Noting or pertaining to a class of chemical compounds that formerly comprised only those existing in or derived from plants or animals, but that now includes all other compounds of carbon.

Wow! What a mouthful!
 
If you were asked to define ‘organic’, what would you come up with? A lot of people are misled by the definition of the word to believe that this term is an umbrella for all molecules, and foods made with these molecules, that are comprised of carbon. While this is the textbook definition, the word organic encompasses so much more when it comes to the production, characteristics, and quality of our food.
 
So what exactly are the guidelines for growing food organically? The USDA has developed three ways to categorize organic food: 100% organic, organic, and made with organic ingredients. All foods with organic anywhere in the label must follow guidelines set by the USDA for growing. These include: prohibited use of synthetic and non-synthetic substances and ingredients (including those used in processing plants), no radiation, prohibited use of vaccines, and no sewage sludge. The land the crops are grown on is also required to have buffer zones, which may be forested areas, to prevent contact with prohibited agricultural substances. The farmer must also practice crop rotation, composting, proper feeding practices (which includes the animals being limited to organic feed, no poultry slaughter by products – which are fed to feedlot cattle, and no antibiotics or steriods – unless organic), and also allow the animals proper living conditions and grazing sections. All of these restrictions, of course, have exceptions. I know, so many rules, and this is the abridged version!
 
As far as food labeling goes; to be considered:
                 “100% organic” – products must contain 100% organic ingredients
                 “organic” – products must contain 95% organic ingredients
                 “made with organic ingredients” – products must contain a minimum of 70% organic ingredients
 
The remaining ingredients in products labeled “organic” or “made with organic ingredients”, must comply with certain restrictions as well – though not as strict as the organic restrictions. Products with less than 70% organic ingredients may have the organic ingredients listed on the label, but may not make any organic claim. I hope I have convinced everyone reading this to jump on the organic bandwagon 🙂
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OMG! Shoes.

It’s no secret that I have a slight soft spot for shoes. Last I checked my collection, I had racked up 42 pairs! Running and exercise shoes are especially hard to say no to since new styles and fun colors are always being developed. I usually like to stick to Brooks running shoes. I have found they offer great support and don’t wear out easily. My Nike LunarGlides are a close second, I just love them because they are bright orange!

Recently, I have been hearing so much about the new Nike Free and Nike Free Run shoes. Generally, I like to stick to the more supportive running shoes, but I decided I wanted to try a more flexible, free, style. Also, I of course was intrigued by the idea that you can design your own pair on Nike’s website. This was obviously not going to be a cheap splurge so I kept holding out on buying a pair until my boyfriend (bless him for knowing the exact pair of shoes I want), led me to an online sale. Just for the record, online shopping is 100x more dangerous than in-store shopping, for me. The $50 mark down, free shipping, and the fact that they had my size in PURPLE, were the deal breakers. I ended up getting my new Nike Free’s (not Nike Free Run’s) for $49 from Jimmy Jazz.

Ummm…I LOVE THESE SHOES! They arrived in the mail 5 days ago (in a package that I was concerned was empty because it was so light), and I have worn them running twice since. I don’t think it is a coincidence that these two runs have been my longest in a while (4 and 5 milers!). These shoes offer awesome support for the heel and arch of your foot, but at the same time are super flexible and give you an extra spring in your step. I also love that the tongue is sewn into the shoe so it doesn’t slide around. I swear these shoes make it hard to stop running because they are so light! My last, but certainly not least, comment is that they look awesome!

What do you think??? I can’t wait to wear them again!

Just for a laugh, in case you didn’t get the title of the post:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wCF3ywukQYA

Easy As Pie!

I am attempting to make my first pie (actually, variations of one) today: Turnovers! I needed to think back to a food science class I took 2 years ago in order to perfect them and I figured I would share some info with you. Pie dough is characterized as un-laminated, which means that the fat is mixed in with the dough. This is different from a laminated dough, such as a croissant, in which the dough sheet is alternated with a layer of butter. It’s important when making pie crust that you allow larger chunks of fat in the dough so it will be flaky. If you over-mix the dough it will be too tough, due to too much gluten formation (see my earlier post: The ‘Disease Du Jour’ for more info on gluten). It’s also important to let the dough sit and chill before you roll it out so it can hydrate and the gluten can properly align. Chilling the dough will also reduce the amount of shrinkage when baking. I am currently writing this post while my dough is chilling in the refrigerator and I’m allowing my fillings to sit and absorb flavor.

