Cooking and Food Health

Nutrition: Facts About Fats

Fats. Foods have them. We eat them. In fact, my family loves them. Dh is threatening to strangle me if I mention one more of his faves that’s full of trans fats. So beware, dear reader. You probably know all this anyway; I did at some point in time. I needed a refresher course, maybe you do too.

The fats in the foods we eat either tend to accumulate in our body’s fat stores or get burned for fuel. That’s bad fats and good fats for you, in a nutshell. So what makes them different? What makes certain ones necessary in moderation?


Bad fats~in cheeses, red meats, fried and processed foods, and the most harmful of the bad fats: trans fatty acids, aka, trans fats or saturated fats. Why are they bad? They’re the culprits that raise the bad cholesterol (LDL), contribute to obesity, and as a result, render their victim a whopping candidate for heart disease.

Plus, bad fats are usually high in sugar. Ice cream, pastries, chocolate, uh-huh. Calories consumed from these foods are more likely to go straight to fat stores rather than burned for energy. Watch out for:

  • Chips and dips. Especially avoid the deep-fried kind and instead have fat-free tortilla chips or pita chips.
  • Sandwiches. Skip the white breads and have 100% unrefined whole grain bread. Stick to lean deli meats (turkey) and no mayonnaise.
  • High-fat dairy foods~instead of whole milk go with skim, same with cheeses, yogurts, cream substitutes, and solid white shortening.
  • Practically all animal fats are trans fats/saturated fats.
  • Some dietary supplements contain trans fats. Check the labeling.

That bears repeating. Read labels. As of last January 1, 2006, companies were required by the FDA to list the trans fats in their products.

At the American Heart Association website, I found the following:

“Trans fat is formed when liquid vegetable oils go through a chemical process called hydrogenation in which hydrogen is added to make the oils more solid. These hydrogenated fats are used by food processors because they allow longer shelf-life, and give food desirable taste, shape and texture.

And that solidness goes straight to your arteries. My aunt takes part in a “Strategies for Diabetics” class at her local hospital. One of the things she recently wrote me, that was covered in a session on “fats” was this:

“Trans fat is comparable to Crisco. It hardens, stays put and doesn’t need refrigeration. In our veins. You may not notice or feel you have a problem till years later.”


Onto the good fats: the unsaturated fats or unsaturated fatty acids. The human body can reproduce all but two of  the many unsaturated fatty acids: alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3 fatty acid) and linolenic acid (omega-6 fatty acid). Because our bodies can’t produce these fatty acids, they’re called essential fatty acids (EFAs). We have to rely on our diet to provide these essentials.

EFAs are important in terms of energy and blood sugar levels. The omega-3 fatty acids, especially, are a huge contributor to the fat burning process.

The problem with EFAs, is that they’re fragile from a chemical perspective. Processing and storage reduce their effectiveness.

Here are some food sources of EFAs and tips:

  • Eat wild salmon or another type of fatty fish at least twice a week. Salmon along with mackerel, trout, and sardines are among the best dietary sources of omega-3 fatty acids. (Direct quote from Flip the Switch by Robert K. Cooper, PhD, page 235)

In the same breath, I’d warn you to research these fish as to their mercury levels. Pregnant and lactating women, women of child-bearing age, and young children are warned against eating them.

(Okay back to the list!)

  • Prepare foods with a mono-unsaturated fat like olive, safflower, sunflower, corn, or canola oil (I haven’t used vegetable oil in years, finally, something I’m doing right!)
  • Fish oil, linseed oil, parilla oil. I know very little about these, only that they’re available in supplement form and that you can get too much of them, so be careful.
  • Avacados in moderation (because though they are a good fat, they are still a fat!)
  • Walnuts, almonds, pecans or hazelnuts–again, in moderation.
  • Sunflower and pumpkin seeds.
  • Wheat germ
  • Leafy vegetables
  • Lean meats: Poultry without skin, not fried. Lean beef and pork with visible fat trimmed.
  • Wild game meat. Animals that forage for food, or are farm fed, are rich in EPAs. Grain fed cattle, for instance, aren’t. (running from dh!)

In my search, it was hard to pinpoint an exact dietary suggestion of how many omega-3 fatty acids we should include in our daily diet. Most sources said EPAs should make up at least 1% of our daily caloric allowance. So if you consume 2,500 calories a day, that would translate to 5-7.5 grams of EPAs per day. It seems to be up for debate whether more would be harmful or helpful.

