Thursday, March 20, 2014


Looking for a quick meal to whip up after a busy Monday at work? Looking for another vegetarian dish to add to your recipe collection? This pasta dish is loaded with garlicky flavor, contains only eight ingredients (most of which you probably already have), and is ready in under 20 minutes!

  • 8 ounces uncooked linguine or whole wheat spaghetti
  • 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh garlic
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 (8-ounce) package pre-chopped kale
  • 1 (15-ounce) can unsalted cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 3/4 tsp. black pepper, divided (1/2 + 1/4)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

  1. Cook pasta according to directions on package until al dente, leaving out salt and fat.
  2. Drain pasta, using a colander, reserving 1/4 cup cooking liquid.
  3. In a large skillet, over medium heat, heat oil and garlic.When garlic begins to sizzle, add 1/2 cup water and kale; cover and cook 5 minutes or until kale is tender, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add beans, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and salt; cook 1 minute or until thoroughly heated, stirring occasionally.
  5. Add pasta and reserved 1/4 cup cooking liquid to pan; toss to coat. Sprinkle remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper over pasta. Serve immediately.

{Original recipe from Cooking Light Magazine's April 2014 issue.}

How to Chop Fresh Garlic

The Howcast YouTube channel is a wonderful place to discover instructional videos. Here, they show us how to easily chop garlic (unlike the previous video on garlic that was posted on how to mince). Fresh garlic is not only so delicious but very beneficial for many health reasons! Start practicing your knife skills and add some fresh garlic to your meal!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014


This pasta dish is not only delicious but also super easy and quick! Add this to your recipe book to use for your vegetarian guests, your "Meatless Monday" meals, or even add meat to it if you're looking for more non-vegetarian protein.
Grape Tomato, Olive, and Spinach Pasta

  • 8 ounces uncooked penne (about 2 cups)
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1 large garlic clove, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups grape tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup organic vegetable broth
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 10 black olives, coarsely chopped
  • 4 cups baby spinach
  • 1/4 cup torn basil leaves
  • 1 ounce Parmesan cheese, grated (about 1/4 cup)

  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add pasta; cook 8 minutes or until al dente. Drain in a colander over a bowl, reserving 1/2 cup cooking liquid.
  2. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add red pepper and garlic; saute 30 seconds.
  3. Add tomatoes, broth, salt, black pepper, and olives; cook 6 minutes or until tomatoes begin to break down, stirring occasionally. 
  4. Add pasta and 1/2 cup reserved cooking liquid to pan; simmer 2 minutes.
  5. Stir in spinach and basil; cook 2 minutes or until greens wilt.
  6. Serve immediately, topped with Parmesan cheese.
Meat Option: To add meat, like ground Italian sausage, cook the meat separately. Drain it. Then add to step 4 in the directions.
Vegetarian: Make sure your vegetable broth is vegetarian friendly.
Vegan: Make sure your pasta and vegetable broth are vegan friendly. Omit parmesan cheese at the end, or use an alternative.

{Original recipe from Cooking Light Magazine's March 2014 issue. Recipe has been adjusted.}

Would you like some wine with your garlic?

Back around 2002, I was about 19/20-years old and still VERY new to cooking. Not only did I have absolutely no clue about what "healthy" cooking was, I had no clue what "real" cooking was. I was doing my grocery shopping at Winco in Corvallis (Oregon) and purchasing items like boxed, instant mashed potatoes; canned green beans; and Widmer Hefeweizen (don't ask...). 

I can't remember what the meal was, but I had decided to make dinner for all my friends. The recipe called for a few garlic cloves. I don't remember the exact amount, but it was more than a couple. 

Well...I was so new to cooking that I assumed "a clove" was a whole garlic head. Yep. I put in "a few" whole heads of garlic, thinking that each one was "one clove". Needless to say, the dish turned out to be a lot more garlic-y than how it was supposed to be. I only got lucky in the fact that the flavors still blended well and all of my friends LOVED garlic, so at least the food didn't go to waste. 

Lesson learned!

New Cooks: Get facts on garlic including how to slice, chop, and mince here (scroll down to "GARLIC".)

