Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Quinoa Cookery 101

Yesterday I had the chance to teach an amazing gal a little more about gluten free cooking. Everyone meet Lisa Schumacher. We'll be cooking a lot together. The couple of hours I was in her home, we came to realize what kindred spirits we are. I love her. We made ten freezer meals and I promised I would add the directions for how to cook quinoa to my blog for her gluten free, dairy free, organic lifestyle. Hooray! Here it is on Tutorial Tuesday! First things first...this is the grain we're working with.

I personally prefer the pre-washed variety of quinoa. The white I use in my Gluten Free flour . I purchased White Quinoa from my friends Troy and Tracey Adair down at their grain and emergency preparedness store, Preparing Wisely. Since it's national Preparedness month I thought it wouldn't hurt to share a little about this amazing grain. If you've never tasted it, you are in for a treat. Granted, there are some tricks to making a good quinoa.

I call it a super grain. Quinoa is an ancient crop that grows in poor soil, dry climates and even mountain altitudes. It is native to the Andes, but is also grown in South America and the Colorado Rocky Mountains. Although it can grow in arid conditions, it thrives best in well-drained soil. A quinoa grain is flat and has a pointed oval shape. The grains exist is several colorations, including yellow, red, brown and black. When cooked, quinoa expands to about three or four times its size. It also has a unique texture; the grain itself is smooth and creamy, but the tail of the grain has a crunchy texture. That texture may be what has endeared it o my soul. I love mild nutty flavor. It reminds me of a mild pecan. Now the secret is getting grain that is pre-rinsed if you can. I picked up a box of red pre-rinsed quinoa for sweet Lisa Schumacher when we did our cooking class together Monday.

However, on the way home I realized an awful craving for it and stopped at Trader Joe's. I grabbed a box and didn't look to see if it was pre-rinsed. Why does that matter? Well...if you don't rinse it when you should, it will be really bitter. Not my favorite. Mind you it was still gluten free and organic, so I just went ahead and cooked it.

First of all, you will always need to rinse and drain quinoa thoroughly in cold water before cooking. I put it in a metal mesh colander that I'm sure will not let any of my precious dots of happiness slide through into the dark abyss of my sad stinky garbage disposal. It doesn't deserve that kind of fate. It deserves to die respectfully...after being boiled and sauced. Right little nugglets of joy? You want to be boiled right? Who am I talking to? Yes...I do happen to be a firm believer in slight delusional conversations with my food. Less attractive are the conversations I have with chocolate...that may involve curse words on days I'm dieting. I'm just saying...I never curse at healthy food. It isn't evil. So rinse the quinoa. Now this is where it gets really rocket science like. Are you ready? You treat it just like rice. Easy. I did cover How to cook rice on the stove 101 a while back. Just for the folks who have no idea how that works. You know who you are.
1 cup quiona, rinsed
2 cups water
salt to taste (I use about 1 tsp)

1. In a 1 and a half quart (6 cups) capacity heavy pot with a tight fitting lid, boil the water and the salt, that is when the bubbles don't stop even when you stir it. Add the grain, cover the pot, and turn the burner to the lowest setting. Set your timer for 15 minutes. Don't stir it. Just let it simmer. This will produce perfect grain every time if you follow the instructions. Measure everything with "measuring cups". They are sold in the baking aisle. Some gals and guys don't know that. If you aren't sure if your pot is able to hold 6 cups, measure 6 cups of water into the pan first. If it works, you are in business. Be sure that the pan has a heavy bottom too. It the pan is thin, you will burn the quinoa. Must have good pans. Must have.

Now, if you feel pretty crazy and confident, try using chicken or vegetable broth in place of the water. It will add a lot of flavor. Some people don't like a flavor to their grain, beside the grain. I also like using coconut milk in place of the water in Hawaiian dinners, along with 1/4 cup minced onion. Garlic adds a nice touch too, even just one or two cloves pressed into the broth as you add the grain.
Here's what the quinoa grain looks like before it's cooked.

