Monday, March 30, 2009

Alcohol Substitutes for Recipes

Here's a helpful list that suggests substitutes for a variety of alcoholic beverages. Quantities and substitutes vary, depending on the recipe used.

* Amaretto: non-alcoholic almond extract; orgeat Italian soda syrup; or marzipan.

* Applejack or apple brandy: Unsweetened apple juice concentrate; apple juice; apple cider; or apple butter.

* Apricot brandy: Syrup from canned apricots in heavy syrup; or apricot preserves.

* Bourbon: Non-alcoholic vanilla extract.

* Champagne and other sparkling wines: Sparkling apple cider; sparkling cranberry juice; or sparkling grape juice.

* Cherry liqueur or brandy: Syrup from canned cherries in heavy syrup; Italian soda cherry syrup; or cherry preserves.

* Coffee liqueur or brandy: Espresso; non-alcoholic coffee extract; or coffee syrup.

* Creme de cacao: Powdered white chocolate mixed with water; non-alcoholic vanilla extract and powdered sugar.

* Creme de cassis: Black currant Italian soda syrup; or black currant jam.

* Creme de menthe: Mint Italian soda syrup; or non-alcoholic mint extract.

* Gewurztraminer: White grape juice mixed with lemon juice, water, and a pinch of powdered sugar.

* Licorice or anise flavored liqueur: Anise Italian soda syrup; or fennel.

* Mirin: White grape juice mixed with lemon juice or zest.

* Muscat: White grape juice mixed with water and powdered sugar

* Orange liqueur or brandy: Unsweetened orange juice concentrate; orange zest; orange juice; or marmalade.

* Peach brandy: Syrup from canned peaches in heavy syrup; or peach preserves.

* Peppermint schnapps: Mint Italian soda syrup; non-alcoholic mint extract; or mint leaves

* Port: Concord grape juice mixed with lime zest; or cranberry juice mixed with lemon juice

* Red wine: Grape juice; vegetable stock; cranberry juice; tomato juice; or concord grape jelly.

* Riesling: White grape juice mixed with water and a pinch of powdered sugar.

* Rum: Non-alcoholic vanilla or rum extract.

* Sherry: Apple cider; non-alcoholic vanilla extract; coffee; or coffee syrup.

* Vermouth: Apple cider; or apple juice mixed with lemon juice and water.

* Vodka: Water; apple cider or white grape juice mixed with lime juice.

* White wine: White grape juice; apple cider; apple juice; vegetable stock; or water.

Organizing Drink Mixes

I just thought I'd post up here some things I did recently to reduce clutter and reuse empty containers around my kitchen.

May you be inspired.

First of all, I bought some Hot cocoa mix in bulk almost 2 years ago for a big movie project my husband and I were doing, and hardly any of it got used for that. We have since brought it to multiple parties in the hopes of using it up, but the fact remains that I've been frustrated by these little individual serving packets for a long time now. They don't stack neatly, and they fall all over the cupboard. (And we're finding it hard to want to use them much when we seem to get at least two Stephens canisters every holiday season as gifts . . . I tend to favor the flavored cocoas!) Anyway, a while ago my husband just put all these packets into a grocery bag and put them on a shelf.


Needless to say, this has been an ongoing issue with how neat my kitchen feels for me.

On the other hand, I recently went through a big jar of peanut butter and felt the need to wash out the container rather than throwing it away. My mom used to reuse these jars all the time when I was a kid, and I was pretty determined to find a good use for it. (I bet you can see where this is going, huh?)

This is what I came up with . . . I filled the jar with as many cocoa packets as I possibly could; taking care to measure exactly how much one packet contains. Then I typed up a label and directions on my computer and printed it then I simply cut it out taped it on to the jar.

Now all that cocoa fits nicely in my cupboard. Surprisingly, I still had a few packets left after this, but they were manageable. I rubber banded them together and tucked them in the back of the cupboard behind the big jar.

My husband is a big fan of drinks. Especially drink mixes. I guess it's just how he was raised. My mom always rather discouraged too much drinking of "Sugar Water" as she so deftly called it. But Jake's parents have had Kool Aid and the like pretty much at every meal even to this day.

