New Change

Remember how I only allow myself to make one major change every 2 months (you can also look at the “Where do I Begin?” section at the top to get ideas of what changes to make)?  Well, March is upon us so it’s time for the next one.  January was the start of making my own bread, and it’s been great.  I make 3 loaves about every 10 days, and pop them in the freezer until I need them.  Anyway, my next major change is going to be absolutely no food coloring.  I don’t use it often, because we try not to have many processed foods in the house, but sometimes I use it to make green pancakes for St. Patrick’s Day, or for decorating cakes or something.

I was reading some stuff on Wikipedia (so it MUST be true, right) about the kinds of things permitted to be added to our food and it’s horrifying.  Many kinds of artificial colorings are banned in other countries, but not in the states.  Check out the first one listed: Brilliant Blue.

“As a blue color, Brilliant Blue FCF is often found in ice creamcanned processed peas, packet soups, bottled food colorings, icings, ice pops,blue raspberry flavored products, dairy products, sweets[2] and drinks. It is also used in soapsshampoosmouthwash[3] and other hygiene and cosmetics applications. In soil science, Brilliant Blue is applied in tracing studies to visualize infiltration and water distribution in the soil.

Brilliant Blue FCF has previously been banned in AustriaBelgiumDenmarkFranceGermanyGreeceItalySpainSweden, and Switzerlandamong others[citation needed] but has been certified as a safe food additive in the EU and is today legal in most of the countries. It has the capacity for inducing an allergic reaction in individuals with pre-existing moderate asthma.[4] In the United States production exceeds 1 million pounds annually, and daily consumption is around 16 mg per person.[citation needed] Extensive testing has led the National Institutes of Health to conclude that color additives do not cause hyperactivity.[5] “

Does this concern anyone else?  And 1 million pounds annually?  Why is it allowed here and not in those other countries?  Yikes.  Pretty nutso.  Anyway, click on a few other colors and look under “Health and Safety.”  That’s enough to make me use spinach as a green dye, and beets for red, instead of food coloring for the next little while.  Here we go, March and April.  Coloring’s out!

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Homemade Crutons

Do you ever have about a thousand heels from bread loaves lying around your house?  I always do, and I know no one was going to eat them.  I have really missed crutons since I decided to try to limit the processed stuff around here, so I tried to make some.  It turns out to be the easiest thing I’ve ever made.  So fast and so simple.  It literally took 10 minutes start to finish.  I’m pretty sure you can’t mess this one up.  My boys’ naps miraculously overlapped this afternoon, so I had an entire hour to myself to savor these crunchy morsels on a yummy salad for lunch.  I may or may not have watched some junk tv while I ate.  Don’t mind if I do (did!).  I love it when the stars align!

Homemade Crutons

  • 1 cup bread, cubed
  • 1 Tbs olive oil or butter
  • 2 Tbs parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350
  • Toss bread with oil
  • Combine cheese, garlic powder, and onion powder, and then mix with bread
  • Spread on a cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes, or until bread is golden brown

I was too greedy to share these with anyone, and I savored every bite.  Man, I love a crunch in my salad.  It adds so much.  I put the leftovers in a plastic bag to use the rest of the week.  I’ve seen many recipes call for an entire loaf of bread, and you make a big batch, but for me this was just a simple way of using some leftovers for a few single servings.

Okay, now for the No Processed Foods Challenge Update.  Original rules can be found here, but this time around I am being a little bit more lax.  Instead of absolutely no sugar, I am allowing sugar in small amounts as long as it is in something I made from scratch.  Like the spinach muffins from earlier this week, or even oatmeal cookies.  I know sugar itself is processed, but I need to have a little bit of wiggle room, and it makes me feel better than having Chips Ahoy or ingredients I can’t pronounce.  Having said that, I am not planning on having that stuff every day.  It’s just for a special treat every now and then.  That’s basically the only modification.  Everything else is the same.

 

 

 

What’s for Dinner Wednesday

Wow, I don’t know why I feel so slammed this week.  It’s taken me forever to get back in the swing of things since the holidays.  I have so many things on my to do list, and a million things running through my head that I want to talk about on here, but I can’t seem to get organized!  Bear with me…I’ll get it together soon.  Anyway, one thing I AM managing to accomplish is an occassional meal for the fam.  🙂  Tonight we had a delicious combo of vegetable chowder and spinach muffins.  Yes, there is sugar in the muffins, despite my no processed food challenge.  I have more to say on this subject, which I will tackle tomorrow so stay tuned.  For now, just ignore that little detail and enjoy these yummy recipes.


