Thursday, February 26, 2009

Frugal Friday: Forever Postage

Did you know that postage was going up again? The price for 1st class mail will go up to 44 cents on May 11. Buying a few extra books of "Forever" stamps now would probably be worthwhile... I's only a few cents...but, at 2 cents per stamp that is a difference of 40 cents per book of twenty stamps after May 11 - that could add up to some "dollars" over 1-2 years depending on how many stamps you normally buy throughout the year for Christmas cards and everything...and right now...that's a better investment rate of return than our 401k!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Eating Healthy - Part 5: Nutrition 101

Before we go on to the next food group, I thought it would be helpful to pull out my nutrition textbook and do an overview of some basic nutrition information so that you know exactly what I am referring to when I use words like "sugar" "carbohydrates" "fat" "vitamins" "anti-oxidants" etc. I think understanding the information will also help things make sense when I get into how to read product labels... A nutrient is a substance obtained from food and used in the body to promote growth, maintenance or repair. There are six classes of nutrients: water, carbohydrate, fat, protein, vitamins, and minerals. Three of these six nutrients (carbohydrate, fat, protein) provide energy to the body through metabolism. Metabolism refers to all of the chemical reactions that are going on in the body - both the buildup and breakdown of substances. Vitamins and minerals facilitate the release of energy. Water is the medium in which all of the body's processes take place. A calorie (actually the correct term is kcalorie) is a measure of the amount of energy in a food. Carbohydrates yield 4 kcalories of energy from each gram of carbs. Protein the same - 4 kcalories per gram of protein. Fat yields 9 kcalories per gram of fat. While foods may be higher in one nutrient or another, most foods contain some amount of protein, carbohydrate and fat - the exceptions would be things like white sugar (which is pure carbohydrate) or vegetable oil (which is pure fat). I think this is important to understand so that you can see why certain popular diets are unhealthy. The body needs protein, carbohydrate AND fat in an appropriate balance in order to function properly. We'll get into more of that later... So, as an example: if 1 cup of milk contains 13 g of carbohydrates (4 x 13), 8 g of protein (4 x 8) and 2.5 g of fat (9 x 2.5), then that cup of milk would contain 106.5 calories - the Nutrition label on the gallon of milk rounds it off to 100 or 110 calories, but you can see now where these numbers are coming from. (Don't ask me how they figure out how many grams of carbohydrates are in the milk. That is all done in a chemistry lab somewhere and is way beyond the scope of this post.)
Carbohydrates are classified as single sugars (monosaccharides), double sugars (disaccharides) and complex carbohydrates (polysaccharides). Fibers are the constituents of carbohydrates that humans cannot digest. Fibers may be soluble or insoluble in water. Fibers are not a source of energy but they benefit health in many ways, so it is important to have the recommended amount in the diet (and most of us fall short).
Fats, also called lipids or fatty acids, are classified by chain length (having to do with the length of the molecule) and saturation (having to do with whether or not the hydrogen atoms are missing on the fatty acid chain). Lipids are classified as saturated fatty acids or unsaturated fatty acids - more specifically monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) (one hydrogen atom missing) or polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) (more than one hydrogen atom missing). Omega-3 fatty acids are a family of fatty acids in which the endmost double bond is three carbons back from the end of its carbon chain. An omega-6 fatty acid is one with its endmost double bond six carbons back from the end of its carbon chain. A "trans-fat" is an unsaturated fatty acid with a rare or unatural configuration of the hydrogen atoms around a double bond, often a product of the hydrogenation process. Hydrogenation is the process of adding hydrogen atoms to unsaturated fat to make it more solid and resistant to chemical change.
A protein is composed of amino acids. There are 20 different amino acids and each amino acid is unique. These amino acids can bond together to form a peptide chain which folds together into a three-dimensional shape which is also called a protein molecule. You don't really need to know all of this except that some of these amino acids are marketed as supplements to those wanting to build muscle mass. You are probably also familiar with the amino acid called tryptophan - which has been blamed for the drowsiness that typically occurs after Thanksgiving turkey dinner, although it is probably not really the cause (read here).
A free radical is a highly reactive chemical form that can cause destructive changes in nearby compounds, sometimes setting up a chain reaction. If left uncontrolled these chain reactions can damage cell structures and impair cell functions. Free radicals occur in normal metabolism but are also thought to play a role in the inflammatory process, cancer and heart disease as well as aging and other disease processes. Anti-oxidants ("against oxidation") are compounds that protect other compounds from attack by oxygen by themselves reacting with oxygen.
Fruits and vegetables, as I stated in Part 2 and 3, are high in anti-oxidants. So, in addition to being low in calories (which will help to maintain a healthy body weight), fruits and vegetables contain vitamins and anti-oxidants (go back to this link if you are interested in the specifics), which helps to decrease inflammatory and disease processes, or in other words help to keep our bodies functioning properly so that we can be as healthy as possible and feel well. The research on anti-oxidants is that they are generally "good" but it is a very complex thing and anti-oxidants are not always beneficial - I would summarize by saying that too much of a good thing (high doses in supplements) is probably no longer a good thing. Thus, once again stressing the importance of a balanced diet. This is not surprising, since we know that we are all aging as a result of The Fall in the Garden of Eden. Our lives on this earth are limited and there is nothing, nor will there ever be anything, that can completely prevent that process.
I know...that was a lot of biochemistry!! I essentially condensed about 5 chapters or more into this one post. But, I think you will see how understanding this makes identifying healthier food choices easier. Also, the terms "anti-oxidants," "carbs," "omega-3 fatty acids," and "trans-fats" have gotten a lot of publicity so I thought it would be helpful to explain what these terms actually mean.
Any questions???

