Wednesday, June 19, 2013

A Change Is Coming...

What kind of change you might ask?  A Life Change (No I am not pregnant).  A change in the way I eat and live my life.  Why you might ask?  For the last 9 months I have seen over a dozen specialists and been to more doctors appointments then I care to remember.  There were days I couldn't get out of bed the pain in my face was so painful it hurt to think about it.  Numerous drugs later, a scheduled brain surgery and finally an answer came.  After seeing my neurologist at Hopkins it was discovered that my migraines took a turn for the worse and were becoming debilitating.  All of the pain I was exhibiting was a new way of my migraines presenting. 

So what does that mean for me.  No more drugs and back on Dr. David Buchholz's diet.  It also means no brain surgery!!!! :)  It was also discovered in the process that I have a high intolerance for any form of MSG....urgh, I cringe at even saying that word MSG.  Don't get me started on how our government has allowed MSG to be in our foods and half of the times it isn't even labeled.  By the can a food be considered organic if it has MSG in it? 

Did you know that MSG has over 30 different names?  Try these names on for a try: calcium caseinate, monosodium glutamate, hydrolyzed protein, yeast extract, whey protein, natural flavors, malted barley, malt extract, malted barley flour, maltodextrin, carrageenan, ultra-pasteurized items, enzyme-modified items, broth, stocks, textured protein, sodium casinate, soy protein and many more.  The list goes on and on and these are just a few of the hidden names for MSG.  Are you looking at the labels of what you are putting in your mouth?

So how do you go MSG free while also following Dr. Buchholz's diet for migraine prevention?  The first step for me was to clean out my fridge and cabinets and stock pile of foods that I had in my house.  This was no easy task for me because I stock pile chocolate chips, flour, butter and much more for all of the baking projects that I do.  Well no more.  The next step for me was rereading Dr. Buchholz's book "Heal Your Headache The 1-2-3 Program for taking charge of your pain and also reading a new book by Debby Anglesey called "Battling the MSG Myth, a Survival Guide and Cookbook".  Both of these books have been instrumental in my changing process. 

Then I started the research from home of looking at food items online from local grocery stores so that I could have my books in front of me as a reference.  I made the list of staple items I needed: an organic butter, organic vitamin D milk, flour without malted barley, vegetables (preferably organic and not sprayed with pesticides which also have MSG), organic fruits (same thing), and of course my staple snack items so that I wasn't tempted to cheat.

Numerous trips to Wegmans, Giant and Trader Joes and I'm on the right track.  Mind you I've been living in my kitchen or the grocery store lately (my poor son!).  But I can proudly say that on a good day I feel 90 percent better and on a rough day I'm about 75% better.  So overall I feel great.  I even feel great about all of my "crunchy" measures that I've taken.  Yes I just called myself crunchy.  That's because shampoo and conditioner have MSG ("No shampoo is better!).  Sorry just had to add that line from a favorite movie.  Yes it is true our shampoo and conditioners and even toothpaste have MSG in them and MSG can be absorbed through the skin.  So for me that meant finding an alternative.  There are shampoo's out there that are safe, however I also get migraines from nuts and their oils so coconut oil is out for me.  As a substitute I wash my hair with baking soda mixed with warm water.  I rinse with vinegar and when I want a good conditioner I use aloe gel that I've processed so it's not chunky.  It stinks but man my hair has never been so straight and shinny! 

Overall this process has been a huge change for me, but very rewarding.  If you suffer from migraines like me I would suggest the two books I listed above.  If you have an illness that can't be diagnosed I suggest reading the Battling the MSG Myth book or checking out their website at  Debby believes MSG can cause migraines, ADD, ADHD, myopia, type I diabetes, high blood pressure, type II diabetes, obesity, depression, autism, asthma, and ALS.

So back to the cooking world and the reason I started this blog.  I've discovered and adapted a few recipes recently to fit my new "diet".  Look for a fabulous salsa, taco shell and taco meat recipe, stuffed green pepper recipe, and homemade macaroni recipe to be posted soon.

I hope that if you suffer from migraines or an MSG intolerance like I do that my new recipes will be of huge help to you.  And if not I promise as much of a food junky as I am that these recipes are all delicious. 


Monday, June 3, 2013

My Small Space Herb Garden

Ok so here is the deal.  Every April is clean out my spice cabinet time of the year.  I learned from watching "The Chew" that you are supposed to date your dried spices at the time you purchase them and throw them out after one year.  I can't tell you how many spices I waste.  Don't get me wrong I use a lot of spices, but some of the more unusal ones like Tarragon and Sage and Marjoram I don't use as often.  Others I go through so quickly I might as well own stock in them.  That's when I decided it was time to plant an herb garden.  One that would fit in our small space (we live in a town house), and one that I could bring inside in the winter so that I'm not losing all my efforts from the summer. 

So Pinterest searching I went.  I needed some inspiration.  That's when I came across this site which used a trellis as the anchor for their herb garden. 

