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The Sneaky Chef’s Earth Day recipes

The Sneaky Chef workshops, promoted by Missy Chase Lapine, is a program of recipes, cooking classes and demonstrations that teach families how to eat healthier.


Sneaky Chef brainy brownies 
Makes about 30 kid-sized brownies

6 tablespoons unsalted butter
¾ cup semisweet chocolate chips
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup Purple Puree (see Make-Ahead Recipe below)
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons Flour Blend (equal parts white flour, whole grain flour, and wheat germ)
1/4 cup rolled oats, ground in a food processor
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Butter or non-stick cooking spray

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Butter or spray only the bottom, not the sides, of a 13-by-9-inch or 9-inch square baking pan.

Melt the butter and chocolate chips together in a double boiler or metal bowl over simmering water (or in a microwave, checking every 15 seconds). Remove from heat and allow mixture to cool a bit. Meanwhile, in another bowl, stir together the eggs, vanilla, sugar, and Purple Puree. Combine this purple egg mixture with the cooled chocolate mixture. In a mixing bowl, stir together Flour Blend, cocoa powder, oats, and salt. Add this to the chocolate mixture and blend thoroughly. Mix in the chopped walnuts, if using, then pour the entire mixture into the baking pan.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool completely in pan before cutting the brownies and use a plastic or butter knife. Dust with powdered sugar, if desired.

Keeps for a week in the refrigerator, covered tightly.


Sneaky Chef make-ahead recipe: Purple puree

3 cups raw baby spinach leaves (or 2 cups frozen chopped spinach, or frozen chopped collard greens)
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries (no syrup or sugar added)
1/2  teaspoon lemon juice
1-2  tablespoons water

If using raw spinach, thoroughly wash it, even if the package says “prewashed.” Bring spinach or collards and water to boil in a medium pot. Turn heat to low and allow to simmer for 10 minutes. If using frozen blueberries, quickly rinse them under cold water to thaw a little, and then drain.

Fill the bowl of your food processor with the blueberries and cooked spinach, (or collards) along with the lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of water, and puree on high until as smooth as possible. Stop occasionally to push top contents to bottom. If necessary, use a second tablespoon of water to make a fairly smooth puree.

This amount of spinach and blueberries makes only about 1 cup of puree. Double the recipe if you want to store another cup of the puree. It will store in the refrigerator up to 2 days, or you can freeze 1/4 cup portions in sealed plastic bags or small plastic containers.


You find a few sample recipes from the cookbook The Sneaky Chef: Simple Strategies for Hiding Healthy Foods in Kids’ Favorite Meals by Missy Chase Lapine, former publisher of Eating Well magazine and the founder of a natural baby product line Baby Spa®. We thought they might be of some interest to you.

From the author of The Sneaky Chef

© Missy Chase Lapine


Earth Day milk shake
Makes 2 servings

2 cups vanilla low-fat ice cream or frozen yogurt
4 to 6 tablespoons Green Juice (See Make-Ahead Recipe below)
1/4 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Blend all ingredients together in a blender until smooth. Serve in tall glasses with a quick squirt of whipped cream and a straw.

Sneaky Chef make-ahead recipe: Green juice

3 cups raw baby spinach leaves (or 2 cups frozen chopped spinach, or frozen chopped collard greens)
1 cup water

If using raw spinach, thoroughly wash it, even if package says “prewashed.” Bring spinach or collards and water to boil in a medium pot. Turn heat to low and allow to simmer for 10 minutes. Pour into a fine mesh strainer over a container or bowl, pressing the green “pulp” with the back of a spoon until all the liquid is released.

Store in refrigerator up to 3 days, or freeze 1/4 cup portions in sealed plastic bags or small plastic containers. This makes about 1 cup of Green juice. Double the recipe if you want to store another cup of juice.

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Buying a spice rack

Spice racks are an integral part of keeping the kitchen organized.

If you’re unhappy with the current way you store spices, consider what to look for when buying a spice rack. These tips will help you find the best spice rack for your kitchen and your budget.

What to look for when buying a spice rack

Three of the most important things to look for when considering spice racks are what types are best for your home, how much space do they require and how much will they cost you

There are a variety of types of spice racks. You can get some that are magnetic. They can be hung on any metal surface which will keep them handy while you cook. Carousel spice racks require more space than the magnetic kind, but they often hold more of the spice for the amount of space it needs. Hanging spice racks will keep spices up off your cabinet but they often don’t hold the amount of spices as other types.

