Tag Archives: cook

World Kindness Week

World Kindness Week

It’s World Kindness Week, and it’s the perfect time to give back, give thanks, and do something nice for your loved ones or community.

Bring flowers to your grandmother or the nice older lady next door, have tea, and listen to some of their stories and memories. You’ll probably learn something and brighten their day.

Tea with Grandma

 

Write notes of inspiration and kindness on slips of paper and stick them in books you’re lending to friends or library books you’re returning for the next reader to find.

Notes of Inspiration in Library Books

 

Cook a meal for a friend of family member going through a hard time or even just a busy season at work.

Cook a Meal for Friends

 

Go to the nearest public park with friends and pick up trash or volunteer with a group to clean up alongside highways.

Picking Up Trash

 

Bake extra of your favorite dessert and bring them to work to share or deliver them to a friend who could use a nice surprise.

Bake for Others

 

Babysit your friend or family member’s kids so they can go out on a date night or make time for self-care. Or pet-sit while they go on vacation.

Pay for coffee for the car behind you in the drive-thru or dinner for a couple or family at the same restaurant as you.

Pay It Forward with Coffee

Meditation and Relaxation

My Healthy Journey: Find Time for Meditation

Sometimes, it feels like life is 5 steps ahead of you. At this time of year, I always feel it the strongest, as we launch this year’s websites and plans for 2017 and the holidays rush toward me.

The last few months have been a whirlwind of work, a move to Indiana, going remote with this job, a family trip to Phoenix, and huge holiday plans (like a trip to Philly) on the horizon.

I take comfort in knowing that I’m not the only one who sometimes feels like life is barreling ahead of me. My brother and sister-in-law bought an old house around this time last year and have completely redone it, which has taken them all year. I don’t know how they’ve had the energy to do it all.

Finding Calm

When things feel like they’re spiraling out of control (which, I mean, usually feels like it’s all the time), I just have to remind myself to take moments for myself.

Sometimes, it means buying myself a latte.  Sometimes, it means training for a 5K I’ll never run. (My chiropractor recommends I don’t run outside because inclines are bad for my back.) Sometimes, it means building a terrarium (which I finally did), watching a movie I’ve been wanting to see, or just taking 5 minutes to cuddle my dog.

My Terrarrium
Can you spot my hidden fox?

And sometimes, it means just finding a way to clear my mind. Cooking has always been one of the best ways for me to do that, and I’ve been trying out recipes from the Skinnytaste Cookbook.

Skinnytaste Cookbook

Skinnytaste's Chicken ParmMy favorite so far has been an amazing chicken parm made with whole wheat bread crumbs and homemade tomato sauce, and it’s baked instead of fried.

And recently, I’ve found those adult coloring books are a great way for me to clear my mind. They’re the perfect balance of intricate and easy.

New Healthy Habits – Meditation

I’ve been thinking about picking up something like meditation to get that same coloring book clarity. Our online wellness tool, Rally, has a mission to meditate for 20 minutes a day that can help you give meditation a try.

And these tips can help you get started with meditation. There are also lots of podcasts for you to listen to while you meditate, or this guide goes through some of the different approaches you can try to start meditating.

In the meantime, find whatever peace you can in the midst of the craziness.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Fruit and Veggies More Matters Month

Fruit and Veggies More Matters Month

It’s Fruit and Veggies More Matters Month, so we helped you learn about eating more each day this week.

Do you know what a serving of fruit looks like? You might be surprised how much you get.

What a Serving of Fruit Looks Like
Image via Popsugar

 

Do you know the best ways to cook certain veggies? This can help you.

Cooking Vegetables A-F
Image via Berkeley University of California Wellness

 

Make sure you know how long your fresh fruits and veggies are good for.

Which Produce Should I Eat First?
Image via Huffington Post

 

This simple guide can help you figure out when your fruits and veggies are ripest.

A Guide to Produce Ripening
Image via Lunds and Byerlys

 

Mason jar salads are a popular and easy way to get your veggies in. Try these recipes.

Mason Jar Salads
Image via Buzzfeed

 

Have you heard of zoodles? Learn how you can make pasta out of veggies like zucchini.

Zucchini Pasta
Image and Recipe via Cook Eat Paleo

 

Use this handy chart to figure out when your favorite fruits and veggies are in-season. And learn more.

When Produce Is In-Season
Image via Chasing Delicious

Save

Vegetarian Entrees

My Healthy Journey: Finding Vegetarian Alternatives

I love a good steak as much as the next meat-eater, but changing to a healthier diet has also meant eating more vegetables than meat. Sometimes, that also means it’s a great idea to try eating vegetarian meals.

Rally has a challenge for just this, called Meatless Days. They ask you to “Skip meat for a day and explore tasty vegetarian protein sources such as tofu, beans, lentils, quinoa, and nuts. It’s good for you, easier on the budget, and eco-friendly too.”

