Gluten-Free Thanksgiving Dinner Tips

Photo Source: SXC
This Thanksgiving marks my one year anniversary of going gluten-free. Last Turkey Day I filled my plate with whole wheat honey rolls, glutinous salad dressing, homemade cookies and of course pumpkin pie complete with a crisp flour crust.

If I was going to say goodbye to gluten; I had to do it in style.

This Thanksgiving I'd politely refuse that same plate of food knowing that misery would be mere minutes away since my sensitivity to gluten has increased over the last 12 months.

If you're new to going gluten-free, or are preparing Thanksgiving Dinner for a gluten-free guest, check out my 5 tips for making your holiday meal delicious and safe for people with Celiac Disease and gluten sensitivities.

5 Gluten-Free Thanksgiving Dinner Tips

1. Prepare gravies and cream sauces with potato flour. Since most creamed vegetables or thickened graves are poured over mashed potatoes anyway, the distinct potato flavor of the flour mixes well with the meal.

2. Try pie alternatives. Everyone wants a pumpkin dessert for Thanksgiving, but you don't have to have pie. Instead, make a pumpkin cheesecake with a crust made of crumbled gluten-free cookies. Use the same directions as you would for a graham cracker pie crust (minus the graham crackers--which are not gluten-free). Or, try my recipe for Gluten-free pumpkin muffins. They are so moist and fluffy, you won't believe they are gluten-free.

3. Serve lots of simple, whole foods side dishes.
Skip the dressings, sauces and blends of spices. These contain hidden thickeners that may contain wheat, barley or rye. Instead of green bean casserole, opt for a healthy bowl of steamed green beans topped with toasted almond slivers. Or, try grilled corn on the cob served with a pat of butter and fresh ground black pepper.

4. Make a rice dressing. Whether you call it stuffing or dressing, it's usually made with bread cubes. Why not try a new recipe this year and opt for a rice dressing seasoned with dried cranberries, nuts and cinnamon.

5. Ask questions. Your gluten-free dinner guest is truly the expert. Instead of guessing, make a quick phone call while planning the dinner menu. For every glutinous food, there's a replacement or close equivalent.  Let your dinner guest offer meal suggestions and tips.

Do you have some tips and tricks for preparing a gluten-free holiday dinner? Have a question I can help with? Please share in the comments below.


Until Next Time,
Choose Healthy!

Angela Tague
Whole Foods Living

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Gluten-Free Pumpkin Muffins that Actually Rise!


It doesn't matter if you're avoiding gluten or not. These pumpkin muffins are definitely worth making the kitchen a mess.

I cobbled together a few recipes and my own personal gluten-free baking instincts to create this spicy, moist, fluffy, gluten-free muffin. My wheat-eating hubby gobbled these down without hesitation. The texture is so amazing you won't believe they are gluten-free.

Ok, preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and give this recipe a whirl!
 
Gluten-Free Pumpkin Muffins

In a bowl cream together:
  • 3/4 cup canned pumpkin or fresh pumpkin puree
  • 1 banana, mashed
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup raw honey
In another bowl, stir together these dry ingredients:
  • 1 cup unsalted almonds, pulverized in a food processor
  • 1/2 cup brown rice flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/8 tsp sea salt

Now, slowly mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. I filled large, greased muffin tins 2/3 full with the batter to make 6 large muffins. Bake for 28 minutes at 325 degrees Fahrenheit. We have a convection oven, so the muffins may take longer to bake in a traditional oven. Use a toothpick to test for doneness. After letting the muffins cool, top them with a simple cream cheese frosting.
Look at that texture! Photos by Angela Tague
My only regret was not doubling this recipe!

Until Next Time,
Choose Healthy!

Angela Tague
Whole Foods Living

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Getting Buff with Alton Brown

The hubby and I try to be a little adventuresome in the kitchen. Last week we embarked on a new journey: Alton Brown's Buff Smoothie.
Strawberries! Photo Credit: Morguefile
The infamous Food Network food guru claims he lost 50 lbs. by enjoying this berry-filled smoothie for breakfast and making healthier eating decisions.

Since I love everything about smoothies, and the hubby thinks losing a few pounds would be fun, we've been mixing up these smoothies in the old blender. So far, so good. The purple concoction is sweet, filling and a pretty shade of purple. I'm hooked. I'm still amazed these smoothies stick with me until lunchtime.

Has anyone else tried Alton Brown's Buff Smoothie? (Get the recipe HERE!) I'd love to hear if it has helped you shed a few pounds. Of course I know drinking a smoothie for breakfast isn't going to make pounds melt away. But, when combined with exercise, watching portions and making healthier eating decisions, I wonder if this smoothie really has some magical powers. It seems like a lot of (natural) sugars to me!

Thoughts?

Until Next Time,
Choose Healthy!

Angela Tague
Whole Foods Living

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Microgreens: An Even Healthier Form of Vegetables?

Photo from Morguefile
I'm always on the lookout for nutrition advice and compelling stats. When I ran across the latest post from National Public Radio's food blog, the SALT, I was captivated.

Greenhouse growers are creating nutrient-dense leafy vegetables dubbed "microgreens". Imagine alfalfa sprout-looking versions of herbs, lettuces, cabbages, peas, beets and even radishes. Supposedly the two-week old microgreens can contain up to four to six times the nutrients of their mature, adult counterparts. Wow!

I think these tender greens sound like the perfect way to top a robust salad or add some greens to a sandwich. Have you ever heard of or tried microgreens? I know I'll be watching my local farmer's market and grocery stores for these vitamin-packed veggies.

Check out NPR's article, "Introducing Microgreens: Younger, And Maybe More Nutritious, Vegetables" for more details.

Until Next Time,
Choose Healthy!

Angela Tague
Whole Foods Living

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Adventures in Homemade Ginger Tea

I'm cupping my hands around my first ever cup of homemade ginger tea. I know, I know. Why has it taken me so long to experiment with using fresh ginger root in the kitchen? I'm not sure.
Fresh ginger root. Photo Credit: Morguefile

In the past my experience with ginger has been pretty neutral. I like ginger ale soda, but it's masked with lots of sugar and bubbly carbonation. Candied ginger tastes too spicy. And, Asian foods seasoned with the spicy root have been tasty, but not exactly memorable. I guess I'm neutral about ginger.