When you research it a bit deeper, you find that EPA is actually the lesser benefit derived from the omega-3 fatty acids. DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) is also found in omega-3’s, and is necessary for the structure of cell membranes.

But this is where I end my research, dear ones. At least for this day.


Playing With Windows Live Writer

This is my very first post written with Windows Live Writer–wow, what a great tool for bloggers! So easy to download and hook up to your blog…it’s been on my online to-do list for a while now! Next thing to mark off: upgrading to Firefox 2.0.

I learn all these helpful things over at MInTheGap. Wednesday Tech Help is a new feature at his site if you want to pop over there tomorrow and see his latest. He posted in September about Windows Live Writer sharing how it was created for working with Live Spaces, but that other bloghosts like Word Press, Blogger, Typepad, etc will work with it as well.

So this morning, I’m playing with this great new tool! Blogging this way couldn’t be faster, and I thought it was quick anyway at Word Press (which is why I switched from Bravenet…too many long la-bor-i-ous steps to get to a blank journal page!).

Inserting maps and pictures is just a click away…no wait whatsoever as it uploads…it goes directly into your post. Then the fun begins! You can click on options, sizes, shadow the background as I did in the above picture. You choose where to place it, whether to text wrap it or not. And it all happens instantly! I just love cool time-savers and this is one that blogging moms must have!

You can change your text color/make custom colors, spell check, write and save your drafts while offline, and publish to your blog directly from Windows Live Writer. And there’s a button in the top toolbar to the left of “Publish”. Drop it down and with a click of a button you can quickly preview what your post will look like when published to your blog. With this same button you can view the HTML code, etc.

Take it from me, and go download Windows Live Writer today!

Cooking and Food

Make the Most of Mom’s Best Baked Chicken

We don’t have cable but I’m grateful for the Food Network!

Baked Chook

My mom is constantly getting ideas from it for great recipes and then fixing them for our Bible study luncheons! Lucky me, huh? Her latest was a roast chicken recipe from the Tyler Florence show. This isn’t the exact recipe used on Tyler’s Ultimate, but I can’t imagine it being any better. The white meat was so flavorful and tender…it was the best chicken I’ve ever had and would give roast turkey a run for its money!

Roast Chicken Mom-style

  • 1 3-lb chicken
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 yellow onion, cut in fourths
  • 4-6 cloves garlic, left whole
  • several sticks of celery, cut in thirds
  • half lemon, cut into 4 slices
  • 1/2 bunch fresh thyme
  • 1 lb whole mushrooms, washed and wiped dry

Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels. Season the cavity with salt and pepper. In a bowl, combine all the other ingredients except mushrooms with 1 1/2 TB olive oil. Stuff it all in the bird.

Place the chicken, breast side up in a roasting pan, drizzle with olive oil and rub with a cut clove of garlic. Sprinkle with more thyme if desired.  Season again with salt and pepper.

Roast the chicken for 1 1/2 hours; arrange the mushrooms around chicken 45 minutes into the roasting time. Baste with pan juices 3 or 4 times during roasting process. The chicken is done when an instant-read thermometer registers 165 degrees F when inserted in the thickest part of the thigh (the legs should wiggle easily in their sockets).

Remove the chicken from the pan, cover with foil and let stand for ten minutes. Serve the chicken with the roasted mushrooms and pan juices.

We couldn’t believe the flavor and juiciness of this chicken! My mom left the remainders with me, and I put it all in a large kettle (chicken carcass, pan juices and all the veggies that were in the cavity) covered it with water and stewed it for supper. Before adding potatoes and carrots, I lifted out the bones and chunks of onion, etc and discarded what needed discarded and chopped what needed chopped. I thickened the broth with 2.5 TB cornstarch dissolved in 1/2 cup cold water and topped the stew off with dumplings!

The next day, I took that night’s leftovers and stretched them further by adding more water to the soup, about 5 more potatoes, two boullion cubes and another batch of dumplings. It was even thicker and tastier than it had been originally!

That’s a lot of goodie from one 3-lb chicken!

Cooking and Food Family Ties

Make Cream Puffs With Your Kids

Choux Paste

Well, we didn’t wake up to snow this morning, much to the disappointment of my children. So much for the colored ice cubes we have waiting in the freezer—we’ll have to have our cube-hunt some other day. Everything is icy and sleet-crusted. Good day for indoor projects.

