Foods to Help You Keep Cool Through Summer Heat Waves

Jeanette from This Dusty House blogged last week about her thoughts on “being media.” I started to reflect a bit on this myself. While I haven’t been invited to any events (yet!), I’ve been receiving numerous emails over the last few months. Some offer discounts on new products such as kitchen gadgets or cookbooks, others provide contest information to win a new product, others are simply press releases informing me of what’s going on in the food industry.

For now, the number of emails is few. I enjoy receiving, reading, and feeling like I have a role to play as a food blogger. Someone has targeted me, specifically with their message. It hadn’t occurred to me that, even though I’m interacting with others through social media, I am part of the media. Unpaid, yes. But part of it nonetheless. It really struck me after reading Jeanette’s post and, that same day receiving a press release.

Today, I want to share with you one of the articles that I found especially interesting. I liked it so much that I asked if I could share it on this blog! I’m happy to say that Amanda is allowing me to share it with you! I think her article struck me because it was timed so well, that is,  it was initially sent to me on a hot summer day. When my cooking and blogging goals are to focus on summer foods that don’t require turning on the oven and unnecessarily heating up the home.

I hope that you enjoy Amanda’s article as much as I did! I hadn’t thought of adding zests into my food and drinks to help cool off. I will try adding some lime or lemon zest to my next smoothie!

Do you find her advice helpful? Is there anything you will implement to help you keep cool this summer?

Beat the Heat with These Super Cool Foods: Chicago Nutritionist Amanda Skrip Offers Insight on Summer Heat Waves

It may be hot outside, but it doesn’t mean you have to lose your cool! Stocking your kitchen with the right foods will keep you chilled out all summer long. In addition to eating these fresh picks, be sure to drink plenty of water and eat lightly! Nutritional expert Amanda Skrip shares her five foods to eat to stay cool below:

1. Eat Your Water

Water rich produce like watermelon, cucumbers, radishes, and even leafy greens, will quench your thirst and keep you hydrated.  They are low in calories, easy to digest, and rich in anti-oxidants.   Add cucumber or melon to a pitcher of water for extra flavor. Use fresh cut crudité to dip into spreads and salsas rather than salty, fatty, and dehydrating chips. Spend extra time in the produce section and at green markets this summer, and you’ll be fresh and glowing through the fall.

2. Get Zesty

Lemons, limes, oranges, and grapefruits are some of the most cooling fruits around.  They are also great at aiding in digestion and breaking down fatty foods.  Keep citrus on hand to make salad dressings or to squeeze onto plain veggies.  Adding lemon or lime to plain water is a great way to liven up the flavor – and to get a giant dose of Vitamin C.  Your strengthened immunity will keep summertime colds at bay.

3. Stay Fresh

Herbs like mint, basil, cilantro, and parsley have naturally cooling and soothing properties.  Their fresh flavor will liven your spirit as well as your plate!  Get in the habit of adding fresh herbs to your cooking.  They are also great tossed into salads and blended into smoothies.

4. Spice it Up

Spicing it up will cool you down!  Adding heat to your plate with ginger, chilies, cayenne pepper, and black pepper might make your mouth a little fiery, but will help cool your body’s internal flame.  Grate fresh ginger into marinades or sprinkle chili flakes on bland chicken or vegetables.

Foods to Avoid

Oily, fatty, and salty foods, soda and sugary beverages, they make it difficult to digest (wheat, dairy, fried foods, etc)

Click Here For Amanda’s Suggested Recipes: Watermelon & Basil Salad, Coconut-Cucumber Mint Cooler, and Tomato-Mango Salsa

About Amanda Skrip

Amanda is a natural foods educator, chef, health coach, and wellness expert. Amanda received her culinary training at the Natural Gourmet Institute and continued her nutrition education at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. Amanda works with a variety of clients to create small shifts that have a big impact on health, weight and energy. Amanda teaches public cooking classes at Whole Foods Market in Chicago, is the resident chef of Bump Club and Beyond, and is a nutritional coach for Ruth’s Hemp Foods. She has been featured in DailyCandy, Vital Juice, Mindful Metropolis and has appeared on I Am Healthy Radio and NBC Chicago. For more information, please visit:

Tips for Preparing Mussels

Earlier this week I shared Chef Mark Brown’s recipe for Steamed Mussels in Coconut Milk (from the Sustainable Seafood class at Relish Cooking Studio). Today, instead of sharing the next recipe in the series, I thought it would be a good idea to share some tips with you that I learned at the class. These tips will help to ensure your safety when enjoying mussels.

Mussels are quickly becoming a dinner-time favourite in our home. Seafood and fish are among my favourite foods, and, as Chef Mark Brown pointed out in the class, mussels are one of the least expensive seafoods to buy at the moment. On top of that, they are very versatile and there are many ways to enjoy mussels with your dinner. Such as…

So, how do you recognize whether a mussel is safe to eat? You evaluate them at each step of the process!

Before cooking

  • Scrub and de-beard each of the mussels (of they will already be de-bearded) to remove sand.
  • Discard any mussels that have broken shells.
  • Discard any mussels whose shells are opened (they are already dead and not safe to eat).

During and after cooking

  • Sort through the cooked mussels and discard any that did not open during the cooking process.
  • Warn your guests not to eat any mussels whose shells did not open during cooking and advise they discard the mussel.
  • When in doubt, it’s best to discard the mussel rather than risk making yourself sick!

How to buy/choose fish

One of the best pieces of advice from the Sustainable Seafood class at Relish Cooking Studio was the explanation of how to choose fish. Most of us don’t have the luxury of going out to catch our own fish and instead purchase it from fish mongers or grocery stores.

The advice? Buy a whole fish as opposed to an already butchered fish because it is easier to determine the freshness. The freshest fish will have the best taste.

How to recognize a fresh fish:

  • Touch:
    • Not slimey
    • Feels firm when pressed
  • Smell:
    • Fresh (not fishy)
  • Look:
    • Eyes are not too cloudy

The other advice was to, when possible, buy from a reputable fish monger. Why? Because they tend to know a lot about their product, such as: where it was caught, how it was caught, how long it took to ship to the location, etc. Not only will a fish monger be able to tell you about their product (and whether it is sustainable), they will be able to make recommendations if you are unsure about the fish you want to purchase.

Here are a few places to buy fish and seafood in K-W:

Since taking this class, I’ve cooked fish at home more often and with better results. I used to choose fish based on the price. Was it on sale? Or reduced because it was close to the expiry date? Don’t get me wrong, I still buy deals. It’s nice to know how to choose the best fish, and equally fantastic to know how to recognize fish that I should avoid.

Do you have any other tips for buying fish and seafood?

Kimmi write about “A Neuroscience Perspective on Food Industry, Media, and the Obesity Epidemic.” I really enjoy her discussion on food marketing and healthy eating tips. Check it out!

Food Science from

Kimmi, from, blogged about Food Science. Her post is a great read! It’s informative and insightful. I especially like how she breaks down the pros and cons of some common foods, such as apples, fish, coffee, and chocolate. Check out her post!

How to: De-seed Hot Peppers

One of the many useful tricks I learned from the classes at Relish Cooking Studio is how to easily de-seed a hot pepper.

The most spicy part of a hot pepper is its seeds. The most flavourful part is the flesh. I prefer not eating the seeds.

I’m sure I’m starting to sounds like a broken record at this point, but avoid handling hot peppers with your bare hands! The juices can burn you if you don’t wash your hands thoroughly enough after handling hot peppers. Akeela from Relish Cooking Studio suggested wearing gloves while handling hot peppers. And I intend to keep a pair of gloves in my kitchen specifically for this task.

