Thursday, September 29, 2011

Is Junk Food Really Cheaper?

If you read nothing else that I've ever posted, please take time to this article by Mark Bittman at New York Times:  Is Junk Food Really Cheaper?  Really, I beg you.. read the article.. change your life.  This isn't about not eating meat, or just eating fish, or any fancy diets.  This is about eating real food AND saving yourself money.   It's so simple.  No tricks, no gimmicks, no lies.. real food, that is inexpensive and better for you than anything handed out a window to your car.

I know many of you won't take the time to read this, so if nothing else, review the below (info)graphic.  The following graphic is also included in this article. I came across this graphic today on a post from Ellen Jaffe Jones (author of Eat Vegan on $4.00 a Day: A Game Plan for the Budget Conscious Cook) and I'm so glad that she shared it. 

click to enlarge

Also, as a reminder, feel free to come over and follow me on Google+.  I've been continuing to share quick tips, resources and other articles that you might find interesting over there.  I'll been sharing other random things from real life.  Stop by.. say hi... after you read the article!!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Ecolabel Index

As I continue to educate myself and research food labels, I came across the Ecolabel Index website.  It's super helpful in identifying labels on not just food but all sorts of products.  As of the date of this post, the Ecolabel Index has 432 labels in 217 countries and 25 industry sectors.  Food, computers, fabrics and other various types items are all covered.  The search function works great and the descriptions of each label are not only in plain wording but they also offer a link to the organization / label's website.  So if you find a label on a product and you aren't sure what it means (if anything!), check out the Ecolabel index for more info.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

In case I forgot to mention it...

... I registered for a half-marathon race.  Me.  That's right.  I know!  Crazy, right?
I'm not sure what got into me a few weeks ago but I saw something about the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon Series and decided why the hell not...  I was in a bit of a lull at the time with my work outs.  This was a few weeks after I reached my initial weight loss goal (losing 15 lbs in 8 weeks back in April) and while I was still exercising, I wasn't going at it as whole-hearted as I could have been.  So, I decided to set a new goal.  A half marathon sounded like a great idea.

I'm fortunate that a good friend of mine has been right by my side for a while in the fitness trenches.  She says I inspired her to get fit and back into exercising.  Being an inspiration to others is not something I planned on happening, but ya know what, that's pretty cool.  I'm also fortunate that this friend was willing to also throw herself to the marathon wolves and register for this event.

We've been training a bit over the last few weeks.  We are doing regular work-out routines (as usual) on our own and then doing a Sunday 'long run' together.  Here's the kicker... we're walking.  Both me and my friend are pretty new at getting back into exercise and we don't come from running backgrounds, so we decided that we would start by walking.  Now, don't get me wrong, we're not just lolly-gagging along and strolling down the road.  No way.  We are hauling ass.  Averaging 3.5-4.0 mph and last week we completed 8 miles; we've got 9 scheduled for this upcoming Sunday. 

Neither of us have ever competed in any type of run/walk/race event so we're not setting any time goals besides finishing.  We need to complete 13.1 miles in under 4 hours.  Currently, the speed is not an issue as we're averaging a 16:30 mile (just walking) and the slowest we can go to not be kicked off the course is 18:32.  Our main concern (well, mine for sure!) is stamina.  I won't lie, last week was rough.  My body definitely knew this was the farthest it had gone before.  At about done at 6.5 miles it became a little bit of a struggle but I made it through all 8 at a steady pace and, although immediately after I was sore and tired and thought I might die, I felt good later that day and the following.  Last week was also extraneous circumstances as not only was the longest distance we had done previously only 6 miles, but we missed the previous week's walk when I was feeling under the weather.

I decided to post about this today as we are 50 days away from the event.  50.  Wow.  I'm nervous, that is for sure.  I do consider trying to add running into the mix, but I'm afraid.  We all know what happened last time I tried to run and I don't want to go there again.  For now, I'm going to stick with walking and not getting hurt.  I really think we can do this.  We better do this.  We're going to do this!! 

If you're in Savannah on November 5th, come on down and cheer us on.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Downside of Learning

I keep reading and learning and educating myself and reading and watching and listening and trying to understand all that is available about food and what is going into our bodies with each bit.
It's been amazingly eye opening, but I'm learning that there is a downside to all of this learning.  Fortunately, I think it is a good downside.

I've got my brain wrapped around most of the produce issues (still working out changes in my purchasing habits but getting there) and I've cut out all meat so no issues there.  So we move onto the next big thing.  The one that I've held onto through the last eight months of life changing... fish.

I've mentioned this lightly over the last few weeks or so, but I think it might have to go.  Found this article at Sustainable Sushi that was enlightening and made me want to learn more.  So it might happen.... sigh... then I'll for sure have to think up a new name for this site.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Let's talk about Eggs

image credit: Cooking Light

As a pescetarian, I sometimes think of myself as a swimming lacto-ovo vegetarian.  I'm still eating fish, eggs and diary so I've been trying to continue to educate myself on these animal based products.  While at the grocer a few weeks ago, I spent a lot of time in the egg department.  There are so many options!  Cage Free, Vegetarian, Organic.... on and on!  I couldn't sort out what they all meant.  I knew that 'cage-free' was pretty good... so I thought.  I ended up choosing the standard, store-brand, grade A, large eggs.  I really didn't know any better, or worse, so I stuck with what I always buy. 

