The original article was published on October 31, 2011.
Witches, pumpkins, trick-or-treating, and lots and lots of candy. Today is Halloween. Worried about your kid’s candy consumption? Me too. With all the crazy additives from food dyes and preservatives,to partially hydrogenated oils and the 18 million different types of sweeteners out there, it sucks. Oh, and don’t even try to pretend that you’re not worried about all the candy YOU’LL be eating. So what to do? Turns out there are some creative ideas out there to deal with the candy issue:
Ever been to a restaurant and wonder how even a simple salad tastes so much better than what you make at home? Chances are, it’s the homemade vinaigrette. Store bought salad dressings, even the supposed healthy ones, are still loaded with oils you don’t want (canola and soybean), thickeners you don’t need (guar gum, xantham gum) and unnecessary sweeteners (sugar). All these additives help to make the product shelf stable, but don’t do much for taste or your health. So what’s the solution? Make your own. Today’s recipe is one of my personal favorites, although both our cumin lime and honey mustard dressings are pretty awesome too. When people come over for dinner, they always ask how we make our dressing and I figured it was time to share.
Making salad dressing is not an exact science. Every time I whip up a jar, it’s slightly different since the ingredients available in my fridge, garden, and cupboard are ever changing. When we first committed to not buying dressing (one of the few resolutions that actually stuck!), we used one of the Good Seasons salad dressing cruets, the type with the measurements right on the glass. We followed the measurement markings, but instead of adding water and the “dressing packet” we sprinkled in fresh herbs instead. Things have evolved ever since, especially with the revelation that our garden produces thyme, oregano and rosemary year round. In preparation for this blog post I measured everything out so I could put together a coherent recipe to follow. I hope you love it as much as I do.
While this may drive some of you crazy, you don’t need to be exact with your measurements. I use a mix of red wine and balsamic, but you can use whatever vinegar blend you like. If you adore the sweetness of the balsamic flavor, go for just balsamic vinegar. For all the herbs below, fresh is best, but in a pinch, dried will work. If you use dried, you’ll need a bit more of each since they are are not as flavorful. In order to make this dressing “pop” and taste of restaurant quality, you will need at least 1-2 fresh herbs. If you are picking herbs from your garden or using fresh from the market, make sure to wash them thoroughly by soaking them in a bowl of clean water and letting the dirt sink to the bottom. Always get organic when you can. For the garlic powder, make sure it is pure garlic powder and not garlic salt or a seasoning with extra additives. If you don’t mind the raw garlic flavor, a small clove of garlic put through the garlic press works too. As far as the container, old salad dressing containers work beautifully. Really, any old glass jar will do as long as it has a tight-fitting lid.
Balsamic & Herb Vinaigrette
1/4 cup vinegar
1/2 tsp fresh Thyme leaves, stems removed, minced
1/2 tsp fresh rosemary leaves, stems removed, minced very fine
1/2 tsp fresh oregano leaves, stems removed, minced
1/2 tsp fresh minced basil leaves or dried basil
1/2 tsp fresh minced parsley leaves or dried parsley
1/4 tsp ground mustard (or 1/2 tsp of Dijon mustard)
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 1/2 tsp minced shallots, red onion or scallions
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Chop all your fresh herbs very finely, especially the rosemary. Add ingredients into the glass jar in the order listed above, with the exception of salt and pepper. Put lid on the glass container and shake vigorously until powdered ingredients are fully incorporated. Taste, and add salt and pepper to your liking. You can also do this in a food processor and pour in the oil in a fine stream while the processor is running. But this method involves more dishes and special equipment, which may scare some of you off and is really not necessary. This dressing is best after it has been sitting for 4-24 hours in the fridge, but can be used right away. Store in the refrigerator and shake well before pouring on your salad.
