Rhonda’s Cooking


Archive for August, 2008

How Much Sodium Are You Consuming?

Posted by rhondascooking on August 24, 2008

Sodium one of the 6 major minerals that your body needs.  It regulates body fluids in and out of every cell, transmits nerve impulses, helps to regulate blood pressure, and helps the heart and muscles to relax.  So, if sodium is an important mineral for the body, then why are we advised by to eat foods low in sodium?


Here’s the deal, most Americans consume about 3200 – 4000mg of sodium per day1; this is BAD with a capital B!  According to the American Dietetic Association, Americans ages 9 and up should consume between 1,500 – 2,300mg of sodium per day—this is equivalent to ½ – 1 teaspoon!! If you have challenges with hypertension (high blood pressure), then you really need to make sure that you pay attention to the amount of sodium in foods.  According to the DASH plan (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) you should consume less than 2,300mg of sodium per day.  Please note that the amount of sodium required also changes with age (see Table 1). Maybe now you can see why we MUST be on a “low sodium” diet!  


Required Amount

Equivalent Amount



1/4 teaspoon

basic functions


1/2 teaspoons



1 teaspoon


Table 1.  Required amount of sodium


So how do you begin to make this transition to a low sodium diet?  Start slow and stop using table salt and transition to a light grey sea salt, such as Celtic Sea Salt.   Also, begin to use a combination of herbs and spices such as garlic, onions (leeks, shallots, Vidalia, etc.), onion powder, garlic powder, rosemary, parsley, cilantro, ginger, cumin, etc.  Target to only eat 500mg of sodium per meal and about 250mg of sodium per snack—you only should have 2 or 3 snacks per day!  If you need help, let me know because all of my recipes in my upcoming cookbook will be low sodium!  Email info@rhondasooking to put your name on the pre-order list.

1Duyff, Roberta Larson.  Complete Food and Nutrition Guide.  New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2006.


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Not Eating Leftovers Will Save You Time and Money!

Posted by rhondascooking on August 24, 2008

Over the years I have heard friends and extended family members say, “I don’t like leftovers” or “My family won’t eat the same dinner more than twice a week!”   Well, my friend, today is your lucky day, I have a 5-step process that will help you turn those leftovers into frozen meals that will save you time and money in the future!   


Whenever you have leftovers do the following:

1.    Divide the leftovers into small serving sizes (divide based upon the typical serving that your family would eat);

2.    Place the leftovers into a container (any container that can be placed into the freezer); 

3.    Place the container of food into the freezer and let it freeze for an hour or two (length of time depends on the type of food).

4.    Once the food has been frozen, place the “frozen dinner” into a vacuum seal bag and remove the air.  (I use the FoodSaver® Vacuum Sealer for this step.)

5.    Label and date the frozen dinner and store in the freezer until you’re ready to eat.  Depending on the type of dinner, the length of storage time can last 10 months up to 1 year!  


So, the next time your family tells you that they don’t want leftovers, don’t fight, be excited because before you know it, you’ll have a mini grocery store in your home loaded with your family’s favorite frozen dinners!  Please note that you can follow these same steps if you want to freeze leftover homemade sauces and broths! 


You can purchase the new model FoodSaver Vacuum Sealer at any kitchen supply store or online.  Currently, Amazon has the FoodSaver V2840 Advanced Designavailable in black and stainless steel! 

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Gadget of the Week: Kitchen Aid Food Processor

Posted by rhondascooking on August 24, 2008

Kitchen Aid Food Processor

Kitchen Aid Food Processor

I stumbled on the Kitchen Aid Food Processor because I wanted to find an appliance that was cheaper than the Vita-Mix Blender, but still got the job done!  Though the food processor is not a blender, it can be used like one to blend smoothies and drinks.  Also, the food processor can be used for shredding carrots, chopping onions, or kneading dough.  There are many different manufacturers, such as Cuisinart, but I have found that the Kitchen Aid brand is easier to use and clean. What I like most about having the food processor is the fact that I can shred large batches of carrots and store in the fridge for future use.  Having the food processor allows me to prep my food days in advance, which definitely saves me time!  So, if you cannot afford to purchase the Vita-Mix blender, then consider purchasing the Kitchen Aid Food Processor.  I guarantee that you won’t have any regrets!

The food processor can be purchased at Amazon.com or at your local kitchen supply store.  The Kitchen Aid brand is a little more expensive than the other brands, ranging from $177 – $199, but it is definitely worth it!

