Ode to an Onion

>> Sunday, May 8, 2011

I am a sweet onion fanatic. Not so very long ago, I'd have to sometimes settle for a stouter storage onion.  Storage onions are fine for cooking, but they can be too pungent for truly enjoying raw.  These days, I can always find a sweet onion at the grocery store.  Even though sweet onions aren't the unusual treat that they used to be, I still get excited about onions this time of year.  Why?  This is Vidalia onion season!  Juicy and sweet with thick layers, these onions are a wonder. 

What makes Vidalia's special?  Vidalia onions are grown in a very specific 20 county region of Georgia.  The low sulfur soil and the unique climate result in the beloved sweet onion.  (Say it like vie-dayl-yuh with a nice long I sound at the beginning.  Georgians will leave the L sound out, but I'm from Mississippi, so in it goes.) The onions are especially sweet because of their low sulfur and high sugar content.  In fact, a Vidalia onion can have as much sugar as an apple.  The onions are harvested late-April through mid-June.  They can be stored for sale as late as December in special, high-nitrogen storage units, but I generally see them in our grocery store in May and June. 

How do you use Vidalia onions?  I use sweet onions in any recipe that calls for an onion, but Vidalia onions are really best appreciated raw or lightly cooked.  Slice one for a sandwich or add chopped, raw Vidalia onion to a salad to fully appreciate the sweet onion flavor.  The onions are great in Classic Greek Salad (see recipe at the end).  The thick onion layers really lend themselves to onion rings too.  I love to use this onion ring recipe from Cooking Light. 

I bought my first Vidalia onions of the season today.  Although grown in Georgia, you can find these delicious onions nationwide.  If you've not tried Vidalias, start looking for the word "Vidalia" on the little stickers on the sweet onions at your grocery store and snap them up while you can!

Classic Greek Salad
Adapted from Greek Meze Cooking

2 large, ripe tomatoes, cut into thin wedges (I tend to use lots of grape tomatoes cut in half lengthwise)
1/2 cucumber, halved and sliced
1 green bell pepper, seeded and sliced into rings (I like to use red bell pepper)
2 oz. kalamata olives
1 large onion, finely sliced
6 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
zest and juice of 1/2 a lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp finely chopped fresh oregano
salt to taste

Toss together the tomato through feta cheese.  Combine lemon, oil, oregano, and salt in a small bowl, and whisk to make a vinaigrette.  Add to the salad and serve.

Serves 4-6


Lunch for a Princess

>> Monday, April 11, 2011

Do you ever get in a rut when you prepare food for your child?  Make the same things over and over again or go to the foods that are supposed to be "kid friendly"?  I'm certainly guilty of doing that.  I have my go-to lunches for my daughter - like spaghetti and PB&J.  Fortunately, she likes to remind me to think outside of the kid-friendly box sometimes.

I've inadvertently found that one of the best ways to get my children to try new foods is to simply to eat the food myself.  That's precisely how I discovered one of my daughter's very favorite lunches - a wrap with a generous smear of goat cheese, roasted red peppers, sliced sweet onion, and tomato.  I was enjoying a wrap of this very description one day when my princess said she wanted a bite...and then ate my whole wrap.  She generally does not care for raw onion (or roasted red peppers for that matter), but in this wrap, she loves the "crunchy bits."  Now I send this wrap for school lunch quite often.

If all else fails, I can depend on her drinking a smoothie for lunch.  And why not?  Packed with fruit and a little punch of protein, the smoothies we make for her are a smart and fun lunch, and again, a lunch that she stole from my husband who is also a smoothie fiend. 

Don't be afraid to challenge your child's taste buds.  They just might surprise you!  What's your favorite non-traditional lunch to serve your child?

A wrap is always better with a fancy toothpick holding it together on a fun plate.
 Princess Wrap

1 small flour tortilla
soft goat cheese
jarred roasted red pepper
sliced tomato
sliced sweet onion

Smear goat cheese down center of tortilla and top with remaining ingredients.  Roll and eat.

Watch the ingredients in the tortillas!  Many brands use hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils in their tortillas.

Princess Smoothie

1 banana
1 cup frozen strawberries (thaw a little before blending - 45 sec in microwave does a good job)
1 cup milk (dairy, soy, almond, or coconut)
1 spoonful of peanut butter
a squeeze of chocolate syrup

Place all in a blender and blend until smooth.  Makes 2-3 servings

Add a little tofu to make the smoothie extra creamy and add an extra big punch of protein.


