Monday, November 22, 2010

Simple Make-Ahead Creamy Oatmeal

Oatmeal is well known as a wonder food, offering many health benefits including reducing cholesterol.  It is a whole grain food, full of minerals, fiber, and a good source of protein.  And not only is oatmeal good for us, it is also absolutely delicious! 

The really unfortunate thing is that instead of real oatmeal, many people are eating those pouches of  overly refined, super-sweetened "instant" oatmeal.  If you look at the nutrition panel on a simple flavor of a popular brand of pouch oatmeal such as maple and brown sugar, you will find that one tiny pouch contains about two teaspoons of sugar, along with a few chemical additives.  If you really want a wake-up call about the kind of fooling around food companies are doing with our food, look at the nutrition panel on a popular brand of "peaches 'n cream" flavored instant oatmeal.  What is all that stuff?  Why does it need to have so many chemicals?  It doesn't even have anything vaguely resembling peaches in it! 

What makes this even more sad is that it is so incredibly simple to make quick to heat, portable oatmeal where you have total control over what goes into it. 

Mmmmmmmmmmmmmm!  For my easy way to ditch the pouch and take control of your oatmeal, click "read more"!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Bountiful Butternuts!

At the risk of appearing to be an "all squash, all the time" blog....

Well, after all, it is Fall, and squash are in season!  Part of the idea behind "slow" food is eating locally and seasonally when possible.  That's not always an easy task in some climates, like here in Wisconsin, but even in this chilly weather we do have a few really delicious foods, such as today's feature, the butternut squash.

To check out my simple, quick, and practical way to prepare butternut squash, click "read more"!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Food, Inc.

No time to cook anything for the blog tonight, but I wanted to talk a little bit about one of my favorite movies, Food, Inc., as well as the related book of essays also called Food, Inc.

Food, Inc. is an Oscar-nominated documentary about the modern food industry, and I highly recommend it.  Please don't get the impression that this movie sets out to make us all vegans, or to make us sick with depictions of animal cruelty.  The contributors to this film aren't vegans or even vegetarians as far as I know.  Animal cruelty is shown, but not with PETA-like motives, and without beating the point into the ground.  Food manufacturers would have us believe that the meat and eggs we get at the grocery store come from farms full of happy animals.  Many even depict barns and farm scenes in their logos.  Most of us (including myself, until fairly recently) take their word for it and put the products in our shopping carts.  Food, Inc. simply depicts the food industry as it really is, and, most importantly, offers viable real-world alternatives that do not involve giving up eating meat.  Remember, I'm a pragmatist...I know there is no chance of a mass movement to vegetarianism!  Besides, bacon (in moderation) is yummy!

The idea is that we should all know where our food comes from, what's in it, and the politically motivated (but non-partisan...both sides are similar on this issue) reasons behind the ingredients that go into our food.  We should all know how the foods at the grocery store are made, and know what our options are to avoid undesireable ingredients and practices. 

Some of my food heroes appear in this movie, including Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore's Dilemma, and a farmer named Joel Salatin, who is just incredible.

I've seen this movie probably three times now, and I get re-inspired each time.  Despite the difficult topic, Food, Inc. is absolutely uplifting and inspiring!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

What do I do with all these seeds?!!

Okay, so you've butchered your pumpkins and you have all these seeds.  Now what?

Home made roasted pumpkin seeds, that's what!  They're delicious, nutritious, and highly addictive.  They are loaded with minerals, fiber, and protein.  They can be enjoyed as a savory or a sweet snack.  And they don't even have to be sugar pumpkin seeds.  Seeds from any type of pumpkin or hard winter squash will work!  I mix in acorn squash seeds, butternut squash seeds, whatever I have on hand.  Roasted pumpkin seeds can be used to top salads, mixed into cereal, incorporated into home made trail mix, or just eaten by the handful. 

To see how they get from here:

to crunchy and delicious, click "read more"!

Fall Fun...Preparing Sugar (a/k/a Pie) Pumpkins!

Fall is here, so I thought it would be appropriate to start with a post about pumpkins!  Pumpkin may not seem like the most exciting thing in the world, but the fact is that it is incredibly nutritious and delicious.  One cup of prepared pumpkin only has about 50 fat free calories, is packed with Potassium and Vitamin A, and is a good source of fiber.

Pumpkin puree is not only for pumpkin pie!  It can be used in fantastic muffins, quick bread, pancakes, waffles, soup, and oatmeal, just to name a few things.  Another thing many people use it for is to replace up to half the fat in recipes for baked goods.  Its relatively mild flavor means that, for example, 1/2 cup mixed into a batch of chocolate chip cookies that calls for 1 cup butter, will not much affect the taste, but will add nutrients and enough moisture that you can reduce the butter to 1/2 cup. 

Of course you can buy the canned pumpkin puree, which isn't a bad product because it does not typically contain lots of additives and chemicals like some packaged foods.  But preparing your own pumpkin puree is incredibly easy and fun, and can be done without fancy gadgets, with kitchen essentials almost everyone already has.  It also comes with an added benefit you can't get from canned pumpkin--seeds to roast!  Yum!  More information on roasting the seeds will follow in a separate post.

I will typically prepare several pumpkins using the method below, then measure the puree into either 1/2 cup or 1 cup portions, put the portions in baggies, put the baggies into a zipper freezer bag, and freeze them for use whenever I need pumpkin.

I believe everybody who is interested in healthy, minimally processed food should try preparing their own pumpkin at least once.  I started doing it last year and am completely hooked!

This is my bounty of sugar pumpkins and butternut squash given to me last weekend by a friend who grows them.

To see my practical, fun, and easy method to prepare the pumpkins (squash coming soon in a separate post), click on the "read more" button!