These biscuits might be my family’s new obsession…they are so tasty good! They are almost like a much better (and better for you) version of those Red Lobster biscuits everyone has probably had at one time or another. And they are so quick and easy to make as well. What’s not to love!? :)
Archives for April 2013
Vani Hari (a.k.a. The Food Babe) is a regular contributor on 100 Days of Real Food. To learn more about Vani check her out on “Our Team” page.
Sugar is one of the most dangerous ingredients on the market. It’s addictive, added to almost every processed food, and will make you overweight, depressed and sick if you eat too much. In fact, Americans eat close to 100 pounds of the stuff per person per year, likely because it is so addictive. That’s why it’s exciting to know there are alternative sweeteners made in nature, like “stevia,” that don’t wreak havoc on your health – or do they? That’s what I went on a quest to find out. Here’s what happened…
What Is Stevia and How Was It Approved?
For those of you that are hearing about stevia for the first time, it is a plant that is typically grown in South America, and while it’s extract is 200 times sweeter than sugar, it does not raise blood insulin levels. That’s what makes it so popular. However in 1991 the FDA refused to approve this substance for use due to pressure from makers of other artificial sweeteners like Sweet n’ Low and Equal. But in 2008, the FDA approved the use of rebaudioside compounds derived from the stevia plant and developed by Coca-Cola (Cargill) and PepsiCo – hmmm doesn’t that sound suspicious? Not until a major food company got involved did stevia become legal, and only after it had been highly processed using a patentable chemical-laden process…so processed that Truvia (Coco-Cola’s branded product) uses about 40 steps to process the extract from the leaf, relying on chemicals like acetone, methanol, ethanol, acetonitrile, and isopropanol. Some of these chemicals are known carcinogens (substances that cause cancer), and none of those ingredients sound like real food, do they?
The whole leaf stevia that you can grow in your back yard (and has been used for centuries in countries like Brazil and Paraguay) remains a non-approved food additive by the FDA. However, rebaudioside A (the stevia extract) that was approved by the FDA has not been used for centuries and long term human health impacts have not been studied and are still unknown. The sweetener/sugar industry wields powerful influence over what is ultimately approved at the FDA, and this is just another example where they are influencing decisions that don’t make sense. How can a chemically derived extract be deemed safe and a plant from mother nature not?
What Kind Of Stevia To Avoid
It has been gradual, but over the last couple years we’ve been making small changes toward reducing waste that have been inspired by the Zero Waste Family – and the fact that after an entire year they only produced one mason jar full of trash. I am the first to admit that we will likely never even come close to such an accomplishment, but I immediately realized we could do much better than a big trash bag full of garbage every few days.
We’ve all heard that we should Reduce, Reuse and Recycle, but my favorite “R” is actually one that I just recently learned about and that is to REFUSE. Say “no, thank you” to the free pen at the trade show or hotel, stop entering those raffle contests, and don’t buy any more cheap plastic toys that you know your child will forget about in 2.4 seconds! Already being a type-A “purger” at heart, this motto has really hit home with me. I strive to have all our rooms and closets clean and neatly organized, but guess what – I would have to spend a lot less of my time doing that cleaning and organizing if we had less unnecessary stuff! So I am doing my best to stop those garbage bags full of unnecessary trash and Goodwill offerings before they even happen.
So in light of this new motto (and Earth Day!) here are 10 ways we’re working to “reduce” our footprint that others can easily adopt. Please share any of your own ideas in the comments below.
1) Ditching paper napkins was something I considered for a long time before I actually did it. Then once we made the switch (and I realized how easy it was!), I couldn’t believe I had waited so long. The first step for me was to clear out a drawer in the kitchen to store our new cloth napkins (they take up a lot more room than a little stack of paper ones). So I finally dedicated a day to getting rid of more unnecessary stuff, ordered some attractive napkins that didn’t appear to hold too many wrinkles (because I knew ironing them was an unrealistic expectation), and came up with a new routine. We decided we didn’t need a “fresh” napkin every single meal so in-between uses we would just hang our new colorful napkins on the back of our chairs. I also created a new spot in the laundry room for the dirty ones that I would just add to a load of laundry as needed. Let me tell you what – this new routine is easy peasy and not only do we save money on not buying paper napkins, but we also enjoy the more “upscale” feel of using real napkins at the table!
