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!!!