When I went on vacation to Nashville, I’d tried eggplant for the first time. We’d gotten a free appetizer that was eggplant marinated in tomato sauce and other goodness. It was incredibly delicious.

Ever since, I’ve been wanting to learn to cook eggplant myself. This week, inspired by the eggplant recipes I ran on social media earlier in the month, and trying an official meatless day, I made Eggplant Parmesan for the first time.

As I’ve mentioned before, when I cook, I rarely follow recipes or measure things out. But, since I’ve never made this before, I did use this recipe for reference, however I made much less since I was dining for one.

I started by slicing my eggplant into thick slices, about a 1/4 of an inch. Then, I laid them out on a rack and salted them well and left them for 2 hours, to draw the excess water out.

iStock_000004224464_Medium

 

Once I’d dried off my eggplant, I set up three different bowls to bread the eggplant, one flour, one beaten eggs, and one breadcrumbs and parmesan. Dredge each piece in flour first, then dip in the eggs, then carefully coat in breadcrumb mixture.

iStock_000013858649_Medium

Lay the breaded eggplant out on a foil-covered cookie sheet in a single layer. Drizzle the tops of each piece lightly with olive oil and bake at 425°F for 15-20 minutes. After 8-10 minutes, flip all the pieces over so both sides get golden brown.

 

While the eggplant is cooking, make spaghetti following the directions on the box. (I used whole wheat organic spaghetti.)

iStock_000050867370_Medium

 

While these are both cooking, you can also start making your favorite tomato sauce recipe. Or if you’re like me and it’s a busy weeknight, you can use a jar of sauce.

I heated up just over half a jar of my favorite store-bought sauce on the stove. I added a dash of garlic powder, salt and pepper, a teaspoon of sugar, and 2 handfuls of sliced grape tomatoes. I let this stew together on the stovetop for 15-20 minutes, to begin to break down the fresh tomatoes.

iStock_000011842527_Medium

 

If you’re going to use fresh mozzarella, slice or grate it now. I chose to use store-bought, low-fat mozzarella which was already shredded, both to save time and calories.

iStock_000018359583_Medium

 

Pull your eggplant out of the oven and lower your oven temperature to 350°F. Spread a little bit of your tomato sauce in the bottom of a casserole dish. Layer your eggplant slices on top of it. Top with more of your tomato sauce and your mozzarella and more parmesan.

If you’re making it for one, I used the rest of my tomato sauce and only made one layer. If you’re making a big batch, you will add more than one layer of eggplant, and so you should portion out your sauce and cheese accordingly. Bake for another 10-20 minutes until everything is warm, melted, and bubbly.

iStock_000036328680_Medium

 

Serve on top of your spaghetti. (I topped mine with a little extra pepper.)

I can honestly say this meal lived up to how delicious it looks. It is rich and so tasty, and packs a big serving of vegetables. Chicken parmesan has long been a family favorite, and I can honestly say that this is just as satisfying.

IMG_2443

 

Making healthy changes, like meatless days, doesn’t have to be a sacrifice! It just takes a little searching for a good recipe and being willing to try new things.

And you can make using Rally and tracking your goals even easier with their app, so you can check in anytime, anywhere.

Save

Food Expiration Dates and Safety

Decoding Expiration Dates

Did you know the government doesn’t make food companies put expiration dates on most things? They choose to put those dates on their products so that you get the best quality as a customer, which is why there are so many different kinds of labels.

According to the Boston Globe, 3/4 of Americans think eating things after their printed dates is unsafe. That’s not always true.

What Do the Expiration Dates Mean?

“Sell by” Date

This tells the store how long it can sell the product. You should buy it before this day, but it doesn’t mean that it’s bad after that date. It really just means that it’s freshest before that date.

“Best if used by (or before)” Date

You should use a product before this date for the best quality and flavor, but it has nothing to do with safety.

“Guaranteed fresh” Date

This is usually used for bakery items. You can still eat them after this date, but they won’t be at their freshest.

“Use by” Date

This is the last date a product’s maker recommends you use it for the best quality, much like “best if used by or before” dates.

“Pack” Date

These are dates that are on many canned or packaged goods. They’re used by the manufacturer and do not tell you if the food is safe. They may also be in a code, usually month-day-year, like MMDDYY. So September 29, 2015, would be 092915.

Other Dates

Federal law says that all baby formula must be dated. It is usually marked with a “use by” or “expiration date,” and after that date, the nutrition of the formula begins to decline from what’s shown on the label.

Some states also make stores pull dairy items off the shelves after their expiration dates.

How Long Are Things Good For?

While these dates will help you eat things while they taste the best, you won’t need to rush to throw most things away by those dates.

