Saturday, August 23, 2014

Aspirin Uses

Yes, another Grandparent article. Aspirin - and you thought it was only good for headaches (well, I did too).

Though willow bark has been used for thousands of years to relieve pain and inflammation, it wasn't until 1897 that a German chemist was able to modify its active ingredient – salicin – to create acetylsalicylic acid, which is gentler on stomachs and the basis of modern aspirin. But this “miracle drug” can do more than treat a headache.


Soften your feet: Remove calluses from your feet (or hands) with aspirin. Crush six to eight tablets and mix them with a teaspoon or two of lemon juice, and enough warm water to make a paste. Spread the paste on the calloused area, then wrap in a warm towel and cover with a plastic bag. Leave on for ten or fifteen minutes, then scrub with a pumice stone to remove the callous. (NOTE: Do not try this if you are diabetic or have impaired circulation.)

Make your plants healthier: Aspirin may just be a gardener’s best friend. A solution of one aspirin in a gallon of water can help plants that have been traumatized by moving or replanting to recover, and can help new plants to develop strong root systems. Or add a little mild, liquid soap to the aspirin water and spray it on plant leaves to discourage pests. (The soap will keep the solution from just rolling off the plant.) 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Tortilla Pizza

Flour Tortillas
Pizza Sauce
Favorite toppings:
  Ground Beef, cooked & crumbled
  Sausage, cooked & crumbled
  Bell Peppers, chopped
  Onions, chopped
Cheddar cheese, shredded
Mozzarella cheese, shredded

On tortilla spread as little or as much pizza sauce that you might like.  Top with both cheeses covering nicely, or as much as you may like.  Top with your favorite toppings.  Bake in a toaster oven on 450 degrees for 10-15 minutes or until hot and cheeses have melted.

Comment:  I have a friend who loves pizza but he seldom eats the crust and since pizza delivered can get quite expensive I've tried to tell him that he needs to get his money's worth and eat the crust too.  He simply won't do it so I told him he could pay me the $20.00 he spends for pizza, delivery and tip and I would make a pizza he would simply live and not have to worry about the crust.  So I used tortillas for my crust, cooked up about 1/4 lb. of ground beef and started creating his pizza.  It's perfect!  The crust is thin enough that he actually eats it and you can make it soft by only cooking it after topping or you can crisp it up by putting it in the toaster oven for about 3-5 minutes before topping.  You can add any toppings and those you don't use you simply place in a baggie to use for more pizzas later or to add to another dish.  And the pizza sauce will keep in the refrigerator for several days so you can have pizza every day.  I think this may be a little healthier than delivered pizza too since it has such a thin crust.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Apple Cider Vinegar Uses

Yes, another Grandparent article that had to be shared.

Next time you buy apple cider vinegar, skip the clear, refined stuff and go raw and organic. (Look for a brand that may look a little cloudy, and has bits of sediment in it; those are the enzymes that make it so powerful.)


Use it to tame a rosacea flare-up: For some rosacea suffers, applying apple cider vinegar diluted with water as a toner can help soothe the redness and burning or itching of rosacea.

Condition your hair: Add a tablespoon of vinegar to a cup of warm water and rinse your hair with it after you shampoo. It will remove any soapy residue and leave your hair shiny and manageable! (Don’t do this if you color your hair, though, as it may interact with, or strip away, the dye.)

Remove fish scales more easily: When your favorite fisherman brings you his catch of the day, rub it with vinegar before you clean it. The scales will come off more easily, and your hands will smell less fishy, too.

And for 18 more uses go to Tree Hugger and see how many of their suggestions you might use.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Uses of Honey

This is another interesting article from Grandparents


Raw, organic honey is one of nature’s superfoods, and you should definitely keep a jar on hand! If you can, buy honey that is produced locally. (Some of the honey sold in supermarkets has been found to contain high fructose corn syrup and red food dye.) Besides being delicious, the good stuff can help keep you beautiful inside and out!


Ease a hangover: Next time you’ve overindulged, try a tablespoon of honey. (You can add it to herbal tea or hot water or drizzle it on toast, if you prefer not to eat it straight.) The fructose is thought to help speed up the metabolism of the alcohol, according to the Royal Society of Chemistry in the UK.

As a dressing for minor wounds: Honey is antimicrobial and antibacterial, which means the bad stuff can’t grow in it. You can use raw honey as an ointment on minor burns, cuts and scrapes. It also can banish blemishes for the same reason. Just be sure you cover the area with a bandage so you won’t be tempted to lick it off – and, of course, to keep the sticky stuff off your clothes and furniture!

Then I found even more uses on Care 2. 

