Teach a Visual Lesson about Sugar in Drinks

Sugar in Drinks


Conscientious parents teach their children about the dangers of smoking, drinking and taking drugs, but I wonder, what do they say about the danger coming from their pantry in the form of sugar. I recently noticed that our son was coming home daily with 44 ounce size cups of soda that he bought at the corner mini-market gas station. These sodas are very inexpensive for their size and many kids, and adults, prefer it to canned soda because they get more for their money. Sure, you can tell kids that sugar is bad for them, that it could rot their teeth, make them feel cranky and irritated, cause skin problems, make them feel tired, and that it could lead to bigger problems like arthritis and diabetes, and nothing that you say will seem to impact them.

Having worked in education I know that people learn in different ways. Some people learn by hearing, others learn through touch, and some learners are visual. Here is a lesson that is auditory, visual and tactile:


One 44 oz. soda = 38 teaspoons, 152 g, or ¾ cup sugar

3/4 cup sugar


Three 44 oz. sodas per week = 114 teaspoons, 456 g., 2-1/4 cups, or 1 lb. sugar

2-1/4 cups sugar


12 sodas per month = 456 teaspoons, 1824 g., 9 cups, or 4 lbs. Seen below in a 2 quart measurer.



4 pounds of sugar

For kids who are drinking one every day, that’s over 8 pounds of sugar a month. This does not even factor in the sugar from fast foods, candy bars, sweetened beverages like coffee and tea, breakfast foods, snack foods and condiments. Also, one think to mention is that drinks made with high fructose corn syrup go directly into the blood stream and make you crave for more sugar.

Considering the estimate that one-third of the American population has prediabetes or diabetes, we should think of meaningful and tangible ways to teach kids about the dangers of sugar.









Book Review – “Vegan Chocolate” by Fran Costigan

Vegan Chocolate



A couple of weeks ago Fran Costigan, author of Vegan Chocolate: Unapologetically Luscious and Decadent Dairy-Free Desserts, made a book promotion appearance at Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe, Arizona, which I luckily attended—luckily because I was able to sample some of her chocolate treats.

Fran CostiganYou might think, “Hey, wait a minute. Isn’t this blog about eating healthy?” Well, yes it is; but, occasionally I want to make a special treat and this book is an excellent resource for dairy free sweets made with organic ingredients. There are several aspects I particularly like about the vegan book: the recipes, the photos, the cooking and baking tips, the ingredients section, and the resource and bibliography sections.

There are some great “basic” recipes in this book, too. I was very happy to see the recipe for Basic Thick Cashew Cream which is like a thick pastry cream made with cashews instead of milk and eggs; another, White Chocolate Cream Filling is made with tofu as a base ingredient, which sounds delicious and healthier than any filling recipe I’ve ever seen. The truffles section is also great, because Fran uses different types of fats in her truffles. You can try these delicious creamy bites made with coconut oil, olive oil, nut milk, or her basic thick cashew cream. The following are the names of a few of them: Spicy Ginger Truffles, Chai-Spiced Truffles, Bittersweet Cashew Cream Truffles and Aztec Truffles—oh yeah!

The book’s layout called my attention because it has lots of little boxes with tips on trouble shooting, how to use certain ingredients, or simply a note about why a certain ingredient is used. In addition, the recipe amounts are listed in American standard measurements (cups, tablespoons, etc.) and in the metric system by weight.

Fran has a number of recipes for frozen desserts that will leave you drooling, but her real talent is for “showstopper” or special occasion desserts like: Chocolate Cherry Miroir cake, Sachertorte, and Opera Cake to name a few. They are not difficult to make. Fran recommends making the basics one day and then assembling them on they day they are to be eaten.

I’ve carefully studied Fran’s book from cover to cover ogling over the gorgeous food porn photos and I have to say that I’d be very surprised if she doesn’t win a James Beard Cookbook Award. The following recipes: Chocolate Cake to Live For and Bittersweet Chocolate Ganache are from her book and are used in her cake Bittersweet Ganache – Glazed Chocolate Torte to Live For. I made it last weekend and we all loved it! Try the recipes below for yourself and see what you think.


(The cake recipe below is from page 68-69 of the book; the bittersweet ganache recipe that follows the cake recipe is from page 264.)

Bittersweet Ganache – Glazed Chocolate Torte to Live For

The name for this cake dates back over twenty years to the day I was sure I had cracked the code for the perfect chocolate cake that was also vegan. I invited three friends over (non-vegan, as it happened) to taste the cake with me. After a big forkful each, we stopped, looked at each other, and said almost in unison, “Now this is a cake worth living for!” At least that is how I remember it. Since then, this has become my signature cake and remains the one most discussed, requested, Google-searched, praised, and served of all my cakes. Versions of what my assistants, interns, catering clients, friends, family, and I refer to as “TCC2L4” have appeared in both of my previous books, but I couldn’t leave it out of my first all-chocolate book. This version is a single cake layer twice glazed with the glossy dark Bittersweet Chocolate Ganache Glaze. (You can of course simply double the recipe and bake a layer cake if that’s what you prefer.) A “tinkerer” by nature, I have changed little bits of the recipe over the years, using a little less nondairy milk and substituting mild extra-virgin olive oil for the organic canola oil. Note that you will have more glaze than is needed for the recipe, but you can reuse the glaze that drips onto the parchment under the icing rack. After the excess has hardened, scoop it up, spoon it into a container, and cover and refrigerate or freeze for another use.