Cheesy Vegetable Chowder (originally adapted from For the Love of Cooking)

  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 sweet yellow onion, diced
  • 1 cup of carrots, diced finely
  • 2-3 stalks of celery, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp flour (divided)
  • 6 cups of homemade vegetable or chicken broth
  • 2 cups of potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 2/3 cup of milk
  • 2 cups of broccoli florets
  • 2 heaping cups of sharp cheddar, shredded

Directions

  1. Heat the butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat.
  2. Once the butter has melted add the onions, carrots, and celery then sauté for 3-4 minutes.
  3. Add the minced garlic then cook, stirring constantly for 1 minute.
  4. Add 1 tablespoon of flour then stir until well combined and cook for 1 minute.
  5. Add the vegetable or chicken broth and mix well.
  6. Add the potatoes then cover with a lid and simmer for 35-40 minutes; add the broccoli florets and cook for an additional 15-20 minutes or until all of the vegetables are softened.
  7. Add the last tablespoon of flour to the cheese and toss to coat evenly then add to the soup along with the milk.
  8. Stir frequently until the cheese has melted and is well combined. If you want an even thicker soup, mix some broth with some corn starch to make a slurry then add to the soup and stir until thickened.

Consensus

The Mr.: Liked it

Me: Loved it

The Wild One: Ate about half of it, and I had to put it over bread for him to eat it.

Tornado: 50% in his mouth, 50% on the floor.

***

Spinach Muffins (orginally adapted from Weelicious)

  • 1/2 Cup Unsweetened Applesauce
  • 1 Large Egg
  • 2 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1 Cup Fresh Spinach, packed
  • 1/3 Cup Sugar
  • 2 Tbsp Vegetable or Canola Oil
  • 1 1/2 Cups All Purpose Flour (I used whole wheat)
  • 1 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1/2 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1/2 tsp Salt

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Place the first 6 ingredients in a food processor and puree.
  3. Place the remaining ingredients in a separate bowl and combine.
  4. Pour the spinach puree in a large mixing bowl.
  5. Slowly mix the dry ingredients into the wet until combined.
  6. Scoop batter into a greased mini muffin tin, filling each cup 2/3 of the way.
  7. Bake for 12 minutes.

Consensus

The Mr.: He had to leave town before he could taste it!  Oh well, more for me.

Me: Double yum.  I had two.

The Wild One: “Mommy, these muffins are super delicious.”  Also had two.

Tornado:  I taught him how to say, “mmmm” and he ate a half.

BREAD SUCCESS 1st Edition

Well…it’s only semi-true.  This recipe makes 3 loaves and one out of three turned out perfect.  The other two…a little substandard.  BUT, one of them was beautiful!  So the question is – What did I do differently?  Absolutely no idea.  I’m going to try again this week and see if I really am getting better, or if that was just a fluke.  Ha!  As it turns out, it was the Rose Bowl and we had to cheer on our Oregon Ducks so we had a few friends over.  They all sampled the bread, and it was a success.  I have mixed feelings, because I’ve had so many failures that I don’t want to get my hopes up, but on the other hand, I am thrilled I actually made a loaf that worked out!!  It IS possible!  We were so caught up in the excitement that I failed to take a picture of the beauteous loaf, so we’re stuck with a few slices.


Here’s the recipe from whole food kids (her kids are cute, huh?  all TEN of them!).

Whole Wheat Oatmeal Bread (makes 6 loaves)

Ingredients

  • 7-½ cups warm water
  • 2 tablespoons and 1-½ teaspoons active dry yeast
  • ¾ cup honey
  • ¾ cup butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons and 1-½ teaspoons salt
  • ¾ cup nonfat dry milk powder
  • 15½ cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup vital wheat gluten
  • 2 cups quick-cooking oats

Directions

1. Preheat over to 350 degrees F. In very large bowl, combine warm water, yeast and honey. Let yeast dissolve for about 5 minutes.

2. Add remaining ingredients. Stir to combine, then knead on floured counter for about ten minutes, adding more flour if needed to form a soft ball that sticks to itself.

3. Place in a greased bowl, cover with moist towel and let rise until doubled in bulk, about an hour.

4. Punch down and knead for one minute, then form into six loaves and place in well-greased bread pans. Cover with a moist towel and let rise until doubled in bulk, 30 to 45 minutes.

5. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until bread is golden brown.

6. Take out of pans and let cook on racks.

mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.  Slap some yummy jam and or butter and honey on that baby and you will swear off Atkins forever!!

ps – Today marks day one for the No Processed Foods Challenge.  More on that later this week.

Happy New Year! And Resolutions!

Hey everyone.  I hope you are all safe tonight and have a smashing time ringing in the New Year!  The Wild One caught a little stomach bug so we are keeping it pretty low-key this year.  Once the kids are snuggled in their beds The Mr. and I are cozying up with a movie and some homemade ice cream (recipe coming soon!).

