New Food Friday – Moroccan Preserved Lemons

19 Jul Asparagus and Butternut Squash with Pickled Lemon

My post about Meyer lemons brought about some interesting comments. This sent me to the internet to do research. To make a long story short, this post is about Moroccan preserved lemons also known as pickled lemons.

sxc.hu/craigbcn - Moroccan Architecture

Moroccan Architecture (sxc.hu/craigbcn)

You can use Meyer lemons or any type of lemon for this dish. Moroccan’s typically use these preserved lemons as a garnish or as a main ingredient. They are very simple to make. The hardest part is the waiting because you have to wait 4 or 5 weeks before the lemons are pickled.

sxc.hu susannah - Marrakech Koran School

Marrakech, Morocco Koran School (sxc.hu susannah)

There are many variations to making preserved lemons. You can use lemons only or you can add spices like a cinnamon stick, a bay leaf, garlic, chili flakes, coriander, cloves, allspice, peppercorns, the list is limited to your imagination. To be clear, this is not a sweet dish nor is it to be confused with preserves that you spread on bread or scones!

Moroccans use preserved lemons in dishes like Chicken tagine with lemons and olives.

sxc.hu cecilegeng - Tajine

Tajine (sxc.hu cecilegeng)

Moroccan food-Chicken tagine with preserved le...

Moroccan food-Chicken tagine with preserved lemons and olives (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Preserved lemons are made from lemons and salt. That’s all! I wanted to make the smallest batch possible because I wasn’t sure if I would like this dish and I didn’t want to waste lemons!

So, I selected one gigantic lemon and used my smallest canning jar. You can see the size of the lemon in relation to the demitasse cup in the photo.

Lemon Espresso

Lemon Espresso

Not only was it a big lemon, it was juicy! This was perfect. The lemons or lemon slices in my case, have to be squashed into the jar as much as possible to release the juices.

How to make the Preserved Lemons

Put about one tablespoon of Kosher salt in the bottom of a meticulously clean canning jar.

Kosher Salt

Kosher Salt

The safest way to do this is to boil the jar and the lid for 5 minutes first, let the jar cool, dry it off, then add the salt to the jar.

Meanwhile, wash the lemon very well. I use dish washing liquid. Make sure you rinse carefully removing all soap. Then, cut off the ends and slice it into wedges.

Lemon Ends

Lemon Ends

Remove any visible seeds.

Lemon Wedges

Lemon Wedges

Add the first 2 wedges to the bottom of the jar then cover with more salt.

Add a couple more wedges and cover them with salt. Now, because Meyer lemons are usually used for this dish and I was using regular lemons, I decided to add a pinch of sugar.

Lemon and Pinch of Sugar

Lemon and Pinch of Sugar

Just a pinch! It’s optional.

Squash down the lemon wedges and if you can add more wedges, do so. Finish with a topping of salt. Add about 2 tablespoons of salt for each lemon you use. You can see that my lemon wedges are above the rim of the jar.

Screw on the lid. This is akin to closing an overstuffed suitcase, but the idea is to make juice by squeezing the lemon wedges this way. I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to give each of the lemon wedges a squeeze as you put them in the jar. It’s funny that none of the recipes I saw online suggested this. If you feel that the lemon is not very juicy, add the juice of another lemon into your jar. Within a few hours, my jar was filled with lemon juice. The salt draws out the juices.

Dry off the jar if any liquid seeps out and store in your pantry or a cool, dark place for about 1 week.

Lemon Preserves Shelved

Lemon Preserves Shelved

Every few days, press the lemons down to release their juices then tightly screw on the lid again turning the jar upside down. Then, refrigerate for 1 month, again turning upside down every so often. It will keep in the refrigerator for up to 1 year.

Once pickled, a small amount can be used in a variety of dishes. I diced some of the rind on top of a piece of sockeye salmon last night for dinner. It was perfect! Tonight I’m sprinkling some on roasted asparagus and butternut squash.

Asparagus and Butternut Squash with Pickled Lemon

Asparagus and Butternut Squash with Pickled Lemon Bits

When you are ready to use the pickled lemons, rinse the salt off the lemon wedge(s) then add a small amount to a quick saute; add a pinch to mashed potatoes; add to a sauteed salmon dish; add to a roasting chicken; chop the rind and add it to a salad, etc. The flavor is intensely lemony but different from using straight lemon juice and/or zest so you only need a little bit. The peel (the zest and the pith), is the most valued part of this dish.

This is worth trying. You might become addicted! There are many variations using a variety of spices and salts. You can also pickle limes or oranges. 

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Update On My Weight Loss Using The CalorieCount Website

29 Jun Fashion Model Silhouette

In a recent post I wrote about the website called caloriecount.about.com. I mentioned that it wasn’t very easy to learn (it wasn’t). However, I stuck with it and so far have lost 4 lbs. I attribute this weight loss to cutting back on fats, sodium, and over-sized portions. I also increased my activity level.

My goal is to lose 10 lbs so that my BMI will be in the healthy range.

The caloriecount website notified me that I had a sedentary lifestyle. Boy, my feathers bristled at that one! If MY lifestyle was sedentary, what was the lifestyle of people who didn’t work out and were couch potatoes?

Other than calorie logging, the website also allows you to enter activities you do each day. They would include: showering, driving, sitting at a computer, weight lifting, gardening, throwing out the trash, preparing meals, grocery shopping, aerobics, stretching, circuit training – the list is almost endless. Yes, this is tedious and time-consuming until you get the hang of it. I now have a clearer picture of my daily activity level and although I still don’t agree with them about having a sedentary lifestyle, I have to admit that losing 4 lbs without starving myself does say something.

I began entering my foods and activities May 29.  Today is June 29.  That’s about a pound per week of weight loss.

The website (and you) calculate what you want your ultimate weight to be and that determines what your calorie count should be each day. Mine is 1600 calories per day.  

I had the hardest time reaching my minimum daily values for potassium (4,700 mg).  Once I began to realize that sweet potatoes and butternut squash (two of my favorite vegetables) were high in potassium, I incorporated them into more meals and now reach my potassium level more often. Other Potassium rich foods: prunes, bananas, spinach.) Potassium may neutralize the heart-damaging effects of too much salt.

I knew that processed foods contained salt but I wasn’t aware that natural foods like white potatoes, spinach (yes, spinach), and fish contained high amounts of sodium! By themselves, you probably won’t go over your daily limit. But when you salt your foods or forget to read food labels as I did when I bought some blueberry bagels, each one having over 700 mg of sodium, you can quickly go over your daily limit of 2300 mg or 1 teaspoon of salt.

I was also heavy handed with olive oil and butter. Now, I measure by tablespoon what I put over my salads or my roasted veggies. Lately, I skip olive oil altogether and sprinkle my own homemade chicken stock when making my roasted veggies. It tastes just as good, maybe better.

I expect to use the caloriecount website until I imprint in my mind what portion sizes I need so that I can eventually forego the use of measuring spoons and cups. Yes, I’ve been weighing my foods like walnuts, golden raisins (another good source of potassium), and edamame (also potassium rich).

About a week ago, I decided that I didn’t need to enter my activities into the website any longer. I have a good idea in my mind how active I have to be each day.  Today I worked out AND I did the laundry. Usually I save laundry day just by itself but my stamina has increased and now to do both in one day doesn’t phase me.

The caloriecount website allows you to have snacks and I juggle my food entries to allow me snacking pleasure in the evening when I watch tv. Usually I have edamame, or frozen tart cherries, or grapes for a snack. Sometimes 1/2 slice of rye bread spread with blue cheese if I’ve gone light on the sodium intake earlier in the day.

I only had one evening when I was still hungry and went over my daily 1600 calorie limit by about 300 calories. I still ate smart though: 1/2 can of tuna, 1 cup brown rice, 1/2 tablespoon peach preserves, 1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard (My own concoction that tastes Asian to me). When this wasn’t enough, I cooked a cup of mixed vegetables. Finally, I was satisfied. I must have been very active that day to still be that hungry!

Some days I felt stuffed and I didn’t want to eat my evening snacks…..but I had to in order to meet my daily requirements.  For example, sometimes I saved my almond milk (calcium) for my evening snack along with 1/2 oz of walnuts and maybe some fruit. Well, a couple of times I had to force myself to eat the snack because I am determined to meet my calcium requirements everyday! One particular night this week, I was so stuffed that I couldn’t stand the thought of a snack and skipped it altogether, to heck with not meeting my DV! (It wasn’t a calcium snack though. I eventually decided to get my calcium for breakfast every morning – OJ and almond milk.) I don’t intend to skip my snacks often.

Once I lose the rest of the weight, I won’t be limited to 1600 calories a day. I don’t know that I will continue to use the caloriecount website because I should have a good idea in my mind what I need to watch: sodium, fats, sugars and portion size. On the other hand, I do like seeing their graph showing that I met my iron, calcium, fiber, sodium, fats, saturated fats, potassium, carbohydrates, protein, Vitamin A, and cholesterol limits. (I think I named them all.) The graph shows if you’ve gone over or are under or are good.

If you need to lose weight, I highly recommend this weight loss website. Also, I should mention that I previously checked out other weight loss websites and none of them compared to caloriecount. It’s more thorough and contains more helpful information. It is worth the time you have to spend learning it. And, who knows, you may find it easier to navigate than I did!

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New Food Friday – Ataulfo Mango Curd

21 Jun Mango Curd2

I’m a fan of chef Rachel Allen and recently she prepared a dish called Lemon Curd on her PBS show.  It looked delicious and as I tried to google the recipe, I came across someone else’s recipe for Mango curd. Since I already had a couple of mangoes in the house, I decided to make the mango curd instead. And that’s what led me to this Friday’s New Food Friday.

