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Educational Food Websites!

So, even though I’m off on summer vacation as of last week I won’t have access to an oven until May 24th at the earliest. This means that I’m still living in my dorm room, currently surviving on peanut butter sandwiches, oatmeal and frozen vegetables. This is what happens when the most technological piece of kitchen equipment in your dorm is a microwave.

like this only a lot less high tech

So, in short I’m rapidly running out of bread because the most I can do to spice up a meal is put it in the microwave.

Right now I’m on a hunt for the healthiest whole wheat bread I can find (and hopefully something reasonably cheap as well). Although my main grocery options are Kroger or CVS, the internet helped me find a fantastic website that will help me significantly in my search for a peanut butter sandwich.

If you haven’t heard of it before, check out fooducate.com.

This website rates products based on their overall nutritional value going beyond the standard nutrition label of calories, fat content and sugars. For people who really want to know what’s up with their food, fooducate will you tell you that

Great Grains Bakery 100% Whole Wheat & Honey Bread:

  1. has 120 calories per serving (per slice)
  2. has caramel coloring

The caramel coloring fooducate goes into detail on as a point in this product to watch out for. As fooducate explains:

Homemade caramel is made by melting sugar in a saucepan.

Brown coloring in sodas and some other products is not the same thing.

Industrial caramel coloring is made by reacting sugars with ammonia and sulfites under high pressure and temperatures. The chemical reactions create 4-methylimidazole, which in government-conducted studies caused lung, liver, or thyroid cancer or leukemia in laboratory mice or rats. This is why California recently required foods containing caramel color to be labeled as potential cancer-causing agents.

But you won’t see this warning label any time soon – manufacturers simply reduced the use of caramel color enough that the labeling requirements no longer applied.

Caramel color varies slightly between products – when in beer, sauces or baked goods it has just ammonia and when used in soft drinks, it has both sulfites and ammonia. Neither one is a “good” option.

Although the bread has an A- rating and is by most reviews a high quality product, fooducate wants its readers to be as healthy as possible and know what they’re eating beyond the basic nutritional information.

I’m still on the look out for the perfect bread, but now I have a few ideas of what to look for in my bread choices beyond the obvious avoidance of high fructose corn syrup. While I would much rather make my own bread, that won’t be an option for another 9 days.

If you have a bread you’re interested in highlighting or recommending me to try, please suggest it! I’m looking forward to starting up my Product Placement line again.

 

 

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Product Placement: The Baker Yoga Bread

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.

Belated Product Placement: Honey Bunches of Oats

There was no holiday this past Wednesday so I don’t have the same excuse from last week as to why I didn’t post my weekly plug for a product. As it stands all I can do is say I’m sorry and have this be a bit belated.

When I was a kid I used to flip flop around between a few different cereals. I had a phase of Peanut Butter Cap’n Crunch (it’s a bit painful to remember I used to eat that), I would eat Honey Smacks, some weeks I would love Honey Nut Cheerios (and still do, though I only eat them on occasion) and some days Frosted Flakes or Lucky Charms, or any other big brand name cereal geared toward kids. It never occurred to me that I could, if I wanted to, eat adult cereal.

It was some kind of mental road block where I figured that if a cereal had a cartoon mascot and bright colors it was meant for kids, and if the box looked bland and adult it was meant for adults and there would be ingredients in the adult cereal my child’s body would not be able to digest. Childhood logic is surprisingly funny this way.

The irony is that the children’s cereals were (and for the most part still are) worse for you, but I wasn’t the only one who thought children’s cereal must have ingredients children need. No, they’re just full of chemical dyes and processed sugars.

My point is that there were very few ‘adult’ cereals I would eat, but one I would occasionally come back to would be Post’s Banana Nut Crunch.

As a matter of fact I think I would want to give this cereal another try because as  a child I would pick out all the granola but find the rest of the cereal to be dry and tasteless. This is also due to the fact that I ate the cereal without milk, as I do with almost all of my cereals. Looking back on it, I’m sure the cereal was actually quite good and I mean to give it another shot.

So, until about 4 years ago or so, I stopped eating cereal because there was no brand I would continuously enjoy. And then on a whim my family tried Honey Bunches of Oats.

I’m really not quite sure why we tried it, but it must have been my idea because we started out with the Honey Bunches of Oats with Almonds and my mom doesn’t eat non-organic cereal and my brother doesn’t like almonds, so somewhere along the lines I must have though this was a good idea. Somewhere along the lines I was right.