Click the link to learn more or to purchase the KitchenAid Food Processors.

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Help…Which Oil to Choose?

Posted by rhondascooking on August 16, 2008

Have you noticed how many different types of cooking oils available in grocery stores? Do you know which of these oils to choose?  Should you select based on taste, price, brand, or nutrition value?  Or, should you select based on how you are planning to cook the meal—frying versus sautéing?   


Oils are classified as refined and unrefined.  Refined oils have been extracted using a solvent and heated to produce clear oil.  These oils, such as vegetable oil, peanut oil, canola oil, etc., can withstand high and medium-high heat temperatures that range between 320 – 500ºF.  Refined oils are good for baking, sautéing, searing/browning, stir-frying, and deep frying. On the other hand, unrefined oils are extracted by two different methods, cold-pressed (an extraction process that occurs under a controlled, low heat (<120ºF) temperature used) and expeller-pressed (an extraction process that requires no heat). Unrefined oils, such as extra virgin olive oil, corn oil, or coconut oil, can withstand a medium heat temperature that ranges from 212- 320ºF.  These oils are best for low-heat baking, light sautéing, sauces, salad dressings, and pressure cooking.


Another important fact to be aware of when selecting oils is to pay attention to the amount of saturated and unsaturated fats in the oils.  Saturated fat typically comes from animals and some derivatives of tropical vegetable oils and is solid at room temperature—this fat raises the bad cholesterol (LDL). Unlike saturated fats, unsaturated fats are liquids at room temperature and come mostly from vegetables and some fish.  Unsaturated fats are classified as either polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fats—many times we call these fats the “good fat”, because they lower the LDL and raise the HDL (the good cholesterol). When unsaturated fats have undergone a hydrogenation process, the fat will become saturated. 


So, the next time you find yourself in the oil aisle of the grocery store staring at the 30+ varieties of oils, just take a look at the nutrition facts label and select the brand that has more unsaturated fat and less saturated fat (less than 2g).  Click the link to download the “Cooking Oil Quicksheet.”

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What’s Flaxseed Oil?

Posted by rhondascooking on August 16, 2008

Spectrum Organic Flax Oil

Spectrum Organic Flax Oil

Flaxseed oil is unrefined oil made from flaxseeds that have been expeller pressed.   I consider this oil as one of my super foods because it is high in unsaturated fat and Omega-3 fatty acids, which are excellent for reducing inflammation and lowering cholesterol.  Flaxseed oil is very versatile and can be used as a vitamin supplement or as a salad dressing!* This golden-color, delicate oil has a distinct, nutty and flavorful taste and is available in both filtered and unfiltered varieties.  Unlike many of other unrefined oils, flax oil should NOT be heated; it will become rancid very quickly.

There are several brands on the market and each is slightly different. I have tried many varieties, but favorite is Spectrum® Organic Flax Oil (filtered). I like this brand because it is very light in taste and is excellent for those days when I want a mild flavor.  The price of flaxseed oil ranges from $10 – $25 depending on the size and brand.  You can purchase flax oil online or at health stores.
  Click this link to purchase
Spectrum Essentials Flaxseed Oil, Organic Liquid 24oz from Spectrum Essentials.


*I recommend that you consume 2 tablespoons daily.  Even though flaxseed oil is “healthy” and good for you, still be mindful of the daily value of oils that you should consume. If you are trying to watch your weight, replace flaxseed oil with 4 tablespoons of ground flaxseeds. 

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Gadget of the Week: Zyliss Jumbo Garlic Press

Posted by rhondascooking on August 16, 2008

Zyliss Garlic Press

I purchased the Zyliss Jumbo Garlic Press because I wanted fresh minced garlic, quickly!  I know that some of you maybe wondering why the need to buy a press when you could just chop garlic by hand.  Well, my answer is simple—convenience!  Once I started to use this press, life became so much easier because I didn’t have to peel or remove the ends of the garlic prior to chopping/mincing.  All you have to do is add the garlic clove and press!  As I have said many times, cooking should be fun and by having the right gadgets/tools you will be able to enjoy the experience of cooking! 


Click this link to learn more or to purchase the
Zyliss Jumbo Garlic Press with Cleaner.

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What in the World is Gluten-Free?

Posted by rhondascooking on August 9, 2008

Perhaps you have seen these words or even heard your friends or associates say that they are on a gluten-free diet.  Do you know what gluten is or where does gluten come from?  Is it just another fad or marketing scheme? 


