Posts Tagged With: food

What’s really in that sweetener?


I have a teensy weensy obsession with coffee (as if you didn’t already know that from posts like this one and this one).

I also prefer that my coffee taste like a candy bar, so I tend to load it up with flavored creamers and fake sugar. Naughty. Although I do consider myself a bit of a health nut, I just can’t seem to break this habit and switch to black coffee. Bitter… icky…boring…ugh. Can’t do it.

My little cancer packet of choice has always been Sweet ‘N Low, as it tends to be the sweetest of the many brands in the “fake sugar” category. I wanted to fully understand my addiction, so I did a little research on the various artificial sweeteners and their effects.

  • The artificial sweetener in Sweet ‘N low is saccharine, which is an organic molecule created out of petroleum (whoa) and introduced in the early 20th century. In the ‘70’s, animal studies found that it caused cancer in several organs and a warning was added to the label. This warning has since been removed but the stigma remains that saccharine is not completely safe for consumption.
  • If you’re more of a NutraSweet or Equal fan, your artificial sweetener of choice is Aspartame, which is a combination of phenylalanine and aspartic acid with methanol (2 amino acids). The FDA has done a number of safety evaluations of Aspartame, and reports have come back free and clear. However, other studies have shown that this sweetener may be an “excitotoxin”, like MSG, which can cause brain damage.
  • Splenda, which is made from Sucralose, may seem to be the least offensive of these first 3 little artificial devils. Sucralose is essentially sugar which has been chemically refined so that our bodies are unable to metabolize it. Thus, it’s calorie-free. Sucralose is also 600 (!) times sweeter than regular sugar.
  • Finally, there’s stevia, which is a calorie free, herb-based sweetener. There’s nothing artificial about it, which immediately gives it a vote up in my book. A number of brands have popped up, including Truvia, Pure Via, Sweet Leaf, Steviva, etc. Stevia is safe for diabetics – it will not spike your insulin levels.


One tidbit I was already familiar with is the fact that many artificial sweeteners “trick” your body into thinking it’s getting sugar. According to, fatty tissues can perceive sweetness, and although artificial sweeteners have no calories, they can cause your metabolism to slow. This tricks your brain into eating even more calories, which will then be stored as fat. So that mid-afternoon Diet Coke may not be so harmless after all.


The Verdict

Reading up on the various types of artificial sweeteners was a real eye-opener form me. Ideally, we would be able to appreciate our coffee, tea, and baked goods without the aid of sugar or other sweeteners (right!). Unfortunately for many of us, the sweetness is what makes these foods and beverages enjoyable. That tasty morning coffee is one of my favorite reasons to get out of bed in the morning 🙂

For me, it comes down to choosing the lesser of several “evils”. Given the many studies that have pronounced saccharine and aspartame unsafe, I decided to switch my daily sweetener to Stevia (or more specifically, Truvia brand). However, it’s important to read the labels carefully. Many brands contain additives (even Truvia is blended with erythritol – a sugar alcohol). If you’ve just gotta sweeten, pure Stevia would be ideal, along with other natural, unprocessed sweeteners such as honey and agave nectar. I do feel better knowing that the first thing I put in my body every morning is not chemically processed. See ya later, Sweet ‘N Low.


What’s your favorite sweetener? 

Categories: Miscellaneous Musings, More Eats | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Foodie Pen Pals – September

It’s foodie pen pals time again!

This time around, I was paired up with Patti, who blogs over at Heavy Girl to Healthy Girl, and has lost 112 lbs through healthy eating and exercise. WOW! 

Side note: My foodie pen pal for the month was April, who blogs over at April’s Mooseathon. Wanna see what I mailed to April this month?  Head over to her blog and check out her Foodie Pen Pals post!


This month, Patti sent me a super unique and fun package!

1. I mentioned to her that I eat lots of salads and love to try unique and fun salad dressings. She sent me Ken’s Light Raspberry Walnut dressing. mmmmmmm….

2. Fruit and spice flavored tea. I am trying to get into drinking tea (I currently drink WAY too much coffee). This will be great, because I really can only do the sweet or highly flavored teas.

3. Organic spice grinders – one pesto and the other a tuscan spice mix. We have already used these several times in soups and in our ground beef/veggie dinner staple.

4. A set of mini candles, which she says help her relax…agreed!

5. here’s the kicker – Patti sent me weightlifting gloves – whaaaat?  How awesome is she? Somehow she read my mind, because I’ve been meaning to get a pair of these for quite some time now.

Thanks again to Patti for the fun goodies 🙂

…And a special thanks to Lindsay at The Lean Green Bean for coordinating!



Here are some details about Foodie Penpals.  In case you’re a new reader, this is what the program is all about:

-On the 5th of every month, you will receive your penpal pairing via email. It will be your responsibility to contact your penpal and get their mailing address and any other information you might need like allergies or dietary restrictions.

-You will have until the 15th of the month to put your box of goodies in the mail. On the last day of the month, you will post about the goodies you received from your penpal!

-The boxes are to be filled with fun foodie things, local food items or even homemade treats! The spending limit is $15. The box must also include something written. This can be anything from a note explaining what’s in the box, to a fun recipe…use your imagination!

-You are responsible for figuring out the best way to ship your items depending on their size and how fragile they are. (Don’t forget about flat rate boxes!)

-Foodie Penpals is open to blog readers as well as bloggers. If you’re a reader and you get paired with a blogger, you are to write a short guest post for your penpal to post on their blog about what you received. If two readers are paired together, neither needs to worry about writing a post for that month.