Next you’ll want to consider how much space you have in your kitchen. If you have plenty of counter space, a carousel rack might be the perfect choice. However, if your kitchen is smaller than you would like with minimal counters, one of the other types would be a better choice.

Finally, you’ll want to consider the price of spice racks. There are so many to choose from and they range in price from under $25 to well over $100. Of course, only you know how much you can afford to spend.  You can find some relatively inexpensive spice racks at local department stores or larger malls. They can also be found online at a variety of locations. Consider how much you are willing to spend and then find the best rack to meet your budget.

Features to consider when shopping for a spice rack

  • Number of jars – Spice racks will have a different number of filled and sealed spice jars included. Look at the pre-filled spices and think about foods you normally prepare. This will help you decide which spice rack is going to suit your needs best.
  • Easily identifiable – You’ll want to find a spice rack that makes it easy to identify which spice is which since so many look similar. This may be possible either by a label on the cap or around the jar itself.
  • Amount of spices – Most spice racks provide some spices in the jars or containers. The better spice racks will have more jars of pre-filled spices. They range in number from four to 48.
  • Construction – Spice racks can be made from anything from plastic to metal and nearly everything in between. Consider the décor of your kitchen to help you decide which spice rack is best for your kitchen.
  • Size – Overall, how much space does it take up on your countertop or in your cabinet? Or does it use non-traditional means to store your spices such as magnets or a hanging rack which can be placed under a cabinet?
  • Rotates – Some spice racks will revolve or rotate to make finding the right spice easier.
  • Easy cleaning – Depending of the construction materials, the spice rack can clean easily.

Making a comparison table is always a good idea when there are many options to choose from.

BrandSpice Stack Super SpicestackKitchenArt Pro Auto-Measure Spice CarouselKamenstein 16-Jar Beechwood
Jar count271216 jars
ConstructionPlasticStainless SteelWooden
RotatesNoYesYes
Size8.5″H x 11″W x 10.75″D9.6 x 9.6 x 7 inches6.6 x 6.6 x 10.9 inches
Spice labelsNoYesYes/Pre-filled

Now that you have seen some of the types of spice racks available, determined how much you’re willing to spend and how much space it will take in your kitchen, you have the tools you need to choose the best spice rack to suit your needs.

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Buying a tortilla warmer

A tortilla warmer will keep your tortillas moist, soft and warm to enjoy Tex-Mex and Mexican cuisine at their best.

Tortillas are an important part of Mexican cuisine. When served properly, they are versatile and quite delicious. If you’ve ever tried adding ingredients to a dry or cool tortilla, you know they tend to break apart and can affect the taste of the dish. Fortunately it’s easy to keep your tortillas moist, soft and warm with the help of a tortilla warmer.

What to look for when buying a tortilla warmer

There are quite a variety of warmers available so here are a few things to consider before buying a tortilla warmer.

Price – Tortilla warmers are not expensive. The price of tortilla warmers can range from $5 to $25 depending on the construction material, size / capacity, heat source, and the amount of heat the warmer will handle.

Construction – Warmers are made from a variety of materials such as high-temperature polyester, acrylic, and stoneware. The most common tortilla warmers are either in the form of bags or bowls with lids.

Size and Capacity – The standard tortilla sizes are 8-inch and 12-inch so you’ll want a warmer of comparable size. While tortillas can be purchased in large quantities the warmers compared here hold 12 tortillas, no matter the size of the tortilla. Although you may be tempted to get a warmer that holds more tortillas if you a large family, it’s better to use multiple warmers rather than a larger capacity warmer.

Heat Source – Most people warm their tortillas in the microwave; however some prefer to use the oven. Depending on your needs, you may find a warmer that can be used in both appliances is beneficial.

Product Care – Since the warmers rarely have stuck-on or burned foods, the quickest way to clean them is by hand washing. However, if you like the convenience of using a dishwasher, there are dishwasher safe tortilla warmers to choose from.

Below is a comparison chart of features and consumer performance ratings.

