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Food Journals Help with Weight Loss

October 24, 2014

800px-Flowering_cherry_treeA food journal can increase the success of a new eating regimen. Food journals offer insight of things we sometimes don’t think about which, in turn, when seeing and realizing where changes are needed, can be an effective means of losing weight. This need not be a fancy journal but to be effective should be portable so choose something you can easily carry with you. An effective food journal documents several key points.

The first thing it records is what you eat. Write down everything that you eat. If it’s a nibble on a handful of popcorn or a bite of something you “just have to try” record it. With keeping a written record you can chart what is coming into your body. Keep track of drinks too including that tea with a spoon of sugar which can add up. Get in the habit of measuring your food. If a serving is cup accuracy for a cup is important. If you eat two cups it is doubling the nutritional calories and intake.

Record the calories from those things you ate. There are often hidden calories’ in snacking because we think of meals, not snacking when we look at calories. The body, however, makes use of everything and doesn’t differentiate between the two. Recording this is a food journal helps keep track of these sources. Also when snacking keep track of how much you eat. A fun sized’ candy bar and a giant sized is not the same!

Note the time of day that you eat. Some people need a mid afternoon snack or eat a light breakfast then are hungry mid morning. Eating between meals, during meals and charting when you eat can give clues to further control. If you find you’re eating dinner then falling asleep perhaps eating earlier with a short walk afterwards can help.

How hungry are you? On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being “have to eat NOW!” really how hungry are you? With recording and charting rate it between 1-3 with 1 being very hungry and 3 not really hungry can result in healthier substitutions, drinking water or other alternatives to consuming calories.

Where are you? Does what you eat dictate this in what is available? Are you home, in the car, at the office, at lunch or between appointments? Where are you when the urge to eat strikes? By documenting you might, in time, notice a pattern.

Are you alone or with someone else? If with someone, record who it is. Does one person have a distinct association with food? If so can you alter your behavior such as drinking a half hour before hand to curb hunger cravings?

How are you feeling as you eat? Are you lonely or bored? Are you seeking something besides food?

It is important to understand the mindset of a food journal also. Keep it positive as much as possible! It is not a punishment or a listing of wrong-doing. It’s a statement of fact that empowers you to, in time and observation, take control of your eating habits. It helps balance your food and liquid intake.

Sometimes observations and changes are easy. If you consume too much soda and would like to cut back, and you find you drink a 20 ounce bottle on the way home you can seek changes. Substitute a 20 ounce bottle of water even if it’s refilling a soda bottle with water. This increases your water intake and lowers the soda intake at the same time.

In the same way if you see a pattern of mid afternoon snacking, have available at your desk a 100 calorie snack instead of that 400 calorie monster from the vending machine. With a 300 calorie difference five times per week that’s 1500 calories in one change!

This is not difficult to do but does take persistence. It can help you meet that goal of shedding 20 pounds or even 50 pounds. Consider this if someone says “it’s only 50 pounds” hand them a bag of dog food to carry around for the day! It’s only 50 pounds!

Many people find it’s not major changes that make a difference but rather the little ones. It’s parking another 50 feet from the store and making small changes that mean long term success. A food journal can help insure this with documented encouragement of those little things we’re forgetting.

Eating Slow, Historical With Ark of the Taste

October 23, 2014

399px-Chickens_2Many folks say food just doesn’t taste like it used to. In some ways, that’s true. Recipes change, selection of ingredients change. Few think about the changes in agriculture. This isn’t all a bad thing – food choices are plentiful! We can get a burger for what some families in some countries live on. For the many that depend on low prices, American agriculture has provided. For the many who want something easy, tasty and convenient, American processing companies have provided. For those who want something different, there’s organic, local, grown at home.

Then there’s Ark of the Taste. This is a difference in a big way, using heritage and heirloom varieties of plants and animals to provide food. Some are endangered and in an ironic twist, the way to save them is to eat them.

