Monthly Archives: April 2015

Review of Premier Home Cotton Marls Yarn

I enjoy crocheting and knitting. I especially enjoy making items that I can sell online and at local craft shows! Crochet dishcloths are items that I make on a regular basis since I sell quite a bit of them. Hence, I go through a lot of cotton yarn!

I’ve tried various brands of cotton yarn over the years and have happily settled with Premier Home Cotton Yarns. If you haven’t given this brand a try, let me encourage you to do so the next time you’re looking for yarn! I’ve already done a complete review of Premier’s cotton yarn. (Click the link to see my earlier post!) This review is focusing on their cotton marl yarns.

About Premier Cotton Yarns
First, the marls yarn is similar to their home cotton yarn, in that it’s made with 85% cotton and 15% polyester. For all you 100% cotton yarn fans, don’t let that little bit of polyester deter you. Actually, I’ve found it to be a great benefit when making home accessories. That little blend of fibers makes the yarn softer and much easier to work with than 100% cotton. AND (and this is a big one to me!) it deters color loss when the item is washed and dried. Really! Furthermore, even though the finished products do shrink a little when washed and dried (which is to be expected), they don’t shrink as much as those made with 100% cotton yarns. I’ve found that my dishcloths made with this yarn hold up much better than those made with the other brands, despite a lot of machine washing and drying. Since I sell the items I make, product quality and longevity means a lot to me because I want to offer the best I can to my customers. This yarn wins, hands down, to me in those respects.

Color Effect of Marls Yarn

4 Strands of Vineyard Marls Yarn

4 Strands of “Vineyard” Marls Yarn

4 Strands of "Denim Jeans" Marls Yarn

4 Strands of “Denim Jeans” Marls Yarn

The marls yarn is colorful in that it is a 4-ply yarn, with each strand (ply) having a different color. The four colors are spun together into one strand of yarn. This yields a different effect in the finished product than standard variegated yarns. It’s colorful, yet uniform throughout. Something different! See the photo below of a dishcloth I made with the “Vineyard” color marl yarn!

Dishcloth made with "Vineyard" marls yarn

Dishcloth made with “Vineyard” marls yarn

Sizes Available
(1) Premier Home Cotton Marls Yarn. This is the smaller skein of yarn, with 2.1 ounces (60 grams, 105 yards) per skein.
(2) Premier Home Cotton Marls Grande Yarn. This is Premier’s larger skein, with 11 ounces (312 grams, 545 yards) per skein.
Both size skeins have the same color options.

Price Point
As you’ll typically find with any multicolored yarn, the price point is a little higher than that of the same brand’s solid colors. This is understandable because of the manufacturing process involved. But, if you compare prices of the various brands, you’ll usually find that Premier yarns are sold for less cost per ounce than the other brands. This is a BIG plus if you’re making items to sell or making a lot of things to give as gifts.

Color Options

Denim Jeans Marls Yarn

“Denim Jeans” Marls Yarn

The color options of the marl yarns are not as many as you might expect. I believe this line is relatively new. So, hopefully Premier Yarns will be expanding their color selection soon!

 

 

Advantages of Using Premier Home Cotton Yarns
I’ve found there are a number of advantages to using Premier cotton yarns:

Softer and more flexible than other cotton yarns
Great scrub-ability in a crochet or knit dishcloth
Easy to wring out (No hurt hands!)
Colorfastness (Which is HARD to come by!)
Easy machine washing/drying with less shrinkage
Faster drying time than other cotton yarns
More economical than other cotton yarns
Unique colors (as with the marls and variegated options)

I hope this information will encourage you to try this brand of cotton yarn if you’re not already using it. Once I did, I was sold and haven’t returned to the other brands (and I don’t intend to!).

Best wishes to all and happy knitting/crocheting!
Judi

Gluten free? AVOID “herb rice” in restaurants!

Many people have gone gluten free by choice. Others MUST choose gluten free options for health reasons. I fit into the later category, although I haven’t been that way my entire life. In recent years I learned I developed a serious health issue that is triggered by eating anything with gluten in it. Hence, I’ve become gluten free. This is NOT a choice for me.

