A sweet dilemma

You see commercials on the topic and, if you read ingredients, may even notice high-fructose corn syrup on the ingredients list of items in your pantry.

So what’s the deal? Should you choose high-fructose corn syrup or sugar? Natural is always best, but moderation is really the lesson here.

First, what is high-fructose corn syrup?

Known as HFCS, high-fructose corn syrup was introduced by Richard O. Marshall and Earl R. Kooi in 1957. At the time it couldn’t be made for mass production. That changed in the 60s when Dr. Y. Takasaki at Agency of Industrial Science and Technology of Ministry of International Trade and Industry of Japan, whom many credit as HFCS’ creator. Soon after HFCS was used in many processed foods and soft drinks.

HFCS is made by milling corn to produce corn starch, then processing that starch to create corn syrup. Enzymes are added before it’s purified.

The result is in lots of processed food, particularly soda.

Critics of HFCS argue it’s highly processed and more harmful than regular sugar. The Corn Refiners Association, on the other hand, argues it’s comparable to sugar. It should be noted the U.S. Food and Drug Administration classified HFCS as generally safe in 1976. In addition, studies from the American Medical Association suggest that it’s unlikely HFCS contributes more to obesity than sugar.

Let’s face it; the key to everything we eat is moderation. Truthfully, excessive sugar, in any form, increases risks for diabetes and heart disease.  This doesn’t mean you should put down every cookie and never allow you’re little ones to indulge in the delicious reality that is brownies. It’s definitely OK to have a treat here and there. That’s the point; it’s an occasional treat rather than a dietary staple. Taking that point of view will keep you from eating too much sugar – a sweet solution to your sugary dilemma.




Resolve to be clean

A new year means evaluating where we’ve been and setting goals for the year ahead.

This year let’s make a goal to eat clean. We’re not talking about washing your hands and food – although clearly we support that kind of cleanliness. Instead, we’re talking about eating foods that are organic, pesticide-free and basically as close to all natural as you can get.

While this kind of diet has been popular with athletes for some time, the movement originated in the 60s with those getting closer to the earth.

Basically, natural foods that are unprocessed with little refined sugar should offer you and your family more nutritional goodness like vitamins. Eating in-season food plays well into this kind of dietary change. Like this time of year you could add broccoli to dinner and be healthy and seasonal.

There are many benefits to clean eating like improved energy and overall health. It will decrease consumption of pesticides and sodium. You’re causing a smaller impact on the environment. Also, if you plan correctly, it can be very cost effective. Think about the cost of a meal deal at your local fast food joint. Buying the veggies for a soup should cost less. Also, it’s a sustainable lifestyle since there will always be farms producing the foods on your grocery list.

Consider adding free range animals and their products, like eggs into your diet. Also, fish is a wonderful addition to your diet as long as you’re mindful of mercury levels.

And remember, even if you’re buying “clean” food, you should still actually clean your food! To help you get started, here are some clean foods:


Clean Foods List

Lean Beef
Chicken Breast
Turkey Breast
Fresh Fish
Canned Tuna
Canned Salmon

Beef Jerky
Lite Cottage Cheese
Sweet Potatoes
Long Grain Brown Rice
Old Fashioned Oats
Steel Cut Oats
Romaine Lettuce
Brussel Sprouts
Peppers (any color)
String Beans
Fresh or Frozen Berries
Extra Virgin Olive oil
safflower Oil
Flax Seed Oil
Natural Sugar-Free Peanut Butter
Cashews (raw)
Pistachios (raw, insides only)
Chick Peas
Sweet Potato
Kidney Beans
Almond Butter
Ezekiel Bread
Egg Beaters/Liquid Egg Whites


Fibrous Vegetables
Alfalfa Sprouts
Artichoke Hearts
Bamboo Shoots
Bean Sprouts
Brussel Sprouts
Collard Greens
Hearts of Palm
Snow Pea Pods
Spaghetti Squash
String Beans
Summer Squash
Water Chestnuts
Wax Beans


Staying warm with super-secret soup

We all know the type: Super cute, less than 3-feet-tall and hungry.
Your child is not necessarily unique in stature or interests, or even in that annoying habit to turn his or her nose up to the often-green vegetables that can help them grow and stay healthy.