To some this makes no sense. By eating them, it provides a financial ability for small farms to keep them. They are not commercial varieties for various reasons – it might be size, or color, or many other reasons. It might be that they  just don’t adapt to the modern confinement system or consumer demand. With the rise of Slow Food, these antiques have found a place on the plates of those looking for something different and willing to seek it out. In short, “foodies”.

These are for people who want something different. The Bull Nose pepper or American Chinchilla rabbit or Midget White turkey are different in appearance and in taste.

Buying Ark of the Taste options provides an income for small farms that keep these heirlooms. They don’t compare to the modern high production counterpart. Depending on perspective, that is a good thing, a bad thing or just a different thing! Perhaps it’s a way to TASTE what a Depression era meal might have tasted like.

Different isn’t what everyone wants. A full sized dressed heritage chicken is going to taste much different from the fast food fried chicken people are used to. They may be a firmer texture, and not as ‘juicy’ from leaner birds. In a blind taste test of food experts, the Dominique chicken ranked high over other chickens raised the same way and prepared the same way. The flavor of many heritage breeds is much leaner – if not considered that difference it can translate to dry, chewy and a bad experience.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen we prepare a Giant Chinchilla rabbit we find it’s more a light pork taste than chicken many compare rabbit meat to. Ark of the Taste isn’t just about animals. Bull Nose or Beaver Dam peppers and a wide range of other tastes are out there to be explored. Increased demand for the end product provides a market to keep them going year after year. That takes effort not just among those growing, but it takes those willing to eat them too.

Alternatives are good. Ark of the Taste – check it out!

Whether heritage or conventional – here’s a recipe to tuck aside for holiday leftovers! Check out the book The Healthy SlowCooker for more yummy and easy ideas that can feature Ark of the Taste selections. A bonus – they’re healthy and gluten free seekers will love the variety.

Turkey stock – break the carcass into manageable pieces and place in slow cooker stoneware. Add 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, 2 each carrots, celery stalks, onions (quartered) plus 8 whole peppercorns. Add 12 cups water. Cover and cook, on low  for 12 hours or high for 6. Strain, reserving the liquids and discarding the solids.

Southwestern Turkey Chowder

10 cups turkey stock

1 tablespoon olive oil

3 onions, diced

4 stalks celery, diced

1 tablespoon ground cumin

2 teaspoons dried oregano

4 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon cracked black peppercorns

1 1/2 cups long cooking gluten free whole grains, soaked, rinsed and drained

1 can (28 ounce) diced tomatoes including juice

2-3 ancho, guajillo or mild New Mexico dried chiles

2 cups boiling water

1 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves

2 cups diced cooked turkey

2 cups corn kernels


In a skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and celery and cook, stirring, until vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes. Add cumin, oregano, garlic and peppercorns and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add whole grains and toss until coated. Add tomatoes with juice and bring to boil.

Transfer to slow cooker stoneware. Add turkey stock and stir well. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 3-4 hours, until grains are tender.

In heatproof bowl, 30 minutes before grains have finished cooking, combine dried chiles and boiling water. Set aside for 30 minutes, weighing chiles down with a cup to ensure they remain submerged. Drain, discarding soaking liquid and stems, and chop coarsely.Transfer to a blender. Add cilantro and 1/2 cup of stock from the chowder. Puree. Add to stoneware along with turkey and corn. Cover and cook on high until corn is tender and flavors meld, about 20 minutes.

Tip – use Thanksgiving leftovers, putting stock on to cook while you enjoy time with family. Use leftover turkey, corn.


Peanut Butter Cookies at Christmas or Anytime

October 22, 2014

800px-Cookies_1Peanut butter cookies are a favorite any time of year but especially at Christmas. Many family favorite recipes involve peanut butter cookie recipes.

A favorite in ours is a basic recipe that can be varied. Mix together a half cup each softened utter and peanut butter then add a half cup flour, ½ cup packed brown sugar, an egg and ½ teaspoon each baking soda, baking powder and vanilla. Mix together thoroughly then add another cup of flour until well combined and easy to handle. Make into one inch balls, flattened with the tines of a fork gently. Bake at 375 for 7-9 minutes taking care to not burn the bottoms. Cool on wire racks.

