Monthly Archives: March 2010

Soup, Salad, and Mediterranean Chicken

We helped some friends move on Saturday and thought we’d continue to help by serving them dinner. I needed something simple because I didn’t have much time to prepare it. One of our guests has some food restrictions: no wheat, no beef, no dairy. So I made carrot soup for her with olive oil, a leek, carrots, and vegetable broth. I have my own homemade vegetable bouillon made with organic vegetables (see earlier post; 1 tsp. + 1 c. water = 1 c. vegetable broth). And I made potato soup for the rest of the party.

We served the soup with a delicious, fresh salad. The salad consisted of mixed greens, sliced strawberries and pink lady apples, sliced almonds, crunchy bean sprouts, zest and juice from half of one lemon, and chunks of bleu cheese (cheese served on the side).
Bryan was in charge of the Mediterranean chicken. He cut apart 3 large chicken breasts into strips, lined them in a 9″x13″ pan, drizzled with olive oil, seasoned with garlic powder, salt, pepper, rosemary, thyme, paprika, and a jar of kalamata olives, and baked at 400F for about 25-30 minutes (make sure the chicken is white throughout before serving).
It was a beautiful day to sit on the back porch and enjoy this meal with our friends. Here’s a basic chart for your basic soups. I’m excited to try this basic soup recipe with other vegetables. It seems like it could work with almost anything.

Mar. 23, 2010: michelle said…”Love the chart, Mel! =) Thanks!”

Welcome, Spring! (Mar. 19, 2010)

It is an absolutely gorgeous day! Wish I were outside to enjoy it! But I will have to wait until later this afternoon. Maybe I will go for a run before our bonfire birthday party tonight.

This week has been an incredibly busy week, but overall it’s been good. Daffodils and crocuses are popping up everywhere, grass is turning green, the sun is shining and the skies are a gorgeous blue! My garden is starting to grow and I can’t wait to be outside tomorrow (as long as I remember to take my allergy medicine first). Yes, it’s that time of year. Hopefully I will be able to prep the ground for my second garden box this weekend. Looking forward to it!

New life springing up around me reminds me of the new life Christ sprung up inside of me. I am purposing to remember that with each flower I see blooming, each rain drop, and each sunbeam. Christ died and rose again that the winter of my life may end and blossom into springtime in my heart.

On Monday, I took a day off to study for a test to go back to school. I’ve officially been accepted at Greenville Tech for the Personal Trainer program. I’m very excited! Well, turns out I didn’t need to take the test after all (since I already have a B.A. in English), so I left there and went to this great little Mediterranean market and found some 100% natural jams (fig and apricot), dried fruits, nuts, seeds, etc. (and all at much lower prices than the grocery stores). Then I went home and sliced up some bananas, pineapple, apples, and a pear, and put them in my dehydrator. Haven’t used it in years, and now that I’ve done it again, I have NO idea why I’ve been waiting to use it. It’s so easy and I love dried fruit. I eat it as a snack at least once a day. Pineapple is my favorite, but they’re all good. I used all organic fruits, so I know it’s good for me.

Boost Your Brain: Boost Your Body, by Daniel G. Amen, M.D. (Mar. 15, 2010)

So, I’m sick, and stuck in front of the TV between favorite shows, and the only channel that’s coming in clearly is an educational program called “Change Your Brain, Change Your Body” by Dr. Daniel G. Amen of The Amen Clinic. This one caught my interest though. Primarily, he talks about taking fish oil supplements and exercising daily. Here are his top 10 subjects from his book (and his seminar):

1. Boost Your Brain to Lose Your Belly. When it comes to the brain, size matters.

2. Know Your Motivation: have a burning desire to be healthy — family, friends, etc. No amount of cheeseburgers, double fudge brownies, etc., is worth losing time with my family. Sugar and fat act on the brain’s addiction center.

