Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Do you know what you are eating?

Okay, first let me say, I am not trying to be the food police. I think people who get too obsessed about food ingredients and whether things are organic or not organic take things a bit too far sometimes. I am not trying to be judgmental, just we can all take things too far. There needs to be balance here. I am not an organic food buyer. I don't go out of my way to make sure my foods are organic. I do recognize that some pesticides and such are harmful if ingested in large quantities, but I do wash my produce before using and I feel pretty good about that. I don't have time to worry about that stuff. I would rather farmers spray a little pesticide on stuff so I get a product with out bugs. I also don't buy most items from these fancy grocery stores that cater to the all organic crowd. It's too expensive and I just don't find that their stuff makes that much difference in the big scheme of things for the money you spend.

Some things that are really better for you organically grown are eggs, meats, and dairy products (without added hormones in them). Those I would buy in a heartbeat if I could find them more readily at a good price. I do pay more for my milk without added hormones (Mayfield or Purity brand) because I do see that makes a difference in my boys. I wish I could get organic eggs as they are really better tasting. Meat is just too expensive overall, so I stick with my Sam's club hamburger, chicken and pork tenderloins, and an occasional flank steak from Fresh Market. I just don't buy steak a lot. I do think that seafood needs to be carefully bought as well, with all the mercury that can be in certain varieties. But those would be my only cautious foods.

Anyway, I didn't intend to go through all that, but to sum up, I buy as fresh and close to homegrown when I can if it is cost effective. I do think I feed my family better because while I may not go organic, I do NOT use a lot of premade, prepackaged, already prepared items in my cooking. And this is where I am heading in this blog post. My sons and I just did an educational trip to our local Wal-Mart for our science class today. We were studying hydrogen, and thus we talked about hydrogenation in foods and oils. There have been a lot of studies showing that hydrogenated oils are not good for you. I understand that there are probably just as many studies that find they are okay. I am not going to go into our so called scientific studies these days. I'll leave that for another day. But I do believe that fats that are tampered with to make them more solid at room temp. are probably more likely to stay in that solid state in your body too, thus clogging your arteries. Although too much saturated fats or fats in general aren't good so again, moderation in everything.

So anyway, we went looking for foods that contain partially or fully hydrogenated oils. Did you know you get hydrogenated fats in mostly the following foods: some ice creams (we found it in lots of Blue Bell ice cream flavors), cool whip, any frozen or refrigerated pie crusts, biscuits, cinnamon rolls, breads, any baked good mixes, pre-made icings, some crackers, some breads, premade cookies and baked goods, and even in some ready made puddings (vanilla flavored). Let's see, I think there is a trend here. Why do they use hydrogenated oils in these items so much? It's pretty easy to figure out. Where we would use butter or oil in a baking recipe they use hydrogenated oils mostly. Why? Well butter as you know can get rancid if not used right away after being at room temperature. It can spoil. Well, cake mixes, baking mixes, canned refrigerated baked goods, and even frozen items need to have long shelf lives when they are put in a box. So of course, butter and oil cannot be used. Oils non-hydrogenated will leave grease in the packaging and are less stable like butter. So they hydrogenate them.

My question to you is this? Is there a way for you to get the convenience of these item and have them be much much healthier for your family? Sure you can. How? Well, make your own Bisquick like baking mix and freeze it. Make your own pancake mix and freeze it. Measure out your dry ingredients for cake mixes and then add the fat to it when you are ready to bake it. You know it's the measuring out that takes the most time, so do this ahead and bag it up. Then you are all ready for eggs, fat and dairy when you go to make a cake. Make up a batch of biscuit dough up to the point you would add the liquid, bag it up and then freeze it. All you have to do then is pull it out, add the liquid, knead it once or twice on a floured surface and cut them out. Or make them all the way, cut them out and freeze them before baking. Then just take out a few and bake them as usual. They'll thaw enough on your baking sheet by the time the oven reaches that 400+ degree temp. they need to bake at.