They say:
It’s often said that the famed ancient beauty Cleopatra would soak in honey and milk baths. Well, whether or not that’s true, it’s certainly not surprising that the story has persisted for so long — honey has a tremendous effect on the skin. And that’s not all — honey is a powerful antiseptic and a fantastic natural sugar substitute. Keep reading for these and more alternative uses for honey.  13 Uses of Honey by Care 2

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Petroleum Jelly and its Uses

The tips below are from the Grandparent site.

Unless you’re swimming the English Channel, we don’t recommend slathering your body with petroleum jelly. As the name implies, it’s a by-product of oil refining, so a little dab will do you! That said, it’s been in use since 1870, and high-quality brands (like Vaseline, for example) are generally recognized as safe.


Keep car doors from freezing shut: We got this tip from an Air Force mechanic: Put a thin layer of petroleum jelly around the insulation of your car door, and you won’t have to worry about your car doors freezing shut when the next polar vortex hits.

Make an at-home mani/pedi look perfect: Use a cotton swab to outline your nails and nail polish won’t stick to your skin. Also, a thin layer of jelly around the tops of your nail polish bottles will keep them opening easily.

Keep ants out of the doggy bowl: Coat the outside of Fido or Fluffy’s food dish with a thin layer of jelly and ants will dine elsewhere.

For more uses visit 57 Uses for Petroleum Jelly

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Distilled White Vinegar Uses

Another Great Article from Grandparents 

Distilled White Vinegar

The Native Americans were right: Corn is our friend. Not only is it delicious on the cob or off, it’s the source of white distilled vinegar, which – as our grandmothers knew – can make a salad dressing or clean the walls with equal aplomb.

Revive wilted vegetables: Soak wilted greens or other vegetables in a bath of one tablespoon of white vinegar to two cups of water for 10 minutes.

Keep colors from running: Add one cup of white vinegar to the wash to help set the color of new towels or other items. 

Prevent cheese from getting moldy: Dampen a paper towel in white vinegar and wrap it around hard cheese to prevent mold spores from forming.

After reading this I decided to check a little deeper into the many uses of vinegar.  This is what I found:

Howard Garrett, also known as The Dirt Doctor, has compiled a number of uses for vinegar, including recipes for both internal use and use in your organic garden, which I will share with you here.  This is a lengthy article but worth going to the site to read.  It brings to light so many more uses of vinegar.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Salt Uses

I belong to a site that has some of the best information articles.  It's mainly created for Grandparents but is useful for everyone.  I wanted to share some of the information they posted a few days ago that I found interesting as well as useful.

You probably don’t think twice about the salt that graces your table, but at one time, salt was so highly prized that it was used as currency. The Roman army is said to have paid soldiers in salt; the word “salary” has its roots in this practice, and it’s why we say someone is “worth his salt.”

Remove a wine stain: Blot (don’t rub) the spill to remove as much as possible, then cover the stain liberally with salt and let it sit for 10 minutes. Rinse with cold water, if possible, then repeat if necessary. If the spill is on a carpet, you can wait for the salt to dry and then vacuum it up.

Make drip-proof candles: Soak new candles in salt water for a few hours, then let them dry. They will burn drip-free.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

More Info for Less Cholesterol - Refining Our Meals

These are few ways to refine our meals to reduce fat and cholesterol:

1.  Use fresh vegetables whenever possible.  If it is necessary to used canned or frozen, read the label to insure that the product does not contain saturated fat, such as lard, bacon fat, palm oil or coconut oil.  If the label lists "vegetable fat" without revealing the specific source, assume that it is palm oil or coconut oil and don't purchase the product.  (Now and then I can find fresh vegetables but we all know that during the winter months they aren't exactly fresh since they have to sometimes be shipped from other countries.  What I now do is buy frozen in the bags.  To me, they are better than canned and don't normally have anything added.)

2.  Use only those salad dressings made form olive oil or form an unsaturated vegetable oil (safflower, corn, cottonseed, sesame, soybean and sunflower).  Use homemade rather than commercial salad dressings for maximum control over the oil, salt, sugar and preservatives.  Avoid dressings made with cheese.  Serve dressings on the side as only 1 tablespoon can be 75 to 100 calories.  (This is a big one for me to change.  I simply love creamy dressings like Ranch or Onion or Poppyseed.  I've tried making these but they just don't taste the same so this is a gradual change that I'm trying to make.)

3.  Use soft tub-type margarine made form an unsaturated liquid vegetable oil in place of hydrogenated stick margarine.  Again, label reading is the key.  To be acceptable, the label must list liquid vegetable oil as the first ingredient and show that the product contains twice the amount of unsaturated as saturated fat.  (Another tough one for me.  I love my butter and I love to cook with it.  Not sure how I'll handle this change.)

