October 2012 Foodie PenPals Reveal

Every month I think to myself this month's FPP cannot possible be as good as last month's because last month was SO great...

And, every month I am wrong!

First, you should know I am sort of known among my circle of friends and family as the gift person...the one that's a little Marta Stewart-ish. I try to pay attention all year to different comments about interests, hobbies, likes, past times, favorite foods, etc...and mentally file it away for Christmas and birthdays. And, I shop for gifts year round and throw them into a designated gift drawer or closet for later wrapping. It really isn't as much work as it sounds...after a while it's just habit to always have your eyes peeled for things.

For example, my cousin's boyfriend likes English bulldogs, ad last summer at a thrift store there was a set of 3 ceramic English bulldogs wearing Santa hats for arouns $5. I, of course, scooped them up and put them away...and impressed everyone with my thoughfulness...and my husband with my frugalness.

Back to FPP...this month, my penpal, Joyce, made me feel like I needed to up MY gift giving game!! She sent one of the best gifts I have ever received. In or out of the FPP program!! Thanks, Joyce!!

So....the package.

I really can't express how much I miss living in New England, especially at this time of the year. I get pretty homesick starting around September. Thankfully, my grandmother has spent the last few Christmases in Las Vegas with us, so that helps.

And, so did Joyce's package! It was truly was a little box of fall!! It was perfect.


She sent a photo of the lake where she vacationed, and it showed the leaves changing colors and reflecting in the lake. Beautiful!

Next, pumpkin pasta! I haven't tried it yet, but it came with a great recipe using fresh sage and almonds, both of which Joyce included.

Pumpkin hot chocolate mix. I think the word is out about me a cocoa.

A chocolate bar with dried fruits and nuts from Lake Placid Chocolatier! It lasted a few hours. Delicious.

An apple ginger Earnest Eats bar. I had never heard of these before. But, it was good for you and delicious. I haven't found them in my neck of the woods yet.

Maple teas and maple hard candies. OMG!! I LOVE maple candy. Like...LOVE IT!! These inspired me to want to learn to make maple sugar candy...and, buy a candy cookbook.

A giant gingerbread cookie. I. Love. Gingerbread. It it hands down one of my top 3 joys in life.

Carob dipped doggie treats for my 3 dogs!! It just gets me when my penpals send things to my dogs...my dogs are my world and it is so impressive to me when other people acknowledge that.

Finally....my absolute favorite part of the package...REAL FALL LEAVES!!! Joyce made me a little teary with that one.

Again, I really recommend checking out Foodie PenPals. I just love it. I like meeting new people, getting introduced to delicious new products, and finding the perfect gifts to send!!

The Lean Green Bean


Guest Post From Gigi

Gigi was my Foodie Penpal for September. After we emailed back and forth a bit, and got to know each other, I really wanted to get her something special...well, as special as you can with a $15 cap. I really felt like Gigi and I embodied what we all look for in something like Foodie Penpals...we live in different parts of the country and lead different lives...and yet, have LOTS in common, and have become fast friends over sharing food!!

Anyway...per usual I over analyze my gift giving for FPP! Of course I want to send my penpal something they like, something they will use, but it is also really imposrtant to me that what I send, also, be very personal and truly from me.

As I explained in my "something hand written" to Gigi, September is the beginning of Fall...and Fall reminds me of apples (and my birthday). So, I went CRAZY snatching up all things apple for Gigi's package. Truth be told I probably went a little over budget, but I couldn't help myself.

I am super excited that Gigi kindly offered to write something for this blog because it gives an opinion about FPP other than my own! So without further ado...Gigi's guest post (with photos)!!

 Can you guess what's in my box?? Look at the box for clues.

Hi Jessica,
I wanted to give you a quick email thank you for your blog.

I would like to thank Jessica for my lovely Food Pen Pal goody box I received this month. Waiting for the mailman to deliver my box has the same joy and excitement one has on Christmas Eve. Oh, the anticipation.

I joined The Lean Green Bean Foodie Penpals in August. I remember telling my mom I had just joined this fabulous group. This was the last conversation I had with her before she passed away on August 11th.  Jessica's box brought back a lot of happy memories of my mom. We both shared a love of apples. I opened my box on Jessica's birthday.My box was filled with many lovely apple treats.

