Springfield Missouri Cashew Chicken Recipe

My husband is the Springfield Missouri native who introduced me to their version of cashew chicken. While it is excellent, I have never had cashew chicken like theirs anywhere else. It's a very simple dish. Rice, either white or fried, is topped with crispy bite sized pieces of white meat chicken, cashews, scallions, and a hearty brown sauce with a hint of Asian flavor. When I first tried the dish it tasted like the eastern cuisine was perfectly fused with good ol' southern comfort food. Some may say I'm crazy but the sauce tasted like it had a hint of beef gravy in it.

Those who have lived in Springfield Missouri often crave this local dish.  For those people I know who have moved away their cashew chicken craving has only been met whenever they return to Springfield. There have been numerous occasions when my husband has said, "I'm craving cashew chicken". So I finally decided to search the internet for a recipe. I came across a few recipe variations and after a few attempts in the kitchen my husband says it's near perfect. I asked what was missing and he couldn't come up with anything other than a request that I make the fried rice that goes with it. When I asked him what is in the fried rice he didn't know. So that will be my next Springfield culinary adventure.


Chicken Preparation

3-4 Chicken Breasts
2 cups of All-Purpose Flour
1/2 teaspoon of Pepper
1 teaspoon of Salt
1 Tablespoon of Corn Starch
3 eggs mixed with a Tablespoon of cold water

Combine the dry ingredients. Cut the chicken into 1 inch pieces and dredge them in the flour mixture. Then coat them with egg and dredge them with flour again. I like using 2 slotted spoons, 1 in the flour and 1 in the egg, to shake off the excess and help keep my hands clean.

Use peanut, safflower, or any neutral flavored oil suitable for deep frying. Insert a candy thermometer into the oil if you don't have a deep fryer. Using my gas stove with settings from 1-10 a setting of 5 allows me to keep the oil between 325-350 F. Don't leave hot oil unattended and also make sure there is room in the pan for the oil to expand without boiling over. Fry the chicken in batches until the crust is golden brown. When the chicken is lightly browned remove it from the oil with a slotted spoon and put it on paper towels to absorb excess oil.

While the oil is heating up to fry the chicken prepare the sauce.

Sauce Preparation

4 cups of Chicken Broth
3 Tablespoons of Oyster Sauce*
4 Tablespoons of Soy Sauce**
4 Tablespoons of Corn Starch dissolved in 1/3 cup of cold water

Bring the broth, oyster and soy sauces to a boil and then add the corn starch mixture. Stir the mixture well and then turn the heat down and let the sauce simmer. I didn't have chicken broth so I used water and organic chicken bouillon.

*The first time I made the dish I bought Cantonese oyster sauce because it was the only oyster sauce on this particular grocery store's shelf. I'd never bought oyster sauce before so I didn't know there was a difference. The Cantonese sauce is slightly sweeter than regular oyster sauce. If you only have Cantonese sauce it will still taste good but the dish tastes more authentic if regular oyster sauce is used. I was easily able to find regular oyster sauce at another supermarket.

**Last year I learned that soy sauce is primarily made of wheat. So out of curiosity I purchased Tamari which is soy sauce that is actually made from soy. The two sauces taste similar but I'd say the Tamari doesn't taste as strong as the soy sauce does. I haven't made this dish with the soy sauce which is made from wheat so that may be the flavor my husband suspects may be missing. I also used low-sodium Tamari. Since I've only had Springfield Cashew Chicken a few times the sauce tasted great to me but my husband thought it needed some salt. I would imagine if either sauce is used with full sodium content salt wouldn't have to be added.

When half of the chicken is cooked add 1/2 of a 9oz can of cashews to the sauce and they'll soften a bit by the time all of the chicken is cooked.

To assemble: On top of rice add chicken, top with cashew sauce, and then finish with fresh chopped scallions.


Garden Update: Dogs, Grubs, and Beer, Oh My!

Although I've never planted a garden larger than a few vegetables I don't consider myself to be completely clueless when it comes to growing plants. After college I worked as a soil toxicologist and my job was to germinate seeds in Superfund soils. If I can get seeds to sprout in various forms of toxic dirt, the store bought organic dirt should be a breeze. Right?

