It’s Just A Half Hour, Right? Not If It’s A Power Half Hour!

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And, especially if it’s a DVD called “Power Half Hour” from The Firm!

Power Half Hour

I love The Firm workouts! Actually, I used to. Couple of years ago I did them regularly. Felt FANTASTIC. Lost weight, built muscle. Got pregnant. (Coincidence? Hmmm…). Haven’t worked out since.

Off and on I’ve tried to get back to that commitment to exercising, but haven’t been able to. Two days ago, I was inspired to try exercising again. Did about 15 minutes of Zumba with my Wii (thanks Mom!) and then pulled out this DVD. Made it less than 10 minutes, then I was DONE. And yet, I could barely walk yesterday. Yikes.

Tried again today. Here were some of the thoughts going through my head:

“Ouch”

“Uggh”

“Oh darn. These aren’t 5 lb. weights. They’re only 3 lbs.”

“Ooh…I like squats!”

“5 lb. weights are heavy. Hope I don’t hit my head doing these overhead presses.”

“I do not have to give her more power. I do not have to give her more power.”

“I also do not have to give her air. Straddle jumps were soooo high school cheerleading practice.”

“Ten more minutes? TEN MORE MINUTES!”

“What are you going to do for ten minutes if you don’t do this?”

“If I’m in a plie, my right elbow does not touch my left knee. It used to. Darn.”

“Yay, it’s time to stretch!”

“So glad I hung in for the last ten minutes because it was really only EIGHT minutes until it was time to stretch.”

“Oh good…now I can eat my BK onion rings.”

“Sigh.”

“Almost Pizza” from SNL

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Funny! Wouldn’t it be fun if food companies were completely truthful about their products? Makes me think of that movie “Crazy People” with Dudley Moore where he becomes successful with his “truth in advertising” campaigns.

A Very Veggie World from Country Crock

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Country Crock is offering a free downloadable recipe book titled A Very Veggie World.

A Very Veggie World

Cover Photo of Country Crock's A Very Veggie World

It has 25 fun things to create with your veggies such as Mushroom Gnomes

 and Bear Paws.

Bear Paws from Country Crock's A Very Veggie World

Very cute ideas I’ll have to try.

Although, I have to confess that no matter how it looks, I don’t think I can eat brussel sprouts. (Shh! Don’t tell my kids.)

Molecular Model Brussel Sprouts from Country Crock's A Very Veggie World

Get your own copy here.

The Herb Fairies Are Coming!

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A few years back I had a keen interest in herbs. During that period of time, I of course did a lot of internet research into herbal education. One of the sites I found is LearningHerbs.com. I particularly like this one because of the use of videos, which is much more fun that just reading. John Gallagher, head of the family that runs the site, is primarily featured in the videos. He’s a likeable guy whose easy-going approach really makes me want to learn about herbs and believe that I can put them to use.

My interest waned when I discovered I’m not very good at identifying plants or flowers of any kind. So, I had this fear that I would pick the wrong herb and make my family sick!  I’m also not very good at growing things – although I planted some Lemon Balm in the front yard which I’m pretty sure is what, this year, has completely taken over the flower bed.) But, I continue to be on the LearningHerbs.com mailing list as I enjoy reading what they’re up to and have hopes that someday I can still become the family herbalist.

And I’m glad to be on that mailing list because very recently I’ve received notice of something new  —

HERB FAIRIES!

I love it. It’s an herbal learning project Kimberly Gallagher (John’s wife) has been working on for three years now and it will be available tomorrow, May 1. I signed up for the preview information and of course got some great videos covering the details of this new project as well as some recipe tutorials. There was also a printable coloring page of very pretty Viola fairy which my daughter is working on.

For more details about the entire program see the video at HerbFairies.com.

I’m looking forward to sharing it with my kids and hopefully learning from it too…maybe I can learn to identify those herbs. (Or maybe Melissa the Lemon Balm fairy can help me confirm what’s growing in my flower bed!) Leave me a comment below if you’re planning to enjoy the Herb Fairies too.

Fun Site: Eat Your Books!

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I just discovered this website called Eat Your Books. It’s a pretty neat concept. First, you search for your cookbook. Then, a list of recipes from that book appears. You can narrow your search using the “Only Show” filters for things such as Recipe Types, Ingredients, Courses (Afternoon Tea is an option!). You can also do a search by keyword but this took me a little while to figure out. Once you’ve clicked on a book, The Joy of Cooking for example, there is a link to “Search this book for recipes”. When you click on the link, a search box appears with the title of the book in quotes. If you then want to search for recipes with beef in it, type beef after “The Joy of Cooking” in the search box, and the matching results will appear.

I did search for four of my cookbooks (I don’t actually own The Joy of Cooking). Two of them did not appear at all, while two of them did. However, the two that did appear were not yet indexed. If I sign up to be a member, looks like I can request that the book be indexed. Speaking of being a member, there are different membership levels. The Limited Membership allows you to add up to 5 books to your bookshelf. There is then a $2.50/month membership and a $25/year membership. Pretty reasonable, I think.

