Monday, August 30, 2010

These faces make it all worth it

I get stressed out. Way out. Some days the stress gets to me so intensely I feel like checking myself in to the mental ward - for the betterment of my family.

On these particularly stressful days, I often get the urge to not take the time to make my boys the healthiest snacks or the healthiest meals. Instead I feel like reaching for the nearest box of cereal bars or the microwavable mac & cheese. And you know what? Sometimes I do. I am the medium food mama and all. More importantly though, I'm human.

But with that said, watching my boys enjoy one of my homemade snacks as they did this morning, keeps me motivated even in the most stressful times. I know feeding them real food and teaching them the value of it will not only benefit their growing bodies but create a natural propensity for healthy eating. To this day I crave white flour quesadillas and caramel apples over whole meals and fresh fruit; proof that what you grow up on influences your palate - for life.

Yes, we all crave foods that are less than healthy once in a while but some of us more often than others. My husband for instance grew up with no soda and little to no packaged junk in the house, homemade school lunches and family dinners. He has always preferred healthy food. I thought he was kind of a square at first (15+ years ago) especially when he would give me a grossed out look while I nuked a can of Spaghettios for dinner. Oh and the worst was his lack of desire (need) for dessert. What do you mean NO dessert? OMG. This was especially hard in the early days as I didn't want him to think I was a pig or anything. No girl wants her boyfriend to think that. Am I right? The hubby's natural preference for good food and little desire for junk illustrates my point. So does my preference for the opposite.

Don't get me wrong, hubby likes ice cream, chocolate (thank God), pie and the occasional soda but it's very occasional and he prefers it if we make the pie and the soda is not a Pepsi but a Hansen's. That sort of thing. I enjoy eating this way too but it's not without hard work - daily. I still indulge in foods that comfort me more often than I should. My take on it is, they comfort me because that's what my mama fed me. I know it seems hard to believe but I'm convinced that if she had prepared fresh fruit salads as an after school snack, I'd find comfort in fruit salad to this day.

The smiles on my boys faces while they eat something I made and that's good for them, makes this mission so worth it. Also, the knowledge that what and how they eat now will stick with them for a lifetime is an incredible thing to get the honor to influence.

Saturday, August 28, 2010


We love pasta; the hubby is Italian after all. We eat it at least twice a week. For years, we bought whatever kind of pasta was on sale. Then when whole wheat pasta started to gain popularity, we wanted to give it a shot. It was not our favorite. After a few tries, we found the best whole wheat pasta was the specialty brands and definitely not store brands or bargain brands. We would occasionally pick up a box of whole wheat pasta but continued to use traditional pasta regularly.

When Barilla introduced their Plus pasta, I think around 2005, it was the answer to my underdeveloped taste for whole wheat pasta. Barilla Plus tastes great, less harsh than whole wheat and made up of good things. It was a seamless transition from traditional pasta for both my husband and I and it's the pasta Gavin started with.

Uncertain of the time line, to my delight (with a touch of confusion), Barilla Whole Grain showed up on the shelves - right next to Plus. Okay, what's the better choice now? Time to compare.

Barilla Plus ingredients: Semolina, grain and legume flour blend, [grains and legumes (lentils, chickpeas, flaxseed, spelt, barley, oats), egg whites, oat fiber], durum flour, niacin, iron (ferrous sulfate), thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid.

Barilla Whole Grain ingredients: Whole durum wheat flour, semolina, durum wheat flour, oat fiber.

Plus is made with added vitamins, grains and legumes resulting in a multi-grain pasta high in protein and high in fiber with Omega-3 Fatty Acids. The Whole Grain pasta has a straightforward ingredient list which includes whole durum wheat flour resulting in a pasta higher in fiber than Plus with the added benefits of whole grain* and a good source of protein. But keep in mind the whole grain version is still only 50% whole grain not 100%.

As for taste, I/we like both. Plus is less "grainy" but that's not to say Whole Grain is too "grainy" if you know what I mean. They're both pleasant in hot dishes and cold dishes. Upon serving Whole Grain in place of Plus to my three year old, he didn't even bat an eye. Pretty impressive. Both pastas provide better nutrition than traditional pasta. Whether you choose Plus or Whole Grain, you can't go wrong. Or if you have a hard time choosing, like I often do, do what I do and buy both.