One of my favorite candies I shared with mom was the Werther's Carmel Apple Filled candies. The Carmel Apple Hot cider is a perfect treat to make on a cloudy and rainy day in San Antonio. My dad is a big Peanuts fan. We will share some of this tasty cider next week when I'm in El Paso. My mom loved apple cider, so we will make a toast on October 5th for her birthday.

My favorite items were a darling apple cinnamon stick spoon. How cute! Jessica knew I had a crazy month for work, love the Apples and Cinnamkn breakfast on the go snacks. The apple crisp mix reminds me of the Sunday's with Joy group, making Main Bait's apple crisp. The mulled cider and apple & berries candles are amazing! My kitchen smells heavenly.

I collect cookie cutters and I have a new apple cookie cutter to add to my collection. I love my new apple cookbook!

One of my earliest baking memories was when I brought back apples from Cloudcroft, NM. Mom showed me how to make my first apple pie. These are the memories I cherish.

My favorite part of the entire apple themed box was the letter Jessica wrote. As I read the letter which was written on apple themed paper,  it was just like Jessica and I were sitting around my kitchen table. I am so honored she included her grandmother's apple pie recipe. Jessica's grandmother reminds me of  my Grandma Jo who was a baker. I've been looking through my mom's recipes and have come across hand written notes stuffed into the cookbooks. One of my favorite things to do, is write in my cookbooks. These notes are so treasured memories.


I am proud to call Jessica, my treasured friend. Whenever you come to San Antonio, we will have to have a mug of cider and an apple cider donut. Thanks for the delicious memory box.

 Love my apple themed treats!
 What a lovely cinnamon stick spoon! Love it!!!

My favorite home made treat! Lots of love was put into this recipe.
What a treasure! Thanks for sharing a part of your family with me.


Homemade Apple Chips

These were really easy to make and yummier than I would have expected. Someone asked me for the recipe recntly, so I am posting it here in step by step format.

1) Preheat oven to 200 degrees

2) I used a  Gala or Fuji apple. I can't for sure remember which one, but those are my 2 favorite varieties, so I know it was one of those. I washed it, and left the skin on, but you could peel it if you prefer.

3) Slice apple thin, maybe 1/8"?? I didn't measure, but I used my mandolin on the thinnest setting. I, also, wanted them to be on the bite size end so after my mandolin did it's job I cut the whole apple slices in half. This might be personal preference, the thinner you slice the crispier the chip will be.

4) In a bowl combine 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 cup brown sugar, and 1/4 cup white sugar. You could add other spices you like such as nutmeg or apple pie spice.

5) Line a baking sheet with foil (I used a Sil-pat) and place the apples down in a single layer. Sprinkle 1/2 the sugar mixture over the apples. I did this pretty carefully with clean hands so I could make sure it was ON the apples not the spaces in between.

6) Bake. I cannot give an accurate time on this since I just kept checking on them while I went about doing other things. So...I would check on them every 30 minutes or so. And when they are about 1/2 the size you started with, flip them over and Sprinkle the remaining sugar mixture on the other sides, and bake an additional 30 minutes or until "crispy".

7) Turn off oven and allow chips to cool completely in the oven. Remove and enjoy!!

September 2012 Foodie PenPals Reveal

It's that time again....FPP reveal day!!

This was my 2nd time participating and it blew the 1st time out of the water. This month was different in that I got to know both of my FPP's really well, and really felt like I made 2 friends this month. And, my grandmother always said "You can never have too many friends."

So the penpal sending to me was Sarah. You can follow her on Twitter here or check out her blog here. Sarah lives in San Francisco and the only instruction I gave her was to be creative...and no mushrooms (I hate mushrooms).

So...here is what I got

So, naturally I was SUPER excited about the Ghiradelli cocoa because A) It's cocoa ans B) It's Ghiradelli cocoa. I, also, like that it was something from where she lives. Every year I say I am going to go to their chocolate festival for my birthday, and every year I don't. Next year I will be 35...I think it might be THE year. Cross your fingers for me!!