Some variations can include substituting a half cup honey for the brown sugar, adding ¼ cup oatmeal or chocolate chips or butterscotch chips or chopped nuts. Another alternative is using chunky peanut butter instead of creamy. You can also vary by instead of flattening pressing an unwrapped chocolate kiss into each cookie. Another option is rolling each ball in sugar. This is a way to offer several varieties with the same basic recipe.

Still another variation is pressing a thumbprint into each cookie and using jam to fill the thumbprint after baking.

Another recipe is similar but the ingredients different amounts. Sift 2 ½ cups flour with a teaspoon baking soda and ½ teaspoon salt. In a large bowl combine ¾ cup butter and a cup packed brown sugar. Add a cup of chunky peanut butter, an egg and teaspoon vanilla. Combine the flour mixture with the peanut butter mix to make a stiff dough and put in refrigerator for a half hour. While chilling melt 6 ounces chocolate pieces with a teaspoon butter and let cool. Take your dough and divide in half. Roll into an 8×10 rectangle between two pieces of waxed paper and remove the top sheet to spread each with half of the chocolate mixture. From the long side roll each half tightly like a jelly roll, removing the waxed paper as you roll it up, and pressing the edges to seal. Wrap seam side down in plastic wrap at least 8 hours, but this can keep for a week to slice and bake as needed. Bake at 375 after cutting in ¼ inch slices- bake for 8 minutes or until light brown.

Both of these are an easy way to get a tasty peanutty treat for the holidays.

3 Quick Breakfasts From Your Sandwich Maker

October 21, 2014

Sandwich_toaster_openHow many admit to seldom using those small appliances that we get then put in the cupboard? Then something happens…the stove goes out and a different one isn’t in the budget. You don’t want fast food, but what to do?

Dig out those small appliances! Think outside the sandwich and use the sandwich maker for tasty, quick and good for your breakfasts that take minutes and skip the drive through!

If you explore a little bit with books like 150 Best Breakfast Sandwich Maker Recipes you might not want to go back to the stove! Quick heat up and easy clean up just wiping it down most of the time and you’re out the door before coffee is ready.

Sausage and Egg on Hash Browns

2 frozen round hash brown patties, cooked in microwave

1 slice sharp cheddar cheese

1 frozen cooked pork sausage patty

nonstick cooking spray

1 large egg

Place a cooked hash brown in bottom ring of sandwich maker. Top with cheese and sausage.

Lower the cooking plate and top ring. Lightly spray the plate with cooking spray, then crack the egg into the ring. Pierce top of egg yolk with a toothpick or plastic fork, place the other hash brown patty on top of the egg. Top with sausage.

Gently close the cover (do not push it down onto the hash brown) and cook for 4 to 5 minutes or until egg is cooked to your liking. Rotate cooking plate away from sandwich maker and lift rings. Use a plastic or nylon spatula to remove the sandwich and serve immediately.

Egg and Sharp Cheddar on a Golden Biscuit

Preheat breakfast sandwich maker.

Place one biscuit half, split side up, in bottom ring of sandwich maker. Top with cheese.

Lower the cooking plate and top ring. Lightly spray the plate with cooking spray, then crack the egg into the ring. Pierce top of egg yolk with a toothpick or plastic fork. Season with pinch of salt and pepper. Place the other biscuit half, split side down, on top of the egg.

Gently close cover and cook for 4-5 minutes or until egg is cooked to your liking. Rotate cooking plate away from sandwich maker and lift rings. Use a plastic or nylon spatula to remove sandwich.


Preheat breakfast sandwich maker

1 large egg

1/4 cup crumbled cooked bacon

‘1 tablespoon  diced tomato

2 teaspoons finely chopped onion

2 teaspoon finely chopped green bell pepper

pinch salt and pepper

In small bowl, gently whisk egg. Stir in tomato, onion, pepper,seasonings.

Lower the cooking plate and both rings of sandwich maker. Lightly spray the cooking plate with cooking spray. Pour the egg mixture into the top ring.

