Let’s chat about packaging 

Everything comes with a label these days. 

By law, tobacco companies are not allowed to brand their products to appeal to children. I believe alcohol companies have similar guidelines. These are regulated to discourage children from trying and becoming addicted to things that are not healthy choices. Seems like a pretty solid idea. The consumer should know the risks associated with a product or service. 

Now let’s chat about food. Food-like products go be a little more specific. 


I can spend hours in a grocery store. I’ll read labels and compare ingredients. The other day while looking at coconut milk, I found these. This atrocity is sold as a “no cooking required” snack, for, you guessed it, kids. With a look at the blue monster-thingy, I’d say younger children. It almost resembles a cross between Sully from Disney’s “Monster’s Inc” and Sesmae Street’s Cookie Monster.  

Food-products are branded and packaged to catch our eye and the attention of children. These types of goods are located at a child’s eye-level. The bright coloured boxes with cartoon characters appeal to our little ones. It’s amazing how they can spot these things with so many other brightly coloured packages vying for our attention. 


The flip side of the package tells you of some “healthy facts” about corn oil. Some of the claims really make it sound like a good choice. 

The expiry date on this bag of monster nonsense is 2019. Yes, two years from now. Isn’t that a scary thought? The likely accompaniment for this in a lunch kit would be a drink. Probably a juice-box. Again, read the label. Liquid sugar with the promise of 10% real fruit juice. Some kids may get a can of pop instead, but probably a “diet” pop as it has only one calorie. Gotta watch those calories right? 

Food has been engineered to be hyper-palatable. What does that mean? It means sugar, a lot of sugar, sugar in many forms, is in our food in amounts that flip switches in our brains. Things are saltier, greasier and sweeter than anything Mother Nature produces. This triggers a chemical response in the pleasure centre of our brain. We physically crave more. Crunch and mouth-feel are worked and worked until it is just right. We now are teetering on the brink of addiction. 

This is legal. 

It should be criminal. Our children become innocent addicts through no fault of their own.  The role of parent/caregiver becomes increasingly more difficult as we almost require a degree to interpret food labels to understand what we are consuming. 

These marketing tactics are no different than the creepy person trying to lure a child into a vehicle with the promise of a candy bar or puppy. 

Why food quality matters

It’s kind of funny how food has become such a hot topic.

It’s food. We eat it. Shouldn’t really be more complicated than that. Food should be recognizable in its original form when we eat it or at least some semblance of the packaging Mother Nature provided. Obviously we aren’t about to gnaw on the side of a cow or pluck a salmon from the water and bite into it the way a bear would. We are a bit more civilized than that. Zombie apocalypse notwithstanding.

It used to be only the “tree-hugging hippies” who wanted their produce to be free from pesticides and genetic modifications and they were often mocked and ridiculed. Sad thought really. Shaming someone for wanting something better for their body, their children’s bodies and the planet we share. Turns out, they were way ahead of the game. We should have been right beside them, standing up and fighting for our rights as consumers to have explicit ingredient lists on the things we eat. Instead, we ran for the sexy two year shelf-stable meal and opted for super size fries and a large one-calorie soft drink to go with it.

It’s never too late to effect change.

Invest time searching for farmers in your area. Click here to go to Eat Wild. This amazing resource will help you find local farmers who are raising livestock ethically and practicing sustainable farming techniques. You will be amazed to learn who is growing what in your backyard.

Sustainable farming practices and the rotation of crops helps prevent mineral depletion of the soil. Different crops take different nutrients from the soil. Another reason to eat seasonal produce. Eat what is growing for the time of year. Some things grow better together by acting as a natural pest repellant for another crop. Livestock feeds on grasses and then, yes, poops, or fertilizes, the soil to replenish nutrients back into the dirt. Better soil = more nutrients in the vegetables and fruits. The ozone-layer depleting, methane gas horror stories are thanks to the CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operation) methods of raising livestock. Those creatures are standing shoulder to shoulder and knee-deep (figuratively speaking) in their own waste. Remember the video on how canola oil is made? One of the by-products from the production of this oil, is cattle feed. No thanks. I want to be able to eat the food my food eats.