When I transplanted the seeds I sprouted indoors the weather was pretty warm for a few days. I watered the plants each night and they were looking good. After a few days I noticed some of the leaves were missing and others had a few yellow spots. Within a week I noticed that the beans which gave me trouble indoors quickly took off. Whereas the cucumbers were beginning to look like they were struggling. The cucumbers eventually wilted and died. I lost one of the tomato plants and the basil. The zucchini and carrots sprouted and everything else was looking good.

My husband put up a temporary fence to divide our back yard in half. On one side we have 2 Labradors and the other side is for our toddler to play along with the garden. Since we hope to move sometime in the next 5 years we didn't want to invest in a legitimate fence. This is how well the fence worked:

So, naturally I didn't realize my Labrador could get into the garden until it was too late. I took my morning stroll out to the garden to find it filled with foot prints and several missing plants. He either ate the plants, broke them off, and I'm pretty sure he marked a little territory in the garden as well. The plants he did not eat were yellow and wilted which lead me to believe they succumbed to dog urine. Talk about frustration. All of my hard work vanished in one night, except for the carrots.

Determined to grow a garden this year I went back to the hardware store and purchased a 4' galvanized wire fence. I attached it to the existing fence stakes with zip ties so now there is a double fence border between the dogs and the rest of the yard.

While I was at the hardware store I also purchased 2 heirloom tomato plants, a cayenne pepper plant, 4 bell pepper plants, and 4 basil plants. Some of the other veggies weren't much bigger than what I knew I could grow in a week so I simply decided to plant the seeds directly into the garden.

A few mornings later I went out to water the garden and I found a white grub on top of the soil and some disheveled looking leaves, especially on the basil. I took an empty plastic applesauce container and pushed it into the soil and filled it with beer to catch some grubs. I'm now up to 2 containers and this is what I find after a few days of letting the beer sit:

The grubs crawl into the beer and drown. Sadly I think I'm going to have to create a beer garden to keep up with them. They've taken out 1 basil plant and significantly impacted the other 3 just like the one shown below.

The grubs are also feasting on the lettuce which is planted on the opposite diagonal of the raised garden bed.

I did a little research yesterday and also asked the Urban Organic Gardener that I follow on Facebook for some advice. Since grubs typically stay in one location beer will work but since they seem to be all over my garden it was recommended that I apply Beneficial Nematodes. They're essentially worms that prey on destructive garden pests but they don't have any affect on the good bugs. A pesticide would kill both the good and bad bugs and I don't want to eat pesticides either. Since I purchased all of my garden soil I'm wondering if there may not have been many nematodes. They are naturally found in soils all around the world so one would think they would be present. I'm happy that they work by disintegrating the pests from the inside out so I won't have to continually dispose of dead bugs like I do now.  Yuck! 

So, how do you know if you have grubs if you aren't lucky enough to find one on top of the soil like I did. They leave a slime trail on the surface of the soil and plants that glistens when the sun shines on it. I've always noticed these trails first thing in the morning since they dry out during the day. 

Although this garden has been frustrating at times there are some plants that are doing well which have made it well worth the trouble this far.

Organic green onions I bought at the supermarket and planted; one of the best ideas I found online. The cayenne pepper plant is in the center just behind the 2nd and 3rd green onion. On the left are a few of the bell pepper plants and in the top right corner is a small tomato plant from a seed I planted. 

So, I'm off to find some beneficial nematodes for the garden. Although I planted some lettuce and basil seeds in flower pots I'm considering moving the basil from the garden to a pot as well. The grubs will not get the best of me and my garden : )


Which Foods are Considered to be "Natural"

I may be a little behind in the news but I just learned the Kashi brand uses genetically modified ingredints, otherwise known as GMO's. While watching one of their commercials this afternoon a very bubbly girl with a hippie vibe similar to my own was bragging about the whole grains found in the cereal. The term whole grain seems to be stamped on everything lately in an order to urge consumers to buy these products. Even highly sugared cereals have a whole grain banner across the top of the box. Do they really think whole grains are still healthy when they're coated with sugar? Or are Americans so naive and blind that they will buy anything with a whole grain stamp?

