Monday, December 12, 2011

Coconut Oil for Acne

Although coconut oil has received somewhat of a bad rap for many decades due to its high saturated fat content, it is actually one of the good guys when it comes to healthy fats. According to the folks at Nutiva, who have been nourishing people with their organic, extra virgin coconut oil for years, state on their website that, "since the 1960's coconut oil has been unfairly labeled as "unhealthy". The media reported studies of how tropical coconut oils were laden with artery-clogging saturated fats. What was left out of these reports was the fact that the coconut oil used in the studies was not the virgin oil used for centuries, but rather hydrogenated coconut oil. We have since learned it's the hydrogenation -- artificially adding a hydrogen molecule to oil in order to make it shelf-stable -- that's the problem, not the coconut oil itself. Hydrogenated soy, corn, and canola oils -- loaded with dangerous trans-fats and processed with toxic hexane solvents -- are routinely added to packaged foods. Hydrogenation fattened corporate profits and American waistlines, and is now linked with trans-fats and associated heart disease." Coconut oil has numerous benefits - both externally and internally and because it has anti-fungal, anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties it is super nourishing for the skin. It serves as a chemical free, natural body and face moisturizer and is ideal for clearing up acne, even with oily skinned teens. Since I have two teenagers at home who suffer from typical flare-ups, I decided to do my own in-home study. They were of course skeptical at first, but decided to give this natural remedy a try. I made them each their own little container of the oil and gave them the following instructions: Wash face with warm water and cleanser but do not dry. Use a pea-size amount of the oil and rub between palms to melt and then rub all over face and neck (we live in Boston and it's cold out so the oil is a solid - in warmer months it turns to liquid). Rub any remaining oil on tops of hands. Note that this should only be done at night since the oil does leave a sheen that would not be desirable for those who need to apply makeup or need to go out in public since it looks and is greasy. It does soak in, but may take a little bit of time. Both my girls have been following this evening protocol for a few weeks now with good success and have even mentioned it to their friends. My older daughter came home from school the other day and said, "hey mom, can you make up a container of coconut oil for my friend please", as if I actually was mixing this stuff up in my basement or something. Would love to hear your thoughts on this if you have tried this yourself. I am actually engaging in this home study as well, just to keep those wrinkles at bay - I have teenagers, you know!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

School lunches - Always a Hot Topic

School lunches are always a hot topic, especially since a Chicago school system banned kids from brown bagging, stating that a meal from the school cafeteria is more nutritious than what most children would bring from home. Here are some of my thoughts on the subject in an article written by Northborough Patch reporter Liz Nolan... Parents, what are your thoughts on the nutritional quality of school lunches served in your area?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Chocolate Protein Shake

I love creating my own protein shakes, especially in the morning when I am always crunched for time. You can't beat the quickness factor and if you choose your ingredients wisely you have a super balanced meal that should keep you satiated and provide you with sustained energy for at least 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Everybody reacts to food in different ways, but if you find that this doesn't sustain you, brings on cravings or sends you into sleep mode, you may be lacking enough good fat, quality protein or are going too heavy on the simple carbohydrates.

As a parent of two teens I always try to lure them away from the pull of fast food and other junk that seems to be lurking around every corner - from the fast food court at the mall to the church basement at youth group events. I try to come up with recipes that are delicious, don't scream "healthy" and are suitable stand-ins for their current crap-laden faves. Hopefully with this one I will have them at "chocolate shake" without having to even go near the drive-thru.

As far as nutritionals, this recipe has far more protein than a typical fast food shake. I checked out McDonald's stats for their 16 ounce Triple Chocolate version which came in at 13 grams compared to mine which racks up 32.5 grams, coming mostly from high quality whey protein. Whey protein is loaded with amino acids which have been shown to boost mood and behavior along with the protein content which helps with focus and concentration. As far as the sugar content, which is really the "bad guy" of the equation, the fast food option rolls in at a whopping 84 grams, while mine only has a mere 2 grams. Excess sugar may lead to weight gain, fatigue, poor mood and may contribute to a myriad of other health issues. It can also bring on cravings for more of the white stuff - which may make one think that they are lacking willpower, when in fact it is just the simple logic of sugar feeding sugar. Lastly, the fat content - although the numbers aren't that far off - 14 grams in the Mickey D's, 12 in mine - it's the quality of fat. In my recipe I use coconut oil, a healthy fat which actually accelerates fat burning in the body and helps keep you satiated, is great for healing the gut and makes skin glow. Oh - and the calorie factor - mine comes in at 267 calories while McD's is a staggering 580 - both approximately the same serving size.