Then a friend over on Google+ talked me into giving fresh, whole ginger a chance. He uses it to make gingered-spiced quinoa and homemade stock for future soup recipes. (Hi, Dana!)

So, as I push through today's work deadline and succumb to every possible distraction around me, I ventured into the kitchen to do something with that ugly little ginger root I just bought. It's just laying there all knotted and bland looking.

Since I'm not feeling the greatest today (darn nausea and joint pain from RA), I decided to venture into an easy creation: ginger tea. Since I know I like chamomile, I decided to add it to my impromptu recipe.

I filled my decorative little glass tea pot with cold water, 10 dried chamomile buds and approximately 10 disks of sliced ginger that resemble dimes. After simmering for 10 minutes, I put about 1 tablespoon of raw honey in my favorite mug and topped it off with the steamy golden tea.

The first sip was spicy and tickled my throat. I can't decide if I like it. But, I keep going back for more sips. The sweet and spicy combination is definitely an acquired taste, and growing on me quickly. I can see the bottom of my cup. I better go grab a refill!

How to you enjoy fresh ginger?

Until Next Time,
Choose Healthy!

Angela Tague
Whole Foods Living

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Eating the Rainbow

I have a weird, daily obsession. I try to eat a rainbow of fresh produce as often as possible.

Ready for the oven!
It's a particularly good day if I can create a single meal that looks like a colorful abstract painting. Two of my go-to whole foods rainbow dishes are roasted vegetables over brown rice and homemade veggie pizza.

Here is a cellphone picture of one of my latest rainbow pizzas. This pizza is topped with red tomatoes, orange and yellow sweet bell peppers, green spinach, purple onion, white mushrooms and slices of mozzarella cheese. Are you drooling yet?

How do you add color to your meals? Do you ever strive to eat the rainbow in a single meal? Please tell me I'm not crazy!

Until Next Time,
Choose Healthy!

Angela Tague
Whole Foods Living

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Sauteing Summer Squash

Yellow summer squash, tofu and red onions.
Tomatoes are showing rosy cheeks, peppers are ripe and summer squash are ready to pick off the vine. If you're overloaded with fresh yellow summer squash, I'm sure you're looking for several ways to enjoy it.

The other night I decided to saute some red onion slices and tofu cubes in olive oil. Then, I added thin disks of yellow summer squash. It was fabulous!

Since the entree had such a mild flavor I paired it with a peppery arugula and avocado salad.
Arugula and avocado salad.

How do you enjoy cooking summer squash? I usually roast or saute squash and toss it with a more flavorful vegetable, such as onions or carrots.

Until Next Time,
Choose Healthy!

Angela Tague
Whole Foods Living

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Arugula and Avocado Salad

My mouth-watering arugula and avocado salad.
The one good thing about these hot, dry days of summer is enjoying treats from the garden.

Thankfully a few of my friends are avid gardeners and love to share their produce.

(Thanks, Mandy & Jess!)

The other day I decided to play around in the kitchen with some fresh arugula. I've had the leafy greens in salads made with a blend of various lettuces, but this was the first time I've enjoyed arugula solo. It's sweet flavor with a peppery finish is definitely an acquired taste.

After playing with a few ingredients, I settled on making an arugula and avocado side salad to go with dinner. After rinsing the greens I added cubed avocado and slices of mozzarella cheese. Then I dressed the salad with a squeeze of fresh lime juice and a drizzle of olive oil. The creamy avocado was a perfect match for the arugula.

So, have you tried arugula? How do you like to eat it? I still have a few handfuls waiting the refrigerator, so I want to use it up soon!

Until Next Time,
Choose Healthy!

Angela Tague
Whole Foods Living

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Bean, Beans The Musical Fruit...Wait, Fruit?

Dry kidney beans. Photo from Morguefile.

OK, sing along with me:

"Beans, beans the musical fruit!
The more you eat, the more you...."


We all know the rest of the rhyme. (And, I'm not interested in blogging about flatulence!)

However, I am curious about the claim that beans are members of the fruit family. Really? So, I put on my investigative reporter hat and found this little nugget of nutrition trivia.

Beans are members of the legume family. Other legumes include lentils, peanuts, peas and soybeans, according to The Bean Institute. The most popular bean consumed in the United States is the pinto bean.

My top five favorites ways to eat beans are:
  • Boiling and mashing black beans with the juice of a fresh lime and chopped garlic to use on tacos
  • Tossing several beans together and dressing it with a light Italian dressing for a summer salad
  • Adding pinto beans to a pot of vegetable soup for extra protein
  • Mashing garbanzo beans and using them in lieu of ground beef to make a veggie "meatloaf"
  • Combining kidney, pinto and white beans as the base for a vegetarian chili
So, how do you like to eat beans?

Until Next Time,
Choose Healthy!

Angela Tague
Whole Foods Living

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One More Reason to Eat Vegetables


Photo Courtesy Krumdieck, Morguefile.
Think of that salad or side of brussels sprouts as an extra nudge towards a smoke-free life.

As a writer, I do lots of reading. This morning I came across an article on Futurity claiming that eating vegetables makes the taste for tobacco less appealing. This is fantastic news for smokers implementing a healthier lifestyle.

“We knew from our previous work that people who were abstinent from cigarettes for less than six months consumed more fruits and vegetables than those who still smoked," explained Gary A. Giovino, chair of the Department of Community Health and Health Behavior at the University at Buffalo in the Futurity article. "What we didn’t know was whether recent quitters increased their fruit and vegetable consumption or if smokers who ate more fruits and vegetables were more likely to quit.”

Here are a few key points from the article:

Smokers who ate more fruits and vegetables...
  •  smoked fewer cigarettes per day and scored lower on a common test of nicotine dependence
  •  were three times more likely to be tobacco-free after 14 months than those who didn't eat an increase in produce
  •  feel more full from the increase in fiber consumption. Some smokers confuse hunger for the need for a cigarette.
*Futurity reports on scientific discoveries by researchers at universities in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and Australia.