4.  Reduce the amount of margarine used on breads.  Even tub margarine made form an unsaturated vegetable oil is 99% fat and contains 95 calories per tablespoon.  Eliminate margarine as a sauce for vegetables, rice and potatoes; instead use herbs, spices, wine, lemon juice or flavored vinegars.  (I'm getting better at this one.  I cooked some frozen lima beans last week and where I would normally use either a piece of fat meat or butter to flavor them I used salt free bouillon.  They were delicious.  Gonna try this with my rice and potatoes too.  As for my bread, I've learned to enjoy spreading a little hummus over my toast.)

#5.  Avoid commercial bakery products and desserts that are high in saturated fat and calories. (No problem here.  If I eat desserts they are usually those that I make.  Now if I can just not cook them with too much fat I'll be ok.)

#6.  Increase the amount of complex carbohydrates (such as rice, beans, pasta) to satisfy in a low-fat manner and reduce the portion size of the entrĂ©e.  (I love my carbs so this is no problem as long as I season and smother them with the right sauces.)

So, on my quest to lower my cholesterol, I've found that I still need to make a few changes in not just my eating but also my cooking.  Some of these changes won't be easy but I'm getting there.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

More Info for Less Cholesterol - Poultry and Fish/Seafood

Now that I know I'm ok in the red meat dept. it's time to look at the meats that I do eat the most which are poultry, fish and seafood.  One of these may be the cause of my raised cholesterol level.  So here is what I found.

Skinless, white poultry is only about 20% fat.  Only 19% of the calories in trout are fat, and only 6% of those in water-packed tuna are fat.  In addition, poultry and seafood, with the exception of shrimp, are generally lower in cholesterol than red meat.  Although shrimp is high in cholesterol, many medical professionals now feel that the healthful benefits of fish oil allow shrimp to be eaten on a moderate basis.

A 3 1/2 oz. serving of cooked trout yields 55 mg. of cholesterol; halibut 60 mg.; and chicken 79 mg.  Four ounces of cod contains just 57 mg. and 3 oz. of tuna just 54 mg.   While 4 oz. of sirloin steak contains 107 mg.  (One of my favorite fish is the cod.  I usually buy the thicker 'choice' cuts which are a little more expensive but still cheaper than a prime cut of steak and a lot healthier.)

To insure that you lower your fat and cholesterol as much as possible, follow these steps:
1.  Reduce poultry and seafood portions in size.  Although lower in cholesterol than red meat, poultry and seafood are still sources of cholesterol.  (As much as I love a good piece of fish it's hard for me to keep the portions to 3 1/2 oz.  As for the chicken, I love chicken but to me chicken has no flavor of its own so I try to provide it with flavor which I'll have to be careful of so I don't increase the fat and cholesterol.  As for eating just 3 1/2 oz. that isn't a problem.  I often just bake my chicken with some herbs and add it to a good salad.)

2. Always cook poultry without the skin so that the fat in the skin doesn't drip into the meat.  (This is no problem for me since I almost always buy skinless chicken.)

3.  Select the white meat of the chicken or turkey rather than the dark meat, as the white is lower in cholesterol.  (This really isn't a problem since I don't like dark meat.  I know it does have a little more flavor and is juicy but I can't bring myself to eat a piece of dark meat.  Too many things still attached to the meat that you don't find in white meats.)

4.  Broil, roast, bake, steam, poach or barbecue poultry and seafood as these methods allow the fat to drip away during cooking.  (This is where my pan with the rack comes in handy.  I used to boil my chicken but found that even with seasonings added the meat was dry and lacked flavor.  I now place my chicken as well as my fish on the rack and bake.  It is juicier and cooks fairly quickly.  Yes the fat drips into the pan but it still comes out juicy.  This is also the way I make baked 'fried' chicken.  The rack allows the batter to stay crispy.)

5.  Use wine, herbs, lemon juice or flavored vinegar, rather than margarine, oils and sauces to flavor poultry and seafood dishes.  (I do use the herbs, especially rosemary, to flavor my chicken.  My fish I coat with an egg wash, dip it into Panko and then cook it in the oven using my baking rack.  It cooks quickly, comes out crisp and is delicious with a little Malt Vinegar sprinkled on top.)

6.  Avoid packaged, canned or frozen poultry and seafood dishes.  (There again, after seeing the salt content on the package of most packaged foods, I've completely stopped buying them.)

7.  When ordering seafood and poultry in restaurants, avoid any sauces and gravies, and select only heart-healthy cooking methods.  (I normally order grilled chicken when eating out but have to admit that I do order fried fish.  I just have to have that kick now and then.  When I do order chicken that has been fried I always order the white meat and try really hard to eat just the meat and not the crust or skin.  Hard to do so I don't order this often.)