Soup is wonderful for sneaking veggies into your little one’s diet with the added bonus of warming someone up during the winter. With so many soups, it’s a great thing to serve either as a meal or side dish when trying to get a persnickety child to eat something good for them!

People began enjoying soups long ago. The first types of soup can be dated by to about 6,000 B.C. In America, the liquid treat was included in the first colonial cookbook published in Virginia in 1742. Thirty years later it was the topic of an entire chapter in a cookbook called “The Frugal Housewife.” The beauty about soup is the ability for it to change as access to new ingredients became easily available. Even without a recipe, soups can be a fun challenge for you and your family. Maybe it’s a way to serve a vegetable your little one already loves in another form.
Today let’s try a broccoli soup with homemade croutons through this food network recipe. This should create about four to six servings.

4 Tbsp. butter, room temperature
1 1/2 pounds fresh broccoli
1 large onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup cream


  1. Melt 4 tablespoons butter in heavy medium pot over medium-high heat. Add broccoli, onion, carrot, salt, and pepper and sauté until onion is translucent, about 6 minutes.
  2. Add the flour and cook for 1 minute, until the flour reaches a blond color.
  3. Add stock and bring to boil.
  4. Simmer uncovered until broccoli is tender, about 15 minutes. Pour in cream.
  5. With an immersion blender, puree the soup.
  6. Add salt and pepper, to taste, and then replace the lid back on the pot. Serve hot with homemade croutons.

Homemade Croutons

Day old French bread
Olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Cut bread into cubes and place in a large bowl. Drizzl cubes with olive oil, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Mix well.
Spread seasoned bread onto a sheet pan and bake for about 15 minutes.

Sippin’ Cider

Chilly weather and the holidays make many people think about treats, presents and lots of cookies. Creating a magically warm evening needs one special thing: a warm drink!

Little fingers climb willingly around a steaming mug filled with chocolate or apple treats. It’s not just about warming little hands. These drinks bring with them the aroma of the season. Best of all, these are the special little extras that easily can travel with you and made in minutes.

Today we’re sharing a hot cocoa and cider mix. Have fun with the drink. Add some sprinkles, marshmallows or whipped cream to your cocoa. Try a bit of caramel in the cider. Variety can help you find a new favorite you didn’t even know you had!!

Hot Candy Cane Coco


4 cups milk
3 (1 ounce) squares semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
4 peppermint candy canes, crushed
1 cup whipped cream
2 to 3 extra candy canes


  • In a saucepan, heat milk until hot but not boiling
  • Whisk in the chocolate and 4 crushed candy canes until melted and smooth.
  • Pour cocoa into mugs and garnish with whipped cream and a whole candy cane for stirring.

Warm Mulled Cider


12 cups apple juice
6 cups cranberry juice
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 to 2 Tbsp. mulling spices


  • Combine all of the ingredients together and simmer over low heat for 30 to 45 minutes.
  • Serve with cookies or other sweet holiday treats.

“Love is like swallowing hot chocolate before it has cooled off. It takes you by surprise at first, but keeps you warm for a long time.” anonymous.

Start stuffing your belly!

Everyone knows stuffing is one of the best parts of Thanksgiving, and it seems to be the only time of year where people make the filling treat.

No one quite knows when stuffing was first used, but it was first documented in a Roman cookbook that contained recipes for stuffed chicken, hare, pig and dormouse. Recipes called for veggies, herbs, spices, nuts, an old cereal and frequently included chopped liver, brains and other organ meat.

In the Middle Ages, stuffing was known as farce, from the French meaning forcemeat. The word stuffing shows up in 1538. Victorian English replaced the word with dressing around 1880.

Regardless of what you call it, let’s get started so the dinner can be completed using this food.com recipe.

Place 1 cup of diced dried apricot and 1 cup of Grand Marnier, apple cider or orange juice in a small saucepan. Heat to a boil and remove from the heat and set aside.

Then, melt ½ cup of butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add 2 cups of coarsely chopped celery and on large onion chopped. Saute for 10 minutes then transfer to a large bowl. In the same skillet, cook 1 pound of bulk pork sausage, crumbling it with a fork until there is no more pink. Then, remove from heat and add it to the celery and onion mixture.

Add 1 pound of stuffing mix with the previously cooked apricots with the liquid, and one cup of slivered almonds to the stuffing mixture in the large bowl.