So, if you’re like me and would prefer to remove the seeds before chopping hot peppers, follow these simple steps:

  1. Put on a pair of disposable, waterproof gloves.
  2. Set the pepper on a solid, flat surface (the kitchen counter or a cutting board works well).
  3. Firmly press the pepper and roll it (careful not to crack the pepper).
  4. Check if the seeds have been loosened.
    1. Shake the pepper to check if the seeds have been loosened (you will be able to hear them rattling inside the pepper).
    2. Feel the pepper for pliability, you should be able to easily squish the pepper (again, don’t crack it) and feel the seeds in the bottom of the pepper.
  5. Cut off the stem and a bit of the top of the pepper.
  6. Shake the pepper upside-down so that the seeds fall out.
  7. Discard the seeds and the stem.

Market to market…

I like to do most of my grocery shopping at the local farmer’s market. Sometimes, this can be a difficult task because it’s only open a few hours, three days per week during the summer months and even less during the winter. Honestly, usually I’d rather not be doing my grocery shopping at 7am, but this happens quite frequently so I can avoid the later crowd. Then, a friend introduced me to Herrle’s



Many vendors to choose from, able to do price comparison One vendor, one price
Most vendors take cash only Multiple forms of payment
Open year-round Open during harvest season
Open 2-3 days per week, shorter hours Open 7 days per week, extended hours
Very large area, indoor and outdoor, takes longer to find what you’d like to purchase One store, makes for a quick shopping trip
Closer to home A bit further from home

All in all, I don’t have a preference between the two. Both sell local, fresh produce at a fair price and that’s the main thing that I’m looking for. I buy my groceries wherever is most convenient at that time. Things I consider before heading out include: How much am I buying? How much time do I have to shop? Do I want any items that are exclusive to one or the other? Etc.

It is wonderful to have a choice! It’s nice to know that if I sleep in later than 6:30 on a Saturday morning, there is still an opportunity to buy those good-for-you foods. Thanks J for introducing me to a great place to buy food.

A lesson in following directions

As you’ve probably noticed by now, I like to make recipes my own by making substitutions or taking short cuts. When I came across this recipe for a breakfast called Egg Nests from Simply Recipes, I wanted to make it without turning on the oven. Instead, I decided to use a frying pan and treat this similar to making an egg sunny-side-up.

This ended up being a terrible idea! It looked very pretty and similar to the picture from the website. The bottom was over crispy from trying to cook the egg through and the texture was mushy and unappealing. Kudos to B who ate the whole thing anyway! I, on the other hand, gave it a try but just couldn’t finish.

Egg nest
Lesson learned: Unless you are certain that you can make a change to the recipe, follow the instructions! Yes, shortcuts are nice and some days you just don’t feel like cooking with a certain method, but sometimes it’s just better to do as the author says or start over and choose another recipe.

I’ll be trying this one again during the winter when I don’t mind turning on the oven as much.

Relieving the burn caused by hot peppers

The burn of a hot pepper is not a sensation that is easily forgotten. I’ll never forget that time I handled jalapeno peppers, washed my hands, and rubbed my eye before realizing I hadn’t washed my hands thoroughly enough.

My roommate at the time soaked a paper towel with milk and instructed me to hold that on the burn. It helped a lot! It cooled the burn and temporarily stopped the pain. However, each time I took the towel away the burning resumed.

The Kitchn suggests applying olive oil to the burn. I’ll try this next time… but hopefully there won’t be a next time. I try to be a lot more careful now.

What do you use to relieve the burning sensation caused by hot peppers?

Diagram of how pop affects your body

I knew pop (soda for any American readers) wasn’t exactly a healthy choice, but who knew that it contributes to larger problems, such as asthma and kidney issues?

Check out this article: Ill Effects: How Soda Pop Consumption Affects Your Body (Full size graphic at

I’m still going to enjoy a pop once in a while, but this has definitely made me want to moderate my enjoyment of the beverage a bit more…

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