Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Guide to Kids' Holiday Craft Projects

With the holiday season upon us, have the little ones pitch in and make some decorations and/or holiday fare for others to enjoy. Here are some suggestions and how tos for kids’ craft projects: These craft projects are geared toward the 4-7 year old.

Personalized ornaments
Items needed:
Toxic-free glue pencils/sticks
Plain, shiny gold or silver ornaments. The larger ones are preferred since they give a larger working area.
Glitter: different colors; red, gold, silver, green are best
(Put each glitter into its own small bowl)
Papers to cover the table
Pictures of trees and stars

How To Make Ornaments:
Place the papers onto the working area (table). Cover thoroughly.
Have the kids sit around the table.
Give each kid an ornament.
Tell them to be very careful since the ornaments break easy.
Give them each a glue pencil/stick
Tell them to put their favorite person’s name onto the ornament with glue
(Show them by example)
Or...they can draw a Christmas tree, a star, or an angel on the ornament
Once they have completed putting the glue onto the ornament,
Have them sprinkle the glitter over the glue.
They can use a variety of colors, if desired.
Let their imagination go wild!

Personalized Snowflakes
Another great craft project for kids is to make their own snowflakes of different sizes and colors.

Items Needed:
White copy paper
Different colored construction paper
Different sized construction paper (you may have to cut the 8-1/2 x 11” size in half.)
Blunt edged scissors
Crayons or colored pencils

How To Make Snowflakes:
Demonstrate the following before having them start:
Fold the paper in half.
Fold the paper in half again.
Cut triangles along all sides.
Cut triangles of different sizes
For white paper, kids can color as desired.
After done cutting:
kids can write their names on the snowflakes with crayons.

Personalized & Decorated aprons:
For the small cook, nothing would be enjoyed more than to have his or her own personalized apron. Buy a plain apron and let them decorate as their imagination tells them!

Items Needed:
Cotton apron, lighter colors preferred
Permanent magic markers – have red, black, and green available
A large working area such as a table

How to Make a Personalized & Decorated Apron:
Give each kid an apron
Place the magic markers in the center of the table.
Have the kids sit around the table
Explain to them what they are to do
Tell them that they can put their name on the apron. (For instance, show them how they can write “Marie’s (their name) Apron” on their very own apron.
Tell them that they can draw pictures of Christmas trees, stars, angels, etc. on their apron.
Let them know that the apron is a gift that will be used for years to come.

Easy Wholefoods Cooking

In today’s hurried society, many things we once took for granted are now becoming obsolete. A hand written letter, a hand ironed wardrobe (can’t say I miss this one!), and even a hand prepared meal at home. Yes, cooking is becoming a lost art. The fast food society has fit in perfectly with our fast paced lifestyle. The deli sections in grocery stores are more popular than ever. Some very tasty and quickly prepared foods can be picked up here. The same goes for the frozen food section. There is a wide variety to suit any discriminating palate found here. And, it is all so quick!

Recently, our society is ‘going back’ to eating whole foods. There is a growing trend to steer away from ‘foods’ prepared by huge conglomerates who are only interested in the bottom line. We want to touch, smell, and taste our foods as they were meant to be. Many are experiencing health concerns and turning to natural foods to heal their ailments. Most foods have their roots in medicinal purposes. Remember Hippocrates? That is comforting, I believe.

Contact Marie Buckner at 360.613.1085 to schedule a cooking class.

To show how easy it is to prepare your own healthy meal, let us enjoy a full course meal. I promise that it is all quick, easy, and nutritious!

Avocado Pate (serves 4)
1 avocado, peeled and sliced
2 tablespoons Neufchatel cheese or cream cheese
3 small roma tomatoes, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
one-half small celery stalk, diced
one-half orange, peeled and chopped

Mash avocado with fork until smooth. Stir in cheese. Add remaining ingredients. Chill in refrigerator prior to serving.
Serve with crackers, tortilla chips, or fresh veggies.