Look at it after! Cool huh?

We served it with some Honey Maple BBQ Sweet potatoes and carrots.
That recipe will follow when we have our BBQ rub giveaway.

Surprisingly...it was so simple I almost felt guilty. Almost.

There you go! Use some supergrain in your life!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Gluten Free Pancake Mix

I have several friends and family members who have to adhere to a strictly gluten free diet. They have actually been medically diagnosed with Celiac disease - sprue (celiac disease) . I most recently spent a couple of hours today with a gal named Lisa who I mentioned in my entry about Gluten Free, Dairy Free, 100% Organic Frozen Pie Crust. Lisa and those like her share a lot of similar frustrations when it comes to adjusting to a gluten free diet. So, out of love to my darling friends and family who still crave pancakes and waffles, I thought I would share this recipe for gluten free pancake mix.

Chef Tess’ Gluten Free Pancake Mix

4 cups Chef Stephanie Petersen’s gluten free multi-grain flour*
1/2 cup organic extra virgin coconut oil (chilled for about 20 minutes until solid)
1/3 cup fructose granules, xylitol, or 4 packets stevia powder
2T baking powder
1 tsp salt
Combine well, until oil is smaller than the size of a pea. Yield 4 1/2 cups (2 mixes)

To prepare for pancakes:
2 1/4 cups mix
dash of cinnamon or nutmeg
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
3 cup water or soy milk
Add eggs and water. Mix until well combined. Cook on a hot griddle.
In case you missed the directions for the gluten free flour. Here's what I do.

*Chef Stephanie Petersen’s Gluten Free multi-grain flour:
12 oz organic buckwheat
12 oz organic brown rice
12 oz organic amaranth
12 oz organic pre-rinsed quinoa

Mix the grains in a bowl and grind on the lowest setting in your grain mill/grinder. Keep in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer until ready to use.

To use I have found that for every 3 cups of white or wheat flour I need 1/3- 1/2 cup more of multi-grain flour. This flour is good for cookies, brownies, pancakes, muffins, and waffles. You can use it in the Homemade Baking Mix and Homemade Chocolate Cake Mix , just remember to add 1/2 cup more of this flour to the mix per every 3 cups of regular flour called for. Easy stuff right? The bonus...it's totally whole grain! Oh, by the way,I don't recommend it for yeast raised bread. It also makes a great thickening agent for things like Cream Soup Mix at a fraction of the cost (just use half as much since rice flour does a wonderful job thickening things up).

There you go.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Bread of Life Section

It has come to my attention that I have not shared any of my poetry here on the blog as of yet. During life's most bitter battles I've used poetry in a private chamber of my heart, scribbled in a notebook I shove in my closet. Rarely do I share any of it, but I think today is a good day to bring one of my favorites to light. Writing has been a great source of comfort to me during times of great spiritual battles and helped me express some inner most feelings. I have been richly blessed to have God be part of everything in my life instead of just a small confine of space reserved for "church". God will expand. Peace will transcend. Joy...will permeate.

Lord Join Me In The Kitchen

I closed Him in another room.
What a mess, he came to soon.
I hope he likes the bed and flowers.
Laundry and dishes could take hours.
The baby cries, the kids need fed.
He's in the room, no words are said.

He is my dearest tender friend.
I'll talk to Him at the day's end.
Why do I close the door on Him?
He'll see the mess...and I'm not thin.
He can't come out until I'm perfect.
...Can't see my weakness; see me upset.
Then from the room, I hear a knock.
The sound's soft and gentle as a thought.
I open the door to his bright room.
I invite him into my living room.
"Watch the toys, mind the book pile."
He smiles and builds me up a while.
He comes to the kitchen as a friend.
I ask Him to be with me. He smiles again.

My Savior, why did you join me here?
Will the answer ring clear and true?