So, if you're looking for some quick, easy and healthy breakfast or snack options to fuel yourself or that seemingly always ravenous teen, save yourself a trip to the drive-thru and whip this up in no time in your own kitchen. Feel free to experiment and make your own combinations using nut butter in place of the coconut oil, vanilla protein powder instead of chocolate, or adding a few berries to give it a fruity flavor - the options are endless!

Chocolate Protein Shake

1 C Vanilla Almond Milk ( I use unsweetened Blue Diamond in the box)

1 scoop Jay Robb Chocolate Whey Protein Powder (smartly sweetened with stevia)

12 drops liquid stevia (I use Sweet Leaf by Wisdom Foods)

1/2 Tablespoon coconut oil ( I use Nutiva brand)

2 ounces cottage cheese ( I use half a container of the little four ounce Breakstone's lowfat

1/2 Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder (I use Ghiardelli)

Mix in a blender until well combined and serve. Feel free to adjust quantities to your liking, knowing that this may change the nutritional profile slightly.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Oven Baked Eggplant Chips

I am currently going through a major food craze with eggplant and it seems like I just can't get enough of this nightshade vegetable. I'm loving their starchy, potato chip like flavor, especially in this baked eggplant chip recipe. This makes a fabulous side dish with a salad or entree, a great snack fresh from the oven, or perfect as a dipper instead of the traditional carb-laden chip or cracker, making it ideal for hummus or guacamole.
Eggplant is very low in calories, coming in at a mere 27 cals per cup, offering 3 grams of fiber and plenty of amino acids which may help to control mood, cravings, depression and regulate sleep patterns. Eggplant is also low in carbohydrates - only 6 grams per cup, which is an important fact considering that if your body doesn't utilize the carbohydrates for energy, it converts the excess carbs to sugar which is stored as fat - yikes! You can read more about sugar and fat in my blog post "Fat Does Not Make You Fat". Compare those eggplant stats with an equal amount of potatoes that contain 133 calories per cup, 30 grams of carbs and 3 grams of fiber. Kinda makes me want to forgo the mashed potatoes and dive into some delicious eggplant, since for me it definitely does help to scratch that carb itch. So, check out the recipe below and discover an easy, satisfying and delish way to help you keep your calories and carbs in check, get in some essential fiber and help to pacify that nagging chip craving that many of us feel.
Oven Baked Eggplant Chips
1 medium eggplant washed and sliced into 1/8 inch rounds
olive oil
  • Wash eggplant and slice into rounds rather than length wise.
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Place eggplant on a large metal baking tray and brush both sides of the eggplant lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with just a touch of salt.
  • Place in oven for 15-25 minutes, checking after 15 minutes.
  • Eggplant will get very brown and will need to be flipped so the other side may brown as well.
  • Eggplant should be crisp and very brown when done.
  • Remove and place on a plate to serve - enjoy!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Dark Chocolate Holiday Bark

Looking for a holiday gift but tired of the same old snowman mug, candy cane scented candle or bottle of wine? Here's an easy, no fail recipe that will help you give thanks to all the important people in your life without breaking the bank. This Dark Chocolate Holiday Bark is my go-to recipe this year, replacing some very memorable seasons of homemade granola, spiced nuts and creatively decorated sugar cookies. It is a delicious and decadent treat, but it has some reedeeming qualities since it is light on the sugar and fat, which can be the evil weight gain combination, especially during the holiday season. Since my recipe contains antioxidant rich dark chocolate, heart healthy pecans and cancer fighting cranberries, it is something that you can feel ok indulging in, just at long as you do it in moderation and don't go crazy. Starting around mid December I try to keep a supply of my homemade treats in a basket on my counter just in case I need to instantly reciprocate with a neighbor who may be standing at my front door delivering freshly baked fruitcake.

One of things that I love about gifting homemade treats is picking out cute containers to store them in. You can showcase your creations on a pretty holiday plate or arrange it in festively decorated take out containers, gift bags or tins and use last years' holiday cards to create cute little gift tags. No need to get elaborate, just have fun with the presentation, even involving your kids in the process - especially if you are preparing gifts for your awesome sitter, Susie's unbelievably patient teacher, and the school bus driver, who is thankfully always running a few minutes late. Check out Target, Walmart and even online sites like Oriental Trading Company for container ideas.