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Meal Planner Monday: Soups - Ravioli

This is one of Mom's recipes, but, Mom, I didn't realize that you are a famous chef... I did a google search to see if I could find the recipe already typed out and a pretty picture...and, by golly, this (click here) is what I found!
Here's the recipe with just a couple of my minor adaptations and a picture...
8 ounces sweet Italian sausage, casing removed
1 teaspoon garlic powder (I use 1 clove minced garlic)
4 cups water and 4 tablespoons dry chicken broth (granules or powder) (I use 1 carton of the all natural chicken stock which is 4 cups in place of the granules and water.)
9 ounces frozen miniature cheese ravioli
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes (My recipe says crushed?)
1 (15-ounce) can garbanzo beans
1/4 cup brown mustard
1/2 teaspoon oregano leaves
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 cups chopped fresh spinach
Parmesan cheese, grated
Brown the sausage. Add the garlic, and cook it for 1 minute with the sausage. Crumble the sausage, drain the grease, and set aside. Heat the water with the chicken broth granules. When it boils, add the ravioli, and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, until tender. In a small bowl, stir the flour into the diced tomatoes until the lumps are gone. Add the tomato mixture, beans, mustard, oregano, and pepper to the broth. Heat through until thick. Stir in the spinach, and cook just until wilted, about 1 minute. Serve immediately topped with lots of Parmesan cheese. (I kind of like it without the grated cheese to save on calories, but I know that's your favorite part.)
Yield: 8 servings
Also, I think that serving garlic bread on the side goes well.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Frugal Friday: Voice over Internet Phone Calls

Did you know that you can make unlimited free phone calls and video calls to anywhere in the world any time of day over the internet? It is very easy to set up. Our family is all set up now to call each other over the internet using Skype or Yahoo Instant Messaging. And, we can even set up conference calls.
Mike and I have not had a land line phone in almost 5 years now - we just use our cell phones. But, the neat thing about making phone calls through the internet using Skype or Yahoo Instant Messaging is that you can set up a Webcam and see who you are talking to. (We got a great deal on webcams off this week, so that will get Joni/Ron and us set up with webcams too.) The webcams are very fun to use, especially with the kids. It is also nice when I am talking to Mom and Dad because we usually have them on speaker phone and I think the quality over the internet is better than using the cell phones.
So, how do you get started? Signing up for an account with Skype is free if you are only using the computer-to-computer calling (go to their website here for more information and set up an account). (Or, if you prefer Yahoo - this is the website). Note that both parties will need to be using the same program. You will also need a headset/microphone or webcam - those range in price just like any computer hardware but can be as inexpensive as $7. And that's all there is to it!
Depending on your needs, VOIP has potential to save you lots of money by virtually eliminating long distance calls on your land line or decrease the amount of minutes that you need to carry on your cell phone plan.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Eating Healthy - Part 4: Sneaking in Fruits and Vegetables for Picky Eaters