Coincidentally, in a recent purging day where I sorted through past issues of magazines and kept only what I needed/wanted, I came across a full article in Cooking Light (July 2009) magazine that explains the egg labels.  I was so excited!  We've touched on the food label subject a little bit previously, but I was so glad to find something more regarding eggs.  Below is a brief description and reference for various labels you might find on egg cartons.

Here's the breakdown of what I think are the good ones:

USDA Organic - Meets the USDA's standards for Organic foods - birds must be cage free with outdoor access, no antibiotics given to birds or in food and must have vegetarian diet. (more info here:

Certified Humane Raised & Handled - This non-profit organization is audited by the USDA and endorsed by many animal welfare groups.  Requires independent verification of proper treatment of animals. (more info here:

Animal Welfare Approved - program audits and certifies family farms that utilize high-welfare methods of farming, on pasture or range.  This program is applicable to smaller egg producers so it may not be that prevalent in the local big box grocery, but look for it at farmers markets and specialty groceries (more info here:

Here are some 'certifications' that do not, in my opinion, seem to hold much clout:

The ones we have covered before and a few other labels that are thrown out there are:
Cruelty free
Environmentally friendly
Nature’s friend
No chemicals
Vegetarian fed
Naturally Raised
No Hormones
No Antibiotics

And a couple others that you (and I) might think are awesome, but are not.
United Egg Producers Certified - According to NYU, this certification is gained by nearly 80% of all egg producers.  It only means that the caged hens are allowed water and food.  I don't think that is saying a whole lot.

Cage Free - Chickens must be out of cages with continuous access to food and water, but they may not be allowed outdoors.  This one is pretty much meaningless, too.

There are several more articles available from the July 2009 issue of Cooking Light about eggs including how to save on purchasing eggs (which, again, in my opinion, might compromise the health / ethical goals of using the able labels) and several reasons to use eggs and what they do as well as a bunch of recipes.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Article: Eat less meat

A 1942 National Livestock and Meat Board ad.  Image: Brian Bennett
A quick post just to share a recent article I enjoyed at over at Grist.

Safe, organic food too expensive? Eat less meat

Michele Simon hits on a number of excellent points regarding who food, especially meat, is big business in the US.  She also offers her opinions and restates, as we are learning more and more each day, that we there is a continued overabundance of meat in the average American diet.

Here are a couple quote highlights:

"Turns out this standard American diet of bacon and eggs for breakfast, followed by a cheeseburger for lunch and steak for dinner, has resulted in an epidemic of health problems like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, just to name a few."
 "Of course, there's no guarantee that even if meat becomes too expensive, Americans will automatically switch over to fresh vegetables and whole grains, which remain hard to find in too many areas of the country. It's entirely possible that people will just eat more Doritos and Chips Ahoy instead, which, sadly, are much more readily available. "

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Souped-up Ramen

In celebration if the back to school season, what better to share than a recipe that includes ramen!  We all love ramen-style instant noodles, right?  It is so easy and cheap and delicious.. but let's be honest, these aren't that good for us.  The noodles themselves are loaded with salt and carbohydrates and often times fried as part processing.  Let's not even get started on that powdered flavoring packet.. WOW!
Well, unfortunately, I was feeling a bit under the weather this past weekend and ramen sounded really good.  I knew we had one package left in the cupboard and decided to go for it.  Still keeping my healthy head somewhat on my shoulders, I wanted to add flavor and a bit of real food as well as leaving out the powder seasoning all together.  Traditionally, ramen has always been served with additional items such as vegetables and meats.  It is not just noodles in flavored salted water.  I used this principle when creating my ramen dish.

Here's the run down

1 package Ramen Instant Noodles (flavor doesn't matter since we are skipping the powder)
1/4 cup carrot - diced (I used 2 good sized baby carrots)
2 scallions - sliced (reserve a bit of green tops for garnish)
1/4 cup of fresh sliced mushrooms (I used 2 medium button mushrooms as this is what I had on hand)
1/2 tablespoon of Sesame Oil
1/2 tablespoon Low Sodium Soy Sauce (if desired)

Boil water as per packed directions.
When water simmers, add scallions and oil.
Once boiling, add noodles, carrots and mushrooms.
Remove from heat when noodles are done (veggies should be done too)
Transfer to bowl and top with reserved scallions and soy sauce (if desired)

Now, one ramen packet contains two servings, but I can't recall ever just eating half of the block of noodles.  Also, I don't like the soup part and I usually drain it off and just eat the noodles (this was always part of my efforts to cut back on the sodium and modified itself into an 'I just like the noodles' enjoyment).  You can do either.  By adding the oil and scallions to the water, this flavor gets infused into the water before cooking the noodles.  You can also add a little salt to the water, of course.  The carrots and mushrooms add flavor and texture as well.  Mix it up and play with what you have on hand.  Feel free to add more or less than the suggested amounts of veggies above (by now I'm sure that you've figured out most of my recipes aren't rocket science).  These ingredients were what I had so in they went.   Oh and sesame oil should be available in the ethnic food section of your local grocery.  This is an ingredient than can be a bit pricey, but I find it's really good to have on hand, lasts a while and adds a ton of flavor to Asian themed dishes that I make (and I used it to make gelato a few weeks ago too!)

