A Healthy Crisp for America’s Struggling Food System

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 Essential for our current health and our future…change is possible!

A plethora of  ingredients are banned across the globe because they are considered unsafe for human consumption.  It seems like common sence, you know, to ban something that could harm us? …in the USA it’s not. Coloring agents (blue 1, blue 2, yellow 5, and yellow 6) and Olestrea found in fat free potato chips are still being put into our food. From Food Babe, “41% of Americans are projected to get cancer in their lifetime!  Americans are sicker and die younger than other people in wealthy nations. The United States spends 2.5 times more on health care than any other nation, however, when compared with 16 other nations we come in dead last in terms of health and life expectancy for men and near the bottom for women.” We need HELP.

I have been struggling with trying to think of various ways I can contribute to improve the USA’s corrupted food system. From volunteering on organic farms, spreading the word and eating organic food I still feel like there is more to be done. As I dive into Food Babe’s amazing blog as I mentioned her above, (a blog investigating what really is in our food which is causing cancer and obesity among a plethora of other issues and diseases) my heart is aching for the consumer’s of this food, that being the person reading this right now, me and loved ones. We are being tricked into eating foods that are contaminated. Tricked by people with power. People who don’t have the morals and values that we hope for. Our food system is hurting many families as it hurt mine.

Many large food companies don’t care about our health they only care about making money by adding additives, genetically modified organisms and pesticides to our foods to make production go faster and save money. I hope you will stay up to date on Food Babe’s findings and try to eat local and organic whenever possible. Remember, eating healthy and organic is not only good for you, it is good for your mind, body and our environment!  

Enjoy the recipe below. I pray it will help you and your family eat healthy and stay nourished!

Food Babe’s Blog: http://foodbabe.com/ 

Ingredients: 

* For each ingredient the amount depends on how many sandwiches you’ll be making. Feel free to add any additional ingredients to make it how you want it! This recipe is simply an idea that hopefully helps spark more creativity and healthy eating! I pray and hope you will try to use organic and local ingredients. 

  • Whole Grain Bread
  • Garlic Hummus
  • Avocado
  • Tomatoes
  • Cucumber
  • Oregano
  • Shaved pecorino or parmesan cheese- optional
  • Lemon wedges -Optional
  • Fresh Dill

Instructions: Assemble to you liking and look to the picture above for guidance. Eat as an open faced sandwich and squeeze the lemon on top just before eating. Enjoy!

  Happy and healthy eating!

~Niki

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Summer Time

 

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Set free personal judgements and un-needed expectations. You are your own worst critic. Let go of entitlements. Be free. Breath. If you look down on yourself, little by little you capture your inner soul and put it in a box. God made us all perfect and just the way He wanted us. Have trust in HIM….even when at times it seems as if His plan is taking you in so many crazy and unheard of directions. 

I’ve learned to listen to what I need and what I want to do, not what I should do; something I’ve struggled with for most of my life. Doing what I should do, that simply tires me.

 I step out into the garden and listen to the sound of the wind and look out at the openness of the blue sky God created. The Love in this life He created is free and overflowing with happiness. I try my best to glorify Him. 

This recipe is open to do what you want to do with it, what feels best for you and your body. What will nourish and energize you? Add any vegetables you desire. I made mine from local and organic veggies because that is what I feel is best for me, that is what I want to do. This is great for grilling out and tastes so fresh! If you don’t care for greek yogurt you may want to skip the greek yogurt sauce. I thought the sauce tasted perfect with the vegetables, it added a certain kind of freshness and unique flavor.

 Ingredients:

  • 1 cup edamame
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 4 potatoes
  • 2 cups fresh kale
  • 1 onion
  • 2 ears of corn (or 1 for each person)
  • 1 cup fresh broccoli
  • 2 yellow zucchini
  • 1 bunch of asparagus
  • 1/3 cup sunflowers seeds
  • olive oil as needed
  • garlic powder
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Greek Yogurt Sauce:
  • 17 oz plain unsweetened greek yogurt
  • ½ cup dill, minced
  • 3/4 cup mint, minced
  • 3 lemons, juiced
  • 1/4 t cayenne pepper
  • salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350.Cut potatoes into small wedges and place on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste. Place them in a hot oven to roast for 20 minutes. Wash and chop up kale. Place in skillet with olive oil and season to taste.

