Food Safety

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I am always concerned about what goes into the food I am giving to my family and friends. If feeding them only organic, farm-raised foods was the answer than that is what I would do. However, the all too ugly truth is there is no purely safe food. Our food has an extremely long process, touched by many hands, passing through many environments, before it lands in our bellies.

U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has only the power that food giants will allow it to have. Traveling to Europe and Japan for food shows I have found that many of the ingredients we consume daily are banned from even entering their countries.

Organic you say is the answer. Well how about the farmer who is spraying insecticides on his crop, the wind and rain can bring that insecticide to the the organic farmer’s crops just down the road. Or the field hand or factory worker packaging the food could inadvertently infect the product before it even arrives at the grocery store.

You are constantly hearing about foods and drinks that appear to be perfectly safe for years and suddenly they are infected with something, or it is discovered that they are inherently bad for us. Just this summer I heard a new story saying bottled water had E. coli – bottled water people??!!

We cannot live in fear and we cannot live without food. I don’t have THE answer. All I can say is what I am doing and what I am teaching my kids to do.

  • Never use RoundUp. I might write a whole article on this sometime and how it is banned by most countries, including Russia and China, because of direct links to cancer.
  • Clean your food well.
  • Buy from reliable sources. If you have a farmer friend who believes in minimal use of pesticides buy from them.
  • Make your food as often as you can from scratch. That way you know what is going into your food and avoid the hidden preservatives, extra sugar and salt.
  • When you buy food make sure you can read and understand 90% of the ingredients.

Let me know if you have any additional suggestions that the everyday working mom and dad can incorporate into their life.

Eat well and stay safe.

THE Zucchini Muffin Recipe

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This is one of the first recipes I really played with and made my own. It has been such a huge success that I almost rarely get the chance to make any other muffins. Even family members try to make me sell these for a living. Having worked with many food companies I know that would be a difficult living to depend on one muffin. So instead I am sharing it with all of you.

This muffin was created out of my need to use the prolific amount of zucchinis I was receiving weekly from my mother-in-law’s garden. Additionally, this proliferation of zucchini was occurring at the same time that my children were very young and turning away the green stuff regularly.  My kids do not like chunks and have some texture issues. So I started pureeing the zucchini to an applesauce like mush. I would freeze it in 2 cup batches so I would be ready to make a batch when needed.

Enjoy!

THE Zucchini Muffin Recipe

Ingredients

3 eggs

1 cup olive oil

1 1/2 cups Turbinado or cane sugar

2 cups pureed zucchini

2 teaspoons vanilla

3 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 Tablespoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground clove

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

3/4 cup wheat germ

1 cup dark chocolate chips

Directions 

Preheat oven to 315 degrees Fahrenheit.

Beat eggs until light and foamy; add oil, sugar, zucchini and vanilla. Mix lightly but blend thoroughly.

Mix together flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and spices; mix lightly. Add dry ingredients to first mixture, stirring to blend. Stir in wheat germ and chocolate chips.

Spray the pan you choose with butter/oil spray of your choice and fill with batter almost to the top. To ensure the muffins or loaves are cooked, insert a toothpick or knife into the center and it should come out clean.

Cooking Options:

  • 2 – 8×4 inch loaf pans – 1 hour and 20 minutes
  • 2 – big nonstick muffin pans (2/3 cup liquid size muffins) @ 12 muffins – 35 minutes
  • 2 small nonstick muffin pans (1/3 cup liquid size muffins) @ 20 muffins – 25 minutes

Notes:

  • For the loaf pans I recommend putting a small scrap of parchment paper at the bottom to ensure it coming out of the pan easier.
  • If you want to go lighter on the sugar bring it down to 1 cup or 1 and 1/4 cups and up the amount of dark chocolate chips. The chocolate is better for you anyways.
  • If you want to substitute with applesauce or agave syrup for the oils or sugars you can but it will not have the same consistency. It will become rubbery-like. I personally don’t like the results but it could make it healthier.

Cookies for Breakfast

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Teddy needs breakfast every morning, but Teddy is just not willing to get up early enough before school to get ready in time to eat a proper breakfast. This mom has been on a mission to find something better than the frozen pancakes, waffles and cereals that are filled with chemicals, sugar, and preservatives. Don’t get me wrong, we turn to those items quite regularly, but if I can decrease our consumption of the prepackaged foods, even a little, that is a success.

I did a lot of experimenting with this recipe. It started from an AllRecipe breakfast cookie recipe from an Iris Mac but it looks very dissimilar to its original version.  Because I did not want to buy almond butter I opted for regular butter. However, I was not feeling good about that substitution as a healthy option. One version I tried had the butter fully substituted by a cauliflower puree. The husband did not like it warm or cold.  Shockingly the intended audience of a 9 and 7 year old loved it more than the butter filled cookie.

The key in using the vegetable puree substitute is to make it cold before serving. One of the few times in my life that I will recommend a baked should be cold to eat. The reason is because the cauliflower smells when it is just out of the oven and it is not a great smell. After a few different versions I believe the best version that everyone was happy with equally is the one I have posted below, using olive oil and a smaller amount of pureed cauliflower. The critics gave it two thumbs up.