If you do a google search on this, you will find ways to "sneak" pureed fruits and vegetables into casseroles, cakes, spaghetti sauce, pizza, muffins, etc. There are cookbooks that specialize in this. Recipes include things like pureed squash or sweet potatoes mixed into macaroni and cheese. Supposedly the taste of the "favorite food" is not altered that much and the color is unchanged also. Personally, I think that sounds like a lot of pureeing in order to get the full servings of vegetables.
While the short term goal of getting vitamins and nutrients into a picky eater may be met with this approach, it does not address the long term goal of developing lifelong healthy habits or nutritional food preferences. If you are going to try those ideas for hiding vegetables in a recipe, I would suggest having another vegetable on the plate in it's natural recognizable state. Here are some of my suggestions to encourage the development of lifelong healthy eating habits in your children (or other picky eaters in your household)...
1.) Start with baby steps. If they only eat 3 itty bitty green beans the first attempt, well, it's better than nothing. Next time, try for 4 or 5. The worst thing you can do is force a child to eat a bowl full of vegetables, causing them to throw up and now they have developed a taste aversion to that vegetable.
2.) Don't puree them to make them completely disappear but allow the kids to mix the vegetables into something else to make it more palatable, for example, have them take a bite of green beans with mashed potatoes. Or, make a cheesy brocolli rice side dish. (This seems to come naturally for parents, so I'm sure you've already done this.)
3.) Add extra vegetables into casseroles, stir fry, and pizza.
4.) Add vegetables (lettuce, tomato, onion, sprouts, cucumbers, peppers, spinach) to sandwiches...think Subway.
5.) Homemade vegetable soups...beef vegetable...lima bean chowder...cabbage soup, etc.
6.) Change the shape or texture to something that is appealing to kids...sweet potato french fries, for example. Or if they love mashed potatoes, try mashed cauliflower or mashed sweet potatoes. Cut watermelon into hearts or star shapes with a cookie cutter.
7.) Make it fun and interesting...ants on a log (celery stick, peanut butter with raisins lined up on top). There are other recipes on the internet and in cookbooks for kids.
8.) Dip it. Raw celery sticks, carrot sticks, cauliflower, brocolli, zucchini sticks, cucumers, cherry tomatoes in ranch dressing or hummus dip.
9.) Choose recipes for pancakes, muffins and sweet breads that contain carrots, raisins, zucchini, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, bananas, applesauce, blueberries, cranberries, etc in the ingredients over plain pancakes or muffins.
10.) Make fruit smoothies.
11.) Make fresh-squeezed juice with a juicer. You'll have lots of options and ways to combine fruits and vegetables. (I'm thinking of investing in one after we move.)
12.) Make a fruit parfait in a parfait glass. (Yogurt, fresh fruit, granola topping)
13.) Top pancakes, waffles, ice cream with homemade fruit syrup or just fresh fruit instead of maple syrup or hot fudge.
14.) Try a pumpkin pie shake (recipe here).
15.) It's not the best option, but pumpkin pies and fruit cobblers do count toward the servings of fruits and vegetables.
16.) Serve with variety in mind. Make trying new foods a routine and start young - when you are introducing baby foods. I notice that I often get in a rut and have a preference for something unhealthy when we have a streak where we are eating unhealthy. I am guessing that a child who is used to eating hot dogs and macaroni and cheese everyday is going to be more resistant toward trying new foods (including fruits and vegetables) than another child who is used to having new foods (including fruits and vegetables) presented to them on a regular basis.
17.) Be positive and set a good example. Praise good eating habits.
18.) Tell them why eating fruits and vegetables is good for them (in an age-appropriate kind of way, of course). If possible, get them involved in the growing or food preparation of the fruits and vegetables. I thought this article "First-grade gardeners more likely to taste vegetables" was very interesting. Even if you don't have a garden, you could go pick strawberries or apples together.
19.) Have raw fruits and vegetables readily available for snack options.
20.) Keep trying. Don't give up. There is evidence that it takes 10-15 times of trying a new food to develop more positive preferences toward that food.
So, is my lack of parenting experience showing? Is it harder than I think to get a picky child to try new foods and eat fruits and vegetables? Do you have any other suggestions? I think Mike is making progress - he even asked for a few green beans for dinner the other night and had a couple bites of asparagus tonight!
Stay tuned for some of these recipe ideas on Meal Planner Mondays...