Until Next Time,
Choose Healthy!

Angela Tague
Whole Foods Living

PS: Follow me on Twitter @AngelaTague to see what I've been up to!

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Eating Healthy, Quickly: 10 Minute Quesadilla Lunch

Layer on the veggies! Photo by Angela Tague
One of the number one excuses I hear people give for not eating healthy is time. Well, sure if you plan on making a four course meal from scratch you're going to be in the kitchen for hours. That's why I have a few go-to quick lunches I make often.

My absolute favorite is a pan-cooked veggie quesadilla. Now before you say you don't like spicy food or Mexican fare, this lunch treat is mild and flavorful--sans spices.


Pan-cooked Veggie Quesadilla in 10 Minutes
  • olive oil
  • soft tortillas (2 per meal)
  • flavorful cheese crumbles
  • fresh veggies (mushrooms, red onion, spinach, sliced tomatoes, roasted red pepper slices, etc.)
  1. Simply preheat a large skillet. Spray it with a light mist of olive oil and keep the heat on a low-medium setting.
  2. Place one soft tortilla in the pan. I use brown rice tortillas due to a sensitivity to gluten. These cook up crisp and delicious. I have not tried using a flour tortilla, but assume it works well too.
  3. Now, layer on crumbles of a good quality cheese. I use a locally produced sharp white cheddar or a deli yellow cheddar. Choose a cheese with a bold flavor.
  4. Finally, layer on the veggies. I used pre-sliced mushrooms (time saver!), thinly sliced red onion and pre-washed baby spinach leaves. I've been dying to also try roasted red pepper slices and fresh sliced tomato.
  5. Top the veggies with a few more cheese crumbles. These help glue the quesadilla together. Place one more soft tortilla on top of the veggies and cheese and squish the concoction with a flat lid or bottom of a plate. Let the quesadilla cook for 3-4 minutes. Then, flip with a pancake turner and let the other side cook. Your lunch is ready when the tortilla slightly browns, the cheese melts, the onions soften and the mushrooms begin to change color. Are you drooling yet?
I cut my treat into wedges with a pizza cutter. If I'm feeling naughty the wedges get dipped into Daisy sour cream. (Read the ingredient list--it's only cream!) Finally, I add a handful of corn tortilla chips or baby carrots to the plate and I'm set.

So, what are you having for lunch?

Until Next Time,
Choose Healthy!

Angela Tague
Whole Foods Living

PS: Visit me on Facebook! I also blog about beauty, natural skin care, nutrition, crafts and cleaning tips. I post links on Facebook daily. :)

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Kreativ Blogger Award 2012

Since participating in the April 2012 A to Z Blogging Challenge I've "met" so many insightful, friendly and informative bloggers on the web. 
I was lucky enough to catch the eye of Francene Stanley of Stitching Words and Jolie Du Pre of Precious Monsters who recently awarded Whole Foods Living the Kreativ Blogger Award!
Thank you, ladies! I'm honored that you enjoy my little corner of the web!

Part of receiving this wonderful award is that I continue on with this kindness and nominate seven other blogs that I feel deserving of this award.  After that, I answer 10 questions about myself and 10 random facts about me that you probably didn't know! So here goes!

7 Award-Winning Blogs to Visit:
1. Amy at Freelancin' for $1000 a Week.
Motivational. Inspirational. Realistic.

2. Jen at We're Living a Full Life.
Insightful. Honest. Fun.

3. Tracy at Pull Up a Toadstool.
Creative. Alternative. Inspiration.

4. Sylvia at Plant-Based Foodie.
Delicious. Simple. Whole.

5. Amy at Coffee Lovin' Mom
Travel. Relaxing. Witty.

6. Rabbit Trails
Honest. Funny. Random.

7. The Death Writer
Scary. Important. Insightful.

10 Questions About Me:
1. What is your favorite song? Nothing Else Matters by Metallica. It was our first dance/wedding song.
2. What is your favorite dessert? Brownies
3. What ticks you off? When I'm not productive
4. What do you do when you’re upset? Cry 
5. Which is/was your favorite pet? All of them!
6. Which do you prefer, black or white? Black
7.What is your biggest fear? Dying by drowning or fire
8. What is your attitude mostly?  Positive
9. What is perfection? Cruising forest trails with my hubby and dogs on a crisp fall day followed by homemade hot chocolate.
10. What is your guilty pleasure?  Brownies topped with homemade vanilla ice cream and warm ganache. Yeah, you're drooling now!

10 Random Facts About Me:
1. My husband and I share the same three initials.
2. My first rock concert was Poison in 1989.
3. I played the Wicked Queen in my 3rd grade class play, Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs.
4. I design greeting cards.
5. I love reading Stephen King before bed.
6. I have a vial of faux blood from a GWAR concert.
7. I volunteer at a horse therapy organization.
8. I drink milk directly from the container.
9. I've never watched Glee, American Family, House or many of the other "popular" shows.
10. I've straddled the Tropic of Capricorn in Australia.

Until Next Time,
Choose Healthy!

Angela Tague
Whole Foods Living

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Healthy Strawberry Shortcake Oatmeal

I eat oatmeal a lot. This morning when I realized I was out of fresh blueberries, raisins or dried fruit of any kind to "spice" up my breakfast, I got creative.
A few minutes later, my breakfast was ready, and it's so good I wanted to share!
A cellphone snapshot of breakfast! Yum!

Last week I made a batch of strawberry sauce (recipe here!) to use up a few pints of berries purchased for a birthday party I ended up not attending. Since it's fruit, I tried pouring it over oatmeal.

It's delicious!

This is so easy, I'm not even going to call it a recipe. While preparing one serving of plain oatmeal, toss in 2 tablespoons of milled flax seed. This adds 3 grams of protein to your breakfast and a healthy dose of Omega-3 fatty acids.

Those are the buggers responsible for reducing inflammation in the body and improving memory. You can get Omega 3's in higher doses from eating fatty fish such as salmon, tuna or trout, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. More importantly, flax seed gives the oatmeal a slightly nutty taste.