Gluten is a by-product of two proteins, gliadin and glutenin, that are found in grains such as wheat, rye, and barley.  In bread baking when water is mixed with wheat based flours and yeast and then kneaded several times, gluten is formed and causes the dough to rise.  Gluten is an important component in cooking, especially for baking.


So, if gluten has purpose in cooking, then why in the world would anyone want to eat gluten-free?  I’m glad that you asked!  The most common reason why a person might eat a gluten-free diet is because he/she may have Celiac (See lee ak) Disease, which is an autoimmune disorder that damages the small intestines whenever a person eats anything with gluten. Table 1 shows some of the signs/symptoms of Celiac Disease.  Some of these can also imitate other bowel disorders, so to be certain, please consult with your doctor and get tested if you have experienced any of these.


Symptoms of Celiac Disease (one or more)

Recurring bloating, gas or abdominal pain

Infertility male & female

Chronic diarrhea or constipation

Spontaneous miscarriages

pale, foul-smelling stool

Canker sores inside mouth

Unexplained anemia

Tooth discoloration or loss of enamel

Bone or joint pain

Vitamin K Deficiency

Behavior changes/depression

Failure to thrive (infants)

Missed menstrual periods


Hereditary (2nd degree relatives–aunts, uncles, cousins)

Table 1.Some symptoms of Celiac Disease (source celiac.org)


Another reason why people may choose to eat gluten-free is if they have been diagnosed with ADD/ADHD (Attention Deficit Disorders) or autism.  Many claims have been made that when people with these disorders have eliminated gluten (as well as dairy), they have improved tremendously!  Also people who suffer with arthritis can benefit from a gluten-free diet (see past article “Can Food Help Arthritis?”). 


Now that you understand the basics about gluten, are you curious about what foods to eat that are gluten-free?  There are several foods that are available on the market that you can eat which do not contain gluten.  Just look for “gluten-free” on the package and the food ingredients label.  Make certain to beware of foods that are labeled as “no wheat” because sometimes that item may contain gluten!  So, the best way to determine if a product is truly gluten-free is to carefully read the food ingredients label.  Table 2 shows a list of foods to eat and avoid for a gluten-free diet and Table 3 indicates what foods that may contain gluten.


Grains to Eat

Grains to Avoid

brown rice









drum wheat








wheat starch


wheat/rye/barley hybrids



Table 2 Grains for a gluten-free diet (source: livingwithout.com)


Foods that May Contain Gluten


imitation seafood


malt, malt flavorings



coating mixes



processed meats

communion wafers



soy sauce

energy bars

soup bases

cereal/cereal products


imitation bacon


Table 3 Foods that may contain gluten (source: livingwithout.com)


I know that this may be a little overwhelming; Rhonda’s Cooking is here to help you through the challenge!  Because I am on a gluten-free, dairy-free and anything-artificial-free diet, I have a number of recipes in my upcoming cookbook that will be beneficial for you.  So, just send an email to info@rhondascooking.com to put your name on the list.  

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Agave Nectar

Posted by rhondascooking on August 9, 2008

Blue Agave Plant

Blue Agave Plant

Agave Nectar is a sweetener that comes from the blue agave plant from Mexico and is used for many things.  I found out about this wonderful culinary secret 2 years ago when I was transitioning my diet from widely produced white sugar.  After studying a variety of sweeteners such as honey, maple syrup, brown rice syrup, I must say that agave nectar is my number one choice!  Agave syrup is about 1.4 times sweeter than regular sugar and is very light sweet taste.  I use it for absolutely everything which includes baking, sweetening tea, or even drizzled on my pancakes! 


In terms of health, studies have shown that agave nectar does not raise blood sugar as quickly as the other mentioned sweeteners which is due to is relatively low glycemic index, ~32 (whereas other sweeteners have a glycemic index greater than 50), which makes it a good natural alternative to sugar.* 


*Please note that if you are diabetic, please contact your doctor or nutrition specialist prior to consuming because your whole diet plan must be analyzed.

Source picture wikipedia.com/agave nectar








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Gadget of the Week: Misto Oil Sprayer

Posted by rhondascooking on August 9, 2008

I remember growing up, my mom would buy spray oils such as Pam or Crisco, but now that I know about the harmful aspects of those oils, I decided to try something safer for my body and for the environment.  The Misto Oil Sprayer is a very good buy.  I have been using the Misto for about a year now and I really love it!  It is excellent for those recipes that require you to oil the pan prior to cooking, as well as for portion control.  This handy gadget is very easy to use and looks fabulous in the kitchen!  You can fill the Misto with olive oil or any other healthy oil.  The Misto is available in stainless steel and aluminum.  