Dark Chocolate Holiday Bark

12 Ounces Hershey's Special Dark Chocolate Morsels

3/4 C chopped, toasted pecans

3/4 C dried cranberries

  • Melt chocoate in microwave in a large Pyrex measuring cup for 1 minute and stir.
  • Microwave for 15 seconds at a time, stirring after each heating until chocolate is melted and smooth.
  • Mix half of the pecans and half of the cranberries into the melted chocolate and stir.
  • Spread mixture onto a cookie sheet lined with waxed paper, using a spatula to spread it out, careful not to make it too thin.
  • Sprinkle remaining pecans and cranberries onto the chocolate, pressing them down with a spatula.
  • Put tray in freezer for 1 hour to harden chocolate. Then peel from wax paper and break into pieces. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Mindful Eating During the Holidays

The average American gains 10-15 pounds between Thanksgiving and New Years - not surprising since so much of the holidays are centered around food. Going to parties, cookie swaps, work and school functions, big, elaborate meals - you can gain weight just thinking about all the soirees you might possibly attend! For many it is a joyful time to be around friends and family, celebrating with good cheer and decadent food, but for others it can be a highly emotional time. Some may be suffering a loss of a loved one or perhaps they are not able to be with family during the holidays due to work or other committments. It is possible during this time that some turn to food for comfort and to relieve some of the stress that the holiday time often brings. Unfortunately, most of the comfort food that we often turn to, to soothe our soul can wreak havoc on our waistlines, tends to heighten depression and may bring on craving for more sugary, starchy food. All the cookies, pies and decadent desserts that are so abundant during this time of year, along with Holiday stuffing and mashed potatoes can send us into a spiral soon after the feast ends. So often, we indulge to the point of having to unbutton our pants, shortly going back to the kitchen for round two and then feel disgusting and mad at ourselves for overindulging at yet another function. So, what can one do so that we can still enjoy and partake in all the delicious food options, but still like ourselves the next morning?
  1. Be mindful of what you are eating. Scan the buffet table before you actually start to dig in. Pick a few items that really make your mouth water and take reasonable amounts of each. Savor, relish and actually enjoy what you are eating, instead of trying to scarf it down and get to the next buffet item. After you are done put your plate down, grab a beverage and mingle. Chat it up with friends without worrying about the possibility that there may be spinach stuck in your teeth or you may be stuck with a too big bite in your mouth when someone is trying to converse with you.
  2. Take the focus off of food and be grateful for your blessings. Think about all the wonderful positives in your life and be thankful.
  3. Bring an item to a party or if you are entertaining at home, make a few dishes that you know that you can indulge in without regret. My favorite is mashed cauliflower that is a great stand-in for mashed potatoes. It has all the creamy richness, but without all the heavy calories and starch that potatoes have, plus it will help keep cravings for more starch at bay. Here's the recipe...

Creamy Mashed Cauliflower

1 head of cauliflower, rinsed and trimmed

1 T butter

1/8 tsp sea salt

Splash of 1/2 & 1/2

Steam cauliflower in a pot with water and a steamer basket for 20-30 minutes, until tender. Remove cauliflower from steamer basket, drain water from pot and place cauliflower back into pot. Add butter, salt and 1/2 & 1/2 and use a hand held immersion blender to puree, using quick pulses. Can also use a blender or food processor instead of an immersion blender. Serves four as a side dish.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Apple Sauce 101

Perhaps you decided to embark on an outdoorsy, family adventure this month and have already headed out to the nearest orchard, enjoyed the beautiful fall weather and picked some delicious apples. If that was the case, you have probably exhausted yourself baking a bunch of pies and are still wondering what do with the seemingly endless bounty of apples that have been sitting on your kitchen counter for the past week. If you are looking for a simple recipe with minimal fuss, consider making your own applesauce. Seriously, if you can peel apples and boil water, you can master homemade apple sauce. First, either go to the grocery store or pick your own naturally sweet apples, such as Gala, Fuji, MacIntosh or Honeycrisp to name a few. This year I used a mixture of Fuji and McIntosh and these two varieties combined made my applesauce so sweet that I didn't need to add any sugar at all.

Here's what to do to create some heavenly sauce in your own kitchen...

Apple Sauce 101

  • Wash, peel, core and chunk as many apples that will fit into a large, thick bottomed pot.
  • Add 1/2 cup of water, put the lid on and turn the burner on high heat.
  • When the water begins to boil and things really start to get going, turn down the heat to medium low, so the apples are at a simmer.
  • Keep the pot covered and stir every 15 minutes or so. It's important to stir well from the bottom so the apples cook down evenly.
  • Let the apples cook for an hour or more, depending on whether you like your applesauce on the chunky side or smooth.
  • At this point you can add some cinnamon to taste and remove from the burner to cool a bit.
  • Serve & place the remainder in a container and store for up to a week in the fridge .
  • You can also freeze leftovers and take out to thaw a day before you plan on eating. Applesauce freezes really well.

I guarantee this homemade applesauce will taste way better and be alot healthier than anything you have ever had from a store and by selecting the right apples, it will be so naturally sweet that you won't need to add any sugar at all.

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