Product Love: Breakfast and Snacks

Lately I’ve been drowning deep in school work and actual professional career work with little time to actually have something I’m pretty sure other people in this world call a “life”. So my dear friends, I apologize for the long bursts of time that go between post and post.

In sight of my apologies though, I wanted to  introduce a little series of product love and shout outs to the products that I stick by on a weekly basis whether it be additional to my lunch sack or a standard breakfast I enjoy most mornings. The series will feature GMO-Free, organic, or great substitutes for your favorite large corporate brand products.

Lets start off with some Breakfast and Snack Love:

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1. Whirlybird Granola: Locally produced granola with just the right amount sweetness and saltiness and a whole lot of wholesome ingredients. The price is pretty average for a packaged granola, but it lasts a long time and is worth every penny. The Original and Vanilla Berry are my top two favorites, but the seasonal Gingerbread is extra special. Pair it with yogurt, celery and peanut butter, oatmeal, mix it into homemade bread, or stop on the west side at Zip Dip and make it your topping of choice on a soft serve swirl in a bowl.

2. Chobani Greek Yogurt: Although Chobani has faced tough critics on the factual basis if they use milk from cows that have a diet free from genetically modified products, they still stay focused on their mission to use hormone free milk, non-gmo products, and all natural ingredients. Their #howmatters press release really shows their concern for the public and what they’re putting into their products. The yogurt is delicious, thick, and tastes great by itself, covered with berries, or as an individual ingredient in soups, cakes, sauces, and any place you would use sour cream.

3. Nature’s Path Whole O’s: They’re like your favorite box of Cheerios, except they taste a little nuttier and aren’t filled with extra shelf life extenders and genetically modified corn starch.
Pair with: Blueberries, a banana, and milk or toss in some chopped nuts and chia seeds

4. Bob’s Red Mill Oats: Bob’s Red Mill produces a good portion of grains, flours, cereals, rices, and even mixes that are all-natural and mostly organic. Their line of oats would have to be my favorite product since they work well in all sorts of preparations and don’t become gluey like many other oat products out there. I really enjoy their oats as an ingredient in bread or cooked up hot with milk and a dash of salt and then topped with fresh or dried fruit and nuts, peanut butter, or butter and a little brown sugar.

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1. Nature’s path Honey Nut Crunch Bars: These are almost like Nature Valley’s crunchy oat bars, but have fewer ingredients and are just a touch saltier than Nature Valley’s.
Crumble on top of yogurt, toss into your lunch sack for a quick snack, or stash in the car for when traffic is backed up and dinner time is nowhere in sight.

2. Snyder’s of Hanover Multigrain Twists: Snyder’s of Hanover produces a large amount of various products, however, these are my favorite. The twists have a nice crunch and that sourdough “pretzely” taste that you come to expect and have a generous amount of fiber and whole grains. Snyder’s also carries an organic version of the twists, but the regular ones are just as good.
Dip them in peanut butter, hummus, or a peppered goat cheese, pair with lunch meat and cheese, or just eat them as is.

3. Annie’s Snacks: My favorite Annie’s products are the bunny snacks…savory and sweet flavors all shaped in the form of a bunny. The cheddar bunnies are a great substitute if you’re a big fan of Peppridge Farm’s Gold Fish and the grams are great for Teddy Graham lovers.

4. Peanut Butter and Company Peanut Butter: Peanut Butter and Company possibly produces one of the best all-natural peanut butter selections with 10 different kinds that you can choose from. My favorites are the standards: smooth operator and crunch time.

5. Terra Sweet Potato Chips: I have never been a fan of chips unless a plate of the tortilla chips from Chipotle or Nada have been set in front of me. However, Terra chips are a different story. Whether you prefer the mixed root vegetables or plain sweet potato chips, Terra’s chips are just darn good. Not too one note, not to sweet, and not too salty…you can also feel pretty good about yourself and healthier as you eat them.

 

 What are your favorite products by these companies or what products do you enjoy to much on for breakfast or snacking?

When Experiments Turn into Good Deals

For just about a year I’ve stood tall on an almost radical soapbox randomly voicing my opinions to you dear readers and people who have asked me questions (or not…sorry parents) about dietary choices. I apologize if I’ve bored you, I apologize if I’ve annoyed you, and I apologize if you’ve had to personally deal with my at home crazy antics.