I truly believe we are what we eat. If you are eating garbage, food-like products, I’d wager you are living in a body that is under duress. Maybe you suffer from frequent colds or illness. Perhaps early arthritic symptoms. Poor sleep. Low energy. Headaches. Eczema. GI issues such as constipation or diarrhea. Behavioural issues. The list is endless. Food quality won’t necessarily “fix” everything that ails you, but it’ll certainly help a whole lot.

Time to stand up for yourself. Don’t just eat. Nourish your body with real food. Plan and prepare your meals and eat them mindfully. Put your fork down between bites. Chew and actually taste the food you are eating. Stop wolfing your meal down while sitting in front of the tv. Give your body time to adjust to eating real food. Giving up the convenient, packaged foods comes with a detox period, not unlike that of an addict. You will go through withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, cold and flu-like symptoms. Your energy will tank. Your skin may break out. At this point, you may be thinking “this sucks! I’m supposed to be feeling better by eating better.” It’ll happen. You just gotta hang on.

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I know this first-hand. When I changed from eating a gluten-free diet to a Paleo template, my skin broke out in a terrible, itchy rash. I thought this food and nutrition shift was supposed to be good for me, why is my body reacting like this? Gluten-free does not necessarily equal healthy. There is a lot of crappy food that is labelled gluten-free. So many of these packaged foods are high in sugars and unnecessary carbohydrates. As your body rids itself of the garbage in your system, it puts that trash curb side, or in my case, on my skin. Think of your skin as a revolving door.

Let’s go back to basic biology. Our cells are building blocks. They are constantly moving “food” and energy across membranes, walls and borders to help our bodies repair, function and grow. This system is extremely complex and delicate in nature. It’s tricky enough for the cells to do their thing correctly when given the correct tools. Why would you put something that is completely foreign into your cells and force them to process something they don’t recognize as food? The body does the best it can with what you put in it. What to do with the things it doesn’t recognize? The cells become hoarders and stash the unrecognizable stuff to deal with later. You can only hide garbage for so long before it smells and things start to fall apart.

What goes on, goes in and what goes in, eventually comes out.

 

 

 

Frosting fails and the birth of a new ball

I’m not entirely sure why my go-to cookie shape seems to be balls these days.

Could be because they are two-bite size. Could be because I get to use my handy little small scoop that I love so much. Could be because I simply like saying balls. Balls. In my head, I hear the Saturday Night live skit with Alec Baldwin and his “Schweaty Balls” over and over. Gets me giggling every time. Schweaty Balls.

I did not set out to make balls this weekend. I made strawberry coconut muffins and planned on topping them with a lovely vanilla whipped frosting to make ’em all fancy-like. That went sideways real quick. The original recipe for the frosting called for palm shortening. I do not have that on hand, so I improvised with some melted coconut oil. Yeah, yeah, I can hear your giggles. “You’re so silly, that substitution won’t work.” “Ghee or butter would have been a better swap.” Yeah, I kinda figured that out a little too late. Well, you’re right. Melted coconut oil did not make for a good substitution. No matter what I did to the mixture in the bowl, it just was not about to magically come together and transform into the creamy whipped frosting in the book. Sigh.

I hate wasting ingredients so I had to find a way to salvage what was in my bowl. Like the Grinch, I puzzled and puzzled til my puzzler was sore. Then I got an idea. A wonderful, not awful, idea. I grabbed a few more things from the shelf and put the oven on. My face may have resembled that of the Grinch’s maniacal grin at that moment.

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I do this type of rogue baking when the house is empty and no one is around to watch me sweat and swear, uh, I mean, make magic.

These are light little bites of heaven. Not overly sweet and they are full of great fat thanks to the coconut oil swap debacle.