Finally, pour the oatmeal into a bowl and pour a generous amount of strawberry sauce on top. That's it! No butter or sugar needed. Serve with a tall glass of milk (soy, rice, cow or whatever you prefer!) to complete the strawberry shortcake experience.

Sure, this isn't like having dessert, but it's darn good for a healthy breakfast.

So, have you been munching on strawberries lately? They are plentiful and cheap in the midwest right now. Share your favorite strawberry related snack, recipe or creation in the comments below! I've been slicing berries and topping them with locally-raised creamed honey. Mmmmm....

Until Next Time,
Choose Healthy!

Angela Tague
Whole Foods Living

Want to browse some of my older posts? Check out:
Oatmeal Makeover! 5 Oatmeal Combinations
How to Eat Flax Seed
Is Cinnamon a Health Food?

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To Go Greek (Yogurt) or Not?

File:Passion Fruit Breakfast.jpg
Passion fruit. Photo by Thor, Wikimedia Commons
I'm that gal at the grocery store that reads labels. I go beyond the superficial "all natural" claim on the front of the package and dive right into the ingredient list.

This morning I lingered in the dairy aisle. I love Greek yogurt. I've tried several brands, from the discounted store labels to organic varieties. Today I picked up a carton of Chobani Greek Yogurt with Passion Fruit.

A quick scan of the label made me smile: nonfat milk, cream, live and active cultures, passion fruit puree, evaporated cane juice, pectin, natural flavors and locust bean gum. Perfect. Although yogurt isn't a whole food, this cup of yogurt seems healthier than some other sugar-filled, artificially dyed options.

So, was it good? Heck, yes! After peeling away the foil lid I was greeted with sweet, creamy cheesecake batter-like textured yogurt. It wasn't dry or bland like some Greek yogurts. With a careful scoop of my spoon, I unveiled the creamy yellow passion fruit puree speckled with dark passion fruit seeds at the bottom of the cup. Surprisingly the seeds added a tasty nutty crunch to the yogurt. 

This yogurt is delicious and filling. Although I just gobbled down 160 calories, I also ate 14 grams of protein (I'm always counting. Ah, the life of a vegetarian.), 3 grams of fat and 100 mg of sodium. Unfortunately this yogurt has 19 grams of sugar, which equals just under 5 teaspoons of sugar.

But, this yogurt is so good I could eat it as a dessert and be perfectly happy. Plus, the sugar comes from cane juice, not refined white sugar.

Do you like Greek yogurt? Temp me with your favorite flavors or uses for Greek yogurt!

Until Next Time,
Choose Healthy!

Angela Tague
Whole Foods Living

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Hello, Sugar Hangover

Boy, did I fall off the apple cart last week. A small tub of marshmallow cream called to me, and landed in my shopping cart. I was held hostage by some chocolate chips. And, I ate ice cream. Full cream, white sugar, decadent vanilla ice cream. It was marvelous.
Ice cream is my weakness! Photo by Jppi, Morguefile

Then, came the headaches. And, the dizziness.

I haven't eaten that much refined white sugar in a long time. I'm now two and half days in on my "no sugar until the hubby's birthday" promise to myself, and I'm starting to feel better. The headache has dulled to a linger.

I know some visitors to this blog are working on eating healthier. Well, here's today's lesson: You can't eat perfect all the time. And, your body will punish you for it!

So, have you ever had a sugar hangover? Please tell me I'm not alone!

Until Next Time,
Choose Healthy!

Angela Tague
Whole Foods Living

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Is Rhubarb a Fruit or Vegetable?


Fresh rhubarb. Photo courtesy MorgueFile
While dicing some stalks of rhubarb, the hubby asked if the red chunks were vegetables or a fruit.

Well, heck. I had no idea.

I was preparing a rhubarb-strawberry crisp, so I immediately thought fruit. Who eats rhubarb without sweetening it?

After a little quick research, we found out rhubarb is technically a vegetable. The perennial was initially grown for medicinal purposes in the Far East, according to the University of Ohio Extension Office.

Rhubarb Nutrition Facts:  One cup of diced, raw rhubarb
  • has just 26 calories
  • provides 45% of your daily vitamin K needs which helps blood clot and reduces your chances of bone fractures
  • is a source of omega-6 fatty acids which promote hair and skin growth and regulates your metabolism
  • can be eaten raw, but is very sour
  • the green leaves are poisonous and shouldn't be eaten
So, how do you like your rhubarb? I enjoy crisps, pies and sauces to top ice cream. And, since the farmer's market is plentiful with rhubarb this week, I'll be eating lots of it! Yum!

Until Next Time,
Choose Healthy!

Angela Tague
Whole Foods Living

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The Farmer's Market is Open!

Freshly washed butter crunch lettuce. Photo by Angela Tague.
Have you ever shopped in a store where every display seemed to call your name?

Handcrafted beeswax lip balm? Yes, please!
Spinach speckled with local soil? Bring it on!
Glistening jars of crimson berry jams. Yum!

Our local farmer's market opened this morning, which means I can barely get this written between taking bites of my locally grown lunch. Heck, my editors are lucky the market isn't open all day, or I may have missed a few deadlines today!

Since it's early in the season, our local market was plentiful with fresh spring greens, radishes, rhubarb and asparagus.

But, the true find of the day was a head of butter crunch lettuce. The velvety texture, mild flavor and pale color truly means summer is just around the corner. Since this is one of the first lettuces of the season to grow in the midwest, it's always an early garden-season treat.

Is your farmer's market open for business? What local whole foods are you enjoying?

Until Next Time,
Choose Healthy!

Angela Tague
Whole Foods Living

Reflections of The Blogging from A to Z Challenge

Whew! Maintaining a personal blog challenge is like running a marathon. 

Last week I crossed the finish line in my first ever Blogging from A to Z Challenge--and it feels great. I kept a steady pace, didn't skip any of the 26 miles, er, letters in my path and learned a lot along the journey.

1. People genuinely do care about nutrition and question what's on their plates. My passion is not falling on deaf ears!

2. Maintaining a daily blog is more than just tapping out a few paragraphs of insights. There are comments to approve, read and reply to. There are photos to snap or find. And, of course there's research (read: cook, bake, shop!) to create informative, honest posts.