Monday, March 10, 2014

Fooducate Friday: Week #3

Welcome to the third official week of my Fooducate Friday posts, where I use the fabulous Fooducate app on my iPhone to scan items and review the results. The reason I started this particular blog campaign is for one reason only: to encourage everyone out there to utilize the tools around them to help and motivate them to live healthier and happier lives. With that said, I am a true believer in balance within our lives in every aspect. Though my home has progressively become more and more healthy with the products, brands, and types of food I purchase and cook, I also believe that we need to stop once in a while to enjoy the delicious things in life. Sometimes, those delicious items really are not very good for us. Who am I kidding? The majority of the time they are not good for us! Does that mean we should never eat them at all??? If that's what YOU choose and that's what makes YOU happy. Within my household, splurging once in a while on something that's incredibly delicious but not so good for us keeps us balanced and happy. It's all about moderation, continuously educating yourself, and always evolving to be the best YOU.

That brings us to our two items that I am reviewing this week for our third Fooducate Friday - Girl Scout Cookies. Yep. Those same cookies that, around this time of year, haunt you in the hands of a timid but polite bright-eyed girl standing outside your local supermarket. Every year they get me. I usually politely say "no thanks" the first couple of times I make a grocery trip, but they eventually get me every year. You see, I used to be a Campfire Girl when I was young. We didn't sell cookies, but we did sell Campfire Candy. I know how hard it is to try and sell unhealthy items to strangers and I can only imagine that nowadays, with the health food craze kicking in full force, it's even harder. But, I usually purchase two boxes of our favorite kinds of cookies each year and that's where we now draw the line. Like I said's all about balance.

The two kinds that I am reviewing this week just so happen to be our family's two favorites - Samoas and Thin Mints. (WARNING: You will not like the results. Just keep that theory of balance in mind.)

New features this week include: any nutritional facts in green are very good, any nutritional facts in red are very bad, and all other nutritional facts with no specific color are just average amounts. Keep in mind that even though something may just be an "average amount" that doesn't mean that it's necessarily good. As you will see with our very first review below, some of the amounts are average, though the serving size is very small. An average calorie amount for a very small serving size isn't a good thing. Also, I have included the daily recommendation percentage in parenthesis next to each item for your convenience.


Thin Mints are a favorite of mine. Though they weren't my favorite growing up, I have grown to love these little crunchy morsels of happiness. Let's review...

First of all, let's talk about the serving size. One serving size is the equivalent of four cookies. FOUR! Do you know how small one of these cookies are? They aren't much bigger than the size of a quarter and, like the name implies, are very thin. Let's keep this serving size in mind while we go over the rest of the details. Brace yourselves...

Nutritional facts within one, (four cookies), serving size:
  • Calories - 160 (9%)
  • Calories from Fat - 70 (11%)
  • Total Fat - 8g (9%)
  • Saturated Fat - 5g (29%)
  • Trans Fat - 0g (0%)*
  • Cholesterol - 0mg (0%)
  • Sodium - 120mg (8%)
  • Total Carbohydrate - 22g (13%)
  • Dietary Fiber - 0.25g (1%) {That only brings your Net Carbs down to 21.75g - not a huge drop.}
  • Sugars - 10g (9%)
  • Protein - 1g (2%)
  • Iron - 0.72mg (4%)
Fooducate gave this item a D+ grade and the FoodPoints value is 5.

The ingredients list is very long and, though I won't go over the entire paragraph of ingredients, does include enriched flour, hydrogenated oils *(which means it actually contains trans fat even though the label says 0), cornstarch, artificial flavor, and caramel color which is shown to cause lung, liver, thyroid cancer, or leukemia in laboratory mice or rats in government-conducted studies. The GMO probability is very high, they are highly processed, and they contain more than 20% of daily saturated fat in one serving. 


Since I can remember, Samoas have been one of my all-time favorites, and for good reason! They are one of the top-selling G.S. cookies every year. That perfect combination of chocolate, caramel, and coconut in one little perfect bite-sized cookie is to die for! Anyone who doesn't like Samoas are, in my book, "cray cray". But, to each their own. Let us discuss the nutritional values, shall we?

'What is one serving size for Samoas?' Two cookies. Yep, you heard me correctly. TWO COOKIES!
That's it! I don't know about you but eating only two cookies in one serving is about as hard as getting my 2-year old to eat pureed spinach.

