Save Time and Money When You Use These Tips

eggshellsLast week, I let the chicken I was baking make cream of mushroom soup, and this week I will save even more time and money by using these tips. Of course, you can do this too!

It’s not really that I’m getting lazy these days, it’s that I have an overwhelming number of additional tasks that were unexpectedly added to my already full plate. When my mother had a stroke in December, I took over the management of my 95-year-old cousin’s affairs. While she’s in great health, able to live in her own home, and to get out and play dominoes with friends on Saturdays, she can no longer deal with her mail, manage her financial obligations, schedule her own appointments, or transport herself.

Then a few weeks ago, my mother passed away and I became a co-trustee of her trust and co-executrix of her will. While co-executrix is a pretty cool word, it also means lots of extra research, forms, sorting & filing, meetings, phone calls, and decisions to make.

These real life storms happen to all of us. At the time, it always feels like they occur at an inconvenient time. The truth is, that there’s never a convenient time for sadness, grief, loss, or extra caregiving duties. If there were, it would mean we aren’t living very full lives. We’d most likely be failing to pursue the challenging job we desire, the degree we want, our next athletic achievement, or the dream vacation we can finally afford.

Knowing that the ebb and flow of life will always deliver intermittent difficult times, it’s good to have a few tricks handy that make things easier on the budget and your schedule when times get tough. Here are a few tricks I rely on regularly:

1)Cook 2 things in the same pot or pan at the same time that can be later mixed and matched for 2 or 3 different meals.

Baked Chicken and Cream of Mushroom Soup
Last week’s chicken spaghetti blog featured a perfect example of this trick. I made cream of mushroom soup in the bottom of the pan while baking chicken. Later, I used both in chicken spaghetti. Then I took the leftover mushroom soup, added some cubed potatoes, and ate potato mushroom soup for a couple of meals.

Pork Chops and Polenta
I like to cook polenta in the bottom of a casserole dish when I bake pork chops. It’s probably the easiest way ever to prepare polenta and later I can use some of it to make grilled polenta cakes with tomato and kale. The pork chops cut into thin strips or cubes can be made into tacos or added to macaroni and cheese.


2)Save pot likker to use in other dishes or one pot meals.

Traditional pot likker is the broth produced when you cook greens, but I like to save the broth from boiling black eyed peas, beans, and broccoli as well. Seasoned, it can be used as a base for a soup or sauce. It can also be used in place of chicken broth to cook rice or to add flavor to a one pot meal. Storing vegetable broth in the refrigerator has saved me more than one trip to the store.
pulled pork
3)Remake leftovers into something new.

When I began to tire of the aforementioned chicken spaghetti, I sautéd some onion, broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots, then added the leftover chicken spaghetti and some extra cheese to the pan. The chicken spaghetti was transformed into pasta primavera…with chicken. It tasted fresh and new and took less than 20 minutes to prepare.

I sometimes make pulled pork enchiladas with leftover smoked pork. Roasted chicken becomes chicken salad, chicken quesadillas, or chicken and rice. Leftover veggies fill my frittatas or get added to browned turkey for a one pot meal.

James flew in hungry late the night I baked chicken for chicken spaghetti. He topped one of the chicken breasts with mushroom, potato soup and a piece of pepper jack cheese, then popped it in the microwave for a quick and filling meal.

4)Boil some eggs and store them in the refrigerator (they’ll last a week).

Boiled eggs are an easy protein to grab when you’ve waited too long to eat. Just add a little salt and pepper and they’re good to go. They’re also easy to carry in the car or on airplane trip.

Boiled eggs can become egg salad or a great addition to tuna salad, chicken salad, or pasta with sausage and peas.
dates
5)Keep nuts in the freezer and dried fruit in the pantry.

I always have raw almonds, pecans, walnuts, and cashews in my freezer. I use them for desserts, meatloaf, meatballs, and salads. At any given moment, I’ll also have a variety of dried fruit in the pantry. I like the ones without added sugar – dates, papaya, mango, pears, figs, and raisins.

