Wednesday, 29 June 2016

6 Main Dish Recipes With Unusual Ingredients

Anyone who’s ever ran a household and had to cook meals regularly will tell you how hard it is to keep things fresh. More often than not, you’ll fall into a pattern of spaghetti bolognese or pizza and chips, and the whole process can become a bit more tedious.

And that’s why, for you and your family’s sake, it’s important to switch things up. Creating balanced, varied meals is important not just for a killer diet, but for your own sanity. Sure, spaghetti bolognese is nice, but every single week, twice a week? It’ll start to taste like cardboard.

So, the next time you sit down to devise that all-important meal plan, throw some curveballs into the mix. Literally. With thousands of different ingredients and recipes at your disposal, why not try something unusual?

Below, you’ll find a selection of recipes that use rather uncommon ingredients, that I urge you to try. At the very least, you’ll hopefully glean a bit of inspiration for the week ahead!

Grilled steak with sorghum glaze

Sorghum has recently been dubbed a ‘wonder grain’ and its wide variety of uses certainly attest to that. It’s similar to grains like quinoa and millet, only it’s gluten-free and a bit more filling. This makes it a great alternative for people who can’t eat gluten products, to be able to get some quality grains into their diet.

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One of the best ways to use sorghum that I’ve seen is to fashion it into a glaze for your cooked meats. Grilled steak, BBQ ribs, gammon… the list goes on! One option is to buy sorghum syrup and spread it over the meat at intermediate periods during cooking. Or, you can mix sorghum with garlic powder, melted butter and paprika to create a tastebud-popping glaze.

Alternatively, another good way to use sorghum is in a sorghum salad. If you’ve ever made a salad with rice or couscous, the same principle applies. Just swap out those grains for sorghum!

Food producer Hampton Creek uses sorghum in plenty of dishes, and many, many people are following suit. Its special properties are quickly taking the cooking world by storm, and now is a good time to start experimenting.

Lasagna with mushrooms and orach

Besides being associated with Popeye and superhuman strength, spinach is known for being rather tasty to eat. Orach, a purple plant that can be used as a substitute for spinach, possesses many of the same qualities too. The fact that it’s purple could put some people off, but it’s hard to deny the beauty of orach and rice, with the rice slowly turning purple.

But rice is not the focus here - rather, we’re going for a delicious vegetarian lasagna. Vegetarians don’t often get that special treatment that they deserve, but fortunately, they can enjoy this one!

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The recipe is simple; you’ll first need some sliced mushrooms and a bag of orach. Orach can be quite hard to come by, so try looking in specialist or organic food stores, or order online. If you want to go the easy route, but some ready-made lasagna sheets and layer the veggies with some cheese.

You can add whatever you like to your lasagna too - garlic, rosemary, thyme or even paprika for an exotic taste. The orach will provide that chewy, spinach-esque texture and is packed full of goodness to boot.

Vegetable mix with fried cardoons

Cardoons are traditionally known as a plant, and not necessarily as a food. They’re edible, sure, but it’s rare that you’d find people eating them. It doesn’t exactly look welcoming, with it’s thistly exterior and intimidating size.

And that size can grow rather large indeed. Cardoons are celery on steroids, and there’s a reason why they aren’t used in too many recipes. They’re hard to get right, but rewarding if you manage it.

They possess an artichoke-esque flavor, and resemble a rather odd stick of celery. They’re not easy to prepare - you’ll have to significantly trim them down and blanch them to remove bitterness. But, once ready to cook, they’re incredibly tasty, and even better when fried.

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It’s important to keep this one simple, as the cardoons will easily dominate your plate. A simple side mix of vegetables will do - perhaps some chopped potatoes, tomatoes and onions in a basic dressing. Again, this one’s suitable for vegetarians - unless you choose to serve up some meat too.

To fry the cardoons, trim them and remove the stalks, and cut into smaller pieces. Mix some eggs, water and cheese in a bowl, coat the cardoons in flour, then drench them in the mixture. Quickly transfer to the frying pan until they’re golden brown, then transfer them somewhere to drain. Voila!

