Monday, November 1, 2010

Candy Overload

Hope everyone had a fun & safe Halloween. This time of year we are bombarded with enough candy to frighten even the most ambitious dentists and doctors. It would be nice to just get it out of my house, but how can I convince my family to do this?

Luckily I was a very picky child when it came to candy. I only really liked chocolate, and even then, there were only a few chocolate treats I would bother with. The rest all got donated to my dad or sat there until my mom finally got sick of looking at it. When given the option, I'd almost always choose a savory treat over a sweet one. I have never had a cavity and I am terrible at remembering to floss.

This year you may have a wealth of candy you maybe shouldn't feed to your family or yourself. I'm not saying to deny yourself of ALL of it, I am snacking on a teeny horribly created Heath Bar as I type this. You could bring the candy to the office, or give it to the kids next door, or bring it to someone else who you are guessing might appreciate it... however, I just learned about a terrific program that kids might agree to. A candy buy-back where dentists pay your child $1 per pound for their candy, and then send the treats over to the troops.

I'm not really advocating undermining the health of our troops, but I am hoping they can afford the extra sugar- as many of them are in tip-top shape and hard workers.

Want to learn more and participate in this program? Click here to visit the homepage and learn more about the Halloween Candy buy-back. Enter your zip code and do a search using the top right corner of their website to find which dentists near you are participating.

Monday, June 7, 2010

On Being Green


It isn't always easy being green.... you have to constantly think about re-purposing, recycling, sustainability of goods, buying local, toxicity levels, environmental burdens, using less, wasting very little. It will cost you and the earth a lot less in the long term, so it is definitely worth any extra you put in. Once you get into a green routine, it becomes second nature. You will feel like a better person for doing it.

There are daily, simple and strategic things you can do... combining car trips, ride shares, remembering reusable tote bags for groceries, time your showers, turn-off lights, don't let water run, remember your reusable water bottle, and do without if at all possible.

There are things you can do to convert your home into a more efficient, eco-friendly place. Lower your water heater, do more "cold" washes, experiment with your express setting on your dishwasher and use that if it works, replace old fashioned bulbs with florescent ones, buy recycled furniture off of cragislist, from yard sales or thrift stores, paint your walls with low or no VOC paints, hang clothes out to dry (if you have an outside space), make sure all windows and doors are properly sealed (you can buy special tape at a hardware store for just dollars and it will save you more than you pay for it), use window shades to keep heat out in the summer, change your A/C filters more often, and periodically clean-out your refrigerator coils.

The last step I mentioned has always seemed like such a daunting task. I'm not a handyman, a homeowner, or even a bit mechanically curious. Until today, I have not considered attempting it... but I did request that the landlord take care of it, and I have been meaning to call someone to do it for me.

At any rate, here is detailed info on how to clean your refrigerator coils by yourself. There are photos, and step-by-step instructions. How easy! This simple cleaning project will save you on electric bills, as well as get your fridge running more efficiently.

I hope you find this information useful. Please comment & share your green tips!

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Dam Ranch Grass-Fed Beef

Did you know that cows were not designed to consume grain and silage?

Last week a friend and I made a crazy trip to a "local" farm an hour and a half away to buy fresh beef raised without hormones, steroids, antibiotics, or grains. We purchased free range beef, grass-fed and grass-finished, at a price cheaper per pound than the grain-fed, natural variety at my local grocer. The catch is that you have to buy in large quantities that are equal to an eighth of the cow, or more. You have to put a deposit down on the meat while the animal is still living, so you end-up waiting a minimum of 30 days for the animal to be slaughtered, dry aged and butchered. You end-up with about 40% ground beef, and 60% steaks of every variety and a few roasts. If you are lucky, the farmer will throw-in a heart, tongue, or tallow if no one has yet claimed it.

The benefits of grass-fed beef are very well known. The fat present in the meat is "good" fat that helps your cholesterol levels stay healthy. Rich in vitamins A and E, and Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA), and lower in saturated fat than feed lot beef. There is much evidence that the amount of the antioxidant CLA present in grass-fed meat is helpful in preventing and even helping to cure cancer. One study showed hope that the superior grass-fed meat could even improve belly firmness. The risks of e.coli and other gross pathogens in grass-fed beef is much lower than in commonly available meat, due to the cattle never being confined to a feed lot filled with their own feces.

Grass-fed cattle are less detrimental to the environment than grain-fed cows. Since grains and feed were never shipped and processed for the cow, fuel costs and environmental impact is reduced right there alone. The complete method is much, much greener, due to the significant decrease in the need for antibiotics that get into streams, rivers, other bodies of water, and seep into the water table, when present in manure. Allowing the cows to live naturally, grazing, allows them to fertilize the land, naturally. Grass-raised cows are a really self-sufficient, sustainable practice.

