Of Fitness Bars and Baby Formula

I want to thank all of you who’ve taken up writing to me. I love to hear from you and I get a real charge out of the tips, questions and other fun stuff you send. Even though I cannot respond personally, believe me when I tell you that nothing goes unread.

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In an effort to respond to so many of you who’ve written asking for alternatives to high-priced protein bars and infant formula, I’ve come up with some cheaper alternatives for your frugal consideration.

First the infant formula. Without a doubt you will never find a more nutritional or economical formula for a newborn than mother’s milk. When that is not an option, commercial formulas should be your second choice, because they are highly regulated as to nutritional value for a baby’s developmental needs. Having said that, here is a recipe that goes back many years that may be appropriate as a replacement for commercial formula once Junior graduates to solid food.

Baby Formula
(as a supplement to solid food)

Place all ingredients in a very clean glass or stainless steel container and mix well. Pour into bottles that have been thoroughly sterilized. Store in the refrigerator. Yield: 9 six-ounce bottles.

Survey Says: Eating Out is Our #1 Financial Temptation

What is your greatest financial temptation? That’s one of the question I asked in a poll at DPL Central. Answer choices: accepting more credit, vacation, clothes, new car, stuff for house, eating out or none-of-the-above.

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I enjoy predicting how my reader polls will turn out, but I was way off on this one. I thought “stuff for the house” or “clothes” would win. The runaway winner at 41 percent was “eating out.”

Whether eating out is your top temptation or it comes in second or third, you can deal with it more effectively if you make eating at home more convenient and more delicious than going out.

You know by now that I am a big fan of the slow cooker. Just throw the ingredients in before the demands of the day wear you down, turn it on and forget it. You’ll come home to the aroma of a home cooked meal. You’ll have it on the table and ready to eat in less time than it takes to drive-thru.

Turns Out it IS Easy Being Green

Have I got a story for you about the Hubs and me. I don’t like to think that we cave easily to peer pressure, but apparently that is the case.

We have these friends who are way into healthy lifestyle—clean eating and extreme exercise. I call anything with the words running, jogging and cycling in it, extreme. They’re so into these things, they don’t even think about taking a short hiatus when we visit. Oh, no. We’re talking green smoothies all around, every morning. No question, no excuse.

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Let me just say right here that my husband has never met a vegetable he enjoys. He’s just not into them. Never has been. But he’s kinder than he is finicky, and so in the interest of friendship, he (OK, me too) would put on a happy face and down the green whenever we visited our friends Carol and Steve. And Harold would kind of shudder in a way that only I was aware—the way kids do when they have to eat something they think is really gross. This always made me laugh but I tried really hard not to show it.

I cannot fully explain this, but after several of these occasions, something went off inside of both of us suggesting that perhaps, just maybe we might think about doing this ourselves. At home.

One thing led to another—and by that I mean we started with bananas, apples and one teeny tiny leaf of baby spinach—until without quite knowing what hit us, we were actually making smoothies every morning that turned out the color of wet concrete.

Solving the Breakfast Dilemma

Mom was right. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Medical research says we cannot afford to miss it for many reasons:

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1. People who lose weight and keep it off are breakfast eaters.

2. People who eat breakfast are better equipped to fight off colds and flu.

3. Breakfast boosts metabolism all day and fires up your brain cells for faster, clearer thinking.

Breakfast guidelines:

Eat when you can but within two hours of waking.

Eat what you enjoy. You are more likely to create a lifelong habit if it’s something you enjoy.

Have “grab and go” breakfast items available that are healthy, tasty and affordable.

Become a Kitchen Magician with Leftovers

Famed chef Julia Child preferred to call them the “remains of the day.” To the rest of us, they’re just leftovers. It’s a term that can mean anything from half a pan of lasagna to a dab of mashed potatoes that sit in the fridge until they turn green, at which time we feel a lot better about throwing them away. These days, that’s like throwing cash in the garbage.