Stuffed kudzu leaves

Kudzu, like orcha, is bright purple. Sensing a pattern here? It wasn’t intentional. Anyone who’s ever tried kudzu will tell you it’s incredibly tasty, so I couldn’t help but put it on this list. The color purple isn’t really indicative of anything other than kudzu’s unique look, and that’s what we want here.

Anyway, this recipe is one of the more simple, easy to prepare one’s. You’ll want to hoard some kudzu leaves (the seeds can be bought online), and wash them thoroughly. You’ll need to remove the stems using a knife, and mix together the ingredients to be stuffed. The basics here include garlic and diced tomatoes, but you can go wild here.

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Personally, I use Parmesan cheese, mushrooms and pre-packed smoked ham. Whatever you decide to use as a stuffing, it’s simply a case of adding the mixture to the leaves and rolling them. Make sure they’re packed in a tight cigarette shape, so none of the food falls out.

Now all they need is a brief stint in the oven. Kudzu is an extremely versatile plant, and the flower can even be cooked or turned into jelly. This means that if you get hold of some, literally none of it will go to waste.

Braised hogget pie

“What on earth is hogget?” I hear you ask. It sounds rather odd, but in reality, it’s not. It’s a younger form of lamb, and is thought to be the absolute tastiest way to enjoy this meat.

It’s as versatile as you’d expect, able to be roasted, slow-cooked, and made into pies and casseroles. It’s the pie we’ll be focused on here; specifically, a braised pie, making the meat as melt-in-the-mouth as possible.

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Besides the use of hogget, this is a traditional casserole recipe. You can season the meat however you want (try salt, olive oil and pepper) and add whatever veg you want. In the final stages of cooking, you’ll need to layer some sliced potatoes over the meat and cook until brown.

It will take a number of hours to successfully braise the meat all over, but it’s absolutely worth the wait. If you don’t have the time, you can cook the meat in any way you see fit. Try a slow cooker, and place vegetables all around the meat to get that stringy, pulled-pork texture.

Dragon fruit salad with chocolate dip

And finally, we’re cheating a bit with this one because it is technically a pudding, but it works wonders! Dragon fruit doesn’t sound welcoming, but with its sweet texture it’s one treat that’s worth experiencing.

Globally recognized chefs like Gordon Ramsay frequently use this fruit, so that does stand for something. You’ll need to create a basic chocolate sauce here, using sugar, butter and cocoa powder, before adding some cream and mixing. If you want, you can lump in some vanilla extract too, but don’t make the sauce too sweet. The fruit is sweet too, and you might have an overload.

You can make your fruit salad from whichever fruits you desire, though some work better than others. Dragon fruit is quite soft, so similar soft fruits would be better. Think oranges, mangoes and grapes as opposed to crunchy apples. Once you’ve selected your favorites, it’s time to get dipping! Alternatively, you can drizzle the sauce over the fruit itself.

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And if you really want to go all out, why not combine this pudding with one of the main dishes we listed earlier? You could have orcha lasagna followed by dragon fruit and chocolate dip, a sentence that looks wacky but tastes delicious. Or how about braised hogget with a mango, grape and dragon fruit drizzle? On a side note, I’m now incredibly hungry.

And with that, our list has come to an end! Cooking should be a fun, engaging experience that frequently challenges and tests you, and these recipes will do just that. By using an ingredient that you aren’t familiar with, you can create a fresh dish will simultaneously picking up new skills.

These skills can be transferred to other dishes and other meals, improving your all-round culinary ability. I’m not asking you to become a professional chef, but a strong foundation in this art will help improve your diet, and the diet of your family.

So, on that note, thanks for reading, and I hope some of these recipes are appealing to you! If you have any ideas, suggestions or unusual ingredients of your own, let us know down in the comments.

