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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Watermelon & Strawberry Smoothies

A couple of weeks ago, me and my husband picked the remaining watermelons in the garden.  Now, the question of what to do with them all!  Unfortunately, when buying our plants this spring we did not get seedless and wow do these watermelons have a lot of seeds!!  My kids are not big fans of the picking out seeds and neither am I!  This is probably the reason that it doesn’t get eaten very fast and all of a sudden I find myself wondering what to do with it!  So starts my search for ways to use the rest of our homegrown watermelon. Two of them I made into watermelon bowls and took them to parties we were invited to. I used cantaloupe with the watermelon for the filling. They were a big hit!  Time consuming but worth it!

Today I got my big bowl of watermelon (that is getting to the point where I need to use it up) and started getting all the seeds out and chunking it up.  Then I found a smoothie recipe to try.  It was a hit with my daughter!

Watermelon & Strawberry Smoothie

    1 1/2 cups frozen strawberries
    1 1/2 cups diced watermelon
    1/4 cup cream (I used whole milk)
    1/4 cup plain yogurt
    2 tablespoons orange juice (I used lemon juice)
    1 tablespoon white sugar (I did NOT use)
    1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

    Blend the strawberries, watermelon, cream, yogurt, orange juice, sugar, and vanilla in a blender until smooth.

I did not have any orange juice so I used lemon juice and I left out the sugar.  I thought this was very good and my daughter loved it!  I have three more watermelons waiting to be cut open.  This time when I tackle the job I am going to spend the extra time de-seeding it right away.  That way I can have a quick snack for the kids or easily whip up a smoothie breakfast on those hectic school mornings!  

Any suggestions for using the remaining three watermelons??

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Eggplant Galore!!

I love eggplant!!  And tis the season that I am consistently getting them off my plants in the garden.  Even though they may not offer a high amount of vitamins (one cup contains 2-5% of recommended levels of vitamin B1, B6, and C) they offer their own dose of nutritional value in other categories.  Eggplants are a great source of potassium, phytonutrients, dietary fiber and magnesium.  They are a wonderful low calorie, dense food that helps those dieters feel full and they are a very low sodium food.
Best prep for eggplant is to cut and sprinkle with salt and let sit for about 20 minutes.  Eggplant has a naturally occurring enzyme that can leave a bitter aftertaste.  The salt helps it to “sweat” this bitterness out to ensure its sweet nuttiness comes through in your cooking and also helps get rid of the excess water eggplant has.  This is especially important when frying.
Eggplants can be cooked in a variety of dishes.  I love the fact that whatever you put it in, eggplant soaks up the flavors it is cooked with.  When we grill, one of our favorite sides to do is zucchini and yellow squash wrapped in foil and put right alongside our meat on the grill (seasoned to your liking).  Since we have an overabundance of eggplant right now, we have been cutting it up and putting it in our foil pack!  So good!! 
My family loved it when I put it in the electric skillet!!  I browned some sausage, and added cut eggplant (instead of potatoes) and chopped cabbage.  Simmered together, the eggplant was soft and soaked up all the wonderful flavors.  Same can be done in the slow cooker with hamburger, diced tomatoes, cut up eggplant and seasoned to your liking.  So easy and delicious!! 
How do you like to cook your eggplant? 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

School Time Lunches!!