Anyway, on top of/next to the cocoa are 2 Unreal Bars. I had never heard of these before, and I was a little skeptical about them, but....after inhaling them, they are kind of my new favorite thing! One had nuts and one didn't, and basically one tasted like a Milky Way and the other one tasted like a Snickers. AND!!! Sarah, also, sent coupons so I could get more Unreal Bars!!! YAY!!!

Moving on...

Planters NUTrition peanut butter in the Berry Nut flavor. SO good!!! This was another product I hadn't seen before, and as soon as this jar is gone the Banana is next on the list. They, also, make a Cinnamon Raisin one. Great on toast!!

Werther's Caramel Apples candies. Umm...this was kinda funny because I had recently sent these to someone else, and I was planning on replacing them for myself. I have had these before and they are really good. Plus, they are caramel apple, so....

Walker's Short Bread cookies. Sarah sent these because she is originally from England. I really liked this because when I send my FPP boxes out, I like them to have some meaning and really be from me. What is funny, is I grew up in New England, so I was familar with these cookies, but...never actually tried them.

Next, a bag of pasta from a SF based company. And, gum. I swear I didn't tell her I have a "gum drawer" in my kitchen!!

AND!!! As an extra special super mega bonus she sent a big bag of weight Watchers candy for my husband and rawhide bones for my 3 dogs!!! HELLO!!! OMG!!! SO THOUGHTFUL!!!

I am so happy I found Foodie PenPals! I have so much fun getting to know people all over the country, and choosing little treats for them, and then waiting to hear if they loved them, and then seeing what other people got. it really does feel like a little bit of Christmas every month, and you know I LOVE Christmas!

Basically, you sign up. On the 5th you find out who your penpal is and email them. You spend $15 on a "gift" for them. You have until the 15th to ship your box to them. And, on the last day of the month everyone reveals what they got!

You can click the pic below to get more infor and sign up. I promise it's fun!!
The Lean Green Bean



I follow Love Bakes Good Cakes on facebook. And, today she posted a link to a site that...

I just have no words...

Yes, I do. These types of things are exactly the reason why I started this blog. I literally pray you take 10 minutes to click on the link below and read it. Then, if you are moved to...do your own research.

I know it is difficult to believe, and I know (if you are like me) you do not want to believe it, but sometimes bad people are in positions of power. Sometimes people make decisions based on money and not what is in the best interest of nameless strangers they will never lay eyes on. Sometimes our government does not protect us. And, I truly believe this is the case with the FDA.

I believe you must educate yourself to make informed decisions...and most people don't. They are blindly trusting our government to do it for them, and our government is failing us! We are the fattest and sickest we have ever been.

You need to be your own advocate and your own protector. You need to police what you buy and what you eat because clearly no one is going to do it for you!!

It is like the old saying goes..."If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself."

So...without further ado...here are "15 of the grossest foods you've ever eaten"



August 2012 Foodie PenPals Reveal

The Lean Green Bean

In case you don't know about Foodie PenPals...here are the basics:

1) On the 5th of every month you receive an email with the name of the person you will be sending to.

2) You have 2 days to email your Foodie PenPal to get their mailing address, and work out any details about your package (such as allergies they may have, likes/dislikes, etc)

3) You create a Foodie gift for your PenPal which must include something handwritten. The gift part cannot be more than $15!! And, the handwritten part can be a note...a recipe...again, be creative.

4) You must mail your package by the 15th of the month.

5) The person you send to is different from the person sending to you!!

6) When you receive your package from your PenPal...take pics!! The last day of the month is the big reveal day!! Everyone posts pics and blogs/facebooks/etc about their goodies...

Now onto the good stuff...

I was SO excited about finding this little program!! I literally told everyone I knew about it. I had so much fun shopping for the person I was sending to, Amy. The only bad part of Foodie PenPals...is waiting for your box. I felt like Ralphie on A Christmas Story checking for my Little Orphan Annie Secret Decoder Pin. Every. Day.

I am not joking...

Anyway, Nancy was sending to me. You can check out her blog over at A Recipe A Day or follow her Facebook page here. The package she sent was very worth the wait!! Check it out...

