Archive for March, 2012

The Sad State of Bread


So today we made whole wheat tortillas from scratch. Crazy, right? Why not buy them in the store like a normal person? Well if you buy them at the store, you’ll be consuming: Whole wheat flour, water, vegetable shortening (interesterified soybean oil, hydrogenated soybean oil and/or palm oil), contains 2% or less of: leavening (sodium bicarbonate, sodium aluminum sulfate, corn starch, monocalcium phosphate and/or sodium acid pyrophosphate, calcium sulfate), sugar, salt, preservatives (calcium propionate, sorbic acid and/or citric acid), cellulose gum, distilled monoglycerides, enzymes, wheat starch, calcium carbonate, antioxidants (tocopherols, ascorbic acid), dough conditioners (fumaric acid, sodium metabisulfite and/or mono- and diglycerides).

If you make them from scratch, you’ll be consuming: Whole wheat flour, baking powder, salt, and coconut oil. YOU choose! And yes, the ingredient list above is from a popular tortilla brand (Mission), and no matter what ingredient list I read, I could not find a package of tortillas that didn’t have a lot of extra “stuff” in it.  Only solution: make from scratch. In fact, bread and other baked goods is probably the most difficult thing to find in a whole food/healthy/without-a-lot-of-extra-stuff form. Yes, I understand, a lot of that is necessary for the products to maintain freshness, but you would think, they could have some healthy choices even in the freezer section.

While tortillas have eluded me, it’s no comparison to my search for good bread. I have been on an epic search for “healthy” sandwich bread, and it’s just plain sad! I tried local grocery stores. Even brands like Oro-Wheat that don’t have high fructose corn syrup, still have all kinds of unnecessary ingredients. I went to the bakery at my local Hyvee, and even though the breads are “baked fresh in store” they still have just as many additives as the stuff on the shelves. I tried Panera Bread, and came out with a lovely loaf that they told me was baked fresh in their store. It tasted ok, but there was no ingredient list on it. Yesterday, I went back to Panera for a French Baguette, and this time I asked to see an ingredient list (they have to have these available for customers who have allergies). Guess what?! Just like always, there were all those extra ingredients. I asked the clerk (who was already annoyed with me for making her get the ingredient list binder) “Do you make the dough here or is it shipped to you and then you bake it?” She replied, “It’s shipped here.” Sooo fresh bread isn’t really that “fresh” now is it?

The sad thing is, the only place I could get truly fresh/healthy bread without all the extras was at the Farmer’s Market. A lady was selling loaves for $5 a piece and she had her ingredient lists on the bags. While this is nice, I won’t see this lady again until April 20th, the next time we have Farmer’s Market, so guess what I’m going to do? Make my own bread. Not only is it healthier, but it’s cheaper than spending $5 a loaf.

So my mission is to try each week, or every other week, to make a different baked good from scratch. This week it is tortillas. Next week, it might be bagels or english muffins. We’ll see. It will depend on my menu plan each week. I’ve got some bread stock-piled in the freezer for now, so I don’t have to worry about sandwich bread yet. Maybe a bread machine is in my future, but for now, it’s all going to be done by hand! Another great reason to make your own bread is you can experiment with all kinds of grains! And you’ll have more options for whole grains vs. refined white flour. I am excited to begin my next “from scratch” adventure! And thank you hubby for helping with the tortillas!

Here’s the recipe I used:



Yummy tortillas

Yummy tortillas

No, they are not perfect, but it’s the best I could do with a rolling pin. When I get a tortilla press, they will be “prettier.”

Spring is in the air!

So a lot has happened since my last post. We have re-organized the apartment and become more “green.” Now we use more glass storage in our kitchen (and less plastic). Instead of plastic utensils that we throw away, we purchased some bamboo utensils to use in our lunches we take to work. We are also using cloth napkins in our lunchboxes and hopefully soon, at home as well.