3. Know Your Brain Type:

  • The Compulsive Overeater (stuck on thought of food, feel no control, worry, trouble sleeping, night time feedings, lower levels of serotonin), Help: exercise and 5HTP or St. John’s Wort, Nix NIght Time Eating after dinner to boost serotonin.
  • Impulsive (Poor Impulse Control, Easily Distracted, Common in ADD, Low Dopamine levels, short attention span, disorganization, inconsistent), Help: Boost Dopamine levels, Strengthen Prefrontal, High Protein, Low Carb, Green Tea, calming meds make this type worse.
  • The Impulsive-Compulsive Overeater (too much activity in attention region, stuck on negative thought, too little prefrontal cortex activity, trouble with sleep behavior), Help: increase dopamine and serotonin, exercise, combo of 5-HTP AND Green Tea.
  • The Sad Overeater (to medicate feelings of sadness, depression, low energy, low self esteem, tend to gain weight in winter, pain symptoms, high limbic activity, low vitamin D level), Help: boost vit D, exercise, fish oil, SAMe supplement.
  • The Anxious Overeater (medicate anxiety with food, headaches, stomach problems, high basal ganglia activity, low GABA chemical), Help: sooth brain with meditation and hypnosis, B6, Magnesium and GABA.

Note: It is common to have more than one brain type. Work on most bothersome area first, then move on to the next one.

4. Use Brain Specific Supplements to Boost Your Body: 91% of Americans do NOT eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. Recommend Multivitamin and Omega-3 supplement daily. Low Levels of Omega-3 linked with heart disease, strokes, depression, ADD, Obesity, Suicide. Good for heart, eyes, skin, joints, hair, ad brain. Also decreases appetite and cravings. 1-2 grams of high quality fish oil daily. Low levels of Vitamin D associated with MS, Diabetes, cancer, obesity, alzheimers, depression. Typically, get boost from sun, but our levels are falling. Recommends asking doctor for a 25 Hydroxy-vitamin D test. Take Vit D3 if levels are low.

5. Get Your Cravings Under Control.

  • Keep your blood sugar balanced. Substitute fruit for simple sugars.
  • Decrease artificial sweeteners in your diet.
  • Reduce Stress
  • Manage Food Triggers: mall, advertisements, vendors, home for the holidays, etc.; know your vulnerable spots and plan ahead.
  • Hidden Food Allergies can trigger cravings. Wheat gluten and milk allergies can decrease activity in your brain.

6. Kill the ANTs (Automatic Negative Thoughts) that Steal Your Health. Need an internal ANTeater. Lies: I can’t control it; It’s in my genes.

7. Eat Right to Think Right.

  • Think High Quality Calories In vs. High Quality Energy Out.
  • Drink Plenty of Water and Not too many of your calories.
  • Eat High Quality Lean Protein throughout the day.
  • Eat Low Glycemic, High Fiber Carbohydrates (Whole Grains, Vegetables and Fruits like Blueberries and Apples). “The whiter the bread, the faster you’re dead.” Sugar increases inflammation, and recently linked with aggression.
  • Healthy Fats, especially Omega-3 fatty acids. Fat stores toxins, so any fat you eat from an animal is giving you any toxins that the animal ate.
  • Eat from the rainbow: natural foods of many different colors to boost antioxidant levels.
  • Cook with brain healthy herbs and spices. Saffron as effective as anti-depressant, cinnamon helps with attention.

Dr. Amen’s Average Daily Diet:
Breakfast: Protein/Fruit Shake
AM: Fruit and a few Nuts
Lunch: Chicken, Avocado, Veggie Sandwich on Whole Grain
PM: Fruit and a few Nuts
Dinner: Large Salad or Soup, Lean Protein, Veggies
Dessert: Frozen Blueberries with Greek Yogurt

8. Know Your Important Numbers

  • BMI – Body Mass Index – normal between 18.5 and 25
  • Calories
  • Fruits & Veggies per day – strive for 7-10
  • Sleep Hours – at least 7, preferably 8
  • Vitamin D Level
  • Know Your Inflammatory Levels
  • Know Your Hormone Levels: Thyroid, DHEA, Cortisol, Testosterone, Progesterone, Estrogen
  • Cholesterol Levels
  • Blood Pressure
  • Blood Sugar Levels
  • 5 Things You’re Most Grateful for

9. Hypnosis and Meditation Can Boost Your Brain. Recommends at least 12 minutes daily.

10. Start Today.

  • How Can I Love Others?
  • How Can I Take Better Care of Myself So I can Love my family and do the work I love for as long as possible, despite my genes?