Anyway, to appease him, we have a few of these colorful packets laying around the house, along with some fruit flavored teas. These latter ones did have a box at one point, but my toddler destroyed it. Thus, I also had these drink packets cluttering up my cupboard, but as they are of different flavors, brands and quantities I obviously couldn't do here what I'd just done for the cocoa. So I did this.
This was one of those mayonnaise containers with a flip top. All the packets fit nicely into it and it fits nicely onto a shelf.

Yay for organization!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Julie's Surprise Chocolate Mint Cake

My Mother's Birthday is on St. Patrick's Day. As a result of this she has been doomed to have green (or sometimes rainbow) Birthday cakes for most of her life.

However, I personally think that it's rather fun. There are many foods and flavors that can be green, and there's always green food coloring which can make non-green associated flavors green. I just think it makes a fun Birth date because the creative possibilities for cakes are actually endless . . . At least, in my opinion.

I have had many fond memories from when I was a little girl, of planning or seeing my older sister's plan cakes for my Mom. One year she had a big heart shaped layer cake with a rainbow of frosting that ended with a crock of those metallic gold ball sprinkles that happen to be edible. And of course she's had many green frosted cakes. I think part of the excitement was due to the fact that this was one time during the year when we got to design a cake, because for other people's birthday's my Mom usually made the cake.

When I was about 12-14 or so, I once made my mom a scenic bundt cake. It was inspired by the song/poem All Things Bright And Beautiful, because I knew my mom liked that song. It had blue sky frosting at the top and down the center, then around the top edge where 'purple headed mountains', and beneath those I painted (with frosting) a river rushing by, and trees and flowers and I believe I also had a sunrise/sunset on one side peeping between the mountains. I really need to find a picture of that since I'm pretty sure we took one. Anyway, I honestly think that was the last time I got to make my Mom's cake until now.

There are many cooks in my family, and as such for many years now they have usually volunteered to make my Mother's cake, but this year I thought of it about a week in advance and immediately called my Dad to ask if anyone had volunteered to make it yet. Lucky for me no one had. I had all kinds of crazy ideas on how to make a delectable and snazzy looking lime flavored green cake, but because it was her Birthday, I asked my mom what she thought about a lime cake and her response was, "You can make me a chocolate cake with mint frosting." This was her way of saying, 'I know I'm doomed to have green, but please, no lime.'

I was a bit disappointed, but creative possibilities still lay before me so I began concocting my plans. The following is what I came up with.

Yes, Andes candies helped to inspire me, as well as a bar cookie recipe of my Mother's: Mint Parfait Bars.

I decided to bake a chocolate devils food cake. When there were about 10 minutes left to the baking time, I washed a non-stick saucepan and began unwrapping Andes thin mints and began putting them in the pan on the stove. I had not yet turned on the heat, but because I'd just washed it the pan was still warm and also the oven makes the stove above it rather warm as well so right away the candies started melting.
I continued to fill the pan with chocolate and the it continued to melt. I'm not sure if electric ovens make that much heat on the stove above but my gas one does anyway.

Finally the cake was done, but I first had to let it cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pan, so I probably could have waited to unwrapped the chocolates till the cake came out of the oven. Once it was cool I put a wire rack over the pan and flipped it over. Having used Pam baking spray, the cake came out beautifully onto the rack, which I then set on the table over a large sheet of wax paper.
The chocolate was pretty much all melted by then, so I just stirred it a bit. Jake took some pictures for me so I could show the chocolaty smoothness of it. (And like I said before, I hadn't even turned on the stove yet.)
Then it was time to coat the cake!