As long as we shut him in a room
Reserved for only church...we live in gloom.
His is a presence we can have everywhere...
A warm loaf of bread on days sad or fair.
He doesn't choose to close the door on us,
Nor force us to choose he be among us.
So why put him in a room at all?
Why close Him out or build a wall?

Can I daily choose a friend instead?
Come join me as I bake some bread.
Remind me, dearest Bread of Life,
to be a tender mother and wife.
Be near me in my daily, hourly, minute.
Take my heart. Change me within it.
Join me in the kitchen, I open the door.
Mind your feet...there's juice on the floor.

---chef Stephanie Petersen 2004

Friday, August 27, 2010

Brown Bag lunch competition show on Valley Dish

Gluten Free, Dairy Free, 100% Organic Frozen Pie Crust

Today for Freezer Friday, I thought I would share something I have been working with and am excited about! Monday I will be teaching some private Chef Tess Freezer Meal cooking lessons with a new client. She is an amazing woman named Lisa Schumacher. She is an entrepreneur, children's leader in BSF, and Abolitionist! Yes folks, there really is still a great need for abolitionists!! Lisa is also a leader in developing affordable Luxury skin care for the masses. 25% of their sales go toward abolishing modern slavery and child trafficking! Talk about someone making a difference! Rock on Lisa! I really believe people are put into each other's lives for a reason, and Lisa is in mine as a great example. I'm looking forward to a new wonderful friendship! Check out her company. Lily & Co. at http://www.lilynco.net/ .

I bring this up, because Lisa has some dietary needs I think apply to a lot of people. Specifically she has no gluten, or dairy in her diet. She also has no sugar. She is all about 100% organic with everything. So, I had to come up with some delicious recipes that would work for her and her family. One thing she really wanted was egg and cheese quiche. Mind you...dairy free and gluten free. First things first I needed to gather the gluten free grains that I would use for her speciality flour.

Buckwheat. Yes, it's gluten free!

Quinoa, ( boxed "pre-washed" variety if using for flour)

Basmati Brown rice,

and amaranth.

Chef Stephanie Petersen’s Gluten Free multi-grain flour:
12 oz organic buckwheat
12 oz organic brown rice
12 oz organic amaranth
12 oz organic pre-rinsed quinoa
Mix the grains in a bowl and grind on the lowest setting in your grain mill/grinder.

Though the flour looks rather white, there is 100% whole grain there. 100% gluten free.

Now to make that wonderful flour into something I could use for a quiche!
Keeping in mind...again, no dairy.
Chef Tess' Gluten Free Quiche crust Recipe
1/2 cup spectrum organic shortening or EV coconut oil
2 gluten free Chef Stephanie’s multi-grain flour
1 egg
1T vinegar
½ tsp salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
I love using extra virgin coconut oil in my organic dairy free crust. It adds amazing flavor and makes a nice flaky crust.
Cut shortening into gluten free multi-grain flour and salt until a crumb like texture forms.

Add egg and vinegar. Knead by hand about 5 minutes. It will be sticky at first, but will firm up.
Don't be afraid to let it stick to your hand a little. Once you shape it into a ball and freeze it, that dough will be nice for rolling.
Place dough ball in the freezer for 10-15 minutes. This not only helps the coconut oil to firm up, but also gives your oven a chance to really pre-heat. Roll dough out between two pieces of wax paper or on a heavy plastic gallon size bag until 9 inches in diameter.

Gently easy your hand under the plastic and flip the crust over, face side down, into an 8 inch pie tin. This recipe makes 1 crust. Press crust into pan and remove any extra edges.

Place on a sheet pan and bake uncovered 12-15 minutes, until firm.

