Wild Card Wednesday: Ted Ed–How the food you eat affects your gut


A balanced gut (good vs. bad bacteria) is incredibly important. A happy gut can improve immune function, prevent inflammation and even reduce your risk of cancer. While there’s no definitive solution to keeping your gut balanced, there are many things that you can do to encourage the growth of good bacteria, which, in the end, is what you’re after.

Watch THIS awesome Ted Ed video to learn what affects the growth and withering of our gut bacteria and what YOU can do to help find your balance. 

Memeday Monday 

Don’t starve or cut entire food groups. Eat chocolate, plenty of fruits and veggies, and choose whole grains over refined. Enjoy dessert with friends and make dining out a treat. Don’t stress about what you eat, just be more aware. Be kind to yourself and do the best you can. Exercise your body and your mind. We’ve only got one. Happy Monday friends. Let’s make this week a good one! ❤️

Supermarket Saturday: Skinny Pop Popcorn Mini Cakes

I’ll be honest, I’ve never been a big fan of rice cakes but shrink them down to bite-size, and you’ve got my attention.  I often peek at nutrition facts and ingredients of the “popped” snack cakes because the mini versions seem like a good alternative to chips or other crunchy snack foods. Unfortunately, the big brand mini rice-cakes or “popped” snacks are either mostly dried potato and rice flour, are not whole grain, and/or contain artificial sweeteners.  Meh, I’ll pass.

Skinny Pop’s version is 100% whole grain (made from popcorn), giving them 4 grams of  fiber (other brands’ mini-cakes have 0) per 20 mini-cake-serving.  The same 20 cake serving has 3 grams of sugar, which, for a sweet snack, is almost unheard of.  Quaker’s Popped Rice Crisps, for example, have 8 grams of sugar per serving and that’s WITH artificial sweeteners.

Point is, decent kid-friendly snacks are hard to come by.  Skinny Pop Popcorn Mini Cakes are a delicious and nutritious crunchy snack option.  So far, we’ve tried the Cinnamon & Sugar variety (see pic) and Sharp Cheddar (according to their website, they also come in Sea Salt).  We liked the Cinnamon & Sugar variety more than the Cheddar but if you (or your kids) are a fan of cheese flavored snacks, they’re worth a shot.

Where to buy: They are a new item so keep your eyes peeled.  Look for them in health food stores, Superstores and some traditional grocery stores.

 

                                                                                 

Cooking Tip Tuesday: 3 steps to guarantee success in the kitchen

Becoming a good cook takes practice.  Even professional chefs make mistakes, burn food and make dishes that suck.  The key to success is, learning from your mistakes, picking up your pots and trying again.

The following 3 steps provide the foundation you need to boost your confidence in the kitchen, make cooking more efficient and the experience more enjoyable.  So much so, I’m re-sharing these steps that you may have missed in my first few weeks of True Eats. Click the links below to read more!

Step 1: Thoroughly read the recipe before you start cooking.

Step 2: Prepare and measure ingredients.

Step 3: Use (and trust) your senses.

Please let me know if you’ve incorporated any of these 3 steps into your cooking and how they’ve worked for you!  I’d love to hear from you. ♥

Cooking Tool Thursday: Silicon baking mats


If you’ve done any sort of cookie or sheet pan baking, you know how much of a pain (and costly) parchment paper can be.  Unless you pay a premium for the perfect cookie-sheet-size parchment, it often take a lot of measuring and folding and refolding and wasting to fit a piece of parchment perfectly on your cookie sheet.  I’ll be honest, I do prefer parchment to foil for easy clean-up,  but nothing beats a silicon baking mat (I own 3).

Here’s why:

  • They’re environmentally friendly and cost effective because they can be used (over and over) in place of parchment, wax paper, and tin foil.
  • They fit perfectly into a standard 13×18″ half-sheet pan so no more wrestling with odd shaped parchment or foil.  And they roll up nicely for easy storage.
  • They can be use for for baking, roasting and freezing, withstanding temperatures from -40 to 480 degrees F.
  • They are easy to clean. (I find it easiest to clean them while still on the sheet pan.)
  • They are made of FDA and LFGB approved materials and they are free of BPA and PFOA.

I have THIS set of 2 by Artisan and 1 original Silpat, both available on Amazon.  I’ve dedicated one of them to savory cooking like roasting veggies or making Pizza Pockets and the other 2 to sweets.  They are amazing and cookies especially, cook more evenly and uniformly.  Seeeeeee:

Side note: Concerned about the safety of food grade silicon?  Like many things science, there isn’t a TON of definitive research. BUT as of now, it’s been proven safe. For more info, check out THIS article from Scientific American discussing the safety of silicon in cooking.

Ready to buy? Click HERE for the Artisan set of 2.  Click HERE for the original Silpat.

Sundays with Samantha: Berry-licious Lemonade

We Hazards are so incredibly lucky to live in California, where many of our friends and family have lemon trees. This means, bags of beautiful juicy lemons are graciously passed down to us.  Upon receiving them, my mind immediately wanders into lemon dessert land (see Lemon Ricotta Cookies) while Samantha’s goes straight to lemonade.

