Easy, healthy popcorn

Microwave popcorn is so 80s. And it’s not good for you. At all.

  • #1 on Shape’s list of 50 foods that seem good for you, but aren’t
  • The coating in the bag contains a number of dangerous chemicals that cause “popcorn lung” or bronchitis obliterans. Yikes! (see AARP, Care2, Discovery Health)

You could pop your popcorn in a brown paper bag in the microwave. Or, you could go old-school and pop it on the stove. It doesn’t take much longer, and you’re more involved in the process and that happiness gets cooked right into your snack. Here’s how we do it:

popcorn

1. Add some coconut oil (just enough to cover the bottom) to a pot and let it get really hot. Medium heat for about 2 minutes.

popcorn

2. Add 1/4 cup of popcorn kernels. Cover and let it pop! After a few minutes, you might shake the pot a little to move the kernels around.

3. Let it pop for a few minutes, until the space between the pops gets longer and longer. (Don’t take the lid off!) As you shake it, you can hear how many kernels are left. When you feel like you’re down to the duds, turn off the heat, remove the lid, and snack!

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It’s that easy!

It’s healthier than microwave popcorn, and you can choose your flavors, including butter flavor!

Now, I’ve been super jealous of the Holidrizzle Chocolate Peppermint Kettle Corn popcorn at all the stores, so I decided to make my own with some leftover peppermint candies. (This one has dairy and palm oil, so it’s off the list.)

1. I made some popcorn according to the above directions. Then, I moved all the popcorn to a bowl and added about 1 TBSP of coconut oil to the pan.

popcorn

2. I ground the peppermint candies in the food processor until they were very small. (I should have ground a little more, but it’s ok.)

popcorn

3. I added the candy grounds to the pot and stirred. Then, I added the popcorn and stirred to coat.

popcorn

It turned out great! The secret is to let the candies get a little melty. Then, they stuck to the popcorn. (Call it a dentist’s nightmare.) It’s not a healthy snack, but it’s not too bad, and I know I can make it myself.

Next time, I might try White Chocolate Peppermint Popcorn by Simply Scratch.

How to survive the holidays

Imogen Ornament

The holiday season begins this week. It’s a stressful time for so many, so I wanted to share some little tips I’ve learned over the years to reduce stress and make the days enjoyable.

Ask for help

My introversion turns into a bit of social anxiety that really ramps up over the holidays, especially if I think about it. (The Law of Attraction is at work here, so I’m trying to envision a happy, peaceful holiday season.) A few years ago, I found the solution. If I simply ask my husband for help and support, he does! It’s like magic!

If your family is willing to help cook, let them. It will give them a sense of pride and investment in the meal, and will relieve the stress from the chef.

Imogen Ornament

Give yourself a break

My friend said she struggles with the frozen turkey every year. I can’t imagine what that’s like, but I know that the preparation takes her away from the things she enjoys on Thanksgiving day. So this year, she’s buying a fresh turkey. It’s more expensive, but she has decided that she’s worth it. So true! Whatever your dreaded task is, think about if there’s another option that would make your day less stressful and try it.

Lower your expectations

Most of us get stressed or let down around the holidays because have a vision in our heads of how things should be. Just live in the moment and don’t expect everything to be perfect. Your guests won’t know the difference if you don’t tell them that you were going to use the new red table cloth but it has a hole in it all of a sudden, so you had to use last year’s gold table cloth. That’s not a tragedy. This year, focus on the family and friends and just try to enjoy your time with them without expecting so much from yourself.

Thanksgiving Football 2010

Thanksgiving 2010

Go outside

Schedule some time out of the house to get away from it all. Maybe you go to a movie with friends, or take a yoga class. Treat yourself to some “me” time. You will return to your family refreshed and happy and ready to enjoy their company again. Try it.

Serving people with food sensitivities

Gluten and dairy allergies are more prevalent now than in years past. How do you serve your gluten-free or vegan guests? Let them help! In Johnna’s Kitchen has some other really great tips; my favorite is to let us bring food to the feast. Chances are, we love cooking and are excited to share our favorite dish. And we know we’ll have something to eat.

What are your tips for surviving the holidays?

Choose organic!