The compost bin has some added potting soil so the ratio of composted food to soil is more even. I’m hoping to start our herb garden in a couple weeks. I have around 30 toilet paper tubes now, which I will use instead of peat pots. We re-potted our green onions so now we can just trim a bit whenever we want to add them to a dish. Who knew you could sprout the green onions over and over?! Thank you, Pinterest!

We have a mini recycling center in the kitchen now, composed of a multi-tiered drawer system and a basket on top. This will make it easier when we take it to the recycling center (everything will already be sorted out).

In addition to our “green” efforts throughout our home, we’ve been trying more recipes using a whole foods, plant-based diet. There have been a few things that didn’t turn out so well, but for the most part, everything has been delicious. It takes a while to get used to the new way of cooking and the more subtle flavors you get from veggies/grains as opposed to drowning everything in dairy and oil.

I’m finding it more difficult to do without a food processor, though. There are so many things I would like to make from scratch and they don’t all work in a blender. This is definitely on the top of our wish list. One of our favorite things though (thank you, blender) has been fruit smoothies. Here’s one we made last night:  

Recipe for Awesome Spinach Fruit Smoothie Extraordinaire from Amanda’s Brain

1 cup of baby spinach (organic is best)
1/2 cup frozen mango
1/4 cup frozen blueberries
1/4 cup frozen strawberries
1 banana (PEELED! don’t forget to peel it!)
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup milk (we used almond milk, but cow milk would work too)

Pack the spinach in the blender first. Add the milk and blend. Then add all the fruit and blend some more. When blending becomes too difficult add orange juice. Blend to desired consistency, stirring with spatula every so often. Add more fruit if it’s too runny; add more liquid (preferably OJ) if it’s too thick. No need for yogurt as the banana acts as the smoothing agent. We got a nice smooth consistency much like when we used to make our famous strawberry banana smoothies. DON’T be alarmed that the smoothie is green. The color is obviously from the spinach, but you’ll just taste the fruit.

ENJOY! And of course you can substitute ANY frozen fruit that you want. Obviously, if you used all fresh fruit, you would need to add some ice cubes.

We have been loving making homemade snacks/desserts! I wish sometimes, I could bring some to share with the kids at school, but our schedule gets changed so much, that inevitably, if I planned to bring a snack, I wouldn’t be able to give it to the kids until later. And, as we know with homemade snacks, they don’t keep as long as the store-bought, ultra-preserved, what-in-the-world-is-this-ingredient-type snacks. Just last week, I was excited to be able to provide snacks for a class for state-testing, but was then told to bring them next week even though the kids might not actually eat them for another month. So, making a homemade snack was out of the question (unless we had freezer space at school, which we don’t). So I was forced to buy store-bought, ultra-preserved, what-in-the-world-is-this-ingredient-type snacks. I am bummed, because I don’t want to eat these myself, so I shouldn’t expect kids to eat them!

But enough of me on my soap box. I do hope that when I’m a teacher again, I can offer my kiddos healthy snacks, and request that people sign up to bring snacks on specific days, so they have the option of making something homemade or even (gasp!) bringing in fresh fruits or veggies. It just seems counter-productive to feed a kid junk food and expect them to do their best on a test. Their brain needs FUEL! And yes, I know, not all processed foods are created equal. Some are considerably healthy (i.e. Lara Bars), but those puppies are typically $1.50 each, and I’m sorry kids, but I can’t afford to spend $37.50 to feed a group of 25 of you, for just one snack. You’ll have to settle for Kellogg’s granola bars (now with MORE FIBER, haha) and a bunch of un-pronounceable ingredients.

Check out some pictures below of food we have been cooking recently:

First, Greens and Beans Chili, then Lentil Loaf with fresh grean beans and southern style potatoes, then broiled potatoes on couscous with sauteed asparagus, and last, veggies burgers (soy free). Sorry for the blurry-ness, but my camera flash doesn’t work.