It's National Empanada Day!

>> Friday, April 8, 2011

Who knew?  What perfect way to end my blogging vacation than to celebrate the humble empanada on its very own day by resharing my empanada recipe.  (As an aside, I always want to say em-pa-NYA-da, but I am trying retrain myself to say the word correctly: em-pa-NAH-da.)  A couple of years ago a group of Latina women sold "authentic Latin food" at our local farmer's market.  I fell head over heels in love with their corn and cheese empanadas.  This recipe is my attempt at recreating their empanada.  It falls short of the empanadas I enjoyed at the Farmer's Market, but it's still a darn good empanada, and it freezes well to boot.  I make extra and freeze them to pack in my son's lunch box or to use on those nights when I just don't feel like cooking.

Empanadas de Choclo y Queso (Corn and Cheese Empanadas)

packaged frozen empanada shells (find in the freezer section)
2 TBSP butter
1/2 onion, finely chopped
2 TBSP all-purpose flour
Lowfat evaporated milk (about 1/2 a can)
2 oz Monterey Jack cheese or cheese of choice
1 green onion, finely chopped
corn - 4-6 ears fresh or 1 can or 1 1/2 - 2 cups frozen (I used a bag of fresh corn that I froze last summer)
1 small can green chiles (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 F.

White Sauce - Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until tender. Whisk in the flour and cook for about a minute. Slowly whisk in the evaporated milk until your sauce is the desired consistency. Cook for a couple of minutes adding more evaporated milk if necessary. (My sauce at this point was very thick but pourable.)

Add in cheese, green onions, and corn as well as any other optional ingredients. Stir to combine well.

Place a tablespoon or two of corn and cheese filling in the center of an empanada shell. Wet the outer edge of the shell with a little water and press edges together to make a sealed pouch. Place empanada on an oiled baking sheet. Continue until all of your filling and/or empanada shells are used.

Bake at 400 F for 10-15 min or until empanada bottoms are browned. (You can also brush an egg wash over the top of the uncooked shells to brown the tops as well.)

Makes about 30 empanadas

Want more empanada ideas?  Foodgawker has beautiful pictures of empanadas with links to the recipes.  Get ready to drool!  And while I haven't tried this recipe, Home Baked Memories has a wonderful looking Green Chile Chicken and Queso Empanada recipe.  Enjoy!


Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler! King Cake for Mardi Gras

>> Sunday, March 6, 2011

Care to guess what I'll be doing today?  I've spoiled a few Wyoming folk, and they now plead for King Cake.  Mardi Gras is this Tuesday, so King Cake time is quickly ending.  King Cake is just as tasty if it isn't Mardi Gras season, of course, but it just doesn't seem quite right to have it past Mardi Gras.  So, Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler!  Let the good times - and the King Cake - roll!

Even though I grew up in coastal Mississippi where every town has their own Mardi Gras parade and schools get Fat Tuesday off, I don't have any memories of king cake until moving to Louisiana as an adult.  I'm sure that I had my share of king cake as a child, but in Lousiana, I had lots and lots of king cake.  It's a way of life down there during Mardi Gras season.  We've continued the tradition in our current home of Wyoming to help my son, a Louisiana native, celebrate his heritage (not to mention it's just fun and tasty).

If you're not familiar with Mardi Gras, it's the season just before lent culminating on Mardi Gras day - the day before lent starts.  It is the American South's version of Carnival.  Mardi Gras is known for lots of rich foods, parties, and parades, and is celebrated from the Florida panhandle through southern Louisiana (and other places too, I'm sure).

What is King Cake?   This traditional cake of Mardi Gras was brought over by the French settlers and has morphed into what we eat today.  The cake is a sweet brioche often with a slight cinnamon flavor.  Modern variations can be found stuffed with a cream cheese or fruit filling.

Everything about the king cake is symbolic.  The circular or oval shape is to honor the three kings.  The traditional Mardi Gras colors that decorate the cake are traditional too:  purple represents justice, green represents faith, and gold represents faith.  A small plastic baby (or bean) is often put inside of the cake to represent the baby Jesus.  In Louisiana, whoever found the baby had to bring the next king cake.  We're adding our own twist and saying that whoever finds the baby will have good luck the rest of the year.

King cakes are a Mardi Gras season tradition, but they've become so popular that bakeries make them and people buy them year round now.  Seems like most bakeries in southern Louisiana will ship their king cake nationwide, but we choose to go the cheaper (and just as tasty) homemade route. 