Note: if you’ve been bad to your brain, you should start seeing results within 2 months of following this plan.

More information can be found on his website at

Top 50 Best Brain Foods: I like 45 of them. My husband likes 23. But that’s still almost half of them! I can deal with that. How many do you like?

  • Almonds, raw
  • Almond milk, unsweetened
  • Apples
  • Asparagus
  • Avocados
  • Bananas
  • Beans (black, pinto, garbanzo)
  • Bell peppers (yellow, green, red, and orange)
  • Beets
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Carrots
  • Cheese, low fat
  • Cherries
  • Chicken, skinless
  • Cranberries
  • Egg whites, DHA enriched
  • Grapefruit
  • Herring
  • Honeydew
  • Kiwi
  • Lemons
  • Lentils
  • Limes
  • Oats
  • Olive oil
  • Olives
  • Oranges
  • Peaches
  • Peas
  • Plums
  • Pomegranates
  • Raspberries
  • Red grapes
  • Soybeans
  • Spinach
  • Strawberries
  • Tea, green
  • Tofu
  • Tomatoes
  • Tuna
  • Turkey, skinless
  • Walnuts
  • Water
  • Whole wheat
  • Wild salmon
  • Yams and sweet potatoes
  • Yogurt, unsweetened

I’m not a 100% believer at this point (first off, not a big fan of the BMI because it doesn’t take enough factors into account), but this does have a lot of helpful information that can help boost our brains and lose those pesky pounds that are still hanging around. I am 100% convinced that exercise and sleep are directly correlated to energy levels and emotional health. Diet and water intake are just as important. Happy researching!

My First Garden (Mar. 15, 2010)

Well, this Saturday was supposed to rain, but instead, it was a beautiful day! A few weeks ago, I built two 4′ square raised boxes. I bought 8 – 8′ x 2″ x 6″ decking boards and cut each one in half (making sure they were the same lengths, as the boards aren’t exactly 8′ even). Yes, I used a power saw and drill all by myself (after Bryan showed me where the safety on the saw was, that is)! I also bought 2 fence stakes and cut each one in 4 pieces to secure the corners of the boxes. After I finished the boxes, I called my mom to tell her what I was working on. Her first question was, “You didn’t use pressure treated lumber, did you?” My response (after my heart sank a little): “Uh, yeah, I think so, why?” She told me she didn’t think you were supposed to use pressure treated wood because it affected the soil, leaching chemicals into your plants. Well, I did a little research and turns out she was right, up until 2005! In 2005, they passed a law that removed one of three chemicals from the pressure treating process. That chemical: arsenic! So, now it’s safe to use pressure treated lumber around your garden. Phew! I was not looking forward to starting over.

Here’s a picture of one of the boxes:

I placed them in a sunny spot in my backyard. I dug out the grass and drug it to a spot that needed filled in. Then I mixed in several bags of topsoil and organic compost. I let that sit for a couple weeks, and then planted potatoes, leeks, 4 types of lettuce, spinach, cabbage, thyme, parsley, broccoli and cauliflower. I told my nephew Isaac it was a salad in the ground.

Here’s the finished product:

I still need to dig out the grass in the second box for my summer vegetables. I plan on planting tomatoes, squash, carrots, and maybe a few other things. I gave them a good watering today. Can’t wait till I eat a full salad out of nothing but my own garden vegetables.

Mar. 23, 2010: From the Inside Out said…”YUMMMM!! 😀 I actually am looking into square foot gardening….but of course since we’re renting, I have to make them moveable….”

