Tuesday, February 5, 2013

How to Roast Spaghetti Squash

Have you ever wondered how to roast spaghetti squash. Or what to do with it, in general? When we eat at Ruby Tuesday's, we almost always get roasted spaghetti squash and zucchini as our sides. We love it, but I never really knew how to fix it or roast it - or what else to do with it. 

Then, I sat down and figured it out. It's actually very easy.

I love this picture. The evening sun was coming in the window just right and made my spaghetti squash look just a little mysterious. That's kind of how I felt when I started to work with it. How is this thing going to make "spaghetti"?

Start by cutting the "top" end off. This is the hardest part of roasting a spaghetti squash. It is TOUGH. So, get a good sharp knife and dig in (carefully though!)

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Put the whole spaghetti squash in the oven while it's preheating. It will soften the skin just enough that you can cut it in two pieces. This is a tip that you're going to want to remember!

While the oven is preheating, line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil.

Grab some spices. I used oregano leaves, cilantro leaves and basil leaves. But, be creative and use whatever your favorite spices are.

When the oven is preheated, take the spaghetti squash out and cut it in two pieced lengthwise. Here's another tip - the "spaghetti" is going to run horizontal. So, if you are going to use this in replacement for spaghetti pasta, you may want to cut it around the middle. We are using it for a side dish, so I wanted my "spaghetti" shorter, so I cut it lengthwise.
Make sense?
Good, cause it really doesn't matter, unless it matters to you.

Take an ice cream scoop and scoop out all of the seeds and "strings" that are visible in the middle. The sides will be solid like a melon.
Yay! Another use for my ice cream scoop!

Dump the seeds and strings into a bowl. The seeds can be dried and roasted just like you would pumpkin seeds.

So, now you've got two clean halves of a spaghetti squash. Put a little extra virgin olive oil in the "bowl" part of it, and smear it all over the sides and rim with your fingers.

Sprinkle your spices and some salt and pepper inside the halves.

Turn upside down (rind side out) on your cookie sheet. The olive oil will keep the spices "stuck" to the squash.

Place in oven and roast for 35-45 minutes. You can tell it's done when you can stick a knife into the rind easily.

Here they are fresh out of the oven. Just set them off to the side for 5-10 minutes to cool down so you can handle them.

This is what the inside looks like after roasting. Still looks solid.

Take a fork and start scraping the sides and bottom of the inside of the spaghetti squash. The "meat" will start tearing away in perfect little "spaghetti".

Just scrape away on both halves and put in a bowl. Don't worry, the rind feels almost like leather and all of the "meat" comes out just like this.

We ate it as a side with just these spices. BUT, you can put marinara, guacamole, chili - whatever you want on it. Just put in in regular spaghetti in place of pasta.

Share ideas on what you do with spaghetti squash!

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Garlic & Cilantro Mashed Cauliflower

I've been thinking about trying mashed cauliflower for a while now, but just hadn't figured out how I wanted to "fix" it. After all, what could possibly be good about cauliflower steamed and mashed with a blender. Since I can't have dairy, no milk or butter could "fix" it, right. 

Try this, I think you'll like it!

Take a fresh head of cauliflower and remove the green "plant" part that is stuck to the bottom. You know the part I mean.
Then rinse in cold water.

I cut my cauliflower head in half. It's just me and Bossman, so we didn't need the whole head. The other part can be used for dipping.

Break the little florets away from the head and put in a pan. Cover with water and place on the stove to boil/steam. Keep a lid on the pan to allow the steam to make your florets tender.

When your florets are tender, put the florets in a colander and allow the water to drain. This is not going to be as "solid" as mashed potatoes, so allow it to drain as much water off as possible.

Then I put a couple tsp of cilantro leaves, a couple teaspoons of garlic salt and about a tbsp of Earth Balance dairy free, soy free buttery spread. **It looks like butter and acts like butter, so in my house, it's butter.

