Dueling bentos! We love Samantha’s “Bentgo” box so much I got one in blue for Jack. He used it for the first time today and was stoked to have such a selection. Click HERE for my previous post on EASY, HEALTHY, bento box ideas and find out where YOU can get these adorable bentos.
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.
Lately, I’ve had quite a few people ask me for links to the products and cooking tools I’ve recommended so far SO I dedicate this Wild Card Wednesday post to re-sharing those links, along with the original articles explaining WHY you need these products in your life.
Why am I qualified to make these recommendations? Check out my About Me page!
(Full disclosure: I am part of the Amazon Associates program so if you purchase anything via my Amazon links, I get a small percentage of the sale. But even if I didn’t, I would still recommend each and every one of the products listed below.)
Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt
Tomato Paste in a tube
Nielsen Massey’s Vanilla Bean Paste
Ghiradelli Unsweetened Cocoa
Kikkoman Whole Wheat Panko Bread Crumbs
Dellalo Whole Wheat Lasagna noodles
Tonnino Tuna Fillets
That’s It bars
Teriyaki Roasted Seaweed
Calbee Harvest Snaps
Made in Nature Dried Fruit
Peeled Snacks Dried Fruit
Tillamook Old Fashioned Vanilla Greek yogurt
- BUY: Available in most grocery, health food and super stores
Saffron Road Korean BBQ Crunchy Chickpeas
Field Trip Uncured Turkey Jerky
Organic Brown Rice, Rice Medley and Organic Quinoa (frozen)
Toasted Oatmeal Flakes
Unsulfured, unsweetened dried fruit
Whole Grain Crispbread
Global 7″ Chef’s Knife
Magic Bullet Nutribullet
Epicurean Non-Slip Cutting Board
OXO Good Grips Cutting Board
Stainless Steel Bench Scraper
Chef’n FreshForce Citrus Juicer
Progressive Nut Chopper
OXO Stainless Steel Food Scale
Casabella Cherry Pitter
OXO Pineapple Corer
Chef’s Choice Pro Diamond Knife Sharpener
MinoSharp Ceramic Wheel Water Sharpener Plus
Chef’s Choice Trizor XV Edge Sharpener
Charles Viancin Silicon Lids
FUN STUFF FOR KIDS
Make Your Own Dog Treats Kit
Fred & Friends Dinner Winner plate
Fred & Friends Mrs. Food Face plate
Constructive Eating Construction Plate and Utensil Set
R & M Mini Cookie (or fruit and veggie) cutters
Bentgo Kids Bento Lunch Box
Nerdy Nummies Cookbook
Sur la Table Knife Skills class
The (original) Skinnytaste Cookbook
Skinnytaste Fast and Slow
Skinnytaste Meal Planner
One of the first articles I posted was about one of THE most important kitchen tools…a good quality chef’s knife. A brand new knife is amazing but, what happens when it starts to dull? Not so amazing anymore. Plus, a dull knife is actually more dangerous than a sharp knife because you end up having to use more pressure to cut through something, which inevitably sends food flying off the board and the knife chopping your fingers instead.
The good news is, quality knives are meant to be sharpened and it’s pretty easy to maintain a sharp edge. And now-a-days, there are some very affordable products that do most of the work for you, quickly and painlessly.
Here’s what I recommend for your average home cook:
Manual (or hand-held) Sharpeners
There are 2 main types of manual sharpeners:
- Those with slots containing various levels of (knife safe) abrasives inside. The abrasive material removes small pieces of metal as you slide your knife through, reshaping the sharp edge. The Chef’s Choice sharpener (seen below), uses diamond abrasives and is very versatile. It can be used on European/American/Asian Style kitchen, sports or pocket knives.
- The second type of manual sharpener is like the MinoSharp version shown below. It uses ceramic wheels and water to do the job. It has 2 different levels of ceramic abrasives (in wheel form) to remove the excess metal. This goes one step further than your average manual sharpener and rinses the pieces of metal away with the water as you sharpen. I use one very similar to this one and love it.