Organic has a bad reputation for being more expensive than conventionally (or GMO) grown food. It’s just not true! For example, the organic coconut milk costs the same as the non-organic at Krieger. So, keep and open mind and compare prices. You might find a better deal in the organic aisle!

Choose organic

Coconut milk is a great healthy fat to add to smoothies. You can also make whipped cream!

Related: I really think it should cost more money to put chemicals and pesticides into our food than it does to grow them without. Check out what our local CSA has to do to qualify for organic certification. Why do they have to pay more to prove they are doing good?

Cold remedies

It’s cold and flu season, but *crossing fingers* I rarely catch the affliction. Here are my secrets.

Prevention

water

Aside from eating a healthy diet that includes a variety of grains, vegetables, fruits, and proteins, I do these things every day to prevent colds, the flu, and headaches:

  • Garlic pill. It’s odorless and is my sure-fire, fail-safe cold prevention. I never miss a day!
  • Netipot. I got a new netipot for my birthday. Love it! I do the netipot every day during spring and fall.
  • Drink lots of water and tea. Lots.
  • Nettle tea. If you’ve got allergies, drink nettle tea.
  • Wash hands often. And protect your skin with a good moisturizer.
  • Use essential oils like peppermint to clear sinuses and prevent headaches.

Remedy

If I start to feel like a cold is coming on, or I’ve been near sick people, I do these things, even if I’m not sick.

  • Continue with the prevention tactics.
  • Get extra sleep.
  • Eat lentil or split pea soup. Load up on the protein, naturally.
  • Drink pure pomegranate juice. Hint: mix pomegranate juice with Dark Chocolate Almond Milk by Silk for a tootsie-roll pop beverage. You get super antioxidants and protein in this yummy drink. (this does NOT work with cranberry juice)
  • Drink even more water and tea.
  • Put some peppermint oil or Vics vaporub on the bottom of your feet when you go to bed.
  • In addition to garlic, take a zinc supplement.
  • Many people use oregano oil to ward off sickness, but I haven’t tried it.

What is your favorite cold prevention or remedy?

Things I love lately

fallI love fall, of course. Oranges and browns are in. It’s jacket weather. And boots! Fall is the perfect time to enjoy walks outside, and then come home to warm apple cider and snuggle in for a movie.

Some other things I love lately…

Ginger tea

When I landed in Prague this spring, my friend made me the best ginger tea. It was just sliced ginger root in boiling water with honey. It was so warming and spicy-sweet. Lately, I’ve been looking at the Ayurveda tradition, and one recommendation is for my body type to drink ginger tea. Ok! I’ve been making a mug of ginger tea the same way in the morning. It reminds me of Prague and it’s good for me too. Ginger has so many benefits, from digestive to muscular, and possibly preventing cancer and cholesterol. I just love the taste, so I’ll take the other benefits as a bonus.

Fit in Five workouts

While my (near) daily yoga routine is fantastic, it’s also important to have a little variety. So, as much as it hurts, I’m trying to change my workout at little. I got the Zombies, Run! 5k app last week for only $4 and it was so fun! Seriously awesome. But, it’s too dark to run from zombies in the morning, so I’m doing the Fit in Five workouts with Joel Harper. They’re a great way to wake up before yoga, or to get my body moving in the morning. And they’re only 5 minutes. We all have 5 minutes, right?

Pumpkin

My husband and I just love getting fresh pie pumpkins in the fall and roasting them in the oven. Our pumpkins come from Amish country, and they just feel better than canned, you know? We’ve made pumpkin bread, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin oatmeal, pumpkin dip, pumpkin balls, pumpkin smoothies. You name it, we’ve pumpkin-ed it. And pumpkin is really good for you. Pumpkin seeds have iron, and the pumpkin itself has antioxidants, B vitamins, flavonoids, and minerals. What’s your favorite pumpkin dish?

My favorite recipes of the month

This guy

English Bulldog puppy! What is he talking about?

Winding down in the garden

Now that our hot, hot summer has departed and the cooler temperatures of fall are setting in, we’re shifting things around in the garden. The tomatoes are still growing like wild (I will try to buy 5 tomato plants next year, not 9!) and the peppers are still giving it their all.