I was pretty generous with my first application of chocolate. But I soon realized I might need to be more careful with my second coating.
Here is the wax paper after the first coat. I thought it was kind of cool one of the puddles looks like a heart. I figured we could just let these harden and eat them later. (I've eaten quite a few while blogging this)
This is after my second coat. I had to do this one a lot more slowly, and it was a bit more tedious to try and get the chocolate to cover the sides and bottom edge more. But I did it.
You can tell by my second wax paper sheet the difference in how I applied the chocolate.
Then I managed to make room in my freezer so the chocolate could harden faster and be easier to frost.
After about 20 minutes or so I pulled it out and it looked like this! A giant chocolate doughnut in a minty chocolate shell. I washed my hands and then rinse them in cold water and dried them, then with my cold dry hands I quickly transferred the chocolaty cake form the rack to a nice glass platter.
All ready to frost now.
Personally, I probably would have been happy to eat it like this, but since my mom was expecting mint frosting, I figured this chocolate shell hidden under the icing could be the surprise in my 'Julie Surprise.'
So then I mixed up my "Icing."

I actually used the filling recipe from my Mom's Mint Parfait Bars.
Here's the recipe for it:

Filling (or in this case Icing)

1 envelope or one tablespoon unflavored gelatin.
1/4 cup boiling water
4 cups powdered sugar
3/4 cup softened butter
1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
2-3 drops green food coloring.

Dissolve gelatin in the boiling water; cool. In large mixing bowl combine gelatin and 2 cups powdered sugar. Add butter, peppermint extract and food coloring; beat 1 minute at medium speed or until smooth and creamy. Blend in remaining 2 cups of powdered sugar until smooth.

Jake helped me with some of the ingredients and as such he decided there wasn't much difference between 3/4 of a cup of butter and a whole cup, so we ended up with an extra 1/4 cup of butter in there. As my brother would put it . . .

> >

< <
 Anyway, it was a lot more moist than I expected it to be, but at least that made it easier to spread over my cake. (Though I'm sure the hard chocolate shell helped too.) Ready to Start Frosting Pictures here are courtesy of my husband, Jacob.
Almost done. Lilly is intrigued.
She is, Finito!
To top it off, (literally) I sprinkled some Andes brand mint chips over the top.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Meg's Salad!

My Cousin Megan just posted this recipe. I have tried similar things, and as a great salad lover myself, I'm thinking I will have to try this. But I also thought it would be good to share!
Meg's Salad by Naturally Meg

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

All About Avacados

The first tips I have here are from . . . Then I've also added some other info I've found elsewhere that I've personally found helpful. All of these are concerning Avocados.

How to Tell if an Avocado is Ripe
Is it Ripe?

Press gently on your forehead. This is an example of how an avocado should not feel when you press on it. This means the avocado is too firm and not ripe.

Press gently on your cheek. If your avocado feels this way, do not purchase it. Your avocado is too ripe and possibly rotten.

Press gently on your nose. This is how your ideal avocado should feel to your fingertips. Look for avocados with a little bit of give, but not too mushy.

Pull off the small stem attached to the avocado. If the underside of the stem is brown, do not purchase the avocado. There will be brown spots inside.

Look for an avocado that has the softness and firmness of your nose and has a nice, green spot on the underside of the stem. You have found the perfect avocado. Take it home, cut it open and enjoy.

Julie Note: In doing some searching about Avocados online, I've found over and over again that people say the you can't go by color, only touch to know if an Avocado is ripe. However, I know I read somewhere recently that while the color itself is no determinate, the evenness of the color is. That's how I choose my avocados now. whether green, reddish or black, all I look for in the color department is overall evenness. I've noticed that there are often ones that are green on one side and brownish or black on the other. I believe these are the ones you want to avoid.

How to Ripen and Store Avocados

Allow hard avocados three to five days to ripen at room temperature. A ripe avocado is soft to the touch.

Store avocados in a paper bag. Put an apple in the bag to ripen them more quickly.

Julie Note: I've also read somewhere that putting the avocado in a brown bag and immersing it with flour works really well. I just can't seem to find where I read that now.

Store ripe avocados in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Julie Note: But don't store unripe avocados in the fridge. As one source has said: They won't ripen in the refrigerator and will turn brown, to boot.

To remove the seed from an avocado, cut in half lengthwise (going around the pit), and separate the avocado into two halves.