Then it was off to Lowe's we went.  We found lots of trellis's.  Free standing ones, ones you can hang, ones that you anchor into the ground, wood ones and even metal ones!  Together my husband and I decided we would do a free standing one so that I could bring the garden inside in the winter.  Fresh herbs year round...why not!?  Some "S" hooks and tin cans later and we had the start of our project.  We did purchase the tin cans from ACMOORE.  They were half off and the perfect size for the opening of each row on the trellis (I will let you know if the tin cans was a good idea.  A good friend just informed me the tin might get really hot and dry out the herbs). 

My husband and I also sat out on the deck last night (until it started raining) and we painted the names of each herb on the tin cans with acrylic paint.  You could use chalk board paint for a differnt look. 

Take a look!

I need to buy some more herbs from our local farmers markets, but I'm very excited at the progress so far!  Yeah for home ground herbs!  The total for this project was $20.00 trellis, $15.00 for tin cans, $6.00 for "S" hooks, I had oregano and basil, I purchased parsley and thyme for $5.00 total at the farmers market.  That brings the total to $46.00 so far.  Not to shabby!  And I hopefully won't have to buy many store bought herbs ever again!  Yeah!
Hope this craft project brings you some inspiration!

Chicken Gyro's

 Well the local Greek Church just had their annual Greek Festival full of mighty fine tasting food and it inspired me to try out making chicken gyro's myself.  I found this fairly simple recipe online.  Of course I needed to adapt parts of it.  This is one recipe however that the credit needs to stay with Mel's Kitchen Cafe and Chef in Training because I adapted very little of the recipe.  I kept the Naan recipe and the Tzatziki sauce exactly as they created it. 

First you should start by making Mel's Kitchen Cafe's Recipe for Naan:

3-4 cups of flour (I used 3 1/2 cups of white whole wheat flour)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp active dry or instant yeast (I used active dry)
1 1/2 cups of milk (I used 1 percent)
1 tsp sugar
3-4 tbsp melted butter (I used maybe 1 tablespoon)

Pour the milk into a liquid measure and heat in the microwave until warm to the touch (it took 1 1/2 minutes for me or until instant-read thermometer reads 110 degrees F).  If using active dry yeast, mix the sugar and yeast into the milk and let sit for 4-5 minutes until the mixture is foamy and the yeast has activated.

Once the yeast/milk mixture is foamy pour the mixture into a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer and add the salt and 2 1/2 cups of the flour (proceed with the second paragraph of the recipe). If using instant yeast, pour the warm milk into a large bowl or the bowl of an electric stand mixer. Add the sugar, instant yeast, salt and 2 1/2 cups of the flour. Proceed as directed below.
Mix well to combine. Continue adding flour gradually in small amounts, until a soft dough is formed that cleans the sides of the bowl.
Knead the dough by mixer or hand until it is smooth and elastic, about 3-5 minutes in the mixer or 10 minutes by hand.
Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl (this was only spot I found the need for the melted butter) and let it rest at room temperature, covered lightly with greased plastic wrap, for about 2 hours.
After the dough has rested, turn it onto a lightly floured surface (I like to use my roul’pat for this) and divide the dough into 12 equal pieces, rounding each into a ball shape. Cover the pieces with a towel and let them rest for 30 minutes.
While the dough rests, preheat your oven to 500 degrees F and place a pizza stone on the bottom rack of the oven.
Once the dough has rested for 30 minutes, one by one, roll each piece into a circle about 6-8 inches wide, depending on how thin or thick you want your naan (***or use a tortilla press like I did- perfect each time and same size each time). Lay the circle of dough on the hot pizza stone and spritz lightly with water.
Close the oven and bake the naan for 2-4 minutes, until it is lightly puffed (some pieces will puff more than others) and brown spots begin to appear on the top.
Remove the naan from the baking stone and place on a cooling rack. Brush lightly with melted butter (rereading the directions I guess this is where you use the butter.  Oops!).  Stack the hot naan on top of each other as it comes out of the oven.
Cover with a towel and let the naan cool completely or serve warm.

Gyro Chicken Recipe:

6 tablespoons white white (original recipe said use 2 medium lemons)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
8 cloves of garlic minced (or jared minced garlic 4 tsp)
2 tsp oregano (I used dried)
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
3 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts (I used 5 chicken breasts)

Place everything but the chicken in a zip lock bag.  Mix ingredients and then place the chicken in the bag and seal.  Marinate in the fridge for 2-4 hours turning the chicken frequently.  Grill the chicken over medium heat until the juices run clear. 

Tzatziki Sauce: (*not my recipe)
1 1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup cucumber grated finely (squeeze out excess liquid)
2 tsp garlic
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tsp vinegar

Mix together and serve over gyros. 

Here are some photos of the process.  I will post a finished picture of the gyro as we eat them for dinner tonight!