Goji berry and cacao nib balls:

  • 1/2 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 tablespoons coconut flour
  • 2 tablespoons almond flour
  • 1 egg
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 1/2 cups unsweetened coconut shreds
  • 1/4 cup cacao nibs
  • 1/4 cup goji berries (I soaked mine in warm water for a few minutes as they were rock hard)

Preheat the oven to 350. line a cookie sheet with a silicon mat or parchment paper.

Using a hand mixer, beat the honey, coconut oil, egg, vanilla, salt, coconut flour and almond flour together.

Mix in the coconut shreds. Drain the goji berries (if you soaked them) and blot dry with some paper towel. Stir in the cacao nibs and add the goji berries last to minimize the colour bleed into the cookies.

Pack your dough into that handy little cookie scoop and drop your cookies onto the sheet. Still no cookie scoop? (Seriously, go get one. Next time someone asks what you want for your birthday/Christmas/Valentine’s Day/Festivus/whatever you do or don’t celebrate, tell them you want a cookie scoop.) You will have to go old school then. Wet your hands and roll your balls.

These will not spread out during baking. Bake for 15 minutes. Let cool on the sheet for a few minutes before moving them to a wire rack to cool completely.

 

 

 

 

Oh for the love of balls

Not those balls. Different balls.

I’m talking chocolate, coconut, nutty, fat balls. Paleo and Vegan balls. Balls you will love. Balls for days. Balls you can whip up really fast.

Some days I am focussed in the kitchen and other days I bounce off the walls and cabinets like Ricochet Rabbit. Remember him? Bing bing bing Ricochet Rabbit. There’s an age drop. I may have really only watched it a couple of times. I can’t recall the specifics of any episodes like I can with Bugs Bunny, other than him literally bouncing off everything in the room. Upon reflection, maybe he was a character with either a sugar addiction, food sensitivities/allergies or possibly ADHD. Maybe too much caffeine? Who knows.

Today was one of those excited electron days. Inside I was buzzing with the energy to “DO STUFF” but I also wanted something treat-like without the associated guilt of inhaling half a bag of chocolate chips (I may have done that once or twice before). I have an upcoming trip to San Diego and I wanted something I can take on the flight that won’t get confiscated as contraband goods. So these easy balls were born.

(Yikes! It looks like I could do with a manicure and some cuticle work.)

I chucked some stuff into the food processor and crossed my fingers. This turned out way better than I could have ever hoped. I’m glad I was paying attention to what and how much went in. Sometimes the creative process really is a blur.

Really.

I may need to make more as I don’t think the inaugural batch will last until I fly. That’s ok because that means they were that good. I eat all the stuff I make, even if it isn’t stupendous because I hate wasting food. When the people I love and live with enjoy my creations, I do the Snoopy happy dance inside.

I give you: ccnf (chocolate coconut nutty fat) balls:

  • 1/4 cup almonds
  • 1/4 cup cashews
  • 10 Medjool dates cut into quarters
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened coconut shreds
  • 1 tablespoon coconut butter
  • 1 tablespoon melted coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • Pinch of sea salt

Pulse the nuts for a few seconds in the bowl of the food processor using the S-blade. Add the quartered dates and coconut shreds and pulse until the mix almost holds together when you squeeze a small amount in your fingers. Obviously don’t put your fingers in the processor while it is running. They aren’t kidding when they say that blade is sharp.

Add the coconut butter, coconut oil, salt and cocoa powder and process until everything is well mixed.

Pack the firmly mix into a small cookie scoop. smallcookiescoopMy favourite one is a 1 tablespoon measure scoop. Pop them into the fridge to set. Makes about 15-18 small balls (depending on how much you “quality check” the mixture as you roll your balls).

Don’t have a small scoop? Don’t fret marmoset. Just get your hands dirty and roll your balls the old-fashioned way.

Winner winner chicken dinner 

Don’t you just love a big fancy dinner?