My standard breakfast is Greek yogurt with raw almonds and golden raisins. When I travel, I carry nuts and raisins with me. Sometimes I throw in a few chocolate chips. It’s like extra simple trail mix.

In order for me to deal with added stress, it’s important to keep my eating, sleeping, and exercise routine fairly constant. While it might be easy to rely on fast or overly processed foods when I’m overbooked, doing so makes me feel bad so I try to keep it to a minimum. Using a few tricks in the kitchen helps keep me stay on track and have time for the rest and exercise I need to remain resilient.

A Baby Food Mill Can Provide Peace of Mind

kitIf you have a family history of food allergies or intolerance, a baby food mill can provide peace of mind because you know exactly what’s in the food your baby is consuming. My mom suffered from what we then called Hay Fever to the extent that her nose ran all the time and would get raw from wiping it with tissues. She solved the raw nose problem by walking around with silk panties hanging out of her nose. I kid you not and I wish I had a photo. Maybe you’ll believe me if I show you this current photo of her with a diaper on her head. She says she was cold. Don’t ask me.
mom
At the time, I can’t remember her attributing the, let’s call it, Silk Panty Situation to foods. It seemed to be more an allergy to ragweed or driving the truck when it was time to haul hay. The latter part resulted in me learning to drive very early and having my first wreck, passengers included, when I was 9. But that’s another story altogether. Back to our discussion of allergies…

When Ben was a tiny baby, he suffered from constant congestion. I mean significant congestion that made it difficult for him to breath through his nose. His pediatrician put him on asthma medication. That made him hyper, fussy, and kept him from sleeping. After a few exhausting weeks of a constantly awake, crying baby, I decided there had to be a better solution.

Through some trial and error, I figured out that if I would avoid dairy products in my diet, Ben’s congestion would disappear. This made some sense. By then we already knew that James did not tolerate dairy well. I decided that I could go without ice cream for a year while I breastfed if it meant Ben could breath without meds and I could get a night’s sleep.

James’ history, and subsequently Ben’s, wasn’t the only reason I followed the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommendations for food introduction to prevent allergies, my sister had a history of turning beet red when she consumed foods containing basil or magnesium. I wanted to make sure that I gave the kids the best chance I could to avoid problems in the future.

As they currently do, the APA then recommended breast milk only for the first 6 months. Once it was time to introduce solid food, I opted for the most control possible over the ingredients and invested in a baby food mill. That simple device allowed me to know exactly what I was feeding my children and it was easy on the budget. I could feed James & Ben the same food their dad and I were eating, but in a baby friendly form.
baby food grinder
Baby food mills are still a good option for the same reasons. While it’s now much easier to buy organic baby food from the supermarket, many brands are only 95% organic, some contain preservatives, and the cost ranges from 23¢ to 48¢ per ounce. When you get to Stage 2 foods, most prepackaged options are blends that may or may not appeal to your child thereby limiting your selection and their nutrient variety.
green grinder
There are many brands of food mills and they come in several shapes and sizes. Most are small enough to be easily carried along on an outing and some even come with a travel pack. In the most common design, you pull the top bowl section upward, fill the tube below with food and as you turn the handle, the food moves up into the bowl section ready to feed to your infant. The components then come apart to be cleaned in the dishwasher.
white grinder
If you want the option of using the mill for other food processing jobs, you can choose an OXO model with 3 interchangeable blades. There are electronic versions as well if you’re a fan of specialized power kitchen gadgets.
oxo
Once you’ve chosen the model that best suits the needs of your family, all you have to do is fill it with freshly prepared food – organic when possible and devoid of sugar, as well as excessive salt or fat. According to the AAP, new eaters only need one or two tablespoons of food at a time increasing to 3 – 4 tablespoons as the child grows. They also recommend that you avoid feeding an infant under 4 months old fresh spinach, beets, green beans, carrots, and squash because of the naturally occurring nitrates. If you follow their recommendation of breast milk only for a minimum of 4 months, this should not be an issue.

