Monthly Archives: April 2010

The Cost of Convenience

It is so easy to peruse the aisles at the grocery store and grab the most convenient products that will make food prep a cinch.  But have you ever stopped to wonder as you grab that can of green beans or pre-minced garlic about the true cost of convenience?

I’ve come to believe that the cost can hurt a little more than just our bank accounts.

1) Convenience food is more expensive.

I am a very frugal shopper.  I stand in the aisles and I compare prices until I am sure that the product I am buying is the best bang for my buck. 

Yesterday, while comparing prices, I realized that many of the items I buy are more expensive merely because they are somewhat processed.  For example, I usually buy the pre-cut romaine lettuce that come in a plastic container.  I was somewhat shocked to find that the pre-cut romaine was over a dollar more expensive than whole heads of romaine!  I bought two and decided to pay closer attention to what I put in my cart!

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On the next aisle, I was on a mission to find rice.  I love the instant brown rice that you can cook in 1o minutes.  It’s super easy.  However, I found that I can get a much larger amount of non-instant brown rice for half the price!  It was the same with canned red beans VS dried red beans.

2) Taste and Texture

Canned produce can never compare to the real deal taste wise.  A few months back, before I began Happy Heart, Happy Mind, Larry and I had Sheppard’s Pie for dinner.  I made him a small batch with canned peas, and I made a batch for myself with fresh spinach.  His green peas were mushy, salty, grey, and sickly looking.  My spinach was flavorful and bright green.  Seeing the fresh produce and the canned produce side by side really had an impact on us.  Since then we’ve sworn off the canned stuff. 

3) BPA

Bisphenol A is a chemical that is used when making plastic containers and the resin that lines the insides of food and beverage cans.  Although there is some debate regarding the effects of BPA on humans, there have been studies that have shown that it can be harmful.  One study concluded that individuals with higher levels of BPA in their urine were more likely to have heart disease, diabetes, and  liver abnormalities.  Another study found that it can cause hormonal problems such as cancer.  [Source]

I don’t know about you, but BPA does not sound like it is something I want to  ingest.  Eating fresh and frozen produce, dry beans, and non-instant brown rice is one way to ensure that I avoid BPA exposure.

4) Processed foods have added sugars, sodium, preservatives, and pesticides.

In order to give food a long shelf life, it is loaded with sodium and preservatives.  But, is it really a good thing that some foods can last for over a year without going bad???

Food manufacturers also know that the more sugar or salt that is in a product, the more our bodies will crave and the more we will buy.  So guess what they do.  They add more salt and sugar.  Canned vegetables and canned beans are loaded with sodium. I want to be in control of the amount of sodium in my food.  

Tonight for dinner I made a quick and easy salad that was not made with convenience food. 

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Romaine lettuce topped with Roma tomatoes, red beans, feta cheese, avocado, and boiled eggs.

With a side of homemade dressing.

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Yes, it took me a few extra minutes to chop the romaine and mix the dressing, but it was well worth it.  Not only was this dinner exquisitely satisfying and tasty, it was good for me, too!

~Jen

magnolia Remember, Be Happy, Be Healthy, Be You!!!

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Tofu, It’s What’s for Dinner

Today has been a day of random eats.  This morning I realized I had nothing to take for lunch, so I threw together a quick Quinoa Chickpea Salad.

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I quickly boiled some Ancient Harvest Quinoa while I dried my hair.  I then chopped a cucumber and a few pitted olives.  When the quinoa had a few minutes to cool (and I do mean a few!), I added the cucumber, olives, and a can of drained and rinsed chickpeas.  Next, I tossed the mixture with a bit of olive oil, shredded parmesan, and balsamic vinaigrette. 

It wasn’t all that bad for a 15 minute throw together.  I wish I’d had some red peppers and feta cheese.  Maybe next time 😉

Tonight for dinner I also threw together a recipe out of the blue.  After eating the Tofu at Balliceaux last month, I knew I had to try and replicate this dish.  After doing much research, I discovered a new way to cook tofu: Dry Frying.