I desperately wanted Prop 37 to pass. I posted countless Facebook status updates on it, proudly displayed my yard sign, wore a “Vote Yes on Prop 37″ button on my purse, and furiously blogged about it on this very site, but in the end, the money won out. I’ll admit I was pretty down yesterday and feeling a bit lost about where we go from here. Then, I saw this message from one of our followers:
I Woke Up Angry
I’m sure plenty of people are happy that Obama has another 4 years instead of the other guy and his magic underwear but not me. For me these two are too similar (well I’m sure that depends on which version of Mitt you get on any given day) and for me, the only thing I really cared about was PROP 37. I say vote with your wallet!!
These companies will NOT get my money any longer. It will take some time but I will know this list by heart and as difficult as it will be, the Grocery Manufacturers Association will feel my wrath. I may have to drive a little further, plan a little further in advance and pay more, but I will not step foot in or buy from their businesses any longer. My voice is but one, but it’s mine and it will be heard.
You guys keep “fighting the good fight!”
- Just Some Random Guy
At the bottom of his note was link to a list of all the companies that contributed to the No on Prop 37 campaign:
I’ve been a vegetarian my whole life, and I was vegan for 16 years. While my views about the best diet for me have shifted somewhat, one thing has not changed since I was a child: a fascination with food and how it affects our bodies, our planet, and our relationships.
In addition to being vegetarian, my family always had a garden, and I remember the exquisite pleasure of walking barefoot among tomato vines that were taller than I was, feeling the prickly hairs on the stems tickle my nose as I leaned in to smell the ripe tomatoes, and biting into one like an apple, the sun-warmed juices running down my chin. My parents grew their own sprouts, made their own tempeh, and banned processed sugar from the house. When I went to public school, I got teased about the “bird seed” (honey-covered sesame seeds) in my lunches, but I also convinced several friends to taste (and enjoy!) my homegrown sprouts dusted with nutritional yeast.
When I became vegan at age 12, I thought it was a way to make a sacrifice for the health of the planet, but I found after many years of reliance on soy foods that my body was suffering. I was also alienating myself from other people, especially when I would travel and have to refuse food offered to me without being able to explain why. I felt like the costs in terms of my own health and my relationships were too high.
In the last five years, I’ve returned to a passion for locally grown whole foods. My partner and I are members of a CSA and we try to visit the farmers market every week. He eats meat, but his choice comes out of careful thought and I respect it. He is an importer of equitably traded vanilla beans from Madagascar, and he thinks a lot about food and how it relates to social justice and the environment. I know our diet differences will spark some spirited debates if we have children, but that’s also important to me—constantly questioning what we believe. I love hearing about what people eat and why.
Many people in the U.S. think it’s a luxury to spend time choosing and preparing our own fresh food, but I think it’s the opposite. It feels as if our “luxuries” have removed us farther and farther from our food sources, and this is part of what’s making us so unhealthy. I’m guilty of this too—I often prioritize other tasks over shopping for and eating healthy local food, but I feel so much happier and more energized when I’m paying attention to my diet. I get sick less, I sleep better…and hence I have more time and energy to spend on the rest of my life!
If you think you don’t have time to shop at the farmer’s market and prepare food from scratch, try to eliminate one non-essential activity from your life (Words with Friends, anyone?) and spend that time focusing on food in a way that makes you feel good. I think the most important thing is that we simply pay attention to what we eat. Putting a little bit of focus on what you eat is guaranteed to improve your diet. (This is partly why it’s so crucial for everyone in California to vote Yes on Proposition 37, which will help us to be informed about what we’re eating). For an interesting perspective on U.S. food issues and our lack of attention to what we eat, check out The Sun magazine’s interview with Joel Salatin, the founder of Polyface Farm.
Here’s a recipe we came up with during our endless experiments with vanilla. I love this recipe because you can get all the ingredients from trusted local sources. It was the most popular dish when we cooked brunch for 18 people recently. It also fills the house with lovely smells. Don’t be afraid of including vanilla in a savory dish—it’s very subtle and delicious!