There is no evidence that introducing foods in a particular order will prevent allergies. In order to quickly recognize an allergic response, it is best to introduce foods one at a time and feed only that food for 2-3 days before moving to the next food. If your child experiences, diarrhea, rash, vomiting, congestion, hives, or irritability that disappears once a particular food is removed, your child may be allergic to that food.

For those of you who are celiac or have gluten intolerance in your family, your children are at increased risk of being gluten intolerant due to shared genetics. Because gluten intolerance causes an immune response, it is not the same as an allergy. It may be best not to introduce any baby cereals other than possibly rice and oats until the child is older, if at all.

While I can’t say James and Ben are a representative sample of kids who grow up eating table food rather than packaged baby food, they are both chronically healthy. Using a baby food mill helped keep me on budget and give me the peace of mind that I was providing them with the best nutrition possible.

Judging by these photos of James’ first meal of solid food, he was well prepared for the event and satisfied by the content!
jamesone
james 2
james 3

Check out these food mills:

http://www.kidco.com/products-page/preparation/f810/

http://ep.yimg.com/ty/cdn/happybaby/kidcofoodmillinst.pdf

http://www.kidalog.com/categories/Mealtime/

http://www.munchkin.com/fresh-feeding-starter-set.html

http://www.oxo.com/p-476-food-mill.aspx

For more information regarding infant feeding suggestions and guidelines, see these resources:

https://www.aap.org/en-us/advocacy-and-policy/aap-health-initiatives/HALF-Implementation-Guide/Age-Specific-Content/Pages/Infant-Food-and-Feeding.aspx

http://ebooks.aappublications.org/content/nutrition-0

https://brightfutures.aap.org/pdfs/Guidelines_PDF/6-Promoting_Healthy_Nutrition.pdf

http://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/feeding-nutrition/Pages/Switching-To-Solid-Foods.aspx

http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/116/3/784.full

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Show Me Some Heart Healthy Love With a Valentine’s Day Frittata!

eggshells

With Valentine’s Day looming, it’s time to show me some heart healthy love! How? Well, first let me sleep late in my favorite pjs, then bring me some coffee and the newspaper and tell me how adorable I am. Now, get in the kitchen and make me some eggs.

Wait a minute, I said heart healthy and then I said eggs. What’s up with that? Well, it seems that the US government is about to withdraw its warnings about consuming cholesterol. The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee which provides the scientific basis for published Dietary Guidelines has recommended that the warnings be lifted. While the final report has not yet been filed with the Department of Heath and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture, it is rare for the guidelines to vary significantly from the recommendations of the committee.

This new stance will likely result in some confusion because many of us have been taught consuming cholesterol is DANGEROUS for everyone, but it appears that the science to support that conclusion was weak at best from the very beginning. About 25% of the population on average will experience detrimental effects from consuming cholesterol. The rest of us can enjoy our Valentine’s Day frittatas with total peace of mind.

Speaking of frittatas, I like them for brunch and for dinner whether it’s Valentine’s Day or not. They’re quick, easy, and a perfect delivery system for lots of yummy, fiber-filled left over vegetables. I can throw one together in a heartbeat when guests arrive tired and hungry. If I’m low on leftover veggies, I use frozen English peas which I always have on hand. Okay, I’ll admit sometimes I sauté onions, shiitake mushrooms, and red bell pepper rather than using leftovers. They make one of my favorite delicious combinations in a frittata or alongside a slice roast beef.
veggies
I don’t limit the ingredients to vegetables. Country ham and asparagus; bacon and cheddar; sausage, feta, and kale; salmon and dill are all flavor combinations I love encased in fluffy eggs. Just like the traditional one pot meal, you can throw in anything that you think will taste good.