Mango Trees

Mango Trees (sxc.hu/asifthebes)

I think the more popular mangos are the pretty red and green ones but my local Meijer also stocks the smaller, yellow Ataulfo mangoes. Don’t overlook these because they are small. In actuality, there is more meat to pit ratio. In my experience there is no taste difference and they ripen better.

Mango Branch sxc.hu sonnyleon 482816

Mango Branch (sxc.hu sonnyleon )

This is what the finished curd looks like. It’s a pretty yellow color and creamy. To me, the curd tastes like a cross between a pineapple and a lemon cream.

Mango Curd3

Mango Curd

It keeps in the fridge for a couple of weeks, maybe more.

Mango Curd Closeup

Mango Curd Closeup

I like mango curd on blueberry bagels for breakfast but you can spread it on toast, English muffins, scones, the possibilities are endless.

Mango Curd on Blueberry Bagel

Mango Curd on Blueberry Bagel

Store bought lemon or mango curd is expensive and they don’t always have the best ingredients in them. I’ve seen some jars go for over $7.00.  Some jar ingredients don’t even contain egg yolks, a key ingredient in mango curd or most curds. The egg yolk is what helps to make the curd a good, nutritious breakfast food.

As with most recipes, the ingredients can vary. Some people add lime juice. I made mine with lemon juice.

2 ripe Ataulfo mangoes

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/2 cup sugar

4 large egg yolks

4 tablespoons butter cut into pieces

pinch salt (if you are using salted butter, omit salt)

Wash then peel the mangoes  cut into pieces and scrape all the fruit off the pit using every last drop. Add the lemon juice, the sugar, the salt if you are using it, and blend in a food processor. I used my immersion blender and the carafe it came with. Puree. 

Now add the egg yolks and purée 15 seconds longer. The recipe I used (from Epicurious) said to strain the ingredients through a sieve. I didn’t see any need for this but it’s up to you.

Pour pureed ingredients into a bowl and place the bowl on top of a pan of simmering water. DON’T LET THE WATER TOUCH THE BOTTOM OF THE BOWL. Wisk or stir (I stirred) until thickened, about 10 minutes or until a thermometer reaches 170 F degrees. Remove the bowl from the pan and stir in butter, one piece at a time.

You can cover the curd with plastic wrap so a “skin” doesn’t form on top. I let mine cool and then poured it into a jar, let it cool some more, then screwed a lid on and put in the fridge. When it cooled, some water had formed on the lid and I wiped the water off. 

I saved my egg whites in canning jars and froze them. I will use them for baking breads to give them a nice shine. If you do this, allow the egg whites to defrost completely in the fridge. You could also make a white omelet with the egg whites.

I hope you try this.  You use fresh fruit, fresh egg yolks, and fresh butter. It’s delicious, nutritious, and avoids all the preservatives and other unpronounceable ingredients in store-bought curd. 

Once you try this, you will want to make other curds. I know I do!

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My Nutrition College Course and a Follow-up Website

4 Jun sxc.hu michtur

When I was in college, I took the course Nutrition 304. This was no light course. I was the only non-nursing student in the class at the University of Evansville in Indiana.

University of Evansville Rick Lewallen 2005

University of Evansville (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The year was 1985 and I was 5’8″ tall and 148 lbs. Sigh! I’m still 5’8″ but I’m not 148 lbs.!

I know my exact weight at that time because in this class we had to do a dietary project which consisted of logging information on data sheets recording our mood when we ate, the place where we ate, with whom, the times, the food and amount, and our observation.

Fruit basket (sxc.hu michaelaw)

Fruit basket (sxc.hu michaelaw)

If that wasn’t enough, there were also calculations that we had to do such as percentage of calories from fiber, fat, carbs, etc.  This was an 8-page project of instructions and forms which included an evaluation form where I had to make recommendations to myself for improving my eating habits and diet. It was thorough and tedious!

In case you’re wondering, I don’t remember all of this from memory, I stumbled upon the dietary project today tucked into my Nutrition Concepts and Controversies 3rd Edition soft cover text book (133 pages) that I’ve kept on my bookshelf all these years because it is excellent. I paid $27.95 for it. You can now purchase the 13th paperback edition (864 pages) on Amazon for $177.49! YIKES!

My project required that I record my food intake over the course of five days. My findings were that I rushed when I ate and needed to try to relax more before and during a meal. I was low on calcium, iron, and too high on fats. I improved my fiber intake and my carb intake during the project. 

Bell Peppers (sxc.hu ivanmarn )

Bell Peppers (sxc.hu ivanmarn )

It’s interesting that I notated that I felt bloated when I drank milk. It’s unfortunate that I didn’t pursue that because even though I was low in calcium, I’m sure the bloating feeling influenced the amount of calcium I consumed. If I didn’t work out so much and lift weights, I wonder if I would have had a broken bone or two by now because throughout the years, I really didn’t improve my calcium intake enough.

asparagus-and-tomatoes-sxc-hu-muffet1

Asparagus and Tomatoes (sxc-hu-muffet1)

In those days, I drank soda. My poison of choice was Dr. Pepper. It was shortly after this course that I gave up all soda. I also gave up beef. Many years later, I gave up ketchup (too much sugar). 

I received an “A” for the project and ultimately a “B” for the course. I was SO close to getting an “A” –  missed it by that much! 

Part of the reason that I bring all this  up is because I stumbled upon a website where you can log your food choices and activity level. It is an outstanding website: caloriecount.about.com

I had been logging my foods and activity previously on WebMD but it isn’t as detailed as caloriecount.about.com. There are over 250,000 foods listed in their database! There are over 5 million members. You can chose to keep all your records private, or you can share with the other members. 

One of the things I love about this website is that it is very detailed, and you know me, I love details! I can click a button and find out how many carbs I ate in a day and which foods had the carbs and the percentage of carbs in each of those foods! The same is true for sugar and other nutrients/vitamins. I learned I have been eating too much sugar without even realizing it! I don’t even add sugar to my coffee or my tea, yet I was getting too much sugar from the foods I ate. 

You get a nutrition report at the end of the day that shows whether you are too low, good, or too high for each nutrient/vitamin. This is very helpful because you can check how you are doing any time of the day and if you notice that you are too low in, let’s say calcium, you have the opportunity to correct that by drinking some milk, or eating some yogurt or consuming any food that contains calcium. I love this feature!

One of the great things about this website is that I have finally been able to get my needed amount of calcium each day. I am ecstatic over that!

One of the down sides to the site is that it takes a while to learn. I’ve been using it for two weeks now and I still don’t know everything about the site.  So, if you plan to use it, expect it to take some time until you get the hang of it. Keeping track of the foods you eat is the best way to lose weight. It’s been proven. 

Not only can you keep track of your foods and activity levels but when you mouse over words like sodium or potassium, you can click the link and it will take you to a page that explains all about it, listing the foods that are high in these nutrients. This website is like a continuation of my college nutrition course and it’s free!

There are two other levels to joining caloriecount.about.com. One is a Premium level for $3.33 per month. (One day free trial). The other includes a Dietitian service for $24.99 per month (Seven day free trial). I’m not pushing either, I’m just explaining what is available.

For the free service, you also have access to over 400,000 recipes, nutrition articles, a goal-setting page, and much more. I haven’t even scratched the surface myself.

So far I haven’t been able to lose any weight. I’ve been too busy trying to squeeze in all the vitamins and minerals that I need. Calcium, fiber, and potassium take a great deal of effort and planning for me.  I also made the mistake of buying bagels without reading the label. They contain over 700mg of sodium per bagel! They’re blueberry bagels so I don’t want to throw them out. Every day that I eat one, I’m over my limit for sodium.  They are also high in sugar. This is why I preach reading the labels. I don’t know why I forgot to do it for these bagels. Maybe because they looked so good!

It takes perseverance to meet your daily requirements but it’s worth it. I hope you will take a look at the caloriecount website. It might save you a broken bone!

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Signs of Spring: Wet Rains, Weeds, and Wandering Plants

25 May Columbine Flower

My garden is looking pretty and I’ve pulled a lot of weeds to get it to look that way!

Irises

Irises

We’ve had a lot of rain – like every other day. We’ve also had a roller coaster ride of temperatures, from low 40′s to mid-80′s.  It keeps going up and down!

First Rose of Spring

First Rose of Spring

When it’s cool, I make sure I get out in the backyard and get to work!

Flowering Thyme2

Flowering Thyme

I’ve had to mow the lawn weekly, unlike last spring/summer when we had the drought and I didn’t have to mow at all!

Boxwood

Boxwood

My neighbor’s lawn service shaved my Columbine flowers to the quick last summer but fortunately they came back full bloom. A resilient flower that mimics a resilient town in Colorado. When they spread out some more, I will transplant some to the front yard.

Columbine Flower

Columbine Flower

Half of the seeds I sowed in my vegetable garden died due to frost. FROST! In MAY! So, I went out yesterday and planted more seeds. My Cilantro survived though and it’s the first time I planted Cilantro.  Let’s hope there are no more frosts!

I have plants growing in my front yard also. Two of them,  I don’t know where they came from. One looks like a fir tree and it’s about 4 inches tall.  When it gets a little bigger, I’ll transplant it to my backyard. The other plant is a common spider plant. I transplanted it indoors last summer and the plant died. So, I was shocked to see another spider plant out front in the same spot where I removed the first one! The more I think I know about plants, the more they surprise me.

If you’re not growing a garden, you’re missing a lot of fun, good exercise, and Vitamin D.  It’s never too late to get started.

