Site Overhaul Coming Soon...ish.

>> Aug 10, 2013


Image courtesy of Feelart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It's been a while since I posted - how did a year go by so quick?! There have been a number of major life changes to explain my absence, namely, going to work full time, moving to a new city, and getting pregnant (yep, that happened). With all these changes, I've had less time to write, but also less motivation. There are so many other things happening on a day to day basis, that focusing on solely nutrition as a subject to write about just hasn't been inspiring me for quite some time. But lately I've really missed writing, so I've decided to get back to it. BUT, this blog will be getting a make over - new, expanded topics, a new look (eventually) and a new name (open to suggestions!). With a first baby expected in just a few months, who knows when the aforementioned changes will actually occur, or how often I'll be able to write. Maybe you'll get some incoherent 4am feeding posts. Stay tuned for that.

"They" say to focus your blog on one topic area - finances, being a mom, fashion, food - but (and here's the brutal truth), I'm not writing for you, or anyone else. And I'm certainly not delusional enough to think I'm going to get rich off my blog, so rules be damned! 

I'm not even sure if anyone reads this anymore, especially since the demise of Google Reader. I'm kind of out of the loop. What are people using these days? What replaced Google Reader? Fill me in!

Have you ever overhauled your blog? Was it the best or the worst thing you've ever done, or somewhere in between? 




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Book review: The Omnivore's Dilemma

>> Sep 30, 2012




I have ADD when it comes to reading. I have at least 8 books on my night side table at all times, all of which have been read anywhere from a few pages to 90%. I go from book to book depending on when I'm in the mood to read. Because of this, it can take me a year or more to complete an entire book. All of the books on the nightstand right now are non-fiction. My husband says this is why it takes me so long to get through them - because I never feel like reading non-fiction right before bed, and I rarely get to reading any other time.

The Omnivores Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, by Michael pollen, took me a record two years to complete. It's not that it wasn't a good book (in fact it was rated one of the 10 best books of the year by the New York Times book review) or that I didn't enjoy reading it, but it contains such heavy content that I was rarely in the mood to pick it up when I climbed into bed at night.

The omnivores dilemma is a must read for foodies, chefs, dietitians, health professionals, and health enthusiasts. Actually, I think every person should read at least portions of this book to better understand their food, and more importantly, our food system. Too many people, most of us in fact, are too disconnected from where our food comes from. Few people will ever go to the lengths that Michael pollen does in this book to understand where their food comes from, and the impact that our food system has on each other and the planet. I read this book plan to review it on this blog, and began to fold down the corners of the pages that provided interesting thoughts and new ways of thinking to comment on later. As I look at the book beside me now, it's as though an entire corner of the first half is missing. To try to list all of the note worthy points in this book would be futile. The phrase "you don't know what you don't know" comes to mind.

Carnivores can relax, and vegetarians be warned, this book is not an attack on meat eaters, nor is it advocating for vegetarianism, although certainly some people may find themselves with an aversion to meat after reading this book, at least temporarily. As Pollan himself explains:

Many people today seem perfectly content eating at the end of an industrial food chain, without a thought in the world; this book is probably not for them. There are things in it that will ruin their appetites. But in the end this is a book about the pleasures of eating, the kinds of pleasure that are only deepened by knowing.

In his efforts to explore our food system, Pollan takes part in conventional and organic farming, hunting, and foraging. With a better understanding of our food system, it now seems odd to me that we attach the same generic descriptor - food - to the results of such different production methods. Certainly, production and processing methods should factor into what we consider healthful food. Yet it does not.

Pollan does a good job of arguing all sides of the story, from vegan to hunter, farmer to shopper, while sharing his personal emotions and thoughts throughout his journey. This book helps make the act of eating, a more mindful one. And perhaps, if you use the information in this book, a more enjoyable one.

Although this book contains valuable information and insights, unfortunately, much of it was too dry even for the biggest of foodies like myself. I managed to get through it, but I wouldn't blame anyone if they skipped portions of the book. Yet I would still encourage anyone to pick up this book and work their way through it. You will be the wiser shopper and eater for it.


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How to make any Grilled Cheese, Gourmet. Brie, pesto and tomato on grilled sourdough.