As for price, I've found the Whole Grain to be less than Plus. Both are commonly on sale and that's when I stock up. Whole Grain is $1.32 a box and Plus is $1.84 - $2.19, depending on pasta shape (sale prices). I believe the regular price is around $2 - $2.49.

Switching to a multi-grain or an almost whole grain pasta is simple, affordable and healthy. It will deliver extra nutrition and not drastically change the taste of your pasta dishes. My Italian husband and picky three year old both give it a thumbs up, and that's saying something!

*A whole grain is the plant's entire kernel: the protective fiber-rich bran coating, the starchy endosperm, and the nutrient-rich germ. The bran and germ appear to be largely responsible for whole grains' health benefits

Friday, August 27, 2010

The power of advertising

I love advertising and marketing, a sucker for them actually. Guess that makes sense being that I've made a career out of both since 1999. But even long before that I loved package design, ad layouts, funky fonts and good campaigns. I have a particular style of things I prefer of course, we all do, but an attractive and well done display or marketing message even outside my normal style and interests can reel me in - even inspire me.

I happen to love coffee. I brew a pot for me and the hubby every morning and often brew a small pot in the afternoon or make a trip to the coffee shop. I prefer Peet's Coffee but usually end up at Starbucks because it's in a more convenient location. I go back and forth about how I feel about Starbucks. I actually worked there for a brief time in 2005. Working there gave me a little more perspective on the company and ultimately, I'm okay with them. Yes, they were sorta trying to take over the world (maybe still trying), running quite a few smaller cafes out of business and can be terribly inconsistent with the quality of their espresso drinks (a crappy latte can really piss me off). I think the declining quality and consistency at the espresso bar is due to expanding their menu to include things like sandwiches, salads, smoothies, etc. AND the fact that they've created a customer base of picky MF's (excuse my language) that put the barista under so much scrutiny that the result is a half ass drink for the rest of us. Anyway... what was this post about?

Oh yeah, the power of advertising. Starbucks is a great example of powerful branding and convincing marketing. They have nice looking displays, filled with cool looking, reasonably priced products and attractive, perfectly placed signage that brings it all together and inserts a level of trust with the consumer. Especially the coffee and food, they are a cafe after all. I do a decent job of avoiding the pastry case but do occasionally indulge. My son and I actually go there as a treat sometimes for a drink and a piece of banana or pumpkin bread.

While on one of those special trips the other day, I noticed a new design on the bags (pictured at the beginning of this post). On the front, the first statement is "REAL FOOD." Certainly caught my attention so I continued to read. In short, it goes on to say they've removed artificial ingredients from their food and they reiterate their statement on the back of the bag correspondence style using a handwritten font. Did reading the message make me feel better about our snacks? It did actually. And that's the magic of good marketing.

Now is the banana bread any different from the one they were serving prior to the new bags or is it just a new bag? I don't know. Not yet anyway. It certainly looks the same and tastes the same as it did when I worked there in 2005. Have their items always had a fairly clean ingredient list and it's just being highlighted now? Or did their items have a bunch of crap in them and now they don't? I guess if I still worked there, I'd be able to answer these questions. One thing I do know now that I didn't want to and intentionally avoided is the banana bread packs 490 calories! Oh well, everything in moderation.

Clever messages and healthy looking packaging is one of those genius but often deceptive things we have to contend with. I will take the time to uncover the truth behind health statements on packaging and the companies behind them but a lot of people don't. If you've ever read Michael Pollan, you'd know it's likely the more health claims a package lists, the less healthy and more processed it actually is. I still look beyond the box regardless but it is something to be aware of. So next time you see that kraft color, natural looking packet of sugar, package of cookies or dairy with cows grazing in a pasture on the container - examine it, compare it and make the better choice, even if it's not the healthiest looking package.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Recipe: Chocolate Zucchini Bread

This bread came out perfect! Taste, texture and appearance. Yum.