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New Food Friday – Kimchi or Kimchee or gimchi

17 May sxc.hu hobbesyeo Korean Dishes

As it sometimes happens, I was looking for something at my local Meijer and found something else instead. That is how I came upon Kimchi. At one point, it seemed I was hearing so much about Kimchi that I wanted to try it. So now you know why this Friday’s post is all about Kimchi. Kimchi is a food product popular in Korea.

sxc.hu winchild Kwang Reung National Park Korea

Kwang Reung National Park Korea (sxc.hu/ winchild)

I first heard about Kimchi on the PBS cooking show, The Kimchi Chronicles. Hugh Jackman starred in the first two episodes along with Marja (Allen) Vongerichten and Jean-Georges Vongerichten, a world-renowned chef. 

Don’t let Marja’s last name fool you. She is Korean. She was born of a Korean mother and a GI. At the age of three, she was put up for adoption and raised by an American mother in Virginia.  When she was 19, she reunited with her birth mother. In this reunion, she took many trips with her Korean family to Korea.

sxc.hu fliku Gwanghwamun Palace

Gwanghwamun Palace Seoul, Korea   (sxc.hu/fliku)

Those first episodes with Hugh Jackman were confusing to me. I couldn’t figure out whose show it was. I thought it was Jackman’s show. After the first few episodes, Jackman wasn’t there anymore so I assumed it was Marja’s show. But I wasn’t sure if she had any culinary background yet she seemed to be dominating the show.

sxc.hu vancanjay Korean Dancers

Korean Dancers   (sxc.hu/vancanjay)

In any event, I muddled through the confusion to find a new food: Kimchi.

When I spotted the jars of Kimchi at my local Meijer, there were two varieties: mild and hot. With the little knowledge I had of Kimchi from the show, I knew that the mild was going to be hot enough, so I opted for the mild Kimchi.

Mild Kimchee

Mild Kimchee

As it turned out, the further down I got in the jar, the hotter the Kimchi seemed to be. The spices had settled.

So what is Kimchi? Kimchi is fermented cabbage. It is very similar to sauerkraut and has a similar “crunch” factor. It’s made with Napa Cabbage and there is a distinct red broth surrounding the very packed-down cabbage made from red chili peppers.

Kimchee Ingredients

Kimchee Ingredients

I’d like to show you what was in the jar but I ate it all, sorry.

Gimchi, a very common side dish in Korea

Gimchi, a very common side dish in Korea (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was eager to taste this Kimchi although looking at it in the jar was not an appetizing sight. I wondered what I had gotten myself into! I stabbed some with my fork and tasted a bite. I didn’t care for it at first. I thought it was going to give me terrible indigestion, but that never happened.

Every day I would take a forkful and surprisingly, I began to like it. However, I won’t be running back to Meijer to buy another jar anytime soon but if someone served it to me, I would eat it without hesitation. But some people can’t turn off their desire for Kimchi.

Koreans for example, are obsessed with Kimchi. They even have a Kimchi museum.

Kimchi Field Museum in Seoul, Korea

Kimchi Field Museum in Seoul, Korea (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Korean families own special refrigerators designed to maintain the “optimal temperature for the stinky vegetables’ fermentation and preservation” and South Korean scientists spent years developing a recipe for a bacteria-free “space kimchi” to accompany their first citizen’s visit to the international space station.

When Koreans have their pictures taken, they don’t say “cheese” they say, “Kimchee!”

Claims about the nutritional benefits of Kimchi vary. Below are the Nutritional Facts from the Sun Yum jar.

Kimchee Nutrition Facts

Kimchee Nutrition Facts Click to Enlarge

I would think it would have some benefits because it is fermented but I found conflicting evidence about its health benefits, particularly when it comes to cancer.

According to health.com, Kimchee contains vitamins A, B, and C, but its biggest benefit may be in its “healthy bacteria” called lactobacilli, found in fermented foods like kimchi and yogurt. It is served at every meal in Korea and, as it is high in fiber and low in fat, it helps to keep Koreans out of the obesity statistics. Some studies show that there are compounds in Kimchee that may prevent cancer.

On the other hand, some scientists have identified some potential carcinogens in the food and that there is evidence that Kimchee might increase the risk of stomach cancer.  Some doctors suggest that kimchi is fine when eaten in moderation, along with a regular diet of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Koreans eat 40 pounds per year per person. That sounds like a lot to me. If you check the cancer statistics for Korea, you will find that stomach cancer is among the 5 leading causes of cancer death for both men and women.

sxc.hu ychi Escalators in Electronics Department Store in Seoul

Escalators in Electronics Department Store in Seoul, Korea   (sxc.hu/ychi)

If you are willing to try Kimchee, look for it in the refrigerated section of your grocer’s supermarket. I found mine where they keep the tofu, bean sprouts, and ready-made egg roll wrappers.

As far as the Korean photos in this post, I selected photos that showed the traditional Korea and the more modern Korea. I hope you enjoyed them.

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The Liebster Award

5 May Liebster Award

I’ve been nominated for the Liebster Award by EarthMermaid. Thank you for nominating me. I love the message your blog sends!

Liebster Award

Liebster Award

This award is for blogs with less than 200 followers. It’s a great way for bloggers to give a shout out to blogs they like and expand their network, while helping other bloggers gain a broader audience too.  It’s also a fun way for bloggers to get to know more about their followers and share some fun facts about themselves!

The Rules for Accepting the Award:

1. Post 11 facts about yourself and answer the 11 questions posed by your nominator.
2. Pass the award on to 11 bloggers with less than 200 followers and post 11 questions for them to answer.
3. Display the Liebster Blog Award in your post.

4. These rules are not written in stone.  If you break the rules, I will not call the  Liebster law.

My 11 Facts about Myself:

1. I love artichokes. I’m cooking 4 stuffed artichokes as we speak. You have to get good ones. All artichokes are not created equal and it is not easy to know good ones from tough ones.

2. I love broccoli rabe or some call it Rapini. I like to make a sandwich out of it on crusty bread or a sesame seeded Kaiser roll! I’m trying my hand at growing it in my garden this year and the seeds have already sprouted! Yipee!

3. Lamb chops are my favorite meat. Thank God they are too expensive for me to buy often!

4. My favorite type of movie is a psychological thriller.

5. I can’t have chocolate hazelnut spread in the house because I will eat half the jar (or more).

6. I like to fix things: toilets, jewelry, thread-bare gloves, broken shovels, wheels on lawn mowers, you name it. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle and I like to study the thing, whatever it is, and figure out how to fix it!

7. I save odds and ends parts so that I might have them for when I need to fix something (see #6).

8. I love chewy foods. Have I told you lately how much I love bulgur?

9. I love art and I love to visit art museums. I get lost in the paintings of some artists.

10. I have a crush on Jeremy Sisto. (But I also still love Charles Bronson.)

11. I vacuum spiders.

My answers to Earthmermaid’s questions:
1. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

Italy. I’ve got cousins there and I’ve visited them. I love the food and the artistic beauty there.

2. What do you like for breakfast?

Good question! I don’t like breakfast and I have trouble coming up with ideas for a breakfast that can get me excited! I usually force myself to eat breakfast I’m sorry to say. (However, I’m crazy about dinner!)

3. What about yourself do you like most?

My sense of humor. I crack myself up.

4. Which is more meaningful to you – strong mind or strong body?

Tough one! I am very into exercise so I’ll say exercise knowing that a good, strong mind automatically follows a healthy, well-exercised body!

5. What is your most efficient way of handling stress?

Exercise!

6. Are you a morning or night person?

I love the morning air so I’ll say morning but you’d never know it by the hours I keep.

7. What is your favorite form of exercise?

Kickboxing and boxing. I’ve got dvd’s for both. You don’t know how much fun it is (even if you do it alone) until you try it!

8. If you could do one thing to change the world, what would it be?

I’d make every person, especially those in countries that are always at war like Syria, or provoking war, like North Korea,  spend several years in therapy.

9. What books have you read that inspired you?

Seize the Day, The French Lieutenant’s Woman, The Swan Thieves, all my psych text books and all my Italian language books.

10. Guilty pleasure?

I’ve known a few pleasures but I don’t have the guilt!

11. Why did you start your blog?

I started my blog as a way to attract people to my freelance writing articles. My blog has taken on a life of its own and so I’m in the process of re-grouping so that I can go back to writing articles but also keep up with my blog. However, at this moment, house and health check-ups are interfering with those plans. I am encouraged because I am getting a lot done around here! Maybe I should take pictures and do a post about these accomplishments. Although it’s unfortunate that the trash men have picked up all my evidence this morning of all the bushes/trees/vines I hacked down/pruned/sawed! 

My Blog Nominations:

1. Gerard Villanueva

2. http://tylerbballen.wordpress.com/

3. griggwk

4. BlondeHealth

5. The Good Villager

6. Laura Dickey

7. http://mittsandmeasures.com/

Here are my questions for the winners:
1. What is your favorite book and why?
2. Who is your most admired person and why would you like to spend a day with him/her?
3. What is your favorite dish?
4. What is your favorite form of exercise?
5. What is your best skill at work?
6. What is your favorite or most used expression?
7. What makes you madder than a wet hen?
8. What was the nicest thing you’ve ever done for a stranger?
9. If you  could be a famous artist, who would you be?
10. What is your best dance step? (e.g. Cha-cha, tango, funky chicken, etc.)
11. What was the longest hike/walk you’ve ever taken and how long did it take you to recover?
Congratulations to the winners!
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New Food Friday – Meyer Lemons

19 Apr Meyer Lemon Sliced

Although I was sad to have to postpone New Food Friday, in hindsight, it turned out for the best. Preparing for my talk on blogtalkradio took more effort than I realized when I agreed to be a guest on the show. I thought I wouldn’t have enough to say. It turned out that I ran out of time and couldn’t finish what I had to say! Who knew? It was an interesting experience and fun to talk to Marilyn and Tatiana. I wish we could have chatted more.

