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Reasons & Recipes To Make The Lowly Legume Your New BFF

18 Feb

ImageFunny sounding name, don’t you think? It always got more than a few snickers in grade school as our teacher robotically recited the food groups as part of the state mandated curriculum. We never really knew what it meant; in fact if you ask most adults, they are equally ignorant. Turns out one of every kids favorite dishes, baked beans, is actually the mysterious legume.

Fast forward to the Northeast Blackout of 2003, when the power-grid went down plunging several states and Canadian provinces into darkness for days, taking other utilities and gas stations down with it. Like many, I was sent home early from work and soon found myself at the local supermarket. Anything refrigerated or frozen had been sealed off from the panicked shoppers; a 30ish woman was running up and down the aisles wailing repeatedly “what will I feed my children?” At first I though she was a total idiot but then it occurred to me, she was of a generation that was raised on prepackaged processed microwavable food and she had no clue about nutrition, meal preparation or real food. Truth be told, other than canned tuna or peanut butter, I was at a bit of loss on how I would get protein in the uncertain days or weeks ahead. That’s when I rediscovered legumes.

Turns out legumes are a major component of everything from the hummus in your pita to the refried beans in your burrito, but there is a whole world of legumes out there. For those of you who wish to get your protein from places other than the fatty toxic mix of pesticides, growth hormones and antibiotics infused meat of stressed-out diseased animals from factory farms; legumes provide a wonderful alternative. Legumes are also a great source of essential vitamins, minerals, cholesterol lowering fiber and slowly digestible carbohydrates, which are especially important if you are diabetic or at risk. See nutritional chart.

While legumes are available fresh, most people use the canned or dried form for convenience. Canned legumes have a shelf life of about 5 years & are packed in liquid, which make them the preferred staple for an emergency pantry when fresh water may not be available due to extreme weather conditions. Dried legumes are the least expensive, and are best for storage since they are less bulky and have a 10 year shelf life, while lacking the sodium, preservatives & chemicals used in the packaging of the canned variety. The best prices on dried legumes are usually found at Indian grocers. Dried legumes need to soak overnight and usually cooked for an hour; see cooking chart.

RECIPES

If you or your family is new to legumes, you may want to start out slowly. Here are some easy tasty recipes, one for each legume, that include something for everyone: dip, salad, crunchy snack, soup, side dish and main dish. Enjoy!

Make legumes your new BFF, and you will be trilled at how much it trims from your grocery bill as well as your waistline.

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Is Your Moisturizer Toxic? Natural, Inexpensive Alternatives You’ll Love!

23 Jan

ImageIt’s a common problem this time of year; dry, flaky, itchy winter skin. It’s not just exposure to frigid temperatures and bitter winds, but dryer than usual indoor air bolstered by furnaces and wood-burners, as well as long hot showers to a stave off the chill, all culminate in to a blizzard of dry dead skin cells each time we disrobe. Dry flaky skin is not only uncomfortable, but opens the body to infection through the skin and worsens respiratory allergies by giving dust mites an all-you-can-eat buffet.

Before I give you the recipes, I’m going to school you first. First, let’s talk about staying hydrated. Drink plenty of water and avoid diuretics like caffeinated beverages and cold medicines. Use a home humidifier. Do not take hot bath or showers. The hot water washes away skin’s protective oils along with harsh, soap-based cleansers wash away the outermost layer of protective skin cells. Use only hypoallergenic body soap, Dove Sensitive is the best according to my doctor, especially for your delicate bits & pieces. Use only hypoallergenic laundry products and do not use fabric softener since towels are meant to be a bit rough to gently exfoliate loose skin.

Now let’s talk moisturizers. The skin is the body’s largest organ; what goes on our skin in absorbed into our bloodstream. Why do you think they tell pregnant women not to even handle certain medications? The bottom line is this: if you wouldn’t put it in your mouth, why would you slather it on your skin?

