Category Archives: Closer Look

Closer Look: Asparagus

Closer Look: Asparagus

Today I’m taking a Closer Look at Asparagus. Maybe you love it, or maybe you’ve hated it in the past.
Regardless, I hope you’ll try this delicious little veggie.

Asparagus is in season in early Spring. You may be thinking that it’s far from Spring, but I’ve begun to see it pop up in the supermarkets, looking really fresh and priced really reasonably.

How do you choose the best Asparagus?
Look for thin stalks. Our American mindset generally defaults to bigger is better, but not when it comes to Asparagus. The thinner stalks have a better flavor than the thicker stalks. They should be bright green in color and should look perky and fresh, not saggy and rubbery.

What are the nutritional benefits of eating Asparagus?
Asparagus is a great source of vitamins A, C, K, and folate. Its low in carbohydrates and actually contains a significant amount of protein and fiber as well.

How do I cook Asparagus?
Regardless if you boil, sautee, or roast it, start by washing Asparagus in cold water. Hold the stalks with one hand on each end and bend the stalks until they break. Use the top half of the stalks and toss the lower half (I sometimes save these lower halves of the stalks and use them for Asparagus Soup; I’ll post that recipe at a later date). The point where these stalks naturally break separates the undesirable portion to eat from the naturally tasty potion.

My favorite way to prepare Asparagus is to roast it in the oven. I preheat my oven to 400 degrees. I place the stalks on a cookie sheet and drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil, adding a little sea salt and pepper to taste; Toss to coat. I then spread the stalks so they’re a single layer on the pan and then roast them for 5 minutes in the oven. Cooking them at this high temperature for a short amount of time still leaves them bright green and crisp while making the tops a little crunchy.

What do I serve with Asparagus?
My favorite thing to eat with Asparagus is fish and sweet potatoes. The flavors just seem to work really well together.

Hope you’ll give this Spring veggie a try! Its become one of my favorite veggies!

Closer Look: Loose Leaf Teas

Closer Look: Loose Leaf Teas

I thought I’d share something today that’ll warm you right up during this cold winter weather!
Today I’m taking a Closer Look at Loose Leaf Teas.
I fell in love with loose leaf teas a few years ago. They taste so much better than bagged teas and have healing properties as well.
I wanted to share my love of these teas with you by introducing you to my loose leaf tea source.

I met Lauren Heller, a friend of a friend, who owns her own loose leaf tea business called Our SpecialTEA . She is a wealth of knowledge on the subject and that’s why today I’m sharing an interview I did with Lauren on Loose Leaf Teas.
So, if you love tea, have never liked tea in the past, are interested in what loose leaf tea is, or interested in the healing properties keep reading. You can check out Lauren’s Loose Leaf Teas at:

Q: Lauren, how is loose leaf tea different than tea I could buy at the grocery in tea bags?
A: Lauren: “The tea bags that are available today are much different than the ones from even 3 years ago. The newest trend are tea pyramids and larger type filter bags for larger leaves. These types of tea “bags” are much better than your traditional tea bag. Tea bags are typically made from the “dust” of the picked tea crop. Company’s such as ours receive the top of the picking which are full, bright, fresh leaves and tea bags are made from the dust and broken pieces that fall to the bottom. The tea bags will also brew a much more heavy and harsher tea taste.”

Q: What are the different types of teas?
A: Lauren: “You can go greatly in depth with this question but the basics that the United States are familiar with are: Green, White, Black, Herbal (Tisane), Oolong and Rooibos. The difference is based upon processing techniques; wilting, firing, drying, etc.”

Q: What are the health benefits of loose leaf teas?
A: Lauren: “Where to begin??? If you go to our site you will find a lengthy section that pertains to the limited explanation of health benefits.”

Q: I know you have young children and use the loose leaf teas to treat a lot of ailments. What are some ailments that you treat with loose leaf teas?
A: Lauren: “A big treatment in our house is for cold or fever. I use a lot of peppermint leaf for fevers because it naturally cools the body. It also is wonderful for opening up the lungs and air passages. Some of my other favorites are our Chamomile Anthem (blend of Peppermint, Rooibos and Chamomile), Citrus Splash Wellness (all herbal mix with lots of citrus fruits, full of vitamins) and White teas…they are full of antioxidants.”

