we give up fat; we give up sugar. The problem is what we really need to do is learn to eat everything in moderation. We need a variety of nutrients to live our lives to the fullest, and we need to get those from a variety of sources. Too long we've given into the stigma that food is bad, it’s the enemy, don't let it control you. We have epidemics of obesity on one end, and anorexia on the other. It’s like we're afraid of food.

We, as a society, have chosen foods that are cheaper, and chemically derived. Wouldn't it be better to eat smaller portions of the REAL food; food you can identify, recognize, pronounce, and actually tastes better? And now that we've erred on the side of cheapness we've given up on quality all together. We'll eat a $.49 hamburger. When you can eat out, for cheaper than you can buy the ingredients and eat at home, there's something very wrong with what's in the food. Don't people ever wonder what they put it in it to make it so cheap? Think about it. $.49 for a we really want to eat that? Companies are using slogans like "Stuff your face with value" to sell food. Wait....I want to eat food, not value. We want to eat more, more, more, and get more, more, more for our dollar. Haven't we ever heard that you get what you pay for? Where did this cheaper is better mentality come from anyway??

People everywhere are starting to realize that what we need to do is start eating real food. There are whole movements out there from "Retake our Plates" to "Food Revolution" to "Slow Food". Just think about all the negatives that can be avoided, from the new studies linking chemicals in food to cancers, pesticides to ADHD, and BPA to infertility. The impact on human and environmental health would be astounding.  Our dollars speak volumes my friends. If we as a society start purchasing our foods from local farms, farmers markets, and focusing our dollars on organic and natural foods, then that's what the main stream stores will start carrying. Eventually even restuarants will get the hint. Companies sell what we buy, so if we stop buying crap, they won't sell it, simple as that.
So go natural, go organic, READ THE INGREDIENTS, and be healthy and happy. (Plus real food tastes better!) Take the question mark off your plate, and know your food!

"Life is so brief that we should not glance too far backwards or forwards...
therefore study how to fix our happiness in our glass and in our plate."
Grimod de la Reynière (1758-1838)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Recipe Round Up: Cheddar and Prosciutto Buttermilk Biscuits with Rosemary

4 Cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
2 Cups Whole Wheat Flour (I used pastry flour for a finer consistency)
1/4 C Minced fresh rosemary
2 tbs baking powder
2tsp coarse salt
1tsp cracked black pepper
1.5 Cups (3 sticks) cold butter (unsalted), cut into pieces
2 C Shredded Cheddar Cheese (8oz)
3 ounces prosciutto finely chopped (3/4 C)
2 1/4 C cold buttermilk (and a little extra for brushing)

~Preheat oven to 400 with racks in the upper and lower thirds

~Prepare all ingredients.  I use fresh rosemary, put it in a very small bowl and use kitchen sheers to cut it down to size.  I find this method a little easier than cutting the rosemary on a cutting board.  I use the kitchen sheers to produce smaller pieces of chopped prosiutto as well. 

~Combine flours, rosemary, baking powder, salt, and pepper in large bowl.  Cut in butter with pastry blender, or your fingers.  I prefer the hands on finger method as I feel it gives me more control over the final consistency of the dough.  When the mixture resembles coarse meal with some remaining large chunks of butter, add the cheese and prosciutto.  Stir in the buttermilk just until the mixture forms dough.  It will still have dry parts and be a bit crumbly.

~Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead to incorporate any remaining bits.  Squish the dough into about a 12inch square and cut into square biscuits (2-3").  Transfer biscuits to an ungreased cookie sheet and brush the top of each one with buttermilk. 

~Bake for 30-40 minutes until the biscuits are golden brown.  About halfway through rotate the baking sheets from front to back and from top to bottom for even browning.  Serve Hot.

These biscuits are fantastic on their own, are rich in flavor, but also go well with a dish.  We had them with black bean soup.

“Love doesn't just sit there, like a stone; it has to be made, like bread, remade all the time, made new.” Ursula K. LeGuin