Cheeseburger Cake (without fondant) Tutorial

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Creamy baked penne with chicken

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Juicing Trend vs Smoothies

Blackberry, pineapple, strawberry, banana smoothie

Smoothies are cheaper and better for you

Juicing is not a new trend. It’s just caught the attention of lots of health nuts out there. Every time I hear about juicing I think of this episode of the Cosby show where the kids make a mess out of their juicer with grapes. We had a juicer too when we were kids. I also had this (political) uncle who was into juicing. He came over one time and made me some carrot juice. I was astounded at how many carrots it took to make a small glass. There was a period of a week when my Mom made us some fresh homemade juices, and then, just as it arrived, the trend was over.

I can’t help but feel nostalgic when this new trend hits my Facebook feed. Just last week my BFF and I went to pick up a juicer for her. I have cousins, friends, and Facebook acquaintances all juicing, but it wasn’t long ago that smoothies were the name of the game. I’m a big fan of smoothies myself, and decided to do a little research to find out if I should jump ship and fork over the dollars for a juicer.

Why juice?

The idea behind juicing is a good one. You can certainly eat up more fruits and veggies in a glass of juice than eating them. Plus you can make some awesome combinations that will help you get the vitamins out of veggies you don’t like to eat regularly. Throw some spinach in with strawberries and bananas and you can’t even taste the spinach. It’s a total win.  Cooking fruits and veggies can leach out most of the important nutrients, leaving you with only some of the benefits of having forced down those brussel sprouts. Stick those veggies in the juicer and you get all the vitamins. It’s a win!

Why not Juice?

The problem with juicing has always been three-fold. First of all the mess. The juicer we had as kids was a real pain in the tuckus to clean. You had to peel, skin, and pull out seeds, which took forever. Technology, however, has really taken that problem away. Modern juicers have an easy filter so you can just plop the fruit right in and voila–juice! They’re much easier to clean nowadays too!

The other two problems haven’t been solved by technology. First of all, it takes a good amount of fruit and veggies to make juice. So prepare to invest a significant amount of money in produce. That’s not a bad thing though. The juice does fulfill the sweet cravings in a healthier way. So you can just shift the cookies and candy money to your fruits and veggies. The other problem is the expense of the juicer itself. My BFF’s juicer, a Hamilton Beach, with a coupon, cost about $45, and they get more expensive with better features. I’ve heard of people spending an average of $300 on juicers, and some of the really super duper awesome ones can run you upwards of $2K!

The investment is really in yourself, and your health. If you know you’re not getting the fruits and veggies you should be, then it’s worth a little extra expense to make healthy lifestyle switches.

Smoother than a smoothie?

So what’s the difference between making smoothies and juicing? And which is actually better? I’m not surprised to discover that smoothies are actually better.

When you make a smoothie you can put anything in it. Protein powder makes a smoothie into a meal. Coconut oil turns a smoothie into a weight loss supplement. Anything you can imagine can be tossed into a smoothie and whirred away into a glass filled with vitamins and nutrients. Some vegetables hold most of their nutrients in the fibrous parts of them, including the skin, which you don’t get from juicing. The same flavor combinations can be achieved with smoothies, and you can blend them with other food groups to make a well-balanced glass of healthy.

The mess is a factor here. I’ve never actually seen someone put apples into a smoothie, but I imagine you’d want to peel and seed them first, which can be a serious PITA. The other two factors, however, are highly reduced. First of all you get more smoothie from less fruit, and the technology is much cheaper. You can use a regular blender, or, I love my emersion/hand blender ($17).

The one thing that is certain is that juicing is definitely for people who have texture issues with their food. If you don’t want blackberry seeds in your teeth, juice away. If you don’t mind the thickness, then grab a smoothie.

Here’s my favorite smoothie recipe for the smoothie pictured above:

6 strawberries

7 blackberries

1/2 banana

4 slices of pineapple

3 oz orange juice

3 oz. milk

1/2 small cup greek yogurt

Put it all in a glass and stick your hand blender in until you achieve your desired consistency. Add more OJ if you want to make it thinner. Add 1 tsp coconut oil if you want to curb your appetite for the rest of the afternoon.

 

 

What’s your vote? Juice or Smoothie?

 

Pink slime isn’t the only gross thing we’re eating.