I haven't been able to bring myself to eat food that use ground chicken or turkey but I have made Chicken Chili and I have to tell you it is delicious.  I've even added a recipe for it on my site Think With Your Taste Buds - Chicken.  I'll continue to find healthier ways to eat my chicken, fish and seafood and continue to stay away form red meats.  Nest I'm going to investigate other ways to reduce cholesterol and fat through the substitution of oils and salad dressings.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Yogurt Chicken Salad

1 baked, boneless, skinless chicken breast
2 Tbsp. Fresh Food Concept Spinach Dip
5 almonds, sliced

Cut chicken into bite size pieces.  Mix in dip.  Sprinkle with almonds.

Comment:  Recently I saw a Dr. Oz show where his guest talked about losing weight by not counting calories but by counting sugar.  Sucker that I am I bought his book, have been reading it and it does make a lot of sense.  With his program you're supposed to eat as few carbs and sugar as possible, like below 100 a day.  Didn't know if I could do this or not.  His plan has you eating a good bit of chicken but as I've said before - plain chicken simply has no taste. There has to be a healthy way to give it some taste.  So... I took my mid to the grocery store and started reading labels.  I was really surprised to find that there are many foods that are healthy and contain very little sugar.  One that I found was Fresh Food Concepts' Spinach Dip made with Greek Yogurt.  It contains 1g of sugar for 2 Tbsp.  That is the perfect amount to make a delicious, moist chicken salad using just 1 chicken breast.  This is one you really need to try even if you aren't trying to eat healthy.

Monday, July 28, 2014

More Info for Less Cholesterol - Red Meat

I got a call from my Doctor (yes, I have a rare doctor who calls me.)  He called to tell me my blood test results were back.  Good news, my iron count was up some.  Bad news, my cholesterol was up over 50 points or whatever they call them.  So I've started looking up information that will stop it from rising and hopefully bring it back down.  I'll be passing this information along to you with hopes it will help you too.

#1 - Reduce meat portions in size and increase complex carbohydrates (vegetables, fruit, grains and legumes).  (I eat red meat maybe 3-4 times a month.  I'm just not a fan and besides, cows are cute.  But when I do eat red meat I eat very small portions so I'm ok here.)
#2 - Use only lean-grade meat and trim it of all visible fat before cooking.  (I actually quit eating red meat, especially ground beef, after learning what was actually in the so called meat.  Pink slime, by-products and fillers.  If you want a good education on what is in your burger, look these up.  When I do eat red meat I buy organic only.  The price is another reason I seldom eat red meat.)
#3 - Broil, roast, bake or barbecue meats as these methods allow the fat to drip away during cooking.  (I'm good here too.  I almost never fry anything but I have learned that you can coat a piece of meat with egg wash and bread crumbs (etc.), quick fry to brown the crumbs, place the meat on a racked baking dish and finish cooking in the oven.  This allows the grease absorbed while browning as well as what is naturally in the meat to drip out but still keep your meat crispy.)
#4 - Cook meat to medium or well-done to maximize the fat loss during cooking.  (I have to admit that IF I eat a steak I want it medium rare.  All other red meat I want well done.)
#5 - Avoid frying foods in hydrogenated margarine or animal fats; instead use chicken or beef broth, wine, water, flavored vinegar, or use a non-stick pan.  (If I do the quick fry I use canola oil so I'm ok there.  For any other cooking I've actually found that most red meat is so full of 'water' or whatever that you need to cook that out before you add any type of flavoring other than salt and pepper.  I actually brown my meat, such as a roast, without oil, place it in a slow cooker and when the liquid has cooked out, (shrinking the meat to half the size it was when I put it in the pot) I strain the liquid through a white paper towel removing all grease.  Then I add flavoring and cook until done.) 
#6 - Always de-fat meat drippings and broths by refrigeration (the fat coagulates and can be skimmed and discarded) before using in gravies or sauces.  (I have used this method of removing fat but like the straining better.)
#7 - Avoid packaged, canned or frozen meat dishes as their fat content  cannot be controlled.  (When I started reading labels I found the salt content in most canned meats was terrible so I don't buy packaged, canned or frozen meat dishes.  Due to this I have no idea how the cholesterol count may be.  And processed meats in the deli is another type of food I don't buy.  Look up fillers and by-products and you'll be careful about buying them too.  From what I've found there are 2 companies that states their deli meats are 85% real meat.  The others are from 16% meat and slowly up.)
#8 - Be careful of restaurant foods, especially fast foods, as their fat content cannot be controlled.  (Most of my eating out consists of 2 meats - fish and chicken.  I can't remember the last time I ate beef at a restaurant so I'm ok there too.)

My next research on cholesterol will be for poultry and seafood so stay tuned.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Book Resque

As many of you already know, I rescue books.  All books.  Any book.  I simply can't stand to see a book destroyed.  This started when I went to a thrift store and the owner told me her church had a room full of books.  She said there were over 1,000.  I ask if I could get permission to go through them and she said that if I had ask that a week before the answer would have been yes.  Since then, they had sent ALL of them to the recycle plant.