3. I learned a lot from my readers and the blogs I visited during the challenge! I have a list of new blogs to peruse, books to read and recipes to try. Thank you!

4. Blogging won't make you rich. I maintain Whole Foods Living because it's my day-to-day life speaking. I write about what I encounter during my ongoing healthy eating transition. The ad revenue from this blog challenge will probably buy me a watermelon at the farmer's market or maybe another bag of organic quinoa. Yum!

5. People will blog about anything! While visiting other blogs in the challenge I met other foodies, learned about children's books, death rituals, tourist spots in Paris, how much I need a beach vacation and the antics of young children!

Until Next Time,
Choose Healthy!

Angela Tague
Whole Foods Living

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How to Make Zest

Citrus fruits! Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
Want to add a burst of natural flavor and color to your cooking? Add zest! Lemons, limes, oranges and any other citrus fruits can be used to make zest.

How to Make Zest
  1. Thoroughly wash a whole citrus fruit.
  2. Use a peeler or pairing knife to trim slender, thin slices of the fruit peel. Be careful not to get the white underside of the peel known as pith. It has a bitter flavor.
  3. Chop the peelings into tiny slivers (I believe chefs call this julienne) or small pieces.
  4. Or, use the fine grating on a cheese grater to shave zest from the fruit peel. Hold the whole fruit against the grater and gently shave off the skin.
  5. That's it! The zest is ready to use. If you have extra, store it in an airtight container and use it within a day or two before it dries out. 
Add Zest to Your Meal
Here are a few ways I like to add the fresh flavor of citrus zest to food.
  • Sprinkle lime zest on a bowl of cranberry sauce at the holidays.
  • Add lemon or orange zest to a sugar cookie recipe for a springy, refreshing flavor.
  • Dust the tops of pancakes with powdered sugar and orange zest.
  • Whisk citrus zest into homemade vinaigrette salad dressing.
  • Garnish a chocolate cake or cupcakes with slivers of orange zest.
How do you enjoy your zest? Please comment below!

Until Next Time,
Choose Healthy!

Angela Tague
Whole Foods Living

PS: This may be the last day of the A to Z Blogging Challenge, but don't forget to drop by on occasion and see what I've got cookin'! Or, follow me on Twitter and Facebook and I'll let you know what I've been up to! :)

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A to Z Blog Challenge Week 4 Recap

We've come to the end of the fourth week of the April 2012 A to Z Blog Challenge!

Each day in April (excluding Sundays) I've been spotlighting one letter of the alphabet. Have you been following along?

Tomorrow I will feature "Z", the last post in the A to Z Challenge!

Although today is a day off from the Challenge, I thought I'd post a quick recap. If you missed any posts on Whole Foods Living in April, here's a list of quick links:

April 1: An Apple A Day: Kicking off the 2012 Blogging from A to Z April Challenge!
April 2: Easy Triple Berry Smoothie Recipe
April 3: Is Cinnamon a Health Food?
April 4: How to Get More Vitamin D
April 5: How to Dye Easter Eggs Naturally
April 6: How to Eat Flax Seed
April 7: Gluten-Free Food List
April 9:   Eating Raw Honey
April 10:  What is Food Irradiation?
April 11:  Juicing 101: 5 Tips for Tasty, Healthy Juice
April 12:  Kale Chips! Salty Snack Attack!
April 13:  Leafy Green Quiz
April 14: Marvelous Mushrooms
 April 16: Why Blog About Nutrition?
April 17: My Love Affair With Olive Oil
April 18: Do You Eat Papaya?
April 19: 3 Ways to Eat Quinoa
April 20: Types of Rice
April 21: Strawberry Sauce in 5 Minutes
April 23: How to Grill Tomatoes
April 24: Do You Love Umami?
April 25: Vegan Vs. Vegetarian
April 26: Whole Foods Quiz: Test Your Nutrition Knowledge
April 27: What is Xanthan Gum?
April 28: A Yam is a Yam
April 30: Z...coming soon! (Hint: It's not about zucchini!)


Until Next Time,
Choose Healthy!

Angela Tague
Whole Foods Living
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A Yam is a Yam

Yams! Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
I always thought the potato-like vegetable with bright orange flesh could be referred to as either a yam or a sweet potato. Although they are both tubers, they are different plants.

If you live in the United States, you're probably eating sweet potatoes, despite the labels at the grocery store.

Yams are rarely grown in the United States and are not readily available. Yams can grow to the size of a small child, according to one of my favorite vegetarian cookbooks. Really!

The tubers are usually sold cut into manageable chunks. If you want to dine on a real yam, go to a Latino market and search for "name". It will likely be sold by the pound in shrink-wrapped packages to preserve the vegetable's moisture.

So, have you eaten real yams? I don't think I have!

Until Next Time,
Choose Healthy!

Angela Tague
Whole Foods Living

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What Is Xanthan Gum?

Wow, transitioning into a gluten-free diet has been a roller coaster ride. Not only do I have to read every food label, I've also had to overhaul my love of baking. While browsing through my new gluten-free cookbooks--looking for a recipe that uses "normal" ingredients--I keep stumbling across the need for xanthan gum.

I want pancakes! Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
Since I'm not a fan of preservatives and artificial flavorings, I had to make sure xanthan gum would fit into my new healthier lifestyle. Well, it does!

Xanthan gum is a plant-based thickening and stabilizing agent, according to WebMD. After trying to make my favorite old recipes with gluten-free flour, I can now appreciate the usefulness of xanthan gum. It gives baked goods more texture and rise.

For example, homemade pancakes made simply by substituting rice flour for wheat flour turned out like flat, rubbery crepes. Gluten-free pancake mix that included xanthan gum created fluffy, delicious pancakes!

I'm armed and ready.

I have my first packet of xanthan gum waiting for me in the kitchen pantry. I can do this. I can cook from scratch using this stuff. But, I need your help! Have you baked with xanthan gum? Can you recommend any recipes, hints or tips? Thank you!

Until Next Time,
Choose Healthy!