My husband took one look at what she had sent and said "Wow. She nailed you."
And, it's true!! I am a total Hot Chocolate junkie...so that will not last long. I am trying to hold off on drinking it until it moves out of the 100s here, but it is literally sitting on my counter haunting me every time I go in my kitchen..."Mmmm....look at my yummy chocolatey-caramel goodness. I would be SO good with a cookie. You should bake some cookies & then drink me."
What was I just talking about??
Oh yeah...
The garlic bread sticks lasted about a day after I introduced them to some hummus.
And, though I have never really used corn meal in my cooking...I am excited she included it because a few days later I received my monthly copy of Cooking Light magazine which had a whole bunch of corn bread/muffin recipes to try from scratch!! Coincidence??? I think not.
The red box is a Spoon Bread mix, which I had never heard of, but stated on the packaging that spoon bread is similar to bread pudding. So, since my grandmother will be visiting us for the holidays I am stashing this away to share with her.
The white bag is a hushpuppy mix which I will be using TODAY because I have friends coming over for a little party. I will let you know how it comes out.
Sadly, I did not get to try the trail mix. It was promptly stolen my my husband.
This was my 1st time participating in this program and I highly recommend signing up if you can. It was super fun on both sides...preparing a package for sending & the anticipation of receiving!!


Remember The Last Time You Were Excited About Checking The Mail?

Yeah...me either.

So...in an effort to help me get back into the swing of blogging after my nursing school hiatus, I decided to just go through the alphabet for topic ideas. And for some reason...F was really stumping me. I just couldn't find anything F things that excited me.

And, then...Foodie PenPals fell out of the sky!!

I don't personally know the chica that thought this up, but I personally feel it is genious. It is just one of those things that is really up my alley.

Basically, you sign up on her page, and on the 5th of every month you receive a Foodie PenPal via email. You have 3 days to contact your penpal via email to obtain their address and any food restrictions they may have. Then you must mail them a "foodie" goodie box (and something handwritten like a note or a recipe) by the 15th of the month. The goodie box max is $15, so you have to be a little creative.

I just love this idea so much. Check out her page to read more about Foodie PenPals & sign up!!



National Ice Cream Month...For Dogs

In a previous post I talked about July being Nation Ice Cream Month. And, since I am a dog lover, and mom to 3...I wanted to post a few recipes for all our canine friends to enjoy too!

We used to give our lab, Cori, Frosty Paws when she was a puppy. They were $3.99 for a box of 4. So, pretty pricey...and, when are furry family started to grow it became really expensive!!

A few years ago, we set out to make our own, which is what we have been doing for atleast the last 4 years. Cori is going to be 8 years old this August!

This is one of my favorite pictures of Cori. It was taken a few years ago in Long Beach, CA. I love how she is dripping wet, out of breath, staring at the ocean...with her favorite toy (a tennis ball) at her side. It just really captures her personality perfectly.

Anyway, I don't really have a set in stone recipe for our homemade frosty paws, but basically it is this:

Start with a quart of fat free vanilla yogurt

Add 2 apples, cored but skin on
1/4 cup of peanut butter


1 cup of baby carrots


1 cup of blueberries


1 large sweet potato


1 banana
1/4 cup of peanut butter

Basically, I start with the yogurt as a base and add in whatever dog safe foods I have on hand. I throw everything into the blender for about 3 minutes, pour into little ziplock or gladware cups (this recipe makes about a dozen)...and freeze! Cori gets one every Tuesday & Saturday night.

Another frozen treat I have experimented with is puppy sorbet. Essentially you freeze low sodium chicken broth & frozen veggies such as carrots, peas, or green beans. And, Freeze. In general, I am not a fan of this one becuase even low sodium broth is still high sodium. You can, of course, dilute it down.

Lastly, just as with people, it is important during the summer months for dogs to stay hydrated. Luckily, Cori is an ice-aholic. She will crunch away until she trembles. Not funny, but it's cute! So, recently we tried making pupcicles. These turned out to be a bit more work than I had anticipated, but I think if I gave them a 2nd attempt it might not be so bad. For these I cut a pint carton in half & washed out the bottom (you can discard the top portion to recycling). Then, place about 1/2 an inch of water the carton an freeze. When this layer is solid, add a layer of treats (or fruits/veggies), and another inch of water and return to the freezer. Keep repeating this step until the carton is full (and frozen solid). The idea is to peel the carton away leaving a giant ice cube filled with treats for the dog to lick away at.