Use a mixer or food processor and "mash" the cauliflower.

That's it! Isn't this easy?

I think I liked this BETTER than mashed potatoes. The taste and texture actually very closely resemble mashed potatoes. Go ahead, try it!

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Why Go Gluten Free?

People have asked me why we are trying gluten free and soon to be grain free. Where did we get this crazy idea?

I have researched it off and on for the last couple of years, because of my own problems with gluten and the nagging proof that my own body is giving me about needing to cut it out. 

Sometimes I can be such a stubborn human being!

So we are going gluten free for 30 days to see what happens. Next week, we will also go grain free to see how that goes. No corn, oats, rice, quinoa on top of no wheat, barley and rye. 

In my research, I came across the book Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis. If you would like to know more, here are links to the book on Amazon.

Here is the hardback version:

Here is the Kindle version:

Let me know what you think!

Tuna Guacamole Rolls

****I don't know what happened to my pictures! I'm going to leave this blog post up, for the directions....meanwhile, I'm hunting down my pictures in the blogosphere picture graveyard...

I love tuna. But, the normal way of making it can take away from the healthy benefits. After all, you normally add mayonnaise to it, with maybe some boiled eggs and relish, then slather it between a couple pieced of bread. With going gluten free, the bread was out of the question. And, trying to stay away from processed foods, like mayonnaise, what else can you do with it?

Then, I had an idea....

I drained the water off of a can of StarKist chunk light tuna in water. NOT the kind in oil!

Then, I grabbed my favorite guacamole. I use Yucatan All Natural Authentic guacamole when I don't have time to make my own. Notice it says 95% avocado and 5% spices. As store bought avocado goes, it's not too bad.

I mixed the tuna and guacamole in a bowl. Simply replace the amount of mayonnaise you would normally use with the guacamole. Feel free to add boiled eggs, onions, relish, tomatoes. Be creative!

Then, I took some leaf lettuce. NOT iceberg lettuce! (iceberg lettuce has virtually not a lick of nutritional value.) Take a few leaves off the stalk. My one can of tuna mixture needed about three leaves.

Rinse the lettuce leaves and then lay on a dish towel and pat with a paper towel to absorb most of the water.

Lay the lettuce leaves out and place some tuna and guacamole mixture down the center. If you go with the fold of the lettuce leaf, it's easier to roll up.

Then, simply roll the lettuce leaf around the tuna. 
That's it! No bread. No mayonnaise. This was soooo good! Trust me, you can eat two or three of these and be well under the calorie count of a normal tuna sandwich. Plus, no gluten. 

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Why is the Government Making Us Fat?

Why is the government making us fat? Good question! Personally, I think it has everything to do with being in bed with companies like Monsanto. Bear with me on this post, I've got ideas!

Last week I read an article about the government considering making smokers and citizens with Type 2 Diabetes pay for their own health care. As in, no Obamacare and no private insurance. Okay, smokers do it themselves, right? (of course, smokers usually start their habit before they are able to comprehend the implications of smoking - and at that point in their lives, they think they are invincible, so none of that applies to them.) But, Type 2 Diabetes??? Well, if you don't know, Type TWO Diabetes is completely preventable. (Type ONE is NOT). Type 2 Diabetes is completely curable with the proper diet and exercise. 

So, I delved back into a topic that I've been researching off and on for the last several years. (Note: I am not going to post links to the research articles that have brought me to my own conclusions, as somebody somewhere will have an article claiming the exact opposite. So, I encourage you to read and think about what I'm posting here - and then do your own research to satisfy your own mind.)

This article may be a completely jumbled mess and I'll try not to jump from topic to topic. I promise it will make sense in the end. 