Electric sharpeners do the same thing as the manual ones. The difference is they are motorized so you hold the knife and let the abrasives do the work. They work well, for the most part, but depending on the shape of your knife (namely, those with a large bolster), your knife may not fit properly and the knife can become unevenly sharpened. Also, they cost quite a bit more than the manual versions. If electric is what you want, Cooks Illustrated (the authority on all things tested and perfected) recommends the Chef’s Choice Trizor Edge shown below.
Sharpening Steel (a.k.a, the steel rod found in knife sets): This is actually NOT a sharpener. It’s purpose is to hone your knife. WTF does that mean? Think of if as a knife file. It doesn’t remove metal from your knife (like a sharpener does). It reshapes a dull edge, creating a smoother, straighter, sharper edge. From my experience, this is mostly useful in a commercial kitchen or if you are using your knife to chop a lot, for a long period of time. I personally don’t use mine. I go straight to my sharpener when my knife dulls.
Side note: Some sharpeners are designed specifically for one type of knife over another (i.e. Asian vs. German vs. American) so just make sure you read the details before purchasing.
Lucky for me, the lovely folks at Cooks Illustrated, wrote THIS in-depth article about the different ways to sharpen and maintain your knives. If you want to read more about it and see a video of how to hone your knife, check it out.
If properly maintained, good knives will last forever. “A sharp knife is a chef’s best friend”—ancient proverb
Click HERE to buy the manual Chef’s Choice Pronto Pro Diamond Knife Sharpener
Click HERE to buy the manual MinoSharp Ceramic Wheel Water Sharpener Plus
Click HERE to buy the electric Chef’s Choice Trizor XV Edge Sharpener
When I imbibe, I prefer to keep it vodka. I mean…simple. Yes, I sound like a total boozer but I promise, I’m not. Seen that one too many times. I’m a vodka girl because sadly, most wine gives me a headache and while I really enjoy beer, I don’t enjoy beer bloat, burps and the overall heaviness I get from drinking multiple beers. So, when only an adult beverage will do, I go for vodka with club soda and real fruit flavor like a lime or lemon wedge (I’m not a fan of the “naturally fruit flavored” varieties).
This particular experiment was inspired by an adventure with my besties. One of my most favorite humans was visiting, we had a babysitter on duty, so out we headed to a local bar here in San Diego. Upon arrival, I ordered a fancy drink that featured vodka infused with fresh strawberries. Oh yum.
I definitely enjoyed my fancy mixed drink, but after 1, I was done. I asked the bartender if I could just have the strawberry vodka mixed with soda water and he very graciously obliged. I immediately thought to myself, “Self, when you are sober, make this at home”. And so, 6 months later, it’s berrypalooza and thus, Strawberry Vodka was born.
Please be forewarned. You have to plan ahead and be patient. Brewing time is at least 3 days. My strawberries swam for 7 days. But, it’s TOTALLY worth the wait. See above pic.
Also, PLEASE DRINK RESPONSIBLY. It is vodka.
Wanna make some too? Here’s how:
Step 1. Pour a 1 L bottle of vodka* into a 1 L glass jar or container that can be tightly sealed.
*Generally, lower quality vodka is recommended because you don’t need any special nuances (like floral notes, hints of fruit, etc.). You want the strawberries to be the star of the show. I opted for a slightly better than bottom of the barrel (no pun intended) because lets face it, low quality liquor=high quality headache.
5. Pour your beautiful Strawberry Vodka back in the container (or another tightly seal-able glass container).
I am a firm believer in moderation. Nothing is completely off-limits in my book. BUT, if you are trying to maintain a healthy weight, lose weight and/or live an overall healthy lifestyle, there are some realistic steps you can take to help you get there and STAY there. And being healthy isn’t just about how much you weigh. It’s about providing your body with the right fuel it needs to function and limiting the things that do the opposite.
These 5 tips will allow you to splurge more often, feel less guilt when you do and help you make more informed decisions when it comes to food, exercise and healthy living.