1⁄2 cup / 70 grams organic whole wheat pastry flour

1 ⁄2 cup / 64 grams organic all-purpose flour

1 ⁄4 cup plus 1 tablespoon / 31 grams Dutch-process cocoa powder

1 ⁄4 cup / 50 grams organic granulated sugar, finely ground in a blender

1 teaspoon / 5 grams aluminum-free baking powder

1 teaspoon / 5 grams baking soda

1 ⁄2 teaspoon / 2.5 grams fine sea salt

1 ⁄4 cup / 60 ml mild tasting extra-virgin olive oil or organic neutral vegetable oil

1 ⁄2 cup / 120 ml pure maple syrup, Grade B or dark amber

3 ⁄4 cup plus 2 tablespoons / 210 ml any nondairy milk

1 1⁄2 teaspoons / 7.5 ml pure vanilla extract

1 ⁄2 teaspoon chocolate extract (optional)

1 teaspoon / 5 ml apple cider vinegar

1 recipe Bittersweet Chocolate Ganache Glaze (follows after instructions for cake)


1. Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 ̊F / 180 ̊C. Oil the sides and bottom of the cake pan and line the bottom with a parchment circle or paper cut to fit. Do not oil the paper.

2. Place a wire mesh strainer over a medium bowl. Add the pastry flour, all-purpose flour, cocoa, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt to the strainer and stir with a whisk to sift the ingredients into the bowl. (If any small bits remain in the strainer, add them to the mixture in the bowl.) Whisk to aerate the mixture.

3. Whisk the oil, maple syrup, nondairy milk, vanilla, chocolate extract (if using), and vinegar in a separate medium bowl until completely combined. Immediately pour into the dry mixture and whisk until the batter is smooth. Pour the batter into pan. Rotate the pan to level the batter and tap it lightly on the counter to get rid of some of the air bubbles

4. Bake the cake on the center rack for 28 to 32 minutes, or until the top of the cake is set, the sides have started to pull away from the pan, and a wooden toothpick or skewer inserted into the center comes out clean or with just a few moist crumbs.

5. Place the pan on a wire rack and cool for 5 minutes. Run a thin spatula around the sides of the cake to release the sides of the cake from the pan. Invert the layer onto the rack, remove the pan, and carefully peel off the parchment paper. Invert again, top side up on the rack, to cool completely. When the cake is completely cool, slide a cardboard circle or a flat plate underneath. Cover the cake tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold before glazing.


1. Place the cake on an icing rack set over a parchment-lined baking pan.

2. Pour slightly less than 1 cup / 240 ml of the Bittersweet Chocolate Ganache Glaze into a measuring cup with a spout. Center the cup over the cake and pour the glaze onto center of the cake. Coax the glaze to the edges and down the sides by tilting the baking sheet or using an icing spatula. Use the spatula to spread the glaze onto the sides.

3. Allow the glaze to set undisturbed for 15 minutes, then refrigerate the cake for 10 minutes.

4. Refill the measuring cup with another scant cup of the glaze, and add another coating. This time, don’t try to move the glaze around with the spatula after it has been applied. Doing so will mar the finish. But extra glaze drizzled freeform on the cake looks great and hides any problems. Refrigerate to set the glaze.


For the neatest slices, cut the cake while it is cold but serve at room temperature.


The glazed cake can be refrigerated for up to two days, unwrapped or in a cake box. (Keep the cake away from strong odors.) The cake can be frozen for up to one month: Wrap the cake tightly in a layer of plastic wrap and another layer of aluminum foil, or slip it into a zipper-lock bag and squeeze out the air.


Embellished Torte to Live For: The torte needs no fancying up—I like its elegant simplicity and often serve it without any further embellishment, other than possibly painting a line of extra glaze on each plate, off-center, and adding a pile of fresh berries or sliced fruit. But the following variations add wow: sprinkle the top of the cake with gold luster dust, add chocolate transfer sheet cut-outs (page 29), or place any of the truffles found in Chapter Two on the not-quite-set ganache.

Gluten-Free Chocolate Torte to Live For: Replace the pastry and all-purpose flours with 1 cup of all-purpose gluten-free baking mix. (I recommend Bob’s Red Mill.) If your gluten-free mix does not contain xanthan or guar gum, add 3 ⁄8 teaspoon xanthan gum to the dry ingredients. Bake for 25 to 27 minutes.


Bittersweet Chocolate Ganache Glaze  

It will take longer to read this recipe than to make it, but its success is all about the quality and taste of the chocolate and following the details in the recipe. As long as you stay within the percentages listed, any premium quality chocolate you enjoy eating is the one to use. The important part is to chop the chocolate very fine and to strain the hot milk. Allowing the chocolate to melt into the milk for the full 4 minutes is not optional. And stir only until the chocolate and milk are emulsified—that is, glossy and smooth. Over-mixing may turn your silken ganache gritty. If the chocolate has not completely melted after the ganache is mixed, bring the water in the saucepan on the stove to a simmer and turn off the heat. Place the bowl of ganache on the saucepan for a few minutes, then stir very gently until the chocolate has melted and the ganache is smooth.