Chocolate Zucchini Bread (adapted from One Ordinary Day)

1 & 1/2 cups Shredded zucchini
1/2 cup All purpose flour
1/2 cup Whole wheat flour
1/2 cup High quality unsweetened cocoa
1 tsp Baking soda
1/4 tsp Baking powder
Dash of salt
1/2 tsp Ground cinnamon
1/2 cup Canola oil
1/2 cup Sugar
1/2 cup Packed brown sugar
2 Eggs
1 tsp Vanilla extract
3/4 cup Bittersweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Peel and shred zucchini. In a large bowl combine oil, sugars and vanilla. Mix in eggs and shredded zucchini. In a separate bowl, sift together flours, cocoa powder, salt, cinnamon, baking soda and baking powder. Slowly add the dry mixture into the wet mixture. Beat until combined. Mix in chocolate chips. Scrape batter into a greased (I use cooking spray) 9×5x3 loaf pan, and bake for 55 minutes, or until done. Let cool then enjoy!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Whole cane sugar

After making a chocolate zucchini bread this morning (recipe to follow), I was inspired to research how I could make it just a little better (e.g. swap whole wheat flour for the white flour, swap something else for the white sugar, etc.) While researching, I found organic whole cane sugar. I actually found it by seeing it in a recipe which led me to a blog post on Simple Organic. This post is very informative, also providing how to substitute brown sugar and powdered sugar.

Sweeteners can get confusing. I actually use an organic "evaporated cane juice" sugar but it's still basically processed white sugar. I assumed it was a slightly better choice than let's say C&H brand sugar? But now that I've found organic whole cane sugar, I'm switching. This sugar is simply dehydrated organically-grown sugar cane. Its crystals remain rich in minerals, trace elements and vitamins. White sugar is highly processed including being cleaned with phosphoric acid, calcium hydroxide and then filtered through bone char.

It's easy to be fooled by sweeteners. After reading the post on organic whole cane sugar, I learned that "raw" sugar isn't any better than white sugar either. So grabbing that packet of "sugar in the raw" over the white packet for my hubby's coffee all these years was of no benefit. Oh well. That leads me to the world of misleading packaging and advertising but that's another post.

In terms of price, this is yet again another item that's going to cost us more. But being that we don't use lots of sugar, it won't be hard to incorporate into our budget. I've been paying $2.99 for a 24 oz. package of organic sugar. The best price I found (online) for organic whole cane sugar is roughly $4.35 per 24 oz. package by purchasing it in a bulk pack of six. A six pack would likely last six months or more depending on the time of year and how much I'm baking. You could also split it with a friend, three packs each which would lower the initial spend.

I personally think this is worth the extra couple of dollars. To know me is to know that I am picky about what we spend extra money on so when I think it's worth it, you may too. I bake breads (banana, zucchini, etc.) regularly to replace packaged snacks so improving my recipes with ingredients such as organic whole cane sugar, 100% whole wheat flour and flax seeds is important. I'm serving these to my family on a regular basis, it needs to be full of good stuff.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Comfort of modern life

I think it's fair to say many of us go about our day without giving much thought to life before endless convenience. Partly because, depending on your age, the conveniences have always been there and partly because our lives are so busy.

I won't lie, modern conveniences really help me out and I do rely on many to keep me sane and my kids happy but not all conveniences are created equal. The 24 hour drive-thru on just about every other corner is a perfect example. Food produced for the fast food model is neither health conscious nor environmentally friendly. The biggest problem is how much we underestimate the impact. Whether it's denial or a lack of understanding of how the fast food system works, the masses continue to eat food ordered through a speaker and handed to them through a window.

I'm just going to come out and say it - fast food is not good food and we shouldn't eat it and more importantly, we should not give it to our children. As easy as I know it is to make a quick stop at the drive-thru on the way home, we shouldn't. I'm familiar with the hungry and tired toddler, screaming for food. It's a piercing, worthy of being used as a torture technique, out of control, gonna jump out a window sound, I know, I've been there. Putting an end to the screaming lunatic(s) in the backseat becomes your one and only concern. Okay and maybe fulfilling your now intense need for a McSundae (hello stress relief!) BUT take a deep breath and keep driving.

I'm also familiar with being so tired and broken that the last thing I feel like doing is making dinner. I think it's these occasions that I'm the most vulnerable to giving in to crappy food. But again, skip it! And hey, once upon a time, not too long ago, I stuffed items of the fast food variety down my throat once in a while (one handed, while driving - can we say heartburn?) so I'm not perfect and most definitely not writing from a soapbox. I am only suggesting we think twice before giving in to the fast food convenience for convenience sake.