Even if a product is made with whole grains what is the likelihood it isn't genetically modified? In the figure below you will see:

  • 94% of planted acres of soybeans are GMO's
  • 65-72% of planted acres of corn are GMO's
So unless the package says a product isn't genetically modified or organic it has most likely been modified.


I consider myself to be a fairly reasonable person. If companies want to grow GMO's to make batteries, diapers, and biofuel I can stand behind that. However, to feed something to children who are developing the organs they will have for the rest of their life, I have a pretty large issue with. GMO's have only been around since the mid 1990's so no one is certain about the long term health effects that my result from their daily consumption. According to the Code of Federal Regulations, CFR,  21 CFR 170.3 i, safety in reference to food is defined as the following:

(i) Safe or safety means that there is a reasonable certainty in the minds of competent scientists that the substance is not harmful under the intended conditions of use. It is impossible in the present state of scientific knowledge to establish with complete certainty the absolute harmlessness of the use of any substance. Safety may be determined by scientific procedures or by general recognition of safety. In determining safety, the following factors shall be considered: 
(1) The probable consumption of the substance and of any substance formed in or on food because of its use. 
(2) The cumulative effect of the substance in the diet, taking into account any chemically or pharmacologically related substance or substances in such diet. 
(3) Safety factors which, in the opinion of experts qualified by scientific training and experience to evaluate the safety of food and food ingredients, are generally recognized as appropriate.

So, we can say with reasonable certainty that substance "X" is safe. I'm sure that can be said about many food additives. If it is eaten randomly the majority of the people won't suffer from any adverse reactions. What about the people who aren't in the majority? Safe should mean 100% safe otherwise it should be called relatively safe or reasonably safe. People have a right to know what is in their food and how it is affecting their body. I'm old enough to remember America before there was an obesity epidemic. 

Did you know there are nearly 4,000 food additives approved by the FDA for use in the US? Even if each of those additives are reasonably safe what about substance "X's" interaction with the other 3,999? It begins to turn into a complex equation that cannot be solved. 

Another term which is often found on food packaging is "natural". What does natural mean? According to the FDA's website:

What is the meaning of 'natural' on the label of food?

From a food science perspective, it is difficult to define a food product that is 'natural' because the food has probably been processed and is no longer the product of the earth. That said, FDA has not developed a definition for use of the term natural or its derivatives. However, the agency has not objected to the use of the term if the food does not contain added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances.

Reading the above statement I began to wonder what is considered to be a synthetic substance. The term sounds vague so I kept digging. From the FDA website I uncovered the definitions of synthetic and nonsynthetic. I stumbled upon these terms in a docket where The Sugar Association Citizen Petition wanted the FDA to distinguish between regular sugar and high fructose corn syrup. According to the code of federal regulations and FDA's interpretation of the codes high fructose corn syrup is considered to be "all-natural". Follow one of the links below to get the full story.

Synthetic.  A substance that is formulated or manufactured by a chemical process or by a process that chemically changes a substance extracted from naturally occurring plant, animal or mineral sources, except that such term shall not apply to substances created by naturally occurring biological processes

Nonsynthetic (natural) .  A substance that is derived from mineral, plant, or animal matter and does not undergo a synthetic process as defined in section 6502(21) of the Act (7 U.S.C.  6502(21)).  For 
purposes of this part, nonsynthetic is used as a synonym for natural as the term is used in the Act. 



Growing an Herb Garden

If you've never grown an herb I urge you to pick your favorite one to grow and use it in your cooking. Once you've become accustomed to cooking with herbs growing right outside your door you won't be able to cook without them. Cooking with fresh herbs gives food flavor without adding a lot of salt or sugar. Plus, herbs are actually good for you.

Perennial Herbs


Thyme (source)

Used in many savory dishes it grows well in a sunny environment and doesn't need any special attention. Although I live in southern Idaho it doesn't get horribly cold here in the winter. When I'm preparing meals for  Thanksgiving or Christmas I'm still able to use the Thyme growing outside.