8 ounces / 227 grams dark chocolate (70 to 72%), finely chopped
1 1 ⁄4 cups / 300 ml organic almond milk or soymilk (more as needed to adjust consistency)
2 tablespoons / 18 grams organic granulated sugar
Pinch fine sea salt
1 1 ⁄4 teaspoons / 6.25 ml pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons / 10 ml mild tasting extra-virgin olive oil (optional but recommended for sheen)

1. Add the chocolate to a heatproof bowl and set aside while you heat the milk.

2. Pour the milk into a small saucepan. Add the sugar and salt. Cook over medium heat, whisking a few times to a low boil.

3. Immediately remove the saucepan from the heat. Pour the hot milk over the chopped chocolate all at once. Rotate the bowl so the chocolate is completely submerged. Cover the bowl with a plate and let stand undisturbed for 4 minutes.

4. Add the vanilla and olive oil (if using) and whisk from the center out only until smooth and glossy. (If the chocolate is not completely melted, refer to the Sidebar on page 28 for instructions on using a water bath to melt the chocolate.)

5. Keep the bowl of ganache at room temperature while you test the final consistency. Dip a teaspoon into the ganache, set the coated spoon on a small plate, and refrigerate for 10 to 15 minutes. After chilling, the ganache on the spoon should be smooth and firm, but should still taste creamy. It is unlikely, but if the glaze is too firm, add a tablespoon of room temperature milk, and repeat the test. Add a second tablespoon if needed.

6. Pass the ganache through a strainer into a bowl. Whisking slowly will speed the process.

7. Allow the ganache to thicken at room temperature for 15 to 25 minutes, or until it will coat a spoon thickly with minimal dripping, but remain pourable. Stir a few times from the outside into the center before glazing.


The glaze can be refrigerated in a tightly closed con- tainer for up to five days and frozen for up to one month. The glaze hardens when it is cold and will need to be reheated. To reheat, spoon the glaze into a heatproof bowl that fits over a saucepan of barely simmering water. When about two-thirds of the glaze is melted, stir gently until it is smooth. Adjust the consistency as needed by stirring warm nondairy milk into the glaze a little at a time.

Great Tips to Clean Kitchen Tile

Great Tips to Clean Kitchen Tile



Normally, I would never have considered writing a post about floor cleaning. This is a food blog, after all. But I’m sure you know how difficult it can be to keep kitchen floors clean. There can be grease buildup, calcium stains, dirty grout, water spots, and food residue buildup. Ugh! Recently, I cleaned my floors and was shocked at how clean they got. Unfortunately, there are no before and after pictures because I wasn’t thinking of doing this as a post, but later, I decided I had to share these great tips to clean kitchen tile with you. The secret weapons? Oxiclean and a 10-inch grout brush on a pole.

A couple of years ago I burned a pot so badly that after scrubbing and scrubbing I considered throwing it away because so badly burnt. As a last resort I soaked the pot overnight with Oxiclean and water. The next morning the burned area lifted off the pot and washed out of the pan when I rinsed it with water. A miracle! So after trying regular floor cleaner with a poor outcome, I turned to the Oxiclean and got an awesome results on the tile and grout.

The 10-inch grout brush seems to be a well guarded secret because I’d never heard of, or seen one. You probably won’t see one at Lowe’s or Home Depot, either. I had to order it online. Wow, does it ever work! I learned about this brush from a tile and grout expert who came out to the house to give an estimate, that was before I decided to clean the floors myself. (There were 325 reasons I decided to do it myself —ching ching.) Back to the point, the brush is made especially for cleaning grout and it will blow you away when you see the results. Placing the brush on a long pole saves you from getting down on you knees and getting back pains and achy knees.

To clean the floor, pour the Oxiclean and water mixture onto the floor and let it sit 5 to 15 minutes before cleaning the grout lines. After five minutes have passed, brush the grout in long strokes about 4 feet in length in a series of six back and forth strokes. Follow by cleaning the floor with a scrub brush connected to a pole, and you might want to go over stubborn areas twice. After this, mop up the soapy water, discard it, and follow with a clean water mopping. (I also used a spin mop which helps to cut down the time it takes to wring the mop.)

This process is for cleaning dirty floors; it’s not for the typical daily or weekly mopping. Too bad about the pictures, but believe me. It works!

Amazon links: Oxiclean, grout brush, spin mop, scrub brush, pole.

Are You Getting Enough Magnesium?

Magnesium Foods


So, I met a woman in Spain over the summer who told me she got rid of her symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis by taking magnesium supplements. She read about the benefits of magnesium in a book by a well-known Spanish chemist, Ana Maria La Justicia, who wrote a book back in the 80’s called El Milagro del Magnesio (The Miracle of Magnesium). Curiously enough, I found it on my mother-in-law’s bookshelf; (it sounds like an impossible coincidence to find the book there, but not too much, as it was very popular when it came out and someone gave it to my mother-in-law to read).

