“Pistou” (French Pesto)

Perk up an otherwise average soup by topping it with French-style pesto (AKA pistou). I personally appreciate that it doesn’t contain pine nuts, since I watch my intake of PUFAs (due to their inflammatory qualities).

A cool thing about “Pistou”: The garlic flavor steeps and mellows some when it is crushed with sea salt. The salt draws out the garlic flavor as it brings out the moisture. Kind of “unlocking” the flavor, so it’s not too overwhelming.

You can use a mortar and pestle (old-school style) to make this, but a food processor or blender is handy too. The garlic gets processed with the salt until fine, then basil is added, to puree until pretty smooth. Then the olive oil gets whisked in, along with chopped tomatoes and the cheese. Delicious!

Olive oil, basil, garlic, salt, parmesan

“Pistou” (French Style Pesto)

INGREDIENTS

  • 4-6 cloves fresh garlic
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 4 c. fresh basil
  • 1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tomato
  • 1 c. grated Parmesan (or other flavorful, aged, dry cheese, like Gruyere)

PREPARATION

1. Mash garlic up with salt, or use processor/blender. (A garlic press also works- just sprinkle salt on afterwards, letting the garlic soften for the salt.). Use: > 4-6 cloves fresh garlic > 1/2 tsp. sea salt

2. Let salt work into the garlic for 10-20 minutes, then add fresh basil to the mix and process. (If doing by hand, hand-chop the basil first, until fine.) Use: > 4 c. fresh basil

3. Slowly add plus the olive oil, whisked in slowly until incorporated: > 1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil

4. Add the tomato, chopped, and the Parmesan (or other favorite). Process until smooth (or leave it more chunky): > 1 tomato > 1 c. grated Parmesan (or other flavorful, aged, dry cheese, like Gruyere)

5. Dollop onto of soups or other fave dishes.

Pesto Pizza, New Deli Style

Back in the day, The New Deli made one huge sheet of Pesto Pizza on Fridays. A few of us still remember those days. Once in awhile, we make this recipe again, for New Deli parties. Sssh–don’t tell anyone! (It’s just for employees and family, ha…)

We found a way to prepare it using a hearty amount of chunky tomatoes, without the crust getting soggy. The secret: A first layer of thinly-sliced mozzarella cheese over the dough.

We also add extra spinach to the pesto we make up, processing it together in the blender, then adding an egg as well, which gives the pesto drizzle a good consistency.

Serves 8.

New Deli Pesto Pizza

INGREDIENTS

  • 1-2 lb. bread dough (fresh or frozen, thawed)
  • 28 oz. can chunk tomatoes
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 1/2 TBS. dry oregano, rubbed
  • 2/3 c. pesto
  • 3 c. spinach, fresh
  • 1 egg
  • 8 oz. thinly-sliced mozzarella
  • 8 oz. grated Jack cheese (or part Provolone cheese)
  • 1/2 c. Parmesan

PREPARATION

  1. Let dough get to room temperature. Meanwhile, prepare toppings. Mix the following in a strainer, setting over a bowl to catch the juice. The salt will help the tomatoes to lose their excess moisture: > 28 oz. can chunk tomatoes > 1/2 tsp. salt > 1/2 tsp. pepper > 1/2 TBS. dry oregano, rubbed
  2. The seasoned tomatoes can drain for several hours. Also, mix together and set aside (use blender or food processor if adding the fresh spinach): > 2/3 c. pesto > 1 egg > 3 c. fresh spinach
  3. Shape the room-temperature pizza dough into a circle, to fit a standard pizza pan (or very large iron pan, if available), using extra flour as necessary if dough is sticky. Sprinkle the pizza pan with fine corn meal, stretching the dough onto the pan, using: > 1-2 lb. frozen bread dough, thawed (or use homemade)
  4. Lay out over dough, to cover: > 8 oz. mozzarella, sliced thin
  5. Next add the drained, seasoned tomatoes, topping with dollops of the pesto mix. Finally, top with: > 8 oz. grated Jack cheese (or part Provolone cheese) > 1/2 c. Parmesan

6. Bake at 475 degrees, 20 minutes or more (depending on size of pizza pan).

 

Science Behind “Lose Belly Fat”

I kept seeing that “Lose Belly Fat” ad last year. I never wanted to click on it- I might start getting spam emails for weight loss supplements. Ah, but my husband didn’t know any better- he was just checking his 10-K scores after a run, when he noticed the intriguing headline. He watched the whole video, and was able to fill me in on the details. Perfect! I didn’t want to sit through an advertisement for that long, but was glad he could tell me about it. Some of it was interesting. Except for the sales pitch for a product, of course…

Natural Fat LossI already knew that fat around the gut is bad for the body- it can push other organs out of their proper place, and can potentially lead to diabetes, high blood pressure, liver and heart diseases, even dementia. The propensity to gain in the abdominal area can be genetic, but hormones, bad metabolism, certain medications, stress or overeating can increase the problem.