I found the recipe I am using on Taste Spotting, my homepage and favorite website..EVER. The recipe is for blackberry cherry turnovers, but I decided I would try to make a few variations. I stuck to the recipe pretty closely, except I had to use red wine vinegar instead of white. I also cut the filling ingredients down by 1/2 since I am making 3 variations of the recipe. The winners are: Black Cherry, Blueberry & Black Raspberry, and Peach.

I think the turnovers turned out wonderfully! I brushed them with liquid sugar in the raw and sprinkled them with vanilla sugar before I put them in the oven. I used the convection feature and it didn’t take long at all, about 12 minutes. The crust, which I was worried I had over-mixed, turned out tender and flaky. They’re a little on the messy side but I’m not over-concerned with they way they look. They smell fabulous 🙂  YUMM I can’t wait to try one!

Chill Out the Healthy Way!

Popsicles are by far the BEST summer treat. I sometimes feel like I have been on the ‘freeze-pop only diet’ every summer since the age of 4. Between that and my other favorite snack, strawberry dippers (aka a strawberry:sugar ratio of 1:3), it’s no wonder I was wired all of the time. This summer I decided I would try to make a healthier version of my favorite treat: peach mango popsicles!

The hardest part of this whole process was finding popsicle molds; I had to go to 4 different grocery stores. Just a heads up in case you don’t own them! I actually ended up finding them at Save A Lot in Cumberland (I know, who would’ve guessed). The rest of the steps were relatively easy. I’m also sure you could make these with any fruit you’d like, peaches and mangos just happen to be my favorite.

Ingredients: 5 small peaches (I prefer to keep the skin on, more nutrients!)

1 mango

1.5 tablespoons lime (or lemon) juice

1/3 cup sugar in the raw (you could also use honey, agave, splenda, sugar, whatever!)

Next, just throw all of the ingredients into a food processor until completely blended and pour into the popsicle molds.

I know, SO EASY! They taste awesome too! This recipe made 9 popsicles and I figured them to be about 150 calories each. So next time you’re stuck inside because of a heat advisory, remember this recipe. Stay cool!

You Are What You Eat

No one is able to make this point clearer than Michael Pollan, the author of multiple books, journals, and articles on the food system in the United States. My personal favorite, “The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals”, will truely change the way you look at food. While I have heard several stories of people converting to vegetarianism after reading Rory Freedman’s “Skinny Bitch”, I am sure that just one chapter of Pollan’s book will have just as great of an affect. In my opinion, “Part Four: The Feedlot”, is the most intriguing and informative. I will admit that I cringed a little (okay, a lot) at some parts, but if you’re looking for the hard truth in what really goes on in our agricultural system, look no further. Pollan discusses the unsustainable and unethical system of feeding commodity corn to cattle in US feedlots. Not only are cattle’s rumens unable to digest the grain, which causes bloating, increased stomach acidity, and can lead to fatal liver disease, but eating meat from grain fed cattle also affects our health as humans. E. Coli, a prominent bacteria in cattle’s stomachs, have now begun to adjust to an environment that is more acidic, allowing them to survive in the acidic environment of our stomachs. In addition to cattle being forced to eat grains they have not evolved to digest, on feedlots they are forced to ingest protein (usually in the form of feather meal and chicken litter), and antibiotics (which lead to resistance in humans). I don’t want to get too graphic, so I will leave you with that information. But I would highly suggest reading at least part of this book. Pollan also does a good job at explaining how toxins in run off end up in our drinking water. If you’re interested, google Des Moines Blue Baby Alert… GROSS! While I know it is more expensive and harder to come by, try looking for meat that comes from grass fed only animals. It is healthier for you (higher in omega 3’s and less saturated fat), because there are no grains in the animal’s diet, and also better for the environment 🙂

When You Think You Can’t, Think Again!

