Spinach Feta Pizza For One

Spinach Feta Pizza For One


1 large whole wheat pita

¼ cup ricotta cheese

⅛ tsp garlic powder

⅓ cup chopped frozen spinach, thawed with excess liquid squeezed out

3-4 slices fresh tomato

2 tbls feta cheese

¼ tsp dried oregano


Heat oven to 400͒.

Place pita on baking sheet. Mix ricotta and garlic powder, spread over pita to edge. Top with spinach, tomato and feta. Sprinkle with oregano.

Bake until edges of pita are golden brown, about 12 minutes, Serve warm.

1 serving, 340 calories



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Best Freezer Food Storage Containers

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In previous articles, we’ve talked a lot about how to use your freezer to help make your (cooking) life a bit easier. Whether it’s making meals or storing food prep items, it’s all about having tools to get it done right and, surprisingly, the list is not as long as you might think! Here is my take on the top 5 items you’ll need to master the art of freezer storage.

                                  Gorse Aluminum Foil Pan & Lid Set

 

These containers make are great for grab ‘n’ go meals. The 5.5”x4.5”x1.9” size make them perfect for single-serving entrees. They stack nicely in the freezer and can go directly from the freezer to the oven.

 

 

Pros 

  • Single serving size
  • Freezer to oven
  • Stackable
  • Economical
  • Use in the air fryer for easy cleanup

Cons

  • The lid is not leakproof
  • Cannot use in microwave
  • Crushes more easily than plastic containers

Freshware Meal Prep Containers

 

These meal prep containers are great for hot or cold foods. They stack easily in the fridge, lunchbox or picnic container. Measured at 7.5” x 4.9” x 1.9”, these little gems make it easy to pack up some single portions sizes in advance!

They are also available in 2 compartment and bowl designs.

Pros                                                                       

  • Single serving size
  • Freezer to microwave
  • Reusable
  • BPA, PVC, and Phthalate FREE
  • Dishwasher safe
  • Economical

Cons

  • The lid is not leakproof
  • Cannot use in the oven
  • Lids tend to crack with repeated use
  • Lids can be difficult to attach/remove

Mr. Lid Half Cup Storage Containers

These are my new favorite thing! These high-quality containers are meant to hold up for the long haul. They are BPA free, reusable and recyclable. The best part? The lids are attached so there’s no more searching for lids and containers that match!

They also are available in salad and sandwich sizes.

Pros                                                                  

  1. Heavy-duty/long-lasting
  2. BPA free
  3. Reusable
  4. Recyclable
  5. Dishwasher safe
  6. Microwave safe
  7. Leakproof

Cons

  • More expensive than disposable containers
  • Uses more space to store empty containers
  • Cannot be used in the oven or on the stovetop

LocknLock Storage Containers

This classic features a hollow cylinder silicone and 4 side locking mechanism that locks in twice the sealing power to keep your items fresh. There are many sizes to choose from but this 16.2 cup size is my favorite. It fits nicely in my freezer and keeps things organized. I use it to hold things like individual rolls, hamburger patties and other items that would otherwise “roam” around the freezer creating chaos!

Pros

  • Fits well in the freezer
  • Leakproof
  • Airtight
  • Durable and long-lasting
  • Microwave safe
  • Dishwasher safe
  • Stackable
  • Close side to side fit
  • BPA free

Cons

  • The lid may be difficult to snap on and off
  • Cannot be used in the oven or on the stovetop

  Ziplock Freezer Bags

When freezer space is at a premium, these bags come to the rescue! The pint-size is good for packaging serving sized portions of soups and stews, individual pieces of meat and single sandwich rolls. The gallon size is great for double bagging items to avoid freezer burn and help with the overall organization of your freezer. Although the slider bags have many uses, I only use the zipper bags for freezer storage.

Pros

  • Space-saving
  • Zipper style is leakproof
  • Economical
  • Dioxin and BPA free
  • Recyclable

Cons

  • May melt or rupture in microwave
  • Slider bags may leak and break easily

You’ve Got This

So this is it. This is all you’re going to need to get that freezer organized and ready to start working for YOU! I hope you’ve got your orders in and are raring to go. I know I am.

Do you have any freezer storage tips that are working for you? Let me know in the comment section below!

