Favorite Things

Sparkling Water

If you have already read the About Me section of my blog, you know that I am a breast cancer survivor.  In the weeks and months after my diagnosis I felt I needed to evaluate my lifestyle, looking at some things I could do differently to live a healthier life.  That entailed looking at all of the things I put in and on my body.  One of the things I started to think about were some of the beverages I was drinking.  I had to admit that some were not in my best interest to consume any longer if I wanted to work on my overall health.  This is when my love of Sparkling water or Seltzer water was born and why I am listing it as one of my Favorite Things!

lemonade

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I still wanted a drink that I was excited about drinking and something with a little pizazz!  I love the refreshing fizz and effervescence of Seltzer and it touches so many of your senses, not only taste, but sight and sound as well!  For a while in the beginning I was buying cases and cases of canned seltzer from the grocery store.  My husband and kids got into it as well and also began to enjoy drinking this refreshing beverage.  But then after a while I got to thinking, oh no, what if these cans are lined with BPA?  I don’t want to be downing numerous BPA cocktails everyday, that defeats the whole purpose of what I was trying to do.  So after emailing the company of the seltzer we were drinking, I did get a response back informing me that yes, in fact their cans were lined with a BPA epoxy that is sprayed into every can.  I don’t know about you, but I definitely did not feel good about the fact the in all likelihood this horrible, disease causing chemical was leaching into my drink and I along with my family was consuming it daily.

soda water

Image courtesy of Mister GC at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

So after a little research and a panic about how I was going to get my hands on seltzer water that was not laced with chemicals, I purchased a SodaStream Fountain Jet Home Soda Maker and I have had the best Seltzer/Sparkling water daily ever since!  (I have no affiliation with SodaStream I simply use and like their product).  The best thing about it is that I can feel good about what I am putting in my body.  It is just water!  And as far as flavor goes, the sky is the limit for the mix-ins you can add to this drink.  I usually enjoy mine with a squeeze of lemon which is also great for your health!  A few examples of the limitless other possibilities are blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, mint, cucumber, basil, citrus, pineapple…I could go on and on, you get the picture.

My kids can almost not drink regular soda anymore after getting used to our delicious Sparkling water.  The soda is way too sweet for them now.  They don’t even want it anymore.  So maybe you want to take a look at what you are drinking each day.  When you really start to look, there are some scary things hiding in some of our favorite beverages.  Give Sparkling water a try…maybe it will become a favorite thing of yours too!

 

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Popcorn with Dark Chocolate Chips

IMG_5832I definitely have to add one of my most favorite snacks/desserts to my list of Favorite Things.  Air popped popcorn with a handful of dark chocolate chips mixed in.  The popcorn definitely has to be air popped or cooked the old fashioned way on the stovetop.  There has been so much in the news media about how terribly bad microwave popcorn is for you.   In case you are not familiar with the findings, check out the information here from FoodBabe.com.  But that doesn’t mean we have to forgo  indulging in this wonderful, healthy snack food.  If you buy all natural 100% whole grain Popping Corn which is readily available in almost any grocery store, and cook it yourself at home you are in business.  We love air popped popcorn and are happy with the results we get from our Presto PopLite Hot Air Popper.  (I have no affiliation with Presto PopLite, I simply use and like their product).   Now onto the good part…the chocolate chips!  I prefer to use dark chocolate chips, the higher Cacao percentage, the better for you.  Quality dark chocolate is rich in Fiber, Iron, Magnesium, Copper, Manganese and a few other minerals, they have a wide variety of powerful antioxidants and that is just the beginning of the health benefits of Dark Chocolate!  We like Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Chips.  They do of course contain sugar, so you don’t want to eat the whole bag at once of course, but in moderation, they can be a part of your healthy diet and really jazz up that popcorn!  I love the taste of the salty popcorn with the sweetness of the chocolate chips!  It’s a snack or a dessert that you can feel good about and that is why it is one of my Favorite Things!