Taking a few minutes out (kids screaming or not) to pack some snacks for each child AND myself prior to leaving the house is the only way I was able to eliminate the need to stop for substandard eats. I find that bringing more than seems necessary is key, translation: more than one snack per child and not underestimating what I need for myself to get by. Adding a separate lunch bag to my already full arms isn't easy but I've managed to make it work even with carrying a baby, holding a three year old's hand, diaper bag on one shoulder, purse on the other, keys in hand, while walking down stairs. Yes, I'm a sweaty mess by the time we get to the car but that's what deodorant is for, getting my monies worth I suppose.

By the same token, having easy meals in the freezer or fridge for those nights that are sans energy will save you from resorting to (un)happy meals full of mystery meat and "natural flavor." I'm not the most organized person so some nights I struggle but a decently stocked pantry gets me out of trouble on those occasions. A 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes, some olive oil and garlic make for a quick and easy red sauce. Add some whole grain boxed pasta and you have a great meal. Ideally, I dream of having homemade casseroles and other homemade whole meals in my freezer that I can just transfer to the oven or microwave. I'll get there.

Bottom line is good nutrition is important and so is the environment. Any steps we can take to eliminate eating low quality fast foods will make a difference.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Good dogs

Gavin is three and has yet to eat a hot dog. I don't prefer hot dogs and neither does my hubby so we don't typically buy them. This is not to say that a hot dog is not the subject of a craving a couple of times a year because it is and not surprisingly during Baseball and BBQ season.

At summer parties, when the grill is almost certain to be filled with hot dogs and hamburgers, we usually prepare by bringing our own meat. Not to offend our hosts but we are pretty serious about the meat we eat.

So, what's in a hot dog? Do we really want to know? Of course we do, we want to know what the heck we're eating right? Okay, here are common hot dog ingredients (from Wikipedia):

Meat by-products (or MSM) and fat
Flavorings, such as salt, garlic, and paprika
Preservatives (cure) - typically sodium erythorbate and sodium nitrite

Additional info: In the US, if variety meats, cereal or soy fillers are used, the product name must be changed to "links" or the presence must be declared as a qualifier.

Pork and beef are the traditional meats used in hot dogs. Less expensive hot dogs are often made from chicken or turkey, using low cost mechanically separated poultry. Hot dogs often have high sodium, fat and nitrite content, ingredients linked to health problems. Changes in meat technology and dietary preferences have led manufacturers to use turkey, chicken, vegetarian meat substitutes, and to lower the salt content.

If a manufacturer produces two types of hot dogs, "wieners" tend to contain pork and are blander, while "franks" tend to be all beef and more strongly seasoned.

Please be sure to click on the links, and this one on Meat by-product. And if you've watched the movie Food, Inc., you'll already know a little something about meat by-product/fillers.

Yeah, so I'm pretty comfortable with our choice not to eat the everyday hot dogs at all and only eat high quality versions when the craving hits. Higher quality and organic hot dogs have been available for a long time and have improved over the years. In 2006, organic hot dog sales increased 21%. The demand for real meat hot dogs continue to rise and companies like Let's Be Frank have answered our good dog prayers.

Offering 100% grass-fed beef franks made with beef from local farms and turkey dogs made with turkey from Diestel Family Turkey Ranch, Let's Be Frank is doing it right. They also make a pork bratwurst and Italian sausage. At $7.50 a package (12 oz.), it's a splurge but if you're like us and only buy hot dogs every once in a while, the cost isn't an issue. Let's Be Frank is local to me but if they're not to you, I'm confident there are similar options in your area.

Throw one of these on a whole grain bun with whatever toppings you like and enjoy. It's a dog you can feel good about eating and giving to your little ones. Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

"Fruit" snacks

Fruit snacks, a.k.a. gummies, are a favorite among the toddler+ crowd. They're sweet and have a fun texture, most kids want them, including mine. I didn't let Gav try gummies until he turned three (my anxiety about choking again) and, not surprisingly, he liked them.

I know that regardless of which brand, organic or not, gummies are not a nutritional snack. I consider them more of a candy. And although my goal is to opt for real foods and foods with a decent nutritional profile, a candy or another sugary processed treat every once in a while is simply unavoidable. Whether out and about or while at a friend's house, my kids are going to be exposed to and offered all sorts of junk food.

Medium food is about a little compromise. If the boys want gummies, I'll find the best ones and let them have some but it won't be a regular thing. My hope is that the real food and healthy snacks I prepare them 80% of the time is what they'll prefer and the occasional junk food indulgence will be enough not to feel deprived or different than everyone else. Funny how there's an element of peer pressure around food. Remember the kid with the sandwich on brown bread and a piece of fruit in his lunch box? He certainly never had to worry about anyone wanting to move in on his lunch.