Inserted tip from To cut an avocado, hold it in your hand and slice through the skin and the flesh to the pit all the way around, lengthwise. Twist each half in opposite directions to separate them.

(Back to eHow.)

If the avocado is ripe, this should be easy. Lightly knock your knife into the pit, so that it sticks there. Give the knife a small turn to the right or left and lift up to remove the pit.

(Julie Note: I've tried thess methods; turning the halves to separate and also with the knife in the pit and everything, and they worked really well for me. Better than a spoon removal I think.)

Scoop the flesh out of the shell or remove the peel (it should come off easily if the avocado is ripe) and slice.

Julie Note: Another method I just found on suggests slicing the avocado before removing it from the skin. This is how I personally do it. I think it's much easier, and less messy this way.

Here are their instructions on how to do that.

The next step depends on your use of the avocado. For slices or mashing, hold one half in your hand skin side down and slice through the meat to, but not through the skin. If you're going to use it in slices stop now. If you're going to mash it, turn the avocado and do the same thing cross-wise. Now just use a spoon to scoop out your sliced or diced avocado.

Julie Note: Or you can try what I do and turn the sliced half over and push on the back, it should turn the skin inside out and eject the slices. Just be sure you do this over a bowl.

Also, here is another tip from

You can plant the seed and grow your own tree as a houseplant, but you'll need patience--avocados take five to thirteen years to bear fruit. It's a fun experiment, though, and they make an attractive houseplant.

Julie Note: I actually tried planting an avocado pit in my backyard a little while ago, but I don't think it worked. I probably should have put it in a pot and kept it indoors. I was just too lazy to find a pot.

The only reason I even attempted this however, is because a few years ago I was visiting at my sister-in-law's home and I noticed that she had a lovely plant by her back door which I did not recognize. I asked her what it was and she told me she had planted an avocado pit in the pot a while before just to see what would happen. So I know for myself that they do make lovely house plants. I'll probably try again one of these days, and plant it in an indoor pot this time. I didn't think about that it might not survive the freezing cold winter when I planted that one before.

And lastly, here is a bit more info from, and a Guacamole recipe:

Like apples, avocados will brown when exposed to air. And, also like apples, a little lemon juice sprinkled on cut pieces will help prevent that.

By themselves, the flavor is mild and almost buttery. A touch of salt does wonders, though, heightening the flavor and bringing out the depth. A touch of acid adds even more.

That's why guacamole is so irresistible. The salt and the lemon juice combine with the avocado and a hint of onion to produce a heavenly treat. You can add other ingredients such as tomatoes and cilantro, but I prefer this simple recipe that lets flavor of the avocado shine.


2 avocados
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon minced onion

Peel, pit and mash the avocados with a fork. Stir in the lemon juice, the salt and the onion, then let the flavors blend for half an hour before serving. Guacamole is terrific with corn tortilla chips, of course, but is equally good on a hamburger or other sandwich.

If you've only eaten avocados in guacamole, try them in salads, too, where they'll add richness and flavor. Consider them on sandwiches to add fiber, nutrients and flavor instead of plain old mayonnaise.

Avocados and tomatoes are a perfect match--the acid in the tomatoes perks up the flavor of the avocados. Try tossing them together as a simple salad, or adding some hunks of avocado to your next salsa.

Smoked fish and avocado are double treat together. Top slices of avocado with some smoked salmon or trout and a little green onion for an appetizer that will make you want to skip dinner.

Avocados are called "poor man's butter" in the tropics because of their texture and plentifulness there. The way I see it, one bite will make any man--or woman--feel rich.


Monday, March 9, 2009

My experience with Coconut Oil, Yeast and Chubby Babies

I love chubby babies! Which is good because I was one, I had one and I will probably continue to have them.