>> Jun 24, 2012



The title really says it all. With the launch of another great new food truck here in Calgary, Cheezy Bizness, I was inspired to see a new take on an old classic, grilled cheese. Cheezy Bizness' slogan is "Gooey Gourmet Goodness" but it could just as well be "this ain't your momma's grilled cheese". I'm not in the business of food reviews (a friend of mine, Vincci T, has that demographic covered), but I will say that what food truck mastermind and owner Nicole Fewell has done is simple genius. Comfort foods have made a comeback in recent years, and although some speculated they were on their way out, the enthusiastic reception by Calgary's Street Eats followers would suggest otherwise. I think comfort foods will always be that - comfort. And like a cozy fireplace on a winter's night, or a cup of tea on a rainy day, comfort doesn't go out of style.

For those of you that don't have the luxury of a "Cheezy Bizness" cruising your streets, or would like to  add some maturity to your Wonderbread and Kraft Slices recipe, fear not. A little creativity is all it takes.

The 4 key items (I believe) to a great grilled cheese are: 

1) A flavourful condiment (e.g. pesto, curried mayo, aioli, herb butter)

2) A very meltable cheese. I find brie works best for this, but more flavourful cheeses would provide more "kick".

3) A great bread

4) A BBQ. Sure, you can do this guy in a pan, but take the time to let the gooey ingredients come to life in the BBQ, and you end up with a smokier flavour, a warm sandwich throughout, and that delicious grilled appearance.

I cruised Pinterest for a few ideas, and came up with my new fav, largely because the beauty lies in the simplicity.


Ingredients:

Sourdough bread
Basil pesto
Brie cheese
Tomato, diced
Sauteed onion, diced (optional)

Prep:

I don't think anyone really requires guidance in sandwich assembly, but here are a couple of tips:
  • Slice the bread about 3/4" thick
  • Put the brie on top (that way it melts onto everything else)
  • Brush a little olive oil to the outside of the bread to prevent sticking to the grill
Of course, you can alter/improve/expand upon this any which way you desire. That's the beauty of it. You may want to consider adding a marinated or flavoured meat (pulled pork or bacon comes to mind), or vegetables (pickles, roasted red peppers and mushrooms are all favourites).

Do you have a favourite grilled cheese recipe that makes it "gourmet" calibre? 

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Nutrition Imposter: "Natural" products

>> Apr 26, 2012

Recently, Kashi cereals (owned by food giant Kellogg) has come under fire for "misleading" consumers that their "natural" products contained genetically modified ingredients and pesticides. The Cornucopia Institute recently published a report titled "Cereal Crimes: How "Natural Claims Deceive Consumers and Undermine the Organic Label - A Look Down the Cereal and Granola Isle", which found that many products labelled as "natural", contained GMOs and pesticides. Kashi scored poorly in the report because only 4 of its products were Certified Organic. When a grocery store removed Kashi (and other implicated brands) from their shelves, based on this report, and replaced it with this sign, photos went viral and people were angry.


Photo from the Healthful Mama 

Is this really a case of health- or green washing? Or is this simply a case of misinformed public? Is Kashi really to blame?

Kashi has 24 products, 4 of which are labelled "Certified Organic". Therefore, the others, one would deduce, are not organic, and may contain (as in all conventional products) things like GMOs and any array of pesticides. Did Kashi mislabel conventional cereals as "Organic"? No. So why were people so outraged?

It all comes down to "natural"

Although most of Kashi's products are not Certified Organic, Kashi has always portrayed its products as "healthy", through marketing, imagery, and advertising. Their website proclaims: We can’t say it enough—We’re passionate about good, all-natural foods, and there is an abundance of "natural living" and "natural foods" references on their website. Kashi really emphasizes an importance on health and the environment, even going so far as to offer "eco-friendly ideas" and "lifestyle tools". Unfortunately, all this "natural" talk (and its right on the box) led many people to assume that Kashi's products were GMO- and pesticide-free.



Obviously, there's a large misunderstanding of common food packaging terminology. Is Kashi to blame? Did they take advantage of a knowledge gap among consumers and knowingly mislead them? Probably. But again, only the products that were Certified Organics were labelled as such. It's unfortunate that this term is so widely misunderstood, and that marketing teams are exploiting that. The extent of this really just became apparent to me from this "scandal" and the outrage I have seen from (previously) loyal Kashi buyers.