Sage (source)

Similar to Thyme it grows very well in a hot and dry environment. The annual rainfall where I live is a mere 12 inches a year and we average 201 sunny days a year. On the outskirts of town sage is one of the few plants that survives. I think sage is also pretty so I've planted some in front of my house. The green leaves have a hint of silvery gray and the plant develops royal purple flowers in late summer.


Oregano (source)

My oregano is planted by the edge of the covered patio. It receives the hot afternoon sun and an occasional watering from the sprinklers. Over the years the patch has grown at a rate typical of most plants but I'm definitely not worried about it taking over the garden.


Mint (source)
On the other hand, be careful where you plant mint because it is likely to take over a garden bed. The north side of the house receives a few early morning hours of sunshine but is shaded the rest of the day. Since I have difficulty growing most things in this location I planted mint hoping it would take over. It has done well but it hasn't filled in the bed as quickly as I would have liked. Granted, I only put in a few small plants and expected them to fill a bed nearly the length of the house. Once a year the dried limbs should be broken off. The dry limbs have seeds for new plants so if you want more mint plant accordingly otherwise throw it away. If you put it in the compost you'll have mint growing wherever you spread your compost.

Lemon Balm

Lemon Balm (source)
A friend dug up a little of this plant from her garden and it has spread pretty quickly through mine. Although it is only planted in the back yard I have found small plants of lemon balm in the front yard. If you pick a leaf off of the plant it smells like lemons. I'm guessing the lemon balm traveled via the blade of the lawnmower or the sole of a shoe. It's very easy to grow and the dried limbs need to be broken off once a year. The dried limbs contain seeds for new plants so keep that in mind if you do or don't want more plants. Much like mint be careful where you plant lemon balm. I've never used lemon balm for cooking but I hear it makes an excellent tea.

Bi-annual Herbs


Rosemary (source)

Rosemary does well with a fair amount of water and sunshine but a plant only lasts 2 years. In order to keep rosemary around a cutting must be made from the plant and used for growing a new plant. I have had a plant dry out due to too much sun and not enough water. (Do they really dry out for any other reason?) I've never generated a new plant from a cutting but I noticed some store bought rosemary developed roots when I stuck the ends in a glass of water. Perhaps this year I'll give it a try because I love rosemary and it is very versatile.

Annual Herbs


Basil (source)

I've planted basil in a few locations but it seems to do well with a lot of sunshine and and water. Much like sage, and thyme it can really take some intense heat. One of the things I love about basil is the more you break off leaves for cooking the more the plant grows. 


Parsley (source)

Planted in a relatively shady spot parsley did very well. I'd say it grew to a bush nearly 2 feet wide. I use fresh parsley from time to time but definitely not often enough to use a bush 2 feet wide. Even with a dusting of snow the parsley remained green well into December. It was definitely tougher than I thought it would be. I planted it on the north side of the house about 1 foot from the foundation so it was fairly well protected.


Cilantro (source)

I love cilantro and it is a crucial ingredient for some of my favorite dishes, however, it's a bit of a high maintenance diva in the garden. When blooms appear they have to be broken off right away if you want to keep the plant growing. Otherwise the blooms turn to seed, the plant dries out, and you're left with coriander. It's great that two herbs come from one plant but you definitely have to know what you're doing to maximize the herb you want.


Dill (source)
When I planted some cucumbers a few years ago I planted dill with hopes of canning some pickles. The cucumbers didn't produce very well in my poor Idaho soil so the pickles were never canned. I used the fresh dill a few times when I was cooking but it isn't an ingredient I use very often. Since fresh dill looks very delicate I planted it in the shade on the north side of the house. It grew to be about 2 feet tall but didn't last very long. The plant produced flowers and similar to cilantro it was done shortly after. If the flowers are removed before they dry the plant will continue to produce new leaves.


Layout for My Raised Garden Bed

Today's high temperature is in the low 80's and I've been anxious to plant my garden. According to my climate zone I'm supposed to wait until the end of May. However, over the next 10 days we're expecting temperatures mostly in the 70's and 80's and no evening temperatures are forecasted to be lower than 40. I'm sure I'm jumping the gun and some of you may or may not agree with me. Based on today's weather I'm figuring I'll have the month of May to keep a close eye out for potential frost. My plan is to watch the weather closely and cover the garden bed if necessary. In the scaled figure below you'll see how I arranged my 8' x 4' raised garden bed.