Just to catch up, I’ve gotten a lot done in the short time I skipped New Food Friday. I dug up my garden in preparation for my new plants. What I usually do is collect all the leaves that huddle in a corner of my house and bury them in holes I dig in the garden once the weather turns warmer. This aerates the soil, feeds the plants as the leaves decompose, and eliminates the need to bag them, having to use plastic bags in the process. It’s a win-win.

I also got a car repair taken care of which included getting reimbursed and having to go to another repair shop to diagnose and fix the things that were botched up. I may be writing a post about it soon.

Since my lawn mower died and I tried fixing it myself to no avail,(it’s an electric push mower), I tried to get someone to fix it. Two repair places declined!  I had no alternative than to buy a new one. This is another story that deserves its own post because a police officer was involved! I kid you not. So much for my boring life! NOT!

So, without further ado, let’s discuss my experience with Meyer Lemons which is what brings me to this New Food Friday. One of my favorite drinks is lemonade, especially during the summer when I’ve just finished mowing the lawn. I’ve always used regular lemons for this drink until I spotted some Meyer Lemons on a visit to Wal-Mart while I was looking for lactose-free yogurt which they were supposed to have but didn’t. 

Meyer Lemons are different from regular lemons. As you can see from the packaging in the photo, Meyer lemons are sweet and tart.

Meyer Lemons

Meyer Lemons

But are they really? I sliced one in half and tasted it. It didn’t taste sweet at all. In fact, it had an odd taste but I reserved my judgment until it was time for me to use the second lemon from the package. It tasted exactly the same as the first one.

English: Cross sections of Eureka, Meyer, Yuzu...

Cross sections of Eureka, Meyer, Yuzu, and Pink Lemons, and 1 sweet Lime (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

These Meyer lemons looked like tangerines. They are a cross between a regular lemon and a mandarin orange.  To me, they taste like the juice squeezed from the skin of a tangerine. That is how I would describe it. Is that how they should to taste?  I have a hunch they should taste better than that! Maybe it depends on what orchard produced these lemons or maybe these lemons had been sitting around Wal-Mart for too long. Or perhaps they were left on the tree too long. It’s anyone’s guess.

The flavor didn’t stop me from adding the juice to my tea and honey

sxc.hu aga_wrr Tea with Lemon

Tea with Honey and Lemon  sxc.hu aga_wrr

or to make a glass of lemonade.

sxc.hu suzula  Glass of Lemonade

Glass of Lemonade sxc.hu suzula

Neither tasted as good as a regular lemon in these drinks.

These Meyer lemons look good, they just don’t taste that good I’m sorry to say.

I’d be willing to try them again. Next time I’ll buy them from Meijer and maybe I’ll have more luck. If it turns out that they are better, I will amend this post. 

But for now, these Meyer lemons are getting a thumbs down from me! Booooo! Have you used Meyer lemons? If so, what has your experience been like?

UPDATE 4/23/13: I found Meyer lemons at my local Meijer yesterday and made myself a glass of lemonade. So far, these Meyer lemons are an improvement over the ones I bought at Wal-Mart. 

Meyer Lemons2

Meyer Lemons2

I don’t know if you can see the difference from the photos, but the Meijer Meyer  lemons (hehehe) are more yellow where the Wal-Mart Meyer lemons were more orange.

I paid $2.69 at Meijer for Sunkist, a well-respected brand, of Meyer lemons. There were 5 to a package. The Wal-Mart Meyer lemons contained only 4 lemons even though they weighed the same. They cost $1.98.  But you’re not saving anything if you have to throw the produce out and if it doesn’t taste good. Also, I’d rather have 5 lemons instead of 4 even if the overall weight is the same. For one thing, there would be more skin and therefore more zest for recipes with 5 lemons. 

Speaking of zest and skin, when I squeezed the Meijer Meyer lemon for my lemonade, the skin cracked very easily which made it difficult to squeeze. That’s not such a big deal because I’ve had regular lemons do that on occasion. You can see from the photo that the skin was rather thick. It’s actually very edible. I can see making preserves out of these lemons!

The packaging of the Sunkist Meyer lemons didn’t say anything about them being sweet as the Wal-Mart lemons claimed.  These Sunkist Meyer lemons are much less “puckery” than regular lemons. I didn’t get a strong “tangerine” taste that I got with the Wal-Mart lemons, these had a much milder, more pleasant tangerine-lemon taste.

Meyer Lemon Sliced

Meyer Lemon Sliced

I’ve recently seen regular lemons sell for $.63 each at Meijer. So, the Meijer Meyer lemons would be cheaper! 

By sheer luck, I found the castelvetrano olives today at Kroger; the ones that Gerard mentioned in the comment section below. I combined an olive with the Meyer lemon and enjoyed the combination! 

I will be having thin slices of these lemons with salmon for dinner along with a side of brown rice and a stuffed artichoke. Yum!

OK, so Meyer lemons now get a thumbs up!

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A Followup to my Talk on Blogtalkradio

7 Apr sxc.hu/Cieleke - Juggling

Although we had some technical issues connecting, I was able to give my talk today about humor and health on The Wellness Coaches show on blogtalkradio. 

Any thoughts I had about having lost my New York accent years ago were dashed after I listened to the broadcast later on.  It’s like I never left! How can that be possible? You can take the girl out of Queens, but you can’t take Queens out of the girl!

Because I got started on the show a little late, I was unable to finish my last anecdote about humor and its relation to stress so I’d like to finish it here.

When I worked at IUPUI (Indiana University, Purdue University at Indianapolis) they often offered free workshops during the lunch hour that included special guest speakers. One guest speaker was Dr. Steve Allen, Jr. who specialized in Family Practice medicine and to me, he was a very special guest.

As it turned out Dr. Allen is the son of the famous comedian, Steve Allen who was the first host of the Tonight Show. Many comedians have copied his shtick! Leno copied Allen’s Man On The Street routine. Carson’s Carnack the Magnificent routine, was also copied. But you know what they say: Imitation is the greatest form of flattery! Comedians revere Steve Allen.

For those who are unfamiliar with Steve Allen’s work, Allen was not only a comedian, he was also a composer, lyricist, conductor, singer, and pianist. He wrote over 50 books. He also wrote over 8,500 songs, at least two of which you will be familiar: “This Could Be The Start Of Something Big” and “Impossible” recorded by Perry Como. There was just no end to his talent, he was brilliant. My family would tune into his show weekly and join him and his audience in hysterical laughter.

So, here was his son before me talking about humor and stress. I wondered how a son of such a famous father (and mother too, Jayne Meadows)

Steve Allen and wife Jayne Meadows at the 39th...

Steve Allen and wife Jayne Meadows at the 39th Emmy Awards – Sept. 1987 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

could manage under such a big shadow! It turns out he manages very well! He asked his audience, which included a fairly large group of well-dressed, well-mannered, educated, and reserved employees to take the three scarves that he passed out to each of us, and juggle them up in the air.

We all stood up and tried to juggle these wisps of fabric. They were so thin and fragile, there was no way we could keep them up in the air. Soon, most of us were bending over picking them up or retrieving them from the seat in front of us. Lots of laughter ensued. Dr. Allen managed to turn this group into a bunch of rowdy pre-schoolers! He says that juggling brings the creative use of silliness and that he gets the same result when giving his talk to Nobel Prize winners or janitors!! Laughter = release of tension.

sxc.hu/Cieleke - Juggling

Juggling with Dr. Allen, Jr.      sxc.hu/Cieleke -

Now, just because we were being silly, doesn’t mean that something positive wasn’t happening or that he wasn’t being serious in his talk! This was a fun way for employees to spend their lunch time and I was happy to be a participant, especially because I have always been a big fan of Steve Allen, the comedian.

Dr. Allen won several professional awards for his work in stress management. By the way, I still have the scarves.

Since I consider myself more of a student of humor and laughter rather than an expert, I searched for information online about humor from a more technical point of view that was from the experts. One site was from Harvard that discusses how the brain processes humor: http://www.hms.harvard.edu/hmni/On_The_Brain/Volume16/HMS_OTB_Spring10_Vol16_No2.pdf

Another site was from howstuffworks.com http://science.howstuffworks.com/life/laughter1.htm

Both these sites are educational and funny! I encourage you to take a look!

So how does humor fit in when developing healthy living habits is such a struggle sometimes?

One example  of how it fits in is that if you are at work and you’re under a lot of stress and can’t exercise to relieve or reduce your stress, you can use humor in the form of reading a funny book on your break (I recommend a Far Side book) or watch something silly on YouTube.

Less planning is involved with using humor for good health. You don’t need to change clothes or hire a personal trainer or go to a class. You don’t need to follow a certain recipe or prepare a meal as you do when you are following the Mediterranean diet. You can just turn on the TV or computer and look for a comedy!

So, the bottom line is: humor is more accessible in the arsenal of healthy habits.

Laughing relaxes us. It relaxes our muscles. It puts us in a positive frame of mind. It stimulates our brain and makes us happy. It lowers our blood pressure. It increases creativity. It reinforces group cohesiveness, improves problem-solving ability, and increases endorphins and dopamine.

Last but not least, laughter is contagious like a cold and can spread!

I would love to hear your comments about what you thought of the show and/or your thoughts about humor and laughing. Any funny stories would be welcome too!

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My Radio Gig – Call-in and Live Chat Details

2 Apr sxc-hu-pmos-phonebooth-and-Big-Ben

As I mentioned in a previous post, you can call in to the Blogtalkradio show to ask a question or make a comment about my talk on humor and its connection to wellness and good health. 

sxc-hu-pmos-phonebooth-and-Big-Ben

Phone Booth and Big Ben sxc-hu-pmos

I’ll be the guest speaker April 7th, this Sunday at 11:00 a.m.  