The recipe for this sweet treat looks daunting, I know, but it really isn't that bad.  You need some time, but each step is actually pretty easy.  It's even easier if you have a mixer with a dough hook to do the kneading for you.  (I use the mixer to do most of the mixing, taking a little time to mix in the butter with my own hands.  If you're using a mixer, 6 minutes of kneading with a dough hook seems to do the trick.)  Enjoy!

I didn't use the traditional colors on my king cake - just what I had on hand!  And if you look close, you can see the little plastic baby (totally optional) sitting on top waiting to be hidden inside.

Mardi Gras King Cake with Cream Cheese Filling

1/2 cup warm water
2 packages active dry yeast
1/2 cup plus 2 tsp sugar
4 cups of flour, plus extra if needed
1 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp salt
1/2 cup warm milk
5 large egg yolks
1 stick butter, cut into slices and softened
1 tsp ground cinnamon

Cream Cheese Filling (mix all ingredients together):
2 8-oz packages of cream cheese (low fat is fine)
2 cup confectioner's sugar
3 TBSP flour
2 tsp vanilla extract
a few drops of milk

Icing (Mix together using more or less milk to reach the desired consistency.):
3/4 cup confectioners sugar
3 TBSP milk

Pour the warm water into a bowl and sprinkle the yeast and 2 tsp of sugar into it.  Stir and let the yeast/sugar mix set in a warm place for 10 min.

In a bowl, combine the flour, remaining sugar, nutmeg, and salt and mix well.  Pour yeast mixture and warm milk into flour mixture.  Add egg yolks and mix well using hands, spoon, or mixer.  When mixture is mostly smooth, add in butter a tablespoon at a time.  (I use my dough hook to get this going, and then use my hands to finish mixing the butter in.)   Mix until dough forms a smooth ball.

Place ball of dough on a floured surface and knead, adding more flour as necessary.  When dough is no longer very sticky, knead 10 more minutes until shiny and elastic.  (Or use a mixer with a dough hook for about 6 minutes.)

Coat a large bowl with a little butter or oil.  Place dough ball in the bowl and cover with a towel.  Let rise in a warm place for a 1 1/2 hours or until doubled in size.

After rising, place the dough on a lightly floured surface and punch it down.  Sprinkle the sinnamon on, then pat and shape the dough into a long snake or cylinder.  Use a rolling pin to flatten the cylinder into a long rectangle.  Spoon the cream cheese filling along the center of the rectangle lengthwise.  Pull the lengthwise edges of the rectangle together and fold under to surround the filling with dough.

Carefully move the long, cream cheese filled rectangle onto a baking sheet so that the seam is on the bottom.  Shape into a circle and pinch the ends together.  (A pizza pan works great for this!)

Cover with a towel and let rise in a warm place again for 45 minutes.

After the second rising, bake in an oven preheated to 375 F for 25-35 min or until golden brown.  Cool on a wire rack and hide the plastic baby (or bean) inside the cake.

Spoon icing over the cake (it will be thin), and sprinkle green, purple, and gold colored sugar over the icing.


Meatless Monday - Greek Stuffed Peppers (Yemista Orphana)

>> Monday, February 14, 2011

My husband and I love Greek food.  We've been enthralled with Greek flavors for years now, but enthrallment turned to obsession after eating at a fabulous little Greek restaurant in Salt Lake City.  The only thing that keeps me from cooking Greek food more is time.  When I do make a Greek meal, we savor every morsel.

Last night I made an early Valentine meal for my husband - yemista, aka Greek Stuffed Peppers.  My husband and I both really enjoyed these stuffed peppers.  The kids thought this dish was only so-so.  They both ate the stuffing without complaint, but neither were thrilled with the dish.  I'm ok with that.  Their little taste buds were challenged with something new, and they didn't balk at it - a success in itself.  We will have this meal again (and again), and hopefully the kids will warm up to it.

This dish takes a little time, but it is really very easy to prepare.  I stuffed bell peppers exclusively, but you could also stuff tomatoes, zucchini, or eggplant.  If you stuff a vegetable with an edible inside (like a tomato), save the scooped out pulp and add it to your stuffing.

Enjoy and happy Valentine's day!

