Gluten-Free Stuffing Recipes for Thanksgiving

This is going to be a quick post!

In preparation for Thanksgiving, I thought I’d pass along a New York Times Health article that came across my screen on gluten-free stuffing alternatives:

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/11/12/gluten-free-thanksgiving-stuffings/

Stuffing is such a traditional part of Thanksgiving dinner (at least at our house!)…The smell of celery and onions cooking is rather intoxicating. I can’t imagine NOT having it!  These recipes take the same flavors and give them a new spin.

I haven’t tried any, so I can’t really recommend one over another, but if we didn’t have a nut allergy in the house, I’d try #2. I’m a sucker for butternut squash 🙂

Let us know if you end up trying one of the recipes! I’d love to hear how it turns out 🙂

 

What is Acrylamide?

It’s NOT a good thing!

Acrylamide is a toxic, colorless chemical compound that can form when certain foods are heated at high temperatures.  Reminds me of the post on grilling meat. Apparently cooking most foods at a high temperature is just plain bad for your health!

According to the FDA site, “Acrylamide is produced industrially for use in products such as plastics, grouts, water treatment products, and cosmetics. Acrylamide is also found in cigarette smoke.”  And it’s found in our food???

It was first discovered in food in 2002, but “they” suspect it has been always been present in foods that are roasted, baked or fried.

Like the HCAs that are produced when meat is cooked at high temps, acrylamide is formed when foods that come from plants (think potato, grains and coffee) are cooked at high temperatures.

What I found interesting on the FDA site was that there seem to be committees, research studies and action plans devoted to getting acrylamide out of our foods.  BUT, didn’t they explain that it isn’t caused by dangerous packaging or other industry protocols?  It’s user (read: cook) error.  (Or more accurately ignorance–have you ever heard of acrylamide?)  They can’t control how you prepare your food.  A better plan might be to devote their energy to educating the public on the dangers of consuming acrylamide and how to prevent (or at least reduce) exposure through different cooking techniques.  Just my two cents.

Dr. Mercola recently wrote an article on this very subject.  He mentioned one food that was “cancer in a can”.  He likes dramatic titles for his articles.  Anyway, if you have a few minutes to spare, it’s an interesting article.

So, show of hands…have you ever heard of this chemical before reading this post?  I hadn’t until I got the Mercola newsletter and did a little more investigating.  I’m guessing it isn’t common knowledge yet 🙂

One Extra Hour of Sleep

So did everyone enjoy that extra hour of shut-eye on Saturday night?

Considering my new career, I am interested in anything to do with sleep.  I don’t think I’ve mentioned it yet, but I’m now a Sleep Consultant for babies and young children!

In preparation for my 3-day training in Vancouver (when I got that crazy cold!), I read 1000s of pages on the topic of sleep.  I know more about Ferber, Weissbluth, Pantley, The Baby Whisperer and How to Become Baby Wise than I thought was humanly possible!  I can tell you why babies have a hard time falling asleep and staying asleep.  How parents can teach their children better sleep habits and finally start sleeping through the night. 

But I also learned about sleep in general and was particularly fascinated by our sleep debt.

What is sleep debt?  Imagine you are wearing a backpack.  Every hour that you either go to bed later or wake up earlier, you add a brick to your backpack.  If you are fairly consistent with the same wake-up and bed-times, you can usually “catch up” or get rid of your bricks by getting extra sleep over the weekend or going to bed a bit earlier during the week. But what if you are consistently depriving yourself of good, consolidated sleep?  Your backpack is going to get incredibly heavy and crush you!  Or you’ll walk around really slowly 🙂

One of the books I read for my pre-training was Sleep Thieves by Stanley Coren.  This book was a very interesting read! The main premise is that we, as a society, are operating on a fairly substantial sleep debt, and it affects everyone.  And most people don’t even know they have a sleep debt.  He has stories about truck drivers, pilot, teenagers, college students, to name a few. And the stories are eye-opening, and many make you think about sleep in a whole different way.

One story highlighted pulling all-nighters in college.  The student will stay up all night writing that 20-page paper or cramming for a final.  He is applauded by his parents and professor for his efforts, perseverance, and dedication and rewarded with a good grade.  But wasn’t the paper assigned a week ago (or longer)? And as for finals, those do tend to pop up at the end of every term pretty consistently!  He was basically praised for procrastinating?! When you look at it that way, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense…but that’s how our society operates. We are rewarded for output and results and if it compromises our health, so be it.

There were several ideas in the books like this…ones that made you think about a normal everyday situation in a different light.  He also had some pretty dramatic statistics.

One that stuck with me concerned Daylight Savings Time.  After the time change in the Fall (when we gain an hour of sleep), studies have shown a 7% decrease in traffic accidents?! And in the Spring, when we lose an hour, there is a 7% increase in traffic accidents!

