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.


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