Here is Lillian at about 11 weeks. Right about the time that we discovered the source of the reasty smell that we kept noticing around her.I had heard my mother tell a similar story about one of my brothers, that she kept smelling this nasty smell and finally realized that he had all kinds of nasty spit up, crubs and lint in a hidden fold under his chubby chin. With this in mind I had tried to always remember to clean Lillian's neck whenever we bathed her, but apparently I didn't look deep enough. Finally I lost some timidity and really looked and found that beneath the fold I had been cleaning was a deeper fold in which fungus had started to grow and the skin inside was sore and red and weepy. I can tell you, I felt like such a horrible mother! My Pediatrician suggested an anti-fungal cream, the kind you use for athletes foot. We tried it at first, but I wasn't to keen on this idea because 1. it smelled, 2. I was worried she might touch it on her neck and then put her hands in her mouth and 3. it said to consult a doctor before using on young children. I had already done this, but just the fact that that warning was there made me nervous.

For those of you who know me, you know that I'm all about finding the most natural way to solve problems, and drugs and chemicals are not my friends.

I did some research of my own and found a site that seemed like they might have the answers, but I wasn't sure, so I e-mailed the creators of the site and asked them about my specific problem here is what I wrote:

Dear Marti, Jim, Betsy & John,
I just found your site while doing research online about yeast infections. My 2 month old baby is off the charts in her weight and I have just discovered that she has yeast growing in a secret fold of her neck. I've read a few things that suggest using antifungals or probiotics, but then I found your site. I didn't see anything that suggest that Threelac can help this kind of infection as I would assume it would need to be applied topically in this case, rather than orally. However, if I am wrong about this, or if you carry a topical product meant for this sort of fungus, could you please write back and let me know? I would be most grateful for any help and/or advice you can offer me.
Thank you so much for your time,
Mrs Julie ____

This was my answer:

Dear Julie,
Thank you for taking the time to email us with your concerns about your daughters fungal overgrowth!
ThreeLac is indeed safe for children of all ages (barring any allergies to an ingredient). ThreeLac is taken by mouth for everyone. Simply dampen your finger and put it into ThreeLac and put it on your babies tongue! Quite simple.
Follow the dosing suggestions on our website for children. Scroll down to the dosing link.....

For topical relief of her skin rash while ThreeLac is working from the inside out, try applying virgin coconut oil to the affected area. We have found this natural antifungal to be very efficient when used in this manner.
Please let us know if we can be of any other assistance to you and your family!

We wish you health and healing,

Marti & Jim

Betsy & John


Please be aware that we are not licensed doctors, nurses, nutritional consultants or health care professionals.

We are simply individuals who care about health and wellness – and we are sharing our own experiences with you!

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.


I was so grateful to have this new information. I did not purchase their product, but I did go out and buy some coconut oil and it worked amazingly! Plus, it smelled good and was perfectly edible and safe for my baby.

Lillian has never had thrush of the mouth but if she did I would probably try this product. I think these people are genuinely trying to help others and they make no claims about being doctors, just people who have done their own research and have found what works for them, so if my next baby ever develops thrush I will definitely look further into this ThreeLac product.

Anyway, as for the coconut oil, this is a wonderful natural anti-fungal and it can be found at your local health food store, though I've found it's a bit cheaper at Smiths Marketplace in the organic section. Though Lillian no longer has fungus in her neck, she does occasionally still get fungal-type diaper rashes, which even the best of diaper rash ointments will not help. You can usually tell because it looks really bumpy and irritated, kind of like ring worm. The only thing that helps clears this up is coconut oil.

Also, many sites I've found claim there are many other health benefits to coconut oil ( and some people take a tablespoonful a day and swear that it keeps them healthy. I have not tried this myself as it still is a bit expensive to be using so liberally, but I do occasionally use (a separate container) it in my cooking. It is a good butter substitute and one of those healthful fats, though not a golden oil. It adds a nice touch to Asian, Indian or Hawaiian recipes.

Safety Info That Every Woman Should Know

I know, another sinister e-mail posted, but I really think that it's good to review stuff like this. I need little reminders to be aware and careful now and then.

Everyone should take a few minutes to read this. It may save your life or a loved one's life.


******* Here it is *******

Because of recent abductions

in daylight hours,refresh yourself
of these things to do

in an emergency situation...

This is for you,

and for you to share

with your wife,

your children,

everyone you know.