This overuse of the term "natural" has been going on for years, and is only really coming to light now. The reasons we see "natural" products so widely available are simple: big food companies know that people are becoming more concerned with their health and food, and are using that to their full marketing potential. Secondly, "natural" is a meaningless, unregulated word that any company can use for any product, without having to meet any criteria or standard.

"Natural" products typically are far from it. The term is slapped on the bottle or box (of foods, cleaning agents, etc) to disillusion consumers into thinking it's a greener or more healthful product. If it were truly as good as they want you to think, the product would like be labelled with a regulated eco-label, such as Certified Organic. Certainly, Certified Organic products aren't without their own issues, but in terms of steering clear of GMOs and conventional pesticides, Certified Organic products are your best bet.

Hopefully, this is just the beginning of an increased awareness among consumers about what "natural" does (or doesn't) mean.

What should you do in the grocery isle?

Here's my advice: don't pay an extra dime for a product labelled natural than you would for a conventional product, and don't have any higher expectations that the natural product will provide any more healthful, or less harmful, ingredients than conventional products. If you're looking for truly "natural" food products, Certified Organic is your best bet.

More info: Marion Nestle's post

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Nutrition Imposter: Schneider's Naturals

>> Apr 21, 2012



We're adding to the list of Nutrition Imposters (Nutella and Total cereal) today... B pointed this product out to me a few months ago in the grocery store: Maple Leaf Schneider's Country Naturals. My skeptical hat came on immediately, and I went straight to the ingredient list. Lucky for us, the ingredient list is proudly displayed on the front of the package. It even says "No Preservatives Added"... in a processed and packaged meat - how could this be?! I wondered. This is what I found for ingredients:

Pork, water, sea salt (because that's got to be better than regular salt, right?), cane sugar (again, that's got to be better than regular sugar), cultured celery extract, spice, and smoke. Wow, sounds fancy. And yes, I'd even contend that it sounds pretty natural (a vague, overused word I usually avoid).

All sarcasm aside, it didn't sound half bad. Apart from the environmental issues of industrially-produced pork, the high salt content and the fact that it's a processed food, you could do worse. Alas, I had a hunch there was more to this product than the label would let on, and I knew I would need to do some digging on this one. I pulled out my iPhone to snap a pic. 

Conveniently, before I even got around to that digging, CBC Marketplace aired an episode called "Lousy Labels", in which Dr. Yoni Freedhoff (somewhat of a Canadian celebrity physician, and known for his no-holds-barr blogs) called out the top 10 "Lousy labels" that were misleading, or flat out untrue. Who was at the top of the list? You guessed it - Schneider's Country Naturals. But why? Turns out that cultured celery extract is another word for "nitrite". Yes, the same nitrites that are in all processed deli meats. Studies have recently suggested that these processed meats may increase your risk of colorectal cancer with only minimal intake. 

So how does cultured celery extract turn into nitrites? Well, many foods, like fruits and vegetables (including celery), actually contain nitrites which are converted into nitrosamines and other potential cancer-causing compounds in our bodies. But for some reason, nitrites from plants don't seem to have the same risk as those in bacon or deli ham. We know that people with higher intakes of fruit and vegetables and more plant-based diets have lower risks of cancer. One possible explanation for this difference is that foods work synergistically, meaning, they are more than just the sum of their parts.  When we ingest nitrites through eating vegetables and fruits, we're also getting the protective benefits of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, which may protect us. It could also be due to the fact that the combination of nitrites with proteins (meat) produces more harmful compounds than when they're in plants. Unfortunately, "cultured celery extract" is not the same as plain old celery.

There's no question in my mind that Maple Leaf is being sneaky here. They know you care about your health, and celery sounds a lot better than nitrites. According to the MarketPlace report, Schneider's had changed their package to more accurately reflect the ingredients. 

Again, our moms were right when they said: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.




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Easy Pad Thai Recipe

>> Apr 17, 2012



I can't believe I haven't told you about my FAVOURITE-EST COOKBOOK EVER yet. So wonderful, that I said "favourite-est". The Meat Free Monday Cookbook has 52 Mondays worth of meals - breakfast through dinner, with desserts and sides. It has bright, colourful pictures, and best of all, everything I've made from it thus far has been TO DIE FOR. Including this pad thai recipe. I actually preferred this recipe better than the pad thai we get from our favourite place down the street. For reals. Must. Try. And it's surprisingly easy to make. I also highly recommend this cookbook. I can't wait to cook my way through the entire thing!