Allow crust to cool. Now you can either cover the crust with foil and freeze it until ready to use for pies or pastries, or you can go ahead and make it into a quiche. Here is the recipe I use for that:
Tess' Ham and Cheese Quiche For the freezer (or not)
9 inch pastry shells
1cups diced fully cooked ham (so good with crab instead of ham)
1 cup sharp cheddar soy cheese
2T minced fresh onion
1 clove fresh pressed garlic
2 eggs
1 cups soy milk
3/4 tsp dill weed
fresh cracked pepper

Directions: While baking crust, combine onion, garlic, eggs, soy milk, and seasonings. Removed crusts from oven and cool, put ham and cheese in the pie shell, then pour in the egg mixture. Freeze uncoverd very flat at least one hour, then cover and Freeze up to 3 months or... put back in the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let stand 5 minutes before cutting. To cook from frozen bake 400 degrees 50-55 minutes. If you cut the pie into 8 pieces it is 25 carbs. each

There you go.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Cutting Through the Nutritional Jungle...rambling review AND giveaway!!

Okay folks, I recently did a segment on Fox 10 about healthy after school snacks and I owe a lot of special thanks to Cathy Schmelter, RD for her amazing book "Cutting Thru the Nutritional Jungle." I was first introduced to Cathy's work by her sister Paula, who was an amazing student in several of my classes. She told me that Cathy's book would marry well with all the things I used in my approach to food. That was several years ago and I have seriously loved reading her book as well as having my boys read her work. The good news is that Cathy has agreed to do a giveaway her on Chef Tess Bakeresse. She will be sending me a couple copies of her book to share with two of my readers.

In an article about her book (She's helping kids eat healthy - The Denver Post) There was a lot of quick grab information. For instance:
"Do the ingredients in foods make a big difference?
Isn't 100 calories just 100 calories? No. High-fructose corn syrup, for example - that's a refined sugar. Normally, your body can regulate sugars with insulin, but fructose bypasses that. So you never feel full when you eat or drink something with a highly refined sugar, like high-fructose corn syrup. It's everywhere too, not only in sodas, but also in lots of different products. You have to read the labels.
What should we look for?
I have five grab-and-go rules. It has to be high fiber, with no hydrogenated oils, no high-fructose corn syrup, and low or zero additives, preservatives and artificial coloring. Look for label listings that show products that are high in fiber, with 3 grams or more. Five grams of fiber is excellent.
What are some examples of snacks you approve?
I recommend those Kashi bars. Or dried fruit. Water- based foods, like fruits and vegetables and soups, are naturally lower in calories and higher in fiber.
As a nutritionist working with schoolchildren, do you think kids will really eat soup instead of chips?
I know it's challenging, especially for the lower socioeconomic group. For those kids, their groceries come from a convenience store because they may not have a car to go to the supermarket. Teachers tell me they see a lot of kids eating spicy Chee-tos and Coke in the morning for breakfast.
Parents allow them to select those foods for a number of reasons - cost, convenience, or a cultural thing. Some cultures feel feeding kids is showing love. But if we keep going the way we're going, 80 percent of the population will be obese in the next 20 or 30 years.
How can you help change that?
In the schools where I work, we're putting up posters and banners with popular characters, like members of the "Shrek" cast, giving good nutritional advice. Some schools have a lunchtime game - select a protein, and get a sticker. Collect more along the way, and get a prize at the end. Some have a student challenge: Avoid junk food for one semester, and students will notice that they're feeling and looking better. "
Don't you just love her already?! All the guess work is gone! To look inside the book Click here. I love that it's packed with valuable information that's easy to read, easy to understand and fun too! This book takes the guessing out of children's nutrition.

Feel free to visit Cathy Schmelter's website: an ounce of nutrition

To enter the giveaway, leave a comment here on the blog and share it with your friends! Winners will be announced September 1st! OH...and last I talked with Cathy, she has an updated version of the current book on it's way out soon! So, a second edition with even more amazing information! I'm so excited to see it!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Chefs and Drug Dealers...random thoughts

I'm pretty sure that for a food addict, I am in the wrong profession. Yes, my name is Stephanie Petersen, and I'm a food-a-holic. I realized that random fact about twenty years too late. So, I will be talking myself out of some things here on the blog, as a continued effort to make sure I'm keeping it real. I also realize that my greatest weakness may someday be my greatest strength...so I'm venting here so others will see that success is the progressive realization of a worth while dream. Tonight, I need help. Here goes.