Books are becoming a thing of the past and I really hate to see that happen.  Everything is going to ebooks.  Don't get me wrong, I have a Nook and a Kindle and love both.  I can slip them into my purse, take them anywhere and enjoy reading my books even in the dark.  But I still love to hold a book in my hands and turn the paper pages.  I also love the smell of a library.  But, as I said, that is becoming a thing of the past.  So many book stores are and have closed.  Libraries are closing.  Our reading is now done on our little devices after we've ordered our books using the same device.

So, my quest is to save as many books as possible.  I find them through Estate sales, thrift stores, and yard sales.  At the moment I have about 700 books in bookcases that actually cover one of the walls in my bedroom.  I love to read these books and even cook from them.  Some are old and if you follow my blog you may have noticed some of the older ones that I've modernized.  But... as I found out a year or so ago, all good things must come to an end.  That is why I started an Ebay store that I call "Book Resque."  Since then I've found homes for about 300 books.  I buy them cheap and sell them cheap just to keep them in circulation.  So, if you love books as much as I do, check out my store and help me find homes for those that are lucky enough to be rescued and not sent to the recycle plant.

Most of my books are cookbooks but I've started picking up children books and am always on the lookout for those really old ones.  Some of my books are over 100 years old and need a good home.  Oh yeah.  I do throw in a few stamps and older small items now and then that need a home.

Chicken Quesadilla

cooked chicken, shredded
flour tortillas

Quesadillas are some of the easiest dishes to make, especially if you have a panini press, Foreman grill or even a waffle iron.  After eating a delicious chicken quesadilla at one of our local hamburger places, I noticed they had used some sort of creamy sauce.  I never really found any chunks of chicken so I'm assuming that since it was called 'chicken' quesadillas there had to be some in there somewhere and all I could do is guess it was ground into the creamy sauce.  Well, the sauce was delicious and I had no idea what it was actually made from.  Well, I opened my refrigerator and spotted a container of Hummus.  I then remembered what the sauce looked like and it hit me... it looks like Hummus.  Probably isn't but looks like it.  No matter, decided to make my own Chicken Quesadillas.  I heated my Foreman (indoor type).  Sprayed the bottom of a flour tortilla with cooking spray.  Placed it on my hot Foreman.  Spread it with a nice coating of Hummus.  Topped that with shredded chicken, cheese and another tortilla.  Spray the top of the 2nd tortilla with cooking spray and close the lid.  This only takes about 3-4 minutes to heat everything and melt the cheese.  When done, cut into wedges.  Here's a tip that I've found.  Cut your Quesadillas with a Pizza Wheel.  Works great!

I love my Hummus and what I had on hand was with Pine Nuts.  I want to make this using some of the other flavors and also other meats.  This is one of the quickest, easiest, dishes you can make.  And the best part is that you can have several meats, cheeses, and humus on hand and please everyone's taste.

Now, did my Hummus taste like the sauce?  Close.  I have a feeling one of the spicy flavors will come closer but no matter, Hummus is great in a Quesadilla.  I did serve mine with sour cream but it really wasn't needed.  Good just as it is.

Friday, July 25, 2014

I Didn't Know That - Calcium

OK, if you watch the Dr. Oz shows you know that he is constantly telling us that we need Calcium.  Well, I personally, don't want to take any more pills than I have to so I started checking out why we need calcium, how much and how we can consume it without taking pills.  Here is what I found - yes, through Weight Watchers.

You need substantial quantities of calcium to keep your bones strong and to regulate your heartbeat and muscle and nerve function.  Eight out of ten American women suffer form a calcium deficiency (Sorry guys but it didn't tell me how many of you have a deficiency.).  A diet rich in calcium consumed during the childhood and teenage years is the best insurance against osteoporosis, the debilitating brittle-bone disease that strikes many older people.  Calcium also helps guard against periodontal disease and may have a protective effect against high blood pressure.   (In today's world these 2 statements worry me.  I see so many kids running around drinking juice boxes - some 100% juice some not.  I can't recall the last time I saw a kid drinking a milk box, not even chocolate.  When I was a kid we didn't have these little boxes to carry around with us but we did have milk - whole milk - at almost all meals.  What are we doing to supplement the calcium in our kids?)

Calcium is absorbed slowly, so it's best to consume it throughout the day, rather than trying to get your daily allowance all at once.  But... calcium absorption is inhibited by an excessive intake of dietary fiber.  For instance, if you eat an all-bran cereal with milk, you will miss out on some of the benefit of the milk's calcium.  (I am guilty of this.  Most of the cereal I eat is of a brand type and I've never even considered this possibility.)

The phosphoric acid in soft drinks displaces calcium, so don't drink soda with calcium-rich food.  (This I never knew.  What else is this phosphoric acid displacing?)