Eating a gluten free meal becomes very challenging when faced with eating out in restaurants. This is particularly so when faced with menu items that appear to be gluten free. One case in point is “herb rice.” I would expect “herb rice” to be rice mixed with specific herbs and flavorings to make a delicious gluten free dish. However, many restaurants serve an “herb rice blend” that is actually a mix of rice, flavorings and orzo, a tiny pasta made from wheat. THAT’S the problem.

Unfortunately, many restaurant workers, “servers” in particular, are uninformed as to what their “herb rice” actually contains. They’re under the impression that it’s just flavored rice. I have been faced with this TWICE now since I’ve been gluten free. Note that I have nothing against the rice blends they use…they’re actually delicious. HOWEVER, they’re not just rice…they’re NOT gluten free. And with the innocent ignorance of waiters/waitresses, wary customers may be served foods they shouldn’t eat. My personal experiences are cases in point.

First, years back when I newly discovered that I should avoid wheat, I was at a restaurant/bar-grill. I choose something with “herb rice” in it, innocently thinking it was just rice. I asked the waitress if it was just rice and gluten free. She insisted that it was just rice, so I ordered it. After eating about half of it, I realized it had orzo in it…wheat pasta. When I spoke with the waitress about it and said I couldn’t eat the dish, she still insisted that it didn’t contain wheat and was only rice. We had a bit of an argument and she finally brought me the box it came in. Of course, when reading the ingredients list, wheat pasta was listed as one of the components (I’m not ignorant when it comes to food and it didn’t take much to find a wheat product in the ingredients list). When I brought this to her attention and asked for something else to replace the rice, we settled on refried beans. She was obviously not happy with me. I was brought a blob of refried beans, straight out of the can and unheated. I told the manager about the episode when we paid for the meal and I got little response in return. Needless to say, we’ve never been back there again.

Secondly, just last night we were at a different restaurant and they presented us with their new spring/summer menu. A wonderful dish was listed and I opted for it. Again, it was served with “herb rice.” I asked the waitress about it and she was very polite in saying she thought it was just rice, but wasn’t certain. I opted for hash browns instead of the rice. (They were out of the rice blend anyway and I was already planning on ordering hash browns since I suspected the “rice” was not just rice.) Nevertheless, the waitress DID offer information for me…the brand name of the blend. I looked it up and here’s the ingredients list…

Parboiled long grain rice, orzo (macaroni product made from wheat flour), salt, autolyzed yeast extract*, onions*, garlic*, turmeric spice which imparts color.

*dried
CONTAINS WHEAT INGREDIENTS

I’m thankful that the waitress was kind enough to at least offer the information to me so I could check for myself. I also appreciated her humbleness in admitting she was not certain of the ingredients. Unfortunately, apparently restaurant owners and chefs don’t inform their workers about these critical aspects of their food. For most patrons, it’s not an issue at all. But for those who MUST avoid certain ingredients, it’s important for the wait staff to be knowledgeable of what’s being served. Sadly, that’s usually not the case, so it’s up to the patron to be informed and wary of what they order.

Unless you really know the restaurant and how they prepare foods, wait for the herb rice until you get home and make it yourself!! Don’t order it in a restaurant.

I hope this information helps someone out there to avoid ordering some food that can cause health issues. Again, if you can eat gluten, the herb rice blend is a delicious option. But if gluten presents a problem, don’t be fooled by the name. It’s not just flavored rice.

Best wishes to all and happy eating,
Judi

How to Choose the Best Olive Oil

We’ve all seen our favorite chefs at work on TV. Most of them use extra virgin olive oil. Why? Because it’s one of the healthiest oils to consume. However, they rarely say what brand they’re using (unless they’re being paid to advertise for that company).

Good quality olive oil can be one of the healthiest oils to use. It helps correct blood cholesterol problems and is high in vitamin E and antioxidants, fighting harmful compounds in the body. Olive oil plays a vital role in the Mediterranean diet, which we know is very healthful.

So…when we get to the grocery store, choosing which olive oil to buy seems about like choosing a breakfast cereal! There are MANY to choose from…too many. It’s just too confusing. So, I’ve done some research to help us all pick the best olive oil from the array we have to choose from at the moment.