Cynthia

cynthia@cynthiaeats.com

 

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Best Creamy Potato Salad

 

Best Creamy Potato Salad

1 cup cubed potato (one large russet weighing ⅓ pound)

2 hard boiled eggs, chopped

3 tbsp sour cream

3 tbsp mayonnaise

¼ cup chopped onion

1 teaspoon minced garlic (1 clove)

½ tbsp spicy brown mustard

¼  tsp paprika

½ tsp pepper

½ tbsp pickle juice

1 cup chopped tomato (1 large, ½ lb)

6 petite dill pickles or cornichons, chopped

Boil potato cubes until tender but still holding together (5-6 minutes). Drain and add to bowl with eggs.

While the potatoes are cooking, mix sour cream, mayo, onion, garlic, mustard, paprika, pepper and pickle juice. Pour ½ of dressing over hot potatoes and egg. Toss to coat. Cover lightly and refrigerate until completely cool, 60 – 90 minutes.

Add tomatoes, pickles and the remainder of dressing. Toss to coat and serve.

4 servings, 253 calories per serving

Hack: Hard boiled eggs keep in the refrigerator for one week so consider making a few extra while you’ve got the water rolling! They make a great snack alone, pickled or in egg salad.

 

 

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How To Eat Well On A Budget

Now that you’ve embarked on a whole foods diet, you may be noticing something. It’s costing more money than that processed diet you used to eat.

Sure, the food tastes better, you feel better and I’ll bet that even your –ahem– body constitution is thanking you. But, honestly, there are only so many eggs, peanut butter and chicken thighs a person can eat.

You feel like one financially bad month is all it would take to drive you back to the Dollar Menu at your local fast food joint. I feel your pain.

I’ve put together a few ideas to share with you. Give these a try and let me know how it goes!

A Few Ways to Save Money When Shopping

 

Weekly Grocery Store Fliers. How many times have you taken those weekly grocery store fliers from the mailbox and deposited them directly into the recycle bin? Because who has time for that, right? Well, I’ve got the scoop for you…all the best promotions are on the front page!

Make a list of the best deals (or just rip off that front page) and make a visit to each store. Keep in mind that you don’t have to go to all the stores on the same day.

These prices are usually good for a week, although some holiday weekend sales may only run for that weekend. Then you can stock up! Go ahead and buy that 5 lb family pack, separate it into serving size pieces and store it in the freezer!

Online Customer Loyalty Programs. I love, love, love my grocery stores’ online customer loyalty program! The signup was painless and all I have to do now is input my phone number when checking out. I get free grocery coupons online as well as a money back reward quarterly that I can apply to my next grocery bill. The coupons typically more substantial than you might find elsewhere, offering bigger discounts and even some free items. Make sure to take advantage of the maximum number of items allowed.

Get a rain check. The better the deal, the more likely it is that you’ll discover that the store has run out. If that happens, ask for a rain check. There is generally no expiration date on these so you’re free to use it weeks or even months from when it was issued.

Look For Markdowns. Many stores will mark down items that are nearing their expiration date.* This can be a great way to obtain more expensive gourmet items that you wouldn’t be able to justify at full price. Just be sure it use it right away or get it promptly in the freezer. Ask department employees what days or time of day they do the markdowns so you’ll know when they’ll have a wider selection.

 

 

Take Advantage of the Moment

 

Carpe Diem. It’s all about knowing how to seize the day, how to take advantage of the moment. It’s all about…holiday sales.

Having worked in the supermarket industry, I know that they’re willing to sell a few items at a loss during holiday seasons to grab a bigger share of the increased customer traffic. Be prepared to take advantage of the deep discounts you can get at different times of the year.

During the summer months, you’re going to get great prices on items that are typically barbecued such as ground beef, chicken and sausages. Saint Patrick’s Day is corned beef, Easter is lamb or ham, etc. While Christmas and Thanksgiving are good for scoring great deals on turkeys, Cornish hens and hams, also be on the lookout for other things that can be frozen for later use such as butter and premade pie crusts.

I know the turkey thing didn’t slip by you. I know it’s waaaaay too big for just one person. I know it’s hard to find room for it in the freezer, All I’m saying is that if you like turkey, go ahead and buy one. January is a slow month for a lot of us and it might help those winter blues to invite over a group of friends for a potluck. You’ll be the star when they see that you’ve prepared turkey! (“Yes, it was a lot of work. *Wipes brow* But you’re worth it!”)

Post Holiday Sales. Also be on the lookout for post holiday sales when stores are trying to clear items that didn’t sell. These can be fancy, high ticket items that probably won’t sell once the entertaining has slowed down, foods dressed in holiday wrapping, candied fruit and the like. I will add to this section a caveat: Make sure these items can be frozen or have a long shelf life so you have time to consume them before expire. If you see an item that looks good, a quick search on your cell phone should give you the answer you need!