If one is trying to eat healthy and find one's self late at night at the end of a rough day looking at old pictures of Butterscotch Blondies with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts in
one's photo files...is it wrong? Note I didn't say I personally was looking at the food porn. Daggummit. I have been. There. See, I can be real. I think what it all comes down to is the evil word: Desire.

I desire celery to taste like a blond brownie so I don't even harbor any guilt whatsoever even looking at it. Should I resort to making celery Blondies? Oh...I just threw up a little in my mouth just then at the mere mention of it. Sorry. I shouldn't say that on the blog. I should keep my gerd issues to myself.
Okay, here's the deal.
As I've embarked on this one year journey of weight loss with the Biggest Loser In The Family , I have seen a trend. When I stress out, I want junk. I saw the trend before the challenge, but now it's a little more magnified. Today was an especially stressful day. Yet, sugar for me is worse than what I imagine alcohol would be if I drank wine. How did I get through culinary school without tasting wine? It wasn't easy. I don't even cook with it for that reason. I don't want to start. What if I liked it? Weird...a chef who doesn't cook with wine. I think by admitting that I may have lost the entire country of France as followers. However, just knowing how I am with sugar, I can't imagine how hard the alcohol addiction would be to break.
Sugar is a powerful drug to me. Not everyone has a problem with it. How can I even be a pastry chef and have sugar issues?! Yikes! Just gained the entire state of Utah as followers. So, true confession...I really want to eat a Blondie. I'm not going to, because I made a commitment to myself that I was going forward with this challenge no matter what. I want my kids to see me face a real challenge and fight! Today, not even a nibble. I'm pretty sure it would lead to a full out binge.
I'm now willing to hand this craving over to a Higher Power and admit...I can't do this alone. There. Have mercy on me. "Dear Lord, reach down and change my heart."
If you have similar struggles, I'm with you. If you've never craved junk food ever...I cannot relate to you right now. In fact, I want to slap you. Okay...maybe just a little slap. "Dear Lord, help me not to slap that insensitive person who never had food issues and scoffs those who do..." There. I feel better already. My dear friend Kathy once said, "Why is it that watching a fat person exercise is motivating, and watching a skinny chick exercise is annoying?" There's some food for thought.
That's all I have to say about that.

See more about the one year challenge on Face Book: Biggest Loser In The Family

Monday, August 23, 2010

Homemade Chocolate Cake Mix

It's Mix Monday! Oh I love exploding myths and making convenience foods from scratch. Why is it? Why do I love it? Well...perhaps it's the sweet stream of email flowing to my heart thanking me for saving family budgets around the world. Literally. It's so highly motivating to get a thank you note. It warms the coggles of my heart.

How many recipes call for a box of cake mix? Well in America anyway I've seen whole books written on the subject. They're books that doctor a cake mix into a lot of other stuff. However...what if the person making the cake or doctored mix had some crazy stipulations? I do. I want the mix being made with all natural ingredients, from scratch and things most people have access to. I want it made to taste wonderful without adding a lot of chemicals to my diet. Yikes...did I just say "diet" in blog entry about chocolate cake? Oh the irony of my existence is sometimes scary.

You will need some very high quality vanilla. It will still make a very impressive cake. If this recipe looks familiar, It is in fact an adaptation of the Chocolate Toffee Buttermilk Cake Mix. A simple form of that cake with some subtle changes.
The texture is still perfect.