I'm going to start by saying that I am allergic to casein, the protein in milk. I'm not talking about a lactose intolerance or sensitivity (although I'm sure it is probably hand in hand with the allergy). I'm talking about a true allergy. If I have dairy I sneeze and sneeze, uncontrollably for up to 30 minutes. My head gets severely congested, but clears up within an hour or so. I have drastic digestive issues. And, if I go just a tad bit overboard, I can have gall bladder attacks that can last up to two weeks. Serious, excruciating, not able to sleep or function, gall bladder attacks. **as it is with gluten and celiacs disease, there tends to be "that spot" in your digestive tract and/or intestines, that is damaged enough (prior to diagnosis) that it is particularly susceptible to the allergen. Mine just happens to be my gall bladder. When I finally figured out the dairy/gall bladder connection and am vigilant in not having any dairy at all (and scanning every product label to ensure no hidden dairy - Fooducate has a 4.99 app for that) I have had NO gall bladder attacks. 

Funny thing, though, I was raised in the country. I had a glass of milk with every meal, even a bologna sandwich. My allergy started in the mid 90s and the first sign was these "cute" sneezing spells every day after lunch. My co-workers teased me about having a sensitivity to the sun. It took YEARS and many bad symptoms to finally get the proper diagnosis. Now, I know that a person can develop allergies to anything at any point in their life, but milk?!?! 

As it turns out, back in the late 80s, scientists discovered that if they injected bovine hormone into dairy cattle, they would produce more milk. In an effort to produce the most amount of milk for an ever growing population, this seemed like the perfect solution. But, guess what happened in 1993? They started making SYNTHETIC bovine growth hormone. As in a lab. With test tubes. And chemicals. And, they are putting it in our COWS that make our MILK. **on a side note, when the doctor first suggested a milk allergy, back in the early 2000s, I couldn't find ANYTHING about milk and sneezing, milk and allergies, milk and gall bladder, on the internet. Nothing. Now, it's all over the place. 

Speaking of when I was growing up. My mom was "fluffy". My dad was tall and skinny. My mom was raised "in the city" (as in, in town where her parents had jobs). My dad was raised on a 1,000 acre farm in the country. His family consisted of my grandpa, my grandma and nine kids. They farmed the old fashioned way, with a team of horses and all manual labor. The women cooked, cleaned, gardened, rendered lard, etc. all day. The men planted, harvested, hayed, etc. You get the picture. With obesity on the rise in this country like it is, I've always thought, based on my own family, that a sedentary lifestyle was the culprit. You know what they say about calories in vs. calories burned. But, do you know any true athletes, you know the ones that work out every single day, or run 8 miles in a foot of snow at 5:30 in the morning, that are still overweight? Yeah, me too. 

So, what is it that causes obesity? What has caused Type 2 Diabetes to nearly quadruple since I was a child? What causes people to suddenly be allergic to things like milk and wheat? (when did you first hear of a gluten allergy/intolerance? That's a new thing!)

Going off what I've learned about my dairy allergy and the synthetic bovine growth hormone, I decided to do some research into just what exactly is going on with our food. (Watch Food, Inc. if you haven't already).

I'll start with wheat. Wheat has been around since the beginning of the agricultural age. Wheat normally has one growing season. However, maybe that's not enough to feed the enormous population on this planet. In short, back in 1943, scientist started trying to increase production of wheat to solve hunger in third world countries. They did this in Mexico, because the climate allowed for two growing seasons per year. All is well and good so far. By the 80s, to keep up with the enormous yield of wheat they were trying to produce (and the thousands of strains of wheat all growing together), they had to use nitrogen rich fertilizer. However, this made the 4' thin stalk of the wheat plant too flimsy to hold up to the enormous seed head the fertilizer produced. This caused the stalk to buckle, so a geneticist, Norman Borlaug, genetically engineered "dwarf wheat". The shorter stalk was also thicker and could hold up to the heavy seed head and it matured quicker. This dwarf wheat matured quicker, required less fertilizer and had a shorter growing season. Wah-lah! World hunger was on the way to being solved! *dwarf wheat is now what is grown in 99% of the world. 