You can call in to the Wellness Coaches show who are the hosts and will be interviewing me. The number is: (917) 889-9079. This is a free call on Skype.

sxc.hu Cieleke - Girl with Phone

Caller with a Question      sxc.hu/Cieleke

You also have the option to use the live chat feature on their webpage with any questions or comments you’d like to make.

If you decide you like the show, you can sign up on Blogtalkradio to receive automatic reminders to hear your favorite shows or any show you like: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/?glogout=true

Just FYI, the Wellness Coaches shows are listed under the category of Self Help. There are 19 categories in all.

I hope you will listen to my talk. Since you know that my blog is about good health, get your unbuttered popcorn, your diet soda pop, and maybe even your mom and pop together to listen in; it should be an interesting show!

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Spring Blows Away New Food Friday

21 Mar sxc.hu Sindala Spring

Spring is now here, at least according to the calendar. Here in Indianapolis we are having a cold snap with freezing temperatures and cold winds!

I have been having a nice “rest” (???) this winter because we have had little snow so there was no shoveling of the pretty white stuff (or in my case, sweeping because I use a straw broom that I prefer over a shovel.)

Spring means opening the windows and letting in the fresh air while I pollute my indoors with cleaning products to do my spring cleaning!

sxc.hu julosstock Super Woman

Super Woman Marcella in Cleaning Gear  sxc.hu julosstock

It means getting my lawn mower fixed (finally). Or, shopping for a new one if it can’t be fixed. It means:

mowing

planting

transplanting

weeding

pruning

sawing (the more stubborn branches)

edging

digging

hauling (dead limbs, trees, etc.)

watering

mulching

fertilizing

shopping (for seeds, tools, fertilizers, etc.)

gluing (my bathroom wallpaper)

painting

sanding

sweeping (the garage, the leaves, etc.)

Whew! Did I miss anything? I’m sure I did. I’ll be busy as a bee.

sxc.hu YOdesigner Busy Bee

Busy Bee Marcella   sxc.hu YOdesigner

In other words, the sad truth is that New Food Friday is going on hiatus.  Instead of every week, New Food Friday will now be every month, unless I find a product or new food that I just can’t wait to tell you about. You can expect the next New Food Friday April 19th.

New Food Friday may be on hiatus but what about me?

The upside of all this spring cleaning is that it means more exercise for me. I know, for me it’s an upside, can you imagine that?

Whirling Dervish Dancer

Whirling Dervish Dancer (Photo credit: Sarah_Ackerman)

With any luck, I also hope to have more time to write about articles concerning a variety of health issues.

I wonder if I could hire a Whirling Dervish to do my windows?

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New Food Friday – Almond Milk

15 Mar Milk Mustache-flickr

In my search to find lactose free foods that are high in calcium, I found almond milk. This particular brand (Silk), has 45% DV calcium with no lactose. I am very pleased to say that it is also delicious and is therefore the pick for this New Food Friday!

I love almonds, who doesn’t? So it’s no surprise that I love almond milk too.

sxc.hu sateda Almond Heart

Almond Heart sxc.hu sateda

Almond milk tastes like chocolate milk without the chocolate. But before you lactose intolerant folks run out and buy some, you should know that there are differences in the various brands of this type of milk in the event you want to cook with it. Aye, there’s the rub. There’s always a catch, isn’t there?

First, what about freezing it? Since an opened container of almond milk should be used before 7-10 days, I wondered if I could freeze some in the event I couldn’t drink it all in that time span.

According to the Silk website, the product changes in texture when thawed although you may still use it for frozen dessert recipes.

As it turned out, I had no problem drinking one cup daily for breakfast and finishing the container before the 10 days was up. The almond flavor goes great while eating a banana. I’m not a cold cereal eater in the wintertime, but I bet almond milk would be great in a bowl of cereal with sliced bananas!

So, can you heat it? Yes, you can with the Silk brand of almond milk.  I can’t wait to make hot chocolate with it. By the way, the recipes on their website are decadent! See http://silk.com/recipes 

If you can heat it, then you can bake with it so I made a batch of carrot/walnut/raisin muffins with one cup of almond milk.  

Carrot.Walnut.Raisin Muffin

Carrot/Walnut/Raisin Muffin made with Almond Milk

They came out great!

Many people make their own almond milk. It’s not that difficult. Here is one example.

Almonds and almond milk are very good sources of Vitamin E. Vitamin E helps with less cognitive decline as you age.  Some say almonds keep you thinking clearly and boost brain power. So, the benefits of almonds and almond milk go further than adding calcium to your diet and helping folks with lactose intolerance.

One cup of Almond milk also contains 25% DV of vitamin D. Vitamin D as you know, is the sunshine vitamin. We don’t get as much sunshine in the winter as we do in the summer when we’re outdoors more. It isn’t easy to get the vitamin D we need everyday so almond milk can help you reach those dietary needs too.

Here is the nutritional information.

Almond Milk Nutrition Facts

Almond Milk Nutrition Facts

 

This is an almond grove.

sxc.hu pv Almond Trees

Almond Trees sxc.hu pv

 

This is an almond branch with almonds.

sxc.hu pv Closeup of Unhusked Almonds

Closeup of Unhusked Almonds sxc.hu pv

 

This is your brain on almonds and almond milk.

sxc.hu plrang This is Your Brain

This is Your Brain on Almond Milk   sxc.hu plrang

The milk mustache in the Featured column is by Vengel Crimson - flickr

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My Radio Gig – An Update

13 Mar sxc.hu martwork ON AIR

As I mentioned in this post, I will be a speaker on Blogtalkradio on April 7, which isn’t that far away!

Microphone

Microphone sxc.hu katagaci Moi Cody

I wanted to give you more details about the show and also to give a heads up to my newer followers who may not have seen my first post on the link above .

The hosts of the show are The Wellness Coaches, Marilyn Jess and Tatiana Abend.

Wellness Coach Marilyn is a registered dietitian. You can learn more about Marilyn here. Wellness Coach Tatiana facilitates Vtrim© courses presented by the University of Vermont. You can learn more about Tatiana here.

If you would like to listen to their previous shows on Blogtalkradio, you can listen here. All their shows are related to health and wellness. Sound familiar? It is no wonder we’ve gotten together since we have the same interests: your good health!

My talk will be about humor and its relationship to your good health. This is a call-in show so if you have a question or a comment, feel free to call in. Every show is 11:00 a.m. Sunday morning. I will post the call-in phone number one week before the show.

sxc.hu martwork ON AIR

ON AIR sxc.hu martwork

My goal is that you take away some piece of information from my talk that you didn’t know before and that you enjoy your time spent with Marilyn, Tatiana, and me.

If you miss the show, it will be archived so that you can download it and listen to it any time from the Blogtalkradio website, or from the link on my post which I will publish on my blog following my talk.

sxc.hu drella RADIO

RADIO sxc.hu drella

I’m looking forward to it and hope that you are too!

P.S. If you have an entrepreneurial spirit and would like to know more about the creator of Blogtalkradio, its inception and what is in store for its future, (tuning in to Blogtalkradio on your car radio)

sxc.hu mans1ay3r  Car Radio

Car Radio   sxc.hu mans1ay3r

listen to the interview with our own WordPress Jacqueline Jax  and Blogtalkradio’s CEO Alan Levy.

Keep tuning in FOR YOUR GOOD HEALTH!

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New Food Friday – Kumato Tomato

8 Mar Sliced Kumato Tomatoes

No matter how you slice it, tomatoes are one of the most versatile fruits/vegetables known. My local Meijer was advertising the award winning Kumato Tomato and I was looking forward to giving it a try.

Packaged Award Winning Kumato

Packaged Award Winning Kumato

Welcome Kumato Tomato to New Food Friday.

The Kumato tomato is a brownish red tomato. It is very similar to a Black Russian tomato I grew a few years ago in my garden. My Russian tomato was not pleasing to the eye. The Kumato however, is pleasing to the eye and the taste buds.  It is mild flavored and not very acidic. It’s juicy and small in shape. They hold up well on the kitchen table and are firm enough in a sandwich. But other than that, I didn’t think they were worthy of the hype! Maybe I’ve eaten too many tomatoes in my life. To me, these were just another tomato. My Russian tomatoes probably spoiled the color “surprise” for me, but unless you’ve also had brown tomatoes, you may want to give these tomatoes a try. 

sxc.hu JohnMason Multi-colored Tomatoes

Multi-colored Tomatoes      sxc.hu JohnMason

As long as I’m writing about tomatoes today, let’s see what we can do with them.

Sandwiches

Tomatoes are great in a BLT (Bacon, lettuce, and tomato) sandwich. When was the last time you had one, slathered with mayonnaise?

sxc.hu winjohn BLT

BLT   sxc.hu winjohn

It’s that combination of the salt in the bacon and the sweetness of the tomato that makes it one of the most popular sandwiches in America!

Pizza

Tomatoes can hold their own in a pizza. Whether sliced or in a tomato sauce, Italians and Americans alike love their pizzas!

sxc.hu ATunska Tomato Pizza

Tomato Pizza   sxc.hu ATunska

Other countries have their versions too!

Bruschetta

Is there anyone who doesn’t know what bruschetta is? It’s become as popular as pizza in this country! Tomatoes are the basis of bruschetta. I like mine with chopped garlic, chopped Italian parsley, salt, pepper, and a good olive oil.  All the ingredients have to be at room temperature.

sxc.hu spiridus Bruschetta

Bruschetta   sxc.hu spiridus

I don’t bother toasting Italian bread, slicing it, and putting a mound of bruschetta on top. I like my own small bowl of bruschetta and a good loaf of crispy Italian bread to dunk. It is often a meal for me in the summer with my garden tomatoes. Variations call for chopped basil or oregano.  I think I even saw one with balsamic vinegar. No thank you. The simpler the better for me!