I’m sure you’ve heard of pink slime by now. There’s not a media source out there that hasn’t capitalized on this moniker, souring our appetites with images of goopy, pink meat. I try not buy into fear mongering trends, but I do try to understand them. Pink slime is the name that has been given to a meat, that on the surface actually seems like the green movement should be happy about. So here’s the scoop.

It used to be that only certain part of the cow were allowed to be used and sold for human consumption. Although one can’t help, but wonder if that’s true, considering hot dogs have always been known to contain “lips and a**holes”. The “trimmings”, as far as I can find, include the bits of gristle, and meat attached to the skeleton, which are left when the “primal cuts” of beef have been removed. The problem with these bits of meat hasn’t been that they aren’t edible. The issue is that meat closer to the hide of the animal has a higher bacterial concentration of E.Coli or Salmonela, and other potential life threatening bacteria.

Last year, Oliver Russel aired an episode of Food Nation where he toured a meat plant where they make “pink slime”. What they do is take the “trimmings” and put them through a centrifuge, which spins the meat around and ejects the parts with the protein. Then they send those bits through a grinder, and pass it through a tube, the thickness of a pencil. Here’s the spot where people get grossed out. While passing through this tube the meat is blasted by ammonium hydroxide. This chemical raises the Ph of the meat, and kills the bacteria. The end result gets mixed in with the more acceptably non ammonia-ed ground beef and that’s what we get from the store. Rarely, I read, is there more than 25% of this stuff in our food.

Okay, so onto the implications. First of all, the imagery is gross. The thought of my food going through play-doh fun factory tubes is disgusting, but the visual of it is even worse. Then there is the whole ammonia in my food thing that is really freaky. To top it all off, there’s the fact that McDonalds–purveyors of the cheapest food around–has declared it won’t be using pink slime products. That’s the real mind blowing part, right? If it’s not good enough for McDonalds, how can it be good for anyone. The Department of Education, however, thinks the food is good…for our kids! Whoa nelly! That’s more than I can bear.

So I did a little more reading. The government agencies are all saying that the food is safe for consumption, and the ammonia in it is well regulated by the FDA and not a danger. Sorry government, I can’t say you’re the most trustworthy lot. I mean, the FDA is also responsible for regulating drugs, and in the last five years alone there have been laundry lists of drugs who have been found to kill people, despite the regulations. That stamp of approval doesn’t help me sleep at night.

This reminded me of an article I’d read recently, where researches in Japan have found a way to reconstitute feces, mix it with soy, add some red food coloring, and make an “edible” shit burger. Safe or not–I don’t want to be fed shit.

I don’t know about you, but this whole thing has my head spinning about what I CAN eat. So I decided to get my butt on the internet and find out for myself.

My first thought was that I can always eat chicken. Then I found this tasty tidbit of information in a 2006 New York Times article.

“70% of chickens raised for human consumption in the US are given the FDA approved food additive arsenic. The arsenic is used as an antibiotic. Unfortunately, it gets worse. Much of the arsenic ends up in the chicken poop, which is then generally used as fertilizer on fields for growing other foods.”

Gross! With chicken ruled out, and all of the Mercury in fish, it feels like it’s time to switch to being a vegetarian, but even our produce isn’t safe.

“Citrus Red 2 is a cancer causing dye that is banned in the US – except for orange growers. Orange growers are allowed, by law, to stain their oranges with Citrus Red 2 to make them look more appetizing. ”

In fact, unless you skip the sweetener, even our coffee is turning against us. Turns out the burnt cow bone is used to whiten our sugar.  If you’re thinking of reaching for your favorite glass of Cabernet for comfort, think again.

” When grapes are harvested by machine for wine making, the machine shakes the grapes off the vine. But this also means that insects, birds and basically anything else in the vine comes off too. Cheap wine makers don’t generally sort the grapes before pressing, so all of that extra stuff goes into the wine. Expensive makers (fortunately?) have sorting tables, and can remove up to 99% of the MOG (material other than grapes). That means that 1% or more of the juice in the wine is probably dead animals.”

Even organic foods aren’t off the hook, since many of the approved organic pesticides contain commonly known poisons like arsenic and belladonna which are more harmful than their synthetic counterparts. One of the biggest problems with organic farming is that they use animal manure, which contains much higher levels of harmful bacterias, like E.Coli, than synthetic fertilizers. Actually, something I was surprised by, studies show that organically fed animals pass more gas, which is one of the leading contributions to the methane gas in our air.