Picture the room. Tasteful decor, perhaps candles and ambient music in the background. There doesn’t appear to be any other patrons in the restaurant. No menus.  The server begins your meal. A salad and maybe a soup course or some other appetizer with an aperitif. Fish, then game followed by beef all with perfect wine pairings. Oooh, dessert and perhaps a cheese plate with a glass of port. Coffee and cognac anyone?

Wait a second. What’s that noise? It isn’t stopping. It’s getting louder and louder. Oh right. You’re sleeping. Or you were sleeping. Your brain alerts you to the sound of your alarm going off and you haul your carcass from under the covers. Feet hit the cold floor and reality lands on your shoulders with a thud. It was just a dream.

You get through your work day relatively unscathed. All day in the back of your mind, however, lurks the age old question of what to make for dinner. When you get home, you open the fridge hoping for inspiration. Meh. The pantry holds no magic either.

You know you don’t want to cave in and order pizza or some other takeaway food that will leave your wallet empty and your gut and heart full of pain and regret. You remember the portioned flattened chicken thighs in the freezer.  Into the sink with water they go. They will thaw out fairly quickly because you froze them flat. (Aren’t you glad you did that?)

While the chicken is thawing, you get busy hauling the veg from the crisper. This becomes a total Hail Mary play. Carrots, parsnips, brussel spouts and maybe the last of the broccoli. Oh hey, grab the half onion too while you’re in the fridge.

You grab a shallow roasting pan and place it on the counter beside the cutting board. Turn the oven on to get it to temperature while you prep everything. Carrots peeled and chopped into chunks. Parsnips get the same treatment. Brussel sprouts get halved (keep the outer leaves to make chips or sauté them for breakfast tomorrow) and the broccoli is split into small florets. Quarter the onion and dump all the veg into a big bowl. Meanwhile you have melted some ghee in the microwave and have added a shake or two of your favourite spice blend. You pour the seasoned ghee all over the veg.

You check the thawing chicken and see it’s almost ready. You put more ghee in the microwave to melt. Grab the kitchen shears and cut the bones from the thighs. Trim the excess skin while you are at it. You put the bones aside to make stock later. You’re so smart it makes you smile. Your grandma would be proud.

You dump all the coated veg into the roasting pan. You stir a healthy splash of bourbon hot sauce (oh yeah, this is the stuff dreams are made of) into the ghee and slather the chicken all over with this deliciousness and plop it on top of the vegetables.

By this point, the oven is ready and in goes dinner. A quick clean up of a cutting board, a knife, one bowl and a glass measuring cup and you can sit down until food is ready. Or shower or feed the cats (or dogs), open mail or any other home type tasks.

In about 40 minutes, you are tucking into a super all in one meal. Plus, lookit all the veg you are stuffing into yourself and your people. You should be proud of yourself. Dinner crisis averted.

Winning weeknight chicken dinner:

  • 8 skin-on, boneless (or debone them yourself and make some stock) chicken thighs
  • 1/2 cup melted ghee, divided in half
  • 1 tablespoon Virginia Gentleman’s Bourbon Chipotle Hot Sauce (this stuff is golden! but by all means use another favourite brand)
  • veg of choice to fill your roasting pan  NOTE: I used 3 large carrots, 2 medium parsnips several handfuls of brussel sprouts, half a medium onion and about 2 cups broccoli florets, but use what you have handy
  • 2 teaspoons of your favourite spice blend
  • salt and pepper to taste

Set oven to 375.

Scrub, peel and chop your veg so they are all around the same size. Things will cook at the same time. Mix the spice blend with 1/4 cup of the meted ghee and toss the chopped veg to coat. Put the veggies in the bottom of your roasting pan, spreading everything out evenly.

Mix the hot sauce with the other 1/4 cup of meted ghee and coat the chicken thighs, placing them right on top of the veggies, skin side up.