Q: What’s your personal favorite of all the teas?
A: Lauren: “My personal favorite category is Oolong. I love that an Oolong brews such a beautiful amber-like color. It’s taste is subtle yet holds its own. It is a nice balance between a Black tea and white/green tea. They offer such incredible health benefits as well.”

Q: If someone says they generally don’t drink tea, what is one loose leaf tea you think they may like?
A: Lauren: “I first ask people what they have tried. If it was grandma’s sun tea or tea from a restaurant, I like to suggest that they try something that doesn’t have such a harsh, “tea” taste from the tannins in the tea being steeped improperly. I would suggest an herbal or Rooibos. But if you have a good source of loose tea, and it is brewed properly, all the teas taste wonderful. Even to the pickiest of pallets.”

Q: What’s you favorite sweetener to add to tea?
A: Lauren: “I typically don’t add sweetener to my tea because I like to get the full flavor of the tea in its “naked” form but if I do, I make sure it is natural. So I choose either an organic sugar, raw sugar, honey or agave nectar. I do enjoy a good strong black tea and add just a touch of organic soy creamer. Tastes amazing!”

A special thanks to Lauren Heller for sharing her wealth of knowledge with us!

I wanted to share that I generally brew my loose leaf tea in a tea strainer like the one shown above. My personal favorite of all the teas are the Rooibos Teas. I find they really relieve my allergy and asthma symptoms even on days when allergy medicine doesn’t seem to work (and trust me the bagged Rooibos Tea just does not work the same).

You can find out more information about Loose Leaf Teas and purchase the teas and accessories from Our SpecialTEA online.
They really make great gifts! Drink up!

Closer Look at Your Childhood Arch-Enemy: Brussel Sprouts

Closer Look at Your Childhood Arch-Enemy: Brussel Sprouts

Do you remember as a child sitting at the dinner table after everyone else had finished dinner, teary-eyed because your mother said you couldn’t leave the table until you’d eaten your brussel sprouts? You just couldn’t down those awful little things and you’ve hated them ever since. Well let’s be honest, a lot of time has gone by and your palette is different than it used to be and maybe your mother cooked them so thoroughly they were reduced to mush.

Today I’m saying give them another shot! That’s right…Today I’m taking a Closer Look at Brussel Sprouts.

These little guys have a bad rap, but I’ve grown to love them over the last few years. My theory is you might too, you just have to know how to cook them.

Why eat ‘em?
These little guys are full of folate (folic acid), which helps prevents birth defects if consumed during pregnancy. Brussel sprouts are packed with vitamins C and K that contributes to beautiful skin and increases immune function. They’re a great source of soluble and insoluble fiber that is important to keep weight in check and keeps your colon healthy. Eating brussel sprouts actually helps to prevent cancer because they increase your cells’ ability to detoxify and regenerate healthy cells.

How to select the best brussel sprouts?
Look for the smallest brussel sprouts. The smaller, the sweeter they are. They should be firm, not squishy and the layers on them should be tightly compacted.

How to cook ‘em so they’re tasty?
1. Peel the outer layers off and cut off the excess stem portion.
2. Cut each of them in half length wise.
3. Heat a skillet over medium heat with a little extra virgin olive oil and add brussel sprouts.
4. Stir frequently. Add about a tablespoon of butter to the skillet (butter makes everything better), a little salt and pepper, and more olive oil if they begin to stick or burn. Cooking about 8 to 10 minutes.
5. Add approximately 1/3 cup water to the skillet, cooking an additional 2 minutes.
6. Squeeze half a lemon over the brussel sprouts, stir and serve.

I hope you’ll give these little guys with a bad rap another chance. I’ve come to love them and I hope you will as well!


