Friday, February 24, 2012

Checked Your Oil Lately?

I have been reading a lot about oils these past few weeks.  Jealous? Interesting subject, I know.  But hey, I am a self-proclaimed nerd and an article I read about Canola oil got me thinking.  So I set out to find some truth on the subject and do a little research.  I have to say that even with my eclectic taste in "light reading", spending hours researching oils and their benefits held my attention much longer than I expected.  Wanting to do a little experimenting of my own, I set out this week to purchase and try a few oils that peaked my interest.  And a little disclaimer before we get started, I am not endorsing any brands or medically prescribing any of the of the following oils.  I am merely passing on information, making suggestions and relating my experiences.  Ok, now that I can keep my nursing license, let me tell you what I purchased and discovered.

1. Grapeseed Oil- I purchased this oil in hopes to find an oil with healthy properties, similar to those of olive oil, but with a higher smoke point.  If you cook with olive oil very often you know what I mean and how easily it burns.  Grapeseed oil did not disappoint.  I made a stir-fry and didn't have to worry about balancing the heat between searing the food and burning the oil.  As far as taste, it didn't seem to taste per se but I did notice it had a very light viscosity, almost watery, so I didn't have to use much to coat the pan.  I am not going to go into all the details about its benefits but I will suggest you looking it up and picking up a bottle to replace your current vegetable oil.

*I would like to note that after years of using Smart Balance oil, I have since thrown it out.  A little research into Canola oil and it just lost its appeal. Canola oil is the first ingredient in the Smart Balance blend.

2.  Sesame Oil- This oil is extracted in several different ways which lends to various depths of flavor.  It can have a toasty, nutty flavor or little to no taste.  While researching oils I came across a practice in Ayurvedic medicine called oil pulling.  This act of prolonged swishing one's mouth with oil to rid the body of toxins was intriguing to me so I purchased some sesame oil and gave it a try. Sesame oil is commonly used in the Eastern world in everything from cooking to massage and is one of the oils recommended for oil pulling. (Sunflower oil being the other.)  It is rich in the anti-oxidant vitamin E as well a list of other vitamins and minerals.  I have to say, the oil pulling was a little weird/awkward the first few times but I am going to keep it up and see if it has any results.  I purchased an organic, expeller-pressed oil which can also be used in cooking so either way it wasn't a waste of money.  I will mention here that some people may have an allergy to sesame oil.  So if you know you have a nut or seed allergy you may want to steer clear of sesame oil.  If you are able to eat hummus, which contains tahini or sesame seed paste, then you are most likely not allergic.

3.  Argan Oil- Ok people, I saved the best for last.  I am just going to say I have found this stuff to be a miracle worker and I am completely infatuated.  This Moroccan oil has been used for thousands of years for cooking and medicine in the Eastern world.  Once again I am not going to bore you with all the details of how it works or all its claimed benefits, as I would hate to take such prize winning literature off your personal reading list, but I will strongly suggest you checking it out.  So far I have only used the oil on my hair and skin but I am completely won over.  It has healed my dry and torn cuticles within days of use, softened my heels better than any goopy cream I have ever used and improved my complexion beyond any prescription medication or expensive serum ever has.  To say I am beyond impressed is an understatement.  I purchased 100% pure organic oil from Sephora in a kit by Josie Maran which contained other wonderful Argan oil products.  It was worth every penny, in my opinion, but you can also find Argan oil at some health food stores, beauty supply stores and online.  Just remember you usually get what you pay for. 

I hope to be back on track with recipes next week but just really wanted to share this information. Hope you try out some of these oils and feel free to post your thoughts, questions and comments.  Look forward to hearing from you!

* This blog contains some information sourced from Wikipedia

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

No Time For Chit-Chat

Not sure where time has gone these past 2 weeks or why it has eluded me as of late but I have a pile of ironing that continues to grow while the "laundry fairy" attempts to keep the dirty laundry from overtaking the closet floor.  She is putting up a good fight but her powers are waining.  Meanwhile, I have found it is near impossible to keep a food blog going when you haven't made time to the grocery store in weeks and you only have some cheesesticks and almonds in the fridge. My to-do and to-call lists are lengthening and the mental list to keep up with the physical lists wakes me at 2am to obsess about its priorities.  So today is catch-up day.  Washer is washing, ironing board is set up, grocery list is ready to go and I am blogging.  I will sleep well tonight. So enough of this chit-chat.