So what was the buzz from the Belly Fat ad? They mentioned that the belly fat has to do with how we process insulin. And, since they are trying to sell a product, they don’t recommend one of the natural options: going off of carbs for 8 weeks. That can help reset our system, so we can begin to improve how we process carbohydrates.

Rather, the company suggests we just take their supplement, because it contains the otherwise-hard-to-procure ingredients that they’ve included in their mix. One ingredient, Indonesian cinnamon bark, is far superior to much of the “cinnamon” on the market (which can have a different chemical make-up, or even be adulterated with cheaper ingredients). This Ceylon cinnamon is perfect–I add it to my hot drinks. YUM! Oh, and cinnamon is a metabolic stimulator, and even helps regulate glucose levels, so of course it’s good to include in the diet.

Other helpful ingredients to fight belly fat: Ginger is great. I use it to flavor my kefir water, make tea out of it, and add it to many dishes. It fights inflammation and can help regulate blood sugar, serum cholesterol, and cortisol levels.

Low-GI foods are good too. That means they’re low on the glycemic index, and don’t raise insulin levels as much as Hi-GI foods. Hi-GI foods like potatoes and white rice can cause rapid blood sugar spikes, which soon crash, causing the release of cortisol, making blood sugar levels go up and down alot, leading to insulin resistance. Type 2 diabetes is just around the corner at that point!

Another tip: Cranberries contain organic acids that emulsify stubborn fat and help digest lymphatic waste. Whoot! (Glad I have some of this Cranberry Concentrate in the fridge.)

And we all know fish oil has omega 3 fatty acids, which help break down stored fat, right?

One more anti-belly-fat tip: Get enough calcium too. When our body is low on calcium, it produces a hormone that signals the body to store visceral fat. Not good!

So, thanks, Tom- it was good to get some more specifics about what we can do to fight belly fat. I still don’t want to buy someone else’s product (usually over-priced), but I love to know what kinds of healthy supplemental foods I can stock up on!

Weight Loss, Food Addictions, Bad Habits

A lot of us may try to reconfigure our habits after the holidays. I know I’m trying to share as much of the Christmas candy we received, before I have a daily habit started up again. Now that it’s the new year, I’m ready to re-commit to healthy habits.

Weight Loss Goals Three years ago, when I finally bought a new scale and discovered I was up to 125 lb., I took the above picture. To get the improved reading of “117.5 lb.”, I stepped on the scale just enough for it to show my target weight, then snapped the pic before the readout disappeared. Hey, who says visualization doesn’t help, right?!

Within a few months, I was able to reach that target weight. I achieved my goal, and maintained it. (My weight may even get lower on occasion. Hurrah!)

I eat a lot of super-foods, to stay well-nourished, to stave away hunger (which can sometimes be a hunger for nutrients). But here are a few more thoughts to throw into the mix too.

  1. Be ready for self-sacrifice. A lot of folks aren’t really ready to exert that much self-control. The first thirty days are hard, since part of it is breaking old habits. I asked God for help. He delivered me from seeking food to fill my “needs”.
  2. No pain, no gain. In this case- “No pain, no loss”. Doesn’t have the same ring! But think of it as an investment. By investing 30 days or so of your life into developing a new, healthy habit, you might actually lose those carb cravings indefinitely!
  3. You won’t “suffer” for life. If you train your body for a month or so, to eat the right foods (and not in ginormous quantities), you’ll probably start feeling so good that you won’t even want the same foods you used to eat. For me, it started to not feel worth it. Bad foods didn’t really satisfy my hunger. Oh, and as I gradually ate a more pure diet, foods with any kind of chemical in them started tasting down-right nasty. It wasn’t hard to pass that up.
  4. Set a good example for others. It’s been said that good behavior is somewhat “addictive”- the more you’re around someone who makes good choices, the more likely you’ll follow suit. They noticed this in a study of eating habits- it was much harder to be self-controlled around those who ate less healthy foods. So let’s encourage others by eating better ourselves- it will help them and our clothes will fit better in the process, too.