Yemista with a light Greek side salad

Greek Stuffed Peppers (Yemista Orphana)
adapted from Greek Meze Cooking - Tapas of the Aegean

8 bell peppers
2 TBSP olive oil
6 green onions, finely chopped
1 1/3 cup long grain white rice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup seedless raisins
1/2 cup pine nuts
3/4 cup diced tomato (canned or fresh)
about 2 1/2 cups water
salt and pepper to taste
4 TBSP chopped parsley
3 TBSP chopped fresh mint

To prepare the bell peppers, slice off the tops and scoop out and discard the seeds and ribs.  Save the top; it will be a lid for the peppers after stuffing.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a large skillet, heat 1 TBSP of the olive oil and add the onions.  Cook for about a minute, then stir in the rice, garlic, cinnamon, raisins, pine nuts, and the tomatoes.  (If you're using vegetables other than bell peppers, stir in the reserved scooped out insides now.)  Add enough water to cover the rice and simmer, covered, for 10-15 minutes or until the rice is tender and the majority of the liquid has been absorbed.  You can add more water while the rice is cooking if necessary.

Add salt and pepper to taste, and stir in the parsley and mint.  Remove the filling from the heat.  Stuff the bell peppers with the rice filling and place the tops on each pepper.  Arrange the vegetables in a large roasting pan and pour in enough water to just cover the base of the pan.

Drizzle the remaining olive oil over the peppers and back for 50-60 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.  Serve warm or cold.

Serves 8

If you ever have the opportunity to eat at Aristo's in Salt Lake City, jump on it!  Don't be afraid to take the kids.  They are family friendly with a nice kid's menu with kid-friendly Greek fare.  My daughter loves their kephtedes (aka Greek meatballs) and my son loves their pasta with feta cheese.  Your kids will expand their taste horizons without even knowing it!


Go Red for Women!

>> Friday, February 11, 2011

Many thanks to Sahar at Fatfighter TV for inviting me to be a part of Blog Your Heart Out.  This is a cause that is close to Sahar's heart.  Please take the time to read Sahar's post for today - I miss you, mommy.

Did you know that heart disease is the number one killer of women in the US?  It's a statistic that I've heard before, but it always catches me a bit by surprise.  Heart disease is stereotypically associated with men, but it's as big a problem - maybe bigger because the awareness still isn't there - for women.  The American Heart Association started the program Go Red for Women in 2004 to raise awareness that heart disease is a killer for women too.

How can you be an advocate for change?  Whether you're a man or a woman, the initial steps are the same, and if you're at this blog, it's likely that you're already starting to think about the food you eat - a big first step!  The American Heart Association has lots of great looking heart-healthy recipes on their website.  As a side note, the first recipe book that I remember actually spending money on was the American Heart Association Cookbook way back in the early '90s, long before I was really thinking about what foods I put into my body.  Healthy food is still tasty food, folks! 

Exercise regularly - even if all you can fit in is a walk around the block or set of jumping jacks in your cubicle - do what you can!  Regular checkups and blood screenings can help alert you to problems early.  Many communities - mine included - offer a complete blood screening at a manageable, reduced price at certain times of the year.  Take advantage of this service if it's available!  Find out what your cholesterol is and take steps to get it to an acceptable level. If you have high blood pressure or almost high blood pressure, talk to your doctor about how to manage it.  Take control of your health before it takes control of you!

Go Red for Women!  Become a member of the AHA's Go Read for Women campaign and take advantage of all they have to offer.  Membership is free, and members receive a newsletter, a red dress pin, a 12-week BetterU nutrition and fitness program makeover, an online heart checkup, and the chance to share your own story with others.


Equal Exchange Chocolate Giveaway!

>> Friday, February 4, 2011

I love Equal Exchange chocolates, so I was thrilled when they asked if I would like to review their new chocolate bars and hold a chocolate giveaway.  Click over to A Life Less Sweet Reviews to read about these two new chocolate offerings from Equal Exchange (I like one so much I refused to share) and to enter to win a box of assorted Equal Exchange chocolate bars.  Entries will be accepted until 11:59 pm Saturday, February 5, so don't delay! 


Flavored Milk vs Veggies for Calcium

>> Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Like to curl up with a nice cup of hot tea on these cold winter days?  I've got a great Celestial Seasonings tea giveaway on A Life Less Sweet Reviews!  Read about their new green teas and enter to win a box of each of the new teas!

Today I'm pleased to publish a guest post by Jenna Pepper.  Jenna is a recovering picky eater and real food advocate sharing with parents the truth; kids can transform their taste buds.  Whether you have a reluctant eater or a snack fiend on your hands, there is hope.  She is involved in school food reform in Houston, TX Spring Branch ISD.  Jenna is the author of the Eat to Learn program, which is in the first year of implementation at Sherwood Elementary.  Fruit and vegetable consumption at school lunches is up 10% since the program began.  Check out her blog Food with Kid Appeal where she can help you grow good eaters.