Ingredients: 

4 ounces medium rice noodles
1 tsp tamarind paste*
1 1/2 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tsp sugar
1 garlic clove, chopped
2 scallions, sliced thinly
1 red chile, seeded and finely chopped
1 egg
handful bean sprouts
handful peanuts, chopped
handful cilantro leaves, chopped
wedges of lime
prawns (optional)

*I didn't have tamarind paste, so I substituted Worcestershire sauce, and it turned out just fine.


Prep:

1) Put the noodles into a large bowl of boiling water. Let stand for 5-10 min until the noodles are soft, then drain well (Or follow your individual type of noodles' instructions).

2) In a frying pan, cook prawns in a bit of butter or oil. Set aside.

3) In a bowl, mix together tamarind paste, oyster sauce and sugar.

4) Heat large frying pan over high heat. Add garlic, scallions, and chile. Toss and cook for 30 seconds until they soften.

5) Push veggies aside. Crack the egg into the center. Stir for 30 seconds.

6) Add the bean sprouts, noodles, prawns and sauce. Toss everything together and heat throughout.

7) Serve with peanuts and cilantro on top, with lime wedges on the side.

Enjoy!


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What Not to Eat: Homemade Apple Fritter Recipe

>> Apr 11, 2012



If you're going to eat or serve something health, make it from scratch. At least then you know the ingredients going into it are simple. Maybe not healthy, but simple and unadulterated.

I found these little balls of heaven from this Blog (via my new food muse, Pinterest). These little jewels were made for a dinner party we had recently with another couple. They are great because you can do the prep ahead of time, and keep the balls of dough in the fridge until you're ready to get your fry on!



Homemade Apple Fritters 


1 heaping cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking soda OR baking powder
dash salt
1 – 2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 T. butter, melted
1 egg
1/3 cup milk (I use almond milk for even more flavour)
1 – 1 1/2 cups chopped or diced apple

Oil for frying

Milk and powdered sugar glaze for dipping or just powdered sugar for dusting
(About 1 cup pwd. sugar + 1 T. milk or more)

1) Mix all dry ingredients together, slowly add the wet ingredients minus the apple.

2) Carefully mix until well combined but not overly beat.

3) Gently fold in apple pieces.

4) Once the oil is ready (when a test drop of dough floats to the top of the oil, a drop of water sizzles, or a piece of white bread browns in 60 seconds), using a cookie scooper or soup spoon, place a 4-5 balls of dough into the oil. Be careful not to overcrowd and watch carefully for the underside to turn golden brown, then gently flip over and continue frying until done (anywhere from 30-60 seconds per side, depending on the size of your donuts).

5) Top with powdered sugar or glaze. These babies are best served warm!

*Tidbit - cooking oil can be reused!

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Vegetarian Feast - Lime stuffed yam, Moroccan chickpeas, and kale chips

>> Mar 22, 2012



Thanks to Pinterest, there are no shortage of recipes I'm dying to try. I picked a couple, and made them the other night, into a bit of a vegetarian mish-mash of a meal. We'd made the kale chips before, and I adore them. It's amazing to me how such a rugged, leafy green can turn into a delicate, crunchy treat. My favourite item was the stuffed sweet potatoes. The lime is a new, fresh and welcome flavour with the sweetness of the yam. I don't believe I've ever had yam with cheese before either, but it worked. We used a good, 5 year aged cheddar. The chickpeas were interesting. I had been eager to try a new way to use chickpeas aside from my usual channa masala. I would make these again, but more as a snack. I would also adjust the spice in the chickpeas, they were a little bold for me. I would definitely add a touch of sweetness to them next time... maybe a touch of honey.

After this healthy meal, we indulged in a little homemade apple fritters... that recipe to come...

Lime Stuffed Yams

2 Large Sweet Potatoes, skins washed

1 Lime, zest and juice
1 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. Fresh Ground Black Pepper
1/4 c. cheddar cheese

1. Bake yam in oven for 45-60 minutes at 350 degrees

2. Carefully cut the potato in half, lengthwise (it will be VERY hot!)

3. Scoop out the insides and put in bowl.

4. Add the lime zest and juice, salt and pepper and mash until smooth (use a hand blender for a smoother texture).

5. Sprinkle 1 tbsp. of the cheese on top, place in an oven safe dish or pan and bake at 425 degrees for approximately 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Serves 4.