After reading these
9 crucial tips ,
forward them to someone you care about.
It never hurts to be careful

in this crazy world we live in.

Tip from Tae Kwon Do :
The elbow

is the strongest point

on your body.

If you are close enough to use it,

Learned this from a tourist guide
in New Orleans
If a robber asks

for your wallet and/or purse,


Toss it away from you....

chances are

that he is more interested

in your wallet and/or purse

than you,

and he will go

for the wallet/purse.


If you are ever thrown
into the trunk of a car,

kick out the back tail lights

and stick your arm out the hole

and start waving like crazy.

The driver won't see you,

but everybody else will.

This has saved lives.

Women have a tendency
to get into their cars after shopping,
eating, working, etc.,

and just sit (doing their checkbook,
or making a list, etc.


The predator
will be watching you,
and this is the perfect opportunity
for him to get in

on the passenger side,

put a gun to your head,

and tell you where to go.


a. If someone

is in the car

with a gun

to your head




Instead gun the engine

and speed into anything,

wrecking the car.

Your Air Bag will save you.

If the person is

in the back seat

they will get the worst of it
As soon as the car crashes

bail out and run.

It is better
than having them
find your body

in a remote location.

A few notes about getting
into your car in a parking lot,

or parking garage:

Be aware:
look around you,

look into your car,

at the passenger side floor
and in the back seat

If you are parked next to a big van,
enter your car from the passenger door
Most serial killers attack their victims

by pulling them into their vans

while the women are attempting

to get into their cars.

Look at the car
parked on the driver's side

of your vehicle,

and the passenger side.

If a male is sitting alone

in the seat nearest your car,

you may want to walk back

into the mall, or work,

and get a guard/policeman

to walk you back out.

IT IS ALWAYS BETTER TO BE SAFE THAN SORRY. (And better paranoid than dead.)

take the elevator

instead of the stairs.

(Stairwells are horrible places

to be alone

and the perfect crime spot.

This is especially true at NIGHT!)

If the predator has a gun
and you are not under his control,


The predator will only hit you

(a running target)

4 in 100 times;

And even then,

it most likely


be a vital organ.


Preferably !

in a zig -zag pattern!

As women,
we are always trying

to be sympathetic:

It may get you raped,

or killed.

Ted Bundy,

the serial killer,

was a good-looking,

well educated man,

who ALWAYS played

on the sympathies

of unsuspecting women.

He walked with a cane,

or a limp,

and often asked

"for help"

into his vehicle

or with his vehicle,

which is when he abducted

his next victim.

9. Another Safety Point:
Someone just told me

that her friend heard

a crying baby on her porch

the night before last,
and she called the police
because it was late
and she thought it was weird.
The police told her

"Whatever you do,


open the door."

The lady
then said that
it sounded like the baby
had crawled near a window,
and she was worried

that it would crawl

to the street

and get run over.

The policeman said,

"We already have a unit on the way,
whatever you do,

DO NOT open the door."

He told her that they think

a serial killer

has a baby's cry recorded

and uses it to coax

women out of their homes

thinking that someone

dropped off a baby

He said they have not verified it,
but have had several calls

by women saying that

they hear baby's cries
outside their doors

when they're home alone

at night.

Please pass this on and

open the door

for a crying baby ----


e-mail should probably

be taken seriously because

the Crying Baby theory

was mentioned on

America 's Most Wanted

this past Saturday

when they profiled

the serial killer in Louisiana

I'd like you

to forward this

to all the women you know.

It may save a life.

A candle is not dimmed

by lighting another candle.

I was going to send this to the ladies only,
but guys,

if you love your mothers,



daughters, etc.,

you may want to

pass it onto them, as well.

Send this

to any woman you know

that may need

to be reminded

that the world we live in

has a lot of crazies in it

and it's better to be safe

than sorry.

Food Related Helath and Safety

Yet another e-mail from my Mom. Here's some interesting info about food related health and safety.