Food pantries

This is a subject that is not widely discussed and I can’t imagine why. Food pantries are a fabulous resource, whether you use them on a regular basis or just for those “lean times” caused by things like unexpected car repairs or reduced work hours.

Many of us have visions of government issued cans of Mystery Meat, boxed mac and cheese, canned vegetables and stale bread. While these things may have been true in the past, a lot has changed.

Yes, those items still tend to be a staple of food pantries, but more and more pantries are offering fresh or frozen whole foods as well.

Remember those marked down items at the grocery store? They are pulled off the shelf one day prior to their expiration date* and often donated to food pantries where they can be frozen and distributed. Many local farmers now donate any overabundance of product from their farms. And some wonderful, generous local organizations and private citizens donate as well.

Foodpantries.org has an extensive list of available food pantries, categorized by state and town. Some require (to a varying degree) proof of income, expenses or residency while others don’t. Check the links on this site or give them a call to see what, if any, information is required.

As you go through the line, remember that you don’t have to accept everything that’s offered. If you’re trying to stick to a whole foods diet, then just accept the whole foods. If they’re offering whole foods that you dislike, it’s perfectly acceptable to decline those as well. Accepting things you don’t want or won’t use is actually depriving another from accepting those items for their own home.

You don’t have to stick with just one food pantry. I’m not advising that you hit every one you can find in the hopes of filling your freezer but just suggesting that different pantries have different donors and offer different things. While you’re looking for whole foods, another person who has limited cooking facilities or abilities may gravitate towards a place that has more processed choices. There’s enough for everyone and it will all just work out in the end.

Government Sponsored Programs

This also tends to be a touchy subject but I’m going to list it here because I think it’s a valuable service to those in need.

Many people are embarrassed to inquire or apply for government assistance, much less use it in public. Others assume they won’t qualify simply by virtue of the fact that they are working, married, have a car or a place to live. But many of these fears, concerns and assumptions are unfounded.

Gone are the days of presenting your paper coupons books for payment at the register or standing in line at the welfare office. The application process can, in most cases, be completed online with no face to face meetings necessary. If approved you would receive a debit card in the mail which would be loaded each month with your benefit amount.

While income and possession value is a factor in the acceptance process, other factors are also taken into account such as family size, disability and extenuating circumstances.

Another issue to consider is that there are a number of different programs out there and they all have different acceptance guidelines.

WIC is a program aimed at helping women who are pregnant, breastfeeding or have children under the age of 5. Those who qualify receive targeted nutritional foods for their entire household.

SNAP provides financial assistance for families within specified income guidelines and/or with special circumstances. This financial assistance is specifically allowed to purchase food.

Meals On Wheels delivers meals to the homes of seniors who have limited mobility and meet certain income guidelines.

Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program provides financial assistance to seniors who meet certain guidelines. This assistant specifically allows them to purchase certain food products from local farmers.

We’re all in this together

 

I hope I’ve provided you with some information that will help to ease the financial burdens that some of us face when trying to eat healthier meals.

If you have any other tips or programs I might have missed, please let me know in the comments below. We’re all in this together!

*Please note that a products’ sell by, use by, best by or expiration date DOES NOT mean the product is no longer safe to consume after that. Click here for an explanation from The Institute of Food Technologists.

Cynthia

cynthia@cynthiaeats.com

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Chinese Broccoli Stir Fry

 

Chinese Broccoli Stir Fry

 

1 cup broccoli florets

1 tsp olive oil

½ tsp minced garlic (½ clove)

½ tsp grated ginger

1½ tsp soy sauce

1 tsp wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar

½ tsp sesame oil

½ tsp brown sugar

1 tbls toasted slivered almonds

 

Place broccoli in covered, microwave safe container. Add a small amount of water and microwave for 2 minutes.

Place almonds in saute pan and lightly toast. Remove to small bowl and set aside.

Combine soy sauce, sesame oil, vinegar and brown sugar. Set aside.

Heat oil in saute pan. Add broccoli and stir-fry for 1-2 minutes, until tender. Push to the side of pan.

Put garlic and ginger in center of pan, adding a bit more oil, if necessary, and saute for 30-60 seconds, until fragrant.

Add sauce and toss all ingredients. Top with toasted almonds.

 

1 serving, 86 calories

Hack: Check the produce department of your local grocery store for pre-cut broccoli florets to avoid having to buy an entire head. Frozen broccoli florets would also work in this recipe.

Hack #2: Do you know that you can freeze fresh ginger root? Grating it in it’s frozen state is easier than grating it fresh and, if you choose organic ginger, you don’t have to peel it! Simply place in a sealed freezer bag or container and pop it in the freezer.