Fresh lemonade really is delicious, but here’s the dilemma: When you make fresh lemonade at home, you witness the copious amount of sugar needed to tame the tartness of the lemon juice.  It’s A LOT.  Or so we thought.

Together, Samantha and I came of up with a better way to combat the tartness.  Sweet, ripe berries!!  We were able to cut the sugar to only 1/3 cup by cutting it with fresh strawberries and blueberries.  That’s huge!  The result: Berry-licious, just as delicious, Lemonade!  Perfect for sippin’, selling at a lemonade stand or even pouring into popsicle molds for a frozen tart treat.

Here’s what you need:

  • 1 1/2 cups fresh squeezed lemon juice (from about 3 large or 6 small lemons)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 4-5 cups of water, divided
  • 8 ounces fresh or frozen strawberries
  • 3 ounces fresh or frozen blueberries

Directions:

Step 1: Halve and juice lemons.

Step 2: Place 1 cup of water and 1/3 cup of sugar in a small pot over medium-low heat.  Stir continuously with a wooden spoon until sugar dissolves, about 1 minute.

Step 3: Rinse berries and hull the strawberries.  Place in a small blender and process until very smooth.

 

 

Step 4: ​Pour puree into a fine mesh strainer set over a bowl.  Press puree through the strainer with a rubber spatula, like so…

Step 5:​  Pour strained puree, lemon juice, water/sugar mixture and 3-4 cups of water (depending on taste) into a large pitcher.  Stir, stir, stir!

Step 6: Pour over ice and enjoy.  Alternatively, you can cover the pitcher and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Makes 6-7 cups.

Favorite Recipe Friday: DIY Fruit-Flavored Yogurt

Unadorned plain Greek yogurt is a healthy snack.  Per cup, you get a whopping 23 grams of protein.  With the exception of meat, it’s hard to find a single food with that much protein power.  (Protein is essential for building and repairing tissues and muscle, as well as making enzymes, hormones, blood, and much more.)

As I’ve mentioned before, I like using Greek yogurt in recipes but as a snack, straight up, it’s really tart.  In order to balance out that tartness and make it a more palatable snack, yogurt companies add a lot of sugar and an itty bitty teensy weensy amount of fruit and/or flavoring.  And unless you buy those with artificial sweeteners, you can get as much added sugar as you’d get in a donut.  Yep. Not really worth it.

Fruit and yogurt is such a delicious combination so, instead of skipping it all together, I decided I’d make my own.  Turns out, it’s tastier and much lower in added sugar than what you’d find on the shelves.

I made Strawberry, Mango, (and for those who like dessert-flavors) Banana and Peanut Butter with Dark Chocolate Zest.  Feel free to use any fruit you like.  They are super simple and the only added sugar is 1 teaspoon (4 grams) of pure maple syrup and in the Banana variety, there’s maybe 1 extra gram from the grated chocolate garnish.  You can substitute honey if you’d like…I just prefer maple syrup. Also, make sure to use the sweetest, ripest (read: delicious) fruit you can find!

Without further ado, here you go!

Strawberry

1/2 cup chopped strawberries

1 teaspoon pure maple syrup

1/2 cup 2% Greek yogurt (I like Fage brand)

Directions:

In a small bowl, with a fork, mash the strawberries. Mix in maple syrup, then yogurt and serve.

Calories: 130  Total Fat: 2.5 g  Saturated Fat: 1.5 g  Cholesterol: 10 mg  Sodium: 40 mg Carbohydrate: 15 g  Dietary Fiber: 1 g Sugars: 12 g  Added Sugar: 4 g  Protein: 12 g

Mango

1/2 cup chopped mango

1 teaspoon pure maple syrup

1/2 cup 2% Greek yogurt (I like Fage brand)

Directions:

In a small bowl, with a fork, mash the mango. Mix in maple syrup, then yogurt and serve.

Calories: 160  Total Fat: 2.5 g  Saturated Fat: 1.5 g  Cholesterol: 10 mg  Sodium: 40 mg Carbohydrate: 23 g  Dietary Fiber: 1 g  Total Sugars: 21 g Added Sugar: 4 g Protein: 12 g

Banana and Peanut Butter with Dark Chocolate Zest

1/2 ripe banana

1 tablespoon peanut butter

1 teaspoon pure maple syrup

1/2 cup 2% Greek yogurt (I like Fage brand)

Good quality dark chocolate, grated

Directions:

In a small bowl, with a fork, mash the banana. Mix in peanut butter, maple syrup, then yogurt. With a small grater, zester or microplane, grate chocolate over the top and serve.

Calories: 270  Total Fat: 11.5 g  Saturated Fat: 3.5 g  Cholesterol: 10 mg  Sodium: 110 mg Carbohydrate: 27 g  Dietary Fiber: 3 g  Total Sugars: 18 g  Added Sugar: 6 g Protein: 16 g