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup by Melissa McKinnon

1 butternut squash
spray oil
1/2 tsp. Lawry’s seasoned salt
2 Tbsp. butter
1 leek, white and light green part only, cut into 1″ pieces
4 tsp. vegetable bouillon and 4 c. water (or 4 c. vegetable broth)
1 medium potato, peeled, cubed in 1″ pieces
1/2 tsp. curry powder
1/4 c. heavy whipping cream

Cut butternut squash into chunks, scoop out and discard seeds. Spray squash with oil and sprinkle with salt. Roast squash at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 1 to 1.5 hrs. Scoop out and reserve flesh. Discard skin.

Melt butter over medium low heat. Saute leek in butter for 5-10 minutes, till golden brown. Add water, bouillon, and potato, bring to boil, turn down to simmer for 10-15 minutes, until potato is cooked. Add roasted butternut squash, curry powder, and cream.

Remove soup from heat and let cool slightly. Blend in batches until smooth and creamy. Serve warm. (Reheat over Medium Low if necessary.)

Bon Appetit!

Peanut Butter Oatmeal (Mar. 11, 2010)

Every wonder how to get that last little bit out of the peanut butter jar before throwing it away? Here’s a great tip I’ve seen on several food blogs and finally gave it a try for myself.

When you can’t get anymore out of the PB jar, dump in 1 package of instant oatmeal and 3/4 c. scalding water. Stir, scraping the sides, and enjoy–yes, you get to eat right out of the jar! I used a little more water than the package calls for to help soften the peanut butter. I tried it with the Cinnamon Spice instant oatmeal and it was delicious!! And it adds a little protein to your quick-fix breakfast!

Are You Eating Something Green for St. Patrick’s Day? (Mar. 11, 2010)

Check out this article from Whole Foods Market’s blog for some great green recipes! I’m excited to try the Creamy Asparagus soup (maybe I can actually get Bryan to eat asparagus)! I think it will go great with the Corned Beef Brisket I’ve been waiting to use. If anyone has a good St. Patrick’s Day recipe, please post it in the comments section below. Thanks!

And if you can’t see the link above, it’s Enjoy!

Great Website for Organic Info (Mar. 10, 2010)

I came across this great website about going organic this past week. My friend Lonnette sent it to me for the coupon portion of the website. It’s called Living Max Well: Your Guide to Organic Food & Drink ( and is written by Max Goldberg. He has a Max Recommends section, an organic Coupons section, Organic 101, and Top Articles, etc.

Sign up for his newsletter and you’ll get his Top 5 Inexpensive Ways to Shop Organic. Sign up to get a more indepth approach, but here are the 5 at a sneak peek:
1. Bulk Bins
2. Vegetables at Big-Box Retailers (says Wal-Mart and Costco have organic veggies now; not my favorite places to shop, but it’s worth a look)
3. Private Label Products (Publix Greenwise, Whole Foods 365 Everyday Organic, etc.)
4. Farmers’ Markets and CSAs
5. Coupons

You can also follow Max on Twitter and Facebook (check out links on his website).

Love Your Kitchen – You Spend a Lot of Time There! (Mar. 9, 2010)

How much time do you spend in your kitchen each day? A recent poll revealed that time in the kitchen over the last 40 years has decreased significantly, mostly due to the creation of efficient food prep items (like the microwave: an appliance we don’t own and don’t care to). Most families don’t even create 4 homemade meals per week nowadays! This was a really interesting article, but it was kind of sad to me. To see the full article, click here.

I was trying to calculate how much time I spend in the kitchen. Let’s take Sunday, for example. I always spend more time in my kitchen over the weekends than during the week, as I work an 8-5 job on Mondays through Fridays. Sunday, I got up and prepped the London broil for lunch (took about 10 minutes to find the recipe, mix the marinade and stick the meat back in the refrigerator). Then I had to prep the dough for our week’s bread (I have this great sourdough starter that I just keep feeding and bake about once a week). That took about 15 minutes. Then I poured myself a pre-made smoothie, wiped down the counters and went upstairs to get ready for church. So, we’re at about 30 minutes so far.