Hack #3: Once opened, sesame oil can be stored in a cool, dark place (kitchen cupboard away from the stove) for up to six months. It can be stored in the fridge for a year or more.

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Spaghetti Sauce with Italian Sausage

Spaghetti Sauce with Italian Sausage

 

6 cups chopped tomatoes (4 pounds)

1 onion, chopped

1 green pepper, chopped

2 tbls sugar

1 tsp dried Italian seasoning

1 tsp dried basil

1 tsp dried oregano

2 bay leaves

1 pound Italian sausage, sweet or hot, uncooked

Put all ingredients, including sausage in large pot and bring to simmer. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour until internal temperature of sausage reaches 165͑͒.

Remove sausage and cut into slices. Remove bay leaves. If desired, sauce can be processed in batches with blender or food processor until smooth. Return sausage to sauce and serve with your favorite pasta or spaghetti squash.

12 servings, 165 calories per serving

 

Hack: Put serving sized leftovers portions in sealable freezer bags or containers leftovers and freeze for future use.

Hack:  If you have leftover tomatoes and no time to make sauce, simply puree them in the blender and freeze the fresh puree in sealed freezer bags or containers to cook with at a later date.

Suggestion:  Substitute these meatballs in place of the sausage!

 

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Oil Free Lemon Poppy Seed Salad Dressing

 

 

Oil Free Lemon Poppy Seed Salad Dressing

½ cup lemon juice

1 tsp minced garlic (1 clove)

1½ tsp grated ginger

1½ tbls maple syrup

1 tbls dijon mustard

¼ tsp salt

Pepper to taste

⅓ cup water

1 tbls poppy seeds

Combine all ingredients except poppy seeds. Blend with mini food processor or immersion blender until smooth. Add poppy seeds. Store in a tightly sealed container in refrigerator.

8 servings, 20 calories per serving

Hack: Do you know that you can freeze fresh ginger root? Grating it in it’s frozen state is easier than grating it fresh and, if you choose organic ginger, you don’t have to peel it! Simply place in a sealed freezer bag or container and pop it in the freezer.

Hack: Use this dressing to make Lemon Poppy Seed Chicken with Rice Noodles or Easy Pan Seared Scallops / Shrimp!

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Change Your Food, Change Your Life

We are all acquainted with those people who wouldn’t know a fresh vegetable if it ran them down in the street. Maybe you are one of those people. Or, rather, were one of those people.

The fact that you’re here, reading this article, tells me that you’ve changed. It tells me that you want to eat differently.

I had a dear friend who embraced the motto, “I only have a kitchen because it came with the house”. Yes, she was being funny but it was also (mostly) true and, if we’re being truthful, we all feel that way from time to time.

We’ve become a society of convenience based, fast food junkies. I’ve made a decision to change my life, to change the way I eat, so now I’m embracing this new motto: “Change Your Food, Change Your Life”.

Here are a few reasons why.

Do Processed Foods Make You Hungry?

The US National Institutes of Health say that eating a diet full of processed foods causes a rise in hunger hormones.

In a month long study, 20 volunteers lived in a laboratory and spent two weeks eating a diet of processed foods followed by two weeks eating a diet of unprocessed foods.

It was discovered that the unprocessed diet caused appetite-suppression hormones PYY to rise while hunger hormone ghrelin went down.

This did not happen for the processed foods portion of the study. As a matter of fact, the volunteers consumed an average of 500 more calories every day while on the processed foods diet.

Why is this happening? The answers aren’t clear. Obviously more studies are needed to get to the bottom of this.

Do Processed Foods Make You Fat?

The study I’ve noted above took great care to make sure that the nutritional intake for the two diets were similar but, here in the real world, things look a little different, don’t they?

We tend to choose (and overeat) processed foods that are full of refined carbs, added sugar and fat, all of which appeals to the human palate, but tend to fall short when it comes to fiber, protein and nutrition.

When we couple that with the information garnered about hormones in the study mentioned above, it’s no wonder we’re gaining weight.

Studies have shown again and again that beings who eat (humans, mice, dogs, etc) gravitate towards foods that taste good and we don’t mind compromising our health to do it.

In past generations, this desire was mitigated by the food that was available and the process of preparing it. If you missed that deer or didn’t have wood to build a fire, then you simply had to consume what you had.

In today’s society, the plethora of readily available and inexpensive convenience foods assures that we can eat as much as we want, whenever want.

Do Processed foods make you tired?

We’re Bushed. Zonked. Fried. Done in. Pooped. Whatever you call it, it’s no fun to be weary.