Chef Tess' Chocolate Cake Mix
yield 18 cups mix (4 1/2 mixes total)
1 cup (8 oz) butter
6 cups (1 lb 11 oz) all purpose flour
3 cups (11.5 oz) baking cocoa
1 cup ( 4.5 oz) non-fat milk powder or soy milk powder
5 cups(2 lb) granulated sugar
4 tsp salt
1/3 cup baking powder (2 oz)
1T double strength vanilla ( or vanilla bean paste)
1 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp cayenne pepper

To prepare mix: In a large 3 gallon or larger bowl, combine the flour, cocoa, dry milk
sugar, baking powder and salt very well. You may use an electric mixer if you have one with a large enough bowl. Cut the butter into chunks and along with the flavor extracts incorporate into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles sand. Take the mix and a couple of cup fulls at a time, run through a flour sifter. I use a hand flour sifter that works very well to help the mix become smooth and homogeneous. ( Need a picture tutorial on the mix making process? See: My Yellow Homemade Cake Mix) Divide into quart size bags. 2o oz of mix equals one cake mix. This is almost exactly 4 cups of measured mix.
To bake:
Combine with 3 eggs
1/3 cup oil
1 cup water
200 strokes by hand or 3 minutes medium speed.

Bake time 350 degrees:
Pan size: 2 8 inch 33-35 minutes
2 9 inch 28-31 minutes
13 by 9 inch 32-35 minutes
bunt 38-43 minutes
24 cupcakes 18-21 minutes
High altitude: stir 1/4 cup all purpose flour into mix. Mix as directed.

Ganache Glaze:
1 cup cream
1 lb chopped high quality chocolate (we used Guitard)
1/4 tsp hazelnut oil
1/4 tsp fresh ground cinnamon

Boil one cup of cream in a sauce pan and pour over the chocolate. I added 1/4 tsp hazelnut oil, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 1/8th tsp ancho chile powder...and blended until smooth. When chocolate is melted completely and the glaze is smooth, drizzle over one inch squares of baked cake.
These where double layers of cake with peanut butter filling...

There you go. Chocolate Cake mix. All natural.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Lost Children...Bread of Life Section

If your precious little child was lost in the woods late at night, how far would you go to make sure they got home? Would you expect a stranger to go out and find that little one?

When I was in the Fox 10 studio this Tuesday doing a cooking segment, I was privileged to be present when an amazing story was reported. Alexis Vance reported: "- A 4-year-old Payson boy has been found safe after he went missing overnight. Travis Mitchell was found by searchers on horseback in a steep canyon. He reportedly was playing with other children Sunday night when he disappeared in a wooded area in the northwest corner of Payson. Travis was transported to Phoenix Children's Hospital in Phoenix to be checked out for dehydration. He also had some cactus needles in his leg.Travis walked hand in hand with his mother Ginger outside the Phoenix Children's Hospital on Tuesday, reunited after the 4-year-old was lost in the woods near Payson for almost 24 hours.

On Monday, 50 Gila County Sheriff search and rescue members were looking for the boy along with 25 Payson police officers, four planes, 2 helicopters and 30 community volunteers.

It was one of those volunteers, Wyman Kendall, who found little Travis and brought him to safety."Sometimes this world gives you an opportunity to make a difference and we had angels on our shoulders," said Kendall.

Travis says he sat under a bush alone most of the night and when he finally saw his mother, he tried to comfort her. "I said don't worry, but she was crying..she was happy."
Watch an interview with Wyman Kendall, the man who found Travis (pay particular attention to the moment when he describes finding Travis...it's epic):
[press play to watch the video]

