Monthly Archives: March 2010

Hummus Variations (Mar. 4, 2010)

I had this amazing Spinach Artichoke Hummus from Earthfare for lunch today, along with my roasted veggies from yesterday. I was thinking, “Surely, I can make this myself.” So I started looking for recipes and came across this great list at (see below). I can’t wait to try some of these out! Guess I need to stock up on chickpeas, black beans, and squash.

“As good as ‘regular’ hummus is (made with chick peas, garlic, lemon juice, and tahini), other additions can make it even better. Here are some ideas on spicing up your favorite hummus recipe. Here are over a dozen easy hummus variations – for most of them, you just need to add the additional ingredient(s), purée, and serve.”

Hummus Variations from The Veggie Table in alphabetical order
Artichoke Hummus: Add 1 c steamed artichoke hearts
Bean Hummus: Instead of chick peas, try using another kind of beans, like black beans or fava beans
Beet Hummus: Add 1 pound cooked beets
Curried Hummus: Add 1 T curry powder
Garlic Hummus: Double or even triple the amount of garlic
Green Onion Hummus: Add 3-4 green onions
Mexican Hummus: Add ¾ c fresh cilantro, 2 jalapeños (seeded), and replace lemon juice with lime juice
Olive Hummus: Add ½ c black or green olives
Pesto Hummus: Add 1 c packed fresh basil leaves
Red Pepper Hummus: Add two peeled, roasted red peppers
Roasted Garlic Hummus: Sauté the minced garlic in a bit of oil before adding to hummus
Spinach Hummus: Add ½ c fresh spinach
Spinach & Feta Hummus: Add ½ c fresh spinach, and 2-3 ounces feta cheese
Squash Hummus: Steam or roast 2 c squash, then purée and use in place of chickpeas (adapted from Local Bounty cookbook)
Sun-Dried Tomato Hummus: Add 2-3 oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes

Mar. 7, 2010: From the Inside Out said…”LOL…I totally bought my food processor to make hummus!! We were thinking a like lately! :D”

Mar. 23, 2010, michelle said…”Gotta try adding flour and frying. They’re called falafals, and they’re Israel’s national snack food!! To get an idea of texture, I recommend Acropolis on Wade Hampton.” My response: “I recommend the falafels at The Pita House on Pleasantburg. Mmm!”

Roasted Veggies with a Twist & Dip (Mar. 3, 2010)

I had some veggies leftover in my veggie drawer that needed to be used so I didn’t waste them. So, what did I do with them? I roasted them, of course! 450 degrees Fahrenheit for 45 minutes = deliciousness!

This time, I used the leftover ingredients from my veggie boullion (see Feb. 9th’s post for recipe) and added potatoes to it. I had 2 leeks, 1/2 fennel bulb (plus some fennel leaves), 4 garlic cloves, 1/2 small bag of baby carrots, and 4 potatoes. I chopped everything up so the pieces were roughly the same size, drizzled with olive oil, salt and pepper, and let the oven do it’s thing. I was nervous about the fennel. Every time I’ve seen it used on a cooking show, they compare it to licorice (which I hate). It does have a licoricey smell when you’re chopping it, but when roasted with everything else, it adds a nice texture and color to the mix.

Dip in ketchup or, if you like a thinner dip, you could use sour cream and a ranch dressing packet. If you’re more adventurous, make a Greek yogurt dip! My recipe below is like a tzatziki sauce with cheese. Mix all ingredients till smooth.

6 oz. plain Greek yogurt
1 tsp. dill weed
1/2 cucumber, peeled and chopped finely
3 green onions, chopped finely
1 garlic clove, peeled and chopped finely
1 c. shredded white cheddar cheese
Salt & pepper to taste


Filling My Plate with the Good Stuff (Mar. 3, 2010)

We recently were invited to join two couples at the Grove Park Inn for their famous Sunday brunch after church. They were offering a buy one get one special for their Sunday brunch, so we decided to join. They had two rooms filled to the brim with breakfast options, meats, cheeses, desserts, seafood, soup, and all sorts of deliciousness. It was impossible to taste everything that was offered. Though everything I sampled was very tasty, I left having sampled too much. And once again I learned the lesson that my eyes are bigger than my stomach.