Show your kids you care!
School mornings can be very hectic!!  You have to get the whole family dressed, fed, teeth brushed, hair done, etc. One suggestion I have to parents, to help cut some of that stress, is to make your kid’s (and your) lunches the night before.  Try designating a time each evening where everyone can work together to make their own lunch!  This will help take some of the stress away from the morning and lets your kids feel like they have a say in what they get for lunch instead of being surprised. A healthy snack drawer is a super easy way to let your kids have the power of choice, and you to control that power! 
Remember that your kids have limited time to eat lunch and often enjoy talking more than eating!  So it is important to pack things that are easy to eat.  Make sure fruits and vegetable are cut into bite size pieces, ready to pick up and eat right away!!  Whenever I buy grapes at the store, the first thing I do when I get home is take them all off the vine, wash them and put them in a container.  This makes lunch packing (and snack time) a lot easier!  Same with carrots and celery! 
If your kids are picky about eating sandwiches (or crusts) try using a cookie cutter to create a fun shape for their sandwich!  Or try using a whole grain wrap!  And instead of using your normal condiments (mayo, mustard, ketchup) try using avocado dip or hummus!  Sometimes spouses can be as difficult as kids are when it comes to making healthy choices.  I made my husband a wrap for lunch one day using a piece of ham, turkey, couple slivers tomato, and avocado dip (he is use to bread, mustard and ham). I was nervous as to what his reaction would be but he LOVED it!!  The next day he wanted two!  Try a test run with your kids for supper one night.  Experiment and figure out what they like.  Kids love fun!  Make a game out of eating healthy!  Reward them when they try something new! 
If you are NOT excited about the snacks provided at your school, ask their teacher or principal if you can provide your child with their own bin of snacks.  Also, offer to be the parent that supplies the snacks for the entire class weekly or monthly! You can also set up a meeting with your child’s teacher and ask for support with helping your child make healthy choices.  This is a great time to discuss ways to limit junk food in the classroom.  Many teachers are looking for ways to implement good snacks during special times, they just need ideas or volunteers! A few healthy parents and a few good recipes go a long way in providing a safe environment for our children!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Back to School Mornings!!

Well summer vacation has come to an end and school is back in session!! Adjusting from mellow summer days to hectic school mornings can be tough sometimes.  Here’s a suggestion, try getting up 15 minutes earlier than you have to every morning.  Do a little stretching and calm your mind before you enter into the morning routine with your kids.  This little bit of time can help the entire morning go well.
Be sure to remember that breakfast is the most important meal of the day for your children AND for you!!  It has been reported that those students that take the time to have breakfast have better concentration during lessons than those that don’t.  Remember how much snacking they did from the time they rolled out of bed until supper time.  Now remember, they are back to only eating lunch at school, so make sure they leave the house with full bellies so they aren’t “starving” after the first hour! Have a double batch of oatmeal in the fridge, ready to go for the morning!!  Add a big scoop of nut butter and stir.  Or add some fresh or frozen fruit with some pure vanilla extract or cinnamon. Oatmeal is such a wonderful, HEALTHY food that you can do so much with!!  

Smoothies can also be a great breakfast on the go!!  And there are so many different varieties!! Just experiment a little and see which your children like best.  It is a great way to give your children there fruit and vegetable servings and hide those “yucky” things like spinach. The fruit covers it right up!!

What’s your favorite easy school breakfast??

Saturday, September 3, 2011

What is the Skinny on Butter?