Below you will find a recipe of sorts for a stir-fry I made last week.  It uses Baby Bok Choy and if you have never tried this veg; this is a great introductory recipe.  Bok Choy, aka a super food, is a little sweet, has a bit of a crunch and great Asian flavor.  I use the term "recipe" loosely, as it is really more of a list of ingredients I threw together and called it a stir-fry.  Look at your spice rack and play with the flavors.  Add other veg or meats if you wish.  Stir-fries are great go-to meals as long as you steer clear of the soy sauce and MSG found in most ready-made mixes.  Give these spices a try. You won't miss the soy sauce one bit!

Baby Bok Choy and Grass-Fed Beef "Stir-Fry"

Meat Marinade:
olive oil- enough to cover meat
smoked paprika* this is my secret to great meat dishes. it has amazing flavor.
garlic pepper grinder
steakhouse pepper grinder
ground ginger
Combine spices and oil a baggie, add in meat, toss and refrigerate until ready to use.
*Don't be shy with the spices.  Make sure all the meat is covered. Taste the marinade before you add the meat if you aren't sure about amounts.

I cooked the meat and veggies separately just because I didn't want the marinade to take over the taste of the veggies but you can cook them together if you want. Cook the meat in a a hot pan with olive oil until desired doneness.  (Don't let the olive oil smoke) Serve over veggies. I salted the dish right before serving but no other sodium was added.

Veg Portion:
baby bok choy-cleaned and chopped on the diagonal
purple onion-chopped in proportion to bok choy
matchstick carrots
Heat pan, add olive oil and onions.  Once onion begins to caramelize, add bok choy and carrots.  Cook until just tender. 

Friday, February 10, 2012

Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies

I have to admit, I love a good peanut butter cookie.  And while I try to make good choices about everything I choose to eat, I am a realist.  So when the "realist" in me, "really" wants a peanut butter cookie, this is my go-to recipe.
Peanut butter cookies have a special place in my heart. They remind me of my great-grandmother and memories of her mixing up a batch in her peach colored melamine cookie dough bowl.  (How weird is it that I loved that bowl? Who loves a bowl?) Anyway, my job was to roll the dough into the exact same sized sticky spheres, place them on the cookie sheet in perfectly spaced columns and rows, then mash them with fork tines until they were all precisely criss-crossed and ready for baking. Little did my great-grandmother know, this process only fostered my OCD tendencies.  So many precise details.  And I loved every minute of making these with her.
My great-grandmother, who I wrote about in a previous blog, made her peanut butter cookies with Crisco, "the bad" peanut butter, white flour and salt.  This recipe I am sharing today is made with none of those and yet it tastes even better.  I am not going to pretend that these cookies are healthy but they are a great alternative to most standard recipes.  As with any sweet, moderation is key. This recipe is easy to double or triple for a party and they store best in an air-tight container after completely cooled.

Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies

2 cups all natural, no sugar, no salt, chunky peanut butter (1 regular size jar)*
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar*
2 tsp baking soda- look for no sodium baking soda or it can be left out completely to lower sodium content
2 eggs*
2 tbs vanilla*

Mix all ingredients until well combined. Form into balls, press with fork and bake for 8 mins at 350*.  I use my cookie scoop for consistent amounts but a spoon will work too. Do not over bake.  I set the timer for 4mins, spin the cookie sheet a half turn, and then finish baking them for the last 4 mins to get evenly baked cookies. Let cool on sheet for 2 mins then place on paper towels until completely cooled.  The paper towels help draw out excess oil.  Also, I pour out a little of the peanut oil from the jar if it is really separated. Yields apx 24 cookies.
*Organic, all-natural and fresh ingredients make the best cookies

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A Quiche By Any Other Name

Ah, Quiche Lorraine.  Smokey bacon and Swiss cheese in a yellow custard all baked and gooey. Always a crowd pleaser because who doesn't like cheesy, bacon goodness?  However, quiche of a "no-name" variety has become a regular around our house lately.  I found an Atkins' recipe that works well for low-carb diets and I just throw in whatever veg or meat I have in the fridge. (just for the record, the buttermilk pancake recipe from yesterday is a rare treat in our low-carb/gluten-free world, crustless quiche is our reality) It is a great way to use all those veggies in the fridge before they have to be thrown out.  I eliminate the meat for meatless meal days and am still left feeling full.  I have found the key to a good quiche is making sure all the moisture is cooked out of the veggies before adding them to the egg/cream mix. Very important! This eliminates a watery quiche because nobody wants that. Below I have listed the recipe I use for the low-carb version but search the internet and find a recipe that fits your diet restrictions if this one has too much fat for your eating plan.  Regardless of what filling you come up with, try it without the crust.  You will not miss it.  The pic to the left is from last night's dinner, aka today's lunch.  This quiche is made with green onions, bacon, kale, Tabasco, spinach and cheddar. Last week's version contained Swiss, red bell pepper, green onion, chicken sausage, mushrooms and kale.  The combinations are endless.  Oh, and be sure to double or triple your recipe so you have leftovers.  It is a great fast breakfast/lunch, reheated or cold. 

Crustless Quiche from Atkins


    4 oz. bacon *look for low sodium and nitrate free
    1/2 yellow onion, thinly sliced
    6 eggs *farm fresh eggs make all the difference
    3/4 c heavy cream *organic
    2 boxes (10 oz. each) frozen chopped broccoli or spinach, thawed and squeezed dry *organic
    1/2 pound Swiss cheese, shredded *low sodium
    1/2 tsp salt *I eliminate this
    1/4 tsp pepper


1. Heat oven to 350*F. Butter a 10-inch tart pan or 9-inch deep pie plate ( I used a square 9 by 9 glass baking dish).
2. In a large skillet over medium heat, cook bacon until crisp. Drain on paper towels; coarsely chop.
3. Remove all but 1 tablespoon bacon drippings from skillet. Add onion and cook 5 minutes, until softened but not brown. In a large bowl, combine eggs, cream, broccoli, cheese, salt, and pepper. Stir in bacon and onion.
4. Pour mixture into prepared pan. Bake 1 hour and 15 minutes (tenting with foil, if necessary, to prevent over-browning) or until a knife inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes before cutting into wedges.

Number of Servings: 8
*recipe copied from
*italics are iheartgroceries remarks

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Cooking Light Buttermilk Pancakes

These are a breakfast favorite.  I add some cinnamon, nutmeg and blueberries if I feel like going all out but they are pretty darn good all by themselves.  If going gluten-free, try using Bob's Red Mill All Purpose Baking Mix in place of the flour mixture.  Also, if you don't have buttermilk just add 1 tbsp of white vinegar to a cup of milk, let it stand for 5-10mins then use in recipe. This recipe is copied from Cooking Light.

Buttermilk Pancakes

To freeze any leftovers, place wax paper between pancakes, and wrap them tightly in foil.

5.0 13
Yield: 9 (4-inch) pancakes (serving size: 1 pancake)
Recipe from Cooking Light


  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • Cooking spray


  1. Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 4 ingredients (flour through salt) in a large bowl, and make a well in center of mixture. Combine buttermilk, oil, and egg; add to flour mixture, stirring until smooth.
  2. Spoon about 1/4 cup batter onto a hot nonstick griddle or nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray. Turn pancakes when tops are covered with bubbles and edges look cooked.

Cooking Light Spinach Lasagna Rolls

This is one of my favorite go-to meals for meatless dinners. It gives a little twist to regular lasagna and I promise your kids will love it! *This recipe is copied from Cooking Light

Spinach Lasagna Rolls

A meatless and easy-to-eat alternative to traditional lasagna, these spinach lasagna rolls make a pleasing weeknight dinner.