I am happy to say that we have eaten very delicious grass-fed,
grass-finished, relatively local steaks and ground meat from The Dam
Below is the cattle farmer, Steve, with his egg-laying, pastured chickens.

So far, we have consumed a package of the ground beef, a Delmonico steak, and
a Filet Mignon steak. The ground meat wasn't overly lean, in my opinion, didn't dry out. The flavor tasted sharper than grocery store ground beef. Sharper in a good way, like a sharp cheddar cheese. I like strong flavors.

I ate the filet with a nice crust on the outside and rare center,
almost like ahi tuna is prepared. It was so soft, tender, juicy and
flavorful. It was just as good as any restaurant beef I've had... Ruth
Chris can keep their grain fed filets from now on!

You can find a similar product in your area using the following websites to locate a farm:

Eat Wild
Local Harvest
If you aren't that adventurous, don't have the time to visit a local farm, or can't find one, I have friends who have ordered grass-fed meats from this website and they are pleased with what they have gotten.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Dumping Grounds for the Earth


Today, in honor of Earth Day, I want to tell you about a quick, easy, and free fertilizer for your garden. It's rich in nitrogen and nearly everyone has access to it. What am I talking about? Coffee.

I'm not suggesting you dump your precious ground coffee on your plants. What I'm suggesting is that after you brew, sprinkle a the brewed grounds on top of the soil. This creates a slow-release nitrogen for when you water your plants. It's easy, basically free, and reduces waste or need to purchase fertilizers, and it's all-natural... as long as your coffee is all natural.

It's important to me to buy organic coffee, since coffee beans are not only treated with pesticides, but fungicide is also applied. The benefits are still there if you don't have organic grounds, just steer clear of using grounds from flavored coffee. I'd hate for you to serve your family parsley that tastes like chocolate hazelnut.

Not a coffee drinker? Still want to reap the benefits of this fertilizer? Call your neighborhood Starbucks to find out if they offer the Grounds for Your Garden program. Starbucks has long been known to practice social responsibility, and according to their website "[They] introduced Grounds for Your Garden in 1995, which offers customers complimentary five-pound (2.27-kilogram) bags of used coffee grounds to enrich garden soil."

Enjoy your Earth Day everyone! I'm off to the Fresh Market to buy produce, since they just posted that they will have some good organic sales for Earth Day on their Facebook!

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

D is for Deficient

It was very distressing to hear this report about Vitamin D on NPR a few weeks ago. It stuck with me.

It's hard to imagine that something so basic is missing from 3/4ths of American's lifestyles or diets....then again, I do live in sunny Florida!

Vitamin D is a hormone that is created by exposing your skin to sunlight. Vitamin D deficiency can lead to a softening of the bones called rickets in children or osteomalacia in adults. One way to get vitamin D is to have 15-20 minutes of unblocked sun twice a week. There are many other natural and inexpensive ways to get your vitamin D.

Vitamin D's benefits vary, depending on where you get your information. I've read that this vitamin is integral to the immune system, and can decrease risks for a wide-array of maladies- Alzheimers, auto-immune disorders, birth defects, bone fractures, cancer, cesarean sections, depression, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's, periodontal disease, peripheral artery disease, tuberculosis... I'm sure this isn't the half of it!

My favorite source of vitamin D is breakfast.

I start with natural bacon. You want to look for brands that tout free-roaming, humanely raised pork, such as Niman Ranch, Wellshire Farms, Maverick Ranch or Applegate Farms. I can find it at Whole Foods or Fresh Market and rarely at Publix. Pork fat is loaded with vitamin D, and bacon fat is loaded with FLAVOR!

I like to bake my bacon in the oven- 375, 10 minutes then pour off the grease and flip, 5-10 more minutes. I use every bit of grease for cooking after this. It's great for a variety of recipes, especially for cooking morning eggs.

Egg yolks are another good, natural source of vitamin D. If you didn't catch my entry about pastured eggs, take a peek to learn more about that. Pastured eggs contain 4-6 times the amount of vitamin D that store-bought eggs have!

Who knew that bacon and eggs could be so nutritious? Other sources of vitamin D include fatty fish such as catfish, salmon, eel, and sardines. Liver is rich in vitamin D.

Mushrooms can be a source of vitamin D, only after UV light exposure. I have not seen or heard of this before... but for my vegetarian friends, there may be hope. Of course, you can always defer to the artificially fortified cereals and dairy products that contain vitamin D... but I prefer the more natural route.

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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Don't Throw That Away!