Salads

The photo of this salad was as close as I could find of a salad that looked like one of my salads.

sxc.hu artvisions Salad

Salad   sxc.hu/artvisions

My salads are a meal in themselves. As you can see in the photo, there is meat, cheese, lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, shredded carrots, etc. Tonight I had one of my salads similar to this one.

I like to layer my salads. The first layer was romaine lettuce. Romaine because the escarole looked wilted at Meijer so I bought romaine lettuce instead but otherwise, escarole always goes into my salads. The next layer was the Kumato tomato slices. Then, a specialty cheese called Bella Vitano by Sartori.  Sartori makes award winning cheeses. If you ever come across their cheeses in the supermarket, pick one up. They make a wide variety that will make your mouth water. I highly, highly recommend them. Make note; that was TWO highly’s.

Back to my salad, I had leftover rapini (broccoli rabe) and I put spoons-full of that in strategic places around my salad bowl. I had leftover green string beans, they went in. I like to roughly shred a carrot on top of my salads for color and a bit of sweetness so that went in. I remembered I had walnut halves that I had sprinkled some Garam Masala on, they went in too. I baked a piece of wild salmon while I was creating my masterpiece. Salt and pepper went over the salad as did Chianti vinegar and a good quality olive oil. When my salmon was done, I placed it on top of the salad. Then I dolloped some thousand island dressing on the salmon. If I make anything consistently good, it’s my salads.

This was fabulous if I do say so myself: the bitter rapini with the sweet Kumato tomatoes and the creamy, nutty, sharp cheese with the green beans, not to mention the salmon with the thousand island dressing and the crunch of the walnuts, the sweetness of the carrots…..what can I say. I am a well-fed happy foodie! I suppose I should have taken a photo but the photo wouldn’t do it justice!

My salads are kitchen sink salads. If you haven’t tried leftovers in a salad, you should. Leftovers like: roasted medium rare sliced leg of lamb, broiled or roasted chicken, broccoli, asparagus, beans, they all shine in a fresh salad. In the summer, I often add fruit like, fresh peach slices or fresh mango chunks. But you don’t have to wait until summer to make a good salad! Now is a good time for a salad!

sxc.hu merala Clock with Tomatoes

Clock with Tomatoes sxc.hu merala

Salad anyone?

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New Food Friday – Lactose Free Dairy Products

1 Mar sxc.hu wendyrmelg Yogurt Parfait

As each day goes by, we all become more and more lactose intolerant. Yes, that is the sad news folks. Gone are the days when we could drink bottle after bottle of milk with no aftereffects.

sxc.hu Cylonka Baby drinking Milk

Baby drinking Milk sxc.hu/Cylonka

Lactose intolerance increases with age. The good news is that New Food Friday will be covering a few of the most common dairy foods that you CAN eat that won’t cause intestinal distress.

These foods are:

Milk

Ice cream

Yogurt

Cheese

I’m not talking about dairy substitutes. For example, I bought a new Silk product that was a soy-based yogurt. Ick, is all I can say. I tried two varieties. Both were very watery. The second one I couldn’t even finish it was so bad. 

I’m talking about dairy products that include the lactose enzyme which enables you to eat it without any digestive distress.

sxc.hu iamiam Dairy Farm

Dairy Farm sxc.hu/iamiam

Ice Cream

The first dairy product is Breyers Lactose Free Vanilla Ice Cream. This is sinfully good. I think it tastes even better than their regular vanilla ice cream.

sxc.hu LotusHead Ice Cream Sundae

Ice Cream Sundae sxc.hu LotusHead

Although I am not a big ice cream eater, I found it very difficult to not go for a second helping. Those of us who watch our weight should not allow this ice cream in the house because it is too tempting and too good for our own good! So, sadly, I can’t recommend it if you are lactose intolerant! You would have to have a will of iron to just eat 1/2 cup and who among us has that?

sxc.hu lekyu Dairy Farm wCows

Dairy Farm with Cows sxc.hu/lekyu

Yogurt

The next lactose free product is Yoplait Lactose Free Yogurt. Yoplait’s Lactose Free Yogurt comes in four flavors. My two favorites are the Peach and the Vanilla. The Strawberry and the Cherry are also very good. Each are 170 calories per 6 oz container so they are not low calorie. They also contain 20% calcium per container including Vitamin D. While I am not a big fan of yogurt, I can easily make an exception for Yoplait’s Lactose Free. It is delicious and I can recommend it heartily! I feel satisfied after one container and am not tempted to get a second one. That is the good news.

The bad news is that my local Meijer discontinued carrying it! Yoplait has a store locator on their website so you might find their products using the locator.

Then again, you might not. It is still showing that my local Meijer stocks the lactose free yogurt. It also shows that my local Wal-Mart stocks the lactose free Yoplait. Well, I went to the Wal-Mart near me and they didn’t have it either. So much for the Yoplait store locator. I hope you have better luck than me! (And by the way, I’ve contacted Yoplait about all this.)

But the good news is that  I recently learned that Chobani Greek yogurt is 95% lactose free! 

The bad news is that Greek yogurt is more expensive than Yoplait Lactose Free Yogurt.

Not all Greek yogurt is equal. For example, I bought Meijer Greek yogurt and it only contained 15% calcium per container.  Strangely enough, on many websites touting Yoplait Lactose Free Yogurt, the nutritional value for calcium shows 50% not 20%! I don’t know where they are getting their information but the containers I bought all showed 20%.

Stoneyfield also makes a lactose free yogurt but the manager at the Wal-Mart I went to said they discontinued it.

It doesn’t make any sense to me that these lactose-free products are being discontinued when companies must know that as people age they become more lactose intolerant! Since baby boomers are coming of age where, once they realize they have become lactose intolerant, they will be demanding  more lactose-free products.

Symptoms for lactose intolerance can be mild to severe depending on how much lactase your body is still making: bloating, abdominal cramps, stomach pains, diarrhea  nausea, and vomiting. 

It’s the lactase enzyme in your small intestine that breaks down the lactose (without me getting too technical on you). When you’re a baby, your body produces a lot of lactase which enables you to drink milk, your primary source of nutrition.

I found a Stonyfield Greek Plain Yogurt that contains 30% calcium. I will probably be buying that again.

Cheese

Many of the harder cheeses like cheddar or Swiss are more easy to digest. You may be able to tolerate them.

sxc.hu VictorBR Cheeses

Cheeses sxc.hu/VictorBR

The only way to know is to try them. Generally, the harder the cheese and the longer it ages, the less lactose it contains. Check the label too. It might show the lactase enzyme in the ingredients.

Milk

While I haven’t tried this product myself, you can buy milk called Lactaid. Lactaid milk comes from cows not treated with artificial growth hormones, according to the Lactaid website. It contains the same nutrients as regular milk and is lactose free. If you still suffer from lactose intolerance because you haven’t tried any of the lactose free dairy products that I recommended, don’t blame me! But there’s no sense in crying over spilled milk.

sxc.hu laswift Spilled Milk

Spilled Milk       sxc.hu laswift

The next time you go to the supermarket, pick up a few lactose-free products and let me know how you liked them.

UPDATE: Good news! Bryers now has a chocolate lactose-free ice cream! I have learned that Greek yogurts (the thicker yogurts) contain less lactose so you may be able to tolerate them. And the variety of Greek yogurts is going through the roof! Every brand seems to make a Greek yogurt now and the flavors are divine! My favorite is Lime. It tastes like a cheesecake to me. Try them!

New Food Friday – Tangelos

22 Feb Orchard sxc.hu/winterdove

Have you tried a tangelo? They look like an orange but are much less acidic. They are very juicy and very sweet. I am hooked on tangelos and so this post for New Food Friday is about tangelos!

Tangelos are grown specifically in Florida.

 I am on my third 5-lb bag of tangelos and I have one tangelo for breakfast everyday.

Bag of Oranges sxc.hu/JR3

Bag of Oranges sxc.hu/ JR3

I used to eat an orange everyday but they are too acidic for me. Once I tasted a tangelo, I was a convert.

Here are the Nutrition Facts.  

Nutrition Facts-Tangelo

Nutrition Facts-Tangelo Click to enlarge

 

When you take into account the smaller size of the tangelo compared to an orange, note that the average size orange is 180 grams and the average tangelo is 109 grams so don’t let the difference in calcium throw you (or the other differences either).

For myself, I prefer the smaller fruit. Oranges have morphed into a fruit that is so big that when I ate them, I eventually decided to just eat half. I wish they would stop growing fruit to such an enormous size! Even apples are ridiculously large these days. I wonder why this super-sized fruit growth hasn’t been addressed by health experts as they have addressed portion sizes for everything else, haven’t they!

Orange Branches sxc.hu pepo

Orange Branches sxc.hu pepo

Tangelos make a good snack during the day because they are low in calories and you can’t scarf them down in a hurry.

Tangelo Waiting to be Peeled

Tangelo Waiting to be Peeled

Tangelos are a cross between a tangerine and a grapefruit. This is surprising to me because they don’t look or taste anything like a grapefruit.   They are very sweet. There are several varieties and the ones I’ve had so far vary in the amount of seeds.

The tangelo in my photo had no seeds. The last bag of tangelos I bought had more seeds than the other two bags but for the most part, there are few seeds.

Peeled Tangelo

Peeled Tangelo

Also, the type that I bought was not that easy to peel which makes it a challenge to avoid breaking the membranes and losing a drop of that delicious juice!