October 2012

greenhouse

We’ve cleaned out the cucumbers and melons, and planted radishes, beets, leeks, parsnips, and onions. The radishes look good, but there are no parsnips and just one beet. Any suggestions? Those are my favorite root vegetables, so I would really love for them to succeed.

Certainly, we’ll have freezing temperatures soon, and we’ll have to give in and pull up the remaining tomatoes and pepper plants. I can’t wait to see how long the greens last in the garden. Plus, I planted a bunch of seeds in the little greenhouse – kale, bok choy, arugula, and lettuce. Cross your fingers!

Unconventional moves

Looking for a fun and different way to exercise? I found two new ways to move your body. What’s your favorite way to exercise?

Dance Dance Party Party

My friend organizes Akron’s Dance Dance Party Party group that meets at 8 p.m. on the third and fifth Fridays of every month. What is this DDPP?

Akron hosts one of the many chapters of the female-only cult phenomenon known as Dance Dance Party Party™ (DDPP™). Unlike typical workout or dance classes, Dance Dance Party Party™ has no instructors, no fitness goals, and nothing to prove. There are only three rules in the room – no boys, no booze, and no judgment.

The next meeting is Oct. 19 and DJ Necronomi-Tron, fan of Ghouls Night Out, will be spinning the tunes. Feel free to use this as a night to test out your costume! Can’t dance? Go anyway and sweat to the music with some lovely ladies.

Keep up with Akron’s DDPP on their blog.

Or, find out if your city has a DDPP group. If not, you can start your own!

Zombies, Run!

Zombies, Run! is a fantastic new app that gets us lazy bones to run…from zombies!! You can get the app on your Apple, Android, or Blackberry device.

You tie your shoes, put on your headphones, take your first steps outside. You’ve barely covered 100 yards when you hear them. They must be close. You can hear every guttural breath, every rattling groan – they’re everywhere. Zombies.
There’s only one thing you can do: Run!

I’m not a runner, but this would definitely make me move my feet. The app tracks your run and gives you a summary of the story to check out once you’ve caught your breath.

Get the app! (It’s $7.99 but might be worth it.)

Pollinators in trouble

Scientists continue to warn us about how pollinators are in trouble, and how our food supply is in danger too. Some species of bees have declined by 96% in some areas.

In California alone, researchers reported last year in the journal Rangelands [sub. req.] that native species pollinate more than one-third of the state’s crops, making them a multi-billion-dollar contributor to its rural economy.

Garden

The problem

Colony collapse is a real problem, and supposedly still mysterious. There are a few potential problems, and they’re all preventable. We all know that pesticides are affecting the bees. Most pesticides that kill bad bugs kill the good ones too. Certainly, it’s a challenge to keep a vegetable garden from getting destroyed by insects, but without bees, there is no garden. Pesticides are causing a bigger problem than they’re solving. The other potential cause is that bees need to eat their honey throughout the winter. Well, instead of letting them eat the honey, beekeepers are harvesting the honey and feeding the bees high fructose corn syrup. What?! Yes, they’re taking the bee’s natural honey and giving them a processed food instead.

How we can help

I don’t like all the doom and gloom… I want to know how to help. Check out this TED Talk about urban and city bee farmers and how they can help solve the problem. If you don’t have room for a beehive (which, regrettably, I don’t), you can plant a pollinator garden to give the bees and their friends lots of options and variety. Additionally, some countries have banned the use of the pesticides that are killing bees. Maybe we could encourage our country to do the same.

bees

Sources

Avocados

I never liked avocados as a kid. In fact, I only started eating them about 2 years ago. Now, they’re my new favorite thing! I can’t get enough. We put them in everything from smoothies to dinners. Last night, I made a fantastic guacamole (1.5 avocado, 1/3 cup salsa, lime and lemon juice) to bring to a neighborhood party. And, I recently learned that you can even replace butter with avocados – it’s a 1:1 ratio.

avocados

Healthy fats

Avocados are so good for you because they have healthy fats. One avocado has 15 grams of unsaturated fat, which is good for your heart. The anti-inflammatory combination of the fats and carotenoids are helpful for relieving arthritis.

Good cholesterol

Avocados help promote good cholesterol, and lower bad cholesterol. So, if you have a family history of high cholesterol, think about adding avocados to your salads, salsa, and snacks. Southern Living tells more reasons to eat avocados.