Heat the remaining ½ cup of butter and 2 cups of chicken broth until the butter melts. Pour the mixture over the stuffing mixture and add the remaining ½ cup of Grand Marnier, apple cider or orange juice. Stir well to moisten the stuffing. Then, add a ½ teaspoon of dried thyme. Salt and pepper to taste.

Bake the stuffing in a large buttered casserole at 325 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes. Although if you’d like to use the stuffing to actually cook in a bird, you’ll have enough for a 21- to 24-pound bird with a small extra casserole on the side.

To stuff or not to stuff is another Thanksgiving question to consider – a question we’ll tackle in our next blog.

Building dinner

The thing about Thanksgiving is it takes lots of helping hands to make it possible! Sometimes the biggest challenge is taking on numerous new recipes during an already busy day.

Instead, let’s spend this week building the pieces to a delicious meal so everything is perfect on Turkey Day.

Cranberries are the main ingredient for a Thanksgiving staple. Legend has it that the Pilgrims served cranberries at the first Thanksgiving in 1621 in Plymouth, Mass. We’re going to make it into a yummy sauce following a recipe your kids can help with.

The cranberry is unique as it’s one of only a handful of major fruits native to North America. Named from the Dutch and German settlers who called it “crane berry,” cranberries offer a lot of vitamin C. In fact, American sailors would take the small reddish fruit on long voyages to prevent disease.

Today we’re simply going to make homemade cranberry and winter pear compote! Sweet, yet seductively tart, cranberry sauce remains the perfect accompaniment for a holiday table and throughout the year!

In a saucepan, combine 1-11/2 cup water or crisp white wine (Sauvignon blanc), 1 tsp grated lemon peel, 1 tsp. lemon juice, 1/3 cup brown sugar and 1/3 cup granulated sugar. Bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat, stirring occasionally until the mixture begins to thicken which should take about 5 minutes.

You’ll want to peel, core and quarter four fresh pairs. Stir in the pears and 2 cups of fresh cranberries and a ½ cup of reconstituted currants or raisins and bring to a boil again.

The currants or raises are optional. If you add them, soak in wine or water prior to use to plump back up. Also add 1 tsp. ground cinnamon, 1 tsp. ground cloves, 1 tsp. ground black pepper and a ¼ tsp. salt. Make sure cranberries are covered in liquid. If needed, add a bit more liquid, reduce heat and simmer for about 5 to 10 minutes until you hear the cranberries pop and begin to thicken the sauce with their natural pectin. Stir.

Stir. Compote will also thicken as cooled. Serve hot or chilled. If gift giving, cool slightly before placing in decorative glassware and cool before sealing. This recipe makes 4 one-cup servings.

Remember, cranberries are tasty! This sauce will be a tasty addition to whatever you – or your  little one—decides to eat on Thanksgiving.

Healthy haunting

It may seem like All Hallow’s Eve is all about candy and costumes. Don’t worry! Spooky demons and even scarier, little girls dressy too provocatively, can be augmented by tasty treats.

Veggies can be the scariest guest at the party—and it’s not just because they are veggies. It’s all about presentation, and making things look spooky doesn’t need to take away from your costume prep time.

Think about the things your little ones like and put your imagination to the test. Here are some friendly ideas:

Cheesy fingers can be created using string cheese, a green bell pepper and some cream cheese. Start by wearing plastic gloves. Sandwich bags will work. Covering your hands will keep the cheese smudge-free. Use a paring knife to cut the string cheese in half and carve a shallow area at the end for a fingernail.

Mark the joint to the finger by carving out tiny horizontal wedges of cheese.

Lastly, cut a bell pepper into 3/8-inch-wide strips. Trim the pulp to cut the thickness in half. Then, cut the stripes into nail shapes which will stay on the ends of the “fingers” using a dab of cream cheese.

Voila! You’ve created dead zombie fingers.

Maybe a skeleton is more your speed. Chopping veggies can provide the “bones” for your masterpiece. After cutting a variety of veggies – like bell peppers, mushrooms, carrots, cherry tomatoes for joints, and even cauliflower – ask your little one to lend a hand creating the skeleton! Strips of carrots could be rips. Better yet, curved bell pepper strips kind of resemble rib bones… Work together and don’t forget to incorporate a bowl of dipping sauce!