In order to give tofu its thick, firm texture, it is important to first remove as much of the moisture as possible.  In the past, I have always wrapped the tofu in paper towels and set an iron skillet on top to squeeze out the moisture.  Recently, however, I read an article that described dry frying as a way to more thoroughly remove the moisture.

First, you cut your tofu into cubes or trianges.  Heat a frying pan over medium to medium high heat. DO NOT ADD OIL.   Add the tofu to the pan and allow some of the water to evaporate. 

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Press down with a spatula to release extra moisture.

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Flip and dry fry until golden brown.  Next add your sauce.

I decided to try and replicate the orange blossom sauce from Balliceaux.  Now, I do not know exactly what orange blossom sauce is,  but I used my imagination.  For this sauce I mixed:  Bragg’s Liquid Aminos, honey, and orange juice.  In total the sauce came to about 3/4 cup.  I then poured it over the dry fried tofu, lowered the heat to low, and allowed it to simmer until the sauce caramelized.DSC02099  

Served up with a side of steamed broccoli and red skinned mashed potatoes.  Yum! 

Tonight I also took a butt-kicking boot camp class at the gym.  It was the perfect combo of cardio and strength training!  I am going to make this class a regular part of my workout routine. 

Happy almost Hump Day!

~Jen

magnolia Remember, Be Happy, Be Healthy, Be You!!!

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10 Things to Learn on a Monday

Here are the top ten things I learned today in descending order:

10) A week of eating whatever you want, and working out minimally may mean extra pounds added to the scale!  Who knew?!?! 😉

Last week I had a series of headaches and stomachaches that kept me (sadly) from working out more than 2 days.  I also ate whatever I wanted with no limits.  This morning I weighed myself and I have packed on an extra 3 pounds to my usual morning weight.

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It’s not that I am not worried about these few extra pounds, but it definitely made me shake my head in amazement.  It is so hard to loose and to maintain your body weight, but oh, so very easy to pack those pounds on! 

I know that this just means I need to step up the workouts, and to be a little extra careful about what I eat this week.  Trust me, those s’mores were worth every last bite.  Even the burnt bites 😉

9) Third graders can not be expected to remember what they learned last month, let alone what they learned in Kindergarten!!!

Today we took the practice SOLs, which are Virginia’s standardized assessments (fitting name, right?!).  I was utterly shocked by what these kids were asked to remember. 

Third grade is the first year that students in VA take these standardized tests, and they are cumulative for everything they have learned since kindergarten!!!!  I have quite a few students in my class that can barely remember what they had for breakfast, much less what they learned the first week of kindergarten! 

[Source]

The amount of pressure these kiddies are under is unbelievable!  I mean do you know the three types of soil, or the actual names for the phases of the moon?  How about the transportation, homes, climate, and jobs of the First Americans (Native Americans) who lived in the Eastern Woodlands, Great Plains, or the Southwest?  Anyone???  Anyone???   

8) There is no better way to drink a Green Monster than to drink it made with fresh fruit.

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This morning I used leftover fruit salad to make a Green Monster.  The flavor of this monster far surpassed that of  any I have ever made with frozen fruit.  ‘Nuff said 😉

7) I am disappointed when a thunderstorm ends.

I love a good thunderstorm.  There is a kind of excitement that fills every inch of my being when a storm is on the way.  I love the power and the sheer exhilaration of watching Mother Nature take her course.  Of wind whipping and trees bending.  Of rain pounding and thunder roaring it mighty rumble.

Today we could see the storm clouds rolling in from the North.  They were thick and black.  Thunderous.

We rushed the kids to the busses just in time.  As soon as we were safe under cover, the sky broke and lightening lit the sky with bright brilliant streaks.  Thunder rumbled its low grumble. 

But just as soon as it started, it was over.  The excitement was gone, and it was back to the usual paper grading and e-mail answering.  Maybe we’ll get another good one tonight.  I do hear the wind picking up! 😉

6) Target has very cute journals made of recycled paper. 

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5) Buying said journal makes me want to write instead of clean!

4)  Mary’s Crackers are the perfect companion to 365 Organic Peach Mango Salsa.   DSC02083

3) I hate to fold laundry.