I was thinking about it later, and it reminded me of watching The Biggest Loser on TV. They have those cases full of tempting treats that are not healthful for you, but then they have kitchens full of healthful, natural foods that satisfy. It reminded me of my life. How often do I think “my plate is too full” and “I just can’t add anything else to my life right now,” or “I don’t have time to read my Bible.” Well, maybe I’m filling my life’s plate with the wrong stuff. Even good stuff in excess is bad for me. So I’m taking a step back, just like I would with my eating habits, and looking at my life habits, trying to choose what needs to be on my plate, and what needs to stay on the “pantry shelf” or go in the garbage.

Things like hours of TV because “I deserve a break” need to go in the garbage. And things that have been in the pantry, like reading my Bible every day, need to be on my plate. It’s like trashing the candy bar for the piece of fruit. We can train our tastebuds to enjoy healthful things, and we can train on hearts to crave meaningful things too. I am always more satisfied after finishing reading my Bible than finishing a television show, even if it’s my favorite television show. I think about God often and pray every day for something, but I tend to read my Bible in preparation for small group, Bible study, or Sunday School, instead of as building a relationship with my Savior.

I was reading a devotional from Proverbs 31 Ministries today that talked about scheduling regular retreats with God. I need one of those. So, I’m scheduling Saturday morning as my retreat with God (and Saturday afternoon, I’m scheduling to finish my taxes).

So, each day, I have a buffet of choices before me. It contains things like work, church, school, family, friends, God-and-I time, eating, exercising, TV, music, hobbies, Facebook, shopping, chores, Twitter, gardening, bills, volunteering, and the “menu” goes on. Each day, I will choose what I need to eat instead of what I might want to put on my plate. Sure, sometimes the candy bar is the quick answer, but it won’t last long. I want to put things on my plate that will supply satisfying effects for a lifetime and, ultimately, that will matter for eternity.

“Healthified” Greek Layered Dip (Mar. 1, 2010)

My friend Amanda sent this to me from her “Betty Crocker’s Mobile Cookbook” email. She said she added garlic to the yogurt part of the dip to give it a bit more flavor. I’m pretty much always in favor of adding garlic. I can’t wait to try this one. shares a recipe! 70% less fat • 54% fewer calories • 48% less sodium than the original recipe. You’ll love this much better-for-you appetizer updated with fat-free ingredients, extra veggies and baked whole wheat pita chips.

2 whole wheat pita (pocket) breads (6 inch)
Cooking spray
1 container (7 or 8 oz) plain hummus
1 container (6 oz) fat-free Greek plain yogurt
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 medium plum (Roma) tomato, seeded, chopped
1/3 cup pitted kalamata olives, quartered
1/3 cup finely chopped seeded cucumber
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese (2 oz)
1/4 cup chopped green onions (4 medium)
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 medium cucumber, sliced
1 medium green or red bell pepper, cut into strips
Heat oven to 350°F. Split each pita bread horizontally to make 2 rounds. Cut each round into 6 wedges. Arrange on ungreased large cookie sheet, rough surface up. Spray with cooking spray (about 5 seconds).
Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown and crisp; cool.
Meanwhile, spread hummus on shallow serving platter or in pie plate. In small bowl, mix yogurt, parsley, lemon juice and pepper; spread evenly over hummus. Top with tomato, olives, chopped cucumber, feta cheese and onions. Drizzle with olive oil.

Organic Taco Salad (Feb. 26, 2010)

Definitely delicious and really didn’t cost more than traditional tacos. For the record, Publix’s Greenwise Organic Salsa is to die for! I had taco salad with ground turkey (still thawing, so it wasn’t in the picture), while Bryan had his steak and cheese fajita on whole wheat tortilla shells with organic spinach and sour cream (I substituted Greek yogurt for the sour cream on my salad). I’m so proud of Bryan for going along on this healthy journey with me!

Going Green in the Kitchen (Feb. 26, 2010)

Here are some helpful articles from (the online health management tool I use to track calories, exercise, etc.). It has tons of helpful healthy lifestyle tips and articles. Overall, it’s just a great resource! And it’s completely free!