 

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Homemade Granola

IMG_5988For the last year or so I have been making my own homemade granola each week.  I have always enjoyed a breakfast of yogurt and granola, but for years used store bought granola without much thought as to what was actually in those boxes.  In keeping with the theme of bettering my health that I have already spoke about, I decided I needed to ditch that granola from the box that had loads of added sugar and artificial ingredients.  I came across a IMG_5366cookbook at the library that I fell in love with and eventually ended up buying for myself.  Here is where I found the Seeds of Power Granola recipe on page 59 that became my go to guide for homemade granola.  I have since adapted it just a little bit to get it exactly how we like it and will share the recipe with you below.  The cookbook that is comes from is The Family Cooks by Laurie David and Kirstin Uhrenholdt.  It is definitely one of the favorites in my collection!  Now I know exactly what is in my family’s breakfast bowl which is why homemade granola is one of my Favorite Things!  We also enjoy it as a dessert treat putting a scoop of dry granola in a bowl with a handful of dark chocolate chips…yum!  I make a batch of this each week and store it in a large size mason jar in the refrigerator.  Can’t get much easier than that to have a healthy meal right at your fingertips!

Homemade Granola Recipe  Print This Page Print This PageIMG_5979

Ingredients:

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (not instant or quick-cooking)

1 cup ground flaxseed

1 cup chia seeds

(For the ground flax & chia seed I use a flax/chia blend from Hodgson Mill which comes in handy)

1 cup unsweetened flaked coconut

1/2 cup maple syrup

1/2 cup olive oil or nut oil, such as coconut or walnut or sunflower oil

1/2 tsp salt

(You may of course add any other ingredients that fit your taste to make it just how you like it.  My family doesn’t care for nuts IMG_5984in our granola, but the original recipe called for 1 cup of sliced almonds.  There are also many different kinds of seeds you could ad, such as pumpkin, hemp or sunflower.  You could add in flavors like vanilla or cinnamon and after baking throw in some dried fruits like raisins, cherries, dates, etc.  Customize it to what you enjoy!)

IMG_5990Directions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Oil a large baking sheet.

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix thoroughly.

Spread granola on the baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes.  Check to see if edges are beginning to darken and stir the granola gently with a spoon.  Continue baking until golden and crispy, about 15 minutes.

Let cool completely and then it’s ready to eat!  You can store the granola, covered tightly in the refrigerator for at least 2 weeks…but it will most likely be long gone by then!  🙂

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Chocolate Chip Cookie Makeover

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Who doesn’t love a chocolate chip cookie?!  It’s one of America’s favorite sweet treats.  But, with 2 or more cups of refined sugar and a few sticks of butter in most recipes, it is hard to incorporate this delicious treat into your everyday healthy meal planning.  So after much trial and error, here is a recipe we have adapted and use for our Chocolate Chip Cookies that we pack in school lunches and enjoy after mealtimes.  Keep in mind that in an effort to make these a healthier dessert option, they are not going to be super sweet like the “Tollhouse Cookies” you may be used to.  But, just as I mentioned in speaking about the sparkling water vs. soda, if you let yourself try it and get used to it, eventually the real sugary items will be way too sweet for you and you will be happy eating a healthier cookie that doesn’t leave you feeling gross and guilty after you eat it!  For the sweetener here we use Coconut Palm Sugar and Maple Syrup to take the place of refined white and brown sugars.  In place of butter, a healthy oil is used such as coconut oil, sunflower oil or vegetable oil.  We also add in some Oatmeal to up the health quotient.  You will find the recipe below.  We hope you enjoy these as much as we do which is why they are one of our Favorite Things!

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies Print This Page Print This Page

Ingredients:IMG_5948

2 1/2 cups old fashioned oatmeal

2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 cup coconut sugar

1/2 cup maple syrup

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1 cup oil (vegetable, sunflower, melted coconut) use a little more if dough seems dry

2 large eggs

2 tsp vanilla extract (optional)

2 cups dark chocolate chips

IMG_5943Directions:IMG_5945

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly grease it.

In a large mixing bowl add all ingredients except chocolate chips.  Mix until the dough is moist and all ingredients are combined.  The dough may be a bit crumbly.  Mix in the chocolate chips.

Using an ice cream scoop, scoop up dough and press/pack it in scooper with your hand or against the side of the bowl.  Place on prepared baking sheet and gently press flat.  If the dough seems a bit crumbly, do not worry, it will incorporate together while baking.  Repeat with remaining dough.

Bake for 10-12 minutes until golden and set.  Enjoy perhaps your new Favorite Thing!