On the other hand, juice is going everywhere in the little Italian town of Ivrea. As you can see in the photo, the Italians have other uses for oranges besides eating them and cross-breeding them.

Annual Carnival in the Italian city of Ivrea sxc.hu JosipBroz

Annual Carnival in the Italian city of Ivrea sxc.hu JosipBroz

In this photo they are celebrating the Annual Carnival in the Italian city of Ivrea where they throw oranges at each other.

In the Valencia region of Spain, they hold a tomato-throwing festival. (Ironic isn’t it that they are throwing tomatoes and not oranges in Valencia!)

La_Tomatina Wikipedia - flydime

La_Tomatina Wikipedia – flydime

Fruit throwing is one way to get out your aggression. It’s also good exercise and apparently fun, therefore good for your health, although you could be hurt by getting hit. But at least it isn’t a bullet, some would say. Maybe we need to throw more fruit in America.

Would you stand under an orange tree? I wouldn’t, not even if the trees were on a patio with a fountain!

A fountain in the Patio of Oranges within the grounds of the Cathedral of Sevilla sxc.hu sueanna

A fountain in the Patio of Oranges within the grounds of the Cathedral of Sevilla Click to see the oranges. sxc.hu sueanna

It’s a good way to get unexpectedly clunked on the head.

Once I sat under an almond tree and an almond fell on me. It was like a missile and it hurt like heck! That’s right, a little old almond. They’re not so little when they are unhusked!

So,  for the time being, I’d rather eat than throw oranges or tomatoes or tangelos. Then again, maybe I’m just comparing apples to oranges.

Apples and Oranges sxc.hu cherrycoke.jpg

Apples and Oranges sxc.hu cherrycoke.jpg

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New Food Friday – Blackstrap Molasses

15 Feb Windmill sxc.hu/http://www.thebend.be/dimitri_c

You don’t hear much about blackstrap molasses and that is why this post is about blackstrap molasses for this New Food Friday.

Blackstrap Molasses

Blackstrap Molasses

What is the blackstrap in blackstrap molasses? The name ‘blackstrap’ originates from the black ‘strap’ or mark that distinguished the casks of molasses from the casks of raw sugar that  shipped as part of the same cargo.

(see: http://www.processedfreeamerica.org/resources/health-news/287-the-many-benefits)

What about sulphured and unsulphured molasses?

This jar of blackstrap molasses is not sulphured.  Blackstrap molasses can be sulphured or unsulphured. Make sure you check the label when you buy it.

Sulphured molasses: Sulfur dioxide is added as a preservative to keep young, raw sugar cane fresh until it is processed and to preserve the molasses byproducts produced from it. 

Unsulphured molasses: is made from matured cane plants that have been allowed to ripen naturally in the field.

Molasses is made by boiling sugar three times. Each time it goes through a boiling process, it gets darker and the flavor becomes more intense and somewhat bitter. (Just like when you try to make caramel and burn the sugar!)

What is the Nutritional Value of Blackstrap Molasses?

Blackstrap Molasses Nutrition Facts

Blackstrap Molasses Nutrition Facts – Click to enlarge

Blackstrap molasses has a very strong taste. I’ve made the mistake of adding too much to a recipe once. I’ll never make that mistake again. It will take over the flavor of whatever you add it to so be careful not to use too much when you use it.

On the other hand, I don’t know anything that has more Iron than blackstrap molasses. One tablespoon contains 70% of your Daily Value (DV). This is beneficial to pregnant women, those who are anemic, and vegetarians who don’t eat meat.

I don’t remember what I paid for this jar of House of Herbs Blackstrap Molasses, but I do remember that it was the least expensive molasses on the shelf of my local Meijer. 

You can use blackstrap molasses to make baked beans, gingerbread, and gingersnap cookies. 

I made whole wheat bread and although my recipe didn’t call for blackstrap molasses, I have other bread recipes that do, so I added it to this recipe. I often combine recipes, sometimes due to lack of ingredients. For example, I didn’t have the oats needed for the recipe that required blackstrap molasses, so I added the molasses to a different recipe that didn’t require oats.

This is a very delicious whole wheat bread recipe. I highly recommend it for its nutritional value and nutty taste. (I ate three slices when it cooled!)

2 Loaves Whole Wheat Bread

2 Loaves Whole Wheat Bread

I ate two slices for breakfast toasted!

Whole Wheat Toast

Whole Wheat Toast

This bread would be great smeared with peanut butter and probably Nutella would work too. I tried spreading Apricot jam on it and that didn’t work for me but then I’m not that fond of Apricots.

Here is the recipe:

5 1/2 to 6 cups unsifted white flour

2 cups unsifted whole wheat flour 

3 tbsp sugar (I used brown sugar)

4 teas salt

1/4 cup molasses

2 pkgs active dry yeast

2 cups milk

3/4 cup water

1/4 cup butter or margarine

Combine flours. (I don’t combine the flours as the recipe suggests.)

Wheat sxc.hu/umayr http://www.communicate.pk

Wheat sxc.hu/umayr http://www.communicate.pk

In a large bowl thoroughly mix 2 1/2 cups flour mixture, sugar, salt, and undissolved yeast.

By the way, I like to use white whole wheat flour. If you haven’t tried it, I recommend it.

Mill sxc.hu/linder6580/Robert Linder

                                                                             Mill                                                                                                                                                      sxc.hu/linder6580/Robert Linder

Combine milk, water, butter in a saucepan. Heat over low heat until liquids are very warm (120F – 130F). Butter does not need to melt. Gradually add to dry ingredients and beat 2 minutes at medium speed of electric mixer, scraping bowl occasionally. Add 1 cup flour mixture. Beat at high speed 2 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. Stir in enough additional flour mixture to make a stiff dough. Turn out onto lightly floured board and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 to 10 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap, then a towel. Let rest 20 minutes.

Divide dough in half. Roll each half to a 14 x 9-inch rectangle. Shape into loaves. Place in 2 greased 9 x 5 x 3-inch loaf pans. Brush loaves with Peanut oil (I omitted this step or you could brush them with melted butter.) Cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate 2 to 24 hours.

When ready to bake, remove from refrigerator. Uncover dough carefully. Let stand at room temperature 10 minutes. Puncture any gas bubbles which may have formed with a greased toothpick. Bake at 400F about 40 minutes or until done. Remove from pans and cool on wire racks.

You may have noticed that this recipe calls for kneading.

Kneading

Kneading on a counter  sxc.hu/arinas74 Ariel da Silva Parreira

I do all my kneading in a very large bowl with a somewhat flat bottom. This way I don’t have to flour my counter and get it all sticky with dough. I also don’t roll out my dough with a rolling pin.

Rolling Pin sxc.hu/topfer www.pixelmaster.no

Rolling Pin sxc.hu/topfer http://www.pixelmaster.no

I just stretch the dough out with my hands in the air, like a pizza dough except I make the shape rectangular. I pull it gently so as not to tear it. I even roll it up this way (like rolling up a large map or a scroll or your diploma if that helps you to visualize it.) I couldn’t photograph it because my hands were full of sticky dough. Sticky dough and cameras are not a good mix! You don’t have to do what I do but you can see from the finished results that my method doesn’t hurt the results and saves me some cleanup time.

I’ve made this recipe several times and the results were always good. Try it, or your favorite whole wheat recipe with blackstrap molasses. I think you will like it and it will be so good for you!

P.S. If you want to read an unbelievable, incredible, mind-blowing TRUE story about molasses, click here if you dare

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New Food Friday – Garam Masala

8 Feb Garam_Masala - Wikipedia

If you are an Indian food lover you will be very familiar with garam masala. For those who are not, garam masala is the spice (or spice mixture) that is on the agenda for today’s New Food Friday.

spice

Garam Masala, front row left (Photo credit: tonymz)

I was interested in a Tex-Mex recipe on a fellow blogger’s blog and that’s what motivated me to tell you about garam masala. 

http://perisspiceladle.com/2013/02/01/tex-mex-chili-gets-an-indian-touch

The recipe looked good but I knew I did not have garam masala in my pantry. I had looked for it before at my local Meijer but I couldn’t find it. When I went grocery shopping again, I lucked out because McCormick Garam Masala was on sale.

What is garam masala?

Garam masala is a Punjabi, or Northern Indian style curry powder. It is also used in some Nepalese and Asian cooking.

Spices - sxc.hu/Halifaxsxc

Curry, second row left; garam masala next to it. – sxc.hu/Halifaxsxc

Garam masala is a combination of spices that is used often in Indian cooking. It has many uses. You can use it as a rub for meats, in salad dressings, vegetables, breads, cookie recipes, and more. It is often used as a garnish and reminds me of basil in that sense because both are sprinkled on at the end of the cooking process to preserve their oils and special flavors.

In McCormick’s Garam Masala the ingredients are: cardamon, cinnamon, black pepper, cumin, and coriander.

Garam Masala

McCormick Garam Masala

There are many versions of garam masala and many chefs and home cooks make their own version. 

What is the difference between garam masala and curry powder?

In the definition given by A Dictionary of Food and Nutrition, curry powder is a turmeric-based spice mixture.

sxc.hu - tijmen - Curry Powder

Curry Powder – sxc.hu – tijmen

Another common ingredient in yellow curry and other curries popular in the West is mustard seed.

Indians refer to their spice mixtures as masalas. Besides garam masala, other types of masalas include chat masala, kala masala and dansak masala.  The word curry, coined by the British and derived from the word kari from the Tamil language of South India. Read more: http://www.livestrong.com/article/412623-what-is-the-difference-between-curry-powder-garam-masala/#ixzz2KAMoEeY1

I have curry powder in my pantry and I rarely use it. After using garam masala, I prefer the garam masala. You can find garam masala in supermarkets, natural food stores, or Indian markets.

sxc-hu-lize-rixt-spice-bazaar

Spice Bazaar - sxc-hu-lize-rixt

What else can you tell us about garam masala, Marcella?