I do not mind washing and drying clothes.  But I absolutely, positively, with every ounce of my being hate folding clothes and putting them away. 

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2) Lucy does not like to have her teeth brushed.

Lucy has incredibly stinky breath, and is starting to show signs of buildup along her gum line.  I’ve never done this for any dog I have ever owned in my entire life, but today I bought Lucy her very own toothbrush and toothpaste. 

Although this would have been a hilarious picture to post, Lucy was not allowing any photographs to be taken during her embarrassing teeth cleaning!

And number one on my Top Ten Things to Learn on a Monday Countdown!!!!

( Drum roll, please!)

1) Our new laptop is in and ready to picked up from Fed Ex.

Tonight at an undisclosed time, I am rushing going to drive the speed limit to our local Fed Ex store to pick her up!  I can not wait! 

The next time you read Happy Heart, Happy Mind, who knows where I may have typed it!!!  Maybe in the bedroom?  Maybe on the back patio??  Maybe at the library???    There’s just no telling!  The sky is the limit!

I hope you had an enlightening Monday!

~Jen

magnolia Remember, Be Happy, Be Healthy, Be You!!!

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Camping Extravaganza

Hello!  I hope you all had a wonderful weekend! 🙂

I survived my first camping trip since 1996, and I.had.a.BLAST!  The drive through the Blue Ridge Mountains in itself was spectacular. 

I mean just look at this!

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Once we arrived at the campground, we were pleasantly surprised to see that this was the view from our cabin.  The soothing sound of rushing water immediately gave you a sense of calm. 

We unpacked the truck and began preparations for our night out in the wild. 

**HINT**  It is always a very good idea to bring an Eagle Scout with you when you go camping in the woods!   

For dinner, we ate Hobo Packs.  A hobo pack is simply marinated meat and/or veggies wrapped in foil and cooked over an open flame.  I had hobo-ed asparagus, squash, and broccoli.  I also had a grilled Lightlife Italian SausageAll of you experienced vegetarians and vegans out there, what do you eat when you go camping???

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The highlight of dinner came after the dinner plates were scrubbed clean and the last logs were added to the fire. 

Yep!  S’more time! 

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Here is my perfectly burnt to a crisp vegetarian marshmallow s’more!  Just the way I like it! 

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After eating three of these delectable babies, it was time to hit they hay! 

Remember Glo Worms from the 80s???

 

😉

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Nice and cozy!

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Today we woke up and went for a 3.4 mile hike through the George Washington National Forest.

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3.4 miles may not sound like a whole lot, but when you are hiking those miles UP a rather large mountain, you definitely get out of breath!  It gives a new meaning to “buns of steel.”

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The scenery was amazing.  It really doesn’t feel like a workout when you are surrounded by such beauty.

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Larry and I are already making plans for our next trip!  It is such an easy, cheap, and exciting way to get away for the weekend!

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The dogs have been zonked out ever since they got in the car for the trip home.

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I am about to join them.  I know I will sleep like a baby tonight! 🙂

~Jen

magnolia Remember, Be Happy, Be Healthy, Be You!!!

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Over the River and Through The Woods

Over the river and through the woods, to Skyline Drive we go!  A storm is a’coming, a cabin is rented, and I can’t wait to eat a marshmall-ow! 

Ok, I know that was stretching it a bit, but it pretty much sums up our camping trip for this weekend. 

Here is the weather forecast.

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Here is the cabin that we rented because of the weather forecast.

Cabin Rentals

And here are the marshmallows I am about to go buy from Ellwood Thompson’s.

As a vegetarian, I do not eat the regular kind because they are made with gelatin.  After doing a little research, I discovered that my new favorite local market carries these Sweet and Sara vegan marshmallows. 

They look like they will be scrumptious in a mouth watering, face rocking s’more!

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I may skip my dinner of a veggie hobo pack and eat these babies all night instead! 

As soon as Larry gets home from work ,we are hitting the road and braving the great outdoors.

Check back tomorrow to see how this camping neophyte fared in the wet and stormy wilderness! 😉

~Jen

magnolia Remember, Be Happy, Be Healthy, Be You!!!