5.0 2
Yield: 6 servings (serving size: 3 lasagna rolls)
Recipe from Cooking Light


  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 1 1/4 cups (5 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 1 (15-ounce) carton lite ricotta cheese 
  • 1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained, and squeezed dry
  • 9 cooked lasagna noodles *choose whole wheat or gluten-free if allergy
  • Vegetable cooking spray 
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped tomato
  • 4 (8-ounce) cans no-salt-added tomato sauce
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Fresh basil leaves (optional)


  1. Combine 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, mozzarella cheese, and ricotta cheese in a large bowl, and stir well. Add spinach, and stir well.
  2. Spread 1/3 cup spinach mixture on each lasagna noodle. Roll up jelly-roll fashion, beginning at narrow end. Cut lasagna rolls in half crosswise, using a serrated knife; arrange, cut side down, in an 11 x 7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Set aside.
  3. Combine chopped tomato and next 6 ingredients in a bowl, and stir well. Spoon tomato mixture over lasagna rolls. Cover and bake at 350° for 45 minutes. Uncover; top with remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, and bake an additional 10 minutes. Garnish with fresh basil leaves, if desired.

Let's Have A Heart To Heart, Shall We?

Hearts. That is what February is all about, isn't it?  So being in the spirit of Valentine's Day and National Heart Month, I thought I would start the month off with an important heart health message.
The leading cause of death for men and women in the United States, according to the American Heart Association, is heart disease.
Yep, that is it.  One statement. That is my important message.  I even decided to add the bold, italics, red and underline so you could grasp the importance.
And do I think most people care about this statement? No.
Do I think most people understand the gravity of this statement? No.
Do I think most people tune out almost everything that follows this statement? Yes. 
And why do I think these things?  Because (enter fast-food restaurant name here) continues to serve billions every day.  Because hospitals barely have room for the constant flow of heart attack patients that enter their doors. Because our schools consider pizza a vegetable. Because American children are becoming obese in rising numbers. Because tobacco is a multi-billion dollar industry. Because we spend more time and money on television than exercising. Because stress is commonplace. Because prescription drug sales are at an all time high. And finally, because the obituary section of local newspapers proves my thinking true. Simple as that.
So for those of you who are still reading,(Hi Mom) I want you to know, I get it. I get the complacency. We make something a "National Campaign" and for one month out of the year we may consider making some changes. We might even check our blood pressure or sign up to attend a local health fair to get our cholesterol number if we are really in the spirit. We glance at a magazine article about, "How To Lose 10lbs Fast" and buy the latest diet drink in an effort to lose some weight and prevent a heart attack...if not for the long-term, at least for this week. We live in a world where the leading cause of death for men and women is heart disease for crying out loud...I understand.  But what if instead of becoming a statistic you started with just one choice? What if you chose to eat fruit over chips; not just today but from here on out? You walked your dog when you got home instead of crashing on the couch. You ordered grilled fish instead of fried and your car rarely ever pulled up to a fast food drive-thru again. (I am being realistic here, I said "rarely".) You discovered the value of deep breathing and relaxation. You vowed to stop smoking and meant it. You thought of your heart as an irreplaceable treasure, more valuable than any amount of money you could ever make or any amazing gift you could ever hope to receive. You have the power to do all of these things and more.  You have the power of prevention.  (Sorry I couldn't resist the emphasis.)
This week I plan to post several heart healthy recipes...minus the soapbox.  I, for one, plan to be more mindful of my heart; not just this month, but from here on out. 
I think Hippocrates said it best, "Let food by thy medicine and medicine be thy food". 
I know several of you loved the quinoa recipe so look for another this week. I also plan to post my favorite flourless cookie recipe, a meatless meal full of protein and a few of my favorite Cooking Light recipes.  But before I go, one last note. I would like to say thanks again to all my readers! I passed the 1,000 pageview mark in my first month.  That just seems crazy to me.  I seriously can't believe it. I hope you continue to read, leave comments, repin and cook along with me. It has been a blast so far and it truly makes my heart happy!


Gluten-Free Moroccan Carrot Soup

Tex-Mex Chicken Quinoa

Baby Bok Choy And Grass-Fed Beef Stir-Fry

Gluten-Free Flourless Peanut Butter Cookie

Crustless Quiche

Hearty Sausage, Kale and Potato Soup

The Best Brussels Sprouts Ever

No Cans Chicken and Rice (Gluten Free)

Last Minute Soup

Gluten-Free Cajun Quinoa

Pantry Staples

No-Bake Gluten-Free Oatmeal Cookies

Flourless Chocolate Cake gluten-free

Flourless Chocolate Cake Gluten-free

i heart groceries' Texas Caviar

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