“Good for You” by Williams Sonoma Cookbook Review

I just returned the cookbook “Good for You (Williams-Sonoma): Easy, Healthy Recipes for Every Day” by Dana Jacobi to the library and I already have plans to borrow it again!

I am a fan of Williams Sonoma publications, and this was no exception. It offers information as well as recipes, a lot of which are available on their web site.

The first chapter “start with the plant” offers a brief reference to each food group, such as “cabbages & crucifers” which enlightens the reader to the wonderful benefits of bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, napa cabbage and cauliflower.

The book offers a lot of nutritional snippets that I was happy to learn!

Did you know that red cabbage gives you twice as much vitamin C as green cabbage? And that kale beats broccoli in beta-carotene and carotenoid content as well as vitamin A and calcium? And that oregano has the highest antioxidant level of all herbs?

Then there were recipes, which were divided into Breakfast, Main dishes, Sides & snacks, and Desserts. At the end of the book, there are two pages of “Basics” which covers recipes like gremolata, pesto, and homemade yogurt.

Some of the inspiring recipes I found were:
Butternut squash and pears with Rosemary,
Spaghetti squash with garlic, oregano, and Parmesan
and Olive oil chocolate mousse, which utilizes olive oil instead of cream!

I returned “Good for You” to the library only because someone else requested it. Otherwise, I’d be keeping it for another few weeks! It’s worth a check-out for sure! Recommended!

I love reading cookbooks, like some people love reading novels! I am inspired by recipes, and enjoy learning ideas from cookbooks, which means I’d rather put my own spin on a recipe than follow it exactly. Please keep in mind that my opinions might be completely different from the other home cooks.

Why Non-GMO Takes So Long

I just read an article from the NYT this morning that does a great job explaining why products with non-GMO ingredients can’t happen as quickly as everyone wants, or as quickly as *I* want! ;)


Right now, there’s a scramble for companies to obtain non-GMO ingredients, since there are now a couple dozen states that are pending GMO ingredient labeling. Instead of admitting that their products have Genetically-altered ingredients (oh the horror!), food companies feel it’s much better to switch to all non-GMO. I guess it’s like the scarlet “A” of food! haha!

Anyway, there’s still some talk that non-GMO will cost more, but truthfully, once farmers are on board, it’ll all work out eventually, because they will be a greater need for GMO-free products, so farmers will naturally switch…the problem is, it’s not easy to transition, because of the soil. Which perfectly proves the point that GMO is NOT good for farming!

I found it also very interesting that food companies feel that to switch from say GMO corn to non-GMO corn would result in further product testing because of changes to taste, consistency and mouth feel of the product. All along, hasn’t Monstanto been saying that there’s no difference? That it’s safe and “natural” just like regular corn?

The one part of the article that really scared me was that companies could be forced to obtain their ingredients from overseas, which means more food from Asia! I really hope that doesn’t happen! Farmers need to start to transition NOW because it’s going to happen.

One way or another, GMO labeling is going to come! Hurray! VOTE with your FORK!

Library Monday

I thought this would be a light week when I found a copy of the “China Study Cookbook” on the library “new” books table.

But when I visited Whole Foods Market Saturday, I couldn’t resist stopping at the local library and I found a few more fun books to borrow.

The Food Matters Cookbook by Mark Bittman – Adding to my Bittman collection from last week (Food Matters and Kitchen Express) I’m always looking for inspiration for low-meat and meatless dinners.

The year-round vegetable gardener by Niki Jabbour – this book’s cover jumped out at me, with her greens surrounded by snow! I was recently in a discussion with my husband about finding a way to re-purpose old glass windows into a cold frame for winter veggies.
Seamus Mullen’s hero food by Seamus Mullen – found this on the new books shelf. Browsing through it, there was mention of Vermont, so I was hooked.
Techniques of healthy cooking by the Culinary Institute of America – I am not usually a fan of “diet” books, but this one was in agreement that lowfat diets just don’t work, and it’s the way you use fat that’s important. So I’m giving it a looksie. PLUS, wow can you believe they’re selling it on amazon for almost $50!!! This is one reason I cherish my library so much!

Library Monday

This weekend, I borrowed a few more books from the library. What would I do without my library!

Oldies but goodies:

Put ‘Em Up by Sherri Brooks Vinton (and I just noticed that she now has a a new Fruit book!)
The Smitten Kitchen by Deb Perelman- read my review!
Food Matters by Mark Bittman
Kitchen Express by Mark Bittman

New to Me:
Delicious Simplicity by Anna Tourkakis
and Gwyneth Paltrow’s new controversial book It’s All Good

The author of Delicious Simplicity, Anna Tourkakis, was speaking at a nearby library this morning, so I was lucky to find her book at one of the local libraries beforehand. She had a lot of good recipes and ideas. My mother and my mother-in-law both came with me to the talk.

I didn’t agree with everything the author said, but for the most part, she was giving good advice to everyone. I let my mother in law take the library book home so she could look at it. I think she needs it much more than me, and I hope she can get some good ideas from it, especially on grains and salads and such.