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Milton Hershey School Choir at AU tomorrow

The Milton Hershey School Choir is on tour this week and they will be performing here in Ashland at AU tomorrow morning at 10:30 - how cool is that?

Happy Valentine's Day

Here's a picture of the flowers that my wonderful husband had delivered to me at work on Thursday... ...a beautiful surprise!!!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Frugal Friday: Inexpensive Dates and Valentine Gifts for Your Spouse

I started this post before Mike surprised me today with a heart-shaped bouquet of flowers and I love getting surprised with flowers from my husband (thank you, sweetie!), but if your budget is too tight for the typical Valentine's Day celebration, you don't have to break your budget to show your spouse that you love them. In fact, some of the best dates/gifts are free. Here are some ideas for thoughtful, fun, and romantic inexpensive dates and Valentine's Day gifts for your spouse...
1.) Go out for just dessert or gourmet coffee at the local coffee shop - even split one.
2.) Go dancing. I wish we were in Pittsburgh so that we could go Swing Dancing at the Wittman School in Squirrel Hill (see here) - a little more expensive ($16-20 for the night) but it's not only fun, it's good exercise too. For those in the Ashland area, there are the Malabar Farm barn dances through the summertime (free).
3.) Give each other a nice long backrub.
4.) Write a poem or song together or for each other instead of buying a card.
5.) Write the story of how you met, add pictures if you have them, and publish it in a photo book (there are often deals on these) or if you have Movie Maker on your computer you could create a video (this is what Mike did for me last Valentine's Day and I loved it!)
6.) Cook a nice dinner by candlelight at home, play soft music and dress up like you were eating at a four-star restaurant. If you have a favorite restaurant entree you may be able to find the recipe online (like I did with the Olive Garden's Tuscan Chicken from this week's Meal Planner Monday) - even splurging on a steak dinner or fancy dinner at home is usually much cheaper than ordering the same thing at a restaurant. Print out a menu in a fancy font and use linen tablecloths and a create a centerpiece from what you already have at home. If you don't want to do a whole dinner just make a special dessert such as cherry cheesecake.
7.) Take a class on photography if one is available inexpensively or teach yourself. Then, have a photo shoot of each other or ask someone to come along and take pictures of the two of you together - make it funny or romantic - be creative.
8.) Take a book on wildflowers or birds (visit the library for one) and go on a nature walk. Be sure to take pictures along the way. They will be great framed for decorations at home.
9.) Swap babysitting with another family or plan your date during the lunchtime or afternoon when the kids are in school.
10.) Play a board game together.
11.) Go to the park - pack a picnic, feed the ducks, hold hands, find a quiet place to cuddle on a blanket.
12.) Ride a bike - if it is available rent a bicycle-for-two for something unique.
13.) Attend a free outdoor concert if there are any where you live.
14.) Attend a play or sporting event at the local high school or college.
15.) Go stargazing - Take an astronomy book and see if you can identify the constellations in the night sky.
16.) Go bowling or play goofy golf.
17.) Go to the mall and people-watch.
18.) Pull out an old photo album or reminesce about your first dates.
19.) Depending on the cost - visit the local museum, zoo, art gallery, or historical sites. Check to see if there are discounts.
20.) For inexpensive group dates with other couples, plan a progressive dinner or scavenger hunt (like the "Amazing Race").
21.) Make a heart-shaped pizza.
22.) Go camping in the backyard.
23.) Make chocolate fondue and feed each other.
24.) Write out all the things that you love about your spouse on little pieces of paper and put them in a decorative container or heart-shaped box.
25.) Write a love letter to your spouse. Put it in a bottle and float it in a bathtub filled with bubble bath.
26.) Check out a movie from the local library (free).
27.) Read from the Song of Solomon aloud to each other.
28.) Go for a stroll at sunset. Watch the sun set over water.
29.) Go for a moonlit walk.
30.) Try something new - a new ethnic food, a new hobby, etc. Try something such as geocaching if you know anyone that has the equipment.
31.) Do something together that you haven't done in a really long time or maybe since you were dating (for example we went snow tubing on our first date). And if it's reasonable, go to that same place where you had the original date.
32.) Buy one of not-too-expensive scratch-off lottery tickets and write a romantic note that says "I hit the jackpot when I met you."
33.) Play romantic music and slow dance in your living room.
34.) Hide love notes for your spouse to his wallet, on the mirror, etc.
35.) Plan a "mystery" date or surprise weekend. Leave notes or clues leading up your special time together.
36.) Come up with your own variation of the "Love Dare" book from the Fireproof movie - make up 40 days of special ways to show your love.
37.) Take an old medicine bottle and type out a label for a "Prescription for Love"
38.) The Love Jar Activity (see more on this link to Focus on the Family)
39.) Give your spouse a book of "love coupons." These are coupons for something extra-special to be used later. Try to target your spouse's love language. They can include anything you want, but some ideas are: a day of rest and no nagging (even if that means sitting and watching football all afternoon), a massage, 100 spoken "I Love Yous," a chore that your spouse does not like to do, an evening together to just talk, etc.
I have enjoyed listening to parts of several "Valentine's Day" Christian radio broadcasts this week (when I have a chance to work at my desk), including a 2-part series on "Romancing Your Spouse" on FamilyLife Today with CJ and Carolyn Mahaney (see link here), and "Experiencing God's Dream for Your Marriage" on Living on the Edge with Chip Ingram (see link here).