BUT, no animal or human testing was done during this genetic alteration of one of the world's most used "staple" grains. Ooops. 

In today's time, genes can be added to or removed from wheat for specific purposes. Need wheat bred for disease resistance? They can do that. How about for pesticide resistance? Yep, that, too. 

Think about this: the difference between human males and females? A single chromosome. WHAT HAVE THEY DONE TO OUR FOOD?!?!

Being very simplified: carbohydrates convert to sugars in the human body. Wheat is a carbohydrate (bread, pasta, etc). However, with all of the genetic modifications, some scientists and health professionals consider today's wheat to be somewhat of a SUPERcarbohyrdate. There has been a push over the last few years for whole grain and whole wheat breads and pastas. Guess what? The glycemic index of a slice of whole grain bread: 72. The glycemic index of a Snickers candy bar: 41. Go ahead, look it up. (again, I am posting no links, so you can do your own research). "Wheat products elevate the blood sugar levels more than virtually any other carbohydrate" ~ Dr. William Davis, Wheatbelly (Dr. Davis has a whole book on this subject, so I won't go into any more detail here. Just the highlights!) But, I will add that consumption of today's wheat also increases a person's general appetite and craving for sweets and carbohydrates. Sometimes, you're not really hungry, you're addicted to wheat!

Another thing happened back in the early 80s. The United States imports most of our sugar and sugar tariffs were high. So, scientists engineered a little thing called high fructose corn syrup. It's as sweet as sugar (some studies say it's sweeter) and it can be made from US grown corn. Win-Win. By 1984, Coke and Pepsi were using high fructose corn syrup almost exclusively to manufacture all of their beverages. **You can buy sugar sweetened Coke and Pepsi products during passover in some markets.

So, we've had dairy, wheat and sugar all manipulated and genetically altered sometime during the late 70s/mid 80s/early 90s. 

As a side note, but utterly important, Type 1 diabetes accounts for only 5% of the diabetes diagnosis' in the United States. That means 95% of the diabetes patients in this country have the "preventable" kind. The annual number of NEW diabetes cases (adults between the ages of 18-79) diagnosed in 1980? About 475,000. In 2010? About 1,600,000. (Check the Centers for Disease website). The numbers for obesity are even more staggering.

Another thing I want to bring up is the incidence of autism, asperger's, ADHD, etc. I graduated high school in 1984, so I went through elementary school in the 70s. If you are somewhere around my age, answer me this:
How many students did you go to school with that had to take medication to function?
Yeah, me neither.
How many students at your lunch table couldn't drink milk or eat bread?
Yeah, me neither.
How many students did you go to school with that were severely obese?
Yeah, me neither.

The government tells us we need to reduce calories, increase healthy whole grains and get off our butts and exercise! Is that all there is to it?

Again, if you are somewhere around my age, how many moms did you know that ran 8 miles in a foot of snow at 5:30 in the morning to stay fit?
Yeah, me neither.

Did they even have "consumer gyms" back then????

All of that, brings me to this. A couple years ago, we thought I had a gluten intolerance and/or celiacs disease. When we discovered the true dairy allergy, I kind of "forgot" the whole wheat/gluten thing. It had to just be diary, right?

In order to be truly diagnosed with Celiac's disease, you need to undergo a blood test that identifies the antigen necessary for Celiac's disease. To further PROVE the disease, they will have to go in and do a biopsy of your intestines. This does not prove gluten intolerance, just Celiac's disease. The cure for both is the same, though. Avoid gluten!

Instead of going through all of that, my doctor suggests a 30 day trial of gluten free to see what happens. If you have symptoms that disappear or get better and you FEEL better, chances are, you have a problem with it. After 30 days, reintroduce gluten and gauge your reaction. 

SO, I have convinced Bossman to try gluten free with me for 30 days. We started last Sunday (27 Jan 13) and it is now Sunday, 03 Feb 13. Guess what? He has lost FIVE pounds this week! He keeps talking about how good he feels and how he hasn't had any digestive issues at all this week. Score!