Commercially produced moisturizers are not only an unnecessary expense, but are full of toxins. Think baby oil (mineral oil) and Vaseline (petroleum jelly) are safe, especially for your baby? Think again! Petroleum based products coat the skin like Saran Wrap, clogging pores causing blemishes and interfering with the body’s ability to rid itself of toxins via the skin, but also affects the liver’s ability to process nutrients, and are known carcinogens, not to mention the harm to the environment from fossil fuel extraction. Only about 1% of any moisturizer has all of their ingredients screened by the FDA, and more than half contain known toxins. Here are just some of the most common culprits:

  • Artificial colorings: carcinogenic and often contain heavy metals such as lead and arsenic.
  • DEA, MEA & TEA: hormone-disrupting chemicals and form cancer-causing agents.
  • Formaldehyde: carcinogenic & mutagenic, damaging and inhibiting the repair of DNA, also used to embalm dead bodies.
  • Petroleum (mineral oil jelly): we just talked about this, baby oil & Vaseline.
  • Propylene Glycol: another petroleum based carcinogen, also used to de-ice airplanes.
  • Synthetic Fragrances: can cause headaches, dizziness, rashes, coughing & vomiting.

So what do you do about it? Here are some natural, inexpensive and highly effective products and recipes, for use as topical moisturizers (face, body, lip & hair) as well as soothing baths. Store all oil based products in a sealed container, in a cool dry place away from direct light. All of these are safe for kids and pets too.

  1. Crisco (vegetable shortening). This stuff has more uses than duct tape & is dirt cheap!  Since this 100% plant based cream is hypoallergenic and safe for the most sensitive skin, no wonder it is a popular choice in hospitals and medical schools as a lubricant and moisturizer. Most common uses are: sexual lubricant, make-up remover, hair conditioner (if you straighten or curl coarse textured hair with hot irons), post-bath moisturizer (use on slightly damp skin), dry cracked skin treatment (before bed, apply to clean hands & feet, cover with cotton socks & gloves). Most people put it in a clean glass lidded jar, so they don’t have to have the tub sitting out.
  2. Coconut oil. This a great alternative if you don’t want to use Crisco as a facial moisturizer. This oil is easily absorbed through the skin; rapidly hydrating, conditioning, and shielding the skin from moisture loss. It contains vitamins A, B, C, and E, and its protective anti-oxidant qualities protect the skin from free radicals and other environmental aging factors, as well as having properties that protect against viral, fungal, and bacterial infections, including yeast. To make a balm: use an electric mixer to whisk 1c of cool coconut oil (optional add 1t Vitamin E oil & a few drops essential oil for fragrance) for about 7min or until the correct consistency. Place in a lidded glass jar & store in a cool dry place out of direct light.
  3. Oatmeal bath. Make your own Aveeno soothing bath using rolled oats & a blender. While Aveeno runs about $8 for 12oz, you can buy a 2lb canister of generic rolled oats for about $2 at Aldi’s. Just make sure you get the plain rolled oats, not steel cut or flavored with sugar. After I’ve reduced it into a fine power in the blender, I store it in a plastic flip-top powdered coffee creamer container my neighbor was going to put in the recycling bin, and just sprinkle in a bathtub of warm water and soak the itchy skin away.
  4. Olive Oil. Contains antioxidants including vitamins A, D, E, & K, and is best used on very rough dry skin, wrinkles, stretch marks & scars since it is not as quickly absorbed as other natural oils like coconut. It also holds up well in body and bath oils. When making these mixtures, I prefer to use a new plastic flip-top shaker bottle or squeeze bottle, and be sure to store in a cool dry place away from direct light. Bath oil: Combine 1oz Extra Virgin olive oil, 1oz Sweet Almond oil, 1/2oz of Grape Seed oil & 10-15 drops of your choice of essential oil in bottle, cover tightly & shake until blended. Body oil: Combine 1oz Extra Virgin olive oil, 1oz Avocado oil & 1oz of Wheat Germ oil in a bottle and shake until well blended. Apply sparingly to damp skin after bathing, spreading with hands, then pat dry with towel or air dry.