In all honesty, who doesn’t have a laundry list of things they want to accomplish. A list of things that are completely feasible if you just work hard for them. Last week, I completed the final science course of my 4 year curriculum. I remember 3 years ago thinking, ‘How on earth am I going to get through all of this?’. It was a long haul through general biology, microbiology, cell biology, mammalian physiology, general chemistry I & II, organic chemistry I & II, biochemistry I & II, and my food science classes. A lot of tears and ‘I can’t do it anymore”s were shed along the way but I am so happy I stuck it out! I’m sure any other Dietetics major will vouch for me on that. One of the most important things I have learned is that you can’t compare yourself to other people or their methods. Everyone learns differently, studies differently, and is better at certain things than others. You can’t let a 40% on a test (yes, it happened) get you down just because the person next to you got an A, if you did the best you could 🙂 I am sure that countless people did better than me in all of my classes but I am happy and proud of my school work and that is all that matters, right?

This past semester I accomplished something else I have always aimed to do: become a group fitness instructor! I took a class offered through my university and auditioned for (and was offered) a job at the campus rec center. I started teaching cardio kickboxing at the beginning of the summer and have fallen in love with it. Initially this was a class I didn’t want to teach, but I am so thrilled with it. A class full of people is a great motivator to push yourself harder and not give up on your workout. Starting this Thursday I will also be teaching cycling! I would say spinning is the biggest contributor to my love of exercise, since it was initially the only thing my mom could drag me out of bed to go to! Don’t get me wrong though, 7:15 am on Thursdays will be no piece of cake. Moral of the story: If you are around College Park Monday’s at 7 pm or Thursday mornings at 7:15 am, come to my fitness classes! I promise you’ll get a great work out 🙂

Even though I have crossed numerous items off of my bucket list, I still have many more I want to do! My next goal (as some may know) is to run a half marathon. I have been training for a few weeks and I LOVE the plain I am using. Hal Higdon’s plan is great because it allows you to be flexible and work at your own pace. I also like that it is not running all day everyday, you can give other parts of your body attention too! Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to run outside as much as I would like since it has been so hot (111 yesterday, WHAT!?). When I am on the treadmill I try to push myself by running on an incline (1.5-2%) for half a mile and then back down to 0 or .5%. Figure out what works best for you since, after all, you can’t just compare yourself to the person running next to you.

Put Some Pep in Your Step

I don’t know if you subscribe to “Self” magazine, but the last issue was all about music. I LOVE all types of music and it helps me get through my workouts so much more easily! Setting your pace is easier when you have a beat. I figured I would post some of my favorite work out songs for you to see. I know that not everybody likes the same music, so I am going to try to give a few good examples of what I like from each genre (bare with me, I don’t know much about some).

House music/electronic/techno – My personal favorite to work out to!

Avicii “Levels”, “Street Dancer”

Calvin Harris “Close to You”, “Flashback”

Stromae “Alors on Danse (remix with Kanye West)”

Swedish House Mafia “One (Your Name)” “Save the World”

Darude “Sandstorm”

Country

Brooks & Dunn “Ain’t Nothing ‘Bout You”

Gloriana “Wild at Heart”

Kellie Pickler “Best Days of Your Life”

Lady Antebellum “Our Kind of Love”

Mashup

Girl Talk “Triple Double”

Milkman “Circle of Fifths” “Chosen”

Pop

Loona “Vamos a La Playa”

Shakira “Waka Waka”

Katy Perry “Teenage Dream”, “Wide Awake”

Wiz Khalifa “No Sleep” — Yes, I would consider this pop.

Rihanna “Where Have you Been”

Classic Rock

The Who “Baba O’Riley”

Jimi Hendrix “All Along the Watch Tower”

Led Zeppelin “Ramble On” “Black Dog”

Alternative/Indie/Rock

Dave Matthews Band “Jimi Thing” “You and Me”

Phoenix “1901”

Matt & Kim “Daylight”

MGMT “Kids”

Rap

Kanye West “Homecoming” “The New Workout Plan”

Chris Brown “Forever”

Drake “The Motto”

Jay Z “Brooklyn Go Hard” “No Church In the Wild” “Gotta Have It”

Oldies

Jackie Wilson “Your Love is Lifting me Higher”

Jackson 5 “ABC” “Candy girl”

Metal

Underoath “A Boy Brushed Red, Living in Black and White” “Reinventing Your Exit”

Pantera “Walk”

Avenged Sevenfold “Beast and the Harlot”

Killswitch Engage “My Curse”

I could go on about music for days. I love it all! Those are just a few of my personal favorites 🙂