Smarter Than Pancakes

Thursday, January 13, 2011

An Easy Trick to Use to Tell if a Food is Nutritious

Filed under: Uncategorized — shaye3 @ 1:11 pm

I had to go to a class for the local Home Extension group that I’m in.  (I joined thinking that I don’t have a mom or grandma who can teach me things like canning or pie crust tips, I could learn things from these wise ladies.  It turns out that the ladies in the group I’m in are more convenience food ladies. Their canned goods come from Walmart and their pie crust is Pillsbury.  They are very nice, so I stick around.)

Every month, one of the ladies teaches a lesson on some topic that has been predetermined by the Home Extension office.  I’m supposed to teach a lesson to them on reading and understanding food labels.  I had to go to the library where someone from Home Extension taught us the information they wanted us to pass on.  Unfortunately, the other ladies in the class were older and didn’t pick it up quickly.  Simon and I got the gist within the first 15 minutes.  (Partially because I had included nutrition and food labels in his homeschooling.)  We then sat there for an extra hour while they explained it over and over to the other ladies.  I was pretty sure that’s how it was going to work–hence my dread.

First, let me preface by saying that I’m really all about shopping the edges of the store.   Foods that don’t require a nutrition label are my ultimate goal, but I understand that I’m a rarity.  A lot of people have no idea how to cook  the foods that you find around the outer edges of the store–produce, raw meat, dairy, etc.  People also frequently shop the middles because they have been brainwashed into thinking that they don’t have time to eat anything besides the processed stuff in the middle by years of commercials telling them that things like Hamburger Helper are delicious AND nutritious.  The little trick that I learned in this class is a good start for people who shop the middles!

by our Extension Service and (Adapted by Shaye of Smarter Than Pancakes)

So you can Google food label to learn all about how the FDA requires there to be labels, that there are 14 items of info, etc.  I’m only giving you the trick they taught us to tell if a food is nutritious or not by counting on your fingers.

So you’re in the store and you’re trying to decide if Multi-Grain Pringles are a nutritious food.  Here’s what they say you should do:

Start with a closed fist and look at the middle section of the nutrition label.
If the food has 10% or more of vitamin A, raise a finger.
If the food has 10% or more of vitamin C, raise another finger.
If the food has 10% or more calcium, raise a finger.
If the food has 10% or more of iron, raise a finger.

Now move up to the top part of the label.
If the food has 5 grams or more of protein, raise a finger.
If the food has 10% or more of fiber, raise a finger.

Now you can either look at calories or fat.
If the food has over 200 calories or 10% or more total fat, lower a finger.

According to them, if you have any fingers standing, the food is nutritious. (Obviously more fingers means more nutritious, but no fingers is a pretty good indication that what you’re holding is a package of empty calories.)

My only problem with that is that they aren’t looking at cholesterol, sodium, or sugar with their finger thing.  Those are the big three that cause the most problems medically.  Their handouts do say that 10% of cholesterol, sodium, and sugar are excessive; but they don’t consider that in deciding if something is nutritious or not.  I would say that if you’re holding up one finger, and notice that the cholesterol, sodium, and/or sugar is above 10%; you should probably put that finger back down again because the nutrition you’d be consuming would most assuredly be negated by the extra cholesterol/sodium/sugar you’d be consuming along with it.  They said if you’re *watching* your cholesterol, sodium, or sugars; you should keep an eye on those numbers.  Shouldn’t everyone pay at least a little attention to those things with the epidemic proportions of heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes in this country?  (Sorry, I’ll get off my high-horse now, and try to start with baby steps.)

Anyway, that’s what I learned.  I’ve already had Simon use it a few times to decide if he was making a nutritious choice, so it is a nice little trick to have your arsenal.  (See how I didn’t say “handy little trick”?  I resisted!)

P.S.- Multi-Grain Pringles have 0% vitamin A, 4% vitamin C, 0% calcium, 2% iron, 1 gram of protein, and 1 gram of fiber.  Exactly zero fingers held up before we even look at fat, calories, or anything else. Don’t be fooled by the “Multi-Grain”.  You need “Whole Grain” if you want healthy. 😉


Thursday, January 6, 2011

Homemade Yogurt

Filed under: Healthy Junk Food,yogurt — shaye3 @ 1:28 pm

I could have sworn I copied this from my old Vox blog into this one, but I can’t find it anywhere.  My niece posted about homemade yogurt on facebook this morning, and I was going to direct her to this post, but then I couldn’t find it.