So what did we learn today? De-icer is for airplanes, embalming fluid is for corpses, petroleum is for cars, and NONE of them should ever be used on your body. So skip the drugstore and shop the grocery store for gorgeous skin as nature intended. Your wallet and your body will thank you!

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Bye-Bye Boring Oatmeal! Tips To Make This Childhood Nightmare Your New Breakfast Favorite

3 Dec

ImageThe mention of oatmeal doesn’t exactly conjure up the most pleasant of childhood memories for most people. I had a mother whose idea of cooking consisted of opening a package, then burning or boiling the contents beyond recognition. So when it came to oatmeal, it was those packets that you add hot water to; which was better than when we ran out and she made rolled oats, which was scorched wallpaper paste without the sugar and salt to make it easier to choke down.

The first time I ate real oatmeal was shortly after high school, when I strapped on a backpack and headed overseas for the first time. The family in rural Ireland that took me in the night before, asked me in the morning if I wanted “porridge”. I had no idea what that was, but I always graciously accepted what anyone offered so as not to be rude. It was delicious! Turns out porridge is steel cut oatmeal. Believe me folks, there is world of difference; steel cut oats are chewy, nutty, very tasty, and firm instead of pasty and bland like rolled oats.

I know not everyone is in the same place when it comes to dietary needs and goals. People who are given viable options can always work toward healthier choices without being overwhelmed and quitting. The benefit to flavoring oatmeal yourself is that you control the amount of fat, sugar and salt.

Since most people don’t have time to cook in the morning, I suggest you cook a batch, portion it out, freeze and take out what you need the night before to defrost. You can even cook a batch overnight in your crockpot. Another way to save time is to have your combinations portioned and package ahead of time so you can just add them to your oatmeal in the morning.

To keep from getting bored, we need variety, but it’s not always easy to think up tasty combinations. An easy way is to think of combination in the follow terms:

  • Can you spread it on toast?
  • Can you stir it into or sprinkle it over yogurt?
  • Can you stir it into coffee?
  • Can you use it to top pancakes or ice cream?

Here’s variation of a theme to give you some great ideas:

  • 1 T apple butter + milk
  • Chopped apple + chopped walnuts + vanilla rice milk + drizzle of caramel ice cream topping
  • pat of butter + 2 T apple sauce + drizzle of sugar free butter pecan pancake syrup
  • Dried apples + raisins + fat free non-dairy hazelnut coffee creamer + Cinnamon + brown sugar
  • Cinnamon apples or apple pie filling + soy milk + 1 T almond butter

Now let’s talk about the health benefits. First of all, the less the oat is processed, the more nutritional value it will have. This is especially true when it comes to glycemic index; the more it is processed, the quicker it enters your blood stream, spikes your blood sugar then drops. Think of a whole oat as “time-released energy” that is absorbed slowly over a period of time, giving you sustained energy without being hyper then sleepy.

High In Soluble Fiber. Soluble fiber inhibits the body’s absorption of the bad cholesterol LDL. The fiber also attack carcinogens as well as lower levels of estrogen in the body and this can protect the body from the development of cancer. The fiber helps you lose weight by feeling fuller longer and controlling blood sugar so you eat less, and also cleans out all the poop stuck to your intestinal walls. Oatmeal contains a certain type of fiber called beta-gluten fiber, which helps immune cells fight bacterial infection.

Full of Antioxidants. Contains avenanthramide which fights off free radicals that attack good cholesterol  HDL and keeps LDL cholesterol from oxidizing copper, which reduces the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. These antioxidants suppress the production of molecules that allow monocytes to adhere to the walls of the arteries causing hardening of the arteries and high blood pressure.