As the words of this story where unfolded to me in the studio that morning, the spirit of God filled my heart. Apparently it can reach me even at a TV studio. That's good to know. I felt so much love and charity for this little boy, imagining the fear and concern his mother must have had at his disappearance. When I heard of Wyman Kendall and his wife going out without being asked to do so, and searching diligently for this lost child, tears welled up in my eyes. God spoke to my heart. "When do we need a special assignment to help God's children? Do we search and serve because we love God...or because we love the honor of men?" It made a difference to Travis to be found. It made a difference to his family. It makes a difference. As Wyman said, "...sometimes this world gives you the opportunity to make a difference...and we had angels on our shoulders." Sometimes, even more likely, you are the angels. We are the hands of heaven on earth. Dare to make a difference. Wyman said, "luckily the Lord was with us and we came upon him." If Wyman hadn't been moving, and looking, he wouldn't have been found. God can't steer a sleeping horse. Dare to call out someones name in hopes of finding them. Search far and wide to bring them home. When you finally hear a voice call back, "I'm here." It will be magical. It will be breathtaking. It will be worth every effort you made to find that lost one. Remember those epic words, "And if it so be that ye should labor all your days and bring but one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father." How great shall be your joy.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Death Stars in the Garden

Remember my cucumbers and zucchini that where taking over the universe who I lovingly referred to as the "rebel alliance"? Well...they have fallen into tragedy.

Thanks to the death stars.

Now, I've admittedly been a little distracted from the garden by Fox 10, Tae Kwan Do, school starting and life in general. I'll admit I had fallen into the habit of just watering and moving on with the day. The advent of the death star could have been prevented. In fact, I was reading Adventures in Self Reliance and was shocked to see Angela's post on Squash Bugs. I had seen the little freaks but not been too worried. According to Angela the time to prevent major problems was when they where in egg form. So...I started looking for eggs. Unfortunately the minute I told Face I was looking for bug eggs instead of Easter eggs...he freaked out. No way was he touching an egg that would make a creepy little spider thing. He imagined they could crawl into his ears and lay eggs. It seems my love of Star Trek has warped my children forever.
Well, last night I painstakingly went through my watermelon patch and lifted a ton of leaves one by one finding about 300 of these little eggs! Holy crazy bus! I'm so glad I took the time to prevent a tragedy there. I can't even bare the thought of losing my watermelon. I love it so much. As I now know what to look for, I will keep my eyes peeled. Hopefully I got them all.

Special Thanks to Angela at Adventures in Self Reliance for the picture of the evil devils. and her amazing post.

I certainly learned from her experience. Now I have been warned. I'm warning my neighbors. Look for eggs. Don't lose your crops by waiting. It was a good lesson. Gardening can be such a metaphor for life. Anyway, if you have squash growing in the Southwest USA...take a minute to look under the leaves. It might be the best thing you ever do for your plants. Thank you Angela!!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Chia Seed...The Buzz word in Super Grain

I know you've heard the commercials for years about the chia pets where a person hydrates these seeds and spreads them on a clay figurine and then watches them grow into fluff. Cha-cha-cha-chia! Well...now you have reason to hydrate them and add them to your life! My first exposure to these little wonders happened when my brother in law, the mortuary guy, came home from a funeral. He said there was a bishop at the chapel who had lost eighty pounds by adding chia seed to his diet. He was not the guy who died. He was the guy who decided to take his own health into his own hands...When I bring this up with the chia, I'm not talking about a gimmick diet plan here, just sensible use of a wonderful grain. Imagine my joy at finding the Chia Seeds in a 1 lb bag at a really low price (just around 10$) at our local Preparing Wisely store. I wanted to try it out. Well...the owner Troy was kind enough to show me how to use them.