Both the natural sugar in milk (lactose) and the vitamin D added to it aid in calcium absorption.   So, if lactose intolerance prevents you from drinking milk or eating cheese, you can still get your calcium from yogurt and form vegetables and legumes.  (I do not have lactose intolerance but I've switched almost completely to Almond Milk.  The brand I buy (Blue Diamond) has 50% more calcium than milk, contains no cholesterol and has only 60 calories.  Taste wise - I buy the coconut blend and love it.  And no it isn't sweet so I even use it in my coffee.)

So, where, other than dairy products, can you get calcium?

Salmon, canned, pink, with bones - 3 oz. calcium 181
Cooked Broccoli - 1 cup calcium 178
Cooked Collard greens - 1 cup calcium 148
Orange - Navel - 1 med calcium 56
Cooked Spinach - 1 cup calcium 244
Tofu (Processed with calcium sulfate) - 3 oz. calcium 574

These are just a few of the possible ways to intake your calcium.  I did read further and found that if you must use a supplement keep this in mind.  Calcium is best absorbed when consumed in food, but if you know that calcium carbonate, one of the most effective supplements, is usually the least expensive.  Calcium carbonate-based antacids may supply as much as 550 mg of calcium per tablet.  But avoid supplements containing dolomite or bone meal.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

I Didn't Know That - Cholesterol

If you're like me you have high cholesterol. I don't take meds but am really supposed to watch my diet.  That's good but what actually does watching my diet mean?  Here is what I found out, again, through Weight Watchers.

What is cholesterol?  This fat-like, waxy substance, produced mainly by the liver, is essential to the body:  It forms part of cell membranes, insulates nerve fibers, and is a building block for hormones.  (This I didn't know.  I've really only heard of it being spoken about in as a negative.  I also didn't know that it was produced by the liver.)

What's the difference between blood cholesterol and dietary cholesterol?  Blood cholesterol, produced by your own body, circulates in your bloodstream.  Two important forms of blood cholesterol are LDL (so-called "bad cholesterol"), which can build up on artery walls and narrow them; and HDL ("good cholesterol"), which carries away these damaging deposits.  Dietary cholesterol, found in the foods you eat, does not go directly into the blood, although consuming too much dietary cholesterol can raise blood cholesterol.  (OK, I've always had a problem keeping these 2 apart due to there letter names being so close.  I think I'll label them LDL with the 1st L standing for lousy and HDL with the H standing for healthy.  Now maybe I can keep them apart.)

What are other causes of high blood cholesterol?  Heredity and obesity are important contributing factors, but the greatest controllable risk factor is a high intake of saturated fat, which is found in meats, butter, whole milk products, and coconut and palm oils.  (I eat very little red meats but have to admit that I do love my butter and cheese.  I don't use coconut and palm oils and rarely fry anything so hopefully I'm doing pretty good in this dept.)

How much cholesterol is it safe to eat?  The American Heart Association recommends a daily limit of 300 milligrams.  (Yes, this requires reading labels before eating as well as a bit of educated memory that can be used when eating out.)

What foods contain cholesterol?  Only foods from animal sources - meat, poultry, seafood, dairy products, and eggs.  (All of the foods I really enjoy!  I can now see why it is healthier to be a vegan.)

What is a normal blood cholesterol level?  A reading of under 200 is considered desirable for adults;  240 and above is high.  (Mine is barely over the 240 so I'm considered high.  I would like to live to be 100 so I plan on getting this down.)

How can I lower my blood cholesterol?  Lose weight if your're overweight; eat less saturated fat (substitute monounsaturated fats, such as olive and canola oil); and eat more soluble fiber (found in many fruits, oats, barley, and dried beans and other legumes).  (I do fit the overweight so I need to work on that.  I do use olive and canola oil so I'm ok there, but I don't eat enough fiber.  Since I love fruit, oats and dried beans this shouldn't be a problem to correct, as long as I use a seasoning for my beans that doesn't come from meat.  One of the recipes I posted on Martha's Recipe Cabinet is for a bean soup that I used a sauce to make.  I didn't look at the nutrition info on the package but it gives me the possible seasoning solution of using sauces to season my beans.)

What this all boils down to is that we all need to watch our cholesterol and the only way to do that is through educating ourselves on how much cholesterol different foods actually have.  Here are some examples:

1 oz. of:
Bottom round beef braised - 27mg
Ham, cured, roasted - 17mg
Chicken, dark meat, roasted - 27mg
Turkey breast, roasted - 20mg

4 medium shrimp steamed - 111mg
2 oz. Cod, baked - 31mg

Yolk - 272 mg
White - 0mg

3/4 oz. cheddar - 23mg
1/3 cup 2% cottage, lowfat - 6mg
1 cup whole milk - 34mg
3/4 cup nonfat, plain Yogurt - 3mg

Fats and Spreads 1 tsp.:
Butter - 11mg.
Vegetable oil, all types - 0mg

Sweets and Snacks:
2 oz. homemade pound cake - 117mg
1 oz. milk chocolate - 7mg

Sunday, July 20, 2014

I Didn't Know That - Fat

After reading the following information in a Weight Watcher's cookbook I've decided to give FAT a closer look. 