There is no limit to the creative combinations you can concoct. These combinations work great for brown rice too; I like mine with almond milk, nutmeg and cardamom. So as the temperature drops, treat yourself to something warm, filling, tasty and never ever boring!

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Because You Can’t Make A Martini With Febreze®

25 Nov

Image…but you can clean and deodorize with vodka! This multitasking spirit is both tasty beverage and an inexpensive, eco-friendly cleaning product. And while you might not be too concerned about the environment, let me remind you that YOU are part of the ecosystem and are especially vulnerable to the toxins of commercial produced cleaning products if you have allergies or other health problems, are elderly, not to mention your kids, pets, even houseplants.

In some cases you can use it at full strength, while other situations call for a solution of 1 part vodka, 2 parts water. Always use a new spray bottle; NEVER reuse a spray bottle that had been used for anything else. Test the vodka in a small inconspicuous area first, allow to dry, and check for damage before continue using. Generally use the solution for porous items like clothing, and full strength on non-porous surfaces like glass.

Here’s how vodka can save your holiday season…

  1. Décor Deodorizer. Get your home ready for company by cleaning and freshening air and surfaces. Spraying vodka solutions works because the alcohol kills the critters that cause odor, such as mold, mildew, and bacteria. Because vodka acts as an insecticide as well as a herbicide, it also kills dust mites that affect allergies. Use the diluted solution for porous surfaces including drapery, upholstery, carpeting and bedding. Besides cleaning and deodorizing, vodka shines hard surfaces like porcelain, mirrors and chrome. Not only does it remove mildew stains, but also hairspray residue and soap scum.
  2. Get Pretty. Use it as a mouthwash to kill odor causing bacteria; you can flavor it by adding a cinnamon stick to 1 cup and let it soak for 2 wks then dilute with water. For dandruff, wet your hair with vodka then air dry; but if you just want healthier hair, add 1oz of vodka to 12oz of shampoo to remove toxins from your scalp. Use undiluted vodka on a swab as a facial astringent to close pores and kill blemish causing bacteria. It will also dry out blemishes and cold sores. Spritz or swab stinky feet and armpits to kill the odor causing bacteria. You can keep combs, toothbrushes & razorblades clean by soaking in vodka, but not all together of course.
  3. Jewelry cleaner. Show off your jewelry by soaking them in vodka and air drying, using a toothbrush if really dirty. Only use on faceted stones, never pearls or softer gems; held in by prongs rather than glued, since the alcohol dissolves adhesives. This also work for cleaning crystal décor; you can clean a chandelier without taking it down by simply spraying it and allowing to air dry.
  4. Adhesive remover. Got those new shoes for your holiday party, but can’t remove that pesky price tag? Soak a cloth in vodka and rub it over the area; the sticker and adhesive, will come right off. Also works great for removing bandages from your skin or bumper stickers from your car.
  5. Dry cleaning & stain removal. Let’s face it ladies, we buy an expensive holiday dress then tuck the tag in with the intention of returning it to the store when the party is over, but that’s hard to do if it reeks of cigarette smoke, sweat, and heaven knows what else. Vodka to the rescue! Even if you own the dress, it’s expensive to dry clean it between each party, especially if it is beaded or sequenced. By spraying the garment with the diluted vodka solution and hanging to dry, it can be fresh as a daisy in no time by killing the bacteria that causes the odor. Love that hat in the vintage store, but not the musty smell and possible critters? Just spray and air dry to turn back the hands of time. Spray and blot vodka (scrub with a soft brush if needed) to remove stains from clothing, carpeting or upholstery. It works best on organic stains like wine. And ladies, if you’re not going to change your bra everyday, at least spray and air dry overnight.
  6. First aid. In the course of your revelry, there are bound to be a few injuries. Applied topically, vodka is a disinfectant and pain reliever. Aside from the usually cuts, bites, blisters, stings and skin irritations, it can also be used to banish earaches and toothaches. A washcloth drenched in vodka and applied to the skin can reduce fever and reduce pain by allowing the alcohol to be absorbed directly through the skin.