***Since I published this post we have since tried a little something new with these cookies.  If you have made and tried the granola from this list of Favorite Things, try mixing in about 1 1/2 cups of the granola into the cookie batter.  It gave the cookies quite a nice crunch  and gives them a little more substance with all of the ingredients that are in the granola like the ground flax seed and chia seed.  We enjoyed the results so maybe you want to give it a try too!***

 

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Cook your own Lunch Meat

IMG_6012We all know how bad processed meats/deli meat is to consume so I won’t really get into that here.  You can click on the link in the previous sentence for information on this subject.  The problem is, it is convenient.  It’s 6:30 am and you’re trying to pack lunches for your kids to take to school or a lunch to take to work.  It is so easy to grab a package of processed sandwich meat throw it on some bread and have sandwiches for lunch.  I did this for years when my kids were younger and before I really started to think about how unhealthy it was to eat processed sandwich meat day in and day out.  Now each week I add a Butterball frozen IMG_6008 whole turkey breast to my grocery list and I have a much healthier alternative for sandwiches for the week.  (I have no affiliation with Butterball, I simply use and like their product).  This product can be cooked right from its frozen state so I just turn the oven on when I get home from the grocery store, drizzle a little olive oil and salt and pepper over the top of the turkey, throw it in the oven and 2 hours later we are in business.  I slice it, store it in the refrigerator and we have healthy sandwich meat for a IMG_6009week.  On occasion when I have some left over at the end of the week, I use it in soup or use it in a casserole.  If you are not familiar with the organization, Environmental Working Group (EWG), please click here.  They test and rate thousands of both food products and healthcare products on a scale of 1-10 in regards to safety and health for consumers.  EWG has become such a valuable resource for me when I want to look into and check to see if the products I’m using and the foods I’m buying are safe.  Below is a small portion of their rating for this turkey product, and you can click here to see the entire report.  As you can see, there are no processing IMG_6011 (3)concerns or ingredient concerns for this item.  For all of these reasons, cooking my own healthy lunch meat is one of my Favorite Things!

EWG’s Top Findings ~ Butterball Whole Turkey Breast

Top findings negativeThis product is not certified organic [read more]

It's great in salads too!

It’s great in salads too!

Top findings positive

No ingredient concerns identified for this product [read more]

Top findings positiveDoes not contain artificial or industrial ingredients [read more]

Top findings negativeContains 39% of the Institute of Medicine’s daily sodium (salt) recommendations based on adequate intake [read more]

Top findings positivePer gram, high in protein [read more]

Top findings positiveProduct has been classified as having low processing concerns

 

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Green Tea

IMG_5993My list of Favorite Things would not be complete without Green Tea.  In my quest to live a healthier life, my reading and research kept leading me to books and articles about how healthy Green Tea is for all of us.  There is so much information and detail about what makes Green Tea so healthy I couldn’t possibly share it all with you here, but I will share one of the books I found most informative on how and why Green Tea is so beneficial and what types of Green Tea are better and contain more of the healthy compounds in them than others.  Foods to Fight Cancer, Essential foods to help prevent cancer, by Richard Béliveau, Ph.D. and Denis Gingras, Ph.D.    This is a wonderful book with such tremendous information not only about Green Tea, but also about many of the other foods that are so beneficial to our health.  In it I learned that Japanese Green Teas are the best choice, and as quoted from the book, “To maximize the preventative effects afforded by tea, select Japanese green teas, which are richer in anticancer compounds, and allow for an 8-10 minute brewing period, IMG_5991which favors and adequate extraction of the catechin molecules.  Green tea contains large amounts of catechins, which are compounds that boast many anticancer properties.”  One of these catechins is called epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG, and it has the highest anticancer activity out of all of these molecules.  That is why Japanese Green Tea is recommended over Chinese Green Tea because of the higher levels of EGCG in the Japanese teas, and also why longer brewing time is recommended so as to extract the most benefit from the tea.  One kind of Japenese Green Tea with a high level of EGCG content is called Sencha Green Tea.  I have found a wonderful authentic Sencha Green Tea from Maeda-En which I would recommend. (I have no affiliation with Maeda-En, I simply use and like their product).  Green Tea is a beverage that is consumed all over the world, and has been for thousands of years.  Enjoy it at any time of day and don’t forget, while most people drink it hot, it is delicious served as Iced Tea too!   I love enjoying things that I can feel good about, and as I am sipping on my Green Tea presently as I am writing this, I can say it is truly one of my Favorite Things!

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