Beet and Carrot Salad (serves 3)
one-half cup beets, peeled and grated
1 large carrot, peeled and grated
4 tablespoons yogurt, plain
4 tablespoons pineapple juice
1 tablespoon walnuts, chopped
2 tablespoons raisins

Combine all ingredients together in medium bowl. Mix thoroughly and serve as either a side dish or as topping on your favorite wholegrain. Adjust amount of yogurt per your liking.

Miso Greens Soup (serves 2)
4 cups water
1 green onion, chopped
one-quarter cup miso, light variety
1 cup spinach, chopped
one-half cup tofu, firm variety, cubed

In a small bowl, dissolve miso into a small amount of hot water. Set aside. Place all ingredients in large saucepan, including miso mixture. Cook over low heat for about 10 minutes. Serve with whole wheat pita bread.

Broccoli Bravado (serves 3)
1 stalk broccoli, peeled and sliced (stems & flowerettes)
one-half cup peas
1 medium onion, sliced
2 cups brown rice, cooked and drained
one-half cup veggie broth
1 garlic clove, minced
one-quarter teaspoon each parsley, rosemary, thyme
1 tablespoons basil leaves, chopped (fresh)

In large skillet, place all ingredients except for rice. Cook over medium heat until veggies are tender. Add more liquid to prevent sticking, if needed. Remove from heat. In large bowl, combine cooked rice and veggie mixture.

Tropical Mousse (serves 4)
1 12-ounce box tofu, silken variety
1 mango, peeled and sliced
3 tablespoons coconut
one-quarter cup pineapple chunks
juice of one orange, freshly squeezed

Crumble tofu into blender/food processor. Add remaining ingredients. Puree until pudding-like consistency is reached. Adjust liquid, if needed. Serve chilled. Sprinkle with more coconut prior to serving.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Cranberry Relish

I love this time of year and all of its seasonal foods! Here is a recipe I developed using the cranberry, which is so popular now. It's a hit with turkey and holiday trimmings! Enjoy!!
Cranberry Apple Relish (serves 4)
1 cup cranberries, cut into half
1 whole orange, seeds removed, peeled and cubed
1 whole pear, peeled/cored/cubed
one quarter cup orange juice, freshly squeezed
2 whole apples, peeled/cored/cubed
2 tablespoons apple juice, frozen concentrate

Place fruit and juices in small saucepan. Add water until cranberries are covered. Cook over medium heat. Bring to boil, reduce heat and cook til cranberries ‘burst.’ Stir frequently. Mash cranberries with fork. Adjust sweetener/liquid as needed. Store leftovers in airtight container in fridge.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Dark Leafy Spinach Alternatives

With the recent e-coli scare involving spinach, there has been a search for healthy alternatives to this dark, leafy green. There are a variety of dark leafy green vegetables just waiting for you to try them. They can all be eaten either raw or cooked. Here are some varieties just waiting for you to enjoy them:

This dark green vegetable has curly leaves. In fact, it is an attractive-looking vegetable. In order to assure freshness, be certain that the leaves are firm and green. They are not to be wilted. Also, the stem should be firm. Kale is the most popular substitute for spinach since its taste is the most similar.

Collards, or collard greens.
These huge, dark green leaves have sturdy stems. The stems can be used in cooking. The leaves themselves can be about a foot wide. They actually resemble super large spinach leaves. The oval shaped leaf can be just as long as it is wide. Taste-wise, they have a slightly bitter taste. When cooked, the taste becomes milder. Collards are traditionally used in Southern cooking. They go great with beans!

Swiss chard, or chard.
This dark leafy green also has large leaves. Chard is a member of the beet family. Hence, you will notice the sturdy stem to be either red or white in color. The stem is not recommended for eating. In fact, the chard leaves are pretty attractive leaves. A great way to use them is by making ‘cabbage rolls’. Substitute the cabbage with chard.

Dandelion Greens.
These dark green leaves have a bitter taste, more so than the other varieties mentioned in this article. The leaves themselves are thin and narrow. These are best used in raw salads, combined with other greens. Or, steam some up, place on a plate, and squeeze a fresh orange over them. That will sweeten their taste.