Monday, 27 June 2016

Talking with Your Kids About Bullying

Guest Post
By Dr. Mildred Peyton
June 21, 2016

As a mother of two school-aged daughters, a bullying expert, and children and youth advocate, I'm here to inform parents, in particular, that bullying is not to be taken lightly and, to provide parents with five tips of what to highlight as they talk with their children about bullying.

Before divulging my five tips to parents (and anyone reading this article), first, I want readers to understand what bullying is. By definition, bullying is defined as unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-aged children that is repeated, or has the potential of being repeated, and involves a real or perceived power imbalance between the victim and the bully (also known as the perpetrator).  Simply put, for a behavior to constitute bullying, there must be recurrences of aggression (in the form of physical, verbal, social, and cyberbullying) aimed at a specific target.

When it comes to talking to your children about bullying, it is important that parents take the time to do their homework (i.e., research) before starting the conversation. More than likely their definition or understanding of bullying is no longer feasible. For example, in the past, bullying was acceptable or was not seen serious among children and youth; it was considered a right of passage for children growing up, as it was normal and all right for kids to argue, and even get into a few scuffles, especially boys. Today, this is not the case, as those notions of behaviors once deemed okay are obsolete, as they could potentially lead to bullying. With today's status quo of bullying, we must not turn a blind eye or a deaf ear; instead, we must heed its warnings and effects. Bullying has evolved and has become an epidemic over the past decade and has triggered great concerns as well as igniting conversations among parents, policymakers, school officials, and human services professionals.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), kids bullied are twice as likely to commit suicide or have suicide ideations than nonvictims; and in a 2013 nationwide survey, 20% of high school students reported being victims of bullying while on school property. Another source stated that 60% of fourth- through eighth-grade children reported being victims of bullying. These statistics are alarming and support further records showing that 160,000 kids stay home each day in an effort to escape bullying.  The most disturbing findings revealed that 86% of adolescent students reported that being bullied causes teenagers to turn to lethal violence in school. This concept ties with the effects of bullying and how it was pinpointed that in 12 of 15 shooting cases in the 1990s, the shooters had a history of being victims of bullying.

Bearing all this in mind, let us now get into the tips you've been waiting to discover: what parents must include in their conversations about bullying.  I highly recommend parents of school-aged children incorporate my five tips below when talking with their kids about bullying:

1. Talk with your kids about what bullying is and how to address it safely.  After you've defined bullying with your children, you will want to brainstorm ways to safely approach/report the situation. This could mean getting the school to become aware of the incidents (e,g., tell a teacher, coach, counselor, principal, etc.), and minimizing contact with the perpetrator(s).

2. Talk with your kids about the importance of maintaining an open line of communication.  As parents, we cannot allow our adult lives and responsibilities to overshadow our time with our children. We must make time each day to ask our children about their day in school and not settle for simply, "It was okay", or "It was good/bad."  Probe to understand why or what made their day the way they described it. This way, if they were being bullied, you would have already established some comfort level, enabling you to help them talk with you at ease. Also, having an open line of communication allows parents to notice red flags and use them to help and protect their kids.

3. Talk with your kids about being resilient and not accepting someone to bully them. By now, we should all be aware that being bullied cannot be avoided. However, we parents must empower and inspire our children to always speak up for themselves and others without compromising their safety. When kids stand up and tell their parents or a trusted adult, they lower their chances of being future targets.

4. Talk with your kids about not bullying others.  Most times, parents seldom address the fact that their child/children can potentially and intentionally cause harm to their peers. We must not shy away from this notion, but instead, embrace it and teach our children how to respect others and treat others the way they would like to be treated.

5. Talk with your kids about making good decisions. Ultimately our actions and behaviors stem from the decisions we make. Someone can make the decision whether or not he or she will become a bully or a victim of bullying.  Overall, when we have this discussion with our kids, they will learn to make deliberate and conscious decisions about their interactions with others, and other daily encounters.  Teaching our kids how to be responsible and accountable at an early age, especially, could be the least of any parents' worries in their child's teenage and adult years.