The Relaxation Mineral: Dr. Mark Hyman says that are over 3,500 medical references on magnesium deficiency. He says to think of magnesium as the relaxation mineral,  “Anything that is tight, irritable, crampy, and stiff — whether it is a body part or an even a mood — is a sign of magnesium deficiency.”

Do you suffer from lack of magnesium? After doing some research I learned thatan estimated 68 to 80 percent of Americans are not getting enough magnesium and don’t even know it. The following are some of the symptoms or illnesses you mightbe having, says Dr. Mark Hyman: “Muscle cramps or twitches, insomnia, irritability, sensitivity to loud noises, anxiety, autism, ADD, palpitations, angina, constipation, anal spasms, headaches, migraines, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, angina, asthma, kidney stones, diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis, high blood pressure, PMS, menstrual cramps, irritable bladder, irritable bowel syndrome, reflux or trouble swallowing.”

Why don’t I get enough magnesium? If you have any of the above symptoms you many not be getting enough of this mineral in your diet, or your intake of magnesium draining foods is too high. Excess coffee, tea, alcohol, sodas, sugar, and salt can deplete magnesium, as can stress, diuretics, and antibiotics.

Look for...Eat Foods High in Magnesium: Fill you plate with almonds, spinach, collard greens, wheat bran, wheat germ, Brazil nuts, tofu, avocado cashews, peanuts, shredded wheat cereal, soymilk, black beans, edamame, peanut butter, whole wheat bread, avocado, baked potato, brown rice, yogurt, oatmeal, kidney beans, banana, and salmon.

Supplements: The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for men is 420 mg/day, and 320 mg/day for women, although many doctors think these recommendations are too low. Most people do well with a higher dose from 400 to 1000 mg/day, says Dr. Hyman.

He also says to look for “easy to absorb magnesium like magnesium citrate, glycinate taurate, or aspartate, although magnesium bound to Kreb cycle chelates (malate, succinate, fumarate) are also good.” (My husband and I searched around and found Chealted Magnesium by Solgar).

Talk to a doctor before taking supplements if you have kidney disease or have a severe heart condition. Be aware that magnesium can cause loose stools, and you may have to experiment to find the best form for you.

Are you getting enough magnesium? Do you want to know more about it? Check out the links below!








7 Health Benefits of Mint – my favorite is #6

7 Health Benefits of Mint


The other day as I was thinking of writing a post about tips for losing weight I came across a couple of articles about mint and decided to write about mint instead. Mint has long been known for it’s uses in cooking. You can check out a couple of my delicious recipes that use mint here: sweet potatoes with apples and mint, and grilled lamb chops with yogurt mint sauce, but mint also has many beneficial properties for health and grooming. There are many purposes for this herb—too many to outline here. The following are just 7 health benefits of mint:

  1.  Breathe Easier – Have you ever seen people inhaling steam when they have a cold or congestion? This is a traditional medicine cure to help clear symptoms of cold and congestion. The procedure is to make an herbal steam bath by pouring boiling water over herbs in a bowl and then covering your head with a towel, closing your eyes, and leaning in over the bowl to breathe in the steam through the nose for 5 to 10 minutes. See these suggested recipes at LovetoKnow.com. Dr. Joseph Mercola says mint is a good expectorant and decongestant. He suggests rubbing the essential oil on your chest to clear congestion, or inhaling it through a vaporizer to relieve cough and cold symptoms (Mercola).
  2. Muscle Pain – Peppermint extract can be used to rub into sore muscles. Simply rub the extract into the muscles to relieve the pain.
  3. Mint to Lose Weight –In an article for Lifehacker, Mikael Cho wrote that he had the tendency to overeat at meals so he used mint to help suppress his appetite after the meal. He chewed on a piece of gum because the mint acts as a natural suppressant. His reasoning for this comes from a study at the University of West Virginia which found that people in the experiment who inhaled mint throughout the day consumed about 3000 less calories per week. At Livestong.com Erin Beck suggests that mint tea may cause some people to loss weight because it reduces bloating.
  4. Keep Your Mouth and Teeth Healthy – Have you ever noticed how clean your teeth feel after chewing on mint gum or brushing your teeth with mint flavored toothpaste? Tip #2 was the lead into tip #3 because when you’re chewing on that piece of mint gum after your meal the mint helps to inhibit the growth of bacteria and it leaves your mouth feeling fresh and clean.
  5. Help Relieve the Symptoms of IBS – Mint seems to be a safe and effective way of treating Irritable Bowel Symptom, a disease which symptoms may include abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea, or constipation. Dr. Mercola points out that some doctors use Peppermint oil capsules as drug of first choice in IBS patients (Mercola).
  6. Headaches – This is my favorite use for mint. I don’t get headaches very often but now when I do I reach for a Mygra Stickwhich is a peppermint and lavender extract roll-on that works quickly to relieve or clear my headache symptoms. I roll in on the temples and behind the ears works fast at making me feel better. Next time you have a stress headache instead of taking aspirin try dabbing mint extract on the temples
  7. Reduce Stress – Next time you get all worked up take a whiff of mint extract. It works to cool and energize you. Dr. Mercola suggests taking a bath and putting a few drops of mint into the water, or putting the essential oil on an herbal oil burner to relieve the symptoms of stress.