I have wonderful childhood memories of my Pop-Pop. He was so health conscious and thrifty. He taught me things like, "if you're ever lost in a jungle, just follow around a monkey and eat what he eats to survive." He always grew his own tomatoes and some herbs. He built his own composting drum and loved to compost for his garden. He would often enter a kitchen, look upon some water used for steaming and say, "save that to use in a soup." While I don't recommend or advocate this, since during my babyfood making adventures I learned that nitrates build-up in the steaming water, I believe that he did have a good soul for trying to create very little waste and be so self-sufficient. I will always remember his thrifty, thoughtful ways, before they were considered "green."

I have some kitchen practices that I would like to share with you. They are not only healthy, but they all have nutrition benefits for you and your family, and they might even save you some money.

First and foremost, I never ever throw away bones. I keep separate bags in the freezer for chicken bones, rib bones, ham bones, steak and beef bones, etc.. that I eventually use to make bone broths with. Bone broths are wonderful for recipes that call for stock or broth, sauces, or just used to cook rice, noodles, quinoa, and cous cous. Just the other night I added it to taco meat instead of the usual water.

I make my broth in the slow cooker, overnight. You can experiment with your slow cooker's high and low settings, but I use mine on high. I have an older ceramic Rival. You may choose to save vegetable ends and other leftovers to throw in the stock. I have a friend who saves her ginger trimmings. Celery leaves and the woody part of the stalks work nicely for me. Any leftover herb branches can go in. Always add onion. I dislike carrot in my broth, but you can always throw that in there. I usually put a pinch of whatever fresh herbs I have on hand into the mix, some thyme, a bay leaf, whole peppercorns, etc...

When I make a chicken broth, I put leftover bones, neck bones, a whole carcass, veggies and herbs, whatever is on hand all in at once. I fill my crock pot with water a few inches from the top, turn it on and go to bed. When I get up in the morning, I turn it off and let it set a few hours until it cools enough to handle it. I skim it, then strain it, then pour it into a glass bowl to store in the fridge. Usually this broth will gel-up nicely, and all the fat will rise to the top. I skim the chicken fat, otherwise known to our dear Bubbie as schmaltz, and use it later for cooking savory veggies in.

When I make a beef broth, ham stock, or leftover pork rib bone broth, I add 1/2 a cup of apple cider vinegar to the cooking water to help extract the calcium from the bones. I'm no chemist, but I think any acid will do. I use the similar components- leftover steak bones, the bones from lamb shanks, leg roasts, and sometimes I will buy marrow bones from the freezer next to Whole Foods fresh meat case. You can try to ask your butcher for soup bones, but I would be selective about the quality, as older marrow bones and animals with osteopenia/osteoporosis contain more fat. Anyway, I simmer the bones in the crock pot for at least an hour with the vinegar water, then add veggies and herbs and go to bed. I let that simmer until the late morning or early afternoon the next day, let it sit turned off for a few hours, skim it and then put it in the fridge just as I would with the chicken broth. The best part of the beef broth is getting all that delicious tallow off of the top. Tallow is a very high quality cooking fat, preferred by French chefs for potatoes and all sorts of things.

If you are worried about the health consequences of animal fats and by products such as broth, don't be! Do some research and you will learn that studies show that refined and processed vegetable oil wreaks havoc on your vessels (scaring) and overall health. The vegetable oil industry has power, lobbyists, and over time they have persuaded America to give them lots and lots of money.

Broth is a wonderful food, low in calories for those counting and such a great, natural source of calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, other trace minerals, glucosamine, chondroitin and if you get a good gel formed once your broth is cool, you will know that it's rich in gelatin. I could go on and on, but I urge you to experiment and do your own research.

There you have it. I make broth and I save fat. Those are just a few of my thrifty ways in the kitchen. Next time you think of throwing away those bones or vegetable stumps, remember that if you do, you are doing your family a huge disservice. You could use those in a soup!


A very wordy, albeit wonderful, article on "The Oiling of America"

Quick Guide to Fats


Learn Professional Chef Caroline Wright's Secret Ingredient in her broth!

Mirj's Don't Throw Away That Turkey Carcass recipe on RecipeZaar- 5 star ratings


The Benefits of Bone Broth

Health Benefits of Bone Broth


- IF you can get a hold of chicken feet, calves hooves, or even swine hooves, they are rich in gelatin and will make your stock extra-special.

- My husband's mother's Jewish Grandmother would buy live chickens, and make soup from there. She always recommended finding a chicken with yellow skin, and touted their superiority.

- If you have made lots of stock and you don't have an immediate use for it, it freezes wonderfully. Portion it out in 1 cup measurements and freeze it in the proper containers.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Pastured Eggs Have Superior Nutrition!

If you'd like to read more on how these results were obtained and the benefits of pastured eggs, please visit:

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