I thank God that He’s given me the fruit of self control. (The Bible says all believers receive the fruit of the spirit, including self control.) Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:27, “I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.” Paul didn’t want to be a hypocrite. I don’t either!

Jen’s Top Ten List To Improve Thyroid Health

Another year’s gone by, and my thyroid levels have stayed great. Optimizing my thyroid function is working. I suspect a lot of these tips are good for anyone- husband Tom and I have stayed healthy all during this flu season. It’s been awesome!

I’ve got a few other posts on the subject too. Find my article on the Green Drink I have every morning, here. There’s also my List of 8 Diet Ideas to boost thyroid health, if you want to check that out too!

grateful_table_thyroid_top_ten_list

  1. Remove Silver Fillings: Consider getting amalgam (silver) fillings out. They contain mercury- ew! (Major endocrine disruptor).
  2. Get Enough Iron: A bit of beef liver can help us get enough iron–it’s the most-absorbed form. I take these liver pills, from grass-fed cows, or even this powdered liver powder, that I mix in with my morning green drink. It’s hard to gag down– I guzzle it as quickly as possible, and I did get used to it. (The powder is the most economical way to get this form of iron.)
  3. Mega-Greens: Spirulina and. Chlorella can supply mega-nutrients–nourishing to the thyroid gland. I have two tablespoons of these powders every morning. Or– these tablets are easier to take.
  4. Super-food Herbs: A mix of various super-food herbs, blended into a jar of protein powder or gelatin, can make it easy to get a natural, extra boost. Just mix some into the morning’s hot drink or protein shake. Ashwagandha Root Powder  is an adaptogen, so it may help the body fill in missing nutrients to improve function. Other good herbs to consider-  Eleuthero root, Astragalus root, Codonopsis root (pretty pricey, but it is an extract), Fo-Ti root (it has rave reviews as a hair tonic and gray-hair-delayer as well), Devils Club bark. More herbs/foods that can fight inflammation (which aggravates so many issues, including thyroid): Nopal Powder and Tart Cherry Powder. I usually mix one or several of these in with the batch of whey protein powder, gelatin, or whatever I’m mixing into my morning drinks at the time. I use one mix this way, instead of several individual scoops of this or that.
  5. Minerals: Some hypothyroid sufferers have noticed great improvement from taking mineral supplements. I prefer whole-food forms of nutrients (we’re less likely to get overloaded on any one mineral this way). One of my favorite natural sources for minerals is Capra Mineral Whey. Maybe it’s because it’s from goats that graze on the mineral-rich grasses of the Capra region. It seems to work. Expensive, but I love this stuff. Also, mineral-rich, hormone-balancing herbs like nettle, yellow dock, horsetail, alfalfa, and rosemary are good to add to the diet too.
  6. Chromium: This is an important mineral to aid thyroid function, but it takes some effort to find great sources. A few ideas: Grape juice (and red wine), and brewer’s yeast are just a few of the many whole foods that do contain some chromium.
  7. Zinc & Selenium: Zinc can be added to the diet by eating beef, lamb, pumpkin and/or sesame seeds. And it only takes about two Brazil nuts daily to get enough selenium.
  8. Cod Liver Oil: Cod Liver Oil can help balance our Omega 3/6 ratio- another plus. Especially if you’re like me- I don’t always eat weekly rations of wild-caught salmon. The capsules are handy.
  9. Pure Water: A “Berkey Water Filter” (or other filter designed to remove fluoride and chlorine) is a good investment. Fluoride and chlorine can potentially disrupt thyroid health. Plus, the water tastes great.
  10. Natural Thyroid Gland Supplement: I’ve been to the doctor pretty irregularly now, since I’m feeling so healthy. I got my thyroid levels checked anyway, fairly recently, and they were fine. The doctor preferred that I would continue with a prescription thyroid, but I’ve been successfully using an OTC thyroid supplement (“Thyro-Gold“) instead. I’ve been using it for three years and have never felt healthier. Getting older, but getting better too.

There you have it- my top ten. It’s working for me–I love it that more people have told me I look younger now than I did ten years ago when I didn’t know I was hypothyroid. AND, I feel younger. Hurrah!

Cheap Kitchen Cupboard Redo

The new year’s almost upon us- thought I’d post a few ideas for “out with the old, in with the new”. So… if you’ are also dealing with old kitchen cupboard shelves made of particle board, this is a real cheap alternative to new kitchen cupboards!

Particle Board Shelving Needs Redo

Organizing- 10 Good Will Boxes!First job: cleaning those cupboards out. I found stuff I’d forgotten about. Like, a bulging can of pineapple that expired in 2005. Not sure when it started oozing pineapple goo onto the cupboard shelf. Shame on me!