8 Ways to “Green” Your Kitchen by Liza Barnes, Health Educator (

Buying Organic Food on a Budget by Leanne Beattie, Health & Fitness Writer (

Why Go Organic? by Leanne Beattie, Health & Fitness Writer (

Farmers Market Food Finds by Becky Hand, Licensed & Registered Dietitian (

I love this chart from the above link:

Color – Phytonutrients – Health Benefits – Food Sources

Red – Lycopene, Anthocyanin – Prevents certain cancers. Strengthens collagen proteins. – strawberries, tomatoes, watermelon, cherries
Orange – Beta-Carotene, Liminoids – Protects against bronchitis, asthma, cataracts, and lung cancer. Can decrease cholesterol levels. – carrots, squash, melons
Yellow – Liminoids, Beta-carotene, Zeaxanthin – Protects vision. Prevents colon and breast cancers. – yellow peppers, corn
Green – Lutein, Saponins, Glucosinolates – Protects eyesight. Heart and skin maintenance. Prevents cancer. Lowers lipid levels. –
spinach, collard greens, broccoli, tomatillos
Blue – Anthocyanin – Prevents colon, cervical and prostate cancers. – blueberries, grapes, plums
Purple – Anthocyanin – Prevents cancer. Anti-inflammatory. – grapes, raspberries, blackberries, eggplant

To find a local farmer’s market near you, check out

Backyard Gardening Lifestyle Center (list of articles and helpful tips for growing your own garden), one of the ways I’m going to try to “go green” in my kitchen this year. Along with this, I’m going to try to start composting to eliminate a lot of unnecessary waste while helping my new garden grow.

Fool Proof Date Night – Lobster, Steak, and Fondue (Feb. 22, 2010)

This past Saturday was the perfect evening. Some of our closest friends, Dave & Rachel, met us at our house around 6 p.m. for an experimental dinner. I had coupons for lobster tails and fillets at Earthfare, and felt compelled to use them. So, we decided to experiment. Bryan had lobster mac n cheese in Buffalo on one of his recent business trips and has been waiting for the chance to experiment. And we all took part…

Rachel brought this delicious, fresh salad with spinach, black olives, beets, and cheddar cheese. And we topped it with organic Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing (also on sale at Earthfare).

Then we had some organic shell noodles, which we brought to a boil and simmered for 8 minutes (we used a little over half of the 1 pound bag). After draining, Bryan added 1/2 a stick of butter and 2 minced garlic cloves to the pot. Then he poured the noodles back in the pot and added about 1/3 c. of organic heavy whipping cream and a pile of organic cheese! (Thank you, Dave, for grating all of that!) We used about 6 oz. havarti, 4 oz. sharp white cheddar and 1-2 oz. asiago. Then, to top it all off, we folded in chunks of lobster tail. (To cook the lobster tails, cover with water, bring to boil, simmer for 8 minutes, then cool in ice water. Carefully remove meat from shell and chop into bite size pieces. Hint: Cook this in a separate pot as you’re cooking your noodles, and use the same timer.) We used two 3-4 oz. lobster tails. Adding one more would have made it perfect.

I had the privilege of cooking the steaks. Usually, I leave the meat to Bryan, but he was busy with his lobster cheese masterpiece. So, it was up to me. We pulled the meat out of the fridge about 45 minutes before Dave & Rachel arrived, so it would have time to come to room temperature. I seasoned both sides of the steaks with sea salt and cracked pepper and let it rest. When they got here, I heated the pan over medium high heat, added about 2 Tbsp. of olive oil, and 2 cloves of minced garlic. I quickly added the seasoned steaks and seared it for 2 minutes on each side, adding a pat of butter to the top of each. (Remember, don’t move the meat during this process. If you keep wiggling and checking the meat, the heat can’t do it’s job of sealing the moisture inside.) I pulled Dave & Bryan’s off and left mine and Rachel’s on for 1 more minute, since we like ours a little less rare. I bought two 6 oz. fillets, cooked them as two pieces (instead of four), then cut them just before serving. We kept them warm in the toaster oven on about 180 degrees Fahrenheit. This kept them warm without continuing to cook them. (By the way, the steak was a success, of which I was quite proud.) And we certainly didn’t need more than 3 oz. per person with the pasta and what was to follow.