So what’s the formula for a successful Valentine’s Day frittata? Use an oven safe skillet, get the broiler hot, coat your skillet in oil or butter, choose fully cooked meats and/or vegetables with complimentary flavors and enhance them with herbs or cheese, salt and pepper. Warm the meat, vegetables, and herbs in the oil coated skillet over medium low heat. Add a splash of water to 6-8 eggs for fluffiness before you lightly whisk them along with the salt and pepper. Add the eggs to the skillet, sprinkle with cheese and cook until the eggs set and only a tiny layer of liquid egg is left in the center on top. Finish under the broiler causing the eggs to rise and lightly brown.
frittata

Most importantly, don’t forget to include the love. It’s the most important ingredient for heart health every day!

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2015/02/10/feds-poised-to-withdraw-longstanding-warnings-about-dietary-cholesterol/

http://www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015.asp

Are Processed Foods Okay as long as They’re Gluten-Free?

A study is about to be released that will directly track back the cause of metabolic syndrome to the sugar we consume. Metabolic Syndrome is a combination of medical disorders that increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, obesity, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and liver disease.*

You may respond to this news with a shrug thinking you’re immune to the problem because you limit desserts, don’t spoon sugar into your coffee, avoid soft drinks, and never touch a doughnut. Before you get too comfortable, take a moment to read the labels on the packaged gluten-free pizza, bread, rolls, muffins, scones, cornbread, bagels, tamales, chicken broth, deli meats, crackers, pretzels, seasoning packets, jams, jellies, and cereal that you eat along with the labels on your juice drinks and sodas. If you see the words glucose, dextrose, fructose, galactose, high fructose corn syrup, cane syrup, sucrose, maltose, or lactose then the food contains sugar.

If a label contains words like sorbitol, xylitol, mannitol, maltitol, lactitol, erythritol, isomalt or hydrogenated starch hydrolysates then the food contains sugar alcohols. Sugar alcohols are often found in foods labeled sugar-free. Even though they are not sugars, these items are carbohydrates and may trigger the same deleterious effects as sugar such as raising your blood sugar level.

If you employ a gluten-free lifestyle, none of these items will trigger the autoimmune response your body has to gluten. That makes them healthier for you than a gluten containing equivalent. It does not make them healthy.

According to the American Heart Association, the current recommended daily allowance of sugar in a healthy diet is no more than 6 tsp for women and 9 tsp for men.** That might seem like a lot of sugar if you’re eating it straight out of a spoon, but not like much at all when you drink a 12 oz soda even though the soda contains 8 tsp of sugar.

If you want to be as healthy as possible, you can carefully read labels making sure to add up all the sugars listed so that you don’t exceed the recommended number of teaspoons per day. Because most labels list sugars in grams, this can become a confusing and time consuming task. The easier thing to do is to phase processed foods out of your eating plan.

I’m not suggesting that you should never, ever eat a bowl of cereal, packaged pasta, or crackers, but if you make these rare treats rather than everyday staples, it will be much easier to keep your sugar consumption at a minimum. It will also facilitate lowering your sodium intake, and it won’t hurt your pocket book either since gluten-free convenience foods are often priced significantly higher than their gluten-containing counterparts.

lamb chops
Lamb Chops are Gluten-Free

Don’t worry about not having enough gluten-free choices when you phase out processed food. Fresh beef, pork, fish, seafood, poultry, dairy, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, fruit, herbs, and spices have never contained gluten. By combining these ingredients you can make a seemingly unlimited number of delicious and healthy combinations.

More fresh food means less risk for Metabolic Syndrome. Let’s phase out that processed food, get out those aprons, and start cooking to thrive!
*For more information, see these resources:
http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/metabolicsyndrome.html

Lustig, Robert. Fat Chance.; Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity, and Disease. New York: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated, 2013. Print.

••http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/HealthyDietGoals/Sugars-and-Carbohydrates_UCM_303296_Article.jsp

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