It’s important to know that not all olive oils were created equal. In fact, MANY that are typically on our grocery store shelves are not healthful oils at all. Many have been “refined” (a process that involves heat and/or chemical solvents), have been on the shelf for extended periods of time and hence are not fresh, or are older oils that have been blended with fresher oils to mask their rancid flavor. Yuk!

Because eating old or rancid oils is actually damaging to health, I decided to put together a list of things to look for to help you choose which oil is best among those that are available to you at the moment when shopping. There may be higher quality oils out there in wherever-land, but they’re not the ones you’re looking at for the moment when you’re starring at the huge array on the grocery store shelf. You NEED to know which one to choose NOW! Copy this list and carry it with you the next time you shop for olive oil.

First, it’s important to know that ANY extracted oil is highly perishable. Light, heat and oxygen can interact with the oil and cause it to age or even spoil, creating compounds that are harmful to our health. So, keep this fact in mind as you make your way through the steps below.

When at the grocery store…

Put your “blinders” on! First thing, DON’T look at the price right away. IF you shop for price only, you’ll probably choose the cheapest oil on the shelf. Mistake #1. That oil is very likely refined and not the most healthful. That’s not what you want!

Choose oil in a small dark glass bottle (or packaging that shields the oil from light).  Unless you’re going to use a LOT of oil FAST, go for the small size…one that you know you can use up in a relatively short amount of time. Be sure the bottle (glass, not plastic) is dark, helping to protect the oil from damaging light. Otherwise, if you know you need a lot of oil and will be using it up quickly, opt for oil in a large can.

Be sure the cap is sealed and air tight. Well, duh. This should be a “given.” However…it’s worth checking because you never know what you might come across in a grocery store.

Choose “extra virgin olive oil.” Extra virgin is the highest quality olive oil. Now…DON’T take the front label on the bottle for it’s word. Turn the bottle over and look at the ingredients list. It should only say “extra virgin olive oil.” It MIGHT list refined oil and extra virgin olive oil. If it does, put it back on the shelf. It’s a blend of less-than-healthy refined oil, most likely mixed with fresher oil to improve the flavor. Not your best option.

Look for “first cold pressed” or “mechanically pressed.” This is the natural way to extract oil from olives. Otherwise it was probably extracted using heat and/or chemicals, which is not desirable and not the healthiest oil around. Choose a naturally extracted oil.

Some bottles say “organic.” Organic options in most any foods are good. However, “organic” alone with regard to olive oil is NOT the only thing to look for. Check out the other components before deciding that it’s your best option.

Look for quality seals on the label. Not all oils will have them, but they are helpful in ensuring the oil was produced according to set quality standards. Some seals you might see include:

COOC (California Olive Oil Council)
North American Olive Oil Association
International Olive Oil Council
PDO (Protected Designation of Origin…DOP in Italian)
PGI (Protected Geographical Indication…IGP in Italian)

Look for an expiration date or “best by” date. Try to select one with at least a year left before it expires. The further out the date, the fresher the oil. Freshly produced olive oil will last up to 2 years from the time of harvest, IF kept under ideal conditions (which is often not the case). AND we don’t know the time lapse from harvest to production and many dates are based on production dates, so there is some mystery here. So…the more time left in the dating, the fresher the oil.

Look for the producer and place of origin of the olives. Ideally, it’s best to find an oil from olives that were grown, processed and packaged in the same location. However, that would RARELY be found on our grocery store shelves. Just note that oil will be freshest and of higher quality under those circumstances. That translates into less transport time, less chance of spoilage due to less-than-ideal conditions along the way, etc. However, MOST if not all of what we’ll typically find on our grocery store shelves will not meet this criteria. It’s good to look for it anyway. IF you manage to find one…latch onto it!

NOW…After having looked for oils that meet the above criteria…it’s time to compare prices. Now you’ll know you’re getting the best deal on your olive oil AND the most healthful option you have to choose from at the moment.

