Saturday, July 31, 2010

Bread, again.

While shopping this evening with my oldest son Gavin, I discovered a new bread option. Call me obsessed -- it's okay, because I am. In line with my mission to feed my family the best food our money can buy, I'm constantly reading labels, researching brands, ingredients and prices. I love it when it results in a find that has an acceptable ingredients list and a price point that fits into our budget.

Trader Joe's Harvest Whole Wheat ingredients: Stone ground whole wheat flour, filtered water, honey, cracked wheat, sea salt, fresh yeast, whey (milk protein).

Seven ingredients, not bad at all. Our favorite bread (that we can't afford to buy on a regular basis) has five ingredients. The cracked wheat and whey are the two additional ingredients. I'll be using this loaf to make a bunch of french toast to freeze (Gavin's favorite) but will pick up another (they only had one left) next week to use for hubby's sandwiches. Price: $2.49.

I know not every area has a Trader Joe's but there's likely a smaller type market you can check out for items like the Harvest Whole Wheat bread.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Understanding grains

I wanted to share a very informative post I read this morning from a blog I like a lot, The Food Illusion. Lisa covers grains perfectly. It's a must read!

Link to post:
Understanding grains (corn, wheat, multi-grain, etc.)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Happy Baby

With a 10 month old, handy and age appropriate snacks are a must. This medium food mama will definitely not be making her own puffs or freeze dried yogurt snacks. But I'll buy the best I can find and afford.

My first son didn't get the pleasure of these sorts of snacks due entirely to my anxiety about choking. Sorry Gav! So a few months back was my first time doing extensive research on convenience snacks for baby.

After looking at my choices at the stores in my area, I landed on Happy Baby. Gerber has an organic line but only their baby food, not their snacks. I was never a big fan of Gerber anyhow but Earth's Best Organic, the brand I am a fan of, didn't offer snack items like puffs just teething biscuits. Although, Happy Baby was really my only choice in regards to puffs specifically, they're good stuff. They contain good ingredients and the price is right. I've found Happy Baby products at Target, Whole Foods and Babies R Us. Price: $2.99.

Happy Baby ingredients: Organic rice, organic whole oats, organic wheat, organic apple juice concentrate, organic whole grain brown rice, organic wheat starch, organic spinach, organic collard greens, organic kale.

Gerber ingredients: Rice flour, whole grain oat flour, wheat starch, wheat flour, sugar, apple powder, tri- and dicalcium phosphate, mixed tocopherols(for freshness), natural flavor, zinc sulfate, alpha tocopheryl acetate (vitamin E), electrolytic iron, soy lecithin, cinnamon, red cabbage extract color, purple carrot extract color.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Bread in a pinch

Today the boys and I made a stop at Target for a couple of things. Walking past the bread aisle I remembered we were out of bread, hubby went to work without his sandwich today. Bread is an item I've talked about before (in my Priorities post). We have a favorite from Great Harvest but simply can't afford to buy it on a regular basis.

If you have a Target that sells groceries, it likely has a pretty overwhelming bread section. I spent a while looking at the choices and landed on Nature's Pride 100% Whole Wheat. There's a lot of nutrition claims on the bag but it was the best one I came across. It was $2.79.

After doing my research, I found Nature's Pride is made by Interstate Bakeries Corporation, most known for Wonder Bread. I remember Wonder Bread, a staple in my house growing up. And yes, the white kind. I appreciate the strategy behind the Nature's Pride branch of the company but at the end of the day, I feel better about buying from other, less large bakeries and bread with less ingredients. In a pinch though, this is what I bought.

Nature's Pride ingredients: Whole wheat flour, water, wheat gluten, brown sugar, yeast, contains 2% or less of: wheat bran, soybean oil, cultured wheat flour, salt, molasses, sugar, honey, raisin juice concentrate, vinegar, cultured corn solids, yeast extract, soy lecithin, soy flour, whey.

Great Harvest ingredients: Fresh-ground whole-wheat flour, filtered water, fresh yeast, salt, honey.

Wonder Wheat ingredients: Whole wheat flour, water, wheat gluten, high fructose corn syrup, contains 2% of less of: soybean oil, salt, molasses, yeast, mono and diglycerides, exthoxylated mono and diglycerides, dough conditioners (sodium stearoyl lactylate, calcium iodate, calcium dioxide), datem, calcium sulfate, vinegar, yeast nutrient (ammonium sulfate), extracts of malted barley and corn, dicalcium phosphate, diammonium phosphate, calcium propionate (to retain freshness).

Clear why we aspire to afford bread from Great Harvest, huh? Every time I write out ingredients lists, it reminds me why I strive to reduce highly processed foods from my family's diet. Making it ourselves would be the ultimate... I look forward to comparing the cost of making it vs. buying Great Harvest. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


To know me is to know I love coffee. So does my husband. And for that reason, I'm doing a post on coffee. Coffee is an item that varies in price quite a bit. Excluding the rarer coffees, the typical range is $3.99 to $14.99.

I'm a little picky about coffee but also concerned about price. My husband recently picked up a bag of coffee while at Whole Foods, Allegro French Roast and I must admit, it was a very delicious brew. I found myself craving it but it just isn't something we can buy weekly because at $11.99 a bag, it's about five bucks more than we budget for. What we usually buy is a can of Trader Joe's Whole Bean Sumatra or French Roast for $4.99. Sometimes, completely out of convenience, we buy a bag of Starbucks from Target. That usually costs $6.99 (on sale). And in a moment of weakness a few weeks back, I bought the Giada De Laurentiis branded coffee for $6.49. Bad choice. It lacked body and flavor, no matter how strong I tried to make it. I can only assume it's made by the company that makes Target's Market Pantry coffee? Haven't been able to confirm the source.

Trader Joe's also offers a ground french roast for $3.99. It was good the first time I bought it but after buying/brewing it two weeks in a row, it wasn't doing it for me. The fact is the coffee we love like Allegro or Peet's are items we can't buy regularly. Luckily, with the whole bean varieties at Trader Joe's we don't have to sacrifice taste for affordability.

Where do you buy your coffee? Any suggestions on affordable options?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


My son loves oatmeal, we all love oatmeal actually. I know instant oatmeal has a bad rap but I still have some in the cabinet. Along side the longer cooking oats actually. I never thought about differences like instant oatmeal being pre-cooked versus old-fashioned oats not being cooked (although that isn't exactly true) but rather the higher sugar and sodium content and other miscellaneous additives the little packets contained.

The reality is, instant oatmeal is an okay choice. It's a good "medium food" to have around. But there is one caveat: Read the ingredients. This is my rule with any packaged food. The best choice for instant oatmeal is plain or regular. It is nutritionally similar to old-fashioned oats. Although, I do buy Cinnamon Spice for my son and while I typically eat the longer cooking oats, I add a tablespoon of brown sugar, a tablespoon of walnuts or pecans and blueberries or bananas. So with this in mind, how do the stats compare? Well in regards to sugar, the flavored instant has 13 grams per serving and the bowl I make has 12 grams. But unless I'm pressed for time, I'd still opt for stove top oatmeal.

Controlling what's in our food whenever possible is always my goal even in my medium food life. Instant oatmeal is fine but oatmeal is one of those foods that is fairly easy to make yourself. As always, I do my best. Some mornings I can be seen serving up a bowl of instant to the family but more often the little packets stay in the cabinet.

Country Choice Organic Old Fashioned Oats ingredients: Organic whole grain rolled oats.

Trader Joe's Organic Cinnamon Spice Instant Oatmeal: Organic rolled oats, organic dehydrated cane juice solids, organic cinnamon, organic spices, sea salt.

Monday, July 12, 2010

5 Ways to Buy Organic on a Budget

My husband stumbled upon this article:
5 Ways to Buy Organic on a Budget |

I thought it was worth sharing. Dr. Greene notes milk as the most important item to switch to organic. We currently don't buy organic milk. Watch the videos for more info.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Recipe: Shrimp and arugula pasta

We have lots of cookbooks. Hubby has his favorites and I have mine. One that we both equally enjoy is Giada's Family Dinners. Here's my take on one of our favorite recipes from the book:

Shrimp and arugula pasta

1/4 cup Olive oil
1/4 cup Shallots, finely chopped
4 Garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon Crushed dried red pepper flakes
1 cup Dry white wine
1 pound Shrimp, large
1 box Rotini, whole wheat or whole grain
3 cups Arugula
Black pepper

Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat.Add the shallots, garlic and red pepper flakes; saute until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the wine. Simmer until the wine reduces by half, about 5 minutes. Add the shrimp and cook just until pink, about 2 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the rotini, stirring often. Cook per package directions. Add the rotini and arugula to the skillet with the shrimp. Toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Makes four main-course servings.

My son isn't big on shrimp yet but it's a nice change from our weekly pasta marinara. Oh and I use frozen shrimp and it comes out just fine. I simply run the shrimp under a stream of water for a few minutes to thaw.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Recipe: Asian Slaw

This is a great recipe originally from Dr. Weil's website. I changed it a bit. Here's my version:

1 medium head green cabbage

1 medium head red cabbage
3 large carrots

1/4 cup minced scallions

1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

1/4 cup slivered almonds


2/3 cup unseasoned rice vinegar

1/4 cup light brown sugar

1 1/2 tablespoons dark-roasted sesame oil

Discard the outer leaves of cabbages. Cut heads in quarters; remove and discard cores. Slice cabbage thinly or shred in a food processor. Peel the carrots and grate them into thin shreds. Add carrots to the cabbage and mix well.

Whisk the rice vinegar, brown sugar and sesame oil together in a small bowl. 

Pour the dressing over the cabbage and mix well. Let chill. Mix in minced scallions, toasted sesame seeds and almonds.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Another good snack find

I've bought my fair share of energy, nutrition, snack or whatever bars. Most have a lot of ingredients and target a different nutritional need such as protein, fiber, energy, vitamins, etc. A few years ago I was stuck on Luna bars and at the time because they were only 180 calories. But when my focus changed from calories and convenience to nutritional benefit, I didn't eat them as often and eventually gave them up entirely.

But as always, this being a medium food lifestyle, I do occasionally have these types of bars on hand, for myself. And although my son usually eats his cereal bars, if he spots mom's snack, he wants one so the one I choose is even more important.

I read about Larabars in a magazine recently and thought I'd give them a try. Upon finding them, I was pleasantly surprised to see the ingredients list - nothing but real food. A-typical for a nutrition bar, in my experience anyhow. I bought three flavors: Cherry Pie, Peanut Butter Cookie and Apple Pie. I also realized Larabar makes JamFrankas, a bar for kids that my son has had. Here are the ingredients in the bars I just bought:

Cherry Pie: Dates, almonds, unsweetened cherries
Peanut Butter Cookie: Peanuts, dates, salt
Apple Pie: Dates, almonds, unsweetened apples, walnuts, raisins and cinnamon

I have found my bar! I can't explain how happy it makes me to see a convenience food that is made up of, well, food. I feel good about eating it and feel even better about sharing it with my son. When you get a chance, give 'em a try. $1.29 each.