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.


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.

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.

Sous Vide – the modern mom essential

IMG_3265If you are like most of the world  you have no idea if sous vide is a cooking term or a sexual position.  Until recently it was the stuff of serious food geeks but as of this winter you can be cooking like a top chef for under $300.  For the record sous vide is not a sexual position, it’s a cooking method that sounds fancy, expensive and complicated but really isn’t.   Sous vide literally means cooking in a vacuum.   The technique involves vacuum sealing food in plastic bags and then cooking in a water bath at very low temperatures for very long periods of time. The result is perfectly cooked meats that are very tender, veggies that are exactly the right texture with no nutrient loss and foods that will freeze or keep longer in the refrigerator because they are vacuum packed. I’ve been using this technique to create frozen meals for my daughter for close to a year.  Why do I think every mom should know about it?  It’s easy, the active time is very short so you can create large batches of meals in advance very easily, it makes food more healthy because you aren’t losing any nutrients (the bags are BPA free so don’t stress about cooking in plastic), it improves texture and flavor for many of the foods you already enjoy, it saves money and finally it saves time.  When you’re chicken is moist and tender every time you’ll wonder why you didn’t do this sooner.  Think of it as the ultimate crock pot but with no crock pot to clean and everything made ahead and ready in your freezer for meals in minutes.

IMG_3268Working in large batches I fill a freezer with sous vide meals that are perfectly portioned and fully cooked with very little effort.  In this photo I’m creating garlic rosemary chicken breast in perfect size portions for my daughter and I.  In a few hours I can do 2 months worth of meals.  It’s also no mess cooking.  Everything is in the bag so there are no pots and pans to clean.  The food thaws quickly and then I simply sear it in my iron skillet. Viola, dinner in 15 minutes. Best part is that the meal is gourmet worthy and very healthy. There is also a budget aspect to this. By cooking low and slow (think the ultimate braise with no moisture loss) you can give cheaper cuts the texture of fillet minion. I cooked some rump and shoulder cuts from grass fed beef that were simply melting in your mouth and packed with flavor.  Because I’m using cheaper cuts I can splurge on the best possible grass fed beef and improve the health of what my family eats.

So why have you never heard of this amazing way of cooking? Well up until this year the equipment needed was very expensive. Entry level was around $500 and then you had to buy the equipment to do the vacuum sealing.   As of this year there are three immersion circulators (what you are actually cooking with when we say “sous vide”) that are priced under $300.  Here is the low down on the three contenders.


The Anova – Retails at $199.  This one seems to be favored slightly among the food geeks.  It has a slightly smaller size but the other two seem to be easier to operate.  Along with the Sansaire it has a larger capacity so would be better suited for larger projects. There are only US versions in black available and I’m guessing they won’t be around long so don’t hesitate to buy or you’ll be waiting.  Order Anova Here

The Sansaire – Retails at $199.  The Sansaire is much loved for ease of use and larger capacity.  Sadly it is currently sold out.  Check back with them here to see when a new shipment will be available.  Currently no date is listed.   Get Sansaire Information Here

The Nomiku – Retails at $299.95 – This is adorable and easy to use.  It rather looks like a sex toy actually.  This one is really designed for the home cook with ease in mind.  They were even featured on Rachel Ray.  I was in the first run of these from Kickstarter and I absolutely LOVE mine.  That said, it’s the most expensive and has the smallest capacity.  I have a sous vide supreme that I still use, often having the two side by side on my massively cramped counter.  Order Nomiku Here

Serious Eats has product tests and a great comparison between the three.  Click below for the full review.

Serious Eats Sous Vide Review

Superfood Prickly Pear Recipes

Superfood Prickly Pear Recipes

imgresPrickly Pear Cactus is now being called a superfood for it’s cholesterol lowering and antioxident properties.  Here’s a link to some fantastic sounding recipes I’ll be trying soon.  Great news is that Prickly Pear is so sweet you can use it to sweeten things without sugar, plus it’s a really fun neon pink color.  You will find it in latin markets and in some parts of the country you find it in the grocery store when in season.  Here is an online source for some prickly pear products http://www.arizonacactusranch.com/order-our-products.html

Avoiding Scary Sweets this Halloween

IMG_2111Halloween used to be my favorite time of year.  My daughter loves it and always has, but last year we she really went trick or treating for real and for the first time actually ate the candy.  Yikes talk about things that go bump in the night!  We didn’t realize it at the time but all those artificial sweeteners and food dyes put her over the moon (and not in a good way).  It wasn’t until we started connecting the dots on her behavior that we realized hyperactive aggression spiked after a big sugar fest holiday like that.

What’s wrong with a little candy? I had it when I was a kid and I’m fine.  Two main things wrong with the candy that your neighbors will probably pass out this Halloween are HFCS and Food Dye or Artificial Coloring.

Why is food dye so bad?  Well here are just a few things that concern me:

#1 It is linked to health problems including cancer

#2 In the UK they are required to have a warning label on any food product containing food dye

#3 It is derived from petroleum

#4 It has been shown to increase hyperactivity in children

But these are just a few of the big reasons, there are so many more.  There is a wonderful article in 101 Days of Real Food/ that will give you shivers. The Huffington Post did a great article on halloween candy ingredients.

So what is a parent of a child who has issues with hyperactivity, allergies or sensitivity to food dye suppose to do?  

I’m starting by not passing out candy this year.  Partly because I want to practice what I preach and partly because if the candy is never in our house that’s one step ahead.  Instead I’m passing out glow in the dark spider rings, stickers and tattoos that I ordered on Amazon.  I think I ended up spending less on these than I have on candy in the past!

Here are several great non candy options.

Glow-in-the-Dark Spider Rings
Glow Bracelets
Halloween Stickers
Glow-in-the-Dark Halloween Tattoos
Glow-In-The-Dark Bugs

Halloween is right up there with Christmas in my book of amazing childhood memories. I’m not about to deprive my daughter of all that fantastic trick or tart stuff. My goal is simply to make sure she doesn’t turn into a monster by midnight! I have been talking to my daughter about her issues and we’ve come up with a plan.  I ordered halloween candy without artificial sweeteners or food dye from the Natural Candy Store and I will trade her for each thing in her halloween basket.  I know there will be some struggles and some upset feelings but I have stacked the deck with some really big treats I know she will love like cotton candy.  I will go ahead and let her have sugar, as long as it’s natural sugar and there are no food dyes.  I was able to take her to Disneyland (previously not the happiest place on earth for us) this past year without incident by taking my own cotton candy.  I know what you’re thinking sugar is sugar right?  Well what I can tell you is the difference I saw in her behavior.  When she gets processed sugar and artificial sweeteners she almost immediately starts begging for more and more and she craves sweets and carbs.  When I gave her the natural cotton candy, even though it was made from organic sugar, she didn’t do any of those things.  She was quite happy with the cotton candy and the freeze dried mango I had for her and we didn’t have a single tantrum all day.

Here are some alternatives to give your little angles that will keep the ghouls at bay.

Pretzels in fun Halloween packaging (it’s really all about the packaging!)
Surf Sweets gummy spiders, bears and worms
Yummy Earth fruit sweetened lollypops and candy