You should always try to buy your food before these dates expire, but as long as it’s stored at the right temperature and hasn’t been contaminated during cleaning or prep, it can be good after the dates.

Product Dates and Expiration

And of course, it is important to smell and look at your food before you eat it if it’s past those dates (and before them, too). If something smells bad, tastes weird, has rotten spots, or is moldy, don’t eat it! It’s definitely time to throw it away.

You can see more info about dates and food safety from WebMD and the USDA.

Up Next:

Make sure you’re storing your food safely to keep it good for longer.

Are you always cooking things to a safe temperature to avoid foodborne illness? Our guide can help!

Save

Fresh Marionberries at Farmers Markets

Why You Should Be Shopping at Farmers Markets

You should try shopping at your local farmers markets for these 6 reasons:

1. It can save you money. At a farmers market, you can pick out exactly how much of something you need. Only need one carrot? No need to buy a bunch you won’t use, like you might have to do at the grocery store.

And the produce at a farmer’s market is only what’s fresh and in-season. It’s also local. At the grocery store, you’re paying for your fruit to be shipped across the country from where it is in-season. By buying your fruits and veggies locally based on what is fresh, you stop paying your food’s travel costs.

Illinois also has a Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program that gives you a free booklet of checks that you can use at local markets. Find details and participating counties and markets on the Illinois Department on Aging’s site.

2. You can support your community. Because the people selling at farmer’s markets live in the area, your money goes back into the local economy.

3. Many accept SNAP and WIC benefits. Many farmers markets accept these to make sure families can afford buying healthy, fresh food. Learn more about which ones take SNAP and WIC, or check out this list of all the farmer’s markets that take Illinois Link Benefits.

Certain markets, like the new Champaign Farmers’ Market downtown, have special deals for SNAP users, so it’s always good to check with the info booth first. At their market, they will double up to $20 of benefits per person while funds last when you bring your Link card to the market booth!

4. It has lots of healthy foods. Fresh fruits and veggies are full of nutrients and antioxidants and are a big part of the MyPlate guidelines from the USDA that help you eat healthier.

5. The farmers often have suggestions. They can tell you what foods are the best right now, help you find new things to try, and tell you the best ways to cook what you buy.

6. It’s a good family activity. It’s a great way to get your kids involved and learning about healthy eating, and it’s so nice to shop outside on a beautiful day.

Find farmers markets near you.

Up Next:

Need tips on shopping at farmers markets? We can help you do it right!

Salt and Your Heart

Cutting Back on Salt for Your Heart

Salt’s Effects

You’ve no doubt heard that salt’s bad for you. While the truth is your body needs salt, too much can be very bad for you.

On average, Americans eat  4,000-5,000 mg of salt every day, and your body only needs about 500 mg a day. That’s a big difference. One that can be a big problem if you have high blood pressure.

And it’s not just about what you add to your food. 75% of your sodium intake comes from processed foods. Salt adds flavor and keeps things fresh, so food manufacturers use a lot of it.

A study in Hypertension: Journal of the American Heart Association, found a high-salt diet may decrease how well meds used to treat high blood pressure work.

So, if you’re currently taking meds for or have high blood pressure, a low-salt diet could help them work.

Clean Up Your Diet

While you might want to talk to your doctor before you drastically cut back on salt, there are a lot of things you can do yourself to cut back that are good for you no matter what.

  • Stop buying heavily processed foods like corn oil and soda.
  • Shop around the outside edge of the grocery store and you’ll hit all the spots with the freshest foods.
  • Read food labels. Those with fewer and simpler ingredients are best. The longer the list, the more room there is for chemicals, sugar, salt, and oils.
  • Cook more at home. Restaurants, especially chains, use heavily processed foods.
  • Train your tongue. If you are used to salt, sugar, and fat, you’ll need time to appreciate the flavor of natural foods.
  • Add other seasonings and flavors to keep your meals delicious and interesting:
    • Allspice: Look for a low- or no-sodium options for seasoning meats, gravy, and even tomatoes.
    • Almond Extract: Great for puddings, desserts, and fruit.
    • Basil: Sprinkle on some fresh or dried basil to add a kick to fish, lamb, salads, soups, and sauces.
    • Chives: Add a light onion flavor to salads, sauces, sides, and soups.
    • Garlic: Fresh garlic is good for you and very flavorful.
    • Ginger: Try this on chicken and fish.
    • Lemon Juice: Make your lean meats and fish pop.
    • Dry Mustard:  Add to meat, marinades, homemade salad dressings, and veggies.
    • Onion Powder: Good for marinades, meat, and veggies.

Eating a low-sodium diet can be easy and delicious, it just takes a little planning and great recipes. Visit our Pinterest to find all kinds of healthy recipes you can make at home.