Kale Chips


1. Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F.

2. With a knife or kitchen shears carefully remove the leaves from the thick stems and tear into bite size pieces.

3. Wash and thoroughly dry kale with a salad spinner.

4. Drizzle kale with olive oil and sprinkle with seasoning salt.

5. Bake until the edges brown but are not burnt, 10 to 15 minutes.



Moroccan Chickpeas


Ingredients:

1 can (15 Oz. Can) Chickpeas
¼ cups Olive Oil
½ teaspoons Curry Powder
½ teaspoons Allspice
½ teaspoons Ground Cloves
½ teaspoons Pumpkin Pie Spice (optional)
2 teaspoons Cinnamon
½ teaspoons Cayenne Powder
2 teaspoons Fresh Grated Ginger
1 teaspoon Sea Salt

1. Combine spices in a bowl, mix.

2. In a separate bowl, add chickpeas.

3. Pour the olive oil into the chickpeas and toss with a spoon.

4. Add the spice mixture and stir it well.

5. When they are well-coated, pour them onto a baking sheet. Spread them out evenly, and pop them into the oven for 45 minutes.

When they are ready, they will be golden brown with a vaguely soft inside, which should dry out and become crisp as they cool. If that doesn’t happen, you can pop them back in for a bit longer.

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Nutrition Impostor: Janes FlatJacks

>> Mar 12, 2012

When I first saw this product advertised on TV, it took me a minute to figure what exactly it was. It's flat, breaded, and goes in the toaster. Until you take a close look at the box, you may not realize this product is chicken. Yes, chicken that goes in the toaster for a quick, convenient snack.

This is not my typical "nutrition impostor" in that JANES is not really trying to pass these FlatJacks off as "healthy". This food item - and I use that term loosely - falls more into the "what the heck is it?" category. But they do boast the product's "benefits":

  • Provides 8 grams of satisfying protein
  • Fully cooked
  • Zero trans fats
  • Low in saturated fat  

While the website doesn't list the ingredients, I'm willing to bet it's a long list of non-pronouncable additives and preservatives. It's no wonder, with products like these, that most kids (and adults) have no idea where real food comes from. There's also a grilled cheese version for added shudder factor.

Save the packaging waste, save your money, and save your kids some salt and questionnable ingredients. Pre-cut veggies or fresh fruit is the perfect snack for kids, that can be chopped ahead of time and left in the fridge for them to grab on a whim. We do not need individual packaged patties of frozen, processed, breaded, reformed chicken to put in the toaster. If you're kids need more protein, why not grill up some fresh chicken breast to add to their sandwiches (get rid of that deli meat!), offer hummus and veggies, peanut butter and whole grain crackers, or plain yogurt with fruit.

I'm interested to hear - what do you think of this product?


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What not to eat: The best Gingersnap Cookies on earth - Recipe

>> Jan 5, 2012





 This recipe is from Company's Coming's "Most Loved Cookies" - and they don't lie. I truly think the key to these cookies is in the timing. 10 minutes at 350, no more! They come out slightly crispy on the edges, and soft throughout. If you're crazy like me, you might add some leftover dark chocolate chips to the batter. I happen to think chocolate and ginger is a fantastic combination! I also used brown sugar instead of white sugar. Not sure if that made a big difference, but I recommend trying it. I also left out the *sugar for rolling the dough in before baking - I figure cookies are sugary enough, but it does make them prettier.

Ingredients:

3/4 c Butter, softened
1 cup granulated or brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup fancy mild molasses

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp Baking soda
2 tsp Ground ginger
1 tsp Ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp Salt

1/4 cup Granulated sugar (optional)

Method:

Cream butter and sugar in large bowl. Add egg. Beat well. Add molasses. Beat until smooth.

In a second bowl, combine next 5 ingredients. Add to butter mixture in 2 additions, mixing well after each addition until no dry flour remains. Roll into 1 inch balls.

*Roll each ball in second amount of sugar in small bowl until coated (optional). Arrange about 2 inches apart on a greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for about 10 minutes. Let stand on cookie sheets for about 5 minutes before removing to wire racks to cool.


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