Monday, February 9, 2009

Eating Healthy - Part 3: Taste the Rainbow

I chose this as one of my first topics because there really is no disagreement on the idea that if we want to eat healthy then we should be eating lots of fruits and vegetables. Isn't it wonderful how God gave us so many different fruits and vegetables to enjoy! (I know that hybridization and domestication of these plants has taken place since when they were created by God. But, still, I am thankful that we have so many different colorful and tasty fruits and vegetables available. He could have just given us something like manna, you know?)...
Red - Apples, Strawberries, Red Peppers, Pomegranates, Watermelon, Tomatoes, Raspberries
Orange - Squash, Oranges, Sweet Potatoes, Pumpkin, Carrots, Peaches
Yellow - Bananas, Lemons, Grapefruit (well, I guess they are more pink), Pears, Pineapple
White - Cauliflower, Mushrooms, Onions, Leeks, Potatoes
Green - Broccoli, Green Peppers, Asparagus, Spinach, Lettuce, Green Beans
Purple/Blue - Eggplant, Red Cabbage, Blueberries, Blackberries, Grapes, Plums
...just to name a few. I like this article here(except when they start talking about supplements and drink mixes)because it lists the different nutrients that are found in each color of fruits and vegetables.
I am guessing that most all of us should be eating more fruits and vegetables. The CDC, National Cancer Institute, USDA, and American Cancer Society (along with some other agencies) teamed up in 1991 to promote an awareness campaign called "Five a Day." The idea is that we should consume at least 5 fruits or vegetables a day.
The USDA's food pyramid is much more specific and separates fruits and vegetables. (Check out the food pyramid here.) The food pyramid also classifies vegetables into the following groups: Dark greens, Orange Vegetables, Beans, Starchy Vegetables, and Other. You can see the recommended amounts based on age and gender on a chart on their site. This is very similar to the recommendations from the November 2008 issue of Prevention magazine (p. 177) which you can read here, which say to aim for 14 cups of vegetables a week...Dark Greens: 2 cups per week, Orange Vegetables: 1 1/2 cups per week, Beans: 2 1/2 cups per week, Starchy Vegetables: 2 1/2 cups per week, Other: 5 1/2 cups per week.
Because vegetables contain so few calories (except starchy vegetables and beans you'll want to keep track of those), there almost is no upper limit to the rest. I have yet to meet someone who eats too many vegetables!
Fruits are counted separately. The food pyramid recommends 1 1/2 to 2 cups of fruit a day for adults. Note that servings vary for whole fruits and 1/4 cup dried fruit counts as 1/2 cup fruit. Fruits are a little more calorie-dense and contain natural sugars, so we can't say that the sky is the limit. 100% juice is good, but it is still pretty concentrated in calories and contains natural sugar, so watch how much you or your children are drinking and dilute it with water if they are big juice drinkers. Try squeezing an orange to make fresh orange juice and see how little you get compared to just pouring it out of a carton. Be careful that juice is not being used as the predominant and unlimited fluid in the diet - it should not be a substitute for water.
So, what about "superfoods"? A "superfood" is one that is claimed to have especially high nutritious health benefits, such as blueberries, for example. The problem is that this term is not clearly defined and almost implies that if you eat it daily, then you will be free from disease. Although, the foods that have been named as "superfoods" have been shown to be very nutritious, the principle of variety applies here. Eating a variety of these nutrient-dense "superfoods" ensures that you will get a balance of vitamins and anti-oxidants - that's why I like the classifications on the food pyramid.
One final word of caution related to fruits and vegetables which I need to be sure to state - and this applies to anyone with a medical condition or who takes medications...Never change your diet or medications or supplements without first talking to your doctor!!! Although fruits and vegetables are clearly "good" "healthy" foods, certain ones do interact with some medications or medical conditions...A good example is anyone on Coumadin should carefully watch their vitamin K intake. Large amounts of vitamin K are found in foods such as liver, broccoli, brussels sprouts, spinach, Swiss chard, coriander, collards, cabbage, and other green leafy vegetables. Do not change the amount of these foods in your diet without first talking to your doctor. Also anyone on Coumadin should avoid eating cranberries, drinking cranberry juice, or taking cranberry herbal products. Another example is someone with kidney disease. They will be probably be advised by the doctor to follow a strict diet which includes a fluid restriction and does not allow foods like peas or beans, just to name a few.
So, today's principle is (unless you have been advised by a physician to follow a strict diet): Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and aim for variety!. (If this is overwhelming because it sounds like a lot of fruits and vegetables, start by choosing at least 1 fruit or vegetable from each color group during your next grocery trip and then start adding a fruit or vegetable to each meal. I'll talk more about ideas on how to "sneak" fruits and vegetables into your meals on another post since this one is getting a little long (hmmm, I wonder what ever made me research that??)