Chloë’s California Quiche
For the crust:
2 c. (packed) grated raw potato (from 2-3 peeled potatoes)
1/4 c. grated onion
1/2 t. salt
For the filling:
1/4 c. caramelized onions
1 ear fresh sweet corn (kernels cut from the cob)
1 small vanilla bean
1/4 c. creamy goat cheese or other cheese of your choice
4-5 large eggs
3/4 c. half & half
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 400F. Mix the crust ingredients together and press the mixture into a 9-inch pie tin. Bake the crust for 30-40 minutes. You can brush it with a little vegetable oil if it looks like it’s drying out too much. If you’re worried about the edges getting too browned, you can cover them with tin foil.
While it’s cooking, mix the eggs and half & half. Add salt and pepper as desired. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise, and using the tip of a knife or a spoon, scrape the tiny vanilla seeds (the “caviar”) out of the pod. Add the seeds to the egg mixture and whisk to distribute evenly.
When the crust is done, take it out of the oven and turn the heat down to 350F.
Spread the quiche fillings (reserving a bit of the cheese) along the bottom of the crust, then pour in the egg mixture. Add the rest of the cheese to the top, and then put half of the vanilla husk in the center of the dish (for decorative purposes—the husk is too tough to eat!). Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until firm, and serve with a farmers market salad.
About the author:
Chloë Gladstone is a writer and doula living in Oakland, California. She is also on the board of directors for Green Branch, a mobile children’s library focused on social justice and environmental issues.
This video is crazy. Who would have ever thought that a simple plastic water bottle could be THIS cool. While you probably won’t understand anything the woman is saying, you will definitely learn how to separate the egg yolk from the egg whites using only an empty bottle. I may just have to whip this one out at our next dinner party.
Something tells me we are going to be seeing a $14.99, “As Seen on TV” version of this very soon.
As summer winds down, it’s time to start thinking about what you’re going to be packing in those lunch boxes, snack bags, and what you’ll be feeding the kiddos when they come bounding off the bus. First and foremost is to feed them a nutritious, protein-packed breakfast to start their day. And, no, a Pop-Tart doesn’t count. Those tasty pastries are essentially a giant candy bar filled with sugar, HFCS, trans fats, artificial colors and sodium. Don’t get me wrong, I loved them growing up, but the over 50 ingredients inside can lead to a myriad of health problems down the road and a sugar crash before they even finish first period.
A great start to the day could include a scrambled egg with whole grain toast, whole grain waffle with peanut butter, oatmeal with berries, or a protein smoothie (blend berries, whey protein powder, nut butter, spinach, yogurt, milk or milk alternative).
There are many prepackaged options out there for lunches, but be careful of dangerous preservatives, trans fats, excessive amounts of sodium and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) that are often laden in those foods. The worst offenders are Lunchables, 100-calorie snacks, packages of chips, cheez-its and juice boxes. The winner for worst offender is the Uncrustable sandwich. It contains 38 ridiculous ingredients (5 of which are sugar and more than a dozen are chemicals) like HFCS, trans fats, sorbates, sulfates, and phosphates. A simple PB & jelly takes 1 minute to make – please make them from scratch. I’m disgusted that my children’s school offers these as alternatives to a hot lunch.
So, here’s my shopping list for the Back-to-School Pantry:
It’s important that lunch contain a protein item, a whole grain carb option, fruit and lots of water. Kids don’t need a sugary treat or cookie for lunch. Between all the treats and birthday parties at school, they get enough sugar! They need a highly nutritious meal that can carry them through the rest of the day for optimal learning.
Some of my favorite containers:
Top photo by o5com via Flickr
About the author:
Cindy Santa Ana, CHC
Cindy Santa Ana is a Certified Health Coach dedicated to helping clients discover the healing properties of real food. Successfully healing her own allergies, high cholesterol and migraines with health-promoting foods and exercise was the catalyst that transformed Cindy’s life, health and profession, and she is passionate about sharing this information with others. www.UnlockBetterHealth.com
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My hubby used to joke that he looked forward to having a child so he could order food for himself off the kids menu. Why? They are loaded with junk at a reduced price.
Here is a typical kids menu:
Pasta with Butter or Marinara Sauce
Grilled Cheese & French Fries
Chicken Fingers & Fries
Macaroni & Cheese