I think the worst part of this scandal is that these chemicals, processes, and additives are being hidden from the public. I shouldn’t have to do three hours of research to know what I’m eating. If it’s safe, then explain why and how it’s safe and tell us what measures you’re taking to make sure we aren’t going to die of arsenic poisoning. I’d rather know what I’m putting into my body then be blindsided by the news reports. If it isn’t something we should be worried about, then don’t lie about it. I can’t say I’m particularly hungry right now, but the fact is there are chemicals everywhere, and in everything. The “organic” solutions aren’t the best alternatives either. So it seems we have nowhere to turn for actual healthy eating. I guess it’s “do the best we can” time.

What are your thoughts? How do you stay healthy with the lack of healthy food available?

K-Cup Reviews-Jet Fuel, Sweet Summer Raspberry, Chai

As promised I’ve carefully tasted and reviewed three more K-cup flavors to help you decide on your next big purchase.

First up is Jet Fuel by the Coffee People

This coffee promises to be the strongest most potent brew you can get from your Keurig and it certainly does live up to the hype. It is ridonkuclously strong without being watery. The problem is in the flavor. Big G described it as “totally nasty”, but we have been having issues with our Keurig brewing short cups. I had a regular cup and added some extra cream and sugar and while I didn’t agree that it was totally nasty, it wasn’t the tastiest cup I’ve had. In fact, it tastes a little burnt, the way super strong coffee has a tendency to do. It isn’t going in the garbage, but that’s just because I think it’ll help on my long nights of writing into the wee hours of the morning.

 

 

I was really excited to order a case Timothy’s Sweet Summer Raspberry k-cups, especially because I love berry flavored coffees

so much. When I brewed my first cup the aroma was divine. I would totally brew this as an air freshener on a cold winter’s day, when I need a reminder that summer isn’t gone forever. The taste, however, leaves much to be desired. Again we’ve got a case of watery brewing. It isn’t as rich tasting as it smells, but I think this might be a good summer coffee, and might taste pretty good with two cups brewed short over ice. This hasn’t been tested yet, and I’ll update this post in the summer. It isn’t a total waste of k-cup though, but it isn’t my favorite to say the least.

 

 

I know it’s weird, but sometimes I don’t like to drink coffee. Don’t faint just yet. I love my caffeine no matter what form it comes in, but sometimes I need something that tastes yummy and warm without that coffee taste. In that case I like to turn to chai. Celestial Seasonings did a really great job with this one. I like to drink it with just a drop of half’n’half and a dab of sugar. Sometimes I’ll even add a bit of nutmeg to add to the flavor. This is a really great blend of teas and spices that produces a robust cup of tea. It’s my favorite non coffee k-cup for sure. If you’re a chai fan, I wholeheartedly recommend this cup.

 

 

 

As always, if you have a k-cup that you’d like to see reviewed here leave me a comment and I’ll send you my contact info so you can send me one of yours. I’ll gladly give you all the credit. Happy Keurig-ing.

K-Cup Flavor Review- Caribou, Raspberry Chocolate, and Vanilla Biscotti

If you know me in real life, you may have heard about my Keurig experience. I am not at liberty to discuss the details, but let’s just say that I’ve been trying all kinds of k-cup flavors. Since I’ve been having trouble deciding which to buy, I figured I’d give you my reviews on the ones I’ve tried so far.

 

Caribou

Big G is not a big fan of flavored coffee. I mean, just like any of us, he’ll drink any coffee in a pinch, but he’s more likely to get a headache than drink the stuff I love. So I have to make sure I keep him caffeinated with flavors he can handle. So far, this is his favorite blend. It doesn’t taste as watery as other non-flavored k-cups, and packs some decent flavor.

 

 

 

Van Houtte Raspberry Chocolate Truffle

This one is my favorite, and yes, I’m a big flavored coffee drinker. I prefer berry flavored foods in general, but with the chocolate to round out the flavor profile, this is my k-cup staple. Honestly, I can’t get enough of this k-cup. Like the caribou, it isn’t as watery as other k-cups can be, and provides the caffeine I need to start my day. This is absolutely my wake-up brand.