My 9 year old has been after me for a few days now to teach her how to make cream puffs and éclairs. So we got 6 year old busy painting and 2 year old busy paint-with-water-ing and the two of us had fun making choux pastry. We had such a blast that the resulting pastries were just an added bonus! Delicious!

Here’s the recipe: Choux Pastry (Choux is French for “puff”)

  1. Preheat oven to 400*F and grease two cookie sheets.
  2. Measure 1 cup flour into small bowl.
  3. In a saucepan, put the following ingredients: 1 cup flour, ¾ tsp. salt, 7 TB butter. Heat on low to medium heat until the butter melts and mixture begins to bubble.
  4. Remove saucepan from heat and add the flour all at once. Beat batter vigorously with wooden spoon till all the mixture leaves the sides of the pan. Let cool for 2 minutes.
  5. Beat 4 eggs. Add them to the batter gradually, beating well between additions. Beat with fork or wooden spoon till mixture is smooth and almost shiny looking.
  6. Get a pastry bag fitted with a ½ inch nozzle, or use a gallon sized Ziploc bag with a corner snipped off. Fill bag with batter and twist at top.
  7. Pipe rounds for cream puffs, 4 inch long mounds for éclairs, or pipe heart and flower shapes. Or wiggly snakes or spiders or whatever strikes your child’s fancy. We did all of the above.
  8. Brush the pastry with beaten eggs and bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, till golden.
  9. Remove from oven, and place on cooling racks. When cool enough to touch, prick each one with a fork, then leave to finish cooling.

Slice the pastries in half with a serrated knife and spread with whipped cream. We used dream whip, because I had an emergency stash of it in the cupboard. Comes in handy when you want to make these types of things and have no heavy whipping cream in the refrigerator! Also, I substitute powdered milk/water for the milk in the dream whip, and it turns out great.

The last step is frosting them with a chocolate glaze.

  1. Put 2 TB butter and 1 cup (4 oz.) semi-sweet chocolate chips into a saucepan over low heat until they melt.
  2. Stir in 3 TB water, remove from stovetop and add ¾ cup powdered sugar. Stir until smooth.
  3. Spread icing on pastries with a spatula. Store these in the refrigerator. If you’re not planning on eating them the same day, wait till an hour or so before serving to add the whipped cream.

Sometimes we put fresh fruit inside the cream puffs with the whipped cream…it’s mmm mm good!

Family Ties Home Schooling

Behind the Scenes

Winter is knocking and can’t decide whether to snow or sleet! Right now sleet is slamming into my windows…and I’m cozy inside!

Yesterday dh took off work and attended a symphony concert with us. Our homeschool group gets tickets annually for a performance, expenses paid by local sponsors. It’s something we all enjoy…yes, even cowboys can appreciate an orchestra!

Afterwards dh took us out to Denney’s for lunch, and then dropped us off at Barnes and Nobles. He took toddler with him to get some wiring at Lowes, so we had an hour or more to browse all the goodies. I just LOVE bookstores.

I plan to have my oldest, now that she’s a third grader, participate in the standardized testing at the nearest (30 miles away) Christian school this spring. So I was pleased to find a book for 3rd graders that has sample/practice problems to prepare her for the format the tests use.

Dh loves his new job. He says it’s wonderful being in a “back to the farm” atmosphere again. Plus, his boss and co-worker are Christians so he’s not having to hear the language and rot that he was hearing all the time at his former job. Another bonus according to dh, “It’s a switch to jump in a truck and have it on a Christian station for once!”

He’s anticipating April, when he’ll have half days to get back in his leather shop. The wiring he bought yesterday will be used in getting the shop ready to go. Would you believe, this wiring costs $2.40 a foot, and God let us have it for .50 cents a foot? Over a hundred dollars in savings, considering we needed 50 feet! And all because the employee in the aisle offered dh a deal on some that a customer had had cut and then changed their mind about buying. Wow! These things really make you feel God’s hand is on your every decision.

Feeling really blessed,


Cooking and Food Health

Dioxins and Health

I’m really excited about some upcoming posts I have in the works…all to do with health! Be on the lookout here next week as I plan to share from a great book I’ve been reading called Flip the Switch by Robert K. Cooper, PhD. This book is chock full of ways to rev your metabolism, and increase both your energy levels and the amount of fat you burn.

In addition, I’m researching trans fats and essential fatty acids. Am refreshing my facts and learning in the process, all fascinating.