Have you found mint to improve your well-being in any area? Tell me about it in the comment section below. I like to keep track of these things. In fact I’ve started my own little book of folk remedies, so please let me know how you are using mint, or any other herb that you take comfort from.



Food Blogger Pro Special and a Free Book Preview

News Flash!


I’m enjoying a beautiful Saturday morning here in the Phoenix area, and I just wanted to let you know about a couple of cool things. The first is a Food Blogger Pro special, and the second is a wonderful free book preview for you.

Here’s the skinny on the special. FoodBloggerPro.com is offering bloggers a special deal until the end of January. Sign up and get a month of access to the site for just $1. If you decide you’re not interested just cancel and you will not be charged for the following month. What does site offer? It has 300 concise and to the point videos with topics covering food photography, photo editing, setting up a WordPress blog, SEO, Google anyalytics and webmaster’s tools, URL shorteners, running a give-away, generating income with Google Adsense and affiliate marketing, and much, much more.

I have been a part of the community and highly recommend FoodBloggerPro.com.  I especially enjoy Lindsay’s food photography tutorials that instruct how to use props to set up a shot (composition); lighting; editing in I-Photo, Photoshop or Lightroom; and photo optimization to make a photo load faster. Within weeks I had my photos accepted to Foodgawker and Tastespotting. Wow! I was also doing a lot of things incorrectly, that were just slowing down my site, and I learned how to correct my mistakes. The other thing I love about the site is the forum. When I have questions I can go there and get the answer I need.  If you’d like to check it out just click on FoodBloggerPro.com and sign up.

The second cool thing is that Inkling.com contacted me so I could share links with you about their new app and free download of a chapter from Modernist Cuisine at Home by Nathan Myhrvold. The book is very cool. I saw a video promotion of it some time back and marveled at the detail that went into photos. They actually saw a casserole dish and a pressure cooker in half to give the reader a view of what goes on inside during the cooking process. At any rate, I thought the author’s approach was unique and that you might be interested in getting a free chapter to see the app. Or click here for the book: Modernist Cuisine at Home.

Tasty Food Photography Review

Tasty Food Photography


Disclaimer: Please note that a couple of the links are affiliate links and I will earn a commission if you purchase through those links. I use the products mentioned and recommend them because I have found them helpful. Please let me know if you have any questions.


About three months ago I came across a food blog called Pinch of Yum. What struck me immediately is how clean the site looked, and the great photographs. They had an interesting page, too, where they showed how much money they make from blogging about food. Not long after, I joined their program Food Blogger Pro that helps food bloggers learn some important lessons about blogging. Lindsay’s teaching education shows, and she makes photography clear and easy to understand. Bjork, her husband, is a techie, and his job is to teach the technical aspects of starting and running a blog.

In Food Blogger Pro, Lindsay uses tutorial videos to instruct how to use props to set up a shot (composition); the use of lighting; editing in I-Photo, Photoshop or Lightroom, optimizing the photo for the web, and more. Within weeks I had my photos accepted to Foodgawker and Tastespotting, and I had never had them accepted to those sites in three years of blogging.  Wow!

Nevertheless, I wondered if I was missing out by not having a copy of her ebook Tasty Food Photography. Would material in the ebook be different from what was in Food Blogger Pro? To find out, I got a hold of a copy.

The book contains 59 pages and costs $19 dollars, which I was thought was a little bit expensive, but then I was very surprised to learn that with the book also gives you access to videos that you can link to. The specific videos cover how to do the following things in Photoshop and Lightroom (not I-Photo): use the Healing Brush and Spot Removal, Resizing, Diptychs (2 photos in 1 frame), Sharpen, Color Balance, Saturation, Brightness and Contrast, Shadows and Highlights, Exposure, and White Balance. The ebook also covers all the food photography and photo editing topics in Food Blogger Pro.

There were a couple of other differences in the ebook, too. One was a discussion of how to get the most out of using a point and shoot camera, if you don’t own a DSLR. I enjoyed this section since I haven’t made the switch to using a DSLR camera, yet. Lindsay also gives the names of some iPhone apps she sometimes uses for interesting editing.

One last aspect that I liked about the ebook is that having the written explanations with complementary photos is handy. It’s more convenient than going to a video and having to find that point in the video where she talked about… such and such.

To conclude I’ll present the pros and cons of Tasty Food Photography.

Cons:  At $19 the cost may be a little high, and the book is only 59 pages long.

Pros: Information is clear, concise, and easy to find. The book comes with links to videos with clear instructions, and even though it only has 59 pages, it has all the necessary steps presented to get you started to taking great photos. Overall, it’s a very worthwhile investment.

Please leave a comment if you found this review helpful, or if you have any questions.


DIY Lowel Ego Lights

diy Lowel ego light unit

Disclaimer: Please note that a couple of the links are affiliate links and I will earn a commission if you purchase through those links. I use the products mentioned and recommend them because I have found them helpful. Please let me know if you have any questions.