Questioning the belief that sugars in flavored milk are a necessary evil to get calcium in kids

Fear that kids won’t get enough calcium if they don’t drink daily milk is pretty common.  Parents would fear this without marketing from the dairy industry because “growing bones” is mission critical for short people.  The dairy industry makes this fear even worse by convincing school districts to serve flavored milk to students, so that kids don’t miss out on the calcium they need.  If that practice wasn’t enough, the milk industry started its Raise Your Hand for Chocolate milk campaign to keep parents believing that flavored milk - with added sugar, usually high fructose corn syrup - is a necessity for a growing child.  They play on a parents fear that their child’s growth will not be optimized unless milk is consumed daily.

Add to that the fact that most school food programs have removed a lot of the real food that contains naturally contains calcium from the menu, replacing it with factory food of little or no nutritional value.  The nutritional value of the factory food is usually in the form of vitamin or mineral enrichment, versus naturally occurring nutrients in whole real food.  In districts where greens are served in the hot lunch line, they are often overcooked unpalatable blobs of green that no child or adult would find appealing. 

Is it accurate?  Are most kids in need of extra calcium?
As Ed Burske reports in an article summarizing the findings by a panel of medical authorities regarding calcium intake among children, most children are not in need of extra calcium as the dairy industry has brain-washed parents into believing.  Chairman of school nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health, Dr Walter Willet says that milk is not an essential nutrient.  “We aren’t seeing a lot of children with factures,” he said citing lack of evidence suggesting children’s bone growth is impaired by lack of calcium.

What some parents might not know is that while milk contains more calcium than a serving of calcium containing vegetables, the calcium in some vegetables is more readily absorbed and utilized for bone health than it is from milk or other calcium enhanced products.  That means that a serving of broccoli may do your child as much or more good as the milk.  Last time I checked there is no high fructose corn syrup in broccoli.  The question isn’t "is dairy a good source of calcium for bone health."  The question is calcium from dairy essential?  I’m not convinced.  Animals in nature seem to get enough calcium to support their bone health from their diet, which doesn’t include dairy products past weaning from mother’s milk.  If animals can get enough calcium from leaves, as Annemarie Colbin, author of The Whole Food Guide to Strong Bones suggests, perhaps humans can too.  Exercise too is critical for bone health.  I guess animals get plenty of exercise in their daily quest for food in the wild.  Less so for humans who drive to the store and pick up a week’s worth of groceries in an hour or less.

But Kids Don’t Like Vegetables
Nope.  Not true.  I put this myth to the test in a Houston, TX elementary school.  400 students tasted 9 different vegetables and fruits including calcium containing broccoli and spinach.  And do you know what happened?  4,951 tastes later the punch cards revealed that 82% of students from Pre-Kinder through 5th Grade tasted all 9 items.  Many kids asked for more spinach and broccoli.  25% of students voted a green vegetable as their favorite produce tasted, even when up against orange and pear.

Tasting spinach at a school Taste Off Competition.
I’m not asserting that kids prefer vegetables. Most kids would still pick chocolate milk over broccoli as their favorite.  I’m saying that kids will eat vegetables.  Parents, teachers, school food service professionals listen up.  Kids will eat vegetables. 

Step One:  Serve vegetables in a palatable way - raw on a salad bar. 
Step Two:  Get the sugared-up and packaged stuff off the menu. 
Step Three:  Teach students that vegetables fuel their brain
Step Four:  Watch veggies (and calcium) go down the hatch.

It took me two years to fall in love with kale.  My mistake?  Cooking it.  It is so much better chopped in thin slices added to other greens in a salad. Varieties other than curly kale work best raw in salads.  Don’t believe me? Try leafy greens like kale raw in your next green salad.  See what the kids think. 

Thanks so much, Jenna!  Great information and food for thought.  At my son's school, they offer chocolate milk, 2% plain milk, or a small cup of juice (half the amount of the milk cartons!) for their lunch.  While I wish that they would also provide an easy source of water with their lunches, I've been pleasantly surprised this year that the majority of the kids choose the unflavored milk!  The kids also happily get veggies from the salad bar (the first thing in the food line) and eat them.  Small steps, but important ones!


What are your Superbowl foods? And a giveaway!

>> Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Superbowl is one week away!  The three things I think about when I hear Superbowl?  Football, commercials, and food.  And the food almost always includes chips.  I've got a great Garden of Eatin' chip giveaway on A Life Less Sweet Reviews.  Hurry over and leave a comment to enter!

Superbowl food is about fun food.  Food you can pick up and maybe get your fingers a little messy.  A past favorite of mine?  Rotel dip.  You know - Velveeta with a can of Rotel mixed in.  I like Rotel dip, I'll admit it, but Superbowl food doesn't have to include fake cheese.  I'm going to give just a few options that are just as fun, but maybe up the flavor factor a bit.

First up, sliders.  How can you go wrong with itty-bitty hamburgers?  I like to make my own buns for my sliders, but you could simply substitute a dinner roll for the bun to save a little time.  (Watch those ingredients if you buy your rolls!)  And if you're not in the mood for a hamburger, try a chicken slider or a roasted portobello mushroom slider for a vegetarian option.

Nachos are always great football food, but they can be more than fake cheese poured over chips.  Try going for a more sophisticated nacho.  These nachos are easy to make and delicious.

Or go for an nontraditional nacho.  These Beans and Sweet Potato Nachos are healthy and delicious football food.

One of my favorite finger foods is bruschetta.  Traditional bruschetta is simply toasted bread rubbed with garlic and drizzled with a little olive oil and salt and pepper.  Modern bruschetta is toasted bread topped with whatever makes you happy.  My favorite bruschetta is toasted bread topped with a smear of basil pesto, chopped tomato, and crumbled goat cheese.  So simple and so good!

Of course, dips are a must for the Superbowl.  This year, I have my eye on this Mediterranean 7 Layer Dip recipe from Cooking with My Kid.  I'll make my own hummus as the base.  (Hummus alone would make a great Superbowl dip.)  This Creamy Garlic and Herb Dip from Cooking Light looks great for vegetables and chips alike.

Want some more ideas?  Cooking Light, Epicurious, and Eating Well all have some great looking Superbowl recipes.


Eat your applesauce and help the Breast Cancer Foundation!

>> Friday, January 28, 2011

Click over to my review blog - A Life Less Sweet Reviews - to read about how Musselman's applesauce is partnering with the National Breast Cancer Foundation this month.  I've also got a great Cinnamon Apple Pancake recipe from the cookbook Substitute Yourself Skinny for you.  What are you waiting for?  Go read about it!


For Shame, Girl Scouts!

>> Sunday, January 16, 2011

'Tis the time of year for cute little girls in brown vests to smile at your door with an order form for boxes of irresistible cookies.  Girl Scout cookies really do have a mystique about them, don't they?  What is it about these cookies that makes everyone drool?

I know!  Maybe it's the partially hydrogenated oil!

Yeah, sorry, total buzzkill here.  Since we gave up high fructose corn syrup (HFCS for the uninitiated) a few years ago, I have been disappointed in Girl Scout Cookies.  This wholesome organization promoting good things for girls, well, you'd think that the product they sell would be a little more wholesome for their clientele.  I don't begrudge the cookies at all, but I do have issues with the ingredient lists.

To keep things simple, we'll focus on the two ingredients on my "do not buy" list - HFCS and partially hydrogenated oils.  The first is an automatic signal that this product contains cheap, fake ingredients, and the second contains trans fat.  (Need reasons to eliminate partially hydrogenated oils and artificial trans fat from your diet?  Read my post on trans fat.)  Of course, because of lax labeling laws, Girl Scout cookies that contain partially hydrogenated oils can claim to have 0% trans fat.  By law, a product can claim to contain 0% trans fat if it has less than 0.5 g of trans fat per serving.  So, a product can contain a measurable amount of trans fat, albeit small, and claim to have none. 

So, which cookies have the offending ingredients?  Here's  a rundown:

Samoas (my favorite in times past) - partially hydrogenated oil
Tagalongs - partially hydrogenated oil
Thin Mints - partially hydrogenated oil
Caramel DeLites - partially hydrogenated oil, and HFCS
Peanut Butter Patties - partially hydrogenated oil, and HFCS
Peanut Butter Sandwich - partially hydrogenated oil
Thanks-A-Lot - partially hydrogenated oil, and HFCS
Lemonades - partially hydrogenated oil
Dulce De Leche - HFCS

The only cookies with ingredient lists free from partially hydrogenated oil and  HFCS: Trefoils, Shout Outs, Shortbread, Do-Si-Dos, and Thank U Berry Much. Both Do-Si-Dos and Thank U Berry Much contain invert sugar, so if you are concerned about processed free fructose in your product, these would be no-nos as well.