I’m fascinated that one hour can have such a huge impact on our lives!  If one extra hour of sleep can have that profound of an effect on our society, it’s pretty scary to think about how sleep deprived we are as a nation!

Do you think you have a sleep debt? Do you wake up naturally at about the same time every day without an alarm clock? If so, you are probably getting enough sleep! But if you rely on that alarm clock 100% to get you up and out of the house on time, your backpack is probably overloaded with bricks.

What can you do to fix your sleep debt?  For at least a week, try going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, shooting for 8 hours of sleep each night.  If you’ve got a huge debt, you may actually need an hour or two beyond that.  Don’t bring your laptop and do work in your bed, or read that page-turner that you just can’t wait to finish. Watching tv in bed or talking to your best friend on the phone isn’t a great idea either.  When you get into bed, you should relax and not think about work or your to-do list!  Keep a pad and pen by your bed to write down anything that you don’t want to forget and then put it out of your mind for the rest of the night.

One final thought on the importance of sleep…Dr. William Dement, the leading sleep expert and author of The Promise of Sleep, explains: “Healthful sleep has been empirically proven to be the single most important factor in predicting longevity—more influential than diet, exercise, or heredity. And yet we are a sleep-sick society, ignorant of the facts of sleep and the price of sleep deprivation.”

I hope you’ll continue with your good sleeping habits, or change those bad habits ASAP! Sleep well everyone 🙂

I Guess I’m Human After All

It was inevitable.

8+ pounds of Halloween candy is currently sitting in cute plastic lack o’ lanterns on the dining table…and the candy is speaking to me.

Not screaming “Stay away!” or “I’m Not Good For You!”  Something more along the lines of a provocative whisper, “Oh, one little piece won’t kill you”.

I will be the first to admit that I have very little willpower.  If it’s in the house, I will probably eat it.  I was like this as a teenager (only worse) but at least now my head knows why I shouldn’t be eating it 🙂

I’m really not like this any other time of year.  Just Halloween.  But I suppose that’s because sweets aren’t in the house in such massive quantities any other time of the year. 

I should admit that over the last couple of weeks, I’ve fallen off the Phase 1 diet wagon.  (When you are following the diet more faithfully, the cravings are fairly non-existent.)  One more reason to hop back on…We’re having pork tenderloin with my new favorite sauce  tonight!

Anyway, that’s why I buy Halloween candy that I don’t like (read: non-chocolate).  No chance of breaking into the stash.  But when the kids start showing me the massive amounts of chocolate they’ve hauled in over the course of the night, my knees start to buckle.

MUST STAY STRONG.

Or sell the candy back to the dentist.

Which is exactly what we’re doing when the office opens tomorrow…

We did this last year and the kids each brought home crisp $10 bills–which to a 3 and 6 year old is like hitting the jackpot!

I’ll let them keep a few (preferably ones I don’t like 🙂 ) and we’ll get rid of the rest.  If you happen to be in the same predictment, here’s a site to find a local dentist who will relieve you of your stash:

http://www.halloweencandybuyback.com/

The candy collected is sent to troops overseas.  Along with a new toothbrush 🙂

So what are you planning on doing with the abundance of candy at your house?  Planning on eating it over the next 6 months (or week!) or do you have another way to get rid of the sugary stuff without actually consuming it yourself?

I Bought The Cow

Many of you like the idea of eating well.  Organic fruits and veggies.  Free range chicken.  Grass-fed beef.  The downside is often the expense.

I hear ya!

Since I eat a lot of protein, my meat bill is rather ridiculous.  I usually get a few pounds of grass-fed ground beef and some free range chicken breasts for the week and it’s about $30.

BUT there may be another solution!

My husband, knowing my love of all things beef and my need to find the best deal possible, bought an eighth of a grass- fed cow. 

I mean a Steer.  After this great surprise windfall of beef, I became educated:

  • A Cow is a bovine that has had a calf
  • A Heifer is a bovine that has not had a calf
  • A Steer is a castrated bovine used primarily for beef
  • A Bull is a bovine used for breeding purposes
  • A Calf is a young bovine that is still on its mother’s milk

Anyway, some friends asked us if we “wanted in on a grass-fed cow” and there was no question! 

There is actually a word for this–like-minded, carnivorous friends who get together and purchase a steer and each take a fraction of the butchered beef is called COWPOOLING.  Huh.

Anyway, our cowpool friends dropped off our delivery Saturday night and I am amazed at the amount of beef we got (shrink-wrapped, labelled and frozen) for the price we paid.  We got a little bit of everything:

  • 8 or 10 Steaks (rib-eye, sirloin)
  • 4 or 5 packages of Stew Meat
  • 4 big Short Ribs
  • 10 packages of Ground beef
  • 22 Hamburger Patties
  • 4 packages of Jerky
  • 2 packages of Beef Sticks
  • 1 package of Bologna (looks like salami to me)

And that’s one 1/8th of the Steer?! There’s no doubt in my mind that this is a good deal. 