BrandCameron’s Product Tortilla WarmerImusa Tortilla WarmerRSVP Stoneware Tortilla Warmer
ConstructionHigh Temp PolyesterAcrylicStoneware
CapacityHolds 12 12” tortillasHolds 12 8” tortillasHolds 12 8” tortillas
Microwave/Oven SafeMicrowave onlyMicrowave onlyMicrowave & Oven safe (up to 325 F)
How to CleanHand WashHand WashDishwasher safe

Soft, warm, moist, tortillas play a big part in the success of many Mexican dishes. If you’re tired of your tortillas cracking and all the ingredients running onto your plate – or worse, your lap, a tortilla warmer may be just what you need.

Since there are a variety of warmers available, knowing what to look for when buying a tortilla warmer will help save you time, money, and even your taste buds. This tortilla warmer comparison chart will help you get started.

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Money saving uses for a toaster oven

A toaster oven can be used for all the same things a regular oven would be used for. The only limitation it has is its size.

Yes, 20 lb turkeys will have to go in the oven, but it does not mean a toaster oven does not have advantages.

A toaster oven is far more economical and an excellent cooking source for those living in tight quarters such as college dorms. Toaster ovens are also portable if you’re heading to the cottage or having to stay in a hotel for any length of time. People who use them on a regular basis wonder how they managed without them.

Preparing food in your toaster oven not only saves time it also saves on energy bills.

The average oven takes approximately 20 minutes to preheat to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  The average toaster oven takes less than half that amount of time.  Because the capacity space is smaller in a toaster oven, your food will be sizzling hot and ready to serve in approximately 3/4 of the time it would take in a regular oven.  Over time, these time savings amount to a good bit of saved money that can be used elsewhere.

Next time you are thinking about turning on your oven, think GREEN.  Dust off your neglected toaster oven, put it where it is easily accessible and start saving money right away. In most cases, if the food will fit inside the toaster oven, it can be cooked in it as well. The newest models are tall and feature 2 baking racks!

10 money saving uses for a toaster oven

Frozen Packaged Food – Anything you buy frozen that is prepackaged can be cooked in the toaster over.  Here are some examples. 

  • Personal pizza
  • Chicken fingers, nuggets
  • Meat Pies
  • TV Dinner
  • Entrees
  • Fish sticks
  • Pogos
  • Pastas
  • French Fries
  • Pies

Roasting – Anything you can roast in the oven, you can roast in the toaster oven.  If it is a food that drips juices it needs to be put into a small roasting dish.  Disposable pans are cheap at the dollar store.

  • Nuts, seeds
  • Potatoes
  • Marshmallows
  • Garlic
  • Small size meats

Baking – Your toaster oven bakes a cake just like a regular oven. 

  • Muffins
  • Cookies
  • Cakes
  • Cornbread
  • Brownies
  • Any Pillsbury type rolls, biscuits, croissant
  • Bars

Melting – Good for melting an extra topping for another dish

  • Cheese
  • Garlic spread
  • Butter
  • Chocolate
  • Sugar

Defrost – Most toaster ovens have a defrost setting.  Defrosting in the microwave can sometimes cook half the food, especially if one end is thinner than the other.  Toaster ovens defrost your food evenly.  Defrost anything that is frozen and needs to be defrosted before cooking.  You can’t make homemade hamburger patties out of frozen hamburger. 

Warmer – Toaster ovens have the ability to warm at a much lower temperature than a normal oven.

  • Dinner plates
  • Serving containers
  • Homemade bread
  • Buns
  • Bagels
  • Pitas

Broiler – Some foods can be nicely seared on the outside while preventing the inside from over cooking.

  • Meat of any type
  • Vegetables
  • Potatoes
  • Cheese on top of garlic bread, onion soup

Reheating – Microwaves many times destroy the foods texture when reheated (soggy, hard).  They also cook the foods unevenly, cold in the middle, hot on the edges.  A toaster oven will reheat foods evenly leaving their original texture intact.  You can reheat any type of food in your toaster oven.

Crisping – If you like your food crisp then the toaster oven does a good job of it.  Foods that were originally crispy can be reheated in the microwave bringing the crisp back to life. 