This is the only cereal I will eat with milk, but it doesn’t lose anything to eat it dry. The granola bunches are crunchy and flavorful but never too sweet, and the flakes of the cereal are a combination of honey roasted and sweet and plain and crunchy.

Honey Bunches of Oats is the cereal I have been searching for my entire life. It has all the flavor a children’s cereal but with none of the chemicals and additives or colorings. This cereal may not be organic, but it’s surprisingly healthy with no more sugar than the typical children’s cereal (11g) and is not sweetened with any kind of corn syrup (high fructose or otherwise). This is what I miss at breakfast when I’m at college: I miss having Honey Bunches of Oats. I miss having a cereal I can (and will) eat with milk.

Honey Bunches of Oats comes in the following flavors: Original Honey Roasted, Almond, Peach, Cinnamon, Strawberry, Raisin Medley, Vanilla Bunches, Just Bunches (a box of their fantastic granola), and their NEW fruit blends: Banana Blueberry, and Peach Raspberry.

Grab a box if you get a chance, I can’t say enough about this cereal. Enjoy!

Why no Product Placement?

As some of you may have noticed, there was no Product Placement this past Wednesday. I am happy to say I spent the 4th of July with my family barbecuing and watching fireworks from across the Hudson River. I debated posting about a product or even uploading more information on my Avengers’ Food and the Captain America Cookie, but I decided to stay away from the computer entirely and spend time with my family.

This has nothing to do with food, but a lot to do with being American and being thankful. My grandfather sent me an email I think I should share with you about what the 4th of July means. Enjoy.

Humbling Independence Day History Lesson:
>
> Have you ever wondered what happened to the 56 men
>
> who signed the Declaration of Independence ?
>
> Five signers were captured by the British as traitors,
>
> and tortured before they died.
>
> Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned.
>
> Two lost their sons serving in the Revolutionary Army;
>
> another had two sons captured.
>
> Nine of the 56 fought and died from wounds or
>
> hardships of the Revolutionary War.
>
> They signed and they pledged their lives, their fortunes,
>
> and their sacred honor.
>
> What kind of men were they?
>
> Twenty-four were lawyers and jurists.
>
> Eleven were merchants,
>
> nine were farmers and large plantation owners;
>
> men of means, well educated,
>
> but they signed the Declaration of Independence
>
> knowing full well that the penalty would be death if
>
> they were captured.
>
> Carter Braxton of Virginia, a wealthy planter and
>
> trader, saw his ships swept from the seas by the
>
> British Navy. He sold his home and properties to
>
> pay his debts, and died in rags.
>
> Thomas McKeam was so hounded by the British
>
> that he was forced to move his family almost constantly.
>
> He served in the Congress without pay, and his family
>
> was kept in hiding. His possessions were taken from him,
>
> and poverty was his reward.
>
> Vandals or soldiers looted the properties of Dillery, Hall, Clymer,
>
> Walton, Gwinnett, Heyward, Ruttledge, and Middleton.
>
> At the battle of Yorktown , Thomas Nelson, Jr., noted that
>
> the British General Cornwallis had taken over the Nelson
>
> home for his headquarters. He quietly urged General
>
> George Washington to open fire. The home was destroyed,
>
> and Nelson died bankrupt.
>
> Francis Lewis had his home and properties destroyed.
>
> The enemy jailed his wife, and she died within a few months.
>
> John Hart was driven from his wife’s bedside as she was dying.
>
> Their 13 children fled for their lives. His fields and his gristmill
>
> were laid to waste. For more than a year he lived in forests
>
> and caves, returning home to find his wife dead and his
>
> children vanished.
>
> So, take a few minutes while enjoying your 4th of July holiday and
>
> silently thank these patriots. It’s not much to ask for the price they paid.
>
> Remember: freedom is never free!
>
> I hope you will show your support by sending this to as many
>
> people as you can, please. It’s time we get the word out that patriotism
>
> is NOT a sin, and the Fourth of July has more to it than beer,
>
> picnics, and baseball games.
>

Product Placement: Store Bought Muffins

This is slightly cheating. Store bought muffins is such a broad category I can’t pretend it’s a single product. Maybe some store-bought muffins are quite good and wholesome, but for the purposes of this blog I’ll be referring to Stop & Shop packaged muffins because this is a little close to home.