Anna made a quinoa salad for us. She cooked the quinoa in chicken stock, which is such a good idea, something I always forget to do! Then she added raisins, dried cranberries, and sliced almonds. It was so simple and delicious. The stock really adds a boost of flavor; even my picky mom liked it! ;)

Salem NH Farmers Market

Drove up to the Salem NH Winter/Spring Farmers Market this morning. It was the last market of the season, so I really wanted to check it out.

There was a good selection of products, but probably not as much as previous weeks.

There was even raw dairy products: cheese, milk, cream, buttermilk, kiefer, yogurt, cottage cheese, etc. from Brookford Farm. I was tempted, but I didn’t partake. Isn’t it funny how we become so brainwashed by the govt to be scared of certain food products. Maybe this summer, I’ll get brave enough to try raw milk!

From Arrowhead Farm, I bought some awesome tender young swiss chard and mizuna greens (each batch was $3.75). The chard was excellent in my salad for lunch today! They had a very diversified selection of greens, including tatsoi, mustard, and lettuces. They even sell mushrooms!

I also purchased a dozen eggs from Hurd Farm for $5.

I’m really looking forward to summer! Life is good!

Gardening Diary: Peas, Beets, Greens, Plus 2013 Plans

I planted my first seeds a week ago Monday (May 6th) so I figured I’d better post something, along with some gardening plans.

I had three rows of garden last season, along with countless containers. This season, I’m planning on the three rows, and a few containers.

In the row that grew tomatoes last season, I planted my cool-weather crops.

Peas, Beets, Asian Greens

I had opened pea seed packs from last season, so I used those up first. This time I set up the trellises first and then planted the seeds in front and back of each trellis. Last season, my pea plants were all over the place, and they were a jumbled mess.

So, one small row of shell peas in front of first trellis, and snap peas in back of the shell peas, and then more snap peas in two rows front and back of the second trellis. Next week, for the remaining two trellises, I will plant a new batch of snap peas, to help stagger the harvest times.

shell and snap pea sprouts garden May 2013

From last season’s opened seed-packs, I planted beets on the far right end, and then scattered Asian mixed greens seeds over the middle area.

Asian greens just starting to peek:
asian mixed greens from seeds garden May 2013
Beet greens popping up:
beets from seeds garden May 2013

The oregano plant looks awesome again this season. It’s so easy to grow, and it just keeps coming back. This will be the third season!

oregano plant garden May 2013

Here’s a full shot of the garden:
full view of garden May 2013
It’s difficult to see the first two wire trellises for the peas, but they are on the far left, first row, next to the white trellises.

My plan for the summer is to plant pickling cukes, tomatoes, cabbage, green beans, more beets, and perhaps peppers. I had such bad luck with the peppers last year, I am not sure if I want to try again.

I’m thinking tomatoes along the back fence, and I’d love to put the cukes in the front row, maybe dispersed with the greens and beets. I wonder, by the time the cukes are spreading out, the greens will be spent? I’ll have to look back at my last season photos and figure out how big the cuke plants were in late June.

My containers from last season are a mess with all sorts of weeds growing in them. I’m thinking of removing all weeds, dumping all the soil into my wheel barrow, mixing it up, maybe adding some compost, then adding it back to the containers for new plants.

Anyone have any ideas or plans for their veggie garden this summer? Life is good!

I Gave In – Strawberries That Aren’t Local

I usually don’t purchase strawberries unless they are local or CA organic. Today, I caved. Hannaford was having a 2/3.00 sale so I bought one pack. It’s been slim pickin’s around here with apples and oranges going out of season, and I desperately needed fruit.

So tonight we’ll feast on long-traveled, pesticide-sprayed California strawberries. I’m sure they will be delicious, despite my horrible assessment of them! ha!

Local berry season can’t come quickly enough!

UPDATE: The strawberries were good. I sliced them and mixed them with fresh-cut pineapple. There was enough for us to have a bowl for lunch today too!

Library Monday

I’ve decided to start a weekly series of posts regarding my weekly library finds.

Today, I scored!

As I walked in, I noticed a copy of “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” by Julia Child in the donated book box. How can you beat spending 50 cents for a classic!? It’s in great condition and inside it states that it’s the 14th printing from 1967! I’m thrilled!

I also borrowed two old standbys: “Jamie at Home” by Jamie Oliver and Michael Pollan’s “Food Rules” along with “What to Eat” by Marion Nestle, which I didn’t finish last time I borrowed it.

When Did Cream Become Something Else?

I purchased a carton of “heavy cream” the other day, and was shocked when I looked at the list of ingredients.

It’s not just cream anymore, it’s a bunch of other stuff too, like carrageenan, diglycerides, and polysorbate 80.

Here’s the ingredients list from Hood brand heavy cream:


I had previously read about specifically avoiding “whipping cream” because it could have extra emulsifiers, but I truly thought you could still buy 100% pure cream. Not anymore. Even Organic Valley and Stoneyfield brands both contained carrageenan!

What’s wrong with this picture!?