Even though I’ve been blogging for three years, I recently joined Pinch of Yum’s program Food Blogger Pro that helps food bloggers learn some important lessons about blogging. Lindsay is a talented food photographer, and I learned a lot from her in Food Blogger Pro and from her ebook Tasty Food Photography. In a lesson on lighting she mentioned that she uses a Lowel Ego Light for capturing good indoor photos, especially during Winter in Minnesota. Lack of sun is not a problem for me in Arizona, but indoor lighting is a challenge.

Starting at $117 per lamp on Amazon, Lowel Ego Light units can be expensive. Could I find a DIY lesson and make a unit myself, I wondered? I Googled it and came up with a few sources, but the ones I drew from most were from BSinThekitchen, and Mowaca. There also were other inspirational posts from SemiSweetDesigns and TheAdventureBite. BS’s design was nice and compact, but I thought the screen might not hold the shape well so I went with Mowaca’s layout. His shop experience shows in his plans and design.

What I did differently was to keep the height at 13 inches so I could fit the boxes into a certain cupboard in my garage. The other reason for keeping it at that height was that I would only have to buy one roll of cross stitch cloth. I also covered the top entirely for more support, added the foil on the inner side panel, and reinforced the inside corners with cardboard strips. I made two boxes, too. Total cost for 2 was $30.65. (SemiSweetDesigns said two light boxes worked even better, and so did SteamyKitchen.)

The final dimensions of the box are 13 and 3/8 H x 20 W x 13 D. The measurement of the depth includes the cable which sticks out the back about 2-1/2 to 3 inches. The depth without the cable on Mowaca’s box was 6-1/2.  Without the cable, mine turned out to be 10-1/2 inches deep because the instructions were unclear, and I saw that to have 9 inches in then center then there would be 10-1/2 inches on each side. I went with that.

If you are interested in making the boxes read all the steps carefully before starting, especially steps  2-3, and the alternative steps 2-3. In the alternative steps 2-3 I give instructions if you want the box depth to be 7-1/2 inches. I think 7-1/2 is better than 6-1/2 or 10-1/2 inch sides. Whatever you decide I’m sure you’ll have fun making them.

Things I had to buy. The prices below include tax.

$ 3.31        3 Foam cardboard (bought at the dollar store)
$10.83      (2) Ikea Hemma electrical cords ($5.00 ea. at Ikea)
$2.69        (2) Y connectors (Lowe’s)
$5.19        (1) pack 18-count cross stitch fabric (Charles Craft Silver Standard Line)
8.63          (1) 4 pack CFL Daylight Lightbulbs by Ecosmart; 23 watts equivalent to 100 watts, 1600 lumens. (I found this at Lowes. This is product and price were not shown on the website. And here’s a tip–don’t be confused with the double lasting bulb. It cost twice as much.)

$30.65    Total Cost

Things to buy

Things I had on hand:

  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • Razor knife
  • Clear tape
  • Masking tape
  • Tin foil  (*Not shown in the photo. This step is optional, but Mowaca added it later, so I thought it would be easier to put it on from the start.)
  • Mini Glue Gun
  • A bag of glue sticks for the mini glue gun
  • Yard stick (a tape measure came in handy because it locks to stay open)

Materials I had on hand


1. Lay the foam cardboard on the counter so the wide side is horizontal to you. Cut 7 inches off the top and save the top piece for later.

Step 1

2. With the primary piece of board placed in front of you, measure 10-1/2 inches in on each side and mark verticals lines with a pencil, and then score. Don’t cut all the way through. Once the lines are scored you can open up the flaps. Set this aside.

Step 2

3. Get the second piece of foam board and cut off  2 pieces, each 10-1/2 inches cut from the side. The 10-1/2 pieces will be will form the base and the top. The photo shows only one cut piece.

Step 3



[Alternate steps 2 and 3 for a depth of 7-1/2 inches (Do it this way for less depth. Be aware that the photos shown are for a 10-1/2 inch depth).

At Step 2 – With the primary piece of board placed in front of you, measure 7-1/2 inches and mark a vertical line with a pencil, and then score. From that line, measure 9 inches, and score another vertical line. From the second vertical line measure 7-1/2 inches, mark a vertical line and cut through it. The end piece should be 6 inches wide, which you can save for the inside corners. At this point you can open up the flaps. Set the panel aside.

At Step – 3 Get the second piece of foam board and cut off 2 pieces, each 7-1/2 inches cut from the side. The 7-1/2 pieces will form the base and the top. (The photo above at step 3 shows only one cut piece.)]



4. Get the 3-section piece and fold it open on the base board, and then open it up the wings to a 45° angle, placing the front flap edges into the front corners of the board. The back should measure 5-1/2 inches on each side, and 1-1/4 inch from the back edge. (Note the photo is deceptive because the panel will be 1-1/4 inch away from the edge. See photo in step 5).

Step 4

5. Use the pencil to mark the line on the outside of the sections on all sides. Use the ruler to measure out from the panel 1-1/4 inch on all sides. These short flaps will hold the main piece in place. Score with the razor knife along the pencil lines, and then remove and discard the pieces that are unattached.

Step 56. Get the 3-section panel and find the middle of the center panel. Measure down 6-1/2 inches, and over 4-1/2 inches from the scored line. Make an x with the pencil to mark the center spot.

7. Place the light ring so the dot is in the middle of the narrow end, and then draw around the inside of the ring. (The light ring is the piece that you can screw off of the light cord). Cut out a hole following the tracing lines with the razor knife.

Step 7

8. Get 3 pieces of foil 15 inches long each. Spread them out over the 3-section panel, on the side that opens in toward you. Tape them together with scotch tape, and then tape the overhang down on the other side of the board with scotch tape or masking tape. Leave a space when taping at the scored lines.

Step 8

9. Cut through the foil where the hole is to open it up.

10. Set the panel into the base and glue the base flaps up.

Step 10

11. Set the panel upside down and set it into the corners as you did in step 4 (wings are already open). Pencil mark the top cover base, and then score and cut as you did with the base in step 5.

Step 512. Glue the flaps to the back panel.  (See picture step 10)

13. Take the cap off the Hemma light cord and screw the cord side through the back panel hole. Screw on the cap from the front, the wide side of the cap toward the wall. Next, screw in the y socket and the light bulbs. Step 1314. Cut pieces 1-1/4 inch by whatever the length is for the inner sides and corners of the box. Score the pieces down the middle, open them up and glue them to the inner sides and corners to add extra support to the box. I forgot to take a picture of this step but you might get the idea if you peer into the bottom inside of the box in the following picture.

Step 14

15. Get out the white cross stitch cloth. You want two pieces of cloth measuring 14-3/4 by 23 inches. From the width of the fabric, measure 14-3/4 to the center of the cloth. Use the ruler to make a straight pencil line down the length of the fabric, and then cut. Next cut 13 inches off the side end of each piece (or you could start by cutting 13 inches from the end of the entire piece, and then cut through the middle of the length).

Step 15

16. Fold the fabric ¾ inch, press down on it so it will hold the fold, and then use the glue gun to tack it down to the box. Repeat on the bottom side.

Step 16

17. Glue down the sides.

18. Use masking tape on all sides to keep the fabric down.

Step 18

19. Repeat the entire process for the second box.

20. Congratulate yourself on a job well done!


Finished Product


Photo A – The photo here was taken with an overhead kitchen light without the lightboxes. It’s slightly at an angle otherwise there would have been a shadow from the camera in the picture. I had to crop it out.

Photo with overhead kitchen light

Photo B – The picture below was take with the indoor lights off, and it sat between the two lightboxes. The photo was taken from directly above, and there was no shadow from the camera. If you want more light you can push the boxes closer together.

Photo taken between 2 light boxes

In conclusion. I think that taking your pictures during the day with natural lighting is the best way to go, but having a DIY Lowel Ego Light unit is a good back-up. It took me about 3-1/2 hours to make each box, but I was also taking pictures and writing. The DIY project was an entertaining way to spend the week-end, and I’ll have fun improving my photography skills with the light boxes, too. If you’re interested in improving your photography skills, check out Lindsay’s ebook  Tasty Food Photography. It’s 50% off for Thanksgiving week-end. The sale will run from 12:01 AM on Thursday 11/28 until 11:59 PM on Monday 12/2. Use this coupon code to get the discount: TFP50

What are you waiting for? This is a good week-end to make the DIY Lowel Ego Light unit. And by the way, HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!
P.S. If you are interested in Food Blogger Pro, this week-end it is 50% off for a one year membership. Use coupon code FBP125 at checkout to get the discount.

The Kallari Chocolate Story and Kickstarter

Kallari Chocolate

Kallari Chocolate


Not long after getting home from my summer vacation I received a package in the mail which contained three organic chocolate bars from the Kallari Chocolate Company. One was made of 85% cocoa, another at 75%, and the last at 70%. I tore away the wrappings of the 85% cocoa bar, bit into it and let it melt on my tongue. WOW! This was my first thought as the velvety chocolate slide down the back of my throat. My second thought was, “This is the best chocolate I have ever tasted.” And this chocolate is soy free, dairy free, gluten-free, and Kosher??

Kallari chocolate is a cooperative of 850 indigenous Quichan families living in the Amazon rainforest of Equador. American biologist, Judy Logback, wanted to help these families because she recognized their importance in preserving the rainforest. If they were able to have a sustainable living from selling their cocoa beans, then they would not have to chop down trees, or sell the mining rights in order to provide food for their families. Judy helped them to cut out the middleman, and in doing so the coalition was able to double their income.

As a next step, Judy brought in Dr. Robert Steinberg, a founder of Scharffen Berger chocolate in Berkley, CA., to teach them about the process of cocoa bean fermentation. Then came Stephen McDonnell, chief executive of Applegate Farms organic food company. Stephen loaned the families $250,000 at 0% interest so they could set up a chocolate making factory, and he established the Kallari Chocolate Company in their name. Next, the team enlisted the help of Swiss Chocolatier, Tomas Keme, to make improvements in the chocolate making process. The result of all this teamwork? A sustainable chocolate bar from which 100% of the profits are returned to the farmers and their families at four times as fair as the “Fair Trade” price. And what consumers get out of this is the opportunity to buy world class organic chocolate that supports the preservation of the rainforest.