I would really like to buy some cookies from the cute girls selling them that I'll see at my grocery store, but I probably won't - not even the ones on the short list.  Unfortunately, the Girl Scout organization has no real incentive to clean up their cookies' ingredient lists because people will buy the cookies - boxes upon boxes of them.  It's unfortunate that this organization chooses to sell a product with trans fat and other undesirable ingredients in them - cheap cookies made with cheap ingredients that are unhealthy even in small amounts.

For shame, Girl Scouts!

If you'd like to check out the ingredients for yourself, please visit the Girl Scout Cookies official page where there is a link to all of the nutritional and ingredient information for all of their cookies.

I know many young Girl Scouts and will not be confronting them with this information.  I'll speak with my pocketbook and my blog, but I see no reason to rain on some little girl's parade.  I also won't be haranguing my friends who do buy Girl Scout cookies with this information.  Education is great, but in the right time and place.


Meatless Monday - A roundup of some of our favorites

>> Monday, January 10, 2011

It's been a while since I've had a Meatless Monday post, but that isn't because we've abandoned the idea.  I simply haven't developed any new recipes lately and have been coasting on old favorites.  I thought that today I would reminisce about some of our favorite Meatless Monday meals.  These meals are a few of many that I turn to over and over again.

The meatless meal I turn to the most?  Frittata!  It's so easy and a great way to use up leftovers from the fridge.  The variation that I make the most is a simple frittata with potato, onion, and cheese, but any vegetable is at home in a frittata.  For dinner tonight, I have a Roasted Vegetable Frittata in the oven (recipe compliments of The Parsley Thief).

Super easy frittata with broccoli, potato, onions and cheese.
These amazing Quinoa Burgers are on the menu for later this week.  I'm not a fan of fake meat in general, but these are an exception.  They have a meaty flavor thanks to the portobellas, but the texture of the quinoa and overall flavor sets it apart.  It's a veggie burger that doesn't try to be fake meat.  I'll probably pair this burger with these interesting Oven-Baked Garlic Parmesan Fries from Babble Food.
Quinoa burgers are just as tasty as leftovers.
Ah, pizza - a joy for kids and parents alike.  Use a good crust and high quality ingredients, and pizza becomes something you don't feel guilty feeding your kids.  We had my Fantasma pizza last week.  The kids had a homemade cheese pizza, but my daughter finally discovered that she really likes the Fantasma too.
Fantasma Pizza
I have a thing for dumplings.  Not the kind that you find floating in a dish of chicken and dumplings, but dough filled with good stuff.  Think gyoza or calzones.  Think Corn and Cheese Empanadas and Baked Vegetable Wontons.  Make extra and freeze for a handy lunch or dinner some night when you don't feel like cooking.
Baked Vegetable Wontons are easy and delicious and freeze well too!
There are so many more wonderful meatless dishes that I could share again!  Nachos, rice and beans, pasta...I'll save those for another Monday.  In the meantime, don't be afraid to set the meat aside for a day, and if you can't commit to going meatless for a whole day, then spread it over a week.  It's easier than you think, and your stomach and taste buds will thank you!


What's your motivation?

>> Sunday, January 2, 2011

Once upon a time I ate anything I wanted and didn't think about ingredient lists.  Once upon a time I didn't care if the food I ate was heavily processed and shelf stable for years.  Once upon a time I would happily eat a Twinkie.

And then I had kids.

The way I think about food changed forever once that happened.  For one thing, both of my children had major food intolerances.  We happily removed all traces of dairy, eggs, and wheat (along with a few other things) from our diet when each child was an infant to keep them happy and healthy.  That experience proved to us how shockingly easy it is to radically change the way we eat for the better and still have plenty of good foods at our disposal. 

My kids have both outgrown all of their food intolerances, thankfully, and we can eat whatever we want.  I am trying to instill a love of fresh, minimally processed foods into them.  I'll admit - it's hard.  Processed foods surround my kids - in school, at friends' houses, at any out-of-home activities they attend.  Some are even in my pantry.  Processed foods are easy, full of weird ingredients, and are often packed with sugar, fats, and salt.  And kids love them.  They're like a bad Saturday morning cartoon for their taste buds.

Here's something I have personally noticed.  Once you make the switch away from heavily processed foods, your taste perception of processed foods changes.  For example, I've always had a bit of a love affair with Campbell's condensed soups.  It's rare that I cook with them now, but it does happen, and when I do, the food tastes...gloppy.  It has an unreal aftertaste to it.  Real food tastes better.