I do not mean to offend Stop & Shop, and believe me, if I did I would go after something other than their muffins. Now to start off, their muffins taste pretty good. They have a tall muffin top that is both appealing to look at and to eat, and the muffin itself stays moist  for about five days if not more. The taste is fine, varying depending on the type of muffin, but you always get what you expect: a run of the mill packaged pastry. Price-wise each muffin is a little over $1 and can be purchased in a package of 4 for $4.49 at Stop & Shop, give or take depending on where you live.

So if the muffin tastes fine where do I take issue? The ingredients list is long enough to be a novel and each muffin is 3x the serving suggestion.

A good taste tends to hide a few unsavory nutrition facts and ingredients, especially in large scale commercial food. For the apple spice muffins, the ingredients start off pretty normal: enriched bleached wheat flour, sugar, water, soybean oil, eggs, apples, modified corn starch. Everything else is 2% or less of the muffin. From the basic ingredients the only thing I take issue with is the modified corn starch. What’s it modified with? Why did it need to be modified at all? How is it modified? There’s no answer on the box.

Then we get to the 2% or less section: partially hydrogenated vegetable shortening (followed by a list of oils it could be a mixture of just to cover themselves in case of an allergic reaction), soy lecithin,  BHT and citric acid as preservatives, emulsifier (with a long list of unpronounceable words to explain what’s in the emulsifier), and the list continues for another 5 or 6 ingredients before moving on to what’s in the sugar coating. To try not to bore you with the rest, the basic premise here is that if an ingredient needs a list of ingredients to explain what it is, it’s not worth buying.

I’m not trying to preach at you or tell you what to buy or not buy. What you buy is ultimately your choice. I’m not trying to promote my own products as a comparison either. Maybe I have a grudge against pre-packaged food because I make my own, who knows. All I know is that there are tons of muffin recipes which are quick and easy to make and are a whole lot healthier than buying store bought. Cheaper too.

Save yourself the trouble of taking a magnifying glass and a dictionary with you the super market and make your own muffins. Believe me the taste is far better and you know what’s in it.

Product Placement: Siggi’s Yogurt

It’s time for me to advertise for someone’s products other than my own. It’s time to share my reviews on new foods and brands I’ve come across with my fellow foodies and hopefully hear about your own travels into the food unknown and become inspired to expand my repertoire of cooking knowledge.

Wednesdays are now Product Placement Wednesdays so look forward to hearing about a product, with a good or bad review, every Wednesday from here on out.

For my first Product Placement it is imperative that  I give rightful praise to a yogurt company I had never heard of before my mom introduced me: Siggi’s.

Please don’t ask me to pronounce the name. It’s Icelandic and I lack language skills in that area of the world.

Siggi’s was created by Siggi Hilmarsson, who wanted to bring his Icelandic childhood back to life through reanimating the traditional Icelandic yogurt, skyr. Through his efforts, Siggi Hilmarsson created a deliciously thick yogurt, subtly flavored with agave nectar and other all natural flavors. I have eaten the Pomegranate and Passion Fruit and I opened up the lid expecting the watery layer that sits on a lot of yogurts claiming to be healthy for you. My surprise at the lack of liquid grew into a surprise at the lack of bitter flavoring.

I think I need to back up a moment and explain my relationship to yogurt if this blog is going to make complete sense. And to put it simply my relationship with yogurt has been one of disgust my entire life. Even before I knew that the kids’ yogurts were full of processed sugar and artificial colors, I could barely make myself eat one. The consistency of yogurt always seemed unnatural as if it were in a perpetual state of limbo between a solid and a liquid. I’m not a huge fan of milk, I hate cheese, and so yogurt fell into the category of calcium I needed but really didn’t want to eat.

3-a-day,milk,3aday,cheese,yogurt

I’ve been better about yogurts recently, although that is mainly because college life demands that I find edible fruit servings and yogurt smothered with granola generally does the trick. Still I generally don’t go out of my way to eat yogurt. Then my mom introduced me to Siggi’s. Without telling me how thick it is, without telling me about the intricate subtleties of the flavorings, she bought a few of them for the couple of days we were staying in NYC. Granted I did not get a chance to try the yogurt until a few days ago when the intrigue of a pomegranate and passion fruit combination stirred my interest. I opened it up, discovered the lack of liquid on top, added heaps of granola to cancel out what I was expecting to be the bitter flavor beneath the pomegranate, and took a spoonful.

I have never tasted a better yogurt. I could eat this yogurt without granola, it is that astounding on its own. If you haven’t given this Icelandic yogurt a try yet, your taste buds are missing out. Your whole person is missing out! It is healthy, natural, flavorful, and has changed my opinion about yogurt.

See you next Wednesday for the newest Product Placement!