In regards to the best gummies to buy, read the label. My finding is (once again), the organic versions are consistently made up of much better ingredients and don't contain things like Yellow #5 or Red #40. The least amount of fake stuff the better. Prices are a little higher for the organic ones but they do go on sale and become comparable. Price range: Organic $3.99 to $4.99; Non Organic $2.79 to $3.79.

Tasty Brand organic fruit snacks ingredients: Organic Tapioca Syrup, Organic Cane Sugar, Organic Tapioca Syrup Solids, Organic White Grape Juice Concentrate, Pectin, Citric Acid, Ascorbic Acid, Color Added (Black Carrot Juice Concentrate, Turmeric, Annatto), Natural Flavors, Sodium Citrate, Organic Sunflower Oil, Carnauba Wax.

Kellogg's fruity snacks ingredients: Corn syrup, Sugar, Apple Puree Concentrate, Water, Modified Corn Starch, Gelatin, Contains 2% or less of Citric Acid, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Natural and Artificial Flavor, Coconut Oil, Carnauba Wax, Yellow #5, Red #40, Sodium Citrate, Blue #1.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

"All Natural"

We so often see the claim "all natural" on food packaging. A few years back I contacted Snapple about their all natural claims and not surprisingly, they blew me off. The email said something like "Our ingredients meet the necessary requirements to be labeled all natural. If you're looking for something without sugar, we offer a Black & White tea." Hu? Um, okay. I wasn't looking for a sugar free beverage but one that was really all natural. Clearly they didn't have one.

I think we're all aware that claims on products are governed by a very loose set of standards and so much of it is not what it seems. It's our responsibility to look beyond what the box says and in the case of Ben & Jerry's, beyond the pint. I read the following article and was not surprised. However, I was surprised to find out they are owned by Unilever. I had no idea.

Ben & Jerry's making bogus 'all natural' claims, food watchdog says

It's not that I thought they were still the small company they started out as but I guess their marketing has done a great job maintaining that small company feel and I still sorta pictured Ben & Jerry making the ice cream. I know, impossible but still a nice thought.

Anyhow, the point to this post is "all natural" really doesn't mean "all natural." Things that are really all natural don't usually need to be labeled as such. There is so much competition in the food industry and I understand the pressure to make these seemingly harmless claims to make us feel better about buying the product but if they're not true, it's no longer harmless.

Also, regarding Ben & Jerry's specifically, we pay more for their specialty, "all natural" product. But why? If the ingredients are similar to those in a bargain ice cream, what are we paying for? Most definitely not higher quality ingredients but certainly the irresistible and unique flavors no one else offers us. Genius.

We do have other options though. Making our own is likely the most economical and certainly gives us the most control over ingredients or there are ice cream companies that are using quality ingredients, we just need to take a closer look. And remember, everything in moderation. Whether a pint of Ben & Jerry's or a bowl of homemade ice cream, it's all good - in moderation.

B&J Cake Batter ingredients: Cream, Skim Milk, Water, Liquid Sugar (Sugar, Water), Sugar, Wheat Flour, Coconut Oil, Egg Yolks, Soybean Oil, Butter (Cream, Salt), Cocoa (Processed With Alkali), Chocolate Liquor, Natural Flavor, Salt, Guar Gum, Soy Lecithin, Turmeric (Color), Carrageenan

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Ketchup is one of those items that most people don't think twice about. We just grab a bottle, likely the one on sale and go about our shopping. Ketchup is just ketchup, right? No, actually.

Most big brand and private label ketchup contain corn syrup. This ingredient is in so many products - too many. I don't find it necessary. Of course I'm not an expert but logic says if there are like products made without it then it can't be necessary. Also, I have to wonder why the big brands use it and why the more "natural" brands don't.

Now in regards to price, it varies. Annie's Naturals is around $4 compared to Heinz at under $3. But there are other options that fall within a reasonable price for ketchup. Whole Foods sells a great choice for under $3. I'm certain natural food stores in other areas also have options.

Next time you're in need of ketchup, spend a little time reading the labels and comparing the choices. You'll see some differences and be able to make the choice that's best for your family (and your budget of course!)

Heinz ketchup ingredients: Tomato concentrate made from red ripe tomatoes, distilled vinegar, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, salt, spice, onion powder, and natural flavors.