One thing leads to another, and now I’m reviewing dioxins. I used to sell Pycnogenol (in the early 90’s) and so much is coming back to me (duh)… 🙂

Just to grab your attention, dioxins are one of the most toxic substances known to man. They’re part of the “dirty dozen”–a list of toxic substances outlawed by the Stockholm Convention.

A persistent organic pollutant (POP), here are a few things I gleaned regarding dioxin exposure from Wikipedia:

  • dioxin enters the general population through food consumption, primarily through fish, meat and dairy products…beef being the worst source.
  • occupational exposure (such as proximity to herbicides)

Sources accounting for 80% of dioxin emissions (taken directly from Wikipedia):

  • Coal fired utilities
  • Metal smelting
  • Diesel trucks
  • Land application of sewage sludge
  • Burning treated wood
  • Trash burn barrels

Also mentioned as responsible for minute amounts of dioxin were plastics, resins, bleaches, tampons and many food packaging substances.

“The use of these materials means that all modern humans receive (at least) a very small daily dose of dioxins–however, it is disputed whether such exceptionally tiny exposures have any clinical relevance.”

Exposure to dioxin can cause problems from acne to cancer to birth defects to diabetes. That’s why it’s important to keep fit and healthy and eat plenty of antioxidant rich foods. Vitamins A, C, and E are top on the list for antioxidant supplements, subsequently, foods rich in these vitamins are even better!

Blueberries, russet potatoes, small red beans, artichokes, and cinnamon all have antioxidant properties. For more, go here for an interesting line-up.

Antioxidants fight free radical damage to our cells, such as that from dioxins. These toxins accumulate in our bodies, and if left unchecked, over time they destroy cell structures making us more susceptible to disease, premature aging, etc.

I’m not an expert. I’m not an environmental whing-ding. I’m a mom seeking to broaden my knowledge base. If you have anything to add, please feel free. I’m a sponge!



I don’t know why I did it, but I participated in an online quiz. Perhaps I have too much time on my hands? Perhaps I was wondering if maybe…I am…after all… a slacker mom?

So I took the Slacker Mom Quiz, and the results were bizarrely on target! Here they are:

How do you do it? Even when explosions are all around, you are able to take a deep cleansing breath and chant your mantra “this too shall pass.” You are a calming influence on your kids in a hectic world.

Ha! My favorite saying ever (well, almost) is “This too shall pass”! Just ask Amy at “so i married a preacher“. Do these quiz people have my house wired?

Obviously not. There are days when my children have to remind me that “This too shall pass”…! Deep breaths…

Do you have a favorite saying or verse when the going gets tough?

Family Home Schooling

Do You Sculpey?

sculpeydogs1.jpgYou really should. It’s tons of fun!

My oldest wanted a dog themed birthday party one year…she’d just gotten her first border collie from Grand-dad, and was in doggie-love-land. So we made up some fun outdoor games to go with the theme, and then came inside for some Sculpey fun! The result? The dogs you see in the pic.

Hobby Lobby had all we needed…

The inside cover of the book has diagrams showing actual sizes of the step-by-step shapes you’ll form out of clay. I made copies of these shape guidelines for each child at the party. It was a handy reference for them, as they each chose different dogs to sculpt. You’ll need toothpicks, sharp knives, and aluminum foil.

Besides dogs, we’ve made Christmas tree ornaments (snowmen), a penguin necklace, polar bears…and have many more projects in the book earmarked for future fun!

This is a great craft for all ages. However, I’d stick your toddlers in their high chairs with play-dough so you can sit yourself down with the older kids and sculpt, worry free.

If you don’t want to invest in the book, try the library, or the web. would be a great place to start!


Kids and Prayer

This is my month to give the devotions for our Awana Council Time. It’s a twenty minute lesson time for a group of about 40 children, ages 6-12. My last theme was “treasure hunting”…this time around, I’m focusing on prayer.

I started last night out with the basics…who we pray to, what we can pray about, why we pray, that we can pray anywhere, anytime, etc. At the end, I let the kids share praises, and then we took a few prayer requests and had the children volunteer to pray right then and there for their friend’s requests. It was awesome. Kids praying for kids. Our future Christian leaders, right?

Jesus said, “Let the little children come unto me.” We come to Jesus through prayer, so in that line of thought, next week, I’m going to focus on:

  • Coming to God with a clean slate. (“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9)
  • Coming to Him with confidence. (“And this is the confidence that we have in Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us…” 1 John 5:14)

It’s important that we don’t have sin between us and the Father. So confessing sin keeps the fellowship lines open. Here are some verses to back me up. Key words are in bold.