I can tell you that this past year has been interesting and I’ve learned a lot about myself, the people around me, as well as the ever evolving food and farming industry. So now, standing here a year later…here’s an update:

1. I still avoid GMO’s as much as possible, every now and then there is a slip up (some soybeans) but I’m still pretty much there. I’m very big on not eating anything with HFCS in it as well as any product with an ingredient list that reads like a Chemistry experiment.

2. All beef is gone. Beef in its most true form had been removed from my diet a year and a half or so ago after constant bouts of sickness and the food poisoning incident that pretty much turned me off forever, however, over the past year I have excluded gelatin as well. I do still partake in everything dairy…milk, yogurt, Dojo Gelato, cheese…oh how I love cheese (cow, goat, cashew)

3. All Pork is gone. No bacon, no pork belly…crazy I tell you. It’s not missed. At this point I’ve settled myself at just being a fish and poultry girl, however, for Lent I’ve put myself up to the challenge of giving up chicken. I’m not sure if I’m not thinking or that the overkill of studying I’m doing for school (yay school again) is just taking over too much of my brain power.

4. Hormone free is still a top priority for me especially since I’m trying to manage my Thyroid levels. The family has been slightly on board with this and even welcomed a hormone free, free-range turkey into our traditional Thanksgiving feast. Sustainability and humaneness are also top priority.

5. Somehow I’ve found my way to tofu…

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…..and I like it!

Seared Tofu with Soy, Vegetables, and rice
Recipe adapted from One Two Simple Cooking

Sauce:
1/3 cup Soy Sauce
2 tsp Sesame Oil
2 T Brown Sugar
2 T Water
1 tsp chili flakes
1 T Scallions, shiffonade
1 T Fresh Ginger, grated
2 tsp Sesame Seeds

1. Combine the ingredients in a bowl, microwave until the brown sugar has dissolved (a short time, maybe 20-30 seconds). Set aside.

Components:
Serves 2-4
6 each medium Carrots, sliced or bias cut
3 cups Broccoli crowns
1 cup Snap Peas, bias cut
1/2 medium Onion, sliced
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1 pkg Tofu, firm pressed, sliced into a 1/2 in pieces (I recommend Nasoya brand)
or chicken or pork, diced
1/4 cup Tbsp Peppers, red or yellow, diced
1/2 cup corn kernals

3 Picked Radish, sliced
Rice, brown or jasmine

1. Prepare a sheet pan by lining it with paper towels. Drain the tofu and slice it into 1/2 in pieces, place on the paper towels and gently salt, top with more paper towels. Set aside for about 5-10 minutes, remove the paper towels.
2. Cut all of your vegetables. In a medium heated and oiled pan, saute your carrots until fork tender. Place in a bowl and set aside. Next add the garlic, onion, snap peas, and broccoli into an oiled pan and saute until fork tender. Place in a separate bowl and set aside.
3. In another well oiled and medium heated pan, begin to sear the tofu. After you’ve placed the tofu in the pan give it a light drizzle of your sauce. Cook it for about 2 minutes each side or until golden brown, place on another plate lined with a paper towel to remove excess oil.
4. Assembly: In a bowl place a small scoop of rice at the bottom. Add the cooked vegetables, diced peppers, corn, pickled radish, and tofu. Drizzle with sauce and dig in!

 

Winter Weather Break

Winter is coming…winter is here….winter is never ending. I’m sure you’ve heard stories about or witnessed the wintry mix of a ton of ice and snow that has whipped across the US these past few months…if not, I believe that you might be living under a rock. We’ve over-passed records, lost feeling in our hands from gripping steering wheels too tight, and have cursed at the sky one too many times, but we’ve hit a plateau it’s seemed.

Our weather hit a high of 50 today so that mean that winter is finally over? It may be or it may not be, but something I can assure you of is that this soup I’m about to share with you is super delicious, extra healthy, full of flavor, and a sure fire way to get rid of any illness that might stricken you as the season begins to change!