Mummy pizzas can make nice treats.

Using English muffins, pizza sauce, cheese and some pitted olives, the wrapped undead can be served to your little ones. In fact, maybe the veggies you chopped for the other Halloween classics like Frankenstein.

It all starts with the sauce. Pizza sauce can be easily purchased or just as easily made at home.

In a medium bowl, mix together a 15-ounce can of tomato sauce and a 6-ounce can of tomato paste until smooth. Then stir in 1 tablespoon of oregano, 1 ½ teaspoons of dried, minced garlic and I teaspoon of ground paprika.

Toast the English muffins then spread some sauce over. Use shredded cheese to make a mummy face. Leave an opening for olive eyes! Green peppers, carrots and olives could create the monster Frankenstein. Can you make a Dracula too?

These quick treats can be prepared early. Pop them in the oven shortly before you’re ready to serve. Using broil will allow the cheese to melt and toppings to be warmed. Be sure to keep an eye on these! It should only take a couple of minutes.

These are just a few ideas. Do you have any to share?


Breakfast biscuits

Sometimes you just need a biscuit, plain and simple.

Well, maybe not plain, but simple. Blame it on living with a woman from the South while growing up but biscuits for breakfast is a guilty pleasure that everyone should enjoy when it gets a little cold outside. It’s the kind of comfort food that starts the day off right.

And, let’s face it, adding bacon to pretty much anything makes it extra delicious. So for breakfast this morning we’re making bacon and cheddar cheese biscuits courtesy of thekitchen.com.

This recipe should make 18 small or 10 large biscuits. If you have a small family, you may want to cut the recipe in half. Or, you could enjoy delicious biscuits throughout the day…

Cook 6 slices of thick-cut bacon in a cast iron or stainless steel skillet. Fry bacon until just crispy; then allow bacon to drain on a paper towel. Pour all but one tablespoon of bacon fat into a jar to store.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine 1 cup of all-purpose flour, 1 cut of cake flour (or you can substitute ¾ cup all-purpose flour and 2 tablespoons of cornstarch), 2 teaspoons baking powder, a ½ teaspoon of baking soda, 1 ½ teaspoons of sugar and 2/4 teaspoons of salt. Pulse several times to combine the ingredients. You’ll then cut a frozen stick of butter into large chunks with a large knife. Add these pieces to the food processor. Pulse the food processor 8 to 10 times until the meal is finely ground.

Pour the mixture into a medium-sized bowl. Dice the bacon then add it to the mix. Also add 1 cup of shredded sharp cheddar cheese, ¼ cup minced chives and 1 cup of buttermilk.

Gently mix using a spatula or fork until there is no more dry flour visible.

Now it’s time to get your hands dirty. Sprinkle some flour on the counter and dump the dough on top. Sprinkle a bit more flour on top and use your hand to pat the dough into a circle about ½ to 1 inch think depending on how think you want your biscuits. You can use a biscuit cutter, circular cookie cutter or even the top of a drinking glass to cut out biscuit shapes.

Put the biscuit circles into the skillet in which you cooked the bacon. Brush the tops of the biscuits with some of the reserve bacon fat or a bit of melted butter then back at 450 degrees for 18 to 20 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown.

The toothpick test – poking a toothpick into the center of a biscuit in hopes of it coming out clean – is also a good standby.

Let the biscuits cool for five minutes. For breakfast, serve with eggs. For dinner, it’s a great side for a good ol’ fashioned country-inspired meal. Or, these are delicious treats on the go. Just store leftovers in a sealed container for up to a few days.

Clean hands save lives

No one ever thinks of soap as a super hero but it kind of is.

Inexpensive and best friend to water, soap keeps us clean. It keeps us and those we love happy and healthy. We emphasize cleanliness in the kitchen for many reasons, but keeping it clean extends far beyond working with food.

Friday marked Global Handwashing Day – it’s a real day! Check out www.globalhandwashingday.org.

The child-centric holiday has a simple sanitary message with a big goal: Helping people stay healthy! Washing your hands can affect your life outside of your home.

Children don’t always realize the impact which they can make. That’s a funny thing because they’re also the ones most willing to change their ways. And when kids are willing to change, adults around them follow their lead. It’s this logic that inspired Global Handwashing Day organizers to focus on children. That and the fact that about half of the about 120 million children born in the developing world each year will live in households with limited access to sanitation.