As an additional note, by gluten free, I do NOT mean all those processed foods labeled "gluten free" on the grocery store shelves (those are usually full of added fat and tapioca starch and other things that can actually add weight to you). By gluten free, I mean mostly meat, produce, vegetables, eggs and nuts (what you are now seeing on this blog). We have kept a small amount of corn in our diet - hard corn taco shells the other night for instance. (by the way, that can of corn in your cabinet is a grain, not a vegetable). Other than the taco shells, we haven't really had any processed/packaged food. We also haven't counted a single calorie or limited our portion size. We have limited sugar intake, but haven't cut it out completely. And, we are still having regular oats and steel cut oats. **oats are naturally gluten free, but unless marked "gluten free", there is a chance they have been cross contaminated during harvest and packaging as it's done alongside wheat. 

I encourage discussion and comments on this matter. I am just going where my personal experience and research is leading me. I will talk more about our experience with this as we go along.

Healthy Oat, Honey, Peanut Butter, Walnut, Chocolate Balls

I was looking for a healthier alternative to my nobake cookie recipe (over there on my other blog) and have been trolling the internet and planning out recipes in my head, but hadn't come up with a good alternive. I pinned a healthy flourless oatmeal cookie/bar recipe on Pinterest recently and have been dying to try it. First of all, it required a food processor - which I don't have. (P.S. I am insanely jealous of a friend of mine who bought herself a Kitchen Aid yesterday! It's next on my "list") But, where there's a will, there's a way. So, I rolled up my sleeves and got out all my "tools" (I do not have a 'professional' kitchen. So, my "tools" in this case were a ziplock freezer bag and an ice cream scoop. Whatever it takes, right?)

Here's what I came up with and I have to say, these are yummy!

First of all, I put about 2/3 cup of walnuts in a ziplock bag and beat the tar out of them with the ice cream scoop. I can't use it for ice cream, so at least it has a purpose!

I beat them until they were mostly small crumbles, but not completely "powder".

I put 2 cups of just regular old rolled oats in a bowl. **use gluten free oats if you are severely sensitive to gluten, due to cross contamination during processing.

Then, I dumped in my crushed walnuts and 1 cup of all natural peanut butter. 

By all natural peanut butter, I mean the kind you have to stir the oil into and has 1 ingredient: peanuts. Smuckers is a fairly good brand (and all I had on hand).

Put 2/3 cup of raw honey into the mix. **I thought about using agave nectar, but since my peanut butter was all natural, so less solid than something like Peter Pan, I decided to go with honey. Honey is thicker than agave nectar and I want this to stick together in balls. If anybody experiments with agave nectar, with good results, let me  know!

Then add 1 tsp vanilla extract.

I used a regular mixer and mixed well. It's pretty sticky at this point.

The only kind of chocolate I had on hand was cocoa, Baker's unsweetened bars and this pack of Baker's German Sweet Chocolate bars. I decided to go with this since I didn't use sugar and honey isn't as sweet as agave nectar.

These squares were small, so I used 6 of them.

I tried using a cheese grater at first, but that was turning my chocolate squares into powder. Baking squares are harder than, say, candy bar squares. So, I fell back on my tried and true way to mash things up and used my ziplock bag and the ice cream scoop. Again, beat the tar out of the squares to break them up, but not so much that it's powder.

I put my crushed chocolate squares in the oatmeal mix and used the regular blender/mixer to whip it all up.

Just grab some "dough" in your hands and make little balls (whatever size you want). These stuck together very well and didn't stick to my hands too much at all.

Bossman is at the tattoo shop this afternoon, so I'm teasing him with pictures of my new invention. If I don't eat them all before he gets home, we'll see what he thinks. As for me, I LOVE these! Extremely easy and took all of about 6 minutes (maybe 7 with taking pictures).

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