Isaiah 1:15-16, “And when you spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you, yea, when you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood. Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes. Cease to do evil.”

2 Ch. 7:14, “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”

Once we confess, and come to God the Father with a clean heart, and right attitude…we can be confident that He’ll hear us and answer. So the next step, with children especially, is helping them understand that you don’t just demand things from God. He’s not your fairy-godmother granting your every wish. We need to bring our requests to him and truly want His will to be done. So my next thought to share would be:

  • Coming to Him wanting His will to be done.

Again verses:

James 4:3, “When you ask, you do not receive because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your own pleasures.” (wrong motives=my will, not God’s)

Matt. 6:10, “Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.”

1 John 5:14, “And this is the confidence that we have in Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us…”

So being unhindered by sin, praying according to God’s will, and wanting His glory no matter what the results…

I doubt that I’ll go that in depth with the kids or I’ll lose them, as I’ve probably lost you, my reader! But I’ll definitely tell the following, a great illustration of the power of prayer…

Who doesn’t get chills at the Bible story of Elijah taking on the 450 prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel? I can’t wait to set the scene for the Awana kids. Wow.

Chanting up quite a performance to their false fire gods, at the end of many hours the prophets ultimately failed to have their sacrifice lit from on high. Yet Elijah’s water-soaked offering was immediately consumed by fire. Jehovah provided.

I love what Elijah prayed right before God lit his offering, he prayed a prayer for God’s glory to be shown:

1 Kings 18:36-37, “Let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word. Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the Lord God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again.”

God, let it be known!

Christianity Marriage


Don’t be cheated like Eve by believing the lie that life can get better…if only…

  • if only we didn’t have so much debt
  • if only my husband did more to help out
  • if only my wife respected my decisions
  • if only my children didn’t drive me crazy
  • if only we didn’t live in a “money pit”
  • if only I could go back to college, get that degree; sell that book I’ve been writing, etc.
  • if only I could afford a tutor to help me homeschool my children
  • if only I could afford an hour away from it all at Starbucks :O)

We all have our “if only’s”. What’s yours? Have you, a Christian, realized yet, that the here and now that you’re in, is God’s plan for you? That this is how it’s supposed to be?

When my husband and I were first married, I learned the beautiful rewards of contentment. And there are many.

When “house-hunting” as pre-married’s, we were unable to find any homes w/land for sale (we didn’t want to rent) so we bought a trailer house and stuck it on dh’s parents’ property. We thought of it as an investment that we could resell as soon as we found the “place of our dreams”.

Not having that “dream place” soon became mighty inconvenient. We put off having children for four years thinking we wanted to wait till we were “on our own place”.

Along the way, during those four years, I struggled with contentment in all areas. I felt embarrassed that we were grown adults “mooching” off of dh’s parents generosity in letting us live on their land rent-free. I felt there was a stigma associated with living in a trailer. I was constantly annoyed with dh for not giving me a better yard to work with. I spent hours pulling weeds from the former weedpatch where we’d stashed our first home. Normal lawn mowers didn’t cut this stuff! I wasted so much time and energy wishing for the opportunity to…move on.

My mom reminded me of that verse in 1 Timothy 6:6, “Godliness with contentment is great gain.” It became my mantra in those moments of angst. It became easier to slough off the annoyances, the inferiority complex. I became thankful for the little things. I think I’m pretty easy to get along with these days! :O) 

In our fourth year, four months into my first pregnancy~smile~we found our ‘dream home’. Great timing, huh. It’s become our ‘money pit’ with its own share of eyesores, but still we love it. And we fondly remember our first home, that humble little trailer house. It was, in fact, much cozier than our current home. I actually miss it…at times!

To cinch it up, here’s our latest favorite by Jack Johnson. It’s on his Curious George soundtrack.

Supposed to Be by Jack Johnson

Maybe it’s up with the stars
Maybe it’s under the sea
Maybe it’s not very far
Maybe this is how it’s supposed to be

This is how it’s supposed to be
Maybe it’s trapped in a jar
Something we’ve already seen
Maybe it’s nowhere at all
Maybe this is how it’s supposed to be
This is how it’s supposed to be

Looking forward as we rewind
Looking back is a trap sometimes
Being here is so easy to do
If you want to

Being here is so easy to do..if you want to…

Do you want to be content? Contentment can make your life and relationships rich beyond your dreams.

Dreaming is great, but it’s just a flirt away from discontentment.