Gently close the cover and cook for 3-4 minutes or until omelet is cooked to your liking. Rotate cooking plate away from sandwich maker and lift rings. Use plastic or nylon spatula to remove omelet. Serve.

Check the book out for lunch and dinner recipes.

7 Tips for Stretching the Christmas Budget

October 15, 2014

Finances are tough for many people this year, and for some it’s always worse around the holidays. Here’s some tips for stretching your Christmas budget.

1.Start gathering supplies early. There are some things you can’t get until December but for others that you know that you’ll need start stocking up now. If you know early to mid December is your baking time the stores know it too as that’s when many push demand. Buy sugar and other baking supplies now when you find it on sale! Not only will you save money but you’ll have everything you need at the time you need it!

2.Shop for little things early. Stocking stuffers and smaller presents don’t take a lot of storage space in your home. Stock them up and wrap them as you find them – often on sale. Don’t shop for the Christmas sales only – there’s money to be saved all year if it’s something you plan to buy anyway.

3.Be a creative shopping expert! Look at your recipients’ interests. Someone likes grilling or summer entertaining hit the *summer* clearance sales for Christmas presents at sometimes 60-70% off. You have the ideal gift for them that you won’t find in November or December because it’s seasonal.

4.Do a little at a time. You have a couple hours of time there’s nothing that says you can’t bake a few dozen Christmas cookies and put them in the freezer! You’ll have that much less to do and save money on ingredients.

5.Shop at direct purchase outlets in season. When you’re passing that farm stand that advertises pecans or walnuts or maple syrup – stop and get some and set it aside for holiday treats. You help small business and give yourself a great “taste of the season” cheaper, or at the same money, as commercial stores vying for your Christmas budget dollar.

6.Recycle/reuse. There are thousands of ways to use every day items that most throw out to make things with them. Check out or even for how to videos and make things for Christmas!

7. Start now setting aside $10 or so per week for holiday meals. Watch for sales! If hams go on sale and you have $20-40 saved up you can get that and stick it in the freezer. Spreading out the work can make a big difference as well as the finances.

There are many ways to stretch the Christmas budget and when things are tight it can mean getting creative. It also helps to adjust your thinking. Planning for a Christmas budget isn’t about what you’re doing without it’s how much MORE you can do with what you have!

Fast Food in a Mug

October 14, 2014

Dried_chillyOK admit it – we all have times where it’s easier to grab fast food than cook something. Or we do without dinner because it’s just us and doing a big meal isn’t of interest. So make fast food – in a mug.

With “250 Best Meals in a Mug” you’ll have months worth of options without repeating the same thing. If you are looking to take something inexpensive and better for you than the vending machine to work, here are possibilities.

I admit to being a bit of a picky eater, but found many options in here. Breakfast, lunch, snacks – you have options! No more drive through windows on the way to work.

This is a book worth sharing not only for the great recipes and beautiful photos, but some great info about foods too. It doesn’t take loads of expensive special food, although it might introduce some to foods they don’t use currently. Instant brown rice, quick cooking barley, corn meal, oatmeal, pasta, marinara sauce, salsa, chopped vegetables…no mystery! Pretty basic actually. Metric measurements are included.

A pretty, personalized set of mugs might be needed! Christmas is coming! There are whole sections of 4 ingredients or less (how easy is that!), bread and muffins, soups and stews, meatless main dishes, meat main dishes, pasta and grains and desserts. Easy and filling for quick meals or snacks. Get you some 16 ounce mugs, and enjoy some variety!

Pepperoni Pizza Dip

1/2 cup thick and chunky marinara sauce

2 Tablespoons chopped turkey pepperoni

1/4 cup shredded mozzarella or Italian blend cheese

In 12-16 ounce mug microwave marinara sauce on High for 45-75 seconds or until beginning to bubble. Stir in pepperoni, sprinkle with cheese. Microwave on high 30-45 seconds or until cheese is bubbly. Let stand one minute. Serve with breadsticks, pita wedges or crusty French bread.

