Is artificial trans fat on its way to extinction?

>> Wednesday, July 29, 2009

On the trans fat front, two great pieces of news. First, Unilever has announced that they will remove all partially hydrogenated oils from its soft spread margarines. Translation...Unilever's margarines will no longer contain artificial trans fat! (Dairy products used in margarine production may still contain naturally occurring trans fats.) Unilever margarine brands include I Can't Believe It's Not Butter and Shedd's Spread Country Crock. Removal of partially hydrogenated oils from their margarine should be complete by second quarter of 2010.

Second, Cargill recently announced that it will cease production of partially hydrogenated oil at its Wichita plant.

"The demand for hydrogenated oils has decreased significantly as a result of trans fat reduction in foods, therefore leaving the plant underutilized," said Mike Venker, president, Cargill Dressings, Sauces & Oils. "We made every effort to keep the production at the plant, but ultimately could not achieve acceptable production efficiencies."
I'm not happy about the jobs inevitably lost with this decision (actually, I hope that they were able to repurpose the line for non-hydrogenated oils and save the jobs), but I am thrilled that the market for partially hydrogenated oils has dried up!

Is this the death knell for trans fat as Marion Nestle, nutrition professor at New York University and author of several respected books, has declared? Let's hope so! In the meantime, read those labels! Trans fat might be on the way out, but that doesn't mean that it's gone yet. I find it in way too many foods still on the shelves.

Special thanks to Fat Fighter TV and Fooducate who broke the news to me. If you need a primer on trans fat and why we should avoid it, check out my post on the subject.


Meatless Monday - Peach bread

>> Monday, July 27, 2009

It's that time of year again - time for fresh, ripe peaches! I bought some almost over-ripe Utah peaches from my local farmer's market last week, and they were so juicy and delicious I could hardly stand it.

What do I like to do with fresh peaches - other than eat them out of hand? So many choices - peach pie, peach cobbler, peach BBQ sauce, and on and on! One of my favorite things to do with fresh peaches is to make peach bread. My peach bread recipe is kind of like banana bread - only moister and full of peachy goodness. Peach bread never lasts long around here. I like it equally for breakfast and dessert.

If you're fortunate enough to have a bunch of fresh peaches around and are tired of the same old cobbler and pie, give this bread a try!

Not the best picture, but can you see the peach bits in the bread? Yum!

Peach Bread
I'm presenting this bread recipe in its original form, but it could handle some modifications. Use some whole wheat flour to make it a little healthier. You could probably cut back on the sugar as well.

2 cups all purpose flour (or substitute white whole wheat flour for 1 cup of the all purpose flour)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 TBSP flaxseed meal (optional)
2 cups very ripe, mashed peaches (about 5 or so medium peaches)
1 egg, slightly beaten
2 TBSP butter or margarine, melted
1/2 cup raisins or nuts (optional)

In a bowl, mix flour, sugars, salt, and baking soda. Put mashed peaches in a large bowl. Add beaten egg, melted butter. Stir in raisins or nuts. Stir in flour mixture. Pour into a 9x5" greased loaf pan. Let stand 20 minutes. Bake at 350 for 45-55 min. Cool bread in pan 15 min; remove from pan and finish cooling on wire rack.

This recipe might look familiar if you've been reading my blog for a while. I first talked about peach bread last year. It's good enough to post again! If you're looking for more ideas on what to do with peaches, check out the original post for links to an amazing peach BBQ sauce, Alton Brown's peach freezing method (to enjoy that peachy goodness in the winter!), and a fantastic peach crisp that you make in little glass canning jars and freeze for later.


Zip on over to win a spife!

>> Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Zip on over to my reviews/giveaway page - A Life Less Sweet Reviews! - for a chance to win a Zespri spife for your kiwi fruit. What's a spife? You'll have to check out the giveaway post to find out!


Meatless Monday - Pizza with white sauce

>> Monday, July 20, 2009

Apologies for the lack of posts lately. Summer has gotten the best of me. It's hard to resist the call of a sunny day when you can already see months of snow and cold approaching. If you've e-mailed me lately or left a comment, thank you! All of your comments and ideas are greatly appreciated. Look for more answers to questions posed in the near future!