Annie's Naturals ketchup ingredients: Water, tomato paste, sugar, distilled white vinegar, sea salt, onion powder, allspice, clove powder.

Medium Food Mama finding: Did you know Annie's Homegrown and Annie's Naturals are sister companies and marketed separately? At first glance, it seems Annie's Homegrown is the more "commercial" brand and offers lots of packaged items. Annie's Naturals is more salad dressings and condiments - pretty much how the company started.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Recipe: Miscellaneous Pasta

Last night I found myself without a firm dinner plan. So I improvised and the result was pretty darn good. We had some leftover rotisserie chicken from the night before, it was a perfect addition to the sauce.

Miscellaneous Pasta

2 tablespoons Olive oil
1/2 cup Onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup Carrots, finely chopped
1/2 cup Celery, finely chopped
1 can Whole peeled tomatoes (28 oz.)
1 to 2 cups leftover chicken
Box of whole grain rotini pasta (I used Barilla)

In a large sauce pan saute onions, carrots and celery in olive oil until soft, about five minutes. Meanwhile throw tomatoes (and juice) in blender to puree. Add tomatoes to pan. Stir and salt to taste. Let simmer 30 minutes on medium low heat. Stir in leftover chicken. Lower heat to simmer.

Cook pasta per package directions, drain and add to tomato sauce. Top with grated Parmesan cheese and serve with french bread. A salad would make a great starter but I didn't have any lettuce!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Flavored water

I had a hard time sleeping last night because of something I read about. It was an article published almost two months ago that I didn't stumble upon until yesterday. It was about high levels of lead found in a long list of food and drinks for children. The most irritating part, besides the lead of course, is some of the brands implicated. Brands such as Earth's Best Organic, 365 Organic and Trader Joe's Organic. I pay more for the organic versions of juice because I want the best for my son. I know organic doesn't always mean better (i.e. processed foods, etc.) but I think it's normal to have a certain expectation with the organic label when it comes to fruits, vegetables and food that is made specifically for our little ones.

I owe my restless night specifically to Trader Joe's and their Organic Apple Juice. I have been giving Gavin this apple juice since he turned one. That's roughly two and a half years. Yeah, I know, juice isn't the best thing to give kids on a regular basis... we have always put half water half juice but he has it practically everyday. To think that I've been happily handing over a sippy cup of lead laced apple juice to my son for over two years makes me a little sick and has me considering a doctor's appointment to have his lead levels checked.

This serves as a reality check for me. First, less juice for Gavin. Second, I will not feel bad about researching and researching and researching some more the food and drink we give to our kids. Because honestly, some people look at me like I'm crazy sometimes because I won't let my kids have a Happy Meal, a Ball Park frank (or any other who knows what filled casing), a can of Spaghetti-O's, or non-organic and/or non-local produce. Peer pressure among parents is fierce and comparable to high school peer pressure - seriously. And finally, my passion to seek out and share alternatives to common items to help all of us not feel so darn helpless has been reinforced tenfold.

Now on to a related recent find. I love Jamie Oliver. My husband and I have watched him since The Naked Chef days. I'm a follower of his Food Revolution movement and recommend checking it out if you haven't already. I also follow his tweets (@jamie_oliver) and that's how I was turned on to his flavored water recipes.

I think flavored water is a great alternative to juice. I particularly like the orange and berry suggestions. I think Gavin will dig it. I pay between $3.49 and $3.99 for a gallon of juice (no extra charge for the lead). We have a Brita water pitcher and the fruit we'll need to buy weekly is likely going to be the same cost of juice. Both my husband and I have wanted to cut back on Gavin's juice consumption for a while now so I guess stumbling upon the article on lead was the push we needed to make the change.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Reflecting with chorizo

Today is my birthday. I woke up feeling loved. How could I not being sandwiched between my boys and being handed a cup of coffee in bed by the hubby? Of course, birthdays aren't what they once were. You know the "It's my birthday, I'm gonna do whatever I want all day then go out for drinks and fun with my friends all night" kinda thing? It's become more like this:

Hubby: Good morning, happy birthday honey. Love you.
Me: Thanks honey.
Hubby: I still need a sandwich for lunch... I'd love some avocado on it. (Walks into bathroom to take shower)
Gavin: (After being reminded sweetly by daddy and ushered out of the bathroom) Happy birthday mommy!
Me: Awwww, thank you baby.
Gavin: I think you should get a puppy for your birthday.
Me: Oh really? I'm not sure the cats would appreciate that but it's a great suggestion.
Gavin: Mommy, I want cookies.
Me: Okay sweetie, I'll see what I can do (as I unhinge my right side from my sleeping baby and head to the kitchen to make that sandwich.)