Remove tough ends of asparagus. Cut zucchini into thin strips big enough to grill. Slice tomatoes, brocolli, and onion into medium sized chunks. Soak corn in water for about 10 minutes then place on grill with husk still on. Place zucchini, tomatoes, brocoli, and onion on on grill at medium heat until tender.

In a medium bowl, combine yogurt, lemon juice with the minced fresh herbs. Pour herb-yogurt onto a large serving platter. Spread to create a yogurt bed. Arrange vegetables a top of the yogurt. Sprinkle edamame a top vegetables then sprinkle sunflower seeds a top edamame.

Enjoy immediately with warm flatbread or as a side to a main course!

Happy and healthy cooking!

~Niki

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kale Pesto

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Full of olive oil and wholesome ingredients! 🙂

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Fresh kale from my dad’s garden. So good!

My latest memories of pesto is from Italy. I had everything from pasta, paninies, meats, and pizza with pesto there. ITALY IS THE LAND OF #1 food. If you can master your favorite pesto you  can incorporate it with just about anything. This recipe is full of antioxidants and will help energize you. I used South Union Bread to serve this recipe as an appetizer. Whole wheat works well and their Olive Ciabatta is great with this. Enjoy, it will go far!! 🙂 * Feel free to add any additional herbs!

My  top 5 favorite ways to use pesto, it’s not just a pasta topping:
Sauce, condiment, spread, marinate

  1. Zucchini  Pasta (recipe coming soon)
  2. Sandwhiches (paninis) learned from Italy yum!
  3. Spread for breads
  4. A top of salmon or shrimp
  5.  Dressing in salad

Ingredients

Kale Pesto

  • 2 cups kale
  • 2 cups spinach
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh basil
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 cups parmesan or pecorino cheese
  • 2 T lemon juice, optional
  • 1/3 cup-3/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1/4 t pepper
  • 1/4 t cayenne pepper (1/2 t for spicer) optional

In the bowl of a food processor, combine spinach, basil, Parmesan cheese, lemon juice and garlic cloves. Process with on-off turns, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary, until ingredients are starting to combine. With food processor running, drizzle olive oil until desired consistency is reached . Serve tossed into pasta, spread onto bread, as a sandwich spread or dip for veggies.

Happy cooking!

-Niki

My Ideal Cupcake

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So, here it is, a simple yet very worth while and much needed blog post. A cupcake that has so much potential it can be any combo of flavors you would want and is my “go to” recipe for any sort of celebration. This is one of the recipes I get the most compliments on. It’s moist with a robust chocolate flavor. It holds 2 different types of chocolate, buttermilk, and a whopping cup and a half of coffee in the batter. I’d say it’s most definitely a hit. Enjoy!

Quote of the week and for all those recent college grads!..it’s fun right? …:)

“Your vision will be clear only when u look into ur heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens” by Carl Jung

Chocolate Cake Recipe

https://oliveoilandfeta.com/2012/07/22/very-chocolate-cake/ – Use this recipe exactly (besides baking time and pan used). Scoop batter into lined cupcake pans. Bake for about 18-20 minutes or until toothpick comes out just about clean. A few crumbs on the tooth pick is OK.

Now for the frosting

For this specific cupcake refer to the Vanilla Butter Cream Frosting I helped work on when I interned at Grey Dog Media http://www.hy-vee.com/webres/File/seasons_spring_13v3.pdf  page 20. There are a ton of fun frostings you can experiment with in this magazine that I worked on. This is my FAVORITE butter cream frosting I’ve ever used. It was tested many times to get the best texture and flavor.

Ingredients:

11⁄4 cups unsalted butter, softened

6 cups powdered sugar

3 tablespoons milk

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1⁄4 teaspoon salt

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl. Beat with an electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds then increase speed to medium and beat 1 more minute until smooth and creamy. This recipe makes 31⁄2 cups.