After dinner, we had french press coffee, while enjoying each other’s company (and a little comedy show). Then we finished the evening with dessert reservations at The Melting Pot (a fondue restaurant in town). A full meal at The Melting Pot can be a bit pricy, but if you want the experience for a reasonable price, dessert for 2 is about $14. Dave & Rachel chose the milk chocolate turtle fondue and we got the dark chocolate Irish creme fondue. They brought each couple a plate with strawberries, banana slices, little squares of pound cake, Rice Krispy treats, brownies, and marshmallows, and a piece of New York style cheesecake. And while not exactly physically healthy, it was good for our mental health and the perfect ending to our double date night.

Homemade Yogurt (Feb. 19, 2010)

I knew a girl in college who did this as one of her Advanced Food Prep class experiments. I’ve wanted to try it since but have never been brave enough. Well, the courage has grown and I am going to try this. I eat yogurt all the time and would love to save money on it!

Here are three sites on how to make your own yogurt. I’m trying the one using my crockpot!

Make Yogurt in Your Crockpot (

An Illustrated Guide (

Make Your Own Yogurt – PDF available on this website (

Here’s a note from my cousin’s wife, Rose, who makes her own yogurt:
Hi Melissa,
Here’s the comment that I was trying to post. Thanks for posting it for me.
I’ve experimented with a bunch of different methods but here’s a few things that I’ve learned. The basic method as you can see from other sites is to pasteurise your milk, cool it to within the lacto-bacteria happy range (90-120F), add commercial yoghurt, keep at happy range for 4-8 hours.

I’ve found that the microwave is much easier to use than the stove top for the pasteurising. The first time around you’ll have to watch that it doesn’t overflow but after that you’ll know roughly how long to put it in for and you don’t have to worry about burning the milk.

I like to use low-fat milk but I add skim milk powder before I heat it up. I add the powder as though I was reconstituting it with water so my end product is about double strength.

I usually add about 1 tbsp commercial yoghurt to 1 cup of milk but I don’t measure, I just guess.

I like to incubate my yogurt in jars, submerged up to their neck, in 120F water in a small cooler. I usually don’t have to heat the water at all but I do check it half way through the incubation and some hotter water if necessary.

These days I’m using a rice cooker on the “keep warm” setting for incubating. I have to keep the lid off or else it gets too hot. Because of that, the yoghurt develops a skin. I just pull it off and throw it out when it’s done. I just like how easy the rice cooker is.

You can freezer the commercial yoghurt in ice cube trays so that you have some healthy starter whenever you feel like making yoghurt. You simply thaw it in a little milk while your milk is cooling.

Yoghurt cheese is wonderful. When your yoghurt is finished dump it all into some cheese cloth (or a clean tea towel), bring the corners together, tie some string around the corners and hang it from a cupboard handle. In a few hours you have wonderful, low fat cream cheese substitute. It’s great on bagels.

I’m surprised how popular h.m. yoghurt is compared to sour cream. Sour cream is super simple because the ideal incubation range is room temperature. To make sour cream you dump about a 1/4 cup of sour cream into a litre (~4 cups) of cream. Twelve hours later you have sour cream. If you start with milk instead of cream you end up with buttermilk.

I find it so sad how nobody knows any of this stuff any more. My mom didn’t teach me this stuff. I’ve just made it a bit of hobby to pick up old skills.

Thanks for the tips, Rose!! I’ll let you know how it goes. ~Melissa

Active Metabolic Rate – How Many Calories Do We Need? (Feb. 18, 2010)

You here it on The Biggest Loser, it’s all about the science: Calories in versus Calories out.

I’ve started changing my lifestyle in 2008, really paying attention to what I eat and getting back on track with exercise. A healthy lifestyle is sometimes a tricky balance to maintain, but it is possible! Lots of people do it, and I want to be one of those! I did really well for about a year, then last fall, I hit a plateau and haven’t been able to break it. I was exercising 4-6 days per week and limiting my calories to 1200-1550 calories each day. Apparently, that wasn’t enough. That’s right, I actually wasn’t eating enough calories and my body kicked into a conservation mode, trying to maintain my weight versus shedding pounds. I recalculated my metabolic rates and realized I needed to increase my calories by several hundred calories daily!