Be warned, this looks like it’s hard, but I typed every single step in detail to make it foolproof.

There for a while, I was making yogurt about once a week.  The better your milk tastes, the better your yogurt will taste.  We prefer organic, but regular works fine as long as you taste it before you use it.  We’ve gotten regular milk that tastes really nasty before.

I like to add pictures with my posts, so I’m adding this lovely shot of the yogurt maker that I inherited from my husband’s grandmother, but you absolutely don’t need a special maker.  I’ve used a heating pad, the oven pilot light, and my crock pot set on warm.  Lately I use this baby:

This was Steve's grandmother's yogurt maker. I love this stupid thing.

Homemade Yogurt Recipe

To make about a quart of yogurt you’ll need:

1/2 gallon of milk

1/3 to 1/2 cup dried milk–makes it thick and creamy (skim milk takes more than whole milk)

1/4 to 1/2 cup plain yogurt with active cultures

100% apple juice concentrate (I use frozen)

fruit like bananas, strawberries, etc. to puree to mix in

1.      Set out the plain yogurt to warm up to room temp while you do everything else

2.      Combine your milk and dry milk in a large pot and slowly warm it to 180° F. (You need an instant read thermometer.)

3.      Let it cool down to about 110°

4.      Add the yogurt, but stir carefully so you don’t incorporate much air

5.      Pour it into a very clean container (I use a big Tupperware with a lid.)

6.      Put the container somewhere where it will stay at 110° (+/-5°)
(You can use your oven set on low, you can use warm water in a cooler, anything you want as long as it stays between 105° and 115°.  I used to put my Tupperware container in a soft sided cooler with my heating pad set on medium with the probe of my thermometer in there so I can keep an eye on the temperature.)

8.      Leave it to ferment for around 6 hours.  (Don’t jostle it while it’s fermenting or it might not set up.)
You can see when it’s set up because it looks kind of jelled and sometimes you can see the watery whey around it.  The longer you let it set, the tangier it gets.

9.     It’s now ready to eat, but I drain mine so it’s thicker–almost like pudding.

10.  After it’s set up, pour it into a strainer lined with a few layers of cheesecloth (or a coffee filter) over a mixing bowl to catch the whey.

11.  Leave it in your fridge for several hours or overnight so the whey can drain.

12.  After the whey has drained, pour it out of the bowl and dump the leftover yogurt cheese from the strainer into the bowl.  (It will kind of peel away from the cheesecloth.)

13.  Stir in the apple juice concentrate, a little at a time, until it is a sweet as you’d like (I think I use about 1/4 cup.)

14.  To make the fruit for the bottom or to mix in; I frequently use unsweetened, defrosted, frozen fruit that I’ve whirled in the food processor.  Our favorite is a really ripe banana, a few defrosted strawberries, and a drop or two of lemon juice.  (The lemon juice keeps the bananas from turning brown.)  You can experiment to find your favorites.

15.  I just keep all of it in a large container in the fridge and mix flavors when I serve it so I can pick flavors depending on my whim.

16.  If you leave the yogurt to drain longer, it will get more firm—like soft cream cheese.  You can then add herbs and spices and use it as a really good, low fat, savory spread or dip.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Hoppin John for Luck (Do I get double luck if I ate two servings?)

Filed under: Hoppin John,Main Dishes — shaye3 @ 7:08 pm
Hoppin John for luck.  Greens for money.  Cornbread because it's goood.

And don't try to tell me that Jiffy cornbread mix is just as good as homemade because you're wrong. Homemade is almost as easy and has no lard. Lard is yucky.

I’m going to go ahead and use the phrase “New Year’s Resolution”.  I know it’s so gauche, but I’m doing it anyway.  You know you’ve “set goals” or “have ambitions” to be more healthy in the new year.  Let’s just call a spade a spade and say they’re resolutions.  Sure, we’ll eventually break them, but why not start out the year on a positive note when it comes to eating habits that we want to install in ourselves?


Actually, my big plan is to allow myself enough leeway that it won’t actually be “cheating” or “breaking my resolution” when it happens.  I recently discovered  I completely agree with everything I’ve read so far.  I’ve been recommending it to everyone I know!  Go take a look at their article “Being Healthy Is a Revolutionary Act: A Manifesto for Thriving in a Mixed Up World”.  It’s pretty awesome.