During the course of the day the sun travels from the bottom right corner in the figure above towards the upper left corner. When I was deciding on the layout I put the taller plants in the back of the bed so the shorter plants in the front hopefully won't be shaded over time.

Here are the varieties I chose:

The tomatoes, jalapenos, bell peppers, redina lettuce, basil, cucumbers, and a few beans were germinated indoors. I had trouble indoors with the watermelon and beans. They both sprouted and then died. I think the self watering seed starter kept the seeds too wet. I took the cover off of the seed starter kit last week and planted a few more beans and those haven't had any problems. Today I planted seeds for watermelon, carrots, nevada lettuce, and zucchini directly into the soil. Here is a photo of the garden before anything was planted today.

The cedar bed came in a kit I purchased at a local home improvement store for $80. Between the cost of
lumber and buying a saw and hardware to build my own I figured it was nearly the same amount of money. I also spend most days, sun up to sun down, with a toddler who wants to "help" no matter what I'm doing. (My husband is a flight paramedic who works long shifts) The kit above was perfect because the pieces easily slid together with dove tail joints and no tools were required. Here is a photo of one corner joint.

More updates on the way : )


Food: Medicine or Poison?


One of my favorite hobbies is finding quotes on Pinterest. I've heard quotes in the past that were similar to the one shown on the left and I believe it is absolutely true. We tend to think once we've passed adolescence or body is "full grown". While you may not grow any taller your organs continuously rebuild themselves. Every 10 years your body makes a new skeleton. The surface of your skin is replaced every 3-4 weeks.

An article in The New York Times, based on the research of Dr. Jonas Frisen, estimates we're really only 7-10 years old. If we're only 10 years old why do people age? Why doesn't your 90 year old grandmother look like she did when she was 10?

In order to understand the aging process we must first look at cell division. When the body's cells undergo cell division, a process called mitosis, the DNA of the cell must first be copied.

Image: Mitosis

Human DNA contains 46 chromosomes. If the DNA isn't duplicated before the cell divides the daughter cells will only have 23 chromosomes. DNA is a critical component to cells because it contains information the cell needs to operate.

While the body is amazing, it isn't 100% perfect. Each time the DNA is copied there is a little which is lost in translation. For example, the bone structure of your grandmother's 90 year old face is slightly different than it was when she was 20 or 30. If you've ever made a photocopy of a picture and then a copy of the photocopy the image begins to lose its clarity. Now, imagine only copying the copy 100 times in a row. By the 100th copy you most likely won't be able to detect the original image. Welcome to the aging process! The foods and beverages we consume play a larger role than filling us up when we're hungry. They determine the health of our future cells and organs. 


Most people have heard of the antioxidant properties of vitamin's A, C, and E. Oxidation is the name for what happens when atoms lose electrons. One electron is all that separates Hydrogen and Helium. Which would you rather hold a match to?

Electrons matter to the chemistry of our body. When an atom or molecule is missing electrons, negatively charged particles, it will try to balance the positively charged protons, found in the nucleus, by "stealing or borrowing" electrons from other atoms. Oxidation is an ongoing process in the body because the body uses oxygen to function. In order to take care of the organism we have to take care of our atoms. There is a hierarchy within the body where each level builds the next: Atoms, Molecules, Cells, Tissues, Organs, Organ Systems, Organism. 
Image: Oxidation and Reduction

A study conducted by the Department of Physiology (Animal Physiology II), Faculty of Biology, Complutense University, Madrid, Spain is one of many that shows oxidation creates inflammation within the 
body. Eating a diet that combats inflammation is important because heart disease, diabetes, alzheimers, 
arthritis, and cancer are now believed to be primarily caused by inflammation. 

Anti-Inflammatory Foods

If you've ever watched Willard Scott announce the Smuckers 100+ birthdays he'll often point out that the people who love to garden seem to live the longest. A diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats, and fish cause the pH of the human body to increase. Loren Cordain's Book, The Paleo Diet, in my opinion offers the best guidance in navigating the food world. Imagine the things you would eat if modern technology didn't exist. Your diet would be full of plants, nuts, and lean meats. Cordain makes an excellent point by showing what cavemen and hunter-gatherers ate. Eating like a caveman is how we are genetically designed to eat. 