I am starting up the No Processed Foods Challenge again this week…Probably about January 4th because it will take me that long to get my act together.  Feel free to join me!  Even if you only decide to do it for 3 days, or for a week.  You have four days to talk yourself into it.  You will feel a HUGE difference.  I have been noticing the side effects of “eating normally” again – most notably that I can’t run as fast or far without cramping or not being able to breathe. 🙂

Here are some of Granola Mom’s New Year’s Resolutions:

+ Take better pictures!  I am signed up for a photography class and am so excited about it!

+ Read one book a month minimum – Sounds pretty lame, but you’d be surprised at how hard it is for me to find the time/energy to do this!

+ Get more sleep – Going to try to be in bed by 10:30, which seems absolutely impossible as I am typing this.  When there is a will, there’s a way!

I have a couple more personal ones I am working on too, but that’s the gist of it.  Notice how there is nothing in there about my body, weight, or diet.  Feel free to jump on that bandwagon and find more emotionally healthy goals.

Here’s to Health and Happiness in the New Year from the Granola Fam!

Homemade Graham Crackers – No Sugar!

Once we cut back on the processed food, we cut out graham crackers.  😦 I think my kids were pretty sad ( and I was too).  It’s the standard toddler snack!  It has been a tricky adjustment, because crackers are such an easy and tasty snack.   But Nabisco Honey Grahams have partially hydrogenated soybean oil and that stuff is junk.  So, we’ve just gone without, until TODAY!  I tried making these from scratch, and it went pretty well.

Homemade Graham Crackers

(Originally Adapted from Megan at Food and Whine)

  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 tbsp molasses
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tbsp ground flax seed

Directions

1.  Mix the oil, honey, milk, molasses and vanilla.  In a large bowl, combine 2 cups of the flour, baking powder and flax.

2.  Combine the wet and dry ingredients.  Slowly add the remaining flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until the dough is no longer sticky.

3.  Roll out the dough as evenly as possible directly onto a greased baking sheet.  I just flipped mine over and used the back since it doesn’t have a lip.  Poke holes in the dough with a fork.

4.  Bake at 350F for 10-15 minutes until lightly browned.

The Wild One helped me make it and he ate the dough and the crackers.  They taste pretty different than the store bought crackers, but they are still pretty good.  It’s nice to have an option of a non-sticky, non-juicy snack we can eat on the go.  Saturdays are starting to become my food prep day a little bit.  I make bread, muffins, granola, or whatever else to last us through the week.  This switch has been such a challenge, but we are slowly starting to get the hang of things.

No-processed-Food Challenge Update:  The challenge officially ended last night.  We had a small dinner party here last night, where we had some dessert, and a little bit of processed food in the main course.  I…felt…horrible after everyone left.  My stomach was upset, I was bloated, and I just felt…gross.  It’s so crazy to me!  I was eating like that on a daily basis and probably felt like that on a daily basis, not realizing that I felt horrible.  That was my normal.  I am a believer in this stuff.  It is really changing our lives a little bit at a time.

What’s for Dinner Wednesday – Vegetarian Edition

My very most favorite thing about Thanksgiving is the sweet potatoes.  They are almost good enough for me to hide them under my bed and eat them in the middle of the night.  I loooooove them.  I was so excited to find this recipe that doesn’t have brown sugar.  It fits in my food challenge, and honestly it tasted like it had brown sugar!

Sweet Potato Casserole

(originally adapted from 100 days of real food)

Potatoes

  • 2 medium to large sweet potatoes
  • 3 tablespoons butter, preferably unsalted
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
Topping
  • 1 cup pecans, chopped
  • 1/3 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 4 tablespoons butter, preferably unsalted
  • 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Peel, cube and boil sweet potatoes until tender. If you cut the cubes small enough (1 ½” to 2”) they shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes. Drain potatoes.
  3. Add the butter, vanilla, milk, egg and syrup to potatoes and mash/mix together by hand with a potato masher or fork or you can use an electric mixer.
  4. Transfer mashed potato mixture to a square casserole dish.
  5. Mix together the pecans and flour for the topping. Melt the butter and syrup together and stir into the pecan mixture.
  6. Evenly spread pecan topping on top of the potatoes in casserole dish.
  7. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until bubbly.

On the side we had:

Roasted Green Beans with Parmesan Cheese

  • 3-4 cups fresh green beans
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Wash greenbeans and break the ends off.
  3. Spread them out on a cookie sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, toss them so it gets evenly coated.
  4. Place in oven for 10 minutes
  5. Remove and toss vegetables again.
  6. Cook for another 5 minutes.  Remove and sprinkle with parmesan cheese

Consensus:

The Mr.:  Loved it

Me:  I normally hate green beans, especially fresh, but these have a completely different flavor.  I honestly loved it.

Both Boys:  Could not have cared less, although I did find Tornado choking on one he found on the floor a few hours later.