So, what’s the science? The Basic Metabolic Rate (BMR) is how many calories you need for your height/weight/age just to survive in normal life. Then you have to adjust for your activity level, which is your Active Metabolic Rate.

For women, your BMR = 655 + (4.35 x weight in lbs.) + (4.7 x height in inches) – (4.7 x age in years).

For men, your BMR = 66 + (6.23 x weight in lbs.) + (12.7 x height in inches) – (6.8 x age in years).

As your weight and age changes, you’ll need to adjust your caloric intake.

Activity levels range from Sedentary (little to no activity) to Extra Active (very hard exercise 6-7 days per week).

To MAINTAIN your current weight, calculate using the following formulas to figure out your Active Metabolic Rate:
Sedentary (Little or no exercise): BMR x 1.2 = AMR
Lightly Active (light; 1-3 days per week): BMR x 1.375 = AMR
Moderately Active (moderate; 3-5 days per week): BMR x 1.55 = AMR
Very Active (hard exercise; 6-7 days per week): BMR x 1.725 = AMR
Extra Active (very hard exercise; 6-7 days per week): BMR x 1.9 = AMR

To LOSE Weight (at a healthy rate of about 1 lb. per week), take your AMR and subtract 500 calories. This is the science that when your calories out is more than your calories in, you will lose weight.

It’s working for me! I increased my calories and actually lost weight and inches! (Sorry, not revealing numbers.)

Also, just a reminder to make sure your calories are coming from the right places. The FDA recommends 55% of your calories coming from carbohydrates, 15% coming from protein, and 30% coming from good fats. Remember, Carbohydrates and Protein yield 4 calories for every 1 gram consumed, while fat yields 9 calories for every 1 gram consumed. If you need help with all of this, check out for a free online tracking tool. You may need to adjust your calories manually instead of going with their recommendations. Mayo Clinic came out with a study a couple years ago that showed people who keep a food diary are more successful at reaching their weight goals. Personally, I know I maintain and lose better when I’m tracking what I eat, then when I’m just guessing.

Let’s do a quick run down as an example:

Let’s say you have a 130 lb. woman who is 5′ 6″ tall and 25 years old.
BMR = 655 + (4.35 x 130) + (4.7 x 66) – (4.7 x 25)
BMR = 655 + (565.5) + (310.2) – (117.5)
BMR = 1413

If she’s lightly active, BMR * 1.375 = AMR of 1943
If she’s moderately active, BMR * 1.55 = AMR of 2190

Now, if she likes her weight and activity level, she should eat between 1943 and 2190 calories each day. But if she wants to lose weight and stay at the same activity level, she should reduce her intake by 500 calories each day, which means she’d eat between 1443 and 1690 calories each day.

Assuming she wants to lose weight, her calories should come from the following categories:

Carbohydrates = 55% of AMR = 794 calories (198 grams) to 930 calories (232 grams)
Protein = 15 % of AMR = 216 calories (54 grams) to 254 calories (63 grams)
Fat = 30% of AMR = 433 calories (48 grams) to 507 calories (56 grams)

I know this is a lot of numbers, but I do hope it’s helpful. Please be sure to verify any medical information with your doctor. Every one is different, but this is a good calculation for generic purposes.
Also, remember a healthy lifestyle = healthy eating + exercise + water + sleep! Happy, healthy day to you!

Homemade Sauerkraut (Feb. 17, 2010)

I am so trying this! Who knew natural fermentation could increase your B vitamins and probiotics!
Check out the link if you’re daring:

Homemade Sauerkraut (

Here’s a little note from my cousin’s wife, Rose, who’s actually done this before:
I make sauerkraut by following this recipe: . I love cooking but my favourite cooking is frugal, ethnic recipes. My next project is going to be perogies. I also like fermenting stuff. I’ve done carrots and turnips besides the yogurt and sauerkraut. When the carrots are pickled when fresh they end up amazingly tasty. It’s like a challenge to me to create yummy variety out of the simplist ingredients. Anybody can make a tasty meal with expensive stuff but only a pro can do it out of the mundane. 🙂

Thanks, Rose! ~Melissa