  • Potatoes
  • Garlic bread
  • Breaded meats

Other advantages of having a toaster oven on hand

  • You can always use it for a second oven when planning larger dinner parties.
  • You can whip up an entire mean breakfast in no time at all.
  • Toaster ovens don’t project the heat that a regular oven does. If temperatures are already soaring in your dwelling you don’t want to add more heat from your regular oven.
  • Toaster ovens are affordable for just about anybody.
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Home wine making resources

Information comes first, so read a book or two about wine technology and home wine making. Learn about vines and vine growing if you want to make wine from grapes, Jeff Cox’s book “From Vines to Wines” is a good start.

If you have decided to make your own wine at home, even if it is wine from other fruits than grapes, you will need some equipment and tools. The most expensive equipment includes a home distiller to make spirits from wines.

Once you have chosen your basic equipment, you will need the ingredients and the bottles. You can collect your own. For the rest of us, there are kits for any type of wine you would want to make.

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Cholesterol Down

The following is an excerpt from the book Cholesterol Down by Janet Bond Brill, Ph.D., R.D., LDN.

Ten Simple Steps to Lower Your Cholesterol in Four Weeks–Without Prescription Drugs.

Published by Three Rivers Press; December 2006;$13.95US/$17.95CAN; 978-0-307-33911-9
Copyright © 2006 Janet Brill, Ph.D.

Great recipes from the cholesterol down book

Mia’s Veggie Omelet

This recipe is named for my daughter Mia, who often makes this colorful and nutritious omelet. Serve with two soy sausages, whole-wheat toast, and margarine with plant sterols.

Yield: 1 serving

 ¼ cup asparagus, chopped
1 tablespoon water
2 teaspoons canola oil
¼ cup jarred sweet red peppers (found in the condiment section of most supermarkets)
½ medium Vidalia onion, chopped
6 egg whites
1 ounce soy cheddar cheese, shredded
Salt and pepper to taste, optional

Cut tough stems off asparagus. Chop the tender portions of the spears into small pieces. Microwave in microwave-safe bowl with water until soft, about 2 minutes. Heat oil in frying pan. Add vegetables and sauté over medium-high heat until cooked (onion is transparent). Whisk egg whites together until a froth forms. Add in egg whites and fry until omelet has reached desired consistency. Top with shredded cheese, cover, and continue heating until cheese has just melted. Season to taste with salt and pepper if desired and serve warm.

Nutritional information per serving (1 omelet):
Calories: 261, Fat: 13 g, Cholesterol: 0 mg, Sodium: 840 mg, Carbohydrate: 8 g, Dietary Fiber: 2 g, Sugars: 2 g, Protein: 29 g


Four-Mushroom Barley Soup

Warm and comforting, this soup is just the thing for a cold winter’s day.

Yield: 10 servings

9 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
½ ounce dried porcini mushrooms
½ ounce dried shiitake mushrooms
¼ cup canola oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 medium shallots, finely chopped
8-ounce package baby bella or cremini mushrooms, stemmed, cleaned, and diced
12-ounce package white button mushrooms, stemmed, cleaned, and quartered
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 carrots, peeled and chopped into small pieces
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup whole-grain barley
1 bay leaf
¼ teaspoon dried thyme
Shredded soy or regular part-skim mozzarella cheese, optional

Heat 1½ cups chicken broth. Add porcini and shiitake mushrooms to broth and soak, covered, until soft, about 30 minutes. Remove mushrooms from broth and chop into small pieces; set aside. Strain soaking liquid and set aside. Heat the oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add onions and shallots and cook until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the baby bella and button mushrooms and salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until mushrooms are tender, about 10 minutes. Add carrots and garlic, stir, and cook an additional minute. Add remaining chicken broth, porcini and shiitake soaking liquid, porcini and shiitake mushrooms, barley, bay leaf, and thyme. Bring to a boil, stir, and cover; reduce heat and simmer about 1 hour. Remove and discard bay leaf before serving. Sprinkle with shredded mozzarella cheese before serving, if desired.

Nutritional information per serving (1⁄10 of recipe, 351 grams or approximately 1½ cups soup):
Calories: 157, Fat: 6 g, Cholesterol: 0 mg, Sodium: 744 mg, Carbohydrate: 20 g, Dietary Fiber: 5 g, Sugars: 2 g, Protein: 7 g


Deli Club Sandwich

Yield: 1 serving

2 slices 100% whole-wheat bread
4 slices Smart Deli roast-turkey-style soy deli slices
1 ounce Lifetime cholesterol-reducing cheddar cheese
½ avocado, peeled and sliced
¼ cup chopped spinach
2 slices tomato
1 slice red onion
Mustard to taste

Toast whole-wheat bread. Combine all ingredients into sandwich and add condiments to taste.