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The secret to stretching the food dollars is to find a delicious use for every last bit of what you buy. You need to see all leftovers as ingredients for new dishes, not just multiple go-rounds of the same thing in an effort to get rid of it. Here are some ideas that have helped me to see leftovers in a new way:

Coffee. Freeze leftover coffee in cubes to cool off hot coffee. Add black coffee to pot roast to create rich, brown gravy.

Halloween, Christmas or Easter candy. Take all the chocolate candy and break it up into little pieces. Place the pieces into a zip-type bag. Many recipes call for a cup to a cup and a half of chocolate morsels. Use these to replace the morsels. Freeze until ready to use.

Cooked Ham. Brown the last bits of cooked ham in a small amount of butter or margarine in a skillet. Beat a few eggs with water or milk and grated cheese, if desired. Pour scrambled egg mixture into skillet with ham. Cook, as usual, over low heat.

Making the High Cost of Ground Beef Easier to Swallow

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says the price of a pound of ground beef climbed to another record high in Novembera whopping $4.20 per pound. And that’s for mid-grade, not the leanest and highest quality.

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If you and your family are not ready to turn vegetarian, nor are you prepared to pay that much for a pound for mediocre ground beef, you do have another option: Get creative. Okay, maybe a little bit sneaky, too.

But first, let’s talk turkey. I mean, ground beef. The really lean option of ground beef, 90/10, is not easy to prepare well. That’s because there’s not enough fat in it to turn out juicy, delicious fare. Lean ground beef requires seasoning as well as careful cooking.

Let’s say that you, like I, prefer organic, lean ground beef. Yesterday I paid $4.92 per pound for the best quality at Costco. Yikes! But I don’t really pay that. My effective cost is more like $3.24 per pound. How? Please don’t tell a soul … I stretch it. I take the best quality ground beef and then “extend” it by at least one-third. So whatever the price in the store, I mentally reduce it by 33 percent to get my effective cost.

STRETCHING. Sounds horrible, I know. But it’s not. By mixing something in with the ground beef to make it go farther, I get results that are so much better than the beef alone. I’m always doctoring, seasoning, adding this or that depending on what I’m making.

Good for the Budget, Better than Botox

A few days ago I read about this guy in New York City, Marco Canora. He’s a chef and says that the first 20 years of his career were fueled by caffeine, nicotine and alcohol. He has quite a story and an amazing life turnaround. He says that he owes his change of habits, health and lifestyle to something called brodo, Italian for “broth.”

Just last month, Canora opened Brodo, a take-out window on 1st Avenue in NYC. He sells broth in coffee cups with sip lids. And it’s pricey at $4.50 for a small 8 oz. cup. Granted, it is nothing close to that broth-like stuff that comes in a box at the supermarket. This is the real deal made from scratch and simmered for many hours until it is rich, dark and flavorful. This is “bone broth,” which some are now calling the new coffee.

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It’s not new. Our grandmothers knew about bone broth, that there is something awesome in good, rich soup made from animal bones. Bone broth has tremendous health and healing powers. My grandmother made it all the time.

How to Roast a Cheap Cut of Beef

No matter how inexpensive a chuck or round roast, if it turns out so tough and flavorless it’s passed to the dog, that purchase was no bargain.

photo credit: thebittenword.com

photo credit: thebittenword.com

Finally, thanks to very extensive research and experimentation by Christopher Kimball, as reported in Cooks Illustrated magazine, we can confidently purchase those cheaper cuts of beef and expect perfect results every time.

These days, with beef prices hitting all-time highs, buying the cheaper cuts of beef is one way to make our food dollars stretch as far as possible. Just know that what follows is for those of us with more time than money.

When looking for inexpensive cuts keep these three words in mind: chuck, sirloin and round.  The chuck is fattier and more tender, the round is lean and relatively tough.  The sirloin falls somewhere between the two.