As we struggle valiantly to stay awake during the morning meeting, we vow to do better.

We promise ourselves that tonight we’ll lose the screen time, skip that second glass of wine and hit the sack earlier. So why isn’t it helping?

While all these things are certainly issues in our day to day lives, the fatigue that we’re suffering could be directly linked to the foods that we eat.

More and more, experts are uncovering the reasons that processed foods make you tired. And they’re not necessarily the reasons you may think.

I think we all know that when we eat a donut, the blood sugar spike we get will be quickly followed by a dip, leaving us tired and cranky.

What many people don’t realize is that the same holds true for so-called “white” carbs. These are the refined carbs found in many white foods such as white bread, white flour, white rice and some breakfast cereals.

The better choices to avoid that sugar crash are whole grains such as whole wheat bread, brown rice and oatmeal.

Things go much deeper than that, however.

Because many processed foods don’t contain the nutrients that our bodies need to function, using them as a main food source can lead to a variety of health issues such as anemia. The higher salt sugar and fat content can cause high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes.

The chemicals that are used in processed foods can cause fatigue as well. Inorganic phosphate, for example, is shown to reduce oxygen uptake as well as impede the body’s ability to produce fatty acids. Considering that it’s used in up to 70% of all processed foods, I think we can agree that it’s a problem.

Do processed foods make you crave sugar?

Why does it seem that the more we eat, the more we want?

The answer is simple: Modern industrial food manufacturers have worked tirelessly to create foods that make us want more.

They have surrounded us with food that is cheap, delicious, calorie dense and impossible to resist.

They have created food that is, by design, addictive.

So, yes. That sugar filled donut you ate this morning really did make you crave more sugar.

But how do they do it? This next part’s a little scary so buckle up.

Manufacturers have discovered how to use a precise combination of sugar, salt and fat to virtually ensure our over consumption of the foods they’re pushing. This concoction lights up the pleasure centers in the brain, creating a euphoria that compels us to want more.

It’s so powerful that it’s been compared to cocaine. Yes, you heard me right. Check out these findings put together by Yale University.

The Future of Processed Foods

Despite the outcries of those who look to regulate the industry, I wouldn’t expect things to change anytime soon.

Where there is a demand, there will, without doubt, be a supply and right now processed foods account for more than half the calories that Americans consume.

Ultimately, it’s up to each and every one of us to educate ourselves and then map out a nutritional plan that works in our individual lives.

No, we’re not experts but we don’t have to be.

We only have strive each day to be a little better than the day before.

We only have to want to make those small changes and see them through until they become so ingrained that we find that we have, after all, changed our lives.

Please feel free to share your personal journey in the comments below!

 

Cynthia

cynthia@cynthiaeats.com

 

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Garden Fresh Tomato Soup

 

Garden Fresh Tomato Soup

1 tbls Olive Oil

1 tbls butter

1 onion, coarsely chopped

1 tsp minced garlic

1 tbls flour

4 cups fresh tomatoes, coarsely chopped (about 2 pounds)

1 ½ cups vegetable broth

1 tsp sugar

2 bay leaves

1 teaspoon dried basil

¾ tsp salt

⅛ tsp pepper

 

Warm the oil and butter in a large soup pot over medium heat.  Add onion and garlic

And cook until soft but not browned, 5 to 7 minutes.  Stir in flour and cook for 1 minute.

Add tomatoes, vegetable broth, sugar, bay leaves, basil, salt and pepper.  Cover and simmer for 15 minutes, skimming off and discarding any foam from the surface.  Remove bay leaves.

Puree in batches using blender or food processor until smooth and return to pot to keep warm.  Add additional sugar or salt before serving, if desired.

 

4 servings, 110 calories per serving


Hack: 
Put serving sized leftover portions in freezer bag or container and store in freezer for future use.

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Homemade Creamy Caesar Salad Dressing

Homemade Creamy Caesar Salad Dressing

⅓ cup mayonnaise

½ tsp Dijon mustard

¼ tsp Worcestershire sauce

2 tbls lemon juice

½ tsp garlic

6 oil packed anchovy fillets

6 dashes hot sauce

Combine all ingredients and mix with a mini food processor or immersion blender until smooth. Allow to mellow for one hour prior to serving.

4 servings, 137 calories per serving

Hack: Anchovies can be covered in oil and sealed in a sandwich bag in the refrigerator for up to 2 months. Alternately, they can be spread out in a single layer and frozen (still in the sandwich bag, if desired. I suggest you double bag the fillets before storing.

 

 

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