Did you know... 
That 8 ounces of potato chips is the equivalent of an 8 oz. baked potato with 12 to 20 pats of butter on it?  
That a "healthy" granola bar may contain as much as 12 grams of fat?  Read the label!
That butter, margarine, lard and "light" olive oil are all virtually 100% fat?
That all of the fat (and cholesterol) in an egg is in the yolk?   And that you can substitute egg whites for whole      eggs?

According to WW's information in their section Nutrition and Health it is stated that no more than 30% of your calories should come from fat - preferably less.  Americans average about 37%.  This means that if you consume 1,500 calories per day, your maximum fat intake should be 50 grams. 

Have you ever wondered why fat is so fattening?  Well... it supplies 9 calories per gram, protein and carbohydrates only 4.  So an ounce of cheese packs a lot more calories than an ounce of turkey breast or an ounce of bread.

If you're trying to lose weight or just eat healthier, cutting down on the amount of fat you eat is simply a matter of making choices.  You can buy low or nonfat dairy products, lean meats, and sensible snack foods.  When possible, opt for reduced fat ingredients in cooking.  although such substitutions may not work in every recipe, it's worth experimenting for the substantial amount of fat you can eliminate.

Here are just a few examples of fat contents:
1/2 cup heavy cream - 45g vs 1/2 cup skimmed evaporated milk - 0g
1 cup 4% fat cottage cheese - 10g vs 1 cup 1% fat cottage cheese - 2g
3 oz. regular ground beef 18g vs 3 oz. extra-lean ground beef -15g
1 fast-food bacon cheeseburger - 39g vs 1 fast-food hamburger - 13g
4 oz. fast-food fries - 19g vs 4 oz. baked potato - 0g
1 oz. potato chips - 10 g vs 1 oz. pretzels - 1g
1 oz. milk chocolate - 9g vs 1 oz. jelly beans - 0g

These are just a few of the possible substitutes you can make to reduce your fat intake.  Check around and you'll find many more.  For myself, I've found that would rather have the substitutes.  I'm not a chocolate lover but I do love jelly beans, and I would take a baked potato over fries any day.  Now I just have to watch what I add to my potato.

Monday, July 14, 2014

I Didn't Know That - Eggplant

I never ate eggplant as a kid and have only had it, I believe, once in my adult life.  The dish I ate was Italian, I believe.  The eggplant was sliced very thin, stuffed with a cheese mixture and covered with a tomato sauce.  I do remember it being quite delicious, even to the point that I went back later for seconds, which I didn't even bother to heat.  I don't know why, but I've just not tried ordering eggplant dishes while dining out nor have I tried cooking with it.  After reading this information, I just might give it a try.

According to a 1982 cookbook titled The Silver Palate the eggplant originated in tropical Asia and was gradually adopted by Near-Eastern and Mediterranean cuisines, where it is now very much at home.  This rich, dark purple, due to its subtle and elusive flavor is best when combined with stronger-flavored vegetables and seasonings.

Eggplant is versatile and available year-round but buy only those that are firm, shiny and free form wrinkles and blemishes.  Store them for no more than a day or two.  They contain a lot of moisture which can be bitter and the eggplant has a tendency to soak up tremendous amounts of oil or butter when sauteed.  Salting or occasionally blanching, will eliminate both problems.  Cut the eggplant as directed in each recipe; there is usually no need to peel it.  Layer into a colander, salting generously as you go.  The eggplant should stand for about 1 hour while it exudes its juices.  Rinse off the salt and pat it thoroughly dry on paper towels before processing with the recipe.  Blanching for a minute or two in boiling salted water is faster; while more tender eggplant is the results, it can reduce the vegetable's already subtle flavor.

When sauteing eggplant, use only as much oil as directed in the recipe, or the minimum necessary to coat the skillet, and be sure the skillet is quite hot before the eggplant is added.  Toss or turn the pieces as you add them to coat all sides evenly with oil.  DO NOT ADD ANY MORE OIL.  Even after the salting procedure, eggplant can absorb an amazing amount of oil and the resulting dish could be greasy.  If the skillet seems dry, merely stir or turn the eggplant more frequently until properly browned.   Drain on paper towels and proceed with the recipe.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

I Didn't Know That - Chilling Out - Cookies

I probably make more cookies and cakes than any other food, because they are so versatile.  Most of my cookies are drop or those that are rolled into balls and flattened.  I've often wondered how I could make my dough easier to work with and this is what I found.