Click to purchase or learn more about the Misto Oil Sprayer:
(Oil Sprayer – Stainless Steel – Black)

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Do You Have a Thyroid Problem?

Posted by rhondascooking on August 2, 2008

Major Endocrine System

Major Endocrine System

There are many people who walk around everyday and not even know that they have an overactive or underactive thyroid problem. There are more than 20 million people who suffer from a thyroid disorder, more than 10 million women have low-grade thyroid imbalance, and nearly 8 million people with thyroid imbalance remain undiagnosed!1 I was one of those 8 million people who suffered with many problems, but didn’t even know what was going on. It wasn’t until a friend of the family saw me and said that I needed to have my thyroid checked because my eyes looked bigger than normal. Though I was really offended at the time, her guess was correct! I had hyperthyroidism for months and never knew it!

The thyroid gland sits in the neck and shaped like a butterfly. The main function of the thyroid gland is to produce thyroid hormone, which regulate the functioning of the body and at the same time is a bona fide brain chemical that regulates mood, emotions, and many other brain functions.1 In fact, this gland controls the body’s metabolism; specifically it controls the amount of energy the body burns. When the thyroid gland is not performing correctly, the two most common problems with the thyroid are as follows:

1. Hypothyroidism (Hashimoto’s thyroiditis)—this occurs when there is not enough thyroid hormones thus causing the thyroid to become underactive; this affects 10 percent of the population and is the most common cause of an underactive thyroid.1
2. Hyperthyroidism (Graves’ disease)—this occurs when there is an excess of thyroid hormones thus causing the thyroid to be overactive.

In both cases, the body faces a number of symptoms/problems. For example in the table below there is a list of the most common symptoms for each.

Hypothyroidism Hyperthyroidism
General tiredness Fatigue
Weight gain Weight loss
Aches and pains in joints and muscles Shakiness
Constipation Increased frequency of bowel movements
Increased sleepiness Restlessness
Brittle hair Brittle nails
Hair loss, including loss of eyebrow hair Hair loss
Feeling cold even in warm temperatures Feeling hot and becoming intolerant of warm and hot temperatures
Depression Eye irritation
Dry and pale skin Increased sweating & thirst
Forgetfulness Rapid heartbeat, palpitations
Mental sluggishness Shortness of breath
Decreased ability to pay attention and focus Anemia
Irritability Increased hunger and food consumption
Seizures Irregular menstrual periods
  Decreased fertility

Table 1.  Most common symptoms for both hypo- and Hyperthyroidism.1  There are other symptoms.

Since I’m all about food, I must tell you about the foods that are not in your best interest to eat if you have a thyroid imbalance? These foods listed in Table 2 contain a substance called goitrogens, according to research goitrogens suppress the functioning of the thyroid gland by interfering with the iodine uptake.2 The best diet for those of us with a thyroid imbalance is one that includes healthy foods with a low glycemic index such as whole grains, low in fat, low in simple sugars and high in protein.

Foods to Eat Foods to Avoid
Whole grains Turnips
Tuna Cabbage
Salmon Mustards
Lean beef Soybeans
Sunflower seeds Peanuts
Oatmeal Pine nuts
Carrots Millet
Almonds Spinach
Beans Strawberries
Leafy green veggies Peaches
Maple syrup  

Table 2.  Summary of some foods to eat and to avoid when challenged with a thyroid imbalance.

I know; I know; what are you going to eat??  Well, there are lots of foods that you can eat and in my upcoming cookbook, I have simple recipes that are excellent for the thyroid.  (Please email info@rhondascooking to put your name on the cookbook pre-order list!)


If you are uncertain about whether your thyroid is not properly functioning, please make an appointment with your general physician and get tested.  If you your thyroid levels indicate that you are hypo or hyperthyroid active, then please make an appointment with an endocrinologist, a doctor who specializes in the endocrine system which includes the thyroid gland.  If you have further questions, please email info@rhondascooking.com.


1Arem, Ridya.  The Thyroid Solution.  New Jersey: The Random House Publishing Group, 2006.

2“Goitrogen.”  Wikipedia.  July 14, 2008. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goitrogen>.  July 30, 2008.

Source: Photo wikipedia.

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