Angela Tague
Whole Foods Living

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Whole Foods Quiz: Test Your Nutrition Knowledge

Welcome to day "W" of the 2012 Blogging from A to Z April Challenge. The month is winding down, so it's a great time to test your whole foods knowledge. Here's a simple quiz to get you thinking about what you put on your plate.
Photo courtesy Morguefile.

1. Which provides the most fiber and vitamins?
    a. One cup of 100% pure apple juice
    b. One cup of unsweetened, homemade applesauce
    c. One cup of chopped, fresh apple

ANSWER: All of these choices are healthy options! But, to really get the most from your apple indulgence, opt for the last option, a fresh apple. Since apple juice and applesauce are heated and processed, they lose some of their valuable nutrients. To learn more about apples, check out "An Apple A Day: Kicking off the 2012 Blogging from A to Z April Challenge!".

2. Quinoa is a
    a. vegetable
    b. grain
    c. fruit

ANSWER: Quinoa is a protein-filled grain. It's similar in texture to couscous or rice. To learn more about quinoa, check out my two posts, "3 Ways to Eat Quinoa," and "What is quinoa?".

3. A vegan doesn't eat
    a. honey
    b. olive oil
    c. pickles

ANSWER: Unlike a vegetarian, vegans do not eat any products produced by animals. So, a vegan would not eat honey, since it is made by bees. Still not sure about the differences between vegans and vegetarians? Check out my post "Vegan Vs. Vegetarian" posted yesterday!

Until Next Time,
Choose Healthy!

Angela Tague
Whole Foods Living

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Vegan Vs. Vegetarian

When practicing a healthier lifestyle, some people choose to adopt a vegan or vegetarian diet. When maintained correctly, both diets are low in saturated fats, rich in vitamins from plant sources and low in cholesterol.
Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

But, just what is the difference between vegetarians and vegans?

Vegetarians:
  • Do not eat meat
  • Eat grains, vegetables, fruits, beans and legumes
  • Some choose to eat small amounts of seafood and chicken
  • Do consume foods created by animals such as eggs and milk
  • Get protein from nuts, beans, legumes, grains, eggs and dairy products
Vegans:
  • Do not eat meat
  • Do not eat animal byproducts such as honey, eggs, milk and cheese.
  • Eat a diet rich in grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes and beans
If you're considering a vegetarian or vegan diet, talk with your doctor about dietary concerns and how to stay healthy. When I chose to become a vegetarian in 1997, I didn't make healthy choices. I filled up on bread, pasta, pizza and candy bars. That's how you become a chubby vegetarian! Work with a dietitian or your doctor to learn about creating well-balanced meals.

Do you follow a vegetarian, vegan or other specialized diet? Please share how it has affected your health in the comments below!

Until Next Time,
Choose Healthy!

Angela Tague
Whole Foods Living

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Do You Love Umami?

Do you crave sweet treats? Or does a sour apple make you smile? For some, salty or bitter indulgences make the taste buds sing. But, did you know there's yet another taste to experience?
Sushi. Photo courtesy Morguefile.

Welcome to the world of umami.

This little known flavor is what parmesan cheese, asparagus, tomato paste, mushrooms, seaweed and grilled fish are made of. Umami is described as a savory taste experience, according to Dr. Andrew Weil. Glutamate, an amino acid, is responsible for the flavor.

Me? I'm a sweets gal, with a touch of salt. My favorite indulgence is homemade caramels covered in chocolate topped with a sprinkle of coarse sea salt. (Now, I know that's not nutritious, but I am human. I'm not healthy every minute of every day!)

So, when it's time for a splurge--which taste makes you drool? Please comment below!

Until Next Time,
Choose Healthy!

Angela Tague
Whole Foods Living

PS: Want to read more about nutrition, beauty and health? I write and post daily on Facebook and Twitter!

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How to Grill Tomatoes

When the hubby tosses a steak on the grill, I prepare veggie kabobs. In addition to whole button mushrooms, slices of bell pepper and chunks of red onion, I like to add tomatoes to the mix.
Fresh Tomatoes. Photo Courtesy Morguefile.

Since the fruit has a tender, thin skin I've been experimenting with various ways to grill tomatoes. When secured to a skewer they seem to grill--not char--like tomatoes placed directly on the grill.

The easiest tomatoes to add to a kabob are small salad tomatoes such as cherry, grape or pear tomatoes. Just slide them onto the skewer. If you only have large, whole tomatoes available, you can grill them kabob-style too.

Start by chopping the tomato into large chunks, at least 2 1/2 to 3-inches wide. Then, drizzle the tomato with olive oil. Don't squeeze the seeds and juice out of the chunks or they will dry out during the grilling process. Finally, wedge the chunks between two other kabob items to help secure the tender tomato.

Grill the veggie kabobs on indirect heat on an upper grill rack for three to four minutes. Rotate the skewers and grill for another three to four minutes. Then, enjoy!

Have you ever grilled tomatoes? Feel free to share your ideas, tips and tricks in the comments below.

Until Next Time,
Choose Healthy!

Angela Tague
Whole Foods Living

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A to Z Blog Challenge Week 3 Recap

Today wraps up the third week of the April 2012 A to Z Blog Challenge!

Each day in April (excluding Sundays) I'm spotlighting one letter of the alphabet. Have you been following along?

Although today is a day off from the Challenge, I thought I'd post a quick recap of the previous week, "N" through "S". If you missed any posts on Whole Foods Living, here's a list of quick links:

April 16: Why Blog About Nutrition?
April 17: My Love Affair With Olive Oil
April 18: Do You Eat Papaya?
April 19: 3 Ways to Eat Quinoa
April 20: Types of Rice
April 21: Strawberry Sauce in 5 Minutes

Until Next Time,
Choose Healthy!

Angela Tague
Whole Foods Living
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Strawberry Sauce in 5 Minutes

It's Saturday! As the weekend and warmer weather sets in, so do the summer desserts. Just because I prefer to eat healthy doesn't mean I skip dessert. I love topping homemade vanilla ice cream with my super easy 5 minute strawberry sauce.
Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

If you think that goopy red stuff they sell in the produce section next to the fresh strawberries is strawberry sauce, you've been missing out! This sauce is simple, delicious and much healthier than the high fructose corn-syrup and sugar infused goo they sell at the grocery store.