This limited access – which as we mentioned previously extends far beyond the kitchen – leads to poor hygiene which can lead to sickness and often be fatal for youngsters.

Those numbers can drastically diminish by introducing soap and water into our daily habits. It’s the most inexpensive way to ensure our kids are safe.

Started in 2008 by the Global Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing with Soap, the group simply hopes to make clean hands a part of all kids’ daily lives. Doing so should greatly diminish health-related issues.

The great news is if your kids get in the habit of washing their hands, they’ll keep those soap-using habits when with their friends. The domino effect will continue with your little one’s little friend. Thankfully rumors – and habits—spread amongst little ones just like they do adults. But in this case, it’s a rumor epidemic that could lead to healthier children.

Talking about hand washing can be an interesting way to integrate other cultures into the world.

Some don’t wash their hands because water is scarce. How lucky are we that clean water is easily accessible? Worldwide one child dies every eight seconds without access to healthy water. Locally, students in San Mateo County decided to do something about it.

San Bruno youngsters, who were in fourth grade when they started this effort in 2007, started Water For Life – an effort of selling spring water with a student-designed logo. Proceeds from the bottled water are pooled with other fundraising efforts to buy water pumps to be placed in Africa. By partnering with other student efforts nationwide, the kids have helped purchase two pumps.

The good news here is anyone – soap, water and your own little one – can be a hero. First they need to be informed.


Pumpkin breakfast treat

Let’s use pumpkins for a healthy breakfast this time.

Pumpkins are wonderful! First, the flavor is quintessential fall. But more importantly it is chock-full of vitamin A, which is good for your eyes. These gorgeous gourds also offer the ability to supply ingredients for multiple cooking or craft adventures!

Let’s start with breakfast using a baked pumpkin oatmeal recipe courtesy of CookingWithMyKid.com. Be warned, the prep time is limited but cooking will take 40 minutes to an hour.

It all starts with two cantaloupe-sized pumpkins called sugar pumpkins. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Then, carefully cut the top off your pumpkin and clean the inside out. Keep the seeds in a bowl. These will come in handy for other possible tasks!

In a large bowl combine 1 tablespoon of melted butter or canola oil, 1 teaspoon baking powder, ½ cup unsweetened apple sauce, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, 2 cups of old fashioned oats and 1 egg. Stir well and divide evenly between the two pumpkins. Sprinkle the tops lightly with brown sugar. Place both pumpkins on a cookie sheet and bake for 40 minutes to one hour or until the pumpkins are soft enough to scoop and the oatmeal is cooked.

Once finished, you can add a bit or milk or a splash more sugar to get the desired taste. This should be enough to serve four. When serving, be sure to scrape some of the baked pumpkin deliciousness in with the spiced oatmeal.

After enjoying a fall-filled breakfast, you have pumpkin seeds to play with. Pumpkin seeds are edible but can also be used for crafting. Regardless of your chosen activity, you’ll need to clean the seeds first. This is easy but messy!

With clean hands, slowly separate seeds from pumpkin innards. (By the way, this is way easier while the insides are still wet. Maybe it’s better to do this while breakfast cooks!) Clean the seeds in cold water. Sometimes I half fill a bowl with cool water so the seeds soak as I separate.

If you’re going to bake them, place the seeds in a single layer on an oiled baking sheet. Stir the seeds around to coat. Then sprinkle salt and bake at 325 degrees until toasted, about 25 minutes. Check after 10. Or try making a bunch of different kinds.

Do you like cayenne pepper? Add a little in one corner. Sprinkle some lemon garlic on another. What flavors does your family like? Try different spices. If you don’t like it, you’ve got something new to try also baking.

The seeds can also be used for crafting. Start by preparing the seeds. If you want colorful seeds you can use markers, paint or colored nail polish. Alternatively, you can dye seeds by boiling them for about five minutes in a mixture of water and 1 teaspoon of food coloring. Do not remove seeds until the color is a little darker than you want. Then rinse the seeds in cold water and let them air dry.

Colorful seeds can be used to decorate picture frames or a mirror. Alternatively, you can string a bunch together using a needle and thread to make a necklace or bracelet.

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