Again, do you want to eat messed up fats, unnecessary preservatives, and weird other chemicals in your baked goods, when it really only takes a little time to whip up some mixes of your own? You control the salt, fat, whole grains, and ultimately the nutritional value of what you feed yourself. Why do we eat all this junk anyway? We do it cause we are "too busy". Ding, Ding, Ding!! Did a light bulb just go off in your head? Maybe we need to not be soo busy. But I'll leave that conversation for another time. :)

It can't be too much of an inconvenience for you to take an hour or two of your weekend, daytime to make up a few mixes and have them ready. It really isn't hard. Oh, and think about trying to buy less ready made foods. Use canned tomatoes, tomato paste and a chopped up onion and some spices to make your own spaghetti sauce. Guess what, you just skipped out on getting high fructose corn syrup and the other fillers companies use in their ready made sauces. It took you a little extra time to chop that onion and open more than one can, but it's better for you. Plus you can make a lot at once and save it for later in the freezer. You save money as it's cheaper too. All I am saying is take a little time and try it. You will notice your food tastes sooo much better, is better for you, and it really is a bit satisfying to do it yourself. Slow down, don't be too busy to put healthy food on the table for your family. It doesn't have to be organic to be good for you. Just less processed. KWIM.

I'll be the first to admit I have a hard time making time to do these things, but when I finally do, I am surprised by how much I can make in such a short amount of time. It can be done, and I challenge you to join me and doing this more for our families. I am not trying to be prideful here in saying all this. Just trying to get all of us to think outside the cultural norms these days. We are all concerned about food, health and such. So let's do the little things we can and make the effort to change our lives for the better. To take away the excuse of not knowing where to find these recipes, I did that work for you. Really, try these. They are good.
Whole wheat and oat pancake mix (I use this and it is fabulous!!)
No-knead challah for cinnamon rolls or a good rich loaf of bread
Pioneer Woman no-knead rolls (my family was totally blown away by these)
Now or later pizza crusts (yes you can make your own pizza) to make your own sauce use a can of tomato sauce (I like the basil, garlic and oregano kind) and add about 1 tsp. italian seasoning and a dash of garlic powder. Spread it on the crust and top with your favorite toppings. Add cheese the last 5 minutes of baking. I make a double batch of this and freeze 2 crusts for a quick lunch for the family.
Bagels (this one is for my records, it's a bit time consuming)
And here is the biscuit recipe I use. You can make them up to the point you add the buttermilk the night before or do this and then pop the mix in the freezer. These are awesome and light and fluffy and so good with butter and jam.
2 1/2 cups of flour
1 stick of butter or 50/50 Smart Balance spread (I use the latter and it's awesome)
1 TBSP. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. sugar
(mix all the dry together and then cut in the butter until it looks like coarse meal)
Then add:
1 c. buttermilk
Knead the dough about 1 minute until smooth.
Roll out on floured surface (go easy on the flour on the surface okay, you don't want to make a flour crust on the biscuits).
Cut with a 2 inch round cutter.
Place on parchment lined cookie sheet and bake at 450 F for 10-12 min.
You can brush the tops with butter after you get them out of the oven. They are great with sausage and jelly or just buttered.

Homemade spaghetti sauce:
1 large can of crushed tomatoes
2 14.5 oz. cans of diced tomatoes (you can use regular or petite, and even use some of the kind that has basil and oregano and garlic already cooked in)
1 small can of tomato paste
1 med. onion chopped fine
1-2 cloves of fresh garlic crushed or minced
1 Tbsp. Italian seasoning
1 bay leaf
1 lb. of hamburger meat optional if you want meat or not.
about 1/4 tsp salt or to taste. I just sprinkle a little in.
1/8 tsp. pepper Really what you want to add to taste.
If you like a meaty sauce brown hamburger with onions and garlic. If no meat then saute onions and garlic in a little olive oil.
Drain grease from meat if using. Then add in all other ingredients. Stir together, cover and simmer for 2-3 hours. Cool and store in freezer for later. Feel free to double the recipe.
This can be used for lasagna too or stuffed shells.

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