Beet Greens.
When you buy fresh beets, do not discard the greens. Use them. As a spinach alternative, they provide a slightly bitter taste. Cooked, they are much milder and enjoyable.

Mustard Greens.
Last, but not least, are mustard greens. These large leaves have a slightly peppery taste when raw. They are milder tasting when cooked. They are great in raw salads. Or, once again, steam them up and squeeze a fresh orange over them.
A great recipe involves stir frying some chopped mustard greens up with mushrooms, onions, and minced garlic. Ooh lala!

Now that we know about the alternatives available for spinach, let’s discuss how to store and buy them.

Buying Tips:
All of these fresh greens have a slight smell (scent) when purchased fresh. If they have a strong odor, do not buy them.
Leaves should stand up and feel firm. They should not droop.
Greens and colors should be vibrant, not brown or dull looking.

Freshness Tips: (these greens stay fresh only a couple of days in the refrigerator)
Separate leaves
Rinse with water
Shake off excess water
Wrap in paper towels to absorb water
Enclose in plastic bag
Store in refrigerator

All the above-mentioned dark, leafy green spinach substitutes can be eaten raw or cooked. Enjoy in salads, stir frys, or simply steamed. Also, try chopping some up and putting into spaghetti sauce or soup.


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

My Two New eBooks!!

I have just published two new ebooks that are fresh on the market!
One is a how-to book titled 'Cooking & Eating the Lowfat Way'. It gives suggestions, recipes, and ideas for enjoying a meal plan that's lower in fat for optimum health.
Information is compiled from 20 years of my teaching, reading, and learning about healthy eating. It makes a great gift for anyone interested in healthy eating!

This informative 'how to' ebook can be purchased by clicking here.. Support independent publishing: buy this e-book on Lulu.

It can also be purchased in hardcopy form. Click here for online purchasing...Support independent publishing: buy this book on Lulu.
My other book available in ebook form is the second edition of my 'Joys of Organic Cooking, Vol. I'. It contains recipes developed over 3 years while working with an organic foods delivery firm. Recipes all include a nutritional analysis to aid in meal planning. The cookbook also introduces a variety of new uses for foods such as turnips, beets, parsnips, etc. Recipes are all taste-tested and popular with my readers plus students!
Purchase 'Joys of Organic Cooking, Vol. I by clicking here.....Support independent publishing: buy this e-book on Lulu.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Making Healthy Trails Mix Granola

If prepared properly, granola can be a great healthy food to enjoy throughout the day.
You can enjoy a bowl for breakfast, as a cereal. It can be enjoyed as a snack throughout the day. And, it is a great item to take along with you on your trail hikes. It is lightweight, easy to carry, and convenient to use. So, how do you make trail mix granola?

First of all, I say ‘prepared properly’ because many manufacturers put too much oil, sweetener, and added fillers in. Even some cookbook recipes call for too much oil. By making your own healthy version, you control what ingredients go into your mixture. That is one comforting feature of making your own trail mix granola.

Preparing your granola is best done in large batches. Granola stores easily, in airtight containers, and lasts awhile. Sometimes I store mine in gallon-size freezer bags. It works out great.

For our healthier version of trail mix granola, we substitute some fruit juice for oil. I find apple juice works best. Pear juice concentrate works just as well, however. The fruit juice adds an extra pizzazz and is a welcomed treat!

Here is what you need to make your trail mix granola:

Large skillet
Couple large baking sheets

Recipe/Ingredients: serves 10
(fractions are written out to help with software conversions)

One-quarter cup frozen apple juice concentrate
2 tablespoons butter
one-quarter cup frozen orange juice concentrate
one-half cup raisins
one-quarter cup unsweetened coconut
one-quarter cup dried apple chunks
one-quarter cup dates, chopped
one-quarter cup dried blueberries
one-quarter cup almonds, chopped
5 cups oats