Once everything came out of the cupboards, I realized how nasty the shelves had gotten. After all, the shelves are 30-year-old particle board. Nothing like the fancy, wipeable shelves they have now. So… I researched. Contact paper’s not going to stick to that stuff. Plus, the first product I tried was so thin, pots and pans would just tear it up.  But check out the “After” pic! Someone on some forum mentioned using adhesive tiles for such shelving. It was easy enough to put in, and it’s super durable. I’m so excited that the shelving looks way nicer. And… my husband’s excited that it was way cheaper than a whole cupboard-replacement venture.Adhesive Tile Over Particle Board ShelfThe outside of the shelves still looks pretty decent. A friend suggested paint, but I wasn’t too keen on that. My daughter-in-law has had enough bad experience with those for me to want steer clear of that. Yes, she and our son had professionals paint their first kitchen cupboards. Including the finishing protective coat. They still started chipping within the first few years. In their second kitchen, the cupboard were already painted. They looked bright and cheery. The first year. But those too started chipping…

I’ve continued to keep the outside of our old cupboards in decent shape by using citrus oil on them occasionally. It nourishes the wood and brings back the shine. Cheapest redo ever!

Chicken, Moroccan, for 240!

Dijon + Butter on Chicken Breast + Moist!We made a lot of chicken for our annual Women’s Christmas Dinner at church. It turned out great. If you’re planning a wedding or some other large event, this could work! We got 6-oz. portioned, boneless, skinless breast meat, which can sometimes be dry. But… we topped each piece with a mix of butter and Dijon mustard, plus a mix of bread crumbs and Parmesan. Wow- it was perfectly moist and tender with that treatment!

You can find the family-size recipe here, although it doesn’t mention the Dijon-Butter idea...

 

Olives, Raisins, Toasted Almonds, Make Tasty Morrocan Chicken

INGREDIENTS

  • 90 lb. Chicken in 6-oz. size.
  • 5.75 green olives (pitted, no pimento)
  • .75 lb. raisins
  • 2.3 lb. lemon peel, slivered
  • 4.6 lb. lemon juice
  • 1.15 honey
  • 4.3 lb. butter
  • 2.15 lb. Dijon
  • 3.5 lb. bread crumbs (sweet’s good)
  • 3.5 lb. Parmesan
  • 4.4 lb. slivered almonds

PREPARATION

Prep the toppings below; also order 90 lb. chicken (6-oz., portioned). The chicken itself can be laid on trays and prepped the day before.

Up to several weeks ahead, prep olives, refrigerating jars afterward. Slice in quarters: > 5.75 green olives

Also ahead of time, chop med. fine: > 5.75 lb. raisins

Lemon mix can also be prepped several weeks ahead. After slicing the peel into thin strips, heat briefly to a boil: > 2.3 lb. lemon peel, slivered > 4.6 lb. lemon juice > 1.15 honey > 1/2 TBS. salt

Refrigerate the lemon peel in jars.

On serving day, or day before, spread top of raw chicken pieces with a mix of melted butter, mixed with Dijon. Use: > 4.3 lb. butter > 2.15 lb. Dijon

Sprinkle on top of butter/mustard mix: > 3.5 lb. bread crumbs (sweet’s good) > 3.5 lb. Parmesan

Bake 20 minutes at 350 degrees.

Also on serving day, mix together the prepared olives, raisins, and lemon peel (including lemon peel juice).

Top baked chicken with the olive/raisin/lemon mixture. Last, top with: > 4.4 lb. slivered almonds

 

Christmas Party Ideas: Yankee Swap/White Elephant with a Twist

Yankee Swap, White ElephantWe’ll be having our 31th annual New Deli Christmas Party soon. We always play a few games, and always do a “White Elephant” (AKA “Yankee Swap” or “Snatchy Christmas Rat”). But we wanted to do something a little different this time around, so below I’ve posted a link you can use to change things up as well.

Not Much New Deli Staff! Christmas 2008

New Deli Christmas 2008 (Stephanie’s taking the picture)

Just for extra fun, I had to post the above picture of Tom, Todd, Tyler, and Rose (plus us), taken back in 2008. My, how things have changed. Ty’s now got a job, Rose is happily married and in college, and we’ve gone from having just a few people on staff, to having 11 employees. Wow!