Simple Strawberry Sauce
Wash, clean and slice as many strawberries as you have on hand. Place them in a pot and put it on the stove over medium-low heat. Add just enough water to cover the bottom of the pot with approximately 1/4-inch of water. Let the berries slowly come to a simmer and soften.

Use a fork to lightly mash the fruit. As the strawberries soften, they will generate more liquid. When the berries are soft, use a stick blender to puree the fruit into a sauce. Taste the strawberry sauce and add a sprinkle of stevia to sweeten. Let the sauce cook down to the desired consistency.

Pour the strawberry sauce over cheesecake, ice cream, strawberry shortcake or angel food cake. Or, use the sauce as a starter for a smoothie or strawberry daiquiri! Enjoy!

Until Next Time,
Choose Healthy!

Angela Tague
Whole Foods Living

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Types of Rice

Wild rice is a grass seed. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.
Since the gluten in wheat, rye, barley and some oat products make me sick, I eat a lot of rice. Before I overhauled my diet I thought "rice was rice." Little did I know there are many, many types of rice out there!

My favorite is whole grain brown rice. It has a nutty flavor, is packed with protein and is very filling. My husband prefers the sweet flavor of Jasmine rice.

Here is a list of common rice options that migrate beyond the classic pre-cooked instant white variety to try adding to your diet:

Arborio Rice: White, round kernels used to make risotto
Basmati Rice: White, sweet, great with sweet Asian and Indian foods
Brown Rice: Brown, chewy, it contains the whole grain, which contains magnesium and is healthier than white rice (which has the bran and germ removed)
Glutinous Rice: White, sticky, used in sushi and desserts
Pearl Rice: White, short grains, creamy when cooked, great for rice pudding
Wild Rice: Dark brown/black, chewy and slender, it's actually the seed of water grass plants!

What types of rice have you eaten?

Until Next Time,
Choose Healthy!

Angela Tague
Whole Foods Living

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3 Ways to Eat Quinoa

When I decided to be a "healthier" vegetarian I researched several foreign-to-me foods, including quinoa. I even wrote about my discovery of the protein-packed grain on this blog back in August of 2010.
Cooked quinoa. Photo courtesy Morguefile.

Check out "What is quinoa?".

Since that was nearly two years ago, I've had a little time to experiment with cooking several types of quinoa. Here are my top three favorite ways to eat the rice-like grain!

How to Eat Quinoa

1. If you're new to the world of quinoa, simply pour a little into a simmering pot of broth-based soup or chili. It thickens the soup while adding fiber and vitamins.

2. Cook quinoa in a rice cooker. Use two parts water to one part quinoa. When done, season with some fresh garlic and use as a base for homemade stir fry in lieu of rice.

3. Use quinoa as a base for a cold salad. Instead of using pasta, toss fresh chopped vegetables, chunks of cheese and your favorite salad dressing with cold quinoa.

So, how do you eat quinoa? Make me hungry!

Until Next Time,
Choose Healthy!

Angela Tague
Whole Foods Living

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Do You Eat Papaya?

Fresh, tropical fruits are generally not plentiful in Iowa. Our grocery stores do get pineapples, mangos and other warm-weather fruits delivered from exotic locations, but they never taste fully ripened or fresh. I suppose that's because they are picked before they naturally ripen, so they won't spoil during shipping.
Fresh papaya. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

One of my local grocery stores carries an assortment of uncommon-to-the-midwest produce. Star fruits, fresh aloe vera, husked coconuts and papaya line the shelves. I think about grabbing one of these delicacies each time I visit the store. I like to broaden my food horizons whenever possible.

To play it safe, I picked out a fresh papaya today. I have eaten the sweet, orange fruit in tropical fruit mixes and pureed in smoothies. But, today was my first experience with a whole, fresh papaya.

After slicing the fruit in half, I scooped out the seeds and discarded them. Oh, I know they're edible but their peppery-pencil eraser type flavor didn't sit well with my taste buds. The orange flesh of the papaya was as soft as ice cream and incredibly sweet. Fresh papaya is much better than the canned tropical fruit variety.

After eating my fill of fresh fruit, the rest went into the refrigerator for more experiments. I'm thinking of indulging in a pineapple-papaya smoothie this evening as a snack.

Have you eaten papaya? Please share your favorite ways to eat this tropical delight!

Until Next Time,
Choose Healthy!

Angela Tague
Whole Foods Living

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My Love Affair with Olive Oil

If I could only have one item in my pantry, it'd be olive oil. Yes, really! This amazing nutrient-rich product is incredibly versatile in both the kitchen and the bathroom.
Olive oil. Photo courtesy Bluescreen, Morguefile.

I love using olive oil to saute vegetables, mix up a homemade salad dressing or drizzle over roasted vegetables.

The oil adds flavor (so you can leave the butter in the refrigerator) and healthy monounsaturated fatty acids to your diet. These good fats lower your risk of heart disease, lower cholesterol and help control blood sugar levels, according to the Mayo Clinic.

As a bonus, olive oil is amazing as a beauty product too. I use it to moisturize my legs after shaving, as a super nourishing hair conditioner and to hydrate dry, chapped lips. You can even use olive oil as a makeup remover!

How do you incorporate olive oil into your day?

Until Next Time,
Choose Healthy!

Angela Tague
Whole Foods Living

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Why Blog About Nutrition?

Of all the things to write about -- why choose nutrition? I have so many hobbies, from photography and scrapbooking, to pets and gardening, why does food get the spotlight?

Oatmeal and fruit. Photo courtesy Morguefile.com

I've always been into cooking and eating healthy, but early in the winter of 2010, I decided to try using food as medicine.

After taking prescription medications for rheumatoid arthritis for several months, I quit. My hair was thinning and falling out in clumps, I was nauseated daily, I was gaining weight quickly and I felt horrible. I started researching more about autoimmune diseases, and from books to web articles and television interviews, everyone spoke about changing their diets and feeling better.

