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Five years ago in the Spring of 2014,  my husband and I upped our health game considerably by adopting a Whole Food-Plant Based lifestyle.  (Thank you forever, Jane Birch at www.DiscoveringTheWordofWiscom.com and the gifted, good folks at www.Forksoverknives.com! ) 

There’s no turning back for us! We have just turned 65 and 68 and have never felt better. We now consider ourselves “flexitarians” and “non-judgetarians” as we occasionally eat meat, eggs, cheese — usually for celebrations with other people or when at their homes. We have no intention of driving people crazy or being difficult guests or company because, while we love to share what we have learned and experienced, we prefer to quietly let our example and current excellent health (thanks to both genes and personal choices) speak for itself.  The good news is that 90% of our eating is done at home or in restaurants that we choose for their healthy options.  Within the realms of our own kitchen we can party to our hearts content with recipes and appliances that are fun, helpful and healthful! 

No matter what you choose to eat, however, who doesn’t want some cool and helpful appliances that make cooking and creating treats easier, healthier and less expensive?!  Today I offer our two “besties”: kitchen counter-top best friends that are well worth the space they take there.

THE YONANA ICE CREAM MAKER

Our birthdays are two days apart and our gift to each other this year is a frozen banana ice cream maker.  We did our research of the several choices available and for the price, the “Yonana” was our choice and it is really a winner!  We paid about $40 at Bed Bath and Beyond.  (TIP:  You can use your smartphone to go to Google Images and do a search for “Bed Bath and Beyond coupons.”  Showing that image to the cashier will usually be good enough for the cashier to scan it and take a discount on your order! No clipping required!)

We see our Yonana as an investment with healthy ice cream treats coming our way for a very, very long time using nothing but frozen bananas and other fruit for flavorings.  I repeat NO sugar, cream or artificial flavorings! Delicious soft-serve “ice cream” using just frozen banana and fruit that you push through the little chute comes out the bottom of the chute into your serving bowl! Ready to eat! It’s smooth, fluffy and creamy, quite different in texture and appearance from a smoothie in a blender. It’s truly “delicious, nutritious, and makes you feel ambitious” to quote one of my favorite moms who says this to her kids about healthy foods that they not sure about.  Well, we’re sure about the Yonana!  

After enjoying the straight-up banana, we made cherry-berry (adding 1 cup of the berry and cherry frozen fruit mix from the Costco frozen fruit and vegetable section.)  Next week we’re venturing into salted caramel using pitted dates (frozen) and a bit of sea salt.  Of course you can add sprinkles and toppings of your choice.  You can go to youtube and put YONANA or frozen banana ice cream maker into the search and get the other choices available.  

Well, the Yonana ice cream maker is a new bestie! Our oldest bestie that has permanent residence in our kitchen is a vegetable steamer. We had learned about and seen these in our pre-Jane Birch life, but never owned or used one.

THE VEGETABLE STEAMER

In my pre-Jane Birch life, we had tried the little fan-like stainless steel steamer dealie-bop that fits inside a pot.  But they never seemed to work very well for me and were more of a pain than anything else.  Maybe that’s just me.

So a nice electric one to plug in was a novelty for us in 2014.  Our steamers have now become something we use many times each week!

The big take-aways for health is that it cooks without any fats, and unlike boiling, the veggies don’t get water-logged so they taste and look better. 

They retain their colors, nutrients and flavors beautifully as this is a much gentler way to cook them.  You can see them cooking in the clear steamer basket and easily choose which level of “doneness” you prefer and avoid over-cooking.

Most people are not aware, but pots, pans and cookware can be extremely toxic, especially those with non-stick Teflon.  I’ll share more information about that next week.

It wasn’t hard to find and buy a steamer!  You can go to Walmart and find them in the $20-$40 range. But we’ve found that there are frequently brand new ones at thrift stores for $5 to $10! We think that people must give them as wedding or Christmas presents, then they get donated because people don’t know what to do with them.  We buy them repeatedly as we’ve found they’re fun to give away when people come for dinner and comment on how tasty our veggies are and I talk about how awesome they are.

Truthfully, nothing could be simpler — or healthier!  You just fill the lower chamber with water, put your food in the steamer basket, put on the lid, plug it in and set the timer!  That’s it!

If you want to add even more flavor than is naturally there, you can add seasoning into the water (herbs, etc.) or put your veggies in a plastic bag with the seasonings and let ’em be infused with flavor!

It turns out that even fine chefs get very excited about how steamers can really develop flavor and texture.  Here’s an interesting article from the New York Times:  CLICK HERE

Here’s 10 reasons why you will fall in love with your veggie steamer:
(This article can be read online at a very helpful, healthful website called “www.JenReviews.com”  CLICK HERE to read it at this website.

1.  Cooks food fast and easy

One benefit of using food steamers at home is that it makes the cooking process so fast and easy. You don’t need so much time in cooking your favorite food. Food steamers locks in steam which cooks the food in just a few minutes.

2.  Needs little supervision

One great advantage of using food steamers is that it needs minimal supervision compared to cooking food over the stove or oven. It doesn’t require you to check on the food once in a while and worrying about food getting burnt or overcooked. Food steamers often come with a timer so you can avoid over steaming.

3.  Locks nutrients in and retains natural vitamins and minerals

The most amazing benefit of food steamers which most people find really important is its ability to preserve the nutrients and minerals of food. It locks in the flavors and vitamins of the food naturally and at the same time preserve its taste through the process.

4.  Keeps the structure and color of food

What most people love about food steamers is that they retain the natural colors of food most especially vegetables. Cooking over stove or high heat can make vegetables lose their bright colors and tends to make food brown and dull. Food steamers keeps the structure, texture and color of food being steamed since it only let steam cook the dish.

5.  No oil needed

Since food steamers only use water for the whole cooking process, you don’t need oil or anything compared to cooking it in a pan. You won’t have to worry about food drying up as the moisture is being retained in the steamer that keeps food moist and wet.

6.  Healthiest cooking method

Food steaming is considered the healthiest cooking method as it does not lose the vitamins and minerals of food. It does not make the food dry, and at the same time, does not require additives or artificial flavorings while cooking. You can cook food in a food steamer without adding oil, salt, sugar or soy sauce.

7.  Saves time, money and energy

Since food steamers cook food fast and easy, it enables one to save time, money and energy in using it. Steaming food saves energy as you can cook different kinds of food all at the same time. You save time, effort and energy when you can place multiple ingredients on different steamer trays. It saves you money because you don’t have to use other ingredients and at the same time cooking simultaneously can save electricity.

8.  Less Mess and Clean Up is Easy

Aside from food steamers being easy to store, they are also easy to clean. They are much less messy when used as you don’t have to worry about oil splatters and other sauces sticking on the trays. Food steamer trays are dishwasher safe or you can also hand wash it.

9.  Cooks all types of food

One nice benefit of using food steamers in cooking is that it can cook all kinds of food. You can cook meat, fish, vegetables and even dessert with a food steamer. The options are limitless and you don’t have to worry about how you will cook it because steaming food is so convenient and easy.

10.  Lowers Cholesterol

Cooking food in food steamers helps lowers cholesterol. That is mainly because you don’t have to cook it with oil. You can rely on the water or steam to keep the food from drying. Since no oil is added to the cooking process, you don’t consume added fat or those saturated fats that contributes to high blood and cholesterol. Steaming food is the healthiest and most natural way to cook your food.

So now all you need to do is go buy one! You can easily find them at Walmart in the $20-$40 range.  But, as we say, we find them for much less than that, usually brand new with the instructions, at thrift stores.

Green Bean and Red Potato Salad

We made this according to the recipe, then for lunch the next day, we stretched it out the leftovers with a can of cannelini beans.  YUM!

4 medium red potatoes, washed, unpealed, cut into bite-size chunks

1 lb. fresh green beans, cleaned and cut into 1 inch lengths
2-4 Tbsp. olive or flaxseed oil
2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
1/4-1/2 cup red onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, slivered
2 Tbsp. fresh basil and/or oregano
Parsley or cilantro to taste

Combine potatoes and green beans in a steamer and cook for 10-15 minutes, or until barely tender.  Combine with other ingredients and chill to blend flavors.

For a delicious variation, chill all ingredients but the potatoes and green beans. Steam the potatoes and green beans and serve them on top of the chilled salad.

Carolyn Allen is the Author of 60 Seconds to Weight Loss Success, One Minute Inspirations to Change Your Thinking, Your Weight and Your Life. She has been a columnist for Meridian Magazine for 11 years,  providing mental and spiritual approaches for weight loss success and happy living both online and in the Washington, DC community since 1999.  

She has presented for Weight Watchers, First Class, Fairfax County Adult Education and other community groups. She and her husband, Bob, are the parents of five children and grandparents of a growing number of darling little ones. They are now happy empty nesters in Jackson, Tennessee, close to Memphis, where they center their online business for an amazing herbal detox. CLICK HERE