According to Troy's website, Chia was cultivated by the ancient Aztecs, and was honored as a super food. Chia is one of the best plant sources of beneficial Omega-3 oils, especially a-linolenic acid (ALA). Scientific Research on Omega-3 and other essential fatty acids (EFA) continues to prove that EFAs support cardiovascular health, comfortable joint mobility, immune system function and overall cellular energy. Chia is often stored for long periods of time as a Survival Food, since it does not quickly turn rancid like other sources of Essential Fatty Acids. Chia is high in vitamins and minerals such as magnesium, potassium and phosphorous. It contains many antioxidants, including significant levels of caffeic acids, quercetin and flavonols. Chia is an excellent source of high molecular weight soluble fiber, which supports healthy bowel function.
When Chia is mixed into a liquid, it forms a thick mass due to its high content of beneficial mucilages. This slows the digestion of carbohydrates in the digestive system, leading to a feeling of fullness, and reduces the spike in blood sugar that often accompanies the ingestion of carbohydrates.
Looking at the Nutrition Facts and Analysis for chia seeds revealed a glycemic index of 1. That's amazing for a grain!
So, I decided to give it a try as a drink. 2T mixed into 2 cups of cool distilled water.
The seeds make this crazy suspension that made my little boys say I was drinking frog eggs. I don't care. I was now sucked into the new world of chia.
I drop one or two droppers of stevia natural sweetener into the chia and water mixture and drink it like a thin pudding. I've had it everyday for breakfast for the last two weeks. I've lost six pounds. So...I'm going to keep taking chia shots. They're all natural and a wonderful way to add fiber and wholesome goodness to my life. Thanks most especially to Troy at Preparing Wisely
for having these bags in the store! I'm also down to my last few tablespoons...and that means I'm going to see them soon. Hooray for chia! Try them out. I love them!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Play Factory...rambling review

I don't do rambling reviews very often, however, this week I have to share something that has become a fast favorite with my little crazy boys. A friend of mine invited me to visit the new recreation area they had opened up in Chandler, just off of Arizona Avenue and Occatillo road. It took me a long time to finally take her up on her offer, but I'm so glad I did! I arrived on a Tuesday morning with my boys, but didn't call ahead. What I wanted was to show up and have it be as they normally have it. I love doing "secret shopper" reviews. I think it gives a better idea of how things are really run. I did end up calling my friend Elaine, the owner, when I was almost to the location, just to get some final directions. I have a negative sense of direction. If you can't find it either, it's next to the Dollar Tree, behind the Jack in the Box. How's that for "girl directions"? Ace says girls use landmarks. Boys use North, South, East and West directions with GPS accurate readings. I'm a girl. It's by the Dollar Tree. Bring socks and energy filled children. Open play is all day. The cost is 9$ ages walking and above (children over 13 are free). There are discounts for mom's groups with 10 kids or more! Friday...is 5$ for all day play! Look at what they have to play on:

This is something I have to mention. I looked at the air conditioning setting. I don't know if it's supposed to be common knowledge, but I'll tell you what I saw. It was set for 76 degrees. That my friends is like December weather if we ever play outside. So, this is nice when the weather man tells me it will be 115 degrees for the next three months. We need this place! Am I right?
The seating isn't just hard chairs. They have these bright cushy couches all over. I could stay all day in that couch. Really.
I love the parent's lounge. Love it. Free wi-fi. Magazines...silence...and big open windows on all the walls so it's easy to keep an eye on things.
What do I love most as a foodie who's concerned about food born illnesses, health and sanitation? They watch the food area very well and make sure this sign is really obeyed. No junk in the jungle. Sighhhh.

Hand sanitizer stations in the food area so when the kids are tired enough to sit and eat...they can clean up a bit too.

They have a very reasonably priced menu at the Full Service snack bar.

Danielle, the main gal who ran the snack bar and front desk when I showed up on Tuesday, was especially helpful and just as friendly as could be. I like her. If I had a joint like this, I'd keep her forever. She was amazing.

Kid pleasing pizza and foods. Okay...Little Man said it was some of the best he's had.

Pristine clean food preparation areas.

They do private parties, bounce house rentals, and giant slumber parties. They have drop and shop services for moms and parent's night out every Friday and Saturday from 6 pm to 11 pm for 25$ a kid. Now here's something crazy. My boys have every Friday off school. We'll be there for that 5$ special without fail. Oh my gosh!! What do I like most of all?! We finally have a freakin' awesome Arizona alternative to outdoor playing in the heat! Thanks Play Factory! Thank you most especially to the amazing efforts of Cory, Elaine!!
4180 S. Arizona Avenue, Suite #3--Chandler AZ 85248