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My family drinks tea by the gallon. In the winter time, or really from October until around May because it’s Connecticut weather, we make pots and pots of hot tea and in the summer time we keep a pitcher of iced tea in the refrigerator. My mother is into holistic remedies and no matter what was wrong with my brother or I the solution was always drink green tea.

Now, Salada Green Tea is not our family’s favorite. We prefer Good Earth, but  if I’m to be perfectly honest, Good Earth  might be good for the earth, but it is also expensive. So to save costs, we decided to buy Salada  where a 40 count box of tea bags costs $3.99 at Stop and Shop according to peapod. The Good Earth tea is only sold as a 2o count (as are most teas) and so is even less cost effective.

The good news is that buying cheaper does not mean sacrificing on flavor. Salada tea is a good brand. There’s a rich flavor to their teas and one bag is potent enough for 2 or 3 cups depending on how dark you prefer your beverage.

The company cares about health and their website is devoted to explaining the benefits of fresh brewed tea and how their varying flavors can support bone health or immunity based on the type of tea you buy.

You can buy it by the 40 count to save money and for all  its worth it’s a sturdy brand of tea guaranteed to satisfy. To learn more about different types of teas and the health benefits of each read the following article and apply your new knowledge when purchasing your chosen type of Salada: 

http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/tea-types-and-their-health-benefits

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Milk Free Baking

A wonderful friend from Ohio stayed with me and my family this past week. She cannot have milk and so while baking with her I got the chance to experiment with soy milk and oil instead of butter.

Being milk free is not the same as lactose free. A product can be lactose free but still contain other milk proteins, the most common being caseins and whey proteins such as beta-lactoglobulin and alpha-lactalbumin. 

I don’t claim to be a scientist or an allergy specialist, but until I was involved in a situation where I had to understand the milk protein allergy I thought lactose free meant milk free and that was the end.

I was amazed that the store bought bread we buy (an organic bread too) had a side note on the bottom: contains milk. We even bought a margarine spread, but although there were no ingredients listed that should have contained milk, the allergen information said otherwise: contains milk. 

It’s a good think my mom’s a vegan because we always have soy milk and almond milk around the house. It wasn’t difficult at all, once we decided to use soy milk, to make blueberry pancakes, blueberry waffles (my friend shares my obsession with blueberries), and then to shake it up, apple and oat muffins. The pancakes and waffles were easy because all we had to do was use soy milk instead of cow’s milk and spray the griddle with an oil spray instead of using margarine or butter. Muffins too were surprisingly easy because most recipes already call for oil instead of butter.

I was concerned about cooking and baking when worrying about allergy information, but everything worked out fine and  this is a post for anyone who needs ideas on working around a milk allergy. For breakfast, soy milk makes perfect pancakes and waffles, and almost any muffin recipe should work.

Happy baking!

Blueberry Loaf Cake

I’ve had a bit of a blueberry obsession lately. I’ve been looking for blueberry muffin recipes to inspire me, going blueberry picking, writing about blueberry jam, and all around wanting to make the most out of the blueberry season. It shouldn’t be that surprising then that I created a recipe for a blueberry loaf cake.

Except, I was out of blueberries. But I was not out of blueberry jam! What made it even better was that this is the Smucker’s Orchard’s Finest Jam which has whole blueberries in it. Delicious, gorgeous, and a perfect substitute for fresh blueberries.

INGREDIENTS:

1/2 cup oil

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

2 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp almond extract

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

2 cups flour

2/3 cup milk

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 cup blueberry jam OR 1 cup fresh/frozen blueberries

 

DIRECTIONS:

1.  Grease a loaf pan and preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2. With an electric mixer combine oil and sugar. Beat in eggs and both extracts. Beat in milk.

3. Combine flour and baking powder. Beat into wet ingredients. Fold in blueberries/blueberry jam.

4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 1 hour, tenting the cake with aluminum foil after 40 minutes.

This cake is moist and full of blueberry flavor. It can be eaten as breakfast, snack, or a less sweet dessert. Enjoy and let me know how you use blueberries in your summer baking.

 

Why does it seem that if you want to buy natural you have to buy brands that are expensive or brands no one has heard of before? It’s unfortunate that most brand name products are stuffed with ingredients like high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, and chemicals and dyes.

But there’s a secret to most of these big name products: they produce natural versions of their commercial products. Both Jif and Skippy have natural peanut butters and Smucker’s has Orchard’s Finest berry preserves.

  

Now, I’ve only tried the blueberry (far right of the photo) but there are whole blueberries in the jam. It’s smooth and sweet and whole blueberries are abundant. When my family ran out of blueberries from Jones Family Farm and I wanted to make blueberry loaf cake, I used a half cup of Smucker’s jam and my blueberry cake is studded with blueberries.