Preheat oven to 350.
1) In large skillet, combine juices and butter.
2) Over medium heat, cook until butter melts. Stir.
3) Meanwhile, place oats into large bowl.
4) Pour juice/butter mixture over oats and fold in with large wooden spoon to evenly distribute. This is your oat mixture.
5) Spread oat mixture onto large nonstick baking sheet (maybe two). Or, lightly spritz nonstick baking sheets with oil.
6) Bake in 350 oven until granola is crispy. Not more than 15 minutes. Granola burns easily, so watch carefully.
7) Remove baking sheet from oven to a cooling rack.
8) Let granola cool thoroughly.
9) Remove granola from baking sheet.
10) Place granola into large bowl, and break up any large chunks. Add remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly.
11) Store in airtight container. Glass jars are great for storage.
12) Serve as a snack, mixed with yogurt, on cereal, as part of a fruit crisp, or topping for a pie. Or, simply enjoy on a hiking venture.
13) Just use your imagination! Enjoy!

Your homemade healthy trail mix granola will provide you with great taste, convenience, and variety!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Autumn Squash Delights

Autumn season is harvest time for a multitude of delicious and versatile squashes. Everyone seems to have their favorite, and it’s fun to experiment with them to find new uses.

For an alternative to pasta, try some spaghetti squash. These yellow ghords can easily be cut into quarters lengthwise and either steamed or baked. I prefer steaming for time’s sake. Once cooked, simply scoop out squash with a spoon. It will automatically separate into strands, reminiscent of spaghetti. It is great with some spaghetti sauce on top with a sprinkling of parmesan cheese. Or, mix with a little oil and some herbs.

Acorn squash is another delectable favorite. They are great simply cut in half and (with seeds removed) baked in a 350 oven for about 30 minutes. Poke with fork for doneness. Once done, put a dab of butter on (if desired) and sprinkle with brown sugar. My favorite is cutting the squash into cubes (it’s muscle work!) and steaming it. Once steamed, I remove the peel, discard it, and either eat the squash as is or mash with some butter and garlic. Very easy, very tasty!

Sunday, August 27, 2006

$300 a book

I've been finalizing my Vol. I 'Joys of Organic Cooking' second edition. Anyone who has never written a cookbook cannot understand the time involved. The page numbering is not transferring over properly. The table of contents needed to be done separately. Plus, I had to manually compose the index. I had to coordinate the pages with recipes. On and on....
The software I use is good for recipe input, but doesn't transfer over into a cookbook well. I need to switch to PDF. My files won't transfer for some reason. Why? Why can't I just push a button and have everything done? It's supposed to be easier than this, according to the directions.
My cookbook series has been selling via hard copy. It's so time consuming to switch everything over for online selling. Murphy's Law follows me everywhere.
Life in a cookbook author's life. For all the time involved, I should charge $300 a book. Wonder if they'd sell. :)

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Making a Whole Foods Gift Basket

What better way to share a gift of healthy eating then to give a personalized whole foods gift basket? Everyone loves a gift basket. Gift baskets can be convenient, thoughtful, and resourceful. So, you need ideas about what to put in your whole foods gift basket? It's easier than you think.

First, buy a sturdy wicker basket. The sturdier the better since some whole foods are not too lightweight. I have found great deals on used wicker baskets at garage sales, flea markets, and second hand stores. That's what is nice about baskets; they can be used over and over.

Secondly, what types of whole foods does your recipient like? I knew someone who ate nothing but fresh fruit. My gift basket preparation was easy with him in mind. Some people like only veggies. Some prefer a mixture. Whatever they prefer will be he main ingredient in your whole foods gift basket. They all make for a healthy basket.

Have some organic fresh whole foods as the base of your basket. I highly recommend organic since they really do taste immensely better than non-organic. Then add in some organic fresh herbs. Place a health-related magazine or newsletter in for extra enjoyment. You can even add a peeler, and colorful napkins to complete your whole foods gift basket. Also, have some colored heavy-duty clear wrap available. A reel of matching colored ribbon will also come in handy. This makes for an attractive display!