I have the pleasure of working with some great moms at our elementary school on an upcoming school assembly (for the students) that is all about real food! This is something we’ve never done before at our school, and it supports the initiatives for our new Healthy Child and Earth Committee. When we first started planning out the assembly we honestly were not sure where to start – I mean I talk to adults all day long about real food (you guys!), but a couple hundred kids? Some of which are brand new to the topic? So thankfully another local food blogger, Adri Warrick with The Whole Tulip, shared with us that she uses the red light/green light concept from a kids book called Eat Healthy, Feel Great when she talks to the kids at her school. That bit of information was exactly what we needed to get started, and today I want to share a version of our presentation with you that you can easily share with the kids in your life. :)
How To Fuel Your Body
Close your eyes and pretend that you are sitting in the coolest, fastest race car you can imagine. Maybe it’s a red race car or a green one or even a car with racing stripes or flames painted down the sides. Now start up that engine, push your foot down on the gas pedal, and start zooming around the race track. Be sure to watch out for other cars – Vroom Vroom!! Wait a second…you are low on gas, which means it is time for a pit stop. What do you think is the best way to fuel your new high-performance machine? Top quality gasoline of course! Only the best quality will give you the best performance. But what would happen if instead you decided to fill your new race car with gloppy, thick mud? Yuck! How do you think that would make your car perform? How fast would it go? I bet it would be slow and feel weighed down. And that’s because – just like with your own body – the fuel that you use is very important to doing your best. Exercise along with the food you eat impacts how you feel, think, and perform tasks. Without a balanced and healthy diet – tasks like reading, writing, and even thinking can be harder for your body. So today we are going to learn how to make healthy food choices so you know how to “fuel” your body so you can feel and do your best.
Melanie Warner wondered how a piece of individually wrapped cheese could retain its shape, color, and texture for years. She started running this and other “food experiments” in her home, including chicken nuggets that turned to liquid mush, while simultaneously conducting research that took her to food science departments, research labs and factories around the country. A mother and former New York Times business reporter, Melanie offers up a behind the scenes look at the processed food industry in her eye-opening new book, Pandora’s Lunchbox, which just so happens to contain an interview with one of our very own 10-Day Pledge graduates, Darcy Struckmeier and family! How cool is that?
Almost every day on Facebook I share the school lunches that I pack for my daughters and almost every day there are a lot of questions about these lunches. Everything from “Where did you get that container?” to “Can I get that recipe?” to “Where’s the protein?” But lately I’ve been noticing quite a few questions asking what these carefully prepared lunches actually look like come lunchtime – especially after they’ve been tossed all around while in their backpacks and since “liquidy” foods like yogurt or applesauce are involved. Let’s face it, no child keeps their lunch bag or box in one perfect position all day, and that is certainly something I would never expect of my own children. So when I was having lunch with my daughter at school yesterday I (risked looking like a lunatic and) took a bunch of pictures for you! :)
This contest is closed and the winner has been selected. Congrats to… Melissa! She said “I’ve never considered making my own yogurt before. It seems complicated and overwhelming! What a great introduction, I’m interested now!” The best way to control the ingredients in your food and avoid unwanted chemicals is to make items at home …
Making macaroni and cheese from scratch is almost as easy as the boxed stuff. In fact, I had a reader tell me that she and her husband decided to race against each other – one making homemade mac and cheese and the other making it out of a box – and it took them the same amount of time! And as an added bonus the homemade version tastes SO MUCH better (at least in my opinion). To be honest, I can’t even hardly eat the boxed stuff anymore because the taste of the powdered cheese just doesn’t cut it for me like it did in the old days.
I’ve shared a mac and cheese recipe on the blog before, but recently discovered a different way to make it (below). One night I was actually making Fettuccine Alfredo as a side dish, but I didn’t have any fettuccine on hand so I used macaroni noodles instead. My younger daughter said “Oh mommy, thank you for making macaroni and cheese.” (one of her favorites), and I said “Well, this isn’t exactly ‘macaroni’ babe.” But that gave me an idea. Instead of starting with a roux (butter and flour) to make macaroni maybe I could alter my Alfredo recipe and use less cream and lots more cheese for a new, creamy version of macaroni and cheese. And voila! Here you have it below…
Our recent petition asking Kraft to remove artificial dyes from their line of macaroni and cheese has stirred up a lot of discussion about food dyes in general. It’s no secret that mac and cheese is not the only product on the market harboring petroleum-based synthetic food dyes…they are unfortunately in quite a lot of processed foods. I’ve already shared all the reasons I hate these unnecessary – yet potentially harmful – artificial dyes, and our hope is that if Kraft pioneers the change by replacing artificial dyes with natural dyes that other companies will follow suit with their products. But in the mean time, following are the names of the FDA-approved dyes so you can look for (and hopefully avoid) them in food products.
Look for these FD&C (Food Drug & Cosmetic) artificial dyes* on ingredient labels:
Note: This is the “currently approved” list because, unsettling enough, the approval status does change (see below for details).
Red 3 (Approved for food and ingested drugs, but may no longer be used in cosmetics or external drugs)
FD&C Lakes (May be prepared from any of the above certified FD&C colors, except FD&C Red 3)
Citrus Red 2 (For skins of mature oranges and surfaces and casings of frankfurters or sausages)
*Sometimes dyes are also listed as “Artificial Color”
The use of the following FD&C color additives is no longer authorized or restricted for use – that’s right the FDA once thought these were “safe” but have since changed their minds: Green 1, Green 2, Red 1, Red 2, Red 3, Red 4, Violet 1. In fact, if you look at Food, Drugs & Cosmetics in total there are 91 different artificial dyes that were once approved and are now no longer authorized or restricted for use.
This is a guest post by my husband, Jason Leake. To learn more about Jason check out our team page. There’s been a flurry of reports circulating the internet about the so called “Monsanto Protection Act,” so this is a good time to weigh in with our thoughts on GMOs in general and to hopefully …