To learn more about recent bullying findings, read my latest research, "Exploring the Meaning of School Bullying Among Parents of Victimized Children" at www.drmildredpeyton.com.

Thank you, Funky Frugal Mommy, for being a part of my voice against bullying!

If you're a mother in need of great fun and healthy ideas for your family, go to www.funkyfrugalmommy.com and you'll be happy you stopped by!

Sources:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): www.cdc.gov

Stand for the Silent: www.standforthesilent.org

Stopbullying.gov

Friday, 24 June 2016

Lower Your Water Bill This Summer


With water bills on the minds of Canadians this summer, Adam Findlay, senior marketing manager at Pfister, shares the following tips to help conserve water:



Make use of rainwater - Collect rainwater and use it to water plants and wash your car. A rain barrel collecting water from your eaves trough downspout is both environmentally and financially smart. Nothing saves on a water bill like using what nature provides for free.

Don’t leave the water running - Use a touch-free faucet so you’re not caught running the tap longer than necessary. These high-tech kitchen faucets help stop the spread of germs while reducing your overall water usage by automatically shutting off with the wave of your hand. Every second of running water adds up and a touch-free faucet cuts off exactly when you need it to.

Keep drinking water in the fridge – Running the tap to get cold drinking water is both time consuming and wasteful. Consider storing drinking water in the fridge so when you go looking for a cool drink it is readily available.

Install a new toilet – You old toilet is flushing money down the drain. Go with a new model that uses less water to flush or one that has two flushing modes. Your toilet can be one of the largest water consuming items in your house so update it and go with a smaller version.

Use an eco-friendly showerhead - Installing an eco-friendly showerhead is an inexpensive way to automatically reduce the amount of water you use in the shower. Modern eco-friendly showerheads don’t compromise performance so there’s no need to fear a weak water flow. It’s also worthwhile to consider avoiding baths, as they use much more water than a typical shower.

Reconsider how you do your dishes – Wash your dishes in a half full sink and only use the dishwasher for full loads. A partial load can use the same amount of water, but you will be washing more often and wasting both energy and water.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

How Playing Outdoors Improves Kids’ Cognitive Skills

Life has definitely changed a lot in the last hundred years with all the technological advances, what has certainly impacted the way we raise our children and how they spend their time. Kids used to be out and about and a lot more physically active. Nowadays they are mostly indoors in front of a TV or a computer screen, or playing with some other tech gadgets. This has lead to serious negative consequences on their health and development. However, a new trend of taking kids back outdoors is on the rise and we present you with the of the benefits this has on their cognitive development.

Introducing new stimuli

When kids are outdoors, they are surrounded by new things. They see, hear, feel and smell some things for the first time and these are considered new stimuli by the brain. The brain then creates ‘new folders’, so to speak, where it stores new data. In simple terms, new stimuli grow our brains.

Increasing attention span

More and more kids today are diagnosed with attention deficit disorder and the fact that they spend a lot of time in classrooms where stimuli are always the same (most commonly just pen and paper) might be our clue as to why. When they are outdoors, they are free to direct their attention anywhere, since this usually means uninstructed play. When outside, they don’t have to force themselves to pay attention to a particular thing, but rather focus on something spontaneously. Kids usually have better attention span after time spent outdoors.

Promoting problem solving

Being outdoors means facing natural laws and learning how things work in life. Kids figure out what works and what doesn’t by trying things out, that is, by trial and error. They also learn when it is appropriate to repeat certain actions until successful outcome is reached, as well as when to stop trying if there is no progress at all.

Recognizing patterns

Nature is abundant with various patterns, like the shapes of leaves, flowers, animal horns, branches, bark of the tree and so on. They can also learn how to count things, add and divide. They identify similarities and differences, and tend to sort things into groups. These are all the basic skills they need for math and other subjects.

Promoting learning through fun

Kids are likely to learn more when they are outdoors than indoors simply because it boosts their mood and they connect it with play and fun. A good way to promote learning through fun is to hire kids’ party entertainers who have some learning friendly games, activities and stories up their sleeve that teach kids while they are having a ball.