As a "healthy" vegetarian, I thought I was eating correctly. Vegetables filled my dinner plate, I ate lots of legumes and nut butters for protein and snacked on fruits. But, I also had a freezer full of vegetarian soy burgers, boxed brownie mixes lined the cupboard shelves and my go-to snack was Dorito's covered in melted cheddar cheese.

I was filling up on sugar and sodium-laden processed foods that lacked much nutrition. So, one day I decided to start limiting those foods from my diet. If it comes in a can, box or instructions for cooking in the microwave, I probably don't eat it.

Whole Foods Living is my way of exploring, learning and educating people about nutrition. I'm not a doctor or a nutritionist. I'm just a 30-something gal trying to feel good without popping pills. Food is medicine. Since I've been eating healthier, my body actually punishes me when I eat junk food. Sugary candy makes me dizzy. Artificial dyes make me run to the restroom.

For me, food goes way beyond curbing hunger. Food makes me feel sick, or healthy.

So, why do you blog? What's your topic, and why are you passionate about it? For me, I blog to keep myself accountable. Plus, I learn lots of new tasty ways to eat healthy, thanks to comments from faithful readers like you! Thank you!

Until Next Time,
Choose Healthy!

Angela Tague
Whole Foods Living

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A to Z Blog Challenge Week 2 Recap

The April 2012 A to Z Blog Challenge is nearly half done! Have you been following along? Although today is a day off from the Challenge, I thought I'd post a quick recap. If you missed any posts on Whole Foods Living this week, here's a list of quick links:

April 9:   Eating Raw Honey
April 10:  What is Food Irradiation?
April 11:  Juicing 101: 5 Tips for Tasty, Healthy Juice
April 12:  Kale Chips! Salty Snack Attack!
April 13:  Leafy Green Quiz
April 14: Marvelous Mushrooms

Did you get in on the challenge a little late? Check out my Week 1 recap HERE.

Until Next Time,
Choose Healthy!

Angela Tague
Whole Foods Living
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Marvelous Mushrooms

I never really liked mushrooms while growing up. They were those rubbery little things on pizza. Salty. Slimy. Gross. As an adult, I've fallen in love with mushrooms. And, after learning how healthy they are, I eat this fresh whole food almost daily!
White button mushrooms. Photo Courtesy Morguefile.

Did you know raw white mushrooms:
  • Only contain 15 calories per cup
  • Are a source of fiber and protein
  • Are rich in vitamin D and folate
  • Are low in saturated fat   
(Information from Self Magazine Nutrition Data)

Here Are 5 Ways I Indulge in Mushrooms
1. Saute mushrooms and onions, then add them to pasta sauce.
2. Make a fresh sliced mushroom and cheese quesadilla.
3. Top a salad with fresh mushrooms.
4. Partner mushrooms with cherry tomatoes and green pepper chunks on kabobs for the grill.
5. Add mushrooms to risotto, pizza and omelets.

How to you add mushrooms to your plate? Please comment below!

Until Next Time,
Choose Healthy!

Angela Tague
Whole Foods Living

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Leafy Green Quiz


Do you know what's on your plate? Since today is day "L" of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge we're testing your leafy knowledge. Peak at this series of photos and see if you can identify these six tasty leafy vegetables. All are edible!







QUIZ ANSWERS:
From top to bottom as you view them on the screen:
Brussel sprouts, red leaf lettuce, cabbage, kale, radicchio and spinach.

How many did you get correct? Please comment below!

Until Next Time,
Choose Healthy!

Angela Tague
Whole Foods Living

Photo Credits for the Leafy Green Quiz:
Kale: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Kale-Bundle.jpg
Brussel Sprouts: http://www.morguefile.com/archive/display/755648
Red Leaf Lettuce: http://www.morguefile.com/archive/display/633729
Spinach: http://www.morguefile.com/archive/display/805751
Radicchio: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Radicchio_Treviso.jpg
Cabbage: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cabbage_Estonia.jpg

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Kale Chips! Salty Snack Attack!

It's mid-afternoon, and you're craving something salty.
Fresh Kale. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

If you're trying to be healthy, do you grab:
a. A bag of Baked Lays potato chips
b. A handful of salty pretzels
c. A bowl of crispy kale chips

Well, since you know this blog is about whole foods, you better choose crispy kale chips! Who knew the sturdy leafy greens could be made into crispy chips? I discovered this simple recipe when I had an abundance of kale starting to wilt, and needed a quick way to use it up. A Facebook friend said, "Make kale chips!" And, the rest is history! Enjoy!

Crispy Kale Chips
  • Kale, washed and dried
  • Olive oil
  • Coarse sea salt
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Use a sharp knife to trim the tough stems from the centers of each leaf of kale. Arrange the kale on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet making sure not to overlap the greens. Spritz the surface of the kale with olive oil, then sprinkle the greens with coarse sea salt.

Bake the kale in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the leaves are dry and crisp. After the chips cool, enjoy! They will stay fresh in an air-tight container for up to two days -- if you don't finish eating them all in one sitting!

Have you made kale chips? Let me know of any other seasonings you used. I'd like to experiment, but haven't ventured that far yet. Also, have you ever tried making chips from other greens? Please share in the comments below!

Until Next Time,
Choose Healthy!

Angela Tague
Whole Foods Living
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Juicing 101: 5 Tips for Tasty, Healthy Juice

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
I love my juicer! I've had it for a few years and have learned much about tossing fruits and veggies in that little spout. Here are five tips for creating tasty juice.

1. Always peel citrus fruits before juicing. The white pith on the underside of the fruit skin makes homemade juice taste bitter.

2. After washing carrots, you can juice the whole thing: greens and all!

3. Mixing fruits and vegetables is a good thing. Some vegetables are bland or bitter when juiced. Try adding an apple to sweeten your veggie drink.

4. Only make as much juice as you'll drink in a day, or a serving. The longer you store the juice, the less nutrients it retains.

5. Don't throw away fibrous vegetable remains inside the juicer. Use this to make soup stock!

Do you have tips for making great, fresh juice? Please share in the comments below!

Until Next Time,
Choose Healthy!

Angela Tague
Whole Foods Living
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