I love pizza. And while I like me some pepperoni, 99% of the time I prefer to have my pizza meatless. With two kids in the house and a limited budget, I make pizza at home a lot. Thanks to my breadmaker, I can make a decent whole wheat pizza dough in about an hour. I still don't make tomato based pizza sauce myself (one day...), but I've found a sauce that we all like that is HFCS free at the store - One Top Tomato. Because I can choose the quality and quantity of the ingredients, I consider my homemade pizza a healthy food and don't mind making it for my kids.

Last week I made a pizza that I've been obsessing about lately. There's a restaurant in my town that makes divine pizzas. The crust, the sauce, the ingredients...I love everything about these pizzas! Cafe Ponza has a pizza that is particularly delicious - the Fantasma. This pizza has a white sauce for a base and is topped with roasted garlic, caramelized onions, pancetta, and herbs. For my home version, I left off the pancetta and made a great meatless pizza.

My pizza was very, very good. It takes a bit of time to get all of the ingredients prepared for the pizza, but this is actually a very easy pizza to make. Cafe Ponza doesn't need to worry, though, because my crust doesn't even approach theirs. Still, I'll make this again!

Fantasma Pizza

pizza dough (my breadmaker dough recipe is at the bottom, but use whatever makes you happy for your dough or crust)
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 large head of garlic, roasted
1 cup milk (skim or whatever you have on hand)
2 TBSP butter
2 TBSP all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dried oregano
3 TBSP of thinly sliced fresh basil (or to taste)
olive oil
parmesan or romano, shredded (splurg on the real deal for this - no Kraft allowed!)

Caramelize the onions: Put the onion in a medium saute pan with a TBSP or so of oil and cook over medium heat until the onion is brown but not burned.

Make the white sauce: Gently heat the milk in a saucepan or in the microwave. Keep warm. In a medium saucepan, melt butter. Add flour and use a whisk to mix it in. Cook for 1-2 minutes. The flour shouldn't change color (this is a white roux). Slowly whisk the milk into the flour mixture. Cook the mixture, whisking continuously, until the sauce boils and is thickened. Remove from heat and add in 8-10 roasted garlic cloves. Put in a blender or food processor and blend to incorporate the garlic cloves. Stir in 1/2 tsp of dried oregano.

Preheat oven to 425 F. Prepare the pizza dough on a pizza pan. Spread a thin layer of the white sauce on the prepared dough. (You may have some white sauce left over.) Top with caramelized onion and basil. Place roasted garlic cloves liberally around the pizza. Finish with grated parmesan sprinkled over entire pizza - as much or as little you desire.

Bake pizza for 15 min at 425 F. Enjoy!

Breadmaker Pizza Dough
For a 1 lb batch of dough

3/4 cup warm water
1 TBSP olive oil
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
2 1/4 cups flour - can be completely all-purpose or a mix of all-purpose and whole wheat flour (I usually do about 1/2 white whole wheat)
1 tsp yeast

Combine water, oil, sugar and salt in breadmaker pan. Add in flour, and pour yeast on top of the flour. Put in breadmaker on "Pizza Dough" setting or consult your breadmaker's manual for the best setting.

Like white sauce based pizzas? Lori at Fake Food Free has an Asparagus Pizza with White Garlic Sauce that looks delicious.

And for more meatless meal ideas, check out the recipes at Meatless Monday and maybe jump over to one of the other blogs or sites that showcase meatless meals on Mondays.


Meatless Monday - Delicious sides

>> Monday, July 13, 2009

One of our favorite meatless meals to enjoy has always been just fixing a few different vegetable sides and serving them together as a meal - especially during summer when fresh vegetables are in abundance. A meal like this can be as simple or as complicated as you want.

Today I'm going to share two wonderful side dishes. You can eat these together - paired with another vegetable or a meat - or just use them as a side to another dish. They both are simple-to-make sides, but they do take a bit of time to cook. And both are just as delicious the next day as leftovers!