Gluten Free: Animal Cookies

Gluten Free: Animal Cookies

Here’s another product to add to your GF food index.
For those of us with restricted diets, the simple things in life like animal cookies that fit our restricted diets can be seriously exciting! This one is especially for those who have kids that have to be GF. Every kid should get to partake in the simple joys of being a kid, like eating animal cookies. Here’s good news for all the GF kids and those of us who are GF and young at heart.

I love the brand Nature’s Path because they provide great tasting GF options. Their line, Envirokidz, gives GF kids food options that specifically appeal to them. Their GF Organic Animal Cookies (Vanilla) are a tasty snack for those of us young and old.

You can pick up these animal cookies from your local health food store. I’ve also found them at my local grocery store that has a GF section and even at Walmart nearby that has a GF section.

Hope this opens up your GF food options!

Sweet Potato Fries

Sweet Potato Fries

Sweet potatoes are abundant during these cold winter months. They’re naturally very flavorful and extremely rich in vitamins and minerals (Vitamins A, C, B6, as well as Calcium, Iron, Maganese, Magnesium, Potassium, Fiber and Beta-Carotene). Check out these links to find out the nutritional fact details about sweet potatoes:

Want a tasty recipe for sweet potatoes that’s so easy it’s barely a recipe and it’ll give you your fix for french fries?
By Maria’s request here the recipe for the Sweet Potato Fries that has become a default recipe for me when I don’t know what to make. Thanks to my Aunt Ronda who showed me how to make these several years ago!

4 sweet potatoes (I generally make the equivalent of 1 sweet potato per person partaking)
*Health Tip: Leave the skins on to get more of the nutrients.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil enough to drizzle
*Health Tip: Consuming sweet potatoes with fat (as from EVOO) actually helps your body to absorb more of the Beta-Carotene
Salt and Pepper to Taste

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Slice sweet potatoes into long thin french fry shapes (about 1/4″ to 1/2″ in thickness). Try to keep the thickness of each piece as similar as possible to ensure they cook at the same rate.
3. Place sweet potato fries onto large rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with a little Extra Virgin Olive Oil (add a little at a time, just enough to slightly coat each piece). Salt and Pepper to taste.
4. Toss sweet potato fries to coat evenly.
5. Spread sweet potato fries so the baking sheet has a single layer of fries. (You may need to use more than one baking sheet to fit them all, so they’re a single layer).
6. Bake in oven 10 to 15 minutes. Remove. Using a spatula flip the fries over.
7. Bake another 10 to 15 minutes. Remove and test with a fork to see if they are tender. Serve and enjoy!
(especially good with Trader Joe’s Organic Ketchup)

*I’ve found, depending upon how evenly your oven cooks, how accurate the oven temperature, and how thick the fries the length of time to cook can varry from 20 minutes to 40 minutes. Make it the first time checking often. The second time you’ll know exactly the length of time to cook for your oven.

Closer Look: Kale

Closer Look: Kale

The seasonal veggie in the lasagna recipe posted yesterday is kale. Here’s a Closer Look at this veggie you may never have used.

What is it?
Kale is a leafy green grown in cooler temperatures, which make it abundant and affordable in most grocery stores during winter months. A cabbage relative, kale is easily identified by its very ruffled leaves. The younger leaves can be chopped into salads and eaten raw. But more commonly, kale is taken off the stalks, chopped, and cooked (sauteed, roasted, fried, grilled, steamed).

What’s in it?
Kale is a nutritionally loaded veggie that’s rich in vitamins A and C, calcium, vitamin K, folic acid, magnesium, and protein. Its a great source of calcium for those of us who don’t eat dairy products. It can be used in place of cooked spinach in most recipes.

How to get picky eaters to try it?
So whether its kids or a picky spouse you need to convince to try it, start with a recipe that uses kale but is familiar. I suggest to start with the recipe posted yesterday for the Sausage and Kale Lasagna. Lasagna is something that most people like and are familiar with. Try making the recipe and not even mentioning that there is kale in it. There are so many other flavors in the recipe (from the sausage, tomatoes, and cheese), your picky eater may not even care about the green stuff in there.

Hope you’ll try kale and love it. Who knows, it could become a green you love and use time and time again!