Improving health and fitness

Playing outdoors helps kids grow in the healthiest way, developing their muscles, strength, flexibility and motor skills. Their hearts and lungs develop properly and their brains get enough oxygen, which in turn decreases stress and promotes concentration and learning. It also boosts their immune system, so the body gets to function at the optimal level. Running around outside expends extra energy, so kids who play outdoors are ready for focused, quiet learning when in the classroom.

Developing communication skills

Kids playing outside need to pay attention to their environment much more then when they are indoors, what teaches them to listen and to communicate with others. They usually play in groups and have to interact with each other. They learn to ask questions, express their thoughts effectively, negotiate and compromise.
In addition to all these benefits, playing outdoors is also much more fun and boosts natural joy and happiness in kids. When they are happy and content, they are more likely to be willing to do some more demanding tasks as well.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

How I Earned a Quick $35 Yesterday


Long time readers will know I'm a big fan of Swagbucks. It's an easy way to cover my entertainment budget, save big on holiday shopping sprees and make money trying out new products i would otherwise be skeptical of. The downside of Swagbucks is that the site gives you so many different ways to earn that it can be complicated and hard to keep track of all it's earning features.  

Well, Swagbucks runs this promotion once a month called SWAGO. It's like BINGO, except each square takes you to a different part of their site where you can earn points, called SB, doing something easy online. You get paid for filling out your board - the more spaces you fill out, the bigger your bonus! This month, the bonus for filling out your whole board is 300 SB, which you can redeem for a $3 gift card right away. But, that's just the start of your earnings with SWAGO. Because the game takes you to every nook and cranny of their site, you end up earning a ton of points along the way and learning if Swagbucks is right for you.  

How much? Well it varies a bit, but I just completed every square this afternoon and ended up with 3,492 SB, just 9 SB shy of $35 worth of PayPal Cash or any Gift Card I could imagine. The full breakdown is below but the shorter version is I made $35 online this afternoon clicking around the web in my pajamas.  

Here's how I racked up the SB on SWAGO: 

- Completed my Survey Profile: 4 SB 
- Set my Swag Name: 4 SB 
- Completed a Gold Survey on Desktop: 100 SB 
- Signed up for a $3 trial of Dollar Shave Club on the Swagbucks App: 1,000 SB 
- Signed up for a $10 trial of BirchBox (to gift to a friend): 1,500 SB 
- Watched Jimmy Fallon Clips on my SwagButton: 3 SB 
- Watched News Headlines on the Swagbucks TV App: 3 SB 
- Disqualified from a Gold Survey on the Swagbucks App: 1 SB 
- Referred my Mom and convinced her to try a $50 Groupon, earning her 350 SB. Because of the Three For All referral program, she earned 650 SB total, and I get 335 SB for Referring her: 335 SB 
- Purchased a $25 Dominos Pizza Gift Card on MyGiftCardsPlus for Friday's pizza night:135 SB 
- Searched "Best Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Recipe" on Swagbucks Search and earned SB: 9 SB 
- Watched a few cooking show clips on Swagbucks Watch on my desktop: 4 SB 
- Completed a Gold Survey on my desktop:75 SB 
- Redeemed a free Swag Code on the SwagButton: 4 SB
- Read a short entertainment news article on nCrave: 2 SB
- Redeemed a free Swag Code on my Swagbucks App: 3 SB 
- Completed the Additional Survey Profiler: 5 SB 
- Attempted Survey that was at Max Capacity: 1 SB 
Subtotal: 3,192 SB 
- Redeemed my SB for a $25 PayPal Gift Card to complete my last SWAGO square... 

Getting me a 300 SB Bonus for Completing SWAGO! Total Earned 3,492 SB 

Tonight I am going to watch a few more funny animal videos to get me over the line so I can redeem another $15 in Gift Cards to add to my splurge fund!