Although birthdays are no longer any different from any other day, I wouldn't change it for the world. I have a beautiful family - a gift I always wished and hoped for.

Feeling a bit nostalgic even amongst the ordinary tasks, I whipped up some scrambled eggs and chorizo! It just so happened we picked up a package of turkey chorizo over the weekend. Growing up with a Mexican mama, chorizo and eggs was a very common breakfast. I can still smell it... the aroma coming into the living room while laying on the floor in front of the TV. I can recall the smell of all of my mom's signature meals, they were that good. Of course, the chorizo and eggs of my childhood was certainly not turkey chorizo nor local eggs. It was pork, from well, who knows where and eggs from Lucky's. Lady Lee brand, I think?

So how did my breakfast compare to my mom's? Minus being made by my mom (makes everything taste better) it was a darn good meal. The turkey chorizo was made by Diestel, a family turkey ranch in Sonora, CA. It was very flavorful and nailed the spices and look of traditional chorizo. If you like chorizo, I highly recommend trying this. It is lower in fat than traditional sausage and is made by a farm you can feel great about. Price: $3.99

Ingredients: Ground turkey, spices, wine vinegar, sea salt, granulated garlic and onion powder.

What dishes did you love as a kid? Have you recreated it and/or made a healthier version? I'd love to know!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Homemade Uncrustables

Everybody, at least people with young children or people that love PB&J sandwiches, knows what an Uncrustable is. I discovered them when my first niece hit the PB&J age. At first glance (eight or so years ago), I thought "how clever." And being a recovering calorie counter (calories over nutrition that is), I started buying them for myself. Super convenient 210 calorie snack. I never thought twice about what was in them until Gav started to dig PB&J sandwiches. Here's what's in the Smucker's Uncrustables (Strawberry):

BREAD: Unbleached whole wheat flour, water, wheat gluten, high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, contains 2% or less of: salt, yeast, dough conditioners (distilled monoglycerides, sodium stearoyl lactylate, datem, enzymes [with amylase, lipase, ascorbic acid, calcium peroxide, azodicarbonamide, wheat starch]). PEANUT BUTTER: Peanuts, dextrose, sugar, contains 2% or less of: partially and fully hydrogenated vegetable oils (soybean and/or cottonseed and/or rapeseed), salt, molasses, mono and giglycerides (palm and/or soybean oils). STRAWBERRY JAM: Strawberries, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, sugar, contains 2% or less of: pectin, citric acid, potassium sorbate (preservative).

Highly processed junk. As convenient as they are, I'd rather Gavin (and eventually Logan) not eat them. That's not to say I don't think the little circles of PB&J aren't adorable, because I do, so I decided to make my own.

(the stage. yes, that's a wine glass)

(the filling)

(cutting out the shape)

(the cute little PB&J)

I was pretty impressed but did run into a few issues. First, I realized a tablespoon of peanut butter and a tablespoon of jam was too much. The perfect amount ended up being a 1/2 tablespoon of each. Next, getting it out of my makeshift cutter (aka wine glass) was a little less than easy. Finally, upon flipping it over, the bread was torn in a few spots. So I decided to break out the rolling pin and flatten the bread slices first.

(what a big difference)

(the final product)

Even though my "uncrustables" don't have the cute little crimp pattern on the edge, they deliver in taste and nutrition. LaLa's Portable PB&J ingredients:

BREAD: Stone ground whole wheat flour, filtered water, honey, cracked wheat, sea salt, fresh yeast, whey (milk protein). PEANUT BUTTER: Dry roasted peanuts, salt. ORGANIC REDUCED SUGAR APRICOT PRESERVES: Organic apricots, organic sugar, water, fruit pectin, citric acid, calcium chloride.

I put each one in a small freezer bag and stacked them in the freezer. Give them 30 minutes on the counter (in the bag) and they're ready to eat.

Overall, these are a cinch to make and fun too. I'll definitely be making more. I'll also pick up a large cookie cutter to make that part a little easier. :)