Many cookie recipes call for chilling the dough in the refrigerator before shaping, slicing, or rolling.  This helps to stiffen the butter or shortening and makes the dough more manageable.  It also makes the finished product better because chilled dough needs to be worked less than an unchilled dough.  (This is exactly what I run into.  My dough is sticky and hard to work with so I actually find myself either wetting my hands to form the balls or just doing drop cookies.  This isn't good because I feel sure I don't need to add the extra liquid that is on my hands and I also know that making drop cookies with dough that was meant to be shaped into balls or rolled out don't cook evenly.)

Chill all cookie dough made with butter or shortening in the refrigerator for the time recommended in the recipe.  If you're using margarine for shaping or sliced cookies, you should quick-chill the dough in the freezer for about 1/3 of the refrigerator chilling time.  Do not quick-chill cookie dough made with butter or shortening in the freezer;  it will become too firm.  (I've gone back and looked at a lot of my cookie recipes and most do not suggest refrigerating the dough but they do use a good amount of butter.  Since reading this I've made cookies that use butter and have started refrigerating them for 30 minutes.  This has made them a lot easier to work with, I can roll them into balls easily, and they do seem to cook more evenly.)

For rolled cookies made with margarine, refrigerate the dough at least 5 hours or freeze for 2 hours before rolling.  (I seldom roll out cookies for cutting but if I do, this will come in hand.)

Now, with the holidays just around the corner I hope this information will help you too have some fun times making cookies.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Did You Know This? - Beating Eggs

I frequently find recipes that call for 'slightly beaten eggs' and now and then one that calls for 'soft peaks' so I knew how to do them but rarely find one that calls for 'stiff peaks' and 'beaten egg yolks.'  If I did I would probably have to do a bit of research to see how they are different.

Here's how to beat whole eggs, egg whites, or egg yolks to the right consistency called for in recipes:

Slightly Beaten Eggs - Use a fork to beat the whole egg until the yolk and white are combined and o streaks remain.

Beating Egg Whites Until Soft Peaks Form - Place the egg whites in a clean glass or metal bowl (do not use plastic).  Beat the whites with an electric mixer on medium speed or with a rotary beater until they form peaks that curl over when the beaters are lifted out.  Any speck of fat, oil, or yolk in the bowl will prevent whites form developing the necessary whipped consistency.

Beating Egg Whites Until Stiff Peaks Form - Continue beating egg whites, now on high speed until they form peeks with tips that strand straight when the beaters are lifted out.

Beating Egg Yolks - Beat the egg yolks with an electric mixer on high speed for about 5 minutes or until they are thick and lemon-colored.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

I Didn't Know That - Cooking Lasagna Noodles

Info from Lasagna Classic and Contemporary Favorites by Jack Bishop

There are several important things to remember when precooking noodles for lasagna.  Always boil noodles in an abundant quantity of water and stir frequently to prevent sticking.  One gallon of water is usually sufficient to cook 1 pound of noodles, but 5 quarts will really insure the noodles don't stick together. Do not add oil to water, this will make the noodles slick and difficult to retrieve but do add your salt for flavor.
(I've always added a little oil to all of my pasta to prevent it from sticking but I have noticed that not only will the oil make the pasta slick it will also prevent the sauce you're using from sticking to it.) 

Fresh noodles should be cooked four or five at a time for about 2 minutes.  It's very hard to taste large noodles, so rely on this time guide and remember that fresh noodles can easily be overcooked but are hard to under cook.  Use a large slotted spoon to retrieve noodles and transfer them to a bowl of ice-cold water.  After noodles have cooled (about 30 seconds), drain them and place on a clean kitchen towel to dry.  Repeat the process with remaining noodles.
(I have bought refrigerated "fresh" noodles at the grocery store but never knew they were to be cooked differently from dried.  I also never knew that they should be put in cold water.  I did know to lay them out after they've cooled but I normally use either a piece waxed paper.)

Dried lasagna noodles can be cooked all at once.  Cooking instructions for individual brands are a good guideline, but shave off 1 minute of cooking time.  Again, it's hard to taste large dried noodles as they cook.  If there are small scraps of broken pasta in the box, they can be retrieved from the pot and tasted to give you an idea of how the noodles are progressing.  When dried lasagna noodles are just beginning to become al dente, drain them in a colander and then transfer them to a large bowl of ice-cold water.  Drain again and place on a clean kitchen towel to dry.
(Again the cold water.  I normally just run cold water over mine but I think I'll give this a try.  I have a feeling I've been doing it wrong with all of my pasta so I'm going to to the ice-cold water dip with them too.)

Cooked noodles, both fresh and dried, can be covered with towels and set aside for about 1 hour before use.
(This I didn't know.  I've always tried to use them quickly to prevent them from drying out.  I will say that I've tried the no-boil noodles and DON'T like them.  I've tried them twice and they always seem to come out chewy.)