When the pH decreases the body is full of inflammation. Here is a list of inflammatory ingredients and some of the reasons I avoid them:
  • Sugar
    • Is found in some unexpected grocery items. I've found high fructose corn syrup in marinara sauces, wheat bread and crackers, and yogurt. For a person who is trying to eat healthy these items certainly sound healthy but upon closer inspection there are healthier options available. Instead of buying marinara sauce I buy canned tomatoes and create my own. I've found that Greek yogurt contains less sugar than traditional yogurt. 
    • I never buy or use ANY artificial sweeteners. The way I see it, my body knows how to metabolize sugar without any difficulty. In my morning coffee or tea I use raw sugar or honey. Although I haven't tried it yet I'm looking forward to getting my hands on some coconut palm sugar I learned about while watching Dr. Oz. It doesn't cause spikes in blood sugar like traditional sugar does. (click here to view palm sugar video at doctoroz.com)
  • Refined Grains
    • When grains are refined they lose their nutritional value. I believe if a food doesn't offer the body some sort of value, why eat it? Many food manufacturers stamp their packages with the phrase "whole grain". It is ironic to me that highly sugared cereals also contain this message. Do people really believe whole grain coated in sugar is healthy? When purchasing wheat bread look for "stone ground" wheat flour as the first ingredient or simply make your own. Here is a link to my Lazy Wheat Bread recipe. 
  • Vegetable Oil Instead of vegetable oil usually made of (corn, soy, or canola) I buy safflower or unrefined coconut oil. The first reason is because corn, soy, and canola are crops that are most likely to be genetically modified. The second reason is that they contain high levels of Omega-6. Omega-3's reduce inflammation and have many health benefits but Omega-6 oils negate the positive benefits of Omega-3's.
  • Trans-fats
    • The term "trans" in chemistry refers to atoms orienting themselves on opposite sides of a molecule. In the figure below you will see hydrogen atoms surrounding a molecule of saturated fat.


      Notice in the figure below some of the blue hydrogen atoms have been removed. Atoms are like people in that they don't like to do a lot of work and they like to be stable. So when a few of the hydrogen atoms are removed notice that the hydrogen atoms in the middle are on opposite sides of the molecule. 
    Trans fats are commonly associated with partially hydrogenated oils. Hence, if you remove some of the hydrogen atoms they will orient themselves on opposite sides of the fat molecule which creates a trans fat.
  • Dairy
    • I've always wondered who was the first person that thought drinking a white excretion from the nether region of another species looked good. We are the only species that drinks milk past infancy and we're encouraged to do so. Asians who eat their traditional diet full of fruits, vegetables, and fish have fewer incidences of osteoporosis than those who consume dairy. When was the last time you had dairy in your favorite Chinese restaurant? In eastern medicine dairy is not the great substance western medicine claims it is. Your stomach contains acids to help digest food. What happens when you mix lemon juice or vinegar in a glass of milk? It curdles. The eastern point of view is that dairy clogs the system. If you want to have strong bones eat green leafy vegetables and exercise. Remember your bones are continuously rebuilding themselves and they make new bone where bones are stressed. Weight bearing exercise is great for building bone strength.
  • Processed and Feedlot Meats
    • There are many reasons I try to avoid processed and feedlot meats. Thankfully my husband is a hunter so I am able to enjoy lean deer or elk throughout the year. Some people theorize that animals kept on these feedlots aren't happy. They never get to roam through a green pasture and stand in fecal matter all day. It matters if you believe in the transfer of energy. An animal that isn't happy and is probably stressed passes those stress chemicals and energy right to your dinner plate. Looking at the number of Americans who are continuously stressed and/or taking anti-depressants, I think there may be something to this theory. If you've never seen the documentary Food Inc I believe everyone should see it. Cows raised on feedlots are fed corn to make them gain weight. In the documentary you will see that corn is found in 90% of the items sold in supermarkets. The cows gain weight eating corn and components of corn are found in nearly everything. I'm really not surprised America has an obesity epidemic. They're feeding us the same stuff they're fattening the cows with. A sad moment in the documentary involves a little boy named Kevin. His family stopped for hamburgers on their way home from vacation. Kevin's burger contained E. Coli and within 2 weeks he passed away. The FDA didn't issue a  recall on the meat that he ate until well after he had passed.
    •  Grass fed beef is a much better choice it is leaner and contains beneficial fats. Also, if a grain fed cow is exclusively fed grass for 1 week 80% of the E. Coli in its system disappears. (Food Inc)
  • Artificial Ingredients
    • I'm old enough to remember America before there was an obesity epidemic. Over the years people have become more sedentary and supermarkets are full of overly processed food. The next time you are in the market read the ingredients of the items you're purchasing. I worked as an analytical chemist for 5 years and I've encountered my fair share of chemicals. There are many that I avoid one I definitely watch out for is BHT. It's found as a preservative in most cereals and crackers. BHT stands for Butylated Hydroxy Tolulene. It is a fine white powder that smells very similar to moth balls. That odor has stuck in my mind for years; it's definitely not natural.
    • The nutrition label may say there are "0g" of trans-fats per serving, but if the ingredient list contains any oils that are "partially hydrogenated" there are trans-fats in that product. If you're not sure what a food ingredient is look it up on Google. This may seem like a daunting task at first but over time we can change our food system. Every purchase you make is a vote and money often has a louder voice than the people do. 