- Cook. Yes, I know I sound like a broken record but seriously, it’s the best thing you can do for yourself. It doesn’t have to be a gourmet meal. It can be as simple as throwing some chicken on the grill, roasting some veggies or scrambling some eggs (all of which require little more than oil, salt and pepper). If you eat at home, you are in control and portion sizes tend to be much more reasonable. Conversely, if you eat out often, you are without-a-doubt getting far more calories, fat, and salt than you’d get in a homemade version of the same thing (even if you are cooking with butter, salt and/or sugar). In particular, if you frequently go to chain restaurants (like Chili’s, Applebee’s, Cheesecake Factory, etc.) you can guarantee you’re getting 1,000+ calories and an entire day’s worth of sodium in just 1 entrée.
- Make small changes. Think about your eating habits and where you could use improvement. Don’t set yourself up for failure by setting unrealistic expectations like cutting entire food groups or swearing off sweets forever (unless you have a medical condition that requires such restrictions). Rather, limit your portions and choose healthier options. For example, if you love cheese on your sandwich, slice it thin, opt for reduced-fat versions or if you are a frequent sandwich eater, like yours truly, add cheese every OTHER time. Or, if you must have something sweet after dinner (again, yours truly), save premium ice cream for a special occasion and opt for a small piece of good quality dark chocolate or frozen yogurt. Baby steps people, baby steps.
- Read nutrition labels. You don’t have to be calorie conscious to read labels. And don’t assume because the front of the label makes health claims like “made with whole grain” or “reduced fat” it’s a slam dunk. Food companies are smart. They OFTEN sneak in extra sugar, salt, fillers and other not-so-great ingredients to compensate for the “healthy” upgrades. And, there are often artificial sweeteners and dyes in products that you would never expect. For example, did you know that many jarred pickles have artificial dye in them? Same with Life cereal. Or that whole wheat versions of some English muffins have artificial sweeteners (probably to make it appear healthier)? Again, these things won’t kill you in moderation but you would NEVER know it’s in there without reading the label. And, especially now-a-days, when there are SO many food companies competing for your business, it’s so important to be pro-active and read the label before you decide what to purchase.
- Move. You don’t have to kill yourself for hours at the gym, run a marathon or become the next beach body. Though, serious kudos to those who have the time and energy for that. But, if you are like me, with little time for exercise (unless I wake up at 5 am or work out at 9 pm, both of which aren’t gonna happen) you have to take any opportunity you’ve got to get up and move. Aim for at least a 20-30 of moderate exercise, 5 days a week. If you can do more, by all means, do it. And if you are trying to loose weight, you will need to increase the intensity and time. If you sit at a desk all day, set a timer and get up and walk around at least 1 time an hour.
- Don’t starve yourself. Skipping meals can reek havoc on your metabolism. If it’s not busy digesting food, it starts to slow down. Which, if your trying to loose weight, is the exact opposite you want to happen. Not to mention, you are way more likely to make poor decisions at the next meal time, your energy level is low, it’s harder to concentrate AND you’ll probably loose friends because you’re always hangry. If you are constantly on the go, make sure you keep healthy snacks nearby. HERE are some of my favorite snacks I like to grab on my way out.
Getting to a healthier you is not limited to these 5 things but you’ve got to start somewhere. Try skipping the quick fix fad diets and incorporate more realistic changes into your daily life. Change takes time but if you stay patient, keep your eye on the prize and respect your body (after all, it’s the only one we’ve got), you’ll be one step closer to reaching your goals.
Go you! ♥
Because it’s Wild Card Wednesday, I decided to step out of food and into exercise. In order to live a healthy lifestyle, it’s just as important to remain active as it is to eat healthfully. And being active is different for everyone. Some bust their tush, workout everyday and rock a hard bod. While some are lucky to get in a daily walk or their “10,000 steps” cleaning the house. Whatever your form of activity is THIS HipsSister belt is Generation X-tra Cool’s must-have hands free belt.
I love it because it’s super stretchy, comfortable and discreet. Plus, it’s fashionable enough to wear out on those occasions you don’t want to carry a purse or backpack. It’s got 1 large pocket in the front and 1 in the back, which is perfect for keys, a cell phone, credit cards, other pocket size items.
Order your sweet belt HERE and “Keep your essentials safely by your side with fashion and flare.” (Hint: Perfect Mother’s Day gift)