 

 

 

Folgers Gourmet Collections Vanilla Biscotti

A few weeks ago I ran out of k-cups, and wasn’t sure I wanted to spend the money to buy more just yet. While I was at the grocery store I saw the Folgers K-cup collections. They were on sale, and while they didn’t have a raspberry flavor, I decided to give the vanilla biscotti a try. It was a mistake. I mean, total blech-itude. It produced a cup of synthetic vanilla tasting coffee flavored water. Adding cream and sugar didn’t help a thing. There still in my cupboard, but only because I don’t like throwing things away. I can’t speak for the rest of the collection, but I’m not too anxious to try them out just yet.

 

Do you have a favorite k-cup, or one that you’d like me to review? Leave a comment below and I’ll send you an address where you can send me one and I’ll let you know what I think.

Next time I’ll be reviewing Jet Fuel by the Coffee People, Timothy’s Sweet Summer Raspberry coffee, and Celestial Seasonings Indian Spiced Chai.

 

 

 

 

Chicken a’la Bizzaro or Garlic Heaven

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Roasted pork tenderloin

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Does the idea of eating genetically modified stuff gross anyone else out?

 

 

 

 

 

It was all over my news feed yesterday. Okay, so two people posted about it, but one of them linked to this article/petition, and while I usually ignore things that seem designed to scare me I found myself thinking about it long after I shut my computer down. I mean, it wasn’t that long ago that we were all (and some of us still are) spending entire paychecks on organic foods. After a little research and enlightenment from Penn and Teller’s television show Bullshit, I learned that organic food isn’t necessarily better. They just don’t use synthetic chemical pesticides. On the surface that sounds better, right? But some of the “organic” pesticides are actually more harmful to us than their synthetic counterparts. Nightshade and arsenic are two of the pesticides that are used in “organic” farming, which are known to be poisonous to humans. Last year they took Hyland’s teething tablets off the market because they contained microscopic traces of another human poison, Belladonna. Despite the fact that you would have to give your kid the equivalent of two pounds of teething tablets in order for them to have any kind of reaction, the shelves were cleared of this homeopathic remedy. Anyone see the irony here?

Anyway, so I found myself wondering about genetically modified foods. What are they genetically modified to do exactly? Will eating this corn make me eligible for a spot at Xavier’s School for the Gifted? If so, then I have some real hard thinking to do. Thank goodness the internet is the realization of my elementary school fantasy–the homework machine. It wasn’t hard to find information telling me that genetically modified foods aren’t designed to help ME in anyway, although there haven’t been any real long term studies to tell me that I won’t get the telepathic powers of Jean Grey, there also aren’t any studies to tell me whether or not it will contribute to my daughter getting her period at 4. In fact one of the only studies they did was on rats. Those rats, when fed some corn genetically modified with this stuff called lectin, experienced organ failure.

But those are rats. I’m not a rat. Besides, what if this food was genetically modified to make me feel fuller when I ate it, or delivered more nutrients and vitamins per kernel? Maybe the rats can’t handle all those nutrients and that’s why they go into overload. But no, the corn (along with soy products, tomatoes, squash and other vegetables) are genetically modified to be more resistant to bugs, viruses, and other threats to crops. That does spook me a little bit. Especially because the FDA, you know that government agency that’s supposed to make sure our food is safe, doesn’t have any real rules to regulate the safety of genetically modified foods. In fact, all a GMO food distributor has to do is provide the FDA with an assertion that the methods used to modify this food is safe. No tests. No follow ups. Just a bunch of dead rats.

I’m not saying that this stuff is unsafe. I’m just saying that I don’t really know, and it seems no one really knows. I’m not going to run faster, or jump higher. I won’t be able to manipulate metal or teleport from one place to another. So there’s no real personal benefit to me. The only thing we do really know is that rats get organ failure. So, until there’s more info about it all, I’m not feeding it to my kids. Really, I don’t care if Walmart decides to sell it or not. At least where I live, Walmart isn’t where you go for produce anyway, but it would make me feel just a little bit better to not have to worry about avoiding it. In fact, I rescind my last statement. I probably won’t buy produce anywhere that does sell it, just because I’m too lazy to read the non-existent fine print on the produce signs. I mean, I know that Monsanto is GMO, but there are all kinds of veggies being modified this way, and I didn’t spend the last two years on my Little G just to feed her something that could send her into organ failure. I don’t love that way.
What do you guys think about GMO?

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