** If you are interested here is the link to the tortilla press we bought.  I love it.  It's compact and uses very little arm strength to flatten the dough out.  I got nice even naan each time.  Would definitely recommend getting one of these.  Made the process so much easier and you can use them to make your own soft taco less thing to buy from the store that is full of lots of unknown named ingredients.  (Can you tell I'm not a fan of processed foods!)
*** Also the process seems lengthy, but I promise you it's not.  The sauce took 2 minutes.  The chicken marinade took 2 minutes then you grill.  The naan was lots of steps, but no one step took a long time.  Well worth it for the taste!


Sunday, June 2, 2013

Easiest Homemade Waffles

Recently, my mother in law bought my son a box of waffles from the grocery store.  As much as my son loved the waffles and it was easy to pop half of one in a toaster every day, I didn't like the long unknown names of the mystery ingredients that were in them and then there is the cost of buying store bought waffles.  So that's when I pleaded with my husband to let me buy a new waffle maker (we already own a belgain waffle maker, but my son likes thin crispy waffles).  After much searching we found Chef's Choice Waffle Pro Express Model 840.  Today was the first day I used it.  I used the basic wheat flour recipe in the instruction book and it made 8 whole waffles.  My son had 2 of the hearts and I ate a whole one of course!  I broke the rest into 2 hearts to freeze.  I placed wax paper in between each layer and placed inside a freezable bag.  I'm hoping that I can just pull two hearts out each day and pop them into the toaster for a fresh homemade waffle taste every day.  This waffle maker was so easy to use and let's you choose settings for how fluffy the inside is and how crisp the outside is.  For a stay at home mom who never seems to have enough time, but always has the best intentions for her son, this was the best sollution.  So if you're looking for a waffle maker this is the one to buy. 
On a side note I was not paid to endorse this product...I'm just a mom who is happy with her purchase and I love to share a good deal. 

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Homemade Sunflower Seed Butter

You know I'm always looking for a good buy, but not at the cost of extensive labor.  Recently, I came across this website that claims you can save $300.00 a year if you make your own sunflower seed butter.  I'm definitely saving money making it myself.  For $6.99 I was able to buy 2lbs of sunflower seeds, roast them and make 2 small Ball size jars of sunflower seed butter.  Around here Nature's Promise sells the same sized jar of sunflower seed butter for 4.39 a jar.  As I see it I would pay $8.78 for 2 store bought jars or $6.99 for 2 homemade jars of sunflower seed butter.  Being that I go through at least a jar a week that's about $50.00 worth of savings for me.  If you use more then that or your sunflower seeds are cheaper then I paid for them then you could be savings even more.

This is the website I used for my recipe inspiration.  I made the language a lot simpler and cut out the liquid stevia.  I also made it so that it makes exactly 2 jars of sunflower seed butter.

Take 2 pounds of unsalted sunflower seeds and place them on 2 baking sheets.  Roast them in a 325 degree oven for 15 minutes or until they are golden brown.  Make sure you roast them, don't skip this step.  That's where your flavor comes from.

Once roasted place your sunflower seeds in a food processor.  Depending on your processors size you might have to do this in two steps.  Process until the seeds are of a flour like texture and starts to clump together (that's the natural oils coming out).  At this point you can drizzle in 4-5 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil.  If you like it extra creamy add more oil.  Continue to process until very smooth.  Be patient, it takes a couple of minutes.  While still on add 3/4 teaspoons of salt.

Divide sunflower seed butter into two small glass jars and store in the fridge for 2-3 weeks.  The website I got the inspiration for this recipe from says you can leave the jar in your pantry for 2-3 weeks, but I get sketchy about that. 


Sunflower Seed Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Have you recently been told you can't have chocolate?  What about peanut butter?  Welcome to my world!  As a baker by hobby, someone who likes to eat healthy and someone who can't eat chocolate or peanuts (two of my favorites), I'm always looking for a new recipe.  I came across this website for all sorts of recipes that substitute sunflower seed butter for peanut butter, carob chips for chocolate chips and there are even vegan and gluten free recipes on the site.  The original inspiration for the recipe I am posting below is here.  Also, you will see that I used homemade sunflower seed butter.  A recipe I will post following this one.  You can use store bought, but it is so easy and much less expensive to make it yourself (a years savings of about $150.00). 

Karin's Sunflower Seed Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
Makes 4 1/2 dozen cookies

3/4 cup tub butter (I used organic)
1/2 cup homemade sunflower seed butter
1 cup white sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup 1% milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

Mix above ingredients with a wooden spoon or sturdy spatula until well blended.

1 1/2 cups quick oatmeal
2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon

Mix the above mixture either by hand or with a wooden spoon.   Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix well.  Add 1 cup of raisins and mix until well incorporated.

Bake 350 degrees for 12-14 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove cookies from oven and let cool on a baking sheet for 1 minute and then immediately move to cooling racks.