Thankfully, there is a local dairy farm (Shaw Farm) that does sell cream, and other milk products, including non-homogenized whole milk. I will be looking into their products from now on!

PS: The heavy cream WAS very easy to whip into whipped cream, using my Kitchenaid mixer. It was actually the first time I attempted it! It did not get watery, I assume that was due to the additives. It was delicious though and everyone enjoyed it.

UPDATE: Good news, I was at Trader Joe’s the other day, and they sell cream that was JUST CREAM. Unfortunately no organic offering though, but I believe it’s rBGT free.

I also found the local Shaw’s Farm sells cream at a farmstore I visit, so I might try theirs next.

My Healthy Food Budget: Month End April, 2013 + 6 Month Update

April Week 4 Healthy Food Budget: $103.47 spent, for a total of $381.98 for the month. (See below for 6 month update)

Yay! I was able to stick to a lower budget this month! Awesome!

I have to admit I sort of cheated…but not really. I needed fruit (for one last day of April). But why waste fuel for a second trip to the store a day or two later when I could pick up everything in one shot (including some non-grocery items). I applied just what I needed to April’s budget, and will carry the rest over to May.

My plan for purchasing local flour this week was put on hold for now. I had plenty of Bob’s Red Mill flour, so better to be frugal and eat from my pantry instead.

DH was craving fried seafood (he works so hard, I can’t say no), so we splurged with a larger-than-normal-take-out dinner. I had a coupon for $10 off a purchase of $45 or more, so I added in a small Italian calzone to freeze for a dinner next month.

My pantry is getting really low! I was shocked to find I only had a few tablespoons of brown rice left, and I used the last of the quinoa. I’m going to need grains in May for sure. I also ordered (2) coconut oil & (2) coconut cream (BOGO) from Tropical Traditions and tuna will be delivered from Amazon, so that will also be a big hit to my May spending.

March Food Spending

Dining Out: $61.02 / Total $140.43
Groceries: $42.45 / Total $241.55

Most of my spending this week was for take-out! Wow! Ha! So much for my “unspoken” $100/month dining out budget!

I tried to eat from my freezer and pantry, and hit the grocery store mostly for produce; we still ate very well for the most part!

(Mon) Whole Foods Market & Market Basket $8.92 for Theo 70% chocolate bars, bok choy, and broccoli

(Wed) Market Basket $14.56 for pineapple, asparagus, organic Fuji apples, red grapefruit, minneola oranges, and bananas.

(Wed) Open Meadow Farm $8.32 for yummy boneless pork chops (meat from farm is pre-paid in full, so technically no real money is actually spent, but I apply the cost to my budget as we consume it.)

(Sat) Market Basket $5.79 for mango, grapefruit, minneola oranges, organic Fuji apples, bananas

(Tues) Market Basket $4.86 for grapefruit, avocado, and minneola oranges.

Where I Spent My Grocery Dollars for April: $241.55

Whole Foods 43.51
Trader Joe’s 29.38
Open Meadow Farm 28.77
Amazon.com 28.40
Seven Acres Farm 7.50
Jones Farm 5.60
Aubut’s Liquors 3.00

6 Month Budget Update: $2299.06

Dining Out: $720.96 (31%)
Groceries: $1550.04 (67%)
Supplements/Vitamins: $28.06 (1%)
Total: $2299.06

I’m 6 months into the budget (nov-apr) and so far so good. I’m pretty sure I won’t be able to continue the lower budget totals in the warmer months, but I am hoping to stick to my original $400/month. If not, I’ve got an excess of at least $100 to play with.

It’s comforting to know that my grocery spending is 67% of my food spending and more than double that of my dining out spending. I’d like to continue that trend!

Where I Spent My Grocery Dollars 6 Month Update

Grand Total $1,550.04

MARKET BASKET 393.80 (25%)
Whole Foods 387.36 (24%)
Trader Joe’s 268.73 (17%)
Open Meadow Farm 134.25 (8%)
Amazon.com 65.31 (4%)
Ocean State Job Lot 59.88
Seven Acres Farm 59.75
Mann Orchards 37.04
Wilson Farm 33.24
Winchester Winter Farmers Market 30.65
Brookline Farmers Market 21.70
Tropical Traditions 20.97
Four Star Farms 15.00
iHerb.com 13.27
Hannaford 11.04
Jones Farm 5.60
Vitacost 4.94
Penzeys Spices 4.25
Aubut’s Liquors 3.00
Credits (20.73)

Interesting that Whole Foods and Market Basket are just about even. Soon, I’ll be heading to local farms more, so the % of Whole Foods spending will surely go down in the next half.

All in all, it’s been a very good 6 months. We’re eating well, with regular decadent splurges thrown in. Life is good!

About My Healthy Budget

My healthy budget goal is to eat seasonal (local if possible,) home-cooked meals while sticking to a $400 $385 monthly budget for all food including groceries, dining out, entertaining, vitamins/supplements, and gardening.

There’s two of us eating (mostly) 3 meals per day. DH occasionally eats take-out lunch at work, & that $ comes out of his personal cash stash.