Garam Masala is also a Bollywood movie!

Garam Masala (film)

Garam Masala (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Watch it on youtube! Here’s the link:     http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ipSsGOeyzRg ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

If Your House Is On Fire, Get Out Immediately!

2 Feb sxc.hu Firefighter fighting blaze

A few months ago I came across a post on WordPress that asked readers what they would save if their house was on fire. I was flabbergasted to learn that anyone would encourage people to risk their lives dallying when their house is on fire as they think about and select cherished items to save. 

I commented on this blogger’s post that she was being irresponsible and that it was just plain stupid to write such a post. She never removed her post. She never responded to me. Nobody else commented on the post or “liked” her post the last time I checked.

Recently, a similar post was sent out on the Daily Post by one of the staff at WordPress:

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/01/30/daily-prompt-fire/

The question was, and I’m rephrasing, What five things from your burning house would you grab? The immediate response that came to my mind was, my *SS and to haul it the hell out of here! The heck with the other four things!

Why would anyone try to put it in someone else’s mind that they should try to salvage things when their house is on fire? Without a doubt, someone will read it and believe that that’s what you should do!

After browsing the Internet, it seems that getting your possessions while your house is burning down is the thought of the day! It isn’t just WordPress bloggers who are misinformed.

Here are the FACTS about what you should do if your house is on fire. I’ve taken these FACTS from the Red Cross website

http://www.redcross.org/prepare/disaster/home-fire

where they list much more information than I have provided here and you should visit there to learn much more.

Their first recommendation is this: 

If a fire occurs in your home, GET OUT, STAY OUT and CALL for help. (Caps theirs, not mine.)

Fires can ignite very quickly and without warning, leaving you and your loved ones with little or no time to escape.

**This one bears repeating: “little or NO TIME TO ESCAPE”. Is there any part of that that anyone doesn’t understand? Because I would be happy to explain it further.

By creating and practicing an escape plan, family members can save valuable time in the event of a fire by knowing exactly how to act.

The Red Cross response to home fires has increased by 10% since 2000. (I’m not going to do all the work for you. You should find out why that is.)

Home fires are the single most common disaster across the nation.

Cooking fires are the leading cause of home fires and home fire injuries. And, two out of three cooking fires start with the range or stove.

Every 2  1/2 hours someone is killed in a home fire. In a typical year, 20,000 people are injured in home fires.

Only 26 percent of families have actually developed and practiced a home fire escape plan.

Each year over 200 people die from carbon monoxide produced by fuel burning appliances in the home including furnaces, ranges, water heaters and room heaters.

Home fires can affect any home at any time. However, children under five and adults over 65 face the highest risk of dying in a home fire.

74 percent of home fire deaths resulted from fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms.

**To emphasize further the lack of time you have in a house fire, I am quoting here from another quote (http://fox6now.com/2012/02/21/what-would-you-do-if-your-house-caught-on-fire/) taken from firefighter Chris Gauthier: ‘Smoke is the number one thing that kills people in fires. The first thing you should worry about is getting out of your house.”‘

Again, this bears repeating. He said:

SMOKE IS THE NUMBER ONE THING THAT KILLS PEOPLE IN FIRES.

THE FIRST THING YOU SHOULD WORRY ABOUT……IS GETTING OUT OF YOUR HOUSE.  Notice, he didn’t say get papers, mementos, books, gifts, etc. 

And my own two cents: If you don’t care about your own safety and the pain your family would feel if they lost you, and you are willing to jeopardize your safety by gathering your treasured junk, then think about the firefighter

Firefighter

Firefighter – sxc.hu/tony26 Tony Hathcock

who has to come into your burning house to try to save you and risk his own life. More than likely he has a family that he cares about and wants to go home to and they care about him. 

Here is a video that shows how fast a house fire can spread. It took 1.55 seconds, nearly two minutes, for the smoke to reach the smoke detectors. Seconds after that, the room was engulfed in flames. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=piofZLySsN

While you are there on youtube, watch some of the other fire safety films. Nobody can predict how fast a fire will spread. Use your head and get out. And for God’s sake, don’t encourage anyone to grab their belongings.

Very Special Note: Michael Cossey, http://www.arkansasfire.net is a firefighter and the photographer who took the photo shown in the Featured Post widget of the female firefighter with the firehose.

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New Food Friday – Saigon Cinnamon

1 Feb Cassia tree

Cinnamon, what would life be like without it? Stores are named after it: Cinnabon. Strippers are named after it: Cinnamon Buns. Musical groups are named after it: Cinnamon Chasers.

As you may know, cinnamon comes from the bark of a tree. It is one of the oldest known spices. Arab traders brought it from China in 1700 B.C.

It’s that spicy, aromatic, and sweet-hot spice that we love to add to dishes both sweet and savory. This New Food Friday is about Saigon Organic Cinnamon.

If you will recall, last week we (we?) were eating roots of trees (Yuca Root). This week we are eating the bark of trees. If I keep following this path, next week we (we?) could be eating leaves of trees or sap from trees! Perhaps my subconscious is still showing reverence to the almighty tree, after writing a post about the American blight-decimated chestnut tree!

Whatever the case may be, I couldn’t wait to finish using my regular (cassia) cinnamon so I could try my Saigon Cinnamon (which is still cassia cinnamon). Unfortunately, due to misinformation I received on the Internet, this is not the cinnamon I was looking for.

Let me explain. There are two types of cinnamon: one is called cassia cinnamon and the other is Ceylon cinnamon, the “true” cinnamon. I thought I was buying true cinnamon. I was not. In the States, what we know as cinnamon is really the bark of a cassia tree.

Brewster's Cassia - flowering tree

Brewster’s Cassia – flowering tree (Photo credit: Tatters:))

According to the http://www.thefreedictionary.com, the definition of a cassia tree is a tropical Asian evergreen tree (Cinnamomum cassia) having aromatic bark used as a substitute for cinnamon.

English: Bark of Cassia siamia tree ocurring i...

Bark of Cassia siamia tree (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

However, as far as cinnamon goes, Saigon Cinnamon is absolutely delicious! If you shake some on your finger and taste it, it is sweet as if there was sugar mixed in with the cinnamon. This surprised me!

It has that wonderful zing to it and I’m sure you already know that the aroma is divine. It is hard for me to imagine how much better “true” cinnamon would be! But I will continue to be on the lookout for it!

True cinnamon comes from Ceylon from the bark of a true cinnamon tree.  However, since 1972, the island country known as Ceylon changed its name to Sri Lanka.

Tea plantation in Sri Lanka

Tea plantation in Sri Lanka (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is situated off the coast of India and is often referred to as the “teardrop of India.” This is due to its shape like a teardrop. To add to the name confusion, they still call the true cinnamon, Ceylon Cinnamon (and not Sri Lanka cinnamon). 

In this photo below, you can see the difference between Ceylon cinnamon (left) and Indonesian (cassia) cinnamon (right).

English: Ceylon cinnamon (cinnamomum verum) an...

Ceylon cinnamon and Indonesian cinnamon (photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ceylon Cinnamon has citrus overtones and a rich buff color. It is less strong than cassia cinnamon, and lacks bite.  Ceylon cinnamon sticks are papery thin. It is the favorite cinnamon of both Europe and Mexico. It will shine in custard, cinnamon ice cream, Dutch pears, stewed rhubarb, steamed puddings, dessert syrups, or mixed into whipped cream.

According to the label of McCormick’s Organic Saigon Cinnamon,

Saigon Cinnamon Jar

Saigon Cinnamon Jar

it has been harvested from the central highlands of Vietnam and is the highest quality 100% organic cinnamon. That’s good enough for me! It was pricey as you can imagine. I think I paid over $4.00 for it for a 1.5 oz jar. It has a Best Buy date of October, 2014. It is long-lasting unlike many other spices which are best used within a 6-month period for optimum taste.

I decided to make cinnamon raisin bread with my Saigon Cinnamon. The results were great.

Cinnamon Loaves

Cinnamon Loaves

I baked two loaves on Tuesday and my house still smells like cinnamon. (You might want to remember this when the Christmas holidays come around, or if you want to sell your house!)  I love to pull apart a slice and “unwind” the curled bread. It brings out the kid in me, what can I say.

Cinnamon Loaf Sliced

Cinnamon Loaf Sliced

If you’ve never made cinnamon bread, you have to roll out the dough into a flat rectangle, brush with melted butter, and sprinkle a cinnamon sugar mixture over the whole thing. Then you sprinkle on the raisins.  Then you roll up the short end, or the end close to you, like rolling up a carpet.

Can you see in the photo where I began rolling up the dough? My recipe called for three eggs and I substituted two cups of white whole wheat flour for the white flour to make it more nutritious.

The recipe also called for a cinnamon, sugar, flour, butter, crumb topping which was just added work and totally unnecessary and then makes a mess when you slice it.

Cinnamon Raisin Bread is delicious toasted and buttered with or without jam for breakfast. I used to eat cream cheese and jelly sandwiches on raisin bread at school when I was a kid, which is very good! It’s also good made into French Toast although I haven’t tried that myself. I also like it plain as a snack while watching TV in the evening.

There are many cinnamon raisin bread recipes online and it is amazing that they are all different! Look for one that has a lot of good reviews or get one from a trusted site like Martha Stewart or Epicurious. Use whatever cinnamon you have on hand but if you are running out of cinnamon, try the Saigon Cinnamon. It’s very good! ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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