It's safe to follow 'the five second rule' for food dropped on the floor.
Verdict: FICTION.
It's probably not even safe to follow a one-second rule: The transfer of bacteria from a contaminated surface to food is almost instantaneous—or, at the very least, quicker than your reflexes. In a recent study, Clemson University food scientist Paul Dawson, Ph.D., and students contaminated several surfaces (ceramic tile, wood flooring, and carpet) with Salmonella. They then dropped pieces of bologna and slices of bread on the surfaces for as little as five seconds and as long as 60 seconds. After just five seconds, both food types had already picked up as many as 1,800 bacteria (more bad bugs adhered to the moisture-rich bologna than the bread); after a full minute, it was up to 10 times that amount.

Bottom Line: There are 76 million cases of food borne illness annually in the United States, according to the CDC—so unless you're the only family on the block that sterilizes their floors on an hourly basis, you should refrain from eating dropped food. 'Let's not forget what comes into contact with floors—people bring animal feces on their shoes into their homes,' Dawson says. And don't assume that counter tops are clean. Dawson's team also found that the Salmonella actually survived as long as four weeks on the test surfaces. As the recent tomato-related illnesses nationwide showed, 'raw fruits and vegetables are as frequently the perpetrators of Salmonella transfer as poultry,' Dawson says.

Cola-type soft drinks can damage your kidneys.
Verdict: FACT.
Despite their global popularity, there's nothing remotely healthy about cola beverages: Drinking 16 ounces or more daily (whether diet or regular) doubles your risk of chronic kidney disease, according to a recent NIH study of more than 900 people. The researchers already knew that consuming any type of soft drink—the average American adult guzzles 59 gallons' worth per year—is associated with several risk factors for kidney disease (hypertension, diabetes, and kidney stones), but the spike in the cola category was remarkable. Experts suspect that the ingredient phosphoric acid may be the culprit; it's been repeatedly linked to 'urinary changes that promote kidney stones,' say the study authors. Cola has an additional knock against it: Consumption is associated with significantly lower bone density in women, increasing the risk of osteoporosis and bone fractures, says a separate study.

Bottom Line: If you're going to indulge in an occasional soda, go for Sprite, 7-Up, ginger ale, and the like—the NIH study found that noncola drinks didn't have the same impact on the kidneys. But you'll be better off if you skip soda altogether, even the sugar-free varieties: Recent research showed an association between drinking diet soda and weight gain.

'Double dipping' spreads germs from one chip to another.
Verdict: FACT.
In a classic episode of 'Seinfeld,' a man accused George Costanza of spreading germs by 'double-dipping'—swiping a chip into a bowl of dip, taking a bite, and then dipping the same chip again. Having settled the five-second rule debate, Clemson University's Dawson decided to do the same recently with this alleged party faux pas. It turns out that George really was contaminating the other guests: Using Wheat Thins and various dips, Dawson found that a double-dip deposited thousands of saliva bacteria into the dip—and of those, 50 to 100 were later transferred through the dip to a clean cracker, presumably destined for another guest's mouth. Still unknown, however, is how long such bacteria can survive in the dip or if they can actually infect another dipper upon ingestion.

Bottom Line: You'd better be pretty comfy with your party guests. 'Eating from a dip after someone has dipped twice is basically the same as kissing that person,' Dawson says. Be especially wary of thin dips; the study found that the lower the dip's viscosity, the higher the rate of germ transfer from a double dip. For example, a chip's second plunge into a cheese dip is less cause for concern than a watery salsa—thicker dips apparently don't allow errant bacteria to travel as far as thinner varieties. Finally, think twice about digging into any dip at the end of the night; remnants on the sides or bottom of a bowl are most likely a highly concentrated mash of germs, Dawson says, akin to the last sip in a can of soda.

Julie Notes: Let me just say that while all of this is good to know, I also believe that being overly cautious about germs can also have a negative effect since recent studies have suggested that keeping children away from germs and having everything constantly sterilized has actually increased the amount of allergies in our country and also weakens the immune system. So of course I will try to stop my daughter from eating off the floor, but if I don't make it in time, I will breathe and relax and realize that it's okay, even if she gets a cold from it. Obviously, there's no reason to induce vomiting or to rush her to the ER.