-Foodie Penpals is open to US & Canadian residents.  Please note, Canadian Residents will be paired with other Canadians only. We’ve determined things might get too slow and backed up if we’re trying to send foods through customs across the border from US to Canada and vice versa.

If you’re interested in participating, please CLICK HERE to fill out the participation form and read the terms and conditions.

Categories: Miscellaneous Musings, More Eats | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Ashley’s State Fair Food Wish List 2012

The Minnesota State Fair is one of our must-do activities each summer. Our primary goal is to find all of the wacky foods on our list.  With over 450 different foods and more than 60 of them on a stick, it’s one big artery-clogging haven for gluttony.


On Sunday, we’re going to join the nearly 2 million other visitors at the State Fair. After the food, the  2nd most fun part about the fair is the people-watching. Some seriously interesting people come out of the woodwork to gawk at farm animals and ride the tilt-a-whirl every year. We have a WHOLE DAY to play this year…normally we go on a weekday evening and barely have enough time to find our deep fried goodness before things start to shut down. I fully intend on rides, swine barns, music, beer, and a sunburn this time around! But this post is about food, so I digress…

The Minnesota State Fair website has a handy dandy little “Food Finder” tool that helps nerds like me figure out what they want in advance. Every year, I pick out some funky new foods I want to try. Here are my choices…I’ll have to do a follow-up post and let you know if my belly was big enough to fit all of this stuff.


Fair Food #1: Gluten Free Risotto Poppers from French Meadow Bakery & Café.

–       Located on Carnes Ave. & Underwood St., across from WCCO Radio

Fair Food #2: Porcupine Meatballs on a Stick from Giggles Campfire Grill (pork meatballs with wild rice)

–       Located at Cooper St. & Lee Ave. in The North Woods

Fair Food #3: Eggplant Caramelos (tacos) from Sonora Grill

–       Located at Midtown Global Market inside the Bazaar, east wall

Fair Food #4: Bruschetta Bites from MN Wine Country

–       Located on the West side of Underwood between Carnes and Judson


Fair Food #5: Sweeties Delight (Mashed Sweet Potatoes on a Stick) from Potato Man and Sweetie

–       Located on the West side of Liggett, south of the Midway


Fair Food #6: Red Velvet Funnel Cake from Smoothies & Jurassic

–       Located on Murphy Ave. across from Pet Center



These are foods that we have tried before, but are so insanely good we absolutely CANNOT leave without eating them. It would be a crime.

–       Sweet Martha’s Cookies: a huge bucket of them. They are so soft and greasy. I guarantee my husband will have eaten at least half the bucket before we get home. Located on the South side of Carnes between Nelson and Underwood

–       Grilled Corn on the Cob: Located on the southeast corner of Nelson and Dan Patch

–       Pulled Turkey Sandwich from Turkey to Go. OHMYGOODNESS. If I could eat only one fair food item, this would be it. I don’t know if it’s marinated in a bucket of butter or what, but it sure tastes like it. Juicy, delicious turkey. Mmmmmm…Located on the East side of Clough between Judson and Carnes.


What are YOUR favorite fair foods?  Are there any that are not on my list that I should really try this year? Am I going to have a coronary before I get home on Sunday?

Categories: Miscellaneous Musings, More Eats | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Goat cheese and Chicken Primal Pizza

My husband and I follow a generally Primal diet. We eat mainly meat, veggies, fruit, and nuts, and try to avoid processed carbohydrates wherever possible. Excessive carbs like bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, etc. are just not necessary for human function, and <<I believe>> are a major contribution to obesity and diabetes in our society, and the reason the Standard American Diet is such an epic failure. OK, rant over. I”m sure future blog posts will contain far more detailed info, but I wanted to give you a brief background.

For endless irrefutable evidence supporting the  paleolithic/primal lifestyle, visit my favorite blog on the internet and snoop around for awhile.

A chief reason I wanted to create this blog is to share some of the healthy primal recipes we create that substitute primal-friendly ingredients for all that unnecessary gunk that is making us fat!

Here’s one we made last week and I’m proud to say it was a SUCCESS.

Cauliflower Crust Pizza with Goat Cheese, Chicken, Mushrooms, and Red Peppers

Yield: one 9-12 inch pizza  / Prep time: 25 min/ Cook time: 18 min



  • 1/2 large head cauliflower (at least 2 cups shredded)
  • 1 cup finely shredded mozzarella
  • 3 cloves minced fresh garlic
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion salt
  • 1/2 cup organic tomato sauce
  • 1 cup crumbled goat cheese
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 1 package sliced baby portabella mushrooms
  • 3/4 diced red bell pepper


1. Pulse cauliflower in the food processor. Don’t blend – you want crumbles (at least 2 cups – make more if you want a bigger ‘za. This one makes only enough for 2).

2. Microwave crumbled cauliflower for 8 minutes and allow to cool.

3. Preheat oven to 450. Grease your pizza pan or cookie sheet. While you’re waiting, Dice the chicken and red bell peppers. Saute with the mushrooms until cooked through and set aside.

4. Mix the cooked cauliflower with all other crust ingredients and pat into a crust on the pan. Brush the top with butter or spray with nonstick spray. bake 15 minutes or until golden brown on top. Remove the crust from the oven and crank it to broil.

5.  Spread tomato sauce on the crust and add chicken, mushrooms, red peppers, and goat cheese. Broil for 4-5 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Cut and serve!

*Note: this pizza is more conducive to a fork than your typical pick-up-and-eat ‘za. 


Categories: Recipes | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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