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Modern Day Piaget

(Thanks, Meg, for the witty post title!)

This morning as I got ready, I couldn’t help but smile.  I was as giddy as a school child anticipating a trip to an amusement park.  For today, I got to meet Katie Wood Ray.

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OK, I know some of you are thinking, Who?  And perhaps only teachers can understand the pure jubilation that can be felt by meeting such a master teacher.  She is, as Meg suggested, the modern day Piaget of teaching writing!

She is the reason I began this blog.  She is the reason I succeeded in completing my masters.  She is the kind of teacher and educator I aspire to be!   

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Today I was reminded of how important it is to follow your dreams.  Find what you are passionate about and go for it! 

As a young child, people would ask me, as they do to all small children, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”  I always responded with the same simple statement.  “A teacher.”

Though no one was directly discouraging, I remember my dad gently telling me that teachers don’t make a lot of money.  My aunt, who was a teacher for many years in Alexandria, told me I was pretty much crazy. 

This did not deter me. 

I remember watching my teachers in awe.  They knew so much!  I loved the way their voices sounded.  I loved the way they gave directions and held books as the read.  I loved their neat handwriting and kind words.  I knew I wanted to be one of them. 

And so I am.

I have other passions, also.  I love to write, and though I may not be the best author, I try to do it every day.  This brings me peace and makes me smile.

I love to run and workout.  I may not be the quickest or the strongest, but I try.

I love spending time with family and friends, and would one day love to start a family of my own.

I am so fortunate to be able to say that I am able to follow my passions every single day.  I hope that my happiness and passion is as apparent to others as Katie Wood Ray’s were to me. 

What are you passionate about?  Are you able to do the things that make you happy? 

~Jen

magnolia Remember, Be Happy, Be Healthy, Be You!!!

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Happy Earth Day 2010!

Today, in celebration of Earth Day 2010, I spent the day in a forest with 125 third graders and many of their parents.

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We cored trees to see how old they were, we tramped through the swamp, and we saw how human activities have an impact on our waters.  We saw HUGE fish and small fish and some in between.  We lounged in hammocks to see the forest from a different perspective, and sorted animal skins, called pelts, into categories based on their diet. 

In a day and age when many believe that Earth Day has become commercialized and “too corporate,” I was actually able to spend the day in a long embrace with Mother Nature herself

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It was a spectacularly beautiful day!

I’ve known for a while now to recycle, to change my light bulbs to CFLs, to carpool, and to shut the water off when I brush my teeth.  But I recently read a fact that both stunned and saddened me.

“Global livestock production is responsible for about one-fifth of all greenhouse gases—more than transportation.” [Source]

In his book Food Matters, Mark Bittman reports that “60 BILLION animals are raised each year for food—10 animals for every human on Earth.”  This trend is also rapidly increasing as the demand for meat increases.  Our planet can not sustain this kind of abuse.  Think of all the chemicals, waste, and land that is used to maintain these farms!

The introduction of Factory Farming has impacted our climate as well as our health.  There is a direct relationship between the amount of meat produced, and consumed, in the United States to the rise in obesity, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and cancer rates. 

      

In many countries considered to be “healthier” because their culture follows a more traditional diet (think Mediterranean, Asian, etc.), meat is treated as a side, not as the main course.  What if every American ate just a little less meat and dairy?

Notice that I used bold, italics, and underlining in the phrase " a little less.”  I’m not saying people should go vegetarian or vegan.  That is a very personal decision.

I’m just wondering what the impact would be if we just ate a little less meat each week.  Maybe have Meatless Mondays or Vegan Wednesdays??  Could we reverse and control the impact of livestock production on our environment?  Could we improve the health crisis in American?    

Links of Possible Interest:

What’s your carbon footprint?

Putting Meat Back in its Place– New York Times

Less Meat = Less Heat– CNN on YouTube

Lean Plate Club– Washington Post

Want to Go Green? Eat Less Meat

Just a little food for thought! 

I hope you were able to get out and celebrate today! 🙂 

~Jen

magnolia Remember, Be Happy, Be Healthy, Be You!!!

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