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Meal Planner Monday: Olive Garden Tuscan Chicken

This recipe would be a special one for something like Valentine's Day...
INGREDIENTS: 3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1½ cups flour, plus 1 tablespoon
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
2 teaspoons Italian herb seasoning
Approx. 3 fluid ounces vegetable oil
1 pound penne pasta (or fettucine or angel hair)
1 tablespoon garlic, chopped
1 red pepper, julienne cut
½ cup white wine
½ pound whole leaf spinach, stemmed
12 fluid ounces heavy cream (I used half & half and it was still very rich,
probably whole milk would be fine)
1 cup parmesan cheese, grated
Preparing the chicken: Combine 1 ½ cups flour, salt, black pepper and Italian herb seasoning in a shallow dish. Dredge chicken in the mixture, shaking off any excess. Sauté the chicken in batches, in a large, nonstick, ovenproof skillet – with enough oil to coat – over medium-high heat for about two to three minutes on each side, or until golden brown and crisp. When finished, transfer the skillet to a preheated oven at 350 degrees F. Cook for approximately 15 minutes or until cooked through and the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F.
Preparing the pasta: Cook pasta al dente (or according to package instructions). Drain and set aside until needed.Preparing the sauce: While the pasta is cooking, heat ½ to 1 fluid ounce of oil in a sauce pan. Add the garlic and the red pepper and cook for approximately one minute. Slowly add remaining one tablespoon of flour and stir to combine. Next, add the white wine and bring to a boil for about one minute. Add the spinach and the cream and bring to a boil. The sauce is done cooking when the spinach becomes wilted. Complete by stirring in the parmesan cheese.
Preparing Tuscan Garlic Chicken entrée: Partly coat the pasta with the sauce, transfer to a large bowl (or individual dishes) and then top with the chicken, the remaining sauce and the extra parmesan cheese. Serve and enjoy.
The great thing about making this recipe at home is that you can substitute with lower-fat ingredients if you want and also it is much less expensive than dinner in the restaurant which would cost you around $15 each. (By the way, our Aldi has single red peppers now.) You could probably make this recipe (6 servings) for around $12.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Eating Healthy - Part 2: The Giver of All Good Gifts