To your health : )



My Healthier Version of Coffee Cake

I have a tendency of looking over a recipe and then changing it to make it my own. Some mornings I crave something sweet with my coffee but I find so many coffee cakes, pastries, and doughnuts are too sweet for my taste. The reason I feel this is a healthier version is because I swapped out a few ingredients and cut the amount of sugar nearly in half. Instead of sour cream I used unsweetened applesauce, I replaced butter with coconut oil, doubled the amount of cinnamon, and used less than half of the sugar the original recipe called for. The original recipe called for 7oz of white sugar and 7oz of packed brown sugar. Instead I measured 7oz of brown sugar without packing it down. 

The Health Benefits of Coconut Oil

Athletes have been using coconut oil because the fat is readily available for energy use. I recently purchased my first jar and despite its name it doesn't have a coconut flavor. I've used it in place of vegetable oil in many dishes. It is one of the ways I introduce something healthy to my skeptical husband. For more information on how coconut oil helps: stress relief, maintaining cholesterol levels, weight loss, increased immunity, proper digestion and metabolism, relief from kidney problems, heart diseases, high blood pressure, diabetes, HIV and cancer, dental care, and bone strength visit Organifacts.net

The Health Benefits of Cinnamon from Organicauthority.com

  1. 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon per day can lower your bad cholesterol (or LDL).
  2. Cinnamon may help treat Type 2 Diabetes by lowering blood sugar levels and increasing the amount of insulin production in the body.
  3. Cinnamon has antifungal properties, and it's been said that candida cannot live in a cinnamon environment. 
  4. Cinnamon can reduce the proliferation of leukemia and lymphoma cancer cells.
  5. Cinnamon has an anti-clotting effect on the blood.
  6. Honey and Cinnamon combined has been found to relieve arthritis pain.
  7. When added to food, cinnamon inhibits bacterial growth and food spoilage, making it a natural food preservative.
  8. Just smelling cinnamon boosts cognitive function and memory.
  9. Cinnamon fights the E. coli bacteria in unpasteurized juices.
  10. Cinnamon has been found to be an effective natural remedy for eliminating headaches and migraine relief.
  11. Cinnamon can also help stabilize blood sugar (which is great for weight loss). A couple of dashes in your morning tea or cereal is all it takes!

Since it is just me and my husband I also cut the original recipe in half. This cake can be baked in a 9 x 9 pyrex or a round cake pan. If you double the recipe use two 9" pans instead of one large pan. The original recipe stated the cake wouldn't cook correctly if all of the batter was added to a large pan.