The website does state that it’s not a recipe site. So, you won’t see a full listing of ingredients are directions for copyright reasons. But why would you need that if you have the book? Links are provided if the recipe is published somewhere else on the internet. What I would like to see, however, it the page number where the recipe can be found in the cookbook.

Page numbers are a feature of the magazine search – and I like this part even better than being able to search my cookbooks.

I don’t know about you, but there have been many times I’ve sat at the beauty salon or in a doctor’s office reading a magazine, and found a great recipe. But, how to bring it home? I’ve scribbled it on a scrap of paper I found in my purse. I’ve typed it into my cell phone, although I guess nowadays I could just take a photo of the recipe from the magazine. And yes, I confess, I’ve slipped a magazine into my purse before! But, I have, in fact,returned the magazine to its rightful owner.

Eat Your Books has indexed magazines such as Cooking Light and Food Network Magazine. Since these magazines tend to have websites, many of the recipes have links to the official website. Sure, you could just go to the magazine site but I think the database search is probably easier with Eat Your Books.

Overall, I think Eat Your Books is a great idea. As the database continues to grow, it will likely become a very handy tool for many cooks, especially those of you with a multitude of cookbooks on your shelves. At this point in my cooking career, I don’t think I have use for the site. Although, if they index my 100 Best 4 Ingredient Recipes and other similar cookbooks that I own, I might just change my mind!

Please don’t “Super Size Me” and Bye Bye Chicken McNuggets!

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My family has officially said goodbye to McDonald’s. (Healthy Point)

Now, before you roll your eyes and think I’m the bandwagon-y type, let me walk you through the steps that brought us to that decision.

Step 1: What’s In A Nugget? (Not foam, by the way)nuggets

Back on March 2, I actually drafted a post that went like this:

Yes, I feed my kids McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets. Yes, I’ve heard they’re really not that healthy for kids. But I like Happy Meals – they’re so convenient and McDonald’s has even recently made apples a regular part of the Meals so you no longer have to choose between apples or fries (I believe Burger King still makes you pay extra if you choose apple fingers!). Plus, sometimes they have really neat toys in them.

But today, I got an email from Dr. Mercola at Mercola.com with an article entitled “The Chicken Which Should Be Banned” (article dated 11/08/2010). It begins this way:

Do you put dimethylpolysiloxane, an anti-foaming agent made of silicone, in your chicken dishes?

How about tertiary butylhydroquinone (TBHQ), a chemical preservative so deadly that just five grams can kill you?

These are just two of the ingredients in a McDonalds Chicken McNugget. Only 50 percent of a McNugget is actually chicken. The other 50 percent includes corn derivatives, sugars, leavening agents and completely synthetic ingredients.

The rest of the article is pretty scary sounding and frankly I didn’t read it all in detail. I don’t want my changes to guided by fear. What I take away from this, though, is the reminder of my desire, based on much of what I’ve been reading and hearing, to move towards a more natural, less-processed way of eating.

I can’t remember why I didn’t publish this post. Must have just forgotten. In the meantime, I told the kids they’re no longer eating McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets because it has foam in it. Oops! My mistake. Still, it sufficiently grossed out my oldest enough to agree with me, which was kind of a surprise.

Step 2: It’ll Just Be Easier (or not)

A couple of Sundays ago, the family went for a drive so I could meet up with a woman who is an Independent Representative with Wildtree. (If you haven’t heard of Wildtree, it’s a direct sales company that offers all-natural foods with no preservatives, additives, MSG, fillers or food dyes.) I had ordered a few items from her and was picking them up to save on shipping costs. We sat and chatted for a while – a great conversation about how to help our families by starting with small healthy changes.

By the time we ran some other errands and were ready to go home, it was late in the afternoon and the kids were tired and hungry. I had promised them some Wildtree fudge sauce, along with ice cream, for dessert. So, I did some quick calculating:

Hour drive home + Minimum half hour before sitting down to dinner + Dessert + Baths = Up past bedtime!

So what executive decision did I make?

McDonald’s Drive Thru + Eat it in the car + Dessert as soon as we get home + Bath = In bed on time!

We were good to go. With the rally cry of “No Chicken McNuggets!” we found a McDonald’s and headed home.

Hah! “Good to go” is hardly how things turned out.

That night, the two oldest were vomiting. Multiple times. The oldest had chills and aches so it wasn’t just the food. Not sure about the second because there were no other symptoms except the vomiting. BOTH of them, however, said, Mommy I don’t want to eat McDonald’s ever again.

Step 3: Romantic Evening with the Husband

A few nights later we decided to watch Super Size Me on TV. (It’s on Hulu, by the way.) I can’t say that the movie was earth-shattering but that could be because we watched it so long after there has already been so much public discussion about it. Still, I came away with these thoughts:

  • That’s a whole lot of McDonald’s in Manhattan. But have you ever counted the number of ABC stores in Waikiki?
  • I really didn’t need to see anyone else vomiting. Had enough of that up close and personal.
  • Sometimes it seemed like he had more drinks than necessary at some meals. Was that for a later meal? For someone else?
  • He was a lean guy and as he gained weight it was noticeable but didn’t look unusual to me. Makes me think that my standard of what people look like is low. I mean, I have friends who look the way he does, probably carrying extra weight that isn’t healthy, and I don’t think twice about it.
  • I was astounded by the effects on his cholesterol levels. I found that most disturbing because I think of what my kids cholesterol levels must be, plus mine and my husbands.
  • I am mostly sickened by the idea of what parts of the chicken are in Chicken McNuggets. Or more accurately, the fact that there isn’t any part of the chicken that isn’t in it!