When you get home…

TASTE the oil when you get it home. Ignore the color because the color will vary depending upon the variety of olive used and when it was picked. The color does NOT reflect the quality of the oil. When tasting, the oil should smell and taste like olives, and should have a slight bitterness and possibly pepperiness. This indicates the presence of the polyphenol compounds…the healthful compounds that we WANT in the oil! Hopefully the oil you selected will meet this criteria. If not, it’s back to the drawing board the next time you shop for oil.

Store your oil wisely. Store it away from light, heat and oxygen (close the bottle quickly after using it). Use it up quickly…don’t try to store it for a long time.

Get the most health benefits from your oil. Use the oil unheated as much as possible to get the most health benefits from your carefully chosen product. When using it to cook with, heat it the least amount possible to keep from destroying the polyphenol compounds and breaking down the oil (which is not healthful).

Here’s a video that I produced on this subject. Hope this helps!! Happy eating, Judi

Marinated Cruciferous Salad

Marinated Cruciferous Salad (Recipe)

As mentioned in my video about cruciferous vegetables, we ALL should eat these vegetables whenever we can. Raw or slightly cooked is best.

Below is a VERY simple salad recipe of mine using cruciferous vegetables marinated in an oil/vinegar dressing. The recipe can EASILY be varied to meet your family’s tastes and it can be increased or decreased with little effort beyond cutting the vegetables. Make this easy and use the cruciferous vegetables you have on hand!

Check out the video below the recipe, showing how this salad is made. Enjoy!! Judi

Marinated Cruciferous Salad
Makes about 2 Cups

2 cups chopped cruciferous vegetables of choice*
1/4 cup chopped yellow onion
1-1/2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar**
3 pinches sea salt
1 to 2 pinches dried oregano***
1 pinch dried granulated garlic

Place vegetables and onion in a medium size bowl. Add the dressing ingredients. Toss to combine. Cover and refrigerate up to 24 hours. Toss again and serve.

Note the MANY possible variations with this salad:

* Use any combination of cruciferous vegetables you want. Suggestions include: broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage (of any sort), radishes, arugula, kale, broccoli rabe, watercress, and/or bok choy

** To vary the flavor, lemon juice may be used in place of apple cider vinegar

*** In place of oregano, other herbs may be used such as: basil, dill, sage, cumin, marjoram, parsley, or thyme

Experiment and try different combinations to find your favorite!

 

Introducing…”NutriBit” Videos

As many people know, I have a lot of formal training in food and nutrition. In addition to that I’ve owned and operated my own bakery/bistro, taught nutrition to college students, AND I continue to delve into personal research on a regular basis.

It was recently suggested to me that I share some of this information with others. That seemed like a reasonable thing to do, especially since it ties in with my blog AND YouTube videos. Hence…the birth of “NutriBits”…as in “bits” of nutritional and health/wellness information relayed through videos. These are short, to the point videos I’ll be creating as I share valuable nutritional, health and wellness information that could help you in the kitchen, at the grocery store, and in your quest to live a healthier life.

A link to my introductory video is below. Please check it out and DO post questions that I might be able to help you with either here or in the comments section of any video I post. I’ll be happy to help with whatever questions I can! Judi

Two Green Fruit Smoothie

Two Green Fruit Smoothie

Now that the weather is starting to warm up, refreshing, “cooler” foods are coming to mind. For me, smoothies are in order. Yesterday I concocted something different I wanted to share…it was fabulous! It’s made with both raw baby greens AND green tea. Lots of fruit is added for sweetness. It’s filling and delicious. Here’s the recipe followed by my YouTube video showing how it’s made. Enjoy! Judi

Two Green Fruit Smoothie
Makes about 2 Cups

12 whole almonds (raw, not roasted nor salted)
12 blueberries, fresh or frozen
1 cup chopped fruit of choice (I used kiwi and fresh pineapple)
1 banana, fresh or frozen
1 large handful of raw mixed greens (ie spinach, baby kale)
1 rounded teaspoon of milled chia seeds or flax seeds
1 cup (8 oz) freshly brewed plain green tea, cooled
Sweetener of choice, optional

Place all ingredients into a blender in the order listed. Process until smooth. Serve immediately. Enjoy!