Saturday, May 29, 2010

Potato Salad - without the mayo

Last summer I was missing my Mom's potato salad big time, and after I'd cooked everything I realized I didn't have mayonnaise.  And you know what?  I really didn't want to BUY any either.  I'm not a fan of soybean oil and my friend Jackie and I had a conversation a few weeks prior about how simple it is to make things when you run out.

So I made olive oil mayo (olive oil 1 or 2 raw eggs, a tbsp. lemon juice, pinch sea salt - blend) and used that in my potato salad instead of store bought mayo.  My Mom's potato salad tasted the same!  Mmmmm!  When I told my one sister about it, she said her husband still wouldn't eat it since he doesn't like mayo.  She wondered if it could be made without it.

My verdict... YES!

Potatoes, boiled and strained
(optional: eggs, boiled and chopped)
fresh onion (chopped)
Bacon (optional - last year I didn't use bacon.  This year, I burnt it)
olive oil
Spicy mustard
Sea salt

I would tell you how much of everything I used, but it was all to taste.  Cook the potatoes (and eggs/bacon if you are using them).  Add some mustard and mix it around in the bowl.  You don't need much olive oil at all.  Maybe a table spoon or two.  If you like it creamier, add more - but I'd add it after you add the paprika, sea salt, parsley, and pepper.  All to taste.

What I've found - you don't need as much spicy mustard to make it taste the same, as the mayo would counter it a bit.  Keep in mind the only real difference between mayo and what I use in this recipe is an egg or two and some lemon juice (which you can add if you want, I just don't have any on hand).

It was good!  Next batch I'd use less spicy mustard than I did this time - hence the note about using less.  It was still creamy and tasty like Mom's potato salad.  It was more colorful (I think the mayo dulled the color a tad), and I think it's worth making again.

If you leave the eggs and bacon out of it, it's vegan potato salad, and cholesterol free.  Remember cholesterol is something only found in animals... plant based oils have ZERO cholesterol in them.  :)  Mix it up a little.  Try converting your favorite recipe using olive oil instead of mayo and let me know how it goes!

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Friday, May 28, 2010

Everything in Moderation: High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)

While I was waiting to meet a friend today I found myself thirsty and without my #1 favorite drink... water.  All the water bottles in the car were empty.  I couldn't decide what I wanted to drink, but I wanted something cold and refreshing with how hot it was outside today!

So I was talking to a girlfriend of mine and decided nothing at Starbucks peaked my interest.  It was inside the Kroger grocery store, so I moved on to the drink coolers by the checkout stands.  I found something I have never seen down south before... Turkey Hill Iced Tea!!!  Oh my surprise!  Turkey Hill is a nothern company, and I must say I've missed their ice cream... my favorite being the all natural mint chocolate chip variety.  It's super creamy and minty and Mmmmmm!  Seeing their iced tea in a store hundreds of miles from home made me smile UNTIL I looked at the label (habit these days) and saw one of the top ingredients: high fructose corn syrup.

I was so BUMMED!  Now we all know there are numerous studies out on how this stuff is not good for you.  And my friend understood how I felt about the item, stating "well, everything in moderation, ya know!"  And she is right.  Everything in moderation... but IS there moderation these days with HFCS?  Not so much, but that is about to change.

Well, I opted instead for Snapple Natural Peach iced tea, which came in glass and used sugar instead of HFCS.  And when I met my friend, he had purchased ketchup to go with the burgers we planned on cooking out with later.  My son LOVES burgers with his ketchup, haha, so I was pleasantly surprised when I saw on the label that the ketchup on sale had a label stating No High Fructose Corn Syrup!  SWEET!  It was good, too.  Still in plastic, which is not the greatest - but I was proud of the baby step away from HFCS.

This stuff is in practically everything!  Moderation is difficult to do if you aren't making your own food, condiments, etc. and staying away from sodas (and other beverages).  How much does the average american consume each year?  Approximately 40 lbs. per year.  Not really in my book as moderate.  Various studies have been done on this stuff, and it really isn't great for you.  Do your own research, and then consider transitioning to a HFCS free household.  Your body will thank you for it!

Step into Health Tip: consider replacing products with HFCS with products that do not have it.  One step at a time!

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Monday, May 24, 2010

Convert from Plastic to Glass... recycling!

Compared to most people, my conversion from plastic for food and beverage storage has been kinda quick. I got rid of as much plastic as I could and purchased a glass pitcher, glasses which could double as food containers due to lids on top, etc.

For a while I was using a bunch of old Nestea and Tang jars, which someone was selling at a yard sale for pennies. Little did they know they were perfect for us and our want to carry water with us while outside the home.

Most recently, and embarrassingly late in the game, I figured out I could save jars I had already purchased and reuse them. I've been to the store several times and just could not bring myself to purchase canning jars. And I don't really need to!

The next time you clean out your fridge, or are at the store, consider purchasing glass and re-using those jars instead of purchasing plastic and using it. Note: glass can be used in the freezer for storage, fridge, etc. It is also able to be recycled! So if you drop one, grab the dust pan and put it in the recycle bin. No reason to get upset over it! In our house, we also don't get upset over spilled water... I simply remind my children "It's okay. It was an accident. It's water, and water dries." Then we clean it up.

  • Peanut butter jars - Skippy natural is sold in 26 oz. jars (also smaller size) in various stores. GO skippy for putting your natural peanut butter in something other than plastic!

    I made almond butter in the blender by adding olive oil and a little raw honey to the mix. It is GREAT, and the kids love it. Can you guess what I'm storing it in? That's right! The 26 oz. glass peanut butter jar we finished off.

    Other ideas for that jar: storing leftovers. Mashies, corn, smoothies, etc.

    Take your jar with you to the store and fill it up with fresh ground peanut butter. Places like Whole Foods have great machines that allow you to do this.

  • Jelly - I realize children tend to touch the jars for peanut butter and jelly, but really? What are the odds of them dropping (and breaking) a jar? Not that great. My kids cling to these jars like dropping it would mean someone else gets their favorite foods. It's not gonna happen! Even so, it's not that hard to clean up if they break a jar. Just saying!

    Making your own jelly is easy! I make it without pectin, and with the use of a blender since my kids hate big pieces of fruit in their jelly sandwiches. Take 1 cup of water, 1.5 - 2 cups of fruit (strawberries, blueberries, mixed berries - your choice), and a little sugar (we like less sugar (a few tablespoons). I blend the mixture in the blender, then cook it down while stirring it for 20 minutes. When it stays in fork tines I'm done cooking it and pour it into a clean jar while it's hot. Put the lid on and stick it in the fridge. Wanna hear something cool? It seals itself when I do that. Note: this is probably not the correct way to can something long term, but our jelly goes kinda fast so I'm not really concerned. If you want to can things, please read up on how to do it properly.

  • Pickles - these jars are large enough to store a bunch of foods, even meat, after you are done a meal. Just wash them out. No, I don't have a pickle recipe just yet. If anyone knows of how to make pickles without buying stuff at the store to do it, I'm game for trying the recipe with my garden cucumbers this year.

  • Metal/glass cannisters - I am kinda against storing my ice cream in glass jars, only because it is difficult to get it out sometimes. I purchased stainless steel cannisters a long time ago, and use these for storing the ice cream we make throughout the year. If you have a super blender like the Vitamix or Blendtec, making ice cream in an instant is easy! If not, use a regular blender or mixer and an ice cream maker to get that soft serve consistency. Mmmmm! Ice cream in whatever flavors you want. I personally LOVE the Coconut Milk Ice Cream recipes at Rachel's Recipe Box. Consider making your own ice cream! It is fun and rewarding!

  • Butter/Margarine - consider that butter comes from a milk rendering animal like a cow or goat. I have to buy goat's milk butter since my daughter is allergic to cow's milk products. It tastes the same, but is white in color. Buy one of those glass butter containers to keep it in. If you like butter not hard, leave it out of the fridge for a while before your meal (or all the time like I do). OR, you could try making your own butter spread. Olive Oil Spread looks like a great idea! I could imagine putting a little bit of sea salt and/or herbs in the mixture and spreading it on things instead of butter.

  • Juice - we don't drink juice! We drink water... some high quality H2O, and we love it! If you need to drink juice, or your children like it - consider getting some in a glass jar rather than plastic (see your health food section or apple juice/cider comes in large glass jars). Or better yet, get a juicer and make your own. At least then you know where it comes from! If you buy 1 or 2 of the glass juice jars, when you use a juicer guess where you can put the juice you don't drink? Ah... genius!

  • Milk - almost all milk comes in some sort of plastic container, or a cardboard one lined with plastic. Bummer on that! Fortunately for us, my daughter's allergies have enlightened us to alternative milks, which we don't drink for thirst . We use alternative milks for thinks like cereal - or for making ice cream, or in a recipe that calls for milk.

    This alone makes it worth buying one of those super blenders. The ability to whip up a 1/2 gallon of milk in a minute or less, pour it into our glass pitcher, and store it on the fridge door. But you don't need a super blender for this. I've been making banana milk for 7 years now in a regular blender. 1 or 2 bananas, fill cannister to water line and blend! It's sweet, looks like milk, and tastes great on cereal.

    If you HAVE to have cow milk or goat milk - how about bringing a glass pitcher or two to a local dairy and asking them to fill it for you? I bet they'd do it if you explained you don't want their products in plastic. What a great change we'd make! I'll bet it tastes a lot better, too!

  • Ketchup - you can buy ketchup in the glass bottles still, I think! If not, consider using an old olive jar! Make your own. It can't be that hard, right? Here is a ketchup recipe I plan on tweaking (to remove the corn syrup and use fresh tomatoes) and pour into a jar for when we have fries or a burger and want some ketchup.

  • Mustard - I've seen mustard sold in glass jars, and that would make for a great container after it is gone. You could just buy another one, OR make your own. Spicy mustard also comes in jars.

  • Mayonnaise - blend up some olive oil, a little vinegar or lemon juice, and an egg or two and blend. There you have it! Soy free artificial flavor/color free mayo that is great! Put it in a jar and stick it in the fridge.
If you catch the theme here, it's really not that hard to make your own stuff... and I am NOT a cook. I once made spaghetti sauce the cats wouldn't even eat! My family changed the rules on our family cooking schedule because of it. Most of the things you eat are very SIMPLE to make!

My point: DON'T THROW AWAY YOUR GLASS JARS! Keep them, REUSE them, and maybe save a little money trying to make some of these things on your own. What a great feeling!

Note: my reasons for not using plastic are different than most people. Beth Terry, from Fake Plastic Fish - Live life with less plastic does it for the animals in the oceans who are mistaking our plastic waste for food. Whatever your reason - saving money, allergies, the environement, the ocean's ecosystem - I hope you try it.

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Saturday, May 22, 2010

Step into Health!

Welcome to my blog! It has come to my attention that some of the things I post on my facebook for friends, or just out of plain excitement, should be shared with the rest of the world. Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Melanie, and I'm a single Mom to 2 beautiful, wonderful children.

Over the years, I have had some major problems with my daughter's health. Although an allergy is considered by the medical community to be an IgE mediated response, I consider an allergy to be an incompatibility (permanent or temporary) between two things. Make that a person and a food, person and a chemical, dog and a cat.... I was checking to see if you were really listening there. Glad you're here!

One of the things that took the longest for me to figure out is that my daughter is highly sensitive to petroleum products... including plastic. She had an anaphylactic reaction after ingesting water stored in plastic, and even is so sensitive she cannot wear 100% polyester sweaters due to red itchy swollen eyes and behavioral changes.

Whether the exposure to plastic for so many years after she was weaned made her more susceptible to other things, or allergies to other foods made her more sensitive to petroleum I don't know. But I do know that they can't even test for this type of allergy! So they dismiss it, which is not acceptable and kept leading us in circles.

In the process of discovering her "allergy" to plastic (petroleum being the culprit, thanks to two good friends) my family has gradually stepped into health. I say it that way because this is the way it SHOULD be - unless you are born into a family that doesn't eat or live the way the average (note: average is NOT equal to normal) American family does.

This blog is dedicated to my children, and other people who want to make their lives healthier and happier. I hope it is easy and enlightening! We will learn together along the way... health is a process.

Health, to me, is the ability of the body to handle stresses without manifesting them inside the body. There are several types of stressors... chemical, physical, and emotional. Studies have shown any type of stress manifests itself the same way in the body. And we all know what that feels like, right?

My goal is to help myself, my children, and as many other people as possible to be able to better handle stressors by taking baby steps along the way. Feel free to join me in this journey!

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