So save a ton of money by using just one item for cleaning, deodorizing, disinfecting, and healing…oh, and makes a tasty cocktail too!

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Is Bacon the New Ketchup?

28 Sep

ImageTwitter was all abuzz lately with rumors of a projected Aporkalypse. The summer drought has caused little piggies to go to market well before their optimum porkaliciousness, yielding less meat now and creating a paucity of pending porkers until next season. In light of this looming crisis, perhaps it’s an opportunity to rethink our relationship with the little oinkers, rather than just whine about the lack of swine.

Let’s face it, bacon isn’t exactly health food, nor did it ever claim to be so. I’m not a big meat eater, especially when it comes to pork, but not even I can resist the siren’s song of those tasty little pig strips better known as bacon. Unless you have been a sleep for the last decade, you know that most of our pork products come from horrific factory farms full of filth, disease, antibiotics, artificial hormones, pesticide & GMO livestock feed, animal cruelty and corporate greed; in short, you’d be better off eating roadkill.

What to buy.

If you are going to eat pork, eat the good stuff; I say this for a number of reasons. First of all, you want to avoid all the pollutants that come in factory farm pork. Never buy prepackaged meats; if it comes in shrink-wrap, it is definitely from a factory farm. It also means that they use a cheaper curing method that causes you to lose most of your purchase in the drip tray because what you really paid for is meat plumped up with water. When you buy meat from a reputable butcher the curing process is very different, you get to eat most of what you paid for since it does not cook off, not to mention that the taste and texture is far superior.

Let me break it down for you. The cheapest bacon in my area is Aldi’s for around $4/lb. After cooking it yields only about 1/2 to 1/3 of my original purchase. If I want it soft, it is way too fatty, and if I want to cook off more of the fat, the flesh becomes like a cinder. Yuck! For about the same price per pound (surprise surprise) I can buy nicely marbled Amish raised pork from a butcher at The Westside Market with very little lost in cooking. I go even cheaper and buy the bacon ends for only $1.50/lb., which are the irregular shaped ends of the bacon slab that could not fit through the slicer. So after cooking I get about 14oz of really tasty and healthier bacon for $1.50, OR for $4 get 6oz of crappy tasting and texture bacon full of harmful chemicals. You can clearly see which one gives you better value for your money, but don’t take my word for it, try it yourself.

How to cook it.

Another way to get the most out of your bacon is to cook it in the oven in a broiler pan. In this day and age there is no reason to cook your bacon on the stovetop in a frying pan; you are not a cowboy out on the lone prairie cooking your victuals in a black cast-iron skillet over a campfire. When you cook in the oven, you don’t have to watch and turn it constantly, you don’t have the safety risks of grease fire or burns from hot grease, there’s virtually no mess, and the bacon cooks more evenly, whether you like your bacon crisp or soft. If you are not using a broiler pan, you are essentially deep frying your meat which creates that unappetizing greasy cindered result.

Bacon as a condiment.

The recommended amount of meat per meal is about the size of that person’s hand. I like to feel like I got the most out of my portion and bacon is a great way to do that; because it is so flavorful, a little goes a long way. Rather than use bacon as my meat, I use it as a condiment, like ketchup. You can enhance the flavor of a dish by adding only an ounce or less. Crumbled bacon is great on salads, baked potatoes, roasted vegetables, omelets, even as a garnish to top your soup or other meats. You get your biggest bang for your buck with legumes; a cheap form of protein, vitamins, minerals and cholesterol lowering fiber. Not only are legumes very filling, but they take on the flavor of whatever you mix in, and that’s were bacon can come in very handy. Since legumes are best slow-cooked (I use a crockpot), I dice my bacon ends, instead of crumble or shave, to preserve the texture; otherwise, it just melts away. If you are new to legumes, start with something simple, like BBQ Baked Beans or Split Pea Soup.