This might have been the funnest Yankee Swap ever- there were numbered cards with cute little poems on ’em, like,

  • “#1 Lucky you, you’re # 1- You get to start all the fun. So grab a gift and grab it quick.
  • #3. Number 3 it’s plain to see. It’s your turn to pick which gift `twill be. And when your choosing job is through, swap with 1 and then with 2.
  • #7 is a lucky number it seems, You choose a gift that has some green. Poke it, and shake it until you get back. Now trade with someone wearing black.

Etc. Fun stuff!

I had a little trouble finding the ready-to-go directions online. A word search led me to a bogus website that mentioned this fun Yankee Swap, but it didn’t link to anything. (That website did sent me some span emails the next day though- that’s all :/)

So I figured I’d post this, with an easy-to-print Word document attached, for you to print a copy for yourself. This particular list goes all the way up to 50; we only needed 25 numbers when we played, but it’s completely flexible that way.

Here’s the Word document: Christmas Party Ideas, Yankee Swap, White Elephant

Have fun!

Thanksgiving Verse (Desktop Wallpaper Too)

I work up various desktop backgrounds to match the season (or my mood)- see “Desktop Wallpapers” for more. With Thanksgiving coming right up, I thought I’d create one for the verse about Thanksgiving from Colossians 2:7.

I set the Thanksgiving table today. It’s a wise thing for two reasons: #1- It can be done ahead, before the kitchen work gets intense, and #2- The weight of the plates and such help pull any wrinkles out of the tablecloth. That’s right- a no iron tablecloth is my goal!

I made the centerpiece ahead of time too- just rounded up some of garden produce kicking around the yard, plus a few greens. Put all that in a burlap-lined wooden box filled with some mason jars. I added little candles to the jars- pretty! (See bottom of post for a closeup of that).

Let the weight of plates pull wrinkles out of tablecloth!The table looked so pretty, I wanted to create some computer monitor wallpaper out of a picture of it. I found this great Thanksgiving Bible verse to go with it, from Colossians 2:7- “Be strengthened by the faith that you were taught, and overflow with thanksgiving.”

Colossians 2:7 Thanksgiving VerseTo use the picture for a desktop background, click the links below, sized to fit wide or short monitors. Left click on the monitor size you want, which brings you to the actual picture, then right click and choose “select (or set) as desktop background”.

Background for wider monitors

Background for shorter monitors

Natural Tablescape w/produce, burlap, mason jars, candles

Chicken Paprikosh

This is one of the first recipes my son wanted after moving into his own place. I don’t think it’s that it’s the most amazing recipe ever, but that we had a lot of good memories of meals shared, enjoying this dish. Chowing down on a hearty helping of this after soccer practices… that kind of stuff!

Chicken Paprikosh with VeggiesThis dish can be thrown together easy, with some pasta on hand, and a bit of sour cream, chicken, and spice. The sour cream adds richness, but yogurt can be substituted. For a more authentic Hungarian flavor, toasted caraway seeds can be added. Serves 4.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 to 4 c. cooked, boned chicken
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1 red pepper
  • 12 oz. or so dry fettuccini (or choice of pasta)
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 1/4 c. flour
  • 1 TBS. paprika
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 1/2 TBS. chopped, fresh garlic
  • 1 1/2 c. chicken stock
  • 1/2 c. sour cream
  • (optional) 1 tsp. toasted caraway seed

Chicken for this dish is best “pulled”, or torn, into pieces, as more sauce clings to it this way. Prepare the chicken ahead of time, or grill 3 or 4 half breasts, to yield: > 3 to 4 c. cooked, boned chicken, pulled (torn) into 1 to 2″ chunks

Also prepare peppers, chopping into 1/2″ diced pieces: > 1 green pepper > 1 red pepper

Grill the diced peppers in very hot skillet for a few minutes, in a little olive oil, with a splash of water to steam them a bit. Set cooked peppers aside.

Cook the following until tender, rinsing, cooling, and tossing with a bit of olive oil to keep it from clumping: > 12 oz. or so dry fettuccini (or your choice of pasta)

In iron skillet or saucepan, mix: > 1/4 c. olive oil > 1/4 c. flour > 1 TBS. paprika > 1 tsp. salt > 1/2 tsp. pepper > 1/2 TBS. chopped, fresh garlic

Slowly add: > 1 1/2 c. chicken stock

Bring mixture to a boil. Boil and stir for 2 minutes. Turn off heat, adding last: > 1/2 c. sour cream > The cooked chicken chunks > Diced, cooked peppers > (optional: 1 tsp. toasted caraway seed, crushed)

Serve over the cooked pasta, with a side dish of steamed green vegetables, as desired, for extra color.