But why is grass-fed beef superior healthwise to conventional beef?

  • Higher in Omega-3 fatty acids and CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) which reduce the risk of heart disease
  • Lower in fat and calories
  • Higher in Vitamin E (antioxidant, anti-aging)
  • Higher in beta carotene
  • Cows are not given antibiotics or growth hormones

So if you’re in the market to get a big ol shipment of frozen grass-fed beef, check out www.eatwild.com.  It’s a great resource to find farms in your area that offer grass-fed meat.  Some things to keep in mind:

  • It’s less expensive to cowpool and find enough friends to buy a whole Steer.  Some farms will let you buy 1/4, but the price per pound will be higher. 
  • Usually small farms only offer pick up, and  larger farms will ship nationwide (for a pretty hefty fee).  Ours came from Wisconsin somewhere…and thanks to our head cowpoolers who coordinated the pickup, ours was delivered to our back door!
  • You need to order early–there are usually 2 times a year (Spring and Fall) that farms will slaughter their steers, and people reserve theirs months in advance
  • An Angus will yield about 420 pounds of frozen beef and a Dexter will yield about 275 pounds!  Don’t know what type of steer we got…if you are getting more than 1/4 (which can be anywhere from 60-100 pounds of beef!), you’ll need a deep freezer to store and keep all that meat fresh for 6 months.

If you have any questions about cowpooling, please ask…wouldn’t want all of this random knowledge to go to waste 🙂

Recipe: Crispy Meatloaf

I seem to be on a comfort-food roll.

Might be because I’m getting over the world’s most irritating cold.  Or because it’s getting chillier outside and I know how long Chicago winters are…

In an case, this recipe is simply yummy and very satisfying.  Without the parmesan (an there isn’t a lot), it’s Phase 1, so really pretty healthy.

If you’re anything like me (and my husband), and you like your protein, then this recipe with serve 2 people (maybe with a little leftover for lunch).  If you have a bigger family, just double it, but make 2 separate meatloafs on the baking sheet.  I’ve tried making one big one and it was not the best idea I’ve ever had 🙂

This recipe also uses quinoa flakes instead of bread crumbs.  I use them in most recipes that call for bread crumbs with the exception of coating chicken or eggplant, etc.  They’re gluten-free and good on Phase 1.  Here’s what to look for at the store if you’ve never seen a box…it’s usually with the oatmeal.  Make sure you don’t pick up quinoa flour (which is good for some recipes, just not as a substitute for bread crumbs).

1 lb ground grass-fed beef
1 medium onion, grated
1/4 cup + 1 teaspoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1/4 cup  + 1 tablespoon grated parmesan
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup quinoa flakes
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400°.  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with non-stick spray.  Mix all ingredients (except 1 tsp tomato paste and 1 tbsp parmesan) and season with salt and pepper.  Make sure the egg/tomato paste/onion is mixed into the beef, otherwise you’ll get these tough bites of hamburger.  Form into a flat rectangle ~9in long, so it is uniform in thickness and will cook evenly.  Season with salt and pepper.   Spread remaining tomato paste on top and sprinkle remaining parmesan. Season with salt and pepper.  Bake 40-50 minutes.

My favorite part is the end…it’s definitely a little crispy.  I can’t stand soggy meatloaf…which is probably why I like the free form version better than the one made in a loaf pan.

But don’t take my word for it.  Take 5 minutes and whip one of these up for yourself and let me know what you think!

What’s in your meatloaf? (Or shouldn’t I ask???)

Recipe: Roasted Vegetables

Now that the weather has gotten a bit colder, I’ve switched from some type of green salad for dinner to roasting some vegetables. 

There are so many combinations of vegetables and spices that you could literally make a different vegetable dish every fall or winter evening.

Last night, I wanted a little of everything, so I used red and yellow onion, garlic, red peppers, broccoli, butternut squash and carrots.  I tossed them with some olive oil, spread them out on a sheet pan and used salt, pepper, garlic powder and thyme.  That seems to be my go-to spice combination.  It’s familiar and safe.  And I know my husband will eat it 🙂  I roasted them at 450° for 20-25 minutes and they were delicious 🙂

What could be easier than pulling out an assortment of vegetables from your frig and chopping them?  This is why I make them 4-5 times a week.  I’m a bit lazy.  But I also know what tastes good.  And is healthy 🙂

I realize this isn’t so much a recipe as a technique.  I have an ulterior motive.  I need to branch out from my “safe” spice combinations and try some new ones.  So,

What are your favorite spices to use on roasted vegetables?