Let’s have some examples of what you can do with your scrumptious and healthy gift baskets:

Whole foods fruit basket:
A couple Bananas
2 tree fruit (nectarines, peaches, apricots, i.e.)
2 citrus (oranges, grapefruit, lemon, lime)
2-3 bunches sweet fresh herbs (mint, lemongrass, i.e.)
2 kiwis
1 health-related magazine (maybe a subscription)
1 peeler or appropriate kitchen utensil
Recipe for whole foods fruit chutney
Colored, quality napkins

Whole foods veggie basket:
A couple carrots with greenery on them
3 peppers (red, yellow, green)
2 garlic cloves
1 stalk of celery heart
1 eggplant or squash
1 medium onion
2-3 bunches fresh hearty herbs (rosemary, thyme, oregano, i.e.)
1 health-related magazine
Peeler and/or other kitchen utensil
Colored napkins
Recipe for veggie soup

For a Mixed whole foods gift basket:
2 carrots
2 bananas
1 stalk of celery heart
1 kiwi
1 garlic clove (keep separate from fruit)
1 eggplant
1 mango
2 bunches fresh herbs (1 hearty and 1 sweet)
1 health-related magazine
Peeler and/or other kitchen utensil
Colored napkins

Now, place the whole foods and other items into your basket. Arrange the items in an attractive manner. Wrap the basket with the colored clear paper. Secure the wrapping with the colored ribbon.

There you have it! A personalized and healthy whole foods gift basket that will be enjoyed wholeheartedly. And, it will have you being remembered for a long time!

Monday, August 21, 2006

Cinnamon Sugar

I was surprised when I saw 'Cinnamon Sugar' at the market the other day. Located in the spice section, this appeared to be a new addition. I am amazed that people pay for this. I've been making it since I was a kid. And, my grandma was making it when she was a kid.
The recipe for cinnamon sugar is very, very complicated. I will try to explain it so everyone can understand.
Cinnamon, powdered or freshly grated
Sugar, white and refined
Combine the two ingredients. Adjust amount of cinnamon or sugar to your liking.
Store in covered container til eternity ends. You can keep it in your kitchen cupboard.
Uses: sprinkle on toast, ice cream, mix into drinks, etc.
There you have it...plain and simple. Enjoy!

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Then There's Grits....

(Background to set the story: I was brought up in the midwest where cream of wheat or rice, and/or oatmeal were common breakfast cereals.)
I was in Atlanta, GA for breakfast one day. I wanted a bowl of oatmeal, plain and simple oatmeal. So, I went into the local Waffle House. I looked at the menu and noted they didn't offer any oatmeal. I did notice something called grits. I had seen grits in boxes in the grocery store. They were always located near the oatmeal and hot cereals.
The waitress came over and asked for my order. "I'll take some grits with milk and sugar, please." She gave me a very strange look and repeated, "A bowl of grits with milk and sugar?" "Yes," I said. She shook her head and went into the kitchen.
Suddenly, I hear bursts of laughter from the kitchen. I notice the door is swinging open and faces are peering out at me. It was like I was the star attraction in the local freak show or something.
When the waitress brought me my order, I asked her if I said something funny cuz I noticed the kitchen staff seemed to be laughing at me. I think she liked that question more than my order. She stifled her laughter and very politely she said, "Usually people order grits as a side dish like hash browns. We've never had anyone order it with milk and sugar. You're not from around here, are you?" I then told her I thought grits were similar to Cream of Wheat. We both chuckled.
I still can't figure out why they're sold in the hot cereal section.

What is that Green Stuff?

I was eating in a Japanese restaurant a while back. My baked salmon came with a side of what I thought was guacamole. I filled my fork up with it, put it in my mouth, swallowed it, and DAMN!! I grabbed my glass of water, drank it faster than I ever thought possible, and flagged down the waitress. I couldn't talk, so I pointed from the glass to my mouth while grabbing my throat. My sinuses had cleared faster than any medication could provide. My nose was running, eyes were watering, and throat burning. Damn.....what was that green stuff? It's the spiciest guacamole I've ever had!
She went back to the kitchen to get the water when suddenly I heard a shriek of laughter. I noticed the kitchen workers were peaking out the door looking at me. For some reason, I was their entertainment.
When the waitress came back and brought me a pitcher of water, she told me that green stuff was wasabi (a Japanese horseradish). She then demonstrated to me that I was to mix it with soy sauce (in the small bowl) and dip my salmon into it.
Thanks for telling me.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Save the Greenbacks & Make Your Own Tahini

How to Make Homemade Tahini

Tahini, also known as sesame paste, is most popular for its use in hummus. As it becomes more mainstream, it is being introduced into a variety of dishes. For instance, it can be used as a sauce on many steamed veggies. It adds a delicate, but nutty taste to everything it is added to. However, why buy it in the deli section when you can make your own for much cheaper? Let’s explore how to make your own homemade tahini.

First of all, let us talk about equipment:

Skillet (lightly greased cast iron) or nonstick.

You will need a food processor or blender to pulverize the seeds. Or, if you are a proponent of manual labor, use a mortar and pestle. It will take longer, but it can be done. I have even known someone to place the seeds into a bag and crush the bag with weights. Either way, you need something to turn the seeds into a flour-like consistency.

You will need spatula or fork and a bowl. A wooden or rubber spatula is preferred.

That’s it for equipment and/or utensils. Nothing fancy here.

Now, let us go forward to the ingredients:
Tahini is made from sesame seeds. Since I am a proponent of organic foods, I try to purchase organic whenever possible. So, purchase some organic sesame seeds. More and more mainstream supermarkets (or grocery stores) are selling sesame seeds in bulk. The sesame seeds are usually located near the bulk foods nuts section. Many times they are sold in the ‘natural foods’ or ‘health foods’ section of stores. The price is cheaper than the prepackaged variety. By buying in bulk, you can control the amount you want. Plus, you do not have to pay for packaging, labeling, or a brand name. However, if you do not want to buy in bulk, simply buy some prepackaged sesame seeds.

Here are the ingredients you will need to make your own homemade tahini:
Recipe for Tahini Serves 4
1 T soybean oil 1 clove garlic, minced
2 T water 1 T oregano, chopped
1 T lime or lemon juice 1 T sesame seeds

1. Place sesame seeds into preheated nonstick skillet and cook over medium heat until lightly brown (roasted). This usually takes about 5 minutes. Stir constantly to prevent burning.
2. When done, place seeds into blender/food processor and process for about 30 seconds until floury texture results.
Of course, if using a mortar and pestle it will take longer than 30 seconds. It’ll be a few minutes.
3. Add liquid, garlic, and oregano. Puree and/or blend until smooth.

Store in airtight container in refrigerator.

Nutrition Facts:
Nutrition (per serving): 61.1 calories; 81% calories from fat; 5.7g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 1.0mg sodium; 47.3mg potassium; 2.4g carbohydrates; 1.0g fiber; 0.1g sugar; 1.3g net carbohydrates; 1.0g protein.

Profound Blogging Insight

This blogging looks like it's going to be fun. :)

A month already?

It's already been a month since I've posted? Geez... I have been updating a volume of my Organic cookbook into ebook form. I plan on selling it online and knocking the socks off the online world...
I just wrote and submitted an article on making your own homemade tahini. Tahini is also known as sesame seed paste. It's the binder in hummus of all varieties. I remember how great it tasted on freshly steamed green beans. It's so easy to make, too. I only hope others will learn and try it themselves.
Til we meet again....

Friday, July 21, 2006

Today's Natural Health Tip

Natural remedy for the day: Instead of spending money on toothpaste, try using simple baking soda. All you need to do is wet your toothbrush and dip it into some baking soda. It is an excellent way to remove plaque and help whiten your teeth.

Using baking soda like this is a 'natural' technique that dates way back. My grandma was doing it back in the early 1900's.

Another benefit is the fact that baking soda is much cheaper than toothpaste. Plus, you don't have to wonder which brand you're going to buy. There usually aren't that many to choose from.

Happy smiles to you!