Happy baking!

-Niki

Our Guardian Angel

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I’m back home in Iowa adjusting to the differences of a Florentine lifestyle and the American way of living. What could be a better way to get back in the swing of things than spending time in the kitchen testing recipes!!

For my brother Peter’s birthday each year my Mom made him an Angel Food cake. Although I was sad to think this would be the first year my Mom would not make Peter his favorite Angel Food cake, I was excited that I could let my Mom’s light shine by making him a cake that would hopefully help fill my Mom’s presence that was missing (speaking literally) but was most definitley there in spirit as our “guardian angel” during Peter’s birthday celebration. Continue reading

The Delectable Pastries of Florence

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Since I have decided the pastries in Italy are some of the BEST pastries I have ever not only eaten but have dreamed of eating, I thought it was only right to dedicate a single blog to these pastries. The pictures don’t do them justice but they will make your mouth water and may even get you on a plane to Italy in the near future!

Enjoy…:)

My top three favorite pastries in Italy:

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THE Cannoli-mouth watering

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Lobster tail- crispy on the outside and moist and creamy on the inside. Pastry cream is stuffed inside. Continue reading

Ravioli with Butter and Green Sage Sauce

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I graduated from my first cooking class in Italy! When my cousin Brad came to visit me last weekend we decided that we needed to take a cooking class. We weren’t really sure what it would entail, but we were glad we went. I learned more than I expected about authentic Italian cooking, I had no idea it was so simple! Italians use very little spices when they cook and only a few ingredients. My favorite dish that we made was fresh ravioli with butter and green sage sauce. It is simple and luxorious. The filling is creamy and everything that I could ask for in a ravioli. I don’t typically eat ravioli but I have been craving to eat these everyday since taking the class. The sauce is simple, just butter and sage with parmessean cheese on top. I thought the sauce complimented the ravioli well. It almost reminded me of eating lobster with butter (weird right?), yes it was that good!…but if you don’t like butter you won’t enjoy this sauce.

The class website: http://www.florencecookingclasses.com/

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Chef Giovanni making Ravioli

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Learning how to make fresh pasta!

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The final product!  (I want some now!!)

Ingredients for the Ravioli stuffing

*I would only suggest this recipe if you have taken a pasta making class or if you are an experienced pasta maker. I try to stick to simple recipes typically, but this one is an exception 🙂

By the Food and Wine Academy

*serves 6

  • Your favorite pasta recipe made into ravioli
  • 6 T. spoons of ricotta cheese
  • 6 T. spoons of grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 fresh egg yolks
  • a dash of salt and pepper

Directions:

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Make pasta into raviolis and stuff! Cook according to your pasta recipe, probably only about 4 minutes.

Butter and Green Sage sauce

By the Food and Wine Academy

*serves 6

  • 250 grams unsalted butter
  • 6 leaves of fresh green sage chopped
  • pepper to taste
  • 6 T. spoons of parmesan cheese to sprinkle on top of ravioli and sauce

Directions:

Add butter to sauce pan. Add chopped sage then add pepper. Melt butter on medium heat. Serve the sauce over ravioli and top with parmesan cheese.

Prayer of the week 🙂

This prayer helps me relax before I go to bed. I hope it does the same for you!

Watch, dear Lord, with those who wake, or watch, or weep tonight, and give Your angles charge over those who sleep. Tend Your sick ones, rest Your weary ones, bless your dying ones, soothe Your suffering ones, and for all Your love’s sake. Amen. 

Eat lots of pasta!

-Niki

The Cioccolato Festival!

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Waffle dipped in luscious chocolate

Nothing says Valentine’s Day like chocolate AND nothing beats a chocolate festival in Italy. Have any of you had dreams about food? Sadly, I have to admit I have had a reoccuring dream about chocolate but wake up empty handed.  I am happy to say this dream came true on Valentine’s Day. As I was walking around the chocolate festival in Florence with my friends it occured to me that I accomplished something that needed to be accomplished- attending a chocolate festival of course.