Ingredients

2 cups walnuts

2 Tablespoons Chia seeds

3 cups old fashioned rolled oats

2/3 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup all purpose unbleached flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup pureed cauliflower

3/4 cup olive oil

1/2 cup agave nectar

2/3 cup brown sugar (not packed)

2 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup dark chocolate chips

Directions

Preheats oven to 350 degrees.  I always recommend using the Pampered Chef cookie sheets or some equally high quality cookie sheet, and parchment paper for easy clean up.

Process the walnuts and chia seeds in a food processor. This helps reduce the texture issues a little one might have, but keep the nutrition. Combine the processed walnut mixture with the oats, both flours, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Mix the chocolate chips into this mixture as well.

Also in the food processor, combine the cauliflower, olive oil, agave, brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Pour this mixture into a larger bowl. Mix the dry ingredients into the wet.

Use a large cookie scoop, 1/4 cup or 3 Tablespoons to make your big breakfast cookies. I get about 9 to each sheet. Flatten slightly and bake for 14 minutes. Should be golden brown. Let cookies sit for about 5 minutes after baking so you can remove them to a cooling rack without breakage. Eat after they have cooled off, or the next morning after being in the fridge.

Makes 24 cookies.

Notes

  • Serve with some Greek yogurt and fruit for a quick, filling, nutritious breakfast.
  • Options –
    • 1) Nut butter version– Reduce the olive oil to 1/2 cup; remove the cauliflower puree and replace with 1/2 cup of your favorite nut butter (peanut butter, almond butter…)
    • 2) Low sodium version – Reduce the 1 teaspoon salt to 1/2 teaspoon. I was shocked at learning the fact that 1 teaspoon of salt = 2,500 mg of sodium. We should only be consuming 1,500 mg total per day. I will be working harder to reduce salt in the future.

 

The BIG 4-Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookie

 

_MG_9113These cookies have been raved about every time they are made. I am at the point where I rarely am able to find time to experiment with other cookies, because when I finally find time to make cookies these cookies are always requested. So enjoy my delectable, soft, chocolate filled 4-Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups butter, softened

3/4 cup sugar

1 3/4 cups dark brown sugar, packed

3 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

5 cups flour, all purpose

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1 cup milk chocolate chips

1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips

1 cup dark chocolate chips

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cover cookie sheets with parchment paper for easy cleaning.

In an electric mixer beat butter at medium speed until creamy; gradually add sugars, beating until blended.

Add eggs and vanilla, beating well.

In a small bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt; gradually add to butter mixture beating until blended. Stir in chocolate chips. It is so thick at this point that I give the stirring a head start with my mixer.

Drop with the large Pampered Chef scoop or use a 1/4 cup.

Bake for 12 minutes, or until just starting to lose the shine of uncooked dough and turning a golden brown.

Notes

  • It will taste better with salted butter.
  • When measuring the flour scoop the flour into the cup using a spoon, instead of using the cup to scoop the flour. The latter method will give you too much flour
  • For the Semisweet and Milk chips I use Nestle brand, for dark I use Hershey, and bittersweet can be Ghirardelli. The flavor was off when I used the Ghirardelli for the other chips.
  • I am now a firm believer in using better cookie sheets. I just bought the Pampered Chef cookie sheets because a friend of mine was getting better results with these cookies. It worked. Before the cookie sheet they were flattening out too much. But with the cookie sheets they were a nice thick cookie shape.

Cardamom-Lemon Refrigerator Cookies

XTi_D620_012925I love unique flavors popping up in ordinary recipes. Cardamom in a cookie for the ordinary American is pretty unique. These cookies were created by Mary S. Gutshall of Marysville Ohio. She won the cookie contest in 2007 and her Julie Child-like, all-American photo of her holding her winning cookies was posted in our Sunday Patriot News. Her secret to good cookies ” Butter, it’s God’s gift to us.” I liked her instantly. Below is Mary’s delicious, buttery goodness filled, award winning, Cardamom-Lemon Refrigerator Cookie.

Ingredients

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom or more to taste**

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup shortening

1 cup sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel

1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts (or any nut)

**I prefer to buy the cardamom seeds from an international grocery store and grind them myself. You will get a much more potent flavor.

Directions

Stir together flour baking powder and cardamom; set aside. In large mixer bowl, beat butter and shortening on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar; beat until fluffy. Add egg and lemon peel; beat well. Add flour mixture; beat until combined. Stir in nuts. Cover and chill about 45 minutes or until easy to handle. On waxed paper or clear plastic wrap, shape dough into two 7 inch rolls. Wrap and chill for several hours or overnight.

Optional: Prior to slicing and baking, roll dough rolls in colored sugars, coating the outside.

Remove dough from refrigerator and cut in 1/4 inch slices. Place one-inch apart on ungreased cookie sheet, or cover your sheet in parchment paper for easy cleaning. Bake in 375 degree oven for 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned.

Remove and cool completely on wire racks. Repeat with remaining dough.