We got home from church about 12:45 and I started fixing lunch. I had my cousin chop the asparagus and onions, while I chopped potatoes, got them boiling, put the green beans on the stove and preheated the oven to broil. While everything was doing its thing on the stove and in the oven, I made some black bean hummus to serve with my All Natural The Works chips. Rinsed dishes and put them in the dishwasher, and cleaned up the countertops. We ate around 1:30, so lunch took 45 minutes, and we’re up to 1 hr. 15 minutes.

After lunch was clean up. I took my time and it was another 25 minutes – I know I’m weird, but washing dishes is therapeutic to me. Then I made a French press of coffee (about 5 minutes). So we’re up to 1 hr. 45 minutes.

Prep for dinner was fairly simple. We had Italian sausage and sauerkraut with apples (see recipe in previous post). It took about 30 minutes, then 10 minutes to clean up afterwards. So, since yesterday was a fairly typical Sunday, I’m going to say I spend about 2 ½ hrs. in the kitchen on Sundays. That’s a good chunk of my day. If our table was in the kitchen, you could add another hour and 15 minutes to that, which makes almost 4 hours in one day!

During the week, my time in the kitchen looks like this: 15 minutes in the a.m. to pack breakfast and lunch and 1 hr. in the evening to prep food and clean up afterwards. Inevitably, when we have company, we end up talking in the kitchen, either while we cook together, or just fixing tea and chatting. Our kitchen is too small to have a table in it, so we eat in the dining room for most meals. If you have a table in your kitchen, your time spent in the kitchen obviously increases. Growing up, the kitchen table was the place we gathered for our after school snacks, homework time, craft time, or just family discussion time, and we always shared dinner as a family (a tradition that many Americans are sadly missing out on today).

My point is this: we spend a lot of time in our kitchens, so make it a place of retreat and enjoyment, and make it work for you.
Pick cheerful colors for the walls, and if you have windows, make it so the sun can shine in! We just redid our kitchen. When we bought the house, it had a country style wallpaper print of vines and blue and pink flowers with thick lace curtains. When we finally got around to removing the wallpaper this winter, I literally felt like I could breathe better (I think those vines were strangling me)! We chose a Lyndhurst Duchess Blue for the top, a Lyndhurst Estate Cream for the trim, and Granola Crunch for below the chair rail. My mom helped me pick out these adorable bright curtains with the same blue and brown and a green that matches our dining room. They’re fresh and fun and energizing. I love them!
Make it efficient for how you work! I built a custom spice rack out of excess crown molding and dowel rods because I was tired of digging through the cupboard for the right herbs and spices every time I was in the kitchen. This way, I can have them alphabetized! The geek in me loves that! (Warning: I also sort my cans by meal type.)

Here’s a little sneak peek into my kitchen (before with wallpaper):

And after (sans wallpaper). It’s a place I love to be now:

And finally, a picture of the dining room, so you can see the fresh color that matches my kitchen curtains (Organic Vegetable Garden: yep, that’s really what it’s called)!
Organic Vegetable Garden

Getting My Smoothie On! (Mar. 4, 2010)

Yields 4 servings.
Blend the following:
2 c. fresh spinach
1 c. plain low fat yogurt
1 c. cranberry juice
1 frozen banana (roughly chopped)
1/2 c. pineapple
1/2 c. frozen blackberries
1/3 c. frozen raspberries
1/3 c. frozen blueberries
12 baby carrots (roughly chopped)
1/4 c. sliced almonds
2 Tbsp. flaxseed
3 Tbsp. agave nectar (or honey)

So good! I make my smoothies the night before and just give them a
shake the next morning so I can drink one on the way to work. I know
veggies in the drink sound weird, but they totally hide under the
berry flavor and give you extra vitamins and minerals!

Bon Appetit!

For those interested in the nutritional info, check it out on my SparkPeople page (

You can also add 8 dried plums (prunes) to this for a little extra sweetness. If you do, that’s an extra 40 calories/0 fat/11 g carb/.4g protein per serving.