The book has a couple variations and another I’ll add – this is a great way to use up small amounts of leftovers. That little bit of burger or other that’s not a meal by itself – use in a mug meal!

Essential Omelet

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons milk or water

pinch of salt

pinch of pepper

add variations or use as above (see below).

In the mug, whisk all ingredients until well blended. Add other ingredients if using them. Microwave on high for 30 seconds, stir, microwave on high 30-45 seconds or until eggs are puffed and just barely set at center.

Options -

Cheese – add 2-3 tablespoons shredded cheese of choice or 1 tablespoon grated parmesan cheese to beaten eggs.

Denver – add 2 tablespoons chopped ham, 2 tablespoons shredded cheese and a tablespoon chopped pepper to the eggs.

Bacon Swiss – add 2 tablespoons shredded Swiss cheese and 1 1/2 tablespoons ready to eat bacon bits to eggs.

Herbed – add up to 2 teaspoons basil, cilantro, chives or choice of herbs to the egg mixture.

The book has some other options too!


Unstuffed Pepper mug

1/3 cup instant brown rice

2/3 cup water

1/2 cup coarsely chopped drained roasted bell pepper

1/2 cup rinsed drained canned black beans

1/2 cup diced tomatoes with juice

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

salt and pepper

1/3 cup shredded cheese.

In 16 ounce mug, combine rice and water. Cover with small plate and microwave for 5-6 minutes or until rice is tender. Remove from oven and let stand, covered, for 1 minute.

Stir in other ingredients except cheese. Microwave uncovered on high for 30 seconds or until heated through. Top with cheese and microwave 25-30 seconds, let stand 30 seconds before eating.

You can do lunch prep by putting rice in the mug, cheese in a small airtight container and other ingredients in a small airtight container. This can use the entire can of ingredients safely.


Venison Meals Make the Most of Your Deer

October 13, 2014

WhitetaildeerUSDApublicdomainMany people spend the time to get good equipment, get a clean shot, field dress the deer promptly, get it to the processor and then fail to get the maximum use of the meat!

Kentucky’s John’s Custom Meats processes deer for hunters, as do many other small processors in other states. Amy says “Most often, I see hunters opting to put the majority or all of the meats into ground venison burger.” While this is certainly a versatile way to use venison it can be so much more!

For some look to value added products like summer sausage, bologna and jerky. If you prefer to make jerky at home have it sliced to bacon thick strips to make it easier to handle at home.

Bratwurst and breakfast sausage are other ways to use venison. “We find that the very same seasonings that make your standard pork breakfast sausage work well with venison, however I do omit the sage with venison” Amy notes.

“The most underutilized cuts here would be the hams, shoulders, and neck. The average size doe or young buck can be made into ham steaks or ham roasts” Amy adds. Don’t overlook having the hams smoked or ‘home cured’ for a holiday meal that is unlike any other.

Make a wonderful pot roast with a 2-3 pound shoulder or rump roast. Brown in a couple tablespoons of oil in a Dutch oven then stir in 6 ounces tomato juice ½ cup each finely chopped onion and carrot and 2 teaspoons instant beef bouillon. Brig to boiling then reduce heat and simmer for 1 ½ to 2 hours or until tender. Remove the meat and add enough water to the juice to equal 2 cups, returning to pan. Sift 3 tablespoons all purpose flour into ½ cup dairy sour cream and add to the pan, cooking and stirring until thickened. Cook 1 minute more, seasoning to taste. Slice venison and spoon the sauce over it, serving with hot cooked noodles.

Larger deer the shoulder can be made into steaks. For much venison beef recipes work well except that deer are much leaner than cattle. Moist, slow cooked recipes maximize tenderness. “Even the neck can make a flavorful slow cooked roast. Both the shoulders make wonderful pulled venison for BBQ.” Amy suggests

Most hunters do use the backstrap or the loin which is very tender.

Making the maximum use of the meat from your deer just makes sense. It can make a lean, wonderful meal fixed a variety of ways. Marinade and grilled, BBQ sandwiches and venison chops are just a few other ways to enjoy venison. Make the most of your hunting efforts!


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