When the Lord created the earth, He created green plants for food. (Gen 1:29-30) Science has shown us over and over again that fruits and vegetables have a great number of disease fighting vitamins, nutrients, and anti-oxidants. I believe that, just as our bodies are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14), God created these green plants especially for us, to give our bodies the good nutrients that we need for energy and fullness of health. And, I am more and more convinced that, as man has tried to alter those foods or create artificial foods for us to consume which are supposedly "healthier", the less healthy we actually become. From personal experience, I tried Weight Watchers a few years back. I did lose a few pounds and met my goal. But, I believe now, even though I was at a healthy weight, I am not sure that I was not harming my body with food that was labeled as "healthy". What I am referring to are things like Lean Cuisine meals with low "points", Power Bars, 100-calorie, low-fat packaged snacks that contain mostly artificial or modified ingredients, diet soda and gum (I had one or both almost everyday) with artificial sweeteners. I thought I was eating good things - less calories, less fat, less sugar, more protein and more fiber. I know the Lord is sovereign and everything is under His control, but I can't help but wonder if those things that I was eating could have contributed to my cancer. Several ingredients in these foods have been suspected of being harmful or causing cancer but they remain in many of the foods that we eat. So, I have been adjusting my diet now more and more toward more natural, whole and even organic foods. Do I ever eat "junk" food? Sure. But, I do try to limit the "junk" food and have more of the foods that I eat on a daily basis be "foods that God created" or at least ones that are minimally processed without additives or preservatives, you know, fake stuff. I read the ingredients on EVERYTHING I buy now and I have put MANY things back on the shelf because I discovered that it contained ingredients that I didn't want to consume. I was surprised at what is hidden in different foods that we buy, which is why I decided to do this series - and to help you interprete which foods are healthier options. So, the principle for today is...If it is a food that God created for our consumption, (and it is in its original form, such as an apple, or even minimally processed with no added ingredients, such as 100% pure apple juice or unsweetened homemade applesauce) then it is good. I think this link here has a pretty good list of healthy "whole" foods. "For everything God created is good..." (I Timothy 4:4) "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." (James 1:17)

Friday, February 6, 2009

Frugal Friday: Free Digital Prints

You can get free digital prints right now through: Kodak (75 free prints), Snapfish (50 free prints), and York Photo (30 free prints)...Click here for the links to Kodak, Snapfish and York Photo. Also, Walgreens, Rite Aid, CVS, and Giant Eagle sometimes run promos for free digital prints, but I don't think any of them have current promos. Other than that, I have not seen too many good deals lately.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Eating Healthy - Part 1: The insanity *

I don't know about you but I have a hard time keeping straight what is considered "healthy" and what is considered "unhealthy" when it comes to food. I know, I know, I'm a nurse, I should know about nutrition. But this is what I've found... Some "expert" is saying don't eat eggs because they are high in cholesterol and the next "expert" is saying eat eggs because they are a good protein source and contain omega-3 fatty acids... The list goes on...use margarine spreads, no, butter is better...don't drink caffeine, no, black coffee is good for soy, don't eat soy...carbs are bad, well no carbs are ok, just don't eat them at more of this...avoid a big breakfast then eat a meal every couple hours, but be sure to limit your calories...this is the next superfood, but wait don't overdo it...drink milk - skim milk, no, 1% is better...take supplements, but too many can be harmful... Then there is the marketing of "healthy" foods by companies like Weight Watchers (which I respect and recommend as a weight loss plan) which are loaded with unhealthy artificial ingredients, but hey, they are only "1 point" so all is good, right? It seems that no matter where you go to find the truth (ie: advocates of natural foods, medical doctors, the latest scientific studies), there ends up being contradictions. They even changed the food pyramid (the one that we learned about since elementary school) a few years ago! So, this series is my feable attempt to try to sort through all of that advice from the "experts" which isn't even consistent over time. Of course, I am not a dietician nor do I claim to have all of the answers, but I have done a lot of reading and I will be doing more research on each of the topics that I write about. I plan to summarize what I have found and share what conclusions that I have come to. I hope you come back for Part 2. I hope that you find this series helpful and I welcome comments and discussion. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ * Warning: This post was a result of my head spinning because I've been going through my old Prevention magazines to get rid of what I can before we move...I think I better take a break...

Monday, February 2, 2009

Meal Planner Monday: Open-faced Tuna Melt Sandwich

I wanted a change from the soups and comfort foods that I have been making lately, so I made a Tuna Melt for dinner the other night...rather inexpensive and healthy... I did not take a picture, but I will share my recipe...Use your favorite recipe to make the Tuna Salad (I make mine with some chopped onion, chopped celery, low-fat mayo, salt, pepper). Toast 1 slice of bread (whole-grain would be best but that's not what I had). On the toast: layer with lettuce leaves, then tuna salad, then tomatoes (I used the grape cherry tomatoes which I think have the best flavor this time of year), then a slice of cheddar cheese. Stick it in the microwave just until the cheese is melted.