First up - a delicious green bean dish. I'll call it Green Beans with Shallots and Tomatoes. A couple of notes...if you don't have shallots on hand, you can use onions in a pinch, but it really is better with the texture and garlicky-onion flavor of shallots. Second, I've used canned tomatoes instead of fresh before, and it isn't nearly as good with the canned. Fresh tomatoes melt down to a delicious mess in a way that the canned tomatoes don't. Go for fresh! Last, the recipe calls for a little beef bouillon. I like it better with the bouillon - it adds a nice depth to the flavor - but it isn't really necessary. You can skip the bouillon altogether or perhaps substitute a little beef broth and let it boil away if you'd rather not used processed beef bouillon.

Green Beans with Shallots and Tomatoes
1-2 lbs fresh green beans, stringed
2-4 shallots, minced (I go for 4, but if you are not enamored with shallots, go for 2)
1 large tomato chopped (I often add more)
1/4 tsp beef bouillon granules (or can use Better than Bouillon)
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

Steam green beans 5-10 min or until just tender and cooked through. Run cold water over beans to stop cooking and set aside.

Heat 1 TBSP olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add shallots and saute 3 minutes or until tender. Add green beans, tomato, and rest of the ingredients. Cook about 10 minutes or until the tomato has cooked down. Enjoy!

Next, roasted potatoes with onions. I especially love this dish when I have itty-bitty new potatoes, but it works well with bigger red potatoes cut into chunks as well. If you'd rather keep this animal product free, substitute vegetable broth for the chicken broth

Roasted Potatoes with Onions
2 lbs small red new potatoes, unpeeled
2 TBSP olive oil
1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper

1 large onion, chopped
3/4 cup chicken stock or broth

Preheat oven to 425 F. In a glass 13"x9" pan (or a roasting pan), combine the potatoes, olive oil, salt and pepper. Coat the potatoes evenly with the oil mixture.

Roast the potatoes 20 min. Sprinkle evenly with the onion and chicken stock. Continue roasting, shaking the pan every 10-15 min to keep the potatoes from sticking, until they are brown and tender and the onions are caramelized - about another 45 min. Serve and enjoy!


Hungry for change?

>> Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Hungry for change - that's one of the tag lines for a new movie out called Food, Inc. I was intrigued when I saw the trailer for this movie (watch it below) a few weeks ago and am even more intrigued by it after a recent comment from Arianne Ayers, the Publicity and Marketing Director of Magnolia Pictures. Read on:

... This documentary focuses on the industrial food system in America. One of the characters It features is Barbara Kowalcyk, a mother who lost her son to E. coli after all eating together at a fast food restaurant during a family vacation. Her story, along with the testimony of experts like Michael Pollan (The Omnivore’s Dilemma) and Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation) brings to light the importance of not only know what our children are eating, but where it came from, how safe it is, and how our current industrial food system has hidden the real costs of our food chain from us.

I would urge every concerned parent to see this film. It’s not about fat or thin, it’s about an entire generation of children, born after the year 2000, in which one out of every three will have early onset diabetes. It’s about feeling secure in what your children are eating, and about educating them to make good choices themselves.

The more educated we are as parents/grandparents/aunts and uncles/educators, the better off we are to give our children the knowledge and the ammunition to make better choices and lead healthier lives. ...
I love the statement in bold above (highlighted by me): "It’s about feeling secure in what your children are eating, and about educating them to make good choices themselves." Yes! As much as I want to eat better for myself, it's my kids that drive me to action. This very sentiment is what drives me to learn more about what we're eating (and write this blog) and to make changes in our diet.

Still not intrigued? Watch the trailer (if you're viewing this from Google reader or a subscription service, you may have to click on over to my blog to see the trailer):

Food, Inc. is playing in selected theaters around the country . If you're interested in seeing this movie, you can find out when and if it will be in your area here. And if you're like me and live in an area where it won't be playing in theaters, Food, Inc. will be released to DVD Nov. 11th.

Another movie to watch out for - What's Organic about Organic? I'm interested in this movie as well. I don't expect that this documentary will make it to many big screens, so watch for (and request!) this movie on your local PBS station.


Meatless Monday - Lettuce wraps

>> Monday, July 6, 2009

Sometimes I have a favorite meal that is so mindlessly easy and simple that I wonder if I should even bother posting it. But I find that sometimes I don't think of these simple recipes or meals on my own, so I'm passing them along to you in case anyone else out there needs an a-ha moment.

Today's meal is one of those crazy simple meals - lettuce wraps. The variations are infinite, so have fun modifying to suit your own particular tastes. I find that these make a fabulous light lunch - kind of a hand-held salad. Here is my current favorite lettuce wrap concoction:

  • Place a nice, clean lettuce leaf on a plate. Most any leaf lettuce will do (my picture shows red leaf lettuce), but romaine hearts are especially good.
  • Smear a bit of goat cheese (or yogurt or hummus or salsa or whatever suits your mood) lengthwise down the leaf
  • Top with roasted vegetables - onion and yellow bell pepper in my case
  • Pick up and enjoy!

The yumminess doesn't translate so well in this picture, so just trust me - it's good!

If you've not roasted vegetables before, it couldn't be easier. For my onion and bell pepper, I spread thinly sliced onion and bell pepper in a single layer on a baking sheet. Coat with a little olive oil (you don't need much - just enough to coat), and cook in a preheated oven at 400-425 F for about 20 min. Voila! Roasted vegetables! When I'm on a lettuce wrap kick, I'll roast a ton and keep in the fridge to use throughout the week.

Special thanks to my friend Amy in Fort Collins - the vegetable roasting queen - who first introduced me to lettuce wraps!


Surprising HFCS food of the week

>> Wednesday, July 1, 2009

This week's surprising HFCS food of the week is...dried fruit! The other day I was making a homemade trail mix, and I wanted to add some dried fruit to it for a little sweetness. Dried fruit seems like it should be a no-brainer, doesn't it? But not only are most dried fruits jam packed with added sugar, but many contain HFCS as a prime ingredient.

I'm going to pick on a single brand here, but HFCS as an ingredient is not limited to this brand of dried fruit. Mariani is the lucky brand. I am happy to say that most of Mariani's dried fruit does not contain HFCS - plenty of sugar, but not HFCS. Most but not all. Their berry products, unfortunately, are rife with HFCS.

Let's look at their Premium Wild Blueberries as an example. Take a look at the ingredient list: Dried Wild Blueberries, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Corn Syrup, Water, Sucrose, Citric Acid, Glycerol, Natural Flavor, Potassium Sorbate Added As A Preservative. Holy sugar, batman! Who knew that a little berry needed sugar in the form of HFCS, corn syrup, AND sucrose!

The good news is that there are a lot of HFCS-free dried fruit options. Unless you go specifically for a fruit that has been dried without sugar though, the fruit is still likely to be more sugar than fruit (that's an exagerration, but not by much). I must admit that I do not care for most of the added-sugar free dried fruits (at least the ones that typically have added sugar) - with one exception...

Bare Fruit Snacks is a brand that sells bake-dried fruit with no added sugar and no preservatives. Because there is no added sugar, these bake-dried fruit bits are tough and chewy, but they're packed with flavor to make up for the lack of sugar. I've tried a few of their products, and my two favorites by far are their dried mango and cinnamon apple chips. The mango flavor in the dried mango bits is intense as are the cinnamon and apple flavors.

Because they are a bit tough, these are not the kind of fruit that I like to add to trail mix - I'm going with raisins or sugar-dried pineapple for that. I like to snack on Bare Fruit Snacks all on their own.

Just as a note...there are several common dried fruits out there that rarely have sugar added during the drying process - raisins and prunes instantly come to mind. And even sugar-dried fruits have some benefits - like lots of fiber - though they're really more fiber-filled desserts than anything. Take this post as a reminder to be realistic about whether a product really is good for you or should be treated more as a treat...and read those ingredients!


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