Bake at 375 for 35-40 minutes or until internal temperature of the chicken reads 165.

Like a Scout, it’s good to be prepared

Every good heist has to be carefully planned. Nothing is ever left to chance. If you want to get away with things and be on Easy Street, you need to plan and prepare for any possible outcome.

Food really isn’t any different. You need to plan and prepare. When you don’t have a well-thought out plan, that’s when things start sliding sideways and you find yourself calling for take-out, ordering pizza or whipping through the closest drive-thru. This is then followed by a lot of regret and self-flagellation. These feelings are neither productive nor conducive to getting back on track. Time to get over yourself and get back to the business of feeding yourself good food.

Flip though your stack of recipe books and jot down meal ideas for the upcoming week. Think of all those food videos you share and like on Facebook and Pinterest. (They all have thousands of shares and views but I wonder how many folks have ever made any of them.) Dinner doesn’t have to be a rut. If a recipe calls for bison and well, you are not willing to shell out the dollars for this particular protein, you have permission to use a different red meat. The flavours may not be 100% as the recipe creator intended, but you have a new dish in your repertoire. Same goes for fish. Use cod instead of halibut. Trout for salmon. Just buy the best you can afford. Wild canned salmon on sale? Load up. You can add that to your salads, mix it with some mayo, make salmon cakes and so on.

Like most folks, you probably shop once a week for groceries. If you hit places like Costco, you might wind up with large packs of meats that look a little intimidating. The solution to the party-pak of protein is portioning (ooh, how I love me some alliteration).

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The five pound pack of ground beef has been weighed into half-pound measures and patted flat. By patting it flat like this, it freezes faster, is easier to store in the freezer and best of all, it thaws faster.

Bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs are often cheaper than their boneless, skinless counterpart. Be sure to flatten the chicken when you portion it to freeze. Like the ground meat, it will thaw much faster. When dinner decisions are pressing, you want to know things will thaw quickly. If you are paying premium dollar for pastured chicken, you want all the parts. You can debone the thighs yourself as long as you have a good pair of kitchen shears. It really is easy to do. Plus, now you have some bones for stock. Your grandma would be proud. Win-win.

Speaking of stock, or bone broth as it’s called in the trendy circles, portion and freeze that too for quick and easy use down the road.

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I have silicone muffin pans that make baking stupidly easy. They never need greasing. Everything just pops right out as slick as can be. I make my stock and ladle it into my muffin pan in 1/4 cup measures and freeze those bad boys. When a recipe calls for a small amount of stock in a recipe, I pull out as many pucks as I need and melt them in the microwave if I’m short on time.

Bottom line, don’t be afraid to buy in bulk. Spend the time in the kitchen portioning and freezing. This meal prep step will save you from feelings of self-loathing as you hide the pizza box in the bottom of the compost collection bucket.

Having a variety of proteins frozen into meal sized amounts will provide you with a good rotation during the week. You won’t be condemned to a week of chicken thighs because you bought the warehouse pack and they need to be eaten – stat!

Soup is good food

Now, if you were into punk music back in the early 80’s you may have heard that line in a Dead Kennedys song by the same name, from their album Frankenchrist. The album cover depicted Shriners driving around in tiny cars in what looks like a parade. Totally aging myself there. Those lyrics and that band aren’t for everyone, so we won’t continue the recitation any further.

The other night I was throwing food together for dinner. I had all kinds of veg that were going to sit ‘neath some lovely chicken thighs. That is another post altogether as that dinner turned out really well. However, I have a non-meat eater in my flock, so, chicken thighs were a no-go. (flock, chicken, see what I did there?)  Nor were the veg under the chicken going to be consumed.

As I was rooting around in the crisper, my eye came to rest on some asparagus that were nearly forgotten at the bottom of the drawer. I really hate wasting food. That upsets me on many levels so I grabbed the bag and thought what the heck can I do with these heavenly spears before they get all slimy and icky? We had had steamed asparagus several times during the week and we were getting kinda tired of them. My brain began to percolate and smoke, then, in a “EUREKA I found it” kinda moment, I had the answer.

The best parts were:

  1. I had everything on hand
  2. It took about 30 minutes from start to finish
  3. All real ingredients, nothing sketchy or unpronounceable
  4. Food waste averted

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Curried asparagus soup:

  • 1 pound asparagus, woody ends snapped and cut into 1″ pieces
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 an onion, minced
  • 4 cups stock (chicken, or vegetable if you want to make this vegan)
  • 1 tablespoon ghee or coconut oil (coconut oil if you are vegan)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 cup full fat coconut milk
  • 1/2 tablespoon curry powder (or more if you are game)
  • salt and pepper to taste

In a heavy bottomed pot, melt the ghee or coconut oil over medium heat. Sauté the onion until translucent. Add the garlic and asparagus and cook until fragrant. Add the stock, rosemary, sage and paprika and just bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until asparagus is very tender.

Using a hand-held immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth. You could use a regular blender, but you have to do that in small batches with a vented lid otherwise you are going to get burned and be cleaning soup from the ceiling. Just saying.

Once the soup is smooth, stir in the coconut milk and the curry powder. Salt and pepper to taste and bask in the compliments.

 

Best time to go to the dentist? 2:30

Two thirty. Tooth hurty? Get it?

I know it’s an old one but it always makes me smile. Except when it’s true.

Regular dental check-ups aren’t a money grab. You may think your dentist is giving your chompers a cursory glance to justify his/her fee. Nope. Your dentist is checking your fillings (if you have them) for damage. They are on the lookout for recession (that is a whole ‘nother post). They are also looking at the tissues in your mouth and your tongue. They are looking for changes in these tissues that you may not see or you may think are normal looking bumps and splotches.

Having said that, if something twinges in your mouth, and by that I mean, if you have a tooth that suddenly starts talking to you when you eat or drink something hot or cold, make the call. You may not be due for your hygiene appointment for another 3 months, but a lot can happen in that time. You wouldn’t wait 3 months to get your car in to the mechanic if something was clunking under the hood would you? Probably not, because the bill to repair whatever was wrong will be soooo much bigger if you wait. Same goes for your teeth.

I digress.4271967801516

First: no comments necessary about the size of the filling or the fact it is an amalgam (silver) filling or that you can see another filling on the other molar.

Second: no comments necessary on the quality, clarity or framing of the photos either. My dentist didn’t know I wanted them until after they were taken. They were for insurance pre-authorization purposes.

Back to my tooth. One day, I noticed the tooth was being a little fussy. This poor molar  was occasionally feeling a little sensitive. I’m not talking about eating ice cream and needing to be peeled from the ceiling kinda sensitive. It was much milder than that. But it was enough to make me sit up and take notice.

I booked in for a spec exam within 2 days. The discomfort felt like it might have been from sinus pressure. I haven’t had a cold or any kind of sinus issue for a long time. In the past, my colds went directly to sinus infection-land and these used to happen frequently. Once I changed my eating habits, (quit gluten among other things) I haven’t had a cold or flu (or anything that everyone around me gets hit with) in years. I’m not exaggerating. My nick-name is Robot-Princess (that, is again, another story). I just don’t get sick. So sinus pain, though I used to experience it frequently when I was younger, was now unfamiliar. Then I thought, maybe, I’ve cracked my tooth. At the time, I wasn’t sure which would have been a preferential outcome. Sinus infections suck because of the antibiotics, how lousy they make you feel and the havoc they wreak on your gut flora. A cracked tooth also sucks, because, well, cracked tooth. The picture and x-ray showed I had a fracture. Ugh!