Cutting back on pork will improve your health, keep more money in your wallet, and put less strain on the environment. So you don’t have to break-up with pork, just rethink your relationship a little.

Good news readers, you can now follow me on Facebook! Simply visit Real Penny Wise and click LIKE. Be sure to SHARE with your friends too.

How To Survive The Impending Milk Apocalypse

25 Aug

ImageRight about now mothers all over the USA are fretting about the likely price hike and shortage of milk in the near future due to the current drought. The International Dairy Federation estimates the average American consumes about 23 gallons of liquid milk per year, and that does not include the abundance of products that contain milk.

The average cow drinks about 50 gallons of water a day and produces about 6 gallons of milk. But what about all the water needed to produce the 100 pounds of feed a cow eats each day, not to mention water used for sanitation and procession of milk and milk products? In all, it takes a whopping 2,000 gallons of water to produce just one gallon of milk. Does that sound like a great return on investment to you?

Rather than being paralyzed by the impending milk Apocalypse, now is a great opportunity to break dependence on milk consumption. But wait, the TV says “milk does a body good” so it must be true, right? That message is brought to you by Madison Avenue, the same people who told you cigarettes were not only not dangerous, but that they were actually good for you and that doctors recommended smoking! For generations people bought that crap hook, line and sinker and for generations we have paid the price both financially and in human suffering.

If you are “lactose intolerant”, congratulations; you are actually normal. Yup, no animal was designed to drink another animal’s milk nor drink milk beyond infancy when babies loose their “baby teeth”, and humans are no exception.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock or still believe the world is flat, you know most milk does not come from picturesque farms where happy cows graze lazily on lush hillsides, but from inhumane, filthy, factory farms were abused, stressed, and often diseased animals are pumped full antibiotics and synthetic hormones; not to mention a whole host of pollutants from pesticides to diesel fuel. Yum-yum! You, in turn, are feeding this to your precious babies. Dairy product consumption has been linked to numerous illnesses and diseases such as diabetes, breast cancer, prostate cancer, heart disease, various allergies and Crohn’s disease.

So what do you do about it?

Back in the 1970’s when there was a milk shortage, we poured cold water over our cereal or just ate it right out of the box; it wasn’t a big deal. Today great milk alternatives like rice, soy, and almond, are chock full of nutrition with out the harmful chemicals. The protein and calcium that you get from milk you can easily get from other sources. Click on this link for a handy nutrition chart of great alternatives.

With no shortage of online recipe sites, it’s never been easier to incorporate good nutrition into your daily meals. Children imitate their parents so you will have to set the example by eating your vegetables, but you’re all big boys and girls now so I have no doubt you can handle it. You’re going to do great!

Fun & Yummy Recipes For Farmer’s Market Finds

16 Aug

ImageFarmer’s Markets are a great way to support the local economy while incorporating the freshest produce into your summer menus. But you might be reluctant to take advantage of some of the greatest bargains because you can’t quite visualize what form they would take on your dinner plate. Well, wonder no more; here are some fun and yummy recipes at the ready!

Carrots: Don’t try to tell your kids carrot fries are the same as French Fries or it will be an epic fail. Instead just let them enjoy it as a tasty and fun way to eat carrots.

Turnips: Ditto. Don’t even tell them these fries are turnips.

Beets: Mmm, crunchy chips!

Loose leaf lettuce: Crunchy and light alternative to flour wraps.

Yellow squash: Everything is tastier off the grill!

Zucchini: Great as bread or muffin for breakfast, snacks or dessert.

Cabbage: Crispy and refreshing salad.

Tomatoes: These are great paired with broiled fish!

For 45 million Americans who rely on food stamps to make ends meet, most Farmers Markets now accept EBT/SNAP cards (which only makes sense since food stamps is a USDA program designed to help subsidize farmers by making food surplus available to the poor). So, in the words of the late great Julia Child, “bon appetite”!

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