Conclusion

Forget about any other reasons except for this:

We don’t have to eat McDonald’s foods. We always have a choice. And if we are choosing to live a healthier life, McDonald’s doesn’t have a place in it.

Doesn’t mean, though, that I’m not craving my standard Filet-O-Fish for Lenten Friday lunch…

CVS and Lovin’ the ExtraCare

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CVS, Saratoga Springs NY

CVS, Saratoga Springs NY by NNECAPA on Flickr

Just have to share that I love LOVE the feature that CVS offers with their discounts. I have an ExtraCare card and I get emails that offer me coupons and discounts. Now I get emails from everyone under the sun with specials by emails.

But what I love is that when I receive an email for 25% off my purchase, for example, I then have the option of printing the coupon or having the coupon sent to my ExtraCare card! Then, the next time I’m checking out at the store and my card is scanned, the cashier asks me if I want to use the coupon. Hurray! No more worrying about remembering to print out the coupon, remembering to put the coupon in purse and then remembering to use the coupon!

Recipe Makeover: Grilled Ham and Cheese

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Trying to make small changes in our lives, I tried a new version of grilled ham and cheese a few weeks ago. I actually got the idea from my Betty Crocker app on my phone.

Normally, I would make grilled ham and cheese with the following ingredients:

  • White Bread (hopefully the kind sans HFCS if I saw it at the supermarket)
  • Kraft American Cheese
  • Hillshire Farm Deli Ham

Here’s how I would make it:

  • Heat the skillet with butter on it and place pairs of bread on it, with the cheese on one side of each pair.
  • Put the ham on another part of the grill until it gets sizzly and slightly brown. Then, place it on the slice with the cheese, get its pair and place that on top.
  • At this point, it never seems like there’s enough butter on the bread, so I add more to the skillet. Or, if the bread is soft enough, I put it directly on the bread. Basically, I use enough better to get that good golden brown color on each side because that’s the best part!

Done. Serve with chips or Ore Ida fries I baked in the oven. And maybe cherry tomatoes if we have them.

My new and improved version includes the following:

  • Texas Toast (Okay, I know this isn’t the healthiest = Not Healthy Point. But my friend Betty, as in Crocker, recommended it and boy do we love garlic bread!)
  • Baked ham slices from the freezer, leftover from the holiday
  • Cheese from the deli (The husband, not too long before this had realized that Kraft American Cheese says “cheese product” and went to the supermarket deli to get real cheese. Not sure exactly what kind it is but Healthy Point to him for making the effort!)

So, I assembled the sandwiches and put them in the oven to bake.

OH! And lest I forget. I made sweet potato fries to go with it! My second child actually chopped them up for me and did a fabulous job. The recipe I followed for that (yeah, I know…who needs a recipe to make sweet potato fries?) said to put the sweet potatoes on a foil-covered pan. Not sure if that was the problem, or what, but the fries quickly started burn although I managed to salvage them.

I thought I’d share a photo but didn’t remember to take it until after I dished out the fries, so the bowl of fries looks a little skimpy. Plus, apparently I’m not much of a food photographer. Other blog’s food photos are so pretty! But, you get the point.

Verdict?
Everyone loved the sandwiches. Kids hated the sweet potato fries. Only ate them while smothered in ketchup, which of course was the kind with HFCS.

But still, I thought it was a good effort on everyone’s part. Next time, I’ll try to make the bread healthier.

Healthy Point!

Alicia Silverstone, the Vegan

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Photo found on cosmopolitan.com

I don’t know about you, but the last I remember of Alicia Silverstone is seeing her in the movie Clueless.

Recently, however, I came across her website The Kind Life, which goes along with her book The Kind Diet. I’m not a big fan of celebrities promoting a particular diet because I’m not always convinced their living the lifestyle. I came across a video of her on FORA.tv. I wish I could embed the video here but I don’t see that as an option on the website.

The video is of Ms. Silverstone speaking at a bookstore to promote The Kind Diet. I was struck not only by how genuine she seems (and how grownup!) but how truly passionate she is about her chosen vegan lifestyle. And I like the fact that as she spoke, and apparently as presented in her book, she was very aware that not everyone thinks and feels the same way she does about political and environmental issues, or even lifestyle and health issues.

I found her talk inspiring in that it encouraged me to continue my journey to a healthier life – however I define that – by recognizing that it is a process and not something I need to be ready to change 100% tomorrow. Check it out.

Am I The Worst Cook In America?

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Yesterday, the oldest and I watched On Demand the first episode of Worst Cooks in America.

Me: Do you think Daddy would nominate me as the Worst Cook in America?
Oldest (after a long moment in contemplation): Well, yeah…if you keep cooking KALE.

Should seen that one coming!