Growing up it was not rare for me to eat a spoonful of butter, spread butter on saltine crackers for a snack or eat a butter and white bread sandwich. My mom would buy the “tub butter” because it was “healthier” than the “real butter” our grandparents used. Little did she know, or other baby boomers at the time, that the plasticized margarine was full of hydrogenated oils called “trans fats” which are now labeled the most dangerous fats, not only elevating our bad cholesterol, but decreasing our good cholesterol.
What’s the real story on butter?
Butter has been around for thousands of years. The Bible has references to butter as the products of milk from the cow. People all over the world have been using butter and praising it for its amazing health benefits. How did butter become a villain in the quest for good health?
At the turn of the century (when there was no margarine and LIMITED PROCESSED FOODS), heart disease was rare in America. By 1960, it was our number one killer. Ironically, our consumption of butter decreased from eighteen pounds per person per year, to four but our consumption of processed foods has skyrocketed. A researcher named Ancel Keys was the first to propose that saturated fat and cholesterol in the diet (both of which are in butter and other animal products) were to blame for coronary heart disease (CAD). It’s weird that these types of foods have been a main staple for centuries … unlike Twinkies, Cheetos and Diet Sodas that are now our main staples.
The belief was built (on little concrete research) that fat is bad. Fat makes you fat. Eat fat and it turns into fat. Fat is the culprit behind obesity, heart disease and diabetes. The market became bombarded with low-fat/no-fat processed foods that made us feel we were safe from the side effects of fat on our health and waist line. We increased the consumption of these processed foods, most of which contained partially hydrogenated oils (Trans fats) as well as being completely devoid of the nutrition our body needs to protect against disease. Could the correlation of disease be due to the movement away from whole foods which protect our health to convenient processed foods that simply fill us with empty calories?
As The Healthy Edge lifestyle came to fruition, more and more research led me to challenge the belief system I had around fat. I had been conditioned for years that a healthy diet is one of minimal fat, particularly saturated fat from animal products.
After looking into the research, it is widely accepted and proven that a variety of healthy dietary fats work to supply your body with essential fatty acids for longevity, hormone balance, heart health, sharp vision, glowing moist skin and energy. It’s ironic that when I was eating to avoid fat I suffered from adult acne, depression, mood swings and a lack of energy. Coincidence? I think not.
Margarine or Butter?
It is a tragic myth that Margarine and other processed butter products are better than butter. Butter is a completely natural food that can be very beneficial to your health-especially when you eat raw and organic butter.
Margarines and similar hydrogenated or processed polyunsaturated oils are created chemically. The process used to make these normally liquid oils into spreadable form is called hydrogenation. There are non-hydrogenated margarines that claim to contain no Trans fats but have added “modified” (what does that mean?) palm and palm kernel oil to increase its spread ability.
Below are some of the amazing benefits of raw, organic butter:
1) It is rich in the most easily absorbable form of Vitamin A necessary for thyroid and adrenal health.
2) Contains lauric acid, important in treating fungal infections and Candida.
3) Contains lecithin, essential for cholesterol metabolism.
4) Contains antioxidants that protect against free radical damage.
5) Have antioxidants that protect against weakening arteries.
6) Great source of Vitamins E and K.
7) Saturated fats in butter had strong anti-tumor and anti-cancer properties.
8) Contains conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which is a potent anti-cancer agent, muscle builder, immunity booster and inhibits the body’s mechanism for storing body fat. It actually causes the body to utilize fatty reserves for energy!
9) May promote fertility in women.
10) Protects against gastrointestinal infections in the very young or the elderly.
These are just ten benefits of butter. There are many more. The best butter to eat is raw, organic butter because pasteurization destroys nutrients. Unfortunately, the sale of raw butter is prohibited in most states in the US. You can make your own or please buy butter from grass-fed animals only. What animals are fed has a strong correlation to what nutrients are in the milk and therefore what nutrients will be in the butter that is produced. For example, cows fed processed grains or dry hay will not have conjugated linoleic acids (CLA’s) in their milk.
How much is too much?
Just because there are health benefits to butter doesn’t mean that quantity doesn’t matter. Butter is a condiment, not a main course. Butter can accentuate food, but it’s not the focus of the food. You also want to be aware of what you are eating the butter WITH. Are you eating it with a huge processed muffin full of sugar, enriched flours and artificial preservatives? Are you eating a half of stick with a loaf of bread brought to your table at an Italian restaurant? Are you using two sticks of butter in grandma’s chocolate cookies that you decide to consume over the course of a day or two? That’s NOT what we are talking about! Butter is often associated with comfort foods that are detrimental to our health or foods that should be consumed in moderation (perhaps holidays or special occasions). But butter can also add flavor to a variety of vegetables such as corn, squash, red potatoes and green beans. Butter also adds flavor to oatmeal and sprouted whole grain breads. Use reasonable amounts and pay attention to serving sizes! The healthier your body is, the less you will notice you need to add additional flavor to your food.
The quality of the product makes a big difference as well, since the higher the quality, the better it will be for you. Remember, butter is one form of healthy fats that can be added to your lifestyle. There are also a variety of plant oils that can be used for cooking such as olive, grapeseed, almond and sunflower oil. The Healthy Edge Cookbook can support you in recipes that use these healthy oils.
We have entered a time where we have been given permission to be less rigid about eliminating fats or carbs from our lifestyle. Balance is the key. In addition to balance, we can choose whole foods that keep our bodies free of additives, preservatives and other chemicals that are detrimental to our health. The Healthy Edge supports families in transitioning to this type of lifestyle by explaining the how’s and why’s in a fun, empowering and interactive way. Learn how to be proactive in your health without sacrificing taste, time or money! Make a shift that can change your future and the future of your family.
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