Now the Kallari Chocolate Company is in the last three days of a month long kickstarter to get them into the production of chipped chocolate. Their goal is to raise $20,000 by Thursday 22nd, and donators have currently pledged $13, 177. If you would like to learn more about this company, or make a pledge to help them get into the production of great chocolate chips, click the Kickstarter link. You can purchase the chocolate bars at Wholefoods Market. To read more about this company, see this article from FoodNutrition&Science.com.

(*Note – There is no affiliation between MyHealthyEatingHabits and the Kallari Chocolate Company)

10 Ways to Exercise While Sailing the Seven Seas

This week I’m taking advantage of the Austin Gambino’s kind offer to write an informative guest article about some of the many exercise options when traveling on a cruise liner. I will be back next week with a delicious light dish for summer. I’d also like to take a moment to express my sorrow for the pain suffered by the families and friends of the victims involved in the train accident in Spain on Wednesday, July 24th.



By Austin Gambino, The Cruise Web Team


Healthy eating habits are most effective when paired with healthy living and exercise. This is especially important while on vacation – a time when many people seem to forget about taking care of their bodies. The good news: exercising and staying in shape while on a cruise vacation is easier than you think. Don’t believe it? Here’s 10 ways you can exercise while sailing the seven seas.


10. Rock Climbing Wall

Challenging yourself while adding another experience on your unforgettable vacation is always a fantastic idea, and the rock climbing wall is a great place to do so. Not only will you get a great upper body workout, but you’ll have the bragging rights of the top of the wall when you succeed. Many cruise lines have made this a standard on their new ships, so just ask your travel agent what your options are while you are in the cruise planning process.


9. Swimming (Onboard and Ashore)      

Did you ever wonder why swimmers have such fantastic bodies? Probably not. Swimming is well known to be a superb full-body workout, and it also happens to be refreshing and cool as well. Most cruise ships offer an onboard swimming pool, so a pre-supper swim is a great idea, or even a late night dip. If you’re cruising to the Caribbean, you can get your swimming exercise in the marvelous, clear waters while basking in the sun.


8. Shore Excursions

Whether you’re looking for a high or low level of fitness, there’s a shore excursion for everyone. Shore excursions are a phenomenal way to get off the ship, get your juices flowing, and discover the wonders of your destination. There’s exercise involved in many cruise excursions, whether it be a trek through the outback in Australia, a hike through the vineyards of France, or a golfing excursion in the beautiful Bermuda. Speak with your cruise consultant about what cruise excursions are the best fit for you and your destination.


7. TRX

You may not have heard of TRX, but it’s a newer form of exercise that’s offered fleetwide on Norwegian Cruise Lines. Using ropes, suspension, and resistance, you can get a high-level workout on your cruise ship and have a great time doing it.


6. FlowRider

If you’re not into serious workouts on your cruise vacation, there are plenty of options for fun exercise, such as Royal Caribbean’s FlowRider. If you can’t find your balance so well on the actual seven seas, you can try an onboard surfing experience in this sloped pool with fun waves, perfect for some hilarious memories and some great exercise.


5. Bikes/Ellipticals

Hey, not everyone can hang ten. For those of you who enjoy a leisure exercise option with a great view, head to the cruise ship fitness center for some good old-fashioned cardio. Most ships offer some sort of cardiovascular fitness option, such as bikes and ellipticals, and they are a simple, easy way to get some onboard exercise.


4. BYOE (Bring Your Own Exercise)

 If you happen to be onboard a cruise ship with limited fitness options, you can always bring your own! Put together a core workout plan that you can do with little or no equipment, or a stretching activity set you can perform in whatever open space you may find on the deck.  Don’t be surprised if you see other DIYers doing Yoga, Tai Chi and other routines on deck with you.


3. Zumba

Zumba is all the rage with exercisers of all ages, so why not enjoy one of the most exciting forms of fitness while on your cruise vacation? Latin dance moves, body-shaking rythym, and a whole lot of smiles are a great way to get your onboard fitness. Princess Cruises actually offers free Zumba classes around the ship during their journeys, so if you’re cruising Princess, it’s definitely a form of exercise to look into.


2. Ropes Course

Similar to the rock-climbing wall mentioned above, ropes courses are a terrific way to challenge yourself and get a great workout. First offered by Carnival Cruise Lines, ropes courses have become super popular in the cruising industry and the largest to date is offered onboard Norwegian’s brand-new Breakaway, which has been said to be quite the challenge!


1.    Water Sports

While cruising the seven seas, why not do some exercise in them? Both Windstar and Seabourn offer retractable sports marinas for all types of water sports on their ships. You can try sailing, jet skiing, water-skiing, tubing, kayaking, windsurfing, and more.


As you can see, there are a myriad of ways to exercise and stay fit while on a cruise vacation. But, these are only some of the many options you may have available, depending on your cruise line and destination. Be sure to speak with your cruise travel agent about what options are available or even a fitness-themed cruise if you’re serious about your fitness. If you’d like to be connected with a cruise consultant, or learn more about cruise fitness, visit The Cruise Web.


Did we miss one of your favorite ways to exercise while cruising? Tell us what we missed in the comments below!