Upon removal of the old filling, we got a look at how bad it really was. What we thought was a small hairline crack from the filling to the edge was far more than I had bargained for. 4276152886016

I had cracked my tooth from stem to stern under that silver filling. I’m a clencher. I wear a night guard every night to protect my teeth from me. I must do some of the damage during the day. I’m damn lucky my entire tooth didn’t break in half. (And yes I know, the photo is 180 degrees rotated in comparison the the other picture.) Heroic efforts were made to protect the integrity of this poor molar. Thankfully, I did not need root canal therapy. The tooth was and still is vital.

My dentist and his team are amazing. They provide support and just the right amount of teasing when necessary. I now have a pretty crown on the tooth and the cold sensitivity has been kicked to the curb. Had I waited to have my tooth looked at, it could have been a whole lot worse.

The lesson to be learned from this? If something feels different in your mouth, be it hot or cold sensitivity, or your bite feels outta whack, don’t wait. Get to the dentist. Invest the money and time in yourself. You need your teeth to help you chew and talk and you need them to last a lifetime.

Oh, and floss.

Did someone say hamburger helper?

You are just about to fall asleep when, wham! Your brain finds the most random memory from waaaay back and clocks you upside your consciousness.

Hamburger Helper. image28

Cheeseburger Helper to be more precise.

Approximately one minute away from sweet slumber and that giggling, prancing white catoony glove pops into my mind’s eye. Really? Ugh! Now I can’t un-hear the jingle.

Brain is now in full action mode and I know that sleep has been pushed back on the horizon. My thoughts ranged from fudgesicles to coffee and finally settled back on that boxed Hamburger Helper. How could one make something comparable? Something I will eat?

I tweaked my mac n cheese recipe ever so slightly.img_2649

  • 2 smalls yams (the orange fleshed ones)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup chicken or beef stock (homemade is best)
  • 1 cup Bragg’s nutritional yeast flakes
  • 1/3 cup red palm oil
  • 3/4 cup full fat coconut milk (more depending on sauce thickness preferences)
  • 1/4 cup Frank’s Red Hot sauce (or other clean hot sauce)
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp chill powder (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste

 

Peel and chop the yams into approximately 1″ cubes. Add minced garlic and boil until fork tender. Using either a hand-stick blender (immersion), regular blender or food processor, blend the drained potatoes, stock, nutritional yeast, onion powder, Frank’s Red Hot sauce and palm oil. Slowly add the coconut milk and continue blending.  You want the sauce to be smooth, no tell-tale yam lumps in case you are trying to sneak the sauce past someone who may not be on board with eating a potato-based “cheese” sauce. Add chili powder, salt and pepper to taste.

My plan was to brown some ground beef and cook some gluten free pasta and stir this all together to recreate the one-pan meal from the ’80’s. I got as far as the ground beef and had to stop and “sample” the flavour. Needless to say I didn’t get around to making any noodles. Adding some gluten-free pasta would definitely make this go further. Chuck some roasted carrots or parsnips in too for bonus veg factor.  Elbow, penne or shells would lend themselves the best to cradle the sauce.

This is now in heavy rotation in my breakfastimg_2657 world. I’ll add a big dollop on top of my sautéed veg alongside my eggs (yolk running into this is heavenly). I’ve topped roasted brussel sprouts with it. Heating it magnifies the hot sauce (don’t kid yourself – this provides some good sinus clearing action). I’ve eaten it cold as a nacho/notyourcheese dip for chips (both organic tortilla and potato) and raw veg as a snack.

Who am I trying to kid? I’m dubbing this a condiment and it will find itself a staple in the fridge. I have mentioned I like things to be easy in my life. By finding something that will act as a base for many dishes, my life is less complicated and thus allows me more time to binge-watch Netflix.

If you or your loved ones are vegan, skip the beef or chicken broth and add veg stock. Nice easy swap without really changing the overall taste. I just like chicken and beef broth for the nutrient factor from slowly simmering quality bones.