My kids are clearly my catalyst, but this blog is also my motivation.  Sharing our journey helps to keep us moving forward to a healthier diet and lifestyle, hopefully in a common sense sort of way.  I try not to be judgmental about how others are eating, but I also try to stay true to our own eating ideals. 

Lest you think we've got it all figured out, we're not perfect - far from it.  This blog is my soapbox, and I use it to talk about the positive changes and foods we are eating and to learn about the different things we eat.  You should know though that we still have a long way to go.  I have my vices (like artificial sweeteners), and I won't apologize for them.  I have an insane sweet tooth and eat way too much sugar.  I don't exercise enough.  You get the picture. 

In addition to all of those negatives, though, I have an intense desire to pass along a love and understanding of good foods to my children, and I fully believe in teaching by example. That's really what this blog is all about - learning about food and the sometimes fast, sometimes slow transition to eating better.

So, what's your motivation? 


Black Eyed Peas Two Ways

>> Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year! 

Do you have New Year's Day meal traditions?  I hail from the South, which embraces the humble black eyed pea.  The traditional Southern meal to start the New Year has black eyed peas, greens, ham, and sometimes cornbread - or some variation on this culinary theme.  Each component is symbolic.  The black eyed peas represent coins or prosperity.  Greens represent money, and cornbread is the gold.  Ham?  Well, it's just tasty.

I have to admit, while I grew up in the deep South, this was not a tradition of my family.  My parents much preferred other field peas, such as purple hull or zipper peas, to black eyed peas.  I ate a lot of field peas growing up (though not by choice), but never, ever black eyed peas.  I live in Wyoming now, and field peas other than the black eyed variety are not an option here.  I still am not a lover of field peas.  I would much rather have some delicious green "English" peas or lima or butterbeans.  My husband and son, however, love them, and I regularly cook black eyed peas to satisfy them.

While I am not a big fan of the flavor of black eyed peas, I do like what they have to offer nutritionally.  Black eyed peas (and other field peas) are legumes and are essentially considered a bean.  They are high in soluble fiber, a good source of protein, and low in fat.  While they aren't a powerhouse for vitamins, they are an excellent source of potassium and contain a surprising amount of iron and zinc (and even a little calcium).  Black eyed peas are great as a side dish or can be the star of the meal thanks to their protein content.

As a nod to my husband's - a fellow Southerner - culinary heritage, we will be having black eyed peas on New Year's Day.  The rest of our meal won't be so traditional, though it will all pay tribute to our Mississippi roots.  I have a couple of different black eyed pea recipes that I use depending on my mood.  Both are easy, neither have meat in them (though I do use chicken bouillon), and both make black eyed peas something that even I can eat without fuss.

I use frozen black eyed peas exclusively.  Canned peas are deceptively salty and not the right texture, and dried peas take longer to cook.  If you can't find frozen peas, I would recommend trying dried peas.  You'll need to cook them longer, but you can control the final texture and saltiness.  I also use chicken bouillon to flavor the peas in one of the recipes.  You could substitute chicken or vegetable broth for part or all of the water, use a bouillon or your choice, or use just plain salted water instead.

If you're looking for a black eyed pea recipe to ring in the New Year, give one of these a try and have a prosperous start to 2011!

Dried Black Eyed Peas

Easy Black Eyed Peas
1- 12 to 16 oz bag frozen black eyed peas
1 tsp chicken flavored Better Than Bouillon (or bouillon of your choice)
2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and cut in half
water to cover
salt and pepper to taste

Add all ingredients into a medium-size pot.  Bring to a boil and let cook for 1.5-2 hours or until the peas have reached the desired tenderness.  Stir occasionally and add water to keep the peas just covered.

Tasty Black Eyed Peas
adapted from The 30-Day Diabetes Miracle Cookbook

1/2 tsp olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped celery
1 clove garlic, minced
1 - 12 to 16 oz bag frozen black eyed peas
1 1/2 cups water (or more if necessary)
1 1/2 tsp light molasses
1/4 tsp dried oregano leaves
1 1/2 tsp chicken flavored Better than Bouillon (or bouillon of your choice)
3/4 tsp salt or to taste
1 TBSP canned tomato paste

Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan and saute the onion, celery, and garlic 4-5 minutes or until tender.  Stir in the remaining ingredients.  Cook for 1.5-2 hrs or until the peas have reached the desired tenderness.


  © Blogger templates Sunset by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP