Handy Oil Health Chart

Cooking-Oils-Comparison-Sample1How healthy is your oil? Most of have probably heard that olive oil is unhealthy cooking at high temps, but what’s a high temp and what’s the best thing to use for high heat? I’ve always used sesame oil for stir fry but turns out that’s not an awesome idea for health because it’s very high in Omega 6 which is very bad for you. I found this handy chart by Eating Rules that I now have printed out in my kitchen and I made a small cheat sheet from it for my wallet to take to the grocery store.

EATING RULES OIL COMPARISON CHART

What am I using now for stir fry? Mostly apricot kernel oil which has a neutral taste and almond oil to add some nutty quality. I add just a small dash of sesame AFTER cooking to get a bit of that sesame taste we are looking for. I’ve also started using avocado oil in place of my olive oil for much of my cooking to get much better health benefits.

Fast Easy Sugar-Free Blueberry Thyme Syrup

IMG_6588You may not have realized this yet but I’m really incredibly lazy.  Yup that’s right LA-ZY!  I take cooking shortcuts, I opt for the easy recipes, I go for the fast stuff that LOOKS like I’m an incredibly hard working chef slaving away in the kitchen.   In reality I’m a totally lazy mom with absolutely no time to cook.  Here is one of the best and easiest recipes ever.  It makes a wonderful syrup that’s great for pancakes, snow cones, ice cream sundays and cocktails for mommy.  The addition of thyme gives it an interesting flavor that makes it a bit more complex without taking away from its yummy sweet fruity taste.  This fancy sounding syrup has 3 ingredients, takes 10 minutes to make and will keep for a couple of weeks in the fridge.  If you want to make a bigger batch and can it…well you’re a mom with way more time on her hands than me.

 

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Ingredients:

4-5 sprigs fresh thyme

1 small basket fresh blackberries

1 cup apple juice

 

 

 

 

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Step 1:  Toss all ingredients in a heavy sauce pan

 

 

 

 

IMG_6577Step 2:  Bring to a hard boil that can’t be stirred down for a minute or two.

Step 3:  Use the back of a spoon to smoosh any remaining berries. Strain ingredients into a heat proof jar like pyrex or a canning jar.  Refrigerate.

Best Sugar Free Popsicles Ever – And How to Get your Kid to Eat Them

IMG_3301Got a blender and some left over fruit and juice?  Making healthy and delicious popsicles is the easiest thing on the planet. Getting your kids to eat them though may not be.  Why will your kid reject the delicious home made popsicle for one of those nasty colored sugar water things at the grocery store?  One word – marketing!  If you’re gonna get your kid to make those healthy choices you’re going to need a marketing plan of your own.

As any good marketer can tell you the food companies are spending millions of dollars researching how to make your kid believe without a doubt that otter pops are way better.  I’m not talking about ads either I’m talking about the color, the packaging and the name.  All of these things go into our perception of how food tastes and this determines our choices.

Packaging  Any chef will tell you that you eat first with your eyes and that’s where most food marketing starts.   It has been shown time and time again that if you give someone the exact same food in two different packages they will think one is better tasting than the other. I’m taking a tip from what the food industry has already figured out.  Kids love things in squeeze packages.  There is something tactile fun about pushing up those otter pops.  There are some reusable silicone ice pop molds out there, but in the end they scream “home made” to your kid, and you know that means “not as good” to them.  I found these amazing zipzicles at amazon and my frozen treat worries were over!  Kids love these things and as an added bonus they travel well.
The Name  Would a popsicle by any other name taste as sweet?  Apparently not.  Try this test.  Mix Orange and Pineapple juices and freeze them in your favorite popsicle mold.  Put two out on plates.  Tell your kid one is an orange pineapple popsicle and the other is an “arctic orange monster blast” or a “tropical pirate chiller.”  See which one gets chosen.  So experiment with fun names for your pops!

Color  Use lots of colorful fruits and juices to make your pops pop!  Kiwi and honeydew mellon will make a wonderful exciting green.  Pomegranate juice makes intense purple/pink and adds a lot of sweetness.  I wish I could make something blue somehow but it’s simply not a color found in nature…which is why we probably shouldn’t eat it!

 

Now to the recipe.  Really you don’t need one, just a few guidelines.  Toss some fruit and juice in your blender and freeze.  Apples tend to give an odd texture and the “pulp” part of the apple will rise to the top for some unappealing pops.  Make sure you have more juice than pureed fruit because again you’ll get a layer of fruit pulp at the top.  I make pops most Fridays with whatever left over fruit is sitting around.  When there is left over bits from breakfast during the week I just toss them into a zip lock back in the fridge for later blending.  Make any combo you like with whatever you’ve got laying around.  Here are a couple of my favorite experiments:

Tropic Blast Pops

1 ripe banana

1/3 cup orange juice

1/3 cup pineapple juice

1/3 cup mango juice (or some left over mango)

 

Chi Chiller

Almond Milk

Pitted Dates

Sprinkle of cinnamon

Sprinkle of cardamom

Amazing new research shows that the bipolar brain is wired differently

Bipolar disorder has long been a puzzle for doctors and scientists.  It runs strongly in families yet there is no single gene to blame.  It effects 200 million people worldwide yet treatments is like shooting darts at a blackboard blindfolded hoping to hit a target.  Promising new stem cell research shows specific differences in how the bipolar brain works and these differences could lead to better treatments down the road.  One of the most exciting things about this research is HOW they did it.   This amazing stem cell research could lead to further research in other disorders that effect the brain.

First stem cell study of bipolar disorder yields promising results — ScienceDaily.

Manic Days and Cupcakes

IMG_4985It all started last Friday night when Miley woke up at 12:30 thinking it was morning.  Over an hour later I had her to sleep but it set us on a path of overtired, hyperactive, obsessive, demanding, and defiant days.  Today I spent my morning at physical therapy (had surgery on my foot a couple of months ago), then rushed to the store, rushed to pick her up at pre-school and take her to the doctor.  Thankfully she only had a cold and not strep or worse since she is allergic to all antibiotics!  On the way out of the doctor’s office she passed the drug store/gift shop and started the familiar begging for a toy.  I was not about to cave on my “we don’t get toys for going to the doctor” policy but to be honest after days and days of battling her on every single little thing I was just tired and didn’t want another fight.  So I distracted her with the first fun thing that popped into my head.  Making cupcakes.  Somewhere deep in my heart I still believe that baked goods supply happiness.  So, on a day where I hadn’t even had time to shower I was hauling out the kitchen aid and making the healthiest cupcakes I could muster on short notice.  I’m not at all a baker but I improvised from a normal cupcake recipe to make it a tiny bit healthier.  Tiny being the operative word.  There are actually much more wholesome gluten free and even sugar free versions but I didn’t have all the fancy non gluten flours on hand and I needed this to be simple.  I also believe that a bit of organic cane sugar every now and again won’t kill her.   This is still way better than a box mix or store bought cupcakes.  Plus we had the fun of making them.

 

Ingredients for Perfect Vanilla Cupcakes:
3/4 cup cake flour or unbleached all purpose flour

½ cup whole wheat pastry flour (this is a finer grind and is important to texture)
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup organic cane sugar  (read my post on stevia as a substitute and don’t do it.  I toyed with coconut palm sugar but that would have made them brown.)
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup melted butter or coconut oil or a combo.  I used a combo

1/2 cup buttermilk or (or 1/2 cup milk plus 1/2 teaspoon white vinegar or lemon juice- add acid to the milk then set aside for 5 minutes before using)

Step 1 – Combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl and set aside.

 Step 2 – In your mixer bowl beat the eggs with the whisk attachment  on medium speed for a 10-15 seconds.   Keep the mixer going and add the other ingredients.

Step 3 – Add the sugar

 Step 4 – Add the vanilla and oil

 Step 5 – Add half the flour mixture

 Step 6 – Add half the buttermilk

 Step 7 – Add the rest of the flour

 Step 8 – Add the rest of the buttermilk

 Step 9 – Pour into paper cupcake lined muffin tin(s)  Fill each cupcake tin about half way.   Mine makes oversized cupcakes so it made 6 perfectly.  It would make a dozen normal sized.

 Step 10 – Bake at 350 until a wooden toothpick comes out clean in the center.  It took mine about 20 minutes but my oven is a bit dodgy these days.  I’d set the timer for 12 for a fist look and then keep an eye on them.  Let them cook completely before frosting.  I just did the confectioner’s sugar and milk glaze with some pomegranate juice added for color.  If I had more time I might have opted for a peanut butter or creamed cheese frosting since those are at least adding a protein.   Sugar free frosting is yet another area I need to do more research in.

 I will try and play around with this recipe and see if I can substitute honey for all or some of the sugar.   Now mamma needs a cocktail.

Wiggle Hearts- Natural vegan sugar free jello in minutes

IMG_4959 My daughter is obsessed with Jello.  Unfortunately all those pretty colors from food dye and the super sweet flavor from sugar puts it on the big no way list for her.  So I set out to find a healthy alternative.  This recipe takes minutes to make, takes only 3 ingredients and is completely vegan, sugar free and dye free.  I’ve been looking for a healthy version of Jello for a long time and then I started playing around with agar agar in my experiments with molecular gastronomy.  Agar is made from sea weed so it’s completely natural and vegan.  Gelatin is made by boiling animal parts in water.  We are not vegan but the whole process for gelatin gives me the creeps so I’d like to avoid it.  Agar can be found on Amazon and at natural food stores.  It comes as a IMG_4962powder and will maintain it’s powder form until boiled.  It will dissolve at temperatures between 95 and 100 degrees but remains a gel at room temperature.  It solidifies much more quickly than gelatin, and dissolves more quickly than sugar so I find this much faster than making the stuff in the box.  This recipe makes a firm gel similar to knox blox we had as a kid.  If you want a slightly less firm gel just back off a bit on the agar.

My recipe gives the amounts by weight as we do in modernist cooking. We do this because cooking by weight is far more accurate and you will get more consistent results. I suggest you purchase a small inexpensive but accurate scale on amazon for this and other modernist techniques.   This is a link to the one I have.  It costs $8 and is available on Amazon Prime. AWS 1KG digital scale

Step 1 – Measure out 150 grams of white grape juice and 150 grams of pomegranate juice and place in a sauce pan.  Approximately 2 cups by volume.

Step 2 – place some parchment paper on your scale an zero it out (restart it).  Slowly put Agar powder on the sale until it reads 3 grams.  Approximately 1 tablespoon by volume.

Step 3 – Add the agar to the juice and bring to a rapid boil.  Allow to boil for 15- 30 seconds, stirring constantly.

Step 4 – Pour the mixture into a pyrex dish or glass pie pan and place in the fridge.

Step 5 – Wait till it is firm (about 15 minutes) and remove from the fridge.  Now simply use cookie cutters to cut out any shape you like, or use a knife to cut them into blocks or diamonds.

If you do this by volume and not by weight you may not get the same results but its fast to try again so just adjust the ratio till you find a texture you are happy with.

Stevia it’s not as healthy as you think

Stevia it’s not as healthy as you think

images-1As I look for sugar alternatives I’m constantly finding that real organic cane sugar (not the white stuff in your mass supermarket) is often the best choice.  Here’s a great article written by The Food Babe on 101 Days of Real Food about the latest sugar alternative of choice, Stevia, and why you might be reaching for the wrong alternative.