I suspect this would make a comforting soup with a little more stock and perhaps a 1/4 cup of white wine in it to thin it slightly. Top it with some crumbled bacon? Um, yes please. (distracted brain going in yet another direction)

Sing the jingle with me,

“Hamburger Helper (Tuna Helper too) when you need a helping hand”

At what cost, beauty?

We begin our chemical christening at a very early age.

Babies are bathed in what is touted as a gentle, all-in-one wash. Powder and moisturizer to finish the cleaning regime. No one wants a stinky kid.

Clean smelling laundry seems to be a hallmark of good parenting. Our detergents and fabric softeners are scented. Dryer sheets are scented. Look at all the smell choices available to us in the laundry aisle of the grocery store. Go walking outside (especially in the evening) and you can smell/tell who is doing laundry. Those chemical blankets are being wrapped all over your person and your little people.

Now, we’re grown up and we are in control of our own hygiene rituals. We use scented soaps and body washes. There are scented shampoos and conditioners. There are the ever-popular deep-conditioning products to help replenish moisture to our dry, over-processed hair. Like most, we apply a liberal amount of various styling products. Mousse, gel, pomade, hairspray, hair colour and perm solutions (yes some folks still go that route) Slather on some body lotion or moisturizer, scented of course, because your skin feels dry after cleaning it in the shower. Anti-perspirant or deodorant, again, scented, because who wants to smell like a monkey?

isolated-red-lipstick_wprw9pNow comes the make-up. Moisturizer, concealer, foundation, powder, eyeliner, mascara, eyebrow pencil (?), eyeshadow, blush, lip pencil, lipstick or gloss and a spritz of perfume or body spray. Maybe you need to apply your deodorant a second time at some point during the day for the “sure” factor. Perhaps an extra touch of perfume? Before we go out for the night, we definitely redo our makeup and hair.

What little girl doesn’t like to play in mummy’s makeup and perfume? (we won’t even think about pageant or performing kids)

 

Let’s not forget about hand-sanitizer. Scented and unscented, we find it everywhere. Shopping malls, gas stations, public bathrooms, kids play areas, grocery stores, lunch kits, purses, high school backpacks and lockers. We all know an addict for this stuff. This is now frequently replacing hand-washing protocol. People squirt a good blobby dose of this into their hands, rub away and then chow down on the fast-food burger and fries. Mmmm tasty stuff.

We need to wash all that off before we collapse into bed at night. So out comes the makeup remover designed to melt and strip off everything we painstakingly painted on earlier. Finally, grease up with some night cream to combat what we did to our faces during the day. We drift off to try to sleep for the next 6-8 hours in our “outdoor fresh” scented bed sheets. Wonder why you are tossing and turning all night and often wake up with a headache and stuffed nose or sore throat?

This problem isn’t exclusive to the females. They too are pressured to have nice smelling hair, aftershave, cologne and clothes. Men are exposed to the same chemical onslaught, except most aren’t sporting the same makeup as the ladies.

Remember the revolving door analogy for our skin? All the harsh chemicals in each of those products are transported into our bodies. This chemical storm goes on day in day out. For years. One can’t help but imagine of the cumulative effect of these ingredients in our cells. How can our bodies even begin to battle the chemical warfare we willingly wage? Layer upon layer of toxins are applied to the largest organ of our body. (this doesn’t take into consideration our food choices and what we shovel inside our bodies either) And we wonder why we are getting sicker and staying sicker, longer. Feeling crappy is common. Headaches and stuffy noses are just part of being human these days.

Parabens and phthalates are known endocrine disruptors. Hormones are delicate enough, they don’t need to be assaulted by these things. Sodium laurel/laureth sulfates are common allergen triggers and irritants. These are found in our shampoos, body washes and cosmetics. The best part? They are allowed in our products. Wow.

Be aware of what you put ON your body, the bodies of your loved ones. Read your labels. Make conscious, mindful decisions of the personal care products you choose to use on yourself and your loved ones.

Oh, and if you are that bent on the smell of outdoor fresh laundry? Hang it outside to dry.

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