Nutritional information per serving (1 sandwich):
Calories: 353, Fat: 10 g, Cholesterol: 0 mg, Sodium: 1134 mg, Carbohydrate: 40 g, Dietary Fiber: 10 g, Sugars: 14 g, Protein: 29 g


Spinach Salad with Grilled Portobello Mushrooms

Yield: 2 servings

4 cups washed spinach leaves, preferably organically grown
2 large ripe tomatoes, diced
2 large portobello mushrooms
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
Juice of ½ fresh lemon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Balsamic glaze (available commercially such as Gia Russa from Italy)

Heat grill to medium-high heat. Chop spinach into small pieces and divide spinach between two salad plates. Top each with chopped tomatoes. Wash and dry mushrooms, removing stems. In a small pot, heat olive oil and sauté garlic with lemon juice, salt, and pepper until garlic is browned. Brush mushroom caps (both sides) generously with olive oil mixture. Grill mushrooms over medium heat, stem side down, for about 8 minutes. Turn and grill tops for 6 to 8 minutes more. The mushrooms should be browned and tender. Remove from grill, cut into quarters, and arrange over spinach salad. Add seasoning to taste. Drizzle salad with balsamic glaze and serve.

Nutritional information per serving (½ of recipe):
Calories: 220, Fat: 15 g, Cholesterol: 0 mg, Sodium: 236 mg, Carbohydrate: 21 g, Dietary Fiber: 5 g, Sugars: 7 g, Protein: 5 g


Soy Chicken Patties

Yield: 1 serving

2 frozen soy-based chicken patties (such as Morningstar Farms), defrosted
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon dried dill
Commercial gravy, optional

Preheat broiler. Line a baking pan with aluminum foil. Place chicken patties on foil, drizzle with lemon juice, and sprinkle with dill. Broil about 2 minutes each side, until no longer pink. Serve with commercial gravy if desired.

Nutritional information per serving (2 patties):
Calories: 308, Fat: 13 g, Cholesterol: 1 mg, Sodium: 1028 mg, Carbohydrate: 19 g, Dietary Fiber: 7 g, Sugars: 5 g, Protein: 19 g


Mashed Potatoes with Chickpeas

Yield: 6 servings

2 pounds baking potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1 can (15.5 ounces) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 cup light soy milk
½ cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
¼ cup Take Control Light margarine
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
Commercial gravy, optional

Place potatoes in large saucepan, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes or until tender. Drain and return potatoes to pan. Add chickpeas and mash using a potato masher. Add soy milk, chicken broth, margarine, and salt and pepper and stir. Cook an additional 2 minutes, until heated, stirring constantly. Serve warm. Top with commercial gravy if desired.

Nutritional information per serving (1⁄6 of recipe, 293 grams or approximately 1 cup):
Calories: 255, Fat: 5 g, Cholesterol: 0 mg, Sodium: 751 mg, Carbohydrate: 46 g, Dietary Fiber: 5 g, Sugars: 3 g, Protein: 7 g


Garlicky Broccoli

Yield: 2 servings

2 cups broccoli florets
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Fresh parsley, for garnish, optional

Place broccoli in a microwave safe bowl, add water, and cook in microwave on high until tender, about 5 minutes (I like it very well done, about 10 minutes). In a saucepan, combine olive oil, garlic, and lemon juice and cook over low heat for approximately 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until garlic is golden brown. Pour garlic sauce over drained broccoli, toss, add salt and pepper to taste, and serve. Garnish with fresh parsley if desired.

Nutritional information per serving (½ of recipe):
Calories: 88, Fat: 7 g, Cholesterol: 0 mg, Sodium: 20 mg, Carbohydrate: 5 g, Dietary Fiber: 2 g, Sugars: 0 g, Protein: 2 g

Copyright © 2006 Janet Brill, PH.D.

About the Author

Janet Bond Brill, Ph.D., R.D., LDN, is a registered and licensed dietitian/nutritionist, exercise physiologist, and certified wellness coach. She has been published in the International Journal of Obesity and the International Journal of Sport Nutrition, as well as in the popular press.