Two ideas that I particularly like from their manifesto are the idea of filling 75% of your plate with veggies, then leaving the other 25% for other things; and focusing on eating healthy 85% of the time and cutting yourself some slack for three or four meals a week.  I’m going to try to do both.  I’m also thinking about going back on the old Weight Watchers.  I’m not willing to pay Weight Watchers for all of the new PointsPlus info, and I know well enough that a three point Twinkie isn’t as healthy as three points worth of produce.  I haven’t officially decided yet.  Let’s see how this 75% produce thing goes.

Ok, so as I understand it, corned beef and cabbage is a thing in the northern U.S. for New Year’s Day luck.  It used to be our tradition to make Reubens for New Year’s Day lunch every year.  I don’ t know if it worked or not.  I do know that we’re not eating corned beef since we went fully veg back in the beginning of 2010, so we thought we’d try on a New Year tradition from the south this year.  I hear they believe that black-eyed peas bring luck and greens bring money.  We could use both, and I could make all of the above vegetarian.  Besides that, it was gooooooood.  I’m not adding how many servings it makes because it makes a lot.  Maybe 8-10 servings.  Next time I’ll pay attention.

And so, without further ado, HOPPIN JOHN! (Converted to vegetarian because that’s how we roll now.)

Hoppin John
(Converted to Vegetarian)

Nonstick spray coating (I used olive oil from my handy-dandy Misto)

7-oz soy sausage (I used Gimme Lean)

1 cup chopped onion (I probably used a little more than a cup. We like onion.)

1 cup chopped red pepper (About 1 pepper. I used red because I hate green. You can use green if you want.)

1 cup chopped carrots (Two or three carrots?)

2 cloves garlic, minced

8-oz (1 1/4 cup) dry black-eyed peas

5 cups vegetable broth (I used 3 cans of Kroger brand veggie broth.)

1/2 tsp dried rosemary, crushed

1/2 tsp dried thyme, crushed

1/2 tsp salt free seasoning (I used Penzey’s Mural of Flavor. Use whatever you want.)

1/8 tsp ground pepper

1/8 tsp ground red pepper

1 bay leaf

1 1/4  cups long grain rice

1.      Spray olive oil in a 4-quart dutch oven with nonstick coating.  Cut the Gimme Lean into smallish pieces and brown in hot oil until golden on all sides.  Remove from pan.  (If you throw the sausage in with the veggies, it gets squished.  It’s much better to cook first so it holds the little sausage ball shape.)

2.      Squirt more oil into the pan and add the onion, bell pepper, carrots, and garlic.  Cook the veggies until they start to soften a little.

3.      Add the fake sausage back to the pan, and then add the rinsed black-eyed peas, broth, and seasonings. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer.  Cover and simmer for 25 minutes.

4.      Stir in rice, then cook for 15-20 minutes more until the peas are done and the liquid is absorbed.

5.      Remove bay leaf before serving with collard greens and homemade cornbread—because Jiffy is gross.

I have every intention of posting at least once a week this year, and with two I’ve already posted 1/3 as many times as I did last year.  I got a new bread machine for Christmas, and there’s naan dough rising in there right now.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

2010 in review (a.k.a. “How fresh can I be with only 6 posts?”)

Filed under: Uncategorized — shaye3 @ 12:18 pm

The stats helper monkeys at mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Fresher than ever.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

The average container ship can carry about 4,500 containers. This blog was viewed about 15,000 times in 2010. If each view were a shipping container, your blog would have filled about 3 fully loaded ships.

In 2010, there were 6 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 56 posts. There were 6 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 523kb.

The busiest day of the year was January 30th with 114 views. The most popular post that day was School Yeast Rolls.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were,,,, and

Some visitors came searching, mostly for sandwiches, sandwich, veggie salad, veggie burger, and hot fudge sundae.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.


School Yeast Rolls January 2010


Grilled Vegetable Sandwiches May 2008


Veggie Burger and Veg-o-Matic Fries April 2008


Homemade Ding-Dongs February 2009


Hot Fudge Sundae April 2008

The good news is that I’ve got my blogging shoes on and I’m already working on my first new post of the new year!

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