Wow, I just noticed that the 'suggested serving' photo on the package of ramen shows mushrooms, carrots and what might be scallions (maybe broccoli).  Who knew I was so genius?!?!

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Let's talk about.... what?!!?

Here's a quickie for you (yes, yes, pun intended!)
I came across this post and just had to share:  Vegetarians Enjoy Oral Sex More
The post has this fun, and seemingly very true quote:
While eating a vegetarian diet is good for the planet (carbon footprint reduction) and great for you (health and it is cheaper), this could very well be the sexiest.
There is also a lot of other info and resources regarding carbon footprints and further benefits of vegetarianism.  Enjoy!

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Chocolate Eclair Cake

This post has nothing to do with pescetarianism, vegetarianism or veganism... it's main target is dessertism. My wonderful husband forwarded me this recipe today while he was at work and asked me to make it. As per my last post, I had planned on a full out cook-and-bake-o-rama for the weekend.  I did the protein / 'power' bars done yesterday (post / review to come), but plans changed, when somehow, late last night, I started not feeling very well; still not really sure what is/was going on with me. As of about 2 pm, though, I felt much improved and told Dan that if wanted to bring home the needed ingredients, that I would make this for him.

I posted the below photo on my personal Facebook page and it received several comments and interest, so I thought I would share the recipe. This originated from one of Dan's co-workers and edited just a bit below for easy of preparation and explanation.   It was really easy to do and very, very good!

Chocolate Eclair Cake

Chocolate Eclair Cake

1 cup water
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup all purposes flour
4 large eggs

2 pkgs (3.4 oz) Vanilla Instant Pudding
4 cups whole milk (to make pudding)
1 pkg (8 oz) cream cheese (softened)
1 pkg (8 oz) Cool Whip topping

⅓ cup Hershey's Chocolate Syrup (for drizzling - more or less as desired)

Pre-heat over to 400°
Grease a 15x10x1 inch jelly roll pan
Pastry before topping

In a medium sauce pan, bring water and butter to a boil.  Once butter is completely melted, turn heat to low.

Add flour and stir continuously until mixture forms into dough ball.  Remove from heat.  Add eggs, one at a time and mix thoroughly until combined with dough.  Spread dough out evenly on greased pan.  Bake at 400° for 25-30 minutes until golden brown and cooked through.  Pastry will appear lumpy or bubbly. Cool completely.

Close-up of layers
While pastry cools, prepare the pudding as per package directions.  Using an electric hand mixer, beat in the softened cream cheese until completely combined with the pudding.  Spread pudding mixture evenly onto pastry.  Stir the Cool Whip topping and then spread over the pudding.  Finish by drizzling chocolate syrup over the top.

Allow to set / cool for approximately 30 minutes in the refrigerator before serving.


(side note:  I'm wondering if this might not be even just a little bit more amazing with French Vanilla pudding, or adding a tiny bit of vanilla extract into the pastry.... hmmm.. maybe next time.)

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Long Weekend Stock-up

For some reason I didn't realize until about noon today that this upcoming Monday is a holiday in the US, which means most businesses, including my job, are closed... YES!  Free day off!  I decided quickly that I'm going to take the extra time on this three day weekend and do a little cooking and baking stock-up and try out some recipes I've had on my radar for a while.

My lovely great-aunt gifted me a copy of the The Moosewood Restaurant Cooking for Health: More Than 200 New Vegetarian and Vegan Recipes for Delicious and Nutrient-Rich Dishes a while back.  I've found that it contains a couple pretty good sounding recipes for homemade veggie burgers that are freezable.  We've been sort of hooked on MorningStar Farms and I'm hoping to find a homemade alternative. Going to start with Spinach-Tofu burgers and see how it goes.

I also am going to try another one of Camilla's awesome snack bar recipes.  The Clif bars worked out so well that I can't wait to try black bean power bars too.

We've been on a big Greek-kick lately (when I say we, I mainly mean me; I cook it and Dan eats it).  Earlier this week I tried some new Greek Style Veggie burgers using couscous and made my own tzatziki sauce (with a bit of inspiration from Stephanie) (more on both of these later, I hope, when I make them again), so building from that theme, I'm also going to try to tackle pita bread (Cooking Light recipe) and hummus (recipe from a friend).

Lastly, I made some bean and bell pepper fajitas last week.. those have been requested to make and encore appearance on our menu this weekend.  Hope to have a full post on this awesome, quick, easy and so tasty recipe for you as well. 

I'm thinking I want to make some kind of vegan baked-good... like a cupcake.. anyone have a good recipe for a simple vegan cupcake with frosting?  We'll see if I get that far.

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