I am also excited to try Yoghund & Ice Pups.

If you have other frozen treat recipes for your dogs, please share them in the comments section!

Epsom Salts Exposed

About a month ago I was visiting Boston and they were experiencing a cold, rainy spell. The day I left Vegas for this trip was a balmy 110. So, this was a very welcomed change. I loved every raindrop. Every rumble of thunder. Every chilly breeze through my open windows.
I loved it so much, in fact, that I borrowed a dog a went for a walk. No big deal, right??


I somehow morphed into Forrest Gump and literally kept walking. 7 miles later I had some seriously nasty blisters going on. A few days later I went for a massage and the therapist had suggested Epsom salts for soaking my feet. Why am I never capable of thinking of these super simple cures on my own?!?!

 I did buy some Epsom salt and I did soak nightly for the next few days, and I did feel like it helps.

One of the intended uses for this product is to relieve constipation. And, if this is your goal you should follow the instructions on the package you buy, which on mine were to add 1 teaspoon to 8 oz of water and drink.

More recently I came across even more off the beaten path uses for this inexpensive little gem. And in doing my own research discovered there is an Epsom Salt Council. Per their website 68% of adults in the U.S. have a magnesium deficiency.
Epsom salt is made up of magnesium and sulfate, which can help improve health in numerous ways. A lack of magnesium—which helps regulate the activity of more than 300 enzymes in the body—can contribute to high blood pressure, hyperactivity, heart problems and other health issues, doctors warn. Sulfate is essential for many biological processes, helping to flush toxins and helping form proteins in joints, brain tissue and mucin proteins.
Soaking in a bath of Epsom salt can correct these deficiencies since both are absorbed through the skin safely & easily. In a normal size bathtub, just add 2 cups of salt to warm bath water and soak for 12 minutes 3 times a week. In addition to alleviating any deficiencies this soak is also great for muscle aches and alleviating bruises.
As a foot soak, using Epsom salt will help treat athlete's foot and nail fungus, relieve symptoms of gout, alleviate foot odor, and draw out splinters. (And, help crazy people who give themselves intense blister action!)

For mosquito bites, bee stings, mild sunburn and poison ivy, make compresses by soaking a cotton washcloth in cold water that has been mixed with 2 tablespoons of salt per cup of water, then apply to the skin.

Epsom salt also makes a great exfoliator to treat dry skin! Just mix 1/4 cup of Vaseline with 2 cups of salt (and a few drops of your favorite essential oils if desired) and massage all over. For an exfoliating facial cleanser mix half a teaspoon with 1/4 cup of Noxema and massage over the face and rinse with cool water.

To add volume to hair mix equal parts salt with your favorite conditioner and leave in hair for 20 minutes before rinsing.

There are also numerous uses for Epsom salt in your garden.

All in all, Espom salt is one of those product that are great to keep on hand. It is cheap, extremely versatile, and available in most pharmacies and grocery stores.


As Easy As 1, 2, 3 (4, 5, 6, 7)

I was just watching TV and caught the last few minutes of The Doctors. They were talking about reusing the plastic "to go" containers you get from restaurants. I have to say I am guilty of this from time to time.

A while back a did a post about water bottles, which talked a little bit about the recycling codes on the bottom of plastic containers. NOT all plastic containers are "recyclable"...you have to check the codes. So! What do the codes mean?? Well, to start there are 7 different codes.

Number 1 Plastics
PET or PETE (polyethylene terephthalate)
Found in: Soft drink, water and beer bottles; mouthwash bottles; peanut butter containers; salad dressing and vegetable oil containers; ovenable food trays.
Recycling: Picked up through most curbside recycling programs.
Recycled into: Polar fleece, fiber, tote bags, furniture, carpet, paneling, straps, (occasionally) new containers

PET plastic is the most common for single-use bottled beverages, because it is inexpensive, lightweight and easy to recycle. It poses low risk of leaching breakdown products. Recycling rates remain relatively low (around 20%), though the material is in high demand by remanufacturers.

Number 2 Plastics
HDPE (high density polyethylene)
Found in: Milk jugs, juice bottles; bleach, detergent and household cleaner bottles; shampoo bottles; some trash and shopping bags; motor oil bottles; butter and yogurt tubs; cereal box liners
Recycling: Picked up through most curbside recycling programs, although some allow only those containers with necks.
Recycled into: Laundry detergent bottles, oil bottles, pens, recycling containers, floor tile, drainage pipe, lumber, benches, doghouses, picnic tables, fencing

HDPE is a versatile plastic with many uses, especially for packaging. It carries low risk of leaching and is readily recyclable into many goods.

Number 3 Plastics
V (Vinyl) or PVC
Found in: Window cleaner and detergent bottles, shampoo bottles, cooking oil bottles, clear food packaging, wire jacketing, medical equipment, siding, windows, piping
Recycling: Rarely recycled; accepted by some plastic lumber makers.
Recycled into: Decks, paneling, mudflaps, roadway gutters, flooring, cables, speed bumps, mats

PVC is tough and weathers well, so it is commonly used for piping, siding and similar applications. PVC contains chlorine, so its manufacture can release highly dangerous dioxins. If you must cook with PVC, don't let the plastic touch food. Also never burn PVC, because it releases toxins.

Number 4 Plastics
LDPE (low density polyethylene)
Found in: Squeezable bottles; bread, frozen food, dry cleaning and shopping bags; tote bags; clothing; furniture; carpet
Recycling: LDPE is not often recycled through curbside programs, but some communities will accept it. Plastic shopping bags can be returned to many stores for recycling.
Recycled into: Trash can liners and cans, compost bins, shipping envelopes, paneling, lumber, landscaping ties, floor tile

LDPE is a flexible plastic with many applications. Historically it has not been accepted through most American curbside recycling programs, but more and more communities are starting to accept it.

Number 5 Plastics
PP (polypropylene)
Found in: Some yogurt containers, syrup bottles, ketchup bottles, caps, straws, medicine bottles
Recycling: Number 5 plastics can be recycled through some curbside programs.
Recycled into: Signal lights, battery cables, brooms, brushes, auto battery cases, ice scrapers, landscape borders, bicycle racks, rakes, bins, pallets, trays

Polypropylene has a high melting point, and so is often chosen for containers that must accept hot liquid. It is gradually becoming more accepted by recyclers.

Number 6 Plastics
PS (polystyrene)
Found in: Disposable plates and cups, meat trays, egg cartons, carry-out containers, aspirin bottles, compact disc cases
Recycling: Number 6 plastics can be recycled through some curbside programs.
Recycled into: Insulation, light switch plates, egg cartons, vents, rulers, foam packing, carry-out containers

Polystyrene can be made into rigid or foam products -- in the latter case it is popularly known as the trademark Styrofoam. Evidence suggests polystyrene can leach potential toxins into foods. The material was long on environmentalists' hit lists for dispersing widely across the landscape, and for being notoriously difficult to recycle. Most places still don't accept it, though it is gradually gaining traction.

Number 7 Plastics
Found in: Three- and five-gallon water bottles, 'bullet-proof' materials, sunglasses, DVDs, iPod and computer cases, signs and displays, certain food containers, nylon
Recycling: Number 7 plastics have traditionally not been recycled, though some curbside programs now take them.
Recycled into: Plastic lumber, custom-made products

A wide variety of plastic resins that don't fit into the previous categories are lumped into number 7. A few are even made from plants (polyactide) and are compostable. Polycarbonate is number 7, and is the hard plastic that has parents worried these days, after studies have shown it can leach potential hormone disruptors.


Dehydration...The Good Kind

Somewhere in my Facebook travels I came across someone singing the praises of "watermelon jerky". And, of all the dehydrated fruit I have tried in my life, I can honestly say it NEVER occured to me to add watermelon to the list. But, the post I read swore it tasted like cotton candy...magical words to my sweet tooth!!

So, there was only one thing to do. I packed Mr. K up in the family truckster and we headed to Bass Pro Shops for a food dehydrator. I had done a small amount of comparison shopping on Amazon.com, but time was of the essence here...cotton candy...I mean watermelon jerky was at stake!! So we purchased an Open Country 7 Tray Food Dehydrator for about $45. We chose this model for a few reasons: 1) It was the cheapest one on the shelf & cheaper than the one sitting in my online cart on Amazon. 2) My friend Elizabeth said it was the very one she had and that she recommended it. 3) The heating element is on top...and according to various YouTube videos this is a plus in the world of food dehydration.

So...I sliced up the watermelon about a quarter inch thick and placed it on the 7 trays close but not touching. This model has no temperature settings - just on/off...so once I was loaded up I turned it on. The machine was SUPER easy to figure out which is great 'cause I am NOT one to read directions. And, within a short time, my whole house smelled of watermelon which was pretty cool, but at the same time made me crazy with anticipation for watermelon cotton candy!!

I would say from start to finish the watermlon was in the dehydrator for about 12 hours (I just left it running over night), and about midway through I flipped each piece over and rotated the trays so they would dry evenly.

I was kinda nervous that this new treat that I had put so much time and effort into would not live up to my expectations, but IT DID!! OMG!!! It is my new favorite thing!! And, you must try it. I am told that this watermelon jerky  will last for a month in a baggy or longer if I vac seal it, but I can tell you there is no way it will last more than a few days. I am literally having to ration myself!

I am currently drying pineapple and cantaloupe, and friends have recommeded applesauce and pie fillings (to make fruit roll ups). So...I am very excited about this new gadget.


Celery Smelery

I want to begin this post by stating that I hate celery. Like, I even hate the smell of it. In ancient times physicians believed that the worse something smelled the better it was for you...so celery was particularly prized.

So why blog about it?

Well, I recently came across 2 interesting tidbits that intrigued me.

First,  celery requires more calories to eat and digest than it contains. Meaning you burn calories just eating it. Virtually no other foods can claim this!

One cup of celery had 18 calories and no fat!! It has a high water content and is high in fiber.

Celery should be eaten often because it is one of the best foods for keeping the body well. It neutralizes acids and is a good blood cleanser. It has protective properties that are beneficial to both the brain and the nervous system. Celery is an excellent food for people suffering from arthritis, neuritis, and rheumatism. It can help to clear up high blood pressure.

Despite all the health benefits, I can really only tolerate celery cooked in soups and such. But, if you do like celery raw...EAT UP!!

The second celery factoid I came across was that you can regrow celery! As in buy a stalk at the grocery store cut off the bottom few inches, plant it in the ground, and ....BAM! More celery!! I just thing that's pretty cool. You can read more about it here. If you attempt this successfully please post it in the comments.

National Blueberry Month

One of my favorite memories growing up are when I, my Uncle Mike, my cousin Gregg, and my grandmother would all gear up and go blueberry picking. This was sort of a rarish occurrance, but it always seemed like a "big production" as my grandfather would say.

First of all we each needed largish coffee can with holes drilled on the sides and a string through the holes to make a neck strap. This allowed both hands to be free for maximum blueberry picking action.

Next you needed an even bigger bucket for all the little coffee cans to be dumped into. This, also, allowed for maximum blueberry action because you could fill the coffee can hanging around your neck nurmerous times.

Finally, though blueberry season is in the summer, you had to dress for a late fall hike - from head to toe: a hat, a long sleeve collared shirt, jeans, giant socks to tuck your jeans into, and old sneakers or boots. The reasons for this were multifold. First, mosquitos. Blueberries grow in marshes. Mosquitos grow in marshes. Second blueberries grow on bushes and shrubs and this clothing protected you from scratches. And, lastly, ticks. Checking each other carefully for ticks was the conclusion to any good blueberry excursion.

Once we had all the necessary equipment (and, clothing), we would plan an excursion for sometime after a rainstorm, which in New England didn't require all that much waiting. The rain was great or the blueberries...not so much for trekking through muddy marshes where they grow. Anyway, when the stars aligned into this perfect storm, we were ready!

We would drive approximately 15 minutes away to the neighboring town, my Uncle Mike would psychically sense the perfect spot, and we would pull over and venture into what can only be called a swamp...and, the picking would commence.

Some trips were more successful than others, but after a few hours we would call it a day and head home with our blue earnings. To this day I consiider myself an expert blueberry cleaner. I, also, turn into a grumpy old man when I see pints of blueberries at the grocery store..."$2.99 for a pint of blueberries?!?! In my day we picked our own blueberries for free..."

Anyway what I don't think any of us realized at the time is how incredibly good blueberries are for you! In one cup of blueberries you  receive 36% of your daily potassium requirement, 25% of your daily vitamin C & manganese requirements, and 14% of your daily fiber requirement. Blueberries rank #1 in antioxidant activity when compared to 40 other fresh fruits and vegetables. Antioxidants help neutralize harmful by-products of metabolism called "free radicals" that can lead to cancer and other age related diseases.

And, all that is with no fat and only 80 calories!!

Admittedly, we were not all that adventurous in our blueberry creations at that time. We stuck to the pretty standard selections of muffins, preserves, pancakes, pie, or just threw some on cereal. I used to like eating them plain and frozen.

While I still enjoy the old standbys, I like to think I'm a little more adventurous these days. So, here are 5 blueberry recipes that are a little outside the box (but, only a little outside).

1. Vanilla Bluebarry Cream Whoopie Pies

2. Blue Cornmeal & Blueberry Biscotti

3. Blue & White Corn Bread

4. Blueberry Lemonade

5. Blueberry Soup

I am most excited about trying the corn bread one, but I'll likely start with the lemonade 'cause it's summer and that's just how I roll. If you aren't into cooking I recommend you try Quaker Multigrain Fiber Crisps in Wild Blueberry or Naked Blue Machine juice immediately because both are amazingly delicious and 2 of my all time favorite things!!

If you have a favorite blueberry recipe...please share!! And, if you are ever in the Las Vegas area you MUST stop at The German Bread Bakery for a blueberry pudding danish. They are seriously to die for!!

And...Happy National Blueberry Month!!!


Eating The Blues

Of all the colors in the spectrum, blue is an appetite suppressant. Weight loss plans suggest putting your food on a blue plate. Or even better than that, put a blue light in your refrigerator and watch your munchies disappear. Or here's another tip: Dye your food blue! A little black will make it a double whammy.

Blue food is a rare occurrence in nature. There are no leafy blue vegetables (blue lettuce?), no blue meats (blueburger, well-done please), and aside from blueberries and a few blue-purple potatoes from remote spots on the globe, blue just doesn't exist in any significant quantity as a natural food color.

Consequently, we don't have an automatic appetite response to blue. Furthermore, our primal nature avoids food that are poisonous. A million years ago, when our earliest ancestors were foraging for food, blue, purple and black were "color warning signs" of potentially lethal food.

And, now...you can use this new found knowledge to your advantage!

Vitamin A

I know this was supposed to be the 1st in a series of posts about herbs, but there just weren't any common A herbs that interested me. Alfalfa? Anise? Allspice?

I gave up.

And, that brings us to vitamin A.

Vitamin A is a fat soluable vitamin which means, unlike water soluable vitamins, the body stores extra for later instead of flushing it out. Extra vitamin A is mostly stored in the liver. So, too much of a good thing CAN be bad. The recommended dose for adults is around 800 mcg (it varies slightly depending on age and gender).

So...what does vitamin A actually DO for you??? Well, vitamin A is involved in immune function, vision, reproduction, cellular communication, and also supports cell growth and differentiation, playing a critical role in the normal formation and maintenance of the heart, lungs, kidneys, and other organs.

Top food sources of vitamin A in the U.S. diet include dairy products, liver, fish, fortified cereals, and COLORFUL fruits and veggies.

Here are my 10 top picks of Vitamin A food sources:
1. Carrots.
2. Sweet potatoes
3. Pumpkins
4. Spinach
5. Beef
6. Cantaloupe
7. Kale
8. Peppers
9. Mangos
10. Squash