Nutritional facts in one serving (two cookies?!?!):
  • Calories - 140 (8%)
  • Calories from Fat - 70 (11%)
  • Total Fat - 7g (8%)
  • Saturated Fat - 5g (29%)
  • Trans Fat - 0g (0%)*
  • Cholesterol - 0mg (0%)
  • Sodium - 55mg (4%)
  • Total Carbohydrate - 19g (11%)
  • Dietary Fiber - 1g (4%) {Net Carbs = 18g}
  • Sugars - 10g (9%)
  • Protein - 1g (2%)
  • Iron - 0.72mg (4%)
Again, Fooducate gave this product a D+ grade but the FoodPoints value is a 4 which is 1 point less than the Thin Mints. The fewer points, the better.

Similar to the Thin Mints, the Samoas have a very high GMO probability, *contains trans-fats even though the nutrition label says "0", contains 2.5 teaspoons of sugars and more than 20% of the daily recommendation of saturated fat per two-cookie serving, and is high processed. But there's more...

Samoas contain carrageenan. 'What is carrageenan?' Carrageenan is an additive made from seaweed and is basically used as a vegetarian/vegan alternative to gelatin. It's used as a thickener in many items such as ice cream, chocolate milk, and cottage cheese. Though it has been used in Ireland and China for hundreds of years, it has only been used in modern food processing within about the last 50 years. The following excerpt is from Fooducate:
"In some animal studies, carrageenan was shown to cause intestinal lacerations and tumors. A 2001 meta-study of 45 peer-reviewed studies concluded that carrageenan consumption may result in gastrointestinal malignancy and inflammatory bowel."
Though the FDA has approved it as safe, based on decisions from industry funded studies, as well as European agencies and the World Health Organization; with the exception of infant formula. Another quote from Fooducate states:
"In some individuals, carrageenan may cause intestinal discomfort or worse."
Sugar Alcohols
Samoas also contain sugar alcohols which are used as a lower calorie sweetener versus regular table sugar. 
"Sugar alcohols are not metabolized by oral bacteria, which means no cavities. They are popular in gums and mints, and have even found their way into cereals, bars, and other snacks. The downside to sugar alcohols is that they may cause bloating."
If you are wondering what exactly a sugar alcohol is, here is a list:
  • Arabitol
  • Erythritol
  • Glycol
  • Glycerol
  • Isomalt
  • Lactitol
  • Maltitol
  • Mannitol
  • Rybitol
  • Sorbitol
  • Threitol
  • Xylitol 
Corn Syrup
Samoas contain corn syrup which is used as a sweetener in processed foods. Corn syrup is not the same as high fructose corn syrup.
"Don't be fooled when looking up the amount of sugar a product contains if corn syrup is listed as an ingredient. This is because corn syrup contains 50% sugar, and 50% of another form of carbohydrate known as 'oligosaccharides', which is pretty close to sugar. If a product has less sugar than you think it should, but contains corn syrup in the ingredient list, you'll know that the missing carbs are those oligosaccharides, not much better."
Glycerin is another ingredient that is used as a sweetener, thickener, or preservative in food products. Compared to sugar, glycerin has the same number of calories; however, it has a lower glycemic index (GI). Glycerin should actually be considered a carbohydrate, but most companies don't properly list it as so.
"It's generally accepted as healthy and safe. For people with heart, liver, or kidney problems, it's best to avoid this ingredient." 
Vegetarians, vegans, and people sensitive to MSG should beware! The ingredients list on both kinds of cookies also contains natural flavors. Though natural flavors tends to be better received by consumers than artificial flavors, natural flavors can contain glutamates, animal products, or allergins. The only way to find out exactly what was used as "natural flavoring" is to contact the manufacturer.