Here comes the hard part though, it’s not perfect. Though it pains me to admit it, Smucker’s Orchard’s Finest preserves are not in fact perfect. The ingredients (though all readable and common) are: BLUEBERRIES, SUGAR, FRUIT PECTIN, CITRIC ACID. It would be preferred if there was no sugar added, but this seems rather minor. There are 12 grams of sugar and 50 calories. For more information on the nutrition label visit: http://www.smucker.com/products/ProductDetail.aspx?groupId=1&categoryId=338&flavorId=755

As usual, unfortunately, the natural jams are more expensive than the standard ones. A twelve oz jar is $3.29 for the natural jam and a 12 oz jar is $2.99 for their commercial products. This is, thankfully, not a huge cost difference. Look for the natural Smucker’s jams next time you shop and let me know what you think!

Apparently, Smucker’s also has an organic line. I’ll be looking into this soon and I’ll keep you posted. Enjoy!

PB & Peach Smoothie

I love thick smoothies. I’m talking about turn the cup upside down, liquid-cement, can’t drink through a straw, need a spoon kind of thick. As you can imagine, I’m frequently disappointed.  So instead of complaining or buying store bought smoothies I’ll never be satisfied with, I decided to make my own smoothie this morning.

Enjoy this healthy protein-packed breakfast. I used homemade peanut butter, but store-bought works just as well.

Peanut Butter and Peach Smoothie:

INGREDIENTS:

1 peach

1/2 cup peanut butter

milk, to desired consistency

 

DIRECTIONS:

1. Pulse cut up peach and peanut butter in the blender until smooth. Add milk until smoothie reaches desired consistency.

So in my ongoing battle to produce healthy food, still be a foodie, and run a confections business I decided to spice up the basic biscuit recipe I use by chopping up some apples and making the dough half whole wheat.

The idea behind these biscuits came about from more than idea about being healthy though, as it is difficult to make biscuits healthy. After trying Yoga Bread, I wanted to experiment with using fruit in my baking and after successfully making apple oat muffins (more to come on this later) I knew I wanted to try a similar combination with a biscuit.

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 1/2 cup all purpose flour

1/4 cup sugar

3/4 cup shortening*

1 1/2 tbs baking powder

2 tsp cinnamon

2 apples, chopped finely (I used McIntosh)

1 cup milk

*was butter in the original biscuit recipe, recipe works with either

DIRECTIONS:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease 6 large muffin tins.

2. Combine dry ingredients. Add shortening with two knives or with your fingers until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

3. Pulse apples through a food processor until chopped finely (skin them if you wish, it’s not necessary).

4. Add milk and apples to the mixture, stirring just until combined.  Spoon into muffin tins.

5. Bake for 15 minutes.

Try this variation on the biscuit recipe from Favorite Brand Name  books.

 

My mother introduces me to all the best foods. She manages to find food that is great for you and tastes better than standard commercial products and I wish to model Cheryl’s Confections after her example. This post is not just a Product Placement, but is dedicated to my mom and every parent who invests in his or her child’s health and well being. Here’s to you parents, enjoy the post and consider trying this product.

My mom is a yoga teacher and I’m still not quite sure if Yoga Bread caught her attention because of its name or because of the natural ingredients.

This bread has been a conundrum to me for years. My mom buys it whenever she gets a chance to do so, but it never made any sense to me, why put fruit into bread? what made this yoga bread? what is yoga bread? I could have gotten some answers any time if I just decided to either try a piece (like I finally did yesterday) or just read the packaging information. All I really knew about this bread was that it was not cheap (unfortunately its only flaw).

Yes, so if I had ever bothered to read the labeling, I would have come to realize that this is Yoga Bread because it promotes more than just healthy eating: it promotes healthy lifestyles centered around a balance of the body.

As the packaging says:

Yoga is more than practicing asanas [postures]! Yoga is about cultivating the authentic you while being mindful of your body, to thers, and this earth. There are five yogic principles to follow: 

proper exercise

proper breathing

proper relaxation

proper diet and

positive thinking and meditation.

The serving size is 1 slice, each slice 120 calories, with 3 grams of fat (no trans fats or sat fats) 0 grams cholesterol, 22o mg sodium, 21 grams carbs, 3 grams fiber, 4 grams of sugar, and 4 grams of protein.

This whole wheat bread is sweetened naturally with dried cranberries and has a subtle nutty crunch flavor due to pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, and sunflower seeds. The taste is surprisingly similar to a rye bread though no rye flour is used and the bread is far less dark in coloring than a standard rye.

After being adventurous last night and trying a piece of my mom’s bread, I have gone from a skeptic of fruit/nut breads to a true believer. I am now looking into finding a recipe that can recreate these healthy, nutty, sweet results.

If anyone has any fruit/nut bread recipes to share I would love to hear from you.

Until next time, then. Enjoy and make sure to give this bread a try for your family! This is not a product to pass over lightly.