Health Feed

Butternut squash done two ways: Cabot's Winter Squash Gratin and Squash Soup

After receiving a beautiful box of cheese from Cabot Creamery compliments of the American Dairy Association and Dairy Council (ADADC), I scoped out their website for a recipe to try.  I landed on their Winter Squash Gratin and decided it would be perfect for us.  The full recipe is on their website, but here is how I made it:

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photo credit to www.cabotcheese.coop

Cabot's Winter Squash Gratin

      • 6 ounces Cabot Sharp Cheddar grated (about 1 1/2 cups)
      • 1 1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs (I made crumbs from a full sleeve of Saltine crackers)
      • 2 tablespoons butter
      • 2 cups chopped onions
      • 1 teaspoon sugar
      • 1/8 teaspoon salt
      • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves, crumbled
      • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
      • 2 pounds dry-fleshed butternut squash peeled and seeded*
      • 3/4-1 cup chicken broth
Preheat oven to 375°F. Combine cheese and bread crumbs in bowl and set aside.
In large skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Add onions and sugar. Stir often until onions are golden, about 10 minutes. Stir in salt, thyme and pepper, then transfer mixture to 1 1/2-quart baking dish.
Cut squash into smaller chunks and cut these chunks into 1/8-inch-thick slices. Add to onions and stir together well.
Pour 3/4 cup of chicken broth evenly over squash. Cover dish tightly with lid or foil and bake for about 70 minutes, or until squash is tender and broth is nearly all absorbed. If squash appears dry, add remaining 1/4 cup broth. 
Sprinkle squash with reserved bread crumb mixture. Bake until topping is golden, about 20 minutes longer.
 
*Don't throw away those seeds!  Roasted butternut squash seeds are even more delicious than roasted pumpkin seeds in my opinion.  Just clean the seeds and let them sit overnight to dry.  Then toss them with a tsp of olive oil and a pinch of salt.  Roast them on a single layer in a 275° oven for about an hour or until they are golden brown stirring occasionally.
 
The gratin was delicious, but let me tell you- it made a lot!  We had about half a tray left over after eating our fill with dinner.  
 
The next day, I felt like making soup.  Squash soup sounded good, so I put the leftover gratin into a pot with about 2 cups of chicken broth and whirled it up with my hand blender.  I placed the pot on medium heat stirring it once in a while until it was warm.  It was a bit salty, so I added a half cup of water and heated it through.  When it was done, I topped it with the butternut squash seeds I had saved and roasted previously.  
 
My daughter thought the soup tasted like goldfish crackers.  When I tasted it, I had to agree.  It was delicious!  It was smooth and very filling with the mixed green salad we had on the side for lunch that day.
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Squash Soup
 
Hope you will try both recipes!  Let me know what you think. 
 
Oh, and yes, all you foodies out there.  The picture above shows pumpkin seeds on the soup, not butternut squash seeds.  I tried to get a shot of the butternut seeds, but they were too good.  I ate them all. 

Grilled cod with almonds recipe

The other night I was trying to figure out a good way to use up some frozen cod we had in the freezer.  The weather was nice, so grilling was on the forefront of my brain.  I wanted something that had a grilled flavor, but still sort of resembled a basic fish fry.  I checked the cabinets for some crunchy stuff I could smash up to make a nice coating on the fish.  I found almonds, saltines and flax seeds.  Perfect!

Here is what I came up with:

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Grilled Cod with Almonds

  • 4 Tbsp & 1 tsp melted butter
  • 4 cod fillets fresh or thawed
  • 10 saltines
  • 1/2 cup roasted salted almonds
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tsp flax seeds
  • 1/2 tsp dried parsley

Coat the cod with 4 Tbsp melted butter on both sides and place on one sheet of aluminum foil.  Place on indirect heat on a low grill for about 10 minutes.   IMG_2763While it is cooking, whirl up the saltines, almonds, garlic, flax seeds and parsley in your food processor until the mixture looks like coarse bread crumbs.    

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Take the fish off the grill (leave on aluminum foil) and place the whole thing on a large plate.  Divide the almond mixture in four and top each piece of cod with it.  Drizzle the tsp of melted butter over the fish and put the whole thing back on the grill for about 10 more minutes or until the fish is flaky and the topping is slightly browned.  

My husband loved it.  My daughter liked it with a little lemon on it.  I absolutely loved it and really sort of made an ass out of myself declaring my love for it at the dinner table.  My family now thinks I'm insane.  ...Hope you like it! 


Spicy roasted almonds and walnuts recipe

On my quest to make some wholesome snacks for my family, I often go through the pantry to see what I can use.  For some reason, we have about a million pounds of almonds and walnuts in there right now.  

We will have no problem throwing some of them in our salads, smoothies and breakfast cereals.  And I am planning on using some of the almonds to make almond butter per my friend Stephanie's recipe at Confessions of a Stay at Home Mom.  

...But I came up with this savory little ditty, too.  And it is GOOD.

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Spicy Roasted Almonds and Walnuts

    • 2 cups unsalted whole almonds
    • 2 cups shelled walnut halves
    • 1 tsp olive oil
    • 1 tsp paprika
    • 1/8 tsp (or more if you are daring) cayenne pepper
    • 1 tsp oregano
    • 1 tsp garlic powder
    • 1/2 tsp black pepper
    • 1/8 tsp salt

Put nuts in a large bowl and toss with olive oil.  Mix all the spices together in a separate bowl and then toss with the nuts to coat.  Spread the mixture in a single layer on a cookie sheet and bake at 300° for 30-40 min stirring occasionally.  Let them cool and save them in an airtight container.  You can eat them warm, but I prefer them at room temp when they have a chance to regain their crunch.

This recipe is adapted from one I read in the cookbook Men's Health Muscle Chow.  I liked their idea, so I went with it to form my own recipe.  I hope you like it!


Roasted garlic and cauliflower soup two ways

Yesterday I was feeling experimental.  I put a head of cauliflower and a head of garlic in the oven to roast.  My thought was to make some soup with them.  Little did I know that one head of cauliflower makes a lot of soup.  

Like, a LOT.  

Like so much that if I were to eat one bowl of cauliflower soup per day, I'd be done with it by Christmas '15.  

It's a lot of soup.

So I decided to split the base soup in half and dress it up two different ways.  Here are the recipes!

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Roasted Garlic and Cauliflower Soup

For the roasted garlic and cauliflower:

  • 1 head of garlic
  • 1 large head of cauliflower
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut the top off the head of garlic to expose the tops of the cloves.  Drizzle with a little olive oil and wrap the whole thing in aluminum foil.  Slice the cauliflower into 1 inch thick pieces.  Drizzle with olive oil and salt & pepper and toss to coat both sides. Don't worry if it falls apart a bit.  Place it in a roasting pan.  Put the garlic and the cauliflower in the oven to roast for about 35-40 minutes turning the cauliflower once.  Pull it out if it when it starts getting brown on the edges.

T0 make the soup:

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion diced
  • 1 small carrot diced
  • 1 small stalk of celery diced
  • 3 small or 2 large red skinned potatoes
  • 6-8 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 head roasted cauliflower 
  • 1 head roasted garlic

Saute onion, carrot and celery in olive oil over medium heat for about 2 minutes until onion is transparent.  Add potatoes and saute one more minute.  Add 6 cups broth and cook until potatoes are cooked through.  Take off heat and add cauliflower and roasted garlic (squeeze the garlic right out of the skins).  Whirl up the mixture with a hand mixer or blender.  Add more broth or water if needed.

Now that you have the base soup, you can come up with your own spice mixtures to add to it.  It is delicious on its own with just some salt & pepper, but here are two ways I came up with that worked really well.  I just took the whole pot of soup and split it into two separate pots:

In one pot I made Parmesan & Sage Soup by adding 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese and 1 tsp dried Russian sage. PS: My 9 year-old daughter tried this one and said, "Now THAT...is good soup.  It's perfect, Mom."  ***I'm melting over here!!***

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Parmesan & Sage Soup

 

In the other pot I made a Southwest Soup by adding 1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp chili powder, 1 tsp diced chives and 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper.  

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Southwest Soup garnished with salsa & chives

 

For both recipes, I just added the extra ingredients and put the soups back on the stove to heat them back up.

I hope you like them both!  


Greek Yogurt: It's not just for lunch - 2 recipes and a giveaway

Do you like Greek yogurt?  I love its thick creamy texture and the fact that all that extra protein fills me up.  A nice bowl of Greek yogurt drizzled with honey and walnuts tastes like a decadent treat to me.  My husband eats it every single day for lunch.  

But Greek yogurt can be used for so much more than just a quick lunch.  Did you know you can use it in place of a lot of other dairy products in your recipes to get the benefit of its active yogurt cultures and extra protein? Yup.  In fact, it tastes better in some recipes, if you ask me.  

I tried a recipe given to me by the American Dairy Association and Dairy Council for Easy to Make, Easier to Eat Muffins and found them to be quite good.  Here it is if you would like to try it yourself.   IMG_2262

Easy to Make, Easier to Eat Muffins

  • 1 1/2 c flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 c sugar
  • 1/2 c softened butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 c plain Greek yogurt (I may try vanilla Greek yogurt next time for a different flavor)
  • 3 Tbsp whole milk (although I used skim and it was fine)
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350.  Whisk butter and sugar together and add eggs.  Add Greek yogurt, milk and vanilla.  Mix flour with baking soda in a separate bowl and gradually add to liquid mixture.  Fill muffin tins almost full and bake for 20 mins or until golden.  Makes about 12.

It got me thinking about what else I could put Greek yogurt in... I came up with this recipe for Potato Salad with Greek yogurt and chives which came out absolutely perfect.  I hope you will try it!IMG_2261

Potato Salad with Greek Yogurt and Chives

  • 8-10 small cooked and cooled redskin potatoes cut into bite-size pieces*
  • 1/4 small yellow onion diced
  • 1 large stalk of celery diced
  • 1 hard boiled egg chopped
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp diced chives
  • 1 tsp diced parsley
  • Salt & Pepper to taste IMG_2250

All you really need to do is add all the above ingredients in a bowl and stir them up.  As with all potato salad, in my opinion, it is better when it sits for a while before eating it.  I like to make it in the morning and put it in the fridge until dinner.  

*To save time, I like to put the egg and the potatoes in the same pot to boil.  To do so, just put a cold egg in a pot and cover it with water.  Bring it to a boil on the stove and add your potatoes.  Once the potatoes are done, drain the water and stick the whole thing in the fridge to cool.

Oh, and guess what?  The American Dairy Association and Dairy Council would love to get you on board with all the fantastic benefits Greek yogurt has to offer, too!  They have given me a lovely gift pack for one of you awesome readers consisting of some really handy Silicone Solutions baking items, an apron with I Love Greek Yogurt emblazon on the front, a cooler tote with the same sentiment on it and the best part... coupons for FREE Greek yogurt!  IMG_2298

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Greek yogurt is great for a lot of different diets including diabetis and gluten-free diets.  A lot of lactose intolerant people find that Greek yogurt is easy to digest as well!

To find out more about the benefits of Greek yogurt and other awesome dairy products, check out the American Dairy Association and Dairy Coucil's website ADADC.com.  You can also visit their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @AmerDairyAssoc.

Disclosure: I was given the same gift pack as listed in the giveaway.  No other compensation was given to me.  All opinions in this post are my own.  I love Greek yogurt!


Dermagist Hydrating Spa System- review and giveaway!

If you guys know me at all, you know that I am a cheapskate.  No, frugal is too nice a word for what I am.  I am a flat out, penny-pinching pain in the arse when it comes to buying anything.  I hate spending money.  I especially hate spending money when it comes to myself.  

However...

When it comes to my skin, I will spend whatever it takes to make it feel good.  See, I have dealt with skin issues my entire life.  I have always had the driest skin due to environmental issues and allergies.  I also suffer from psoriasis that can be downright painful at times.  I will try anything and everything to help make the pain go away.  When I find something that makes me feel even a little bit better, I stick with it.  

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Dermagist Hydrating Spa System

 

Recently, I was asked to try some skin products from Dermagist and write about my experience with them.  Of course I jumped at the chance because 1)they were giving me free samples to try and 2)my skin was being particularly mean at the time.  

Within a week of my saying yes, I received Dermagist's Hydrating Spa System (sold on their website for $89.99) which included full bottles of three products: Hydro-Renewal Hand Cream, Foot & Heel Revitalizing Cream, and Hydropeutic Body Lotion.  

I took some "before" pictures and started using the products immediately.  Within a week, I could already see a difference in the way my skin looked and more importantly how it felt.  I have been using them now for about a month and can tell you honestly that my skin feels fantastic.

Here are some things I noticed since using Dermagist:

- My nail beds and cuticles on both my hands and feet are smooth and shiny.

- My inherently cracked, dry heels look much better in my sandals since I've been using the foot cream.

- My whole body feels smooth to the touch.

- I don't feel the constant need to slather on extra lotion throughout the day.  Using the Hydrating Spa System twice a day (once in the morning & once at night) has been enough.

- I have not had any psoriasis flare-ups when using the Dermagist products. No, the products themselves are not meant to be psoriasis treatments.  However, stress is a known cause of flare-ups in a lot of psoriasis patients, including me.  My skin has always been a stressor in my life.  The psoriasis makes me anxious which causes more flare-ups which causes more stress...it's a vicous cycle.  Since the Dermagist helped my skin, it helped keep my stress level in check as well.  Therefore, I have been having less psoriatic flare-ups.

 

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My hands feel and look SO much better!

 I was very happy to have been given the opportunity to try Dermagist's products.  My experience with them has been wonderful.  If you are anything like me, you probably won't take my word for it and want to try them yourself.  Well, good news!  Dermagist is offering a Hydrating Spa System for one of my lucky readers!  All you have to do is fill out the Rafflecopter form below and complete the tasks to be entered into the giveaway.  

a Rafflecopter giveaway

And don't fret if you don't win!  Dermagist is also offering a 10% discount with promo code "SUMMER" good until Sept 15, 2013.  Just enter it into their site when ordering.  They also offer discounts for repeat customers as well.  I hope you like it!

*I was given a Dermagist Hydrating Spa System free of charge.  No other compensation was given.  All opinions are my own.


GoPicnic ready-to-eat meals review and GIVEAWAY! #spon

Since I am typically in front of the computer most of my days, I am always looking for something interesting to eat...something that will hold my attention without causing me to get up and graze the fridge unnecessarily.  As I was wandering through Target one day -during one of those stolen moments without the kids- I came across these little GoPicnic ready-to-eat meal boxes. They were exactly what I was looking for in a lunch.

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This little box has so much fun inside

 

 

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...see what I mean?

I know it's not just me, but I love foods that are compartmental:  Bento boxes, TV dinners, and now these meals.  I like the option of eating one or two things now and saving the rest for later.  But the key is that those things taste good.  These definitely do.

Here is a little more about GoPicnic's ready-to-eat meals:

-GoPicnic meals need no refrigeration.  Everything in that little cute box is individually wrapped and shelf-stable.

-Everything in GoPicnic meals are ready to eat with no extra preparation required. Just open and enjoy.

-They can be purchased online at gopicnic.com, in retail stores like Target and are now available at Regal Cinema Theaters!

-They are very reasonably priced between $4-$6 apiece.

-GoPicnic offers many different varieties of meals including vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free and kosher meals. If a meal falls under any of those categories, it will be clearly labeled on the box.  Each food item is clearly labeled with its ingredients so you can screen for specific allergens as needed. 

-Each box is filled with 5 different individually wrapped delights to equal 1 complete meal.  Most are under 400 calories.

-Every box has a few fun food facts and a Sudoku puzzle printed inside to help keep you smiling even when your meal is done!

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My favorites include the Black Bean Dip & Plaintain Chips meal, the Salami & Cheese meal, the Turkey Stick & Crunch meal and the Hummus & Crackers meal.  I actually just finished a wonderful piece of dark chocolate with sea salt from my Hummus & Crackers meal and it was delicious!

After eating a bunch of different varieties on my own, I thought I would contact GoPicnic to tell them how much I loved them.  They very graciously sent me two meals to review.  And better yet they offered to give two more meals to one of you lucky readers!  All you need to do is fill out the Rafflecopter form below to enter.  The only mandatory entry is the "Leave a Blog Post Comment", but you can gain additional entries by completing the tasks in the form.  

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Best of luck to you! I hope you win!

Disclosure: I was given two meals to review, but have been enjoying GoPicnic ready-to-eat meals for quite some time on my own.  All opinions in this post are my own.


Lemonade for a cure to cancer. Let's do this.

I have this beautiful friend named Trish.  Not only is she a fantastic mother of three, a writer with wonderful talent, and owner of the blog Yoke she is an ambassador for Alex's Lemonade Stand.  After learning her daughter Lily had a cancerous brain tumor at 14 months-old and watching her endure several surgeries and treatments, Trish made it her priority to try her best to stop this cancer from hurting any more families out there.  Here is her story:

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Beautiful Lily
When life gives you lemons. . .you make Alex's Lemonade!

When my daughter was first diagnosed with a brain tumor, I knew nothing about Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation for Childhood Cancer (ALSF). Then one morning in June while she was upstairs at the Children's Hospital of Phildelphia in the PICU recovering from brain surgery, I went downstairs to buy a cup of lemonade.
  
CHOP was buzzing with excitement--it was the ALSF annual Lemonade Days.   I, however,  was in a bad place. The day before Lily had complications during a procedure. I hated the world. I hated everything and everyone. I was spent. 
  
Then I heard Liz Scott speak. I only remember one word that Liz said:
  
Hope.
  
Hearing this amazing woman and mother, who lost her child, tell me to have hope, saved me. 
  
My daughter Lily is  7-year-olds and a brain tumor survivor. She was diagnosed when she was 14-months old, after weeks of throwing up. Her pediatrician kept diagnosing a GI bug and a bladder infection. Finally, we begged for more answers and we were sent to the emergency room at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
  
Within 30 minutes we had our answer: a brain tumor. 

Those are two words, you never, ever want to hear as a parent.
 
Lily has endured multiple brain surgeries, seven weeks of proton radiation and continued therapies to help improve her motor skills and strengthen her muscles. Brain surgery damaged Lily's overall muscle tone and coordination. Therapy and hard work has brought Lily full circle. The little girl who once could not walk, now runs and tumbles and dances.  She is a shining beacon of hope and strength and love. 

But we know that Lily's battle is not unique.  Everyday, 46 children are diagnosed with childhood cancer. Everyday, 46 mothers and fathers learn that their child will begin the fight for their lives. Seven children die everyday at the hands of childhood cancer. 

46 children is 46 too many.  The suffering has to stop. 

It is because of these children that our family holds an Alex's Lemonade Stand to support ALSF every year.  For the past five years, our family has hosted a Lemonade Stand in our front yard and online to raise money for Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation for Childhood Cancer. 

Childhood cancer research is consistently underfunded and under researched. But ALSF is working to change that. Since 2004, the foundation has made a major impact--raising over $50 million for research.  It all started with Alex--a little girl who was really sick and really wise. Alex knew that every penny counts and every donation adds up. 

This year, our family aims to raise $10,000 for a cure to all forms of childhood cancer. It is an enormous goal--but it is one we hope to reach with the help of kind and generous friends. 
Every donation--whether $5 or $50 counts.  
When you buy a cup (or 100 cups, please!), you will be sipping in the beautiful stories of some of my favorite people in the world, my heroes. In honor of all those children, mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters who fight, have fought and will continue to sell lemonade for their friends, until cures for pediatric cancer are found, I ask, I beg you to raise a glass to these amazing blessings. 

 Together, we will beat childhood cancer, one icy cold, sweet cup of lemonade at a time!

To donate to Lily's stand:

Remember, every single bit helps!  Thank you for your support.


This post falls under the category of Weird Stuff I Do. It's about oil pulling.

 

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Oil Pulling face!

I have always had sinus problems and never had any problem taking medication to treat them.  However, as we all know most sinus medications are not recommended when you are pregnant.  

So when I got all knocked up with my daughter, my sinuses started laughing at me.  Sinuses are jerks.

I looked everywhere for a good homeopathic remedy that could relieve my sinus pain and pressure and not cause my baby to come out resembling a Mucinex bottle or something.  Among other remedies like eating whole garlic cloves and doing shots of apple cider vinegar, I found the ancient Ayurveda practice of oil pulling.

Oil pulling is kinda gross when you think of it.  Basically, you take about 10ml of your favorite oil (I like safflower oil) * and swish it around in your mouth for about 15 minutes.  Yes, the same 10ml of oil swishes around in your mouth for 15 minutes.  Then you spit it out and go on your merry way.  

When I read about it, I thought it was so silly it HAD to work.  Guess what?  It did.  After the first few days of oil pulling, I was blowing things out of my nose I never knew could fit in there.  But it did so much more than just that.

See, you are supposed to do your oil pulling first thing in the morning before you eat or drink anything.  I'm not sure on the science of that aspect (or the science of ANY of it, to be honest) but the process goes beyond science for me.  Those first 15 minutes of the day are the calmest of the entire day.

My kids wake up and see me swishing, so they go about their business without asking me for anything.  If they do need something, we find creative ways to communicate with each other while I can't speak.  Today, my son and I had a great silent conversation about tea and his fluffy blanket using just our eyes and a sort of sign language.

I've been oil pulling for almost 10 years now.  I don't know if it has really helped me physically or if it's just in my head.  Maybe a little of both?  But I do know that it helps start my day off on the right foot most of the time.  Just thought I'd share it with you. 

 *I recently switched over to coconut oil because I heard it gives some energizing effects.  Boy, does it!  It's better than the first cup of tea in the morning.  Honest!