Below are some better alternatives, although a cookie is still a cookie. If you have to satisfy that cookie craving then oatmeal is always a better route. The fiber within an oatmeal cookie will keep you from overindulging and can provide some healthier benefits. Below are the options given by Fooducate...
  • Annie's Homegrown Ginger Snap Bunny Cookies - Gluten Free (C+)
  • Tasty Brand Organic Chocolate Chip Cookies (C+)
  • Mary's Gone Crackers Cookies, Ginger Snaps (C+)
  • 365 Everyday Value Organic Chocolate Chip Cookies (C-)
  • Trader Joe's Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies (D+, Non-GMO)
  • Banana (A)
  • Plum Kids Organic Mashups Berry Flavor Squeezable Fruit (A-)
  • Peeled Organic Fig, Date, and Apricot (A-)
  • Nativas Naturals Organic Mulberries Turkish Superfruit (A-)
  • Little Duck Organics Blueberry and Apple Tiny Fruits (A-)
I will not be giving these particular products a "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" this week. I believe that organizations like Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Campfire Girls, etc. teach kids important lessons including interacting with "customers", supply and demand, cash exchange, among many others and I fully support the lessons that are taught. I believe, as healthy adults, we should be able to determine a good balance when purchasing products like these to help support these lessons. Use good judgement when purchasing cookies or any other product like these. It's when we overindulge when we get into trouble. Luckily, Girl Scout cookie season only comes once per year!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Growing Greens: How to Raise Spinach

The YouTube channel, Gardenerd, goes over how to grow your own spinach. This is the first of many videos I will be posting on growing your own food at home. Growing your own fruits and vegetables is an affordable way to eat healthy!

How to Wash and Prepare Spinach

Chris from the YouTube channel 'foodfaq' provided this wonderful video on how to properly wash and prepare spinach. At the end he also gives an awesome tip on how to bring life back to your spinach if you have some sitting in your refrigerator that has started to wilt.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Fooducate Friday: Week #2 - Popcorn Indiana's Fit Popcorn

I picked up these two bags of popcorn at my local Safeway. They were on sale for 2 for $5.00. I'm a huge fan of healthy snacks! My family loves to eat and often so I am always on the lookout for healthier snacking options. This brand is called Fit Popcorn and it's made by Popcorn Indiana. Safeway had three flavors to choose from and I chose Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Sea Salt.

This brand is all natural, non-GMO, a good source of fiber, zero cholesterol, gluten free certified, kosher, 100% whole wheat, and zero trans fats! (What a mouthful! Literally!) Other flavors include Parmesan and Herb, Onion Dijon, and Real Butter. Both kinds I purchased were vegan-friendly.

Fit Popcorn by Popcorn Indiana

I scanned both packages with my Fooducate app. The Sea Salt has an A- grade and a FoodPoints value of 4 while the EVOO was given a B+ grade and a FoodPoints value of 3. The thing that blew my mind about this particular brand of popcorn wasn't just the nutrition facts, it was the serving size. When you read on, keep in mind that the serving size is a whopping 3 1/2 cups of popcorn!


This kind is so delicious! When I first poured it out into a bowl I noticed that it was beautifully seasoned with black pepper and parsley. I had about two cups of this as my afternoon snack and was completely satisfied and full until dinner time.

Per serving, 3 1/2 cups, the details are as follows:
  • Calories - 130
  • Total Fat - 6g
  • Sat Fat - 1g
  • Trans Fat - 0g
  • Cholesterol - 0mg
  • Sodium - 210mg
  • Total Carbs - 17g
  • Dietary Fiber - 3g (which brings your net carbs down to 14g)
  • Sugars - 0g
  • Protein - 2g
  • Calcium - 10%
The ingredients includes popcorn, extra virgin olive oil, tapioca starch*, sea salt, parsley, and black pepper.

*Tapioca starch is derived from a root-based plant called the cassava plant, or the yucca. It is vegan and used as a food thickener including in, as it's name implies, Tapioca Pudding.


Even though the EVOO was incredibly delicious and I WILL be buying it again, the Sea Salt was probably my favorite. I'm one of those people who prefers her gluttonous salty snacks over sugar or chocolate any day and this definitely helps satiate my salt triggers.

Per serving, 3 1/2 cups, the details are as follows:
  • Calories - 130
  • Total Fat - 6g
  • Sat Fat - 0.5g
  • Trans Fat - 0g
  • Cholesterol - 0mg
  • Sodium - 220mg
  • Total Carbs - 17g
  • Dietary Fiber - 3g (Net carbs = 14g)
  • Sugars - 0g
  • Protein - 3g
  • Iron - 4%
The ingredients list includes popcorn, non-GMO canola oil, and sea salt. I love seeing an ingredients list that is so simple!!!