The Cake (Serves 6 people)

1 1/2 C All Purpose Flour
1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda
1 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1 C Unsweetened Applesauce
7 oz Unpacked Brown Sugar
3 Eggs
3 Tablespoon Melted Coconut Oil

Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl, excluding the flour, and mix by hand. Add the flour last and mix just until it is incorporated. Gluten begins to develop when the flour is added and if it is over mixed the cake will become tough.

Streusel Topping

3/4 C Unpacked Brown Sugar
1/8 C All purpose Flour
2 Tablespoon Melted Coconut Oil
1/2 Tablespoon Ground Cinnamon

Mix the brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon in a bowl with a fork. Drizzle the melted coconut oil into the mixture and continue to stir with the fork until it is the consistency of moist sand. The original recipe called for chopped walnuts in the topping which will give it an Omega-3 boost. I omitted the nuts because I worried my toddler might choke on them.

Pour the cake into a greased 9" pan and top with the streusel. Bake in the center of a 350 F oven for 30-40 minutes.* A toothpick or a knife inserted should come out with a few crumbs on it but not have wet batter.

*When I popped it in my oven I put it on the top rack which seemed too high after 15 minutes because the cake was still very wet. I moved the cake to the bottom rack and it was done by the 40 minute mark.

The Original Recipe on Americastestkitchenfeed.com

UPDATE 4/30/12

It never occurred to me when I wrote this to see if there was a website that calculated ingredients into nutrition facts. Ta-Da! http://recipes.sparkpeople.com/recipe-calculator.asp

The "official" nutrition facts from the website are given further down the page. I apologize for my HTML abilities. Initially the facts were organized one above the other instead of side by side. Since I didn't think that would be very useful I created an image document with the relevant information just below. The facts on the left are for my recipe and the facts on the right are for the original recipe.

Although I didn't add as much sugar and used unsweetened applesauce in place of sour cream my recipe has a higher sugar content. In my opinion all sugars are not created equally. I would much rather receive my sugar from fruits than from granulated sugar. Other than that my recipe has fewer calories, less fat, and more potassium than sodium. Potassium is important because it opposes the effects of sodium in the body.

The Results for My Recipe:

Nutrition Facts

User Entered Recipe
  6 Servings
Amount Per Serving
  Total Fat13.9 g
     Saturated Fat10.6 g
     Polyunsaturated Fat0.7 g
     Monounsaturated Fat1.7 g
  Cholesterol92.5 mg
  Sodium197.3 mg
  Potassium246.7 mg
  Total Carbohydrate80.0 g
     Dietary Fiber2.0 g
     Sugars56.5 g
  Protein6.2 g

  Vitamin A3.3 %
  Vitamin B-124.0 %
  Vitamin B-62.7 %
  Vitamin C1.3 %
  Vitamin D5.0 %
  Vitamin E0.2 %
  Calcium8.5 %
  Copper5.9 %
  Folate3.2 %
  Iron14.5 %
  Magnesium3.1 %
  Manganese16.0 %
  Niacin8.5 %
  Pantothenic Acid    0.4 %
  Phosphorus    7.5 %
  Riboflavin11.7 %
  Selenium1.5 %
  Thiamin10.5 %
  Zinc2.2 %

The Results for the Original Recipe

Nutrition Facts

User Entered Recipe
  12 Servings
Amount Per Serving
  Total Fat25.5 g
     Saturated Fat11.9 g
     Polyunsaturated Fat5.6 g
     Monounsaturated Fat6.5 g
  Cholesterol89.5 mg
  Sodium466.3 mg
  Potassium236.8 mg
  Total Carbohydrate77.0 g
     Dietary Fiber2.2 g
     Sugars49.1 g
  Protein7.6 g
  Vitamin A14.9 %
  Vitamin B-124.0 %
  Vitamin B-64.1 %
  Vitamin C1.1 %
  Vitamin D2.5 %
  Vitamin E3.4 %
  Calcium15.6 %
  Copper11.3 %
  Folate5.0 %
  Iron14.0 %
  Magnesium6.6 %
  Manganese27.1 %
  Niacin10.1 %
  Pantothenic Acid    1.9 %
  Phosphorus    12.4 %
  Riboflavin13.5 %
  Selenium2.8 %
  Thiamin14.2 %
  Zinc3.8 %

*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.