We tried chocolate truffles, chocolate cannoli’s, cake, strawberries covered in warm melted chocolate and even chocolate liquor! One item served at the festival that stood out to me was a light and fluffy waffle dipped in chocolate. When I get inspired by something because it is 1) unlike noting I have ever tasted before and 2) is simply out of this world, I go home and try to recreate it. So, I went to the grocery store right by my apartement and got belgium waffles that were on sale, nutella, and caramel gelato- mission complete. Recipe below 🙂

 

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My favorite truffles!

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Pounds of fresh chocolate

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SO HAPPY!

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Hearts for V-Day

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Every kind of truffle you can imagine

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Belgium Waffle Recipe: 

*serves 4

  • 4 already made belgium waffles or homemade waffles
  • 1 C nutella
  • Caramel gelato or your favorite flavor
  • 1 C sliced strawberries or your favorite fruits
  • Powdered sugar for top

Directions:

Warm waffles in oven on 250 or on a skillet on medium heat or make your favorite belgium waffle recipe. Remove from oven and place on plate. Spread about 1/4 C. nutella on top. Top with a spoonful of gelato and strawberries. Sprkinke powdered sugar on top.

Enjoy!

-Niki

A Slice of Italia

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I have finally made it to Florence, Italy! The journey getting here was a learning experience and quite eventful to say the least. The last few days have consisted of getting settled into my apartment, meeting my 4 new roommates and finding my way around the amazing and beautiful city of Florence.

On my way home from a long day of venturing around Florence, Alex (my roommate) and I came across a wine and cheese shop with many free samples. Being new to Florence, we got sucked in (the samples were delcious!). We bought Chianti (wine), salami, and a twist to a classic cheese cheese with red grapes on the outside.

Once we made it home all of my roommates and I made dinner and taste tested everything, it was delizios!

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Close up of the grapes encrusted on the outside of the cheese.

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A plethora of carefully crafted cheeses

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SALAMI!!

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The view from my apartement

A quick prayer for travelers: Lord Jesus be my companion, guide, and guardian during my journey; deliver and protect me from all danger, misfortune and temptation; that being so defended by Your divine power I may have a successful journey and arrive safely at my destination. For You are where I place my trust. Amen 🙂

Ciao!

-Niki

The Best of Memphis’s BBQ

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My friend Breezy and I on Beale Street looking for the best BBQ spots to eat!

Natalie, Breezy and I went to Memphis to watch the Iowa State Bowl Game and to explore some good BBQ eats. After leaving Memphis and beginning the New Year, one of the main things I decided to change about my 2013 cooking is making more barbecue- how simple and productive for a New Years resolution right? I’m only kidding but lets just say I’ve been inspired. (FYI I just had my wisdom teeth out and am a little wired…). While in Memphis we went to several fantastic restaurants that had very distinct flavors of BBQ. I left Memphis with a whole new outlook on ribs, pulled pork and coleslaw. Mmmmh

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#1  Prize in my book-Leonard’s Barbecue (featured on food network): My favorite BBQ ever, ever, EVER

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Pulled pork sandwich with very unique coleslaw

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Leonard’s beef ribs with BBQ sauce. This is my favorite thing I ate in Memphis.

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#3 Prize-Rendezvous menu-another great restaurant in Memphis.They have good ribs with a dry rub.

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#2 Prize-Finishing up Dillard’s BBQ right before the bowl game!

Our last stop for BBQ came at a tailgate we unexpectedly came across as… Natalie and Breezy were looking for a porta potty, which ended up being Dillard’s Barbecue’s “private” porta potty. How this happened we are still wondering. I guess following your bladder is a good thing to do because our porta potty mission led us to a tent where we were invited in to share their good eats. Pounds of barbecue such as smoked meatloaf, chicken, ribs, baked beans, and pulled pork. If anyone has a unique recipe for smoked meat loaf let me know! After eating our practically “full fledge feast” they even gave us a sample of their famous rub!

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Smoked meatloaf!!!

For More Memphis BBQ Eats

Happy barbecue dreaming and eating everyone!

-Niki