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Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup
Adapted from Whole Foods Carrot-Ginger Soup

1 medium onion, diced
2 ribs of celery, diced
2 tbsp minced fresh Ginger
3 cloves of Garlic, minced
1.5 lbs Carrots, peeled and diced
2 large Sweet Potatoes, peeled and diced
1 large Potato, peeled and diced
1 Tbsp Cumin
5 cups vegetable or chicken stock
Salt and Pepper

1. In a large pot, sweat the onion and celery in olive oil until translucent, add the garlic and ginger as well as a touch of salt and saute until cooked. Add the carrots, sweet potatoes, and potato to the pot and cook for about 5 minutes.
2. Add in cumin and mix well. Pour in the stock, increase the heat, and bring the liquid to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered for about 25 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. In small batches, puree the vegetables until smooth, adding additional liquid if necessary. Once everything is smooth, combine together and season with salt and pepper to taste with a touch of sugar if needed.
3. Pour in a bowl and top with cheese (goat for me) or diced roasted vegetables. Enjoy with a piece of bread or by itself.

Kitchen Malfunctions and the Bread that Almost Wasn’t

We were positive the oven would blow. Ten minutes of a the screen flashing F10 and beeping uncontrollably, the oven randomly rising in temperature, and nothing available to stop it.

All I wanted to do that day was set the oven to 350F so I could do my average Saturday ritual of making bread and roast some root vegetables…and now our kitchen was going to explode and my parents were going to be pissed. Great.

We ran around the kitchen looking for the Kenmore manual for out oven purchased back in the early 2000′s…a manual that lead to be no help at all. So in our still frantic moment, with the beeping still protruding from the oven we called the Sears help-line…and did you know that when you call, if you don’t allow them to send out a service technician they’ll direct you to managemylife.com. What a way to end a conversation with a client.

The website was no use…so we went straight for the circuit board trying multiple combinations of switched until the beeping stopped….that’s all we needed…for the flipping beeping to stop. Off went the entire breaker and it took the beeping with it.

It was just a circuit malfunction, but it taught us three lessons….1. Just hit the breaker 2. Some customer service places aren’t worth contacting 3. Learn to laugh at yourself during moments of pandemonium and appliance craziness 

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Cinnamon Sugar Cherry Bread
Adapted from Pastry Affair 
Luckily the bread was pulled out of the oven in time since a portion of the roll’s tops darkened just a bit, however, even if I did have some slight casualities…these things are delicious. Slather them with butter or peanut butter, top with a cream cheese frosting, or eat them as they are. They have a yeasty brioche taste (without being a brioche dough) and just the right amount of sweetness….try eating just one…I dare you. 

2 Tsp yeast, dry active
1 cup milk, warmed
1/3 cup water, warmed
2 T honey
1 1/2 tsp salt, kosher
1/4 cup butter or coconut oil, melted
3/4 cup dried cherries
2 Cups bread flour
1.5 Cup white whole wheat flour

Filling:
3-4 Tbsp Cinnamon Sugar
1 egg, whisked

1. Mix the warmed milk and water together in a bowl and add the yeast to it. Allow this mixture to settle for 10 minutes to allow the yeast to feed. In a mixing bowl, combine the the flour, sugar, salt, butter/oil, and liquid mixture. Knead the dough with a dough hook, wooden spoon, or your hands for about 5 minutes. Add the dried cherries and knead for another 3 minutes.

2. Allow to rise, covered for 1 hour until the dough has doubled. Punch down and place on a floured board. Roll the dough to an evenly thick consistency and then brush it with egg wash.  Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar all over. Take the end of the dough closest to you and roll it tightly towards the other side.

3. Set the oven to 350F

4. If you’re making the bread loaf style: Place the rolled dough in a prepared bread pan and allow it to rise an additional 30 minutes. Let it bake for about 40 minutes or until it sounds hollow.

If you’re making rolls: Slice the rolled dough into 1 inch segments and place them in a prepared pan or pie dish and allow to rise for an additional 30 minutes. Brush with any remaining egg wash. Bake for 20- 25 minutes.

On Bitter Cold Walks and Schooling

Every now and then I write about more than food, dining, and life adventures. It’s part of that growing up thing that stands behind what my blog is all about. Sometimes I’ll include a recipe (most likely bread) and other times it’ll just be words. This is one of those posts.

For the past few weeks I’ve been briskly making my way through the 10 minute walk from my parking garage to work. Briskly because our temperatures here in the Midwest have been drastically frigid, bitterly cold enough to make any piece of skin freeze upon contact to the wind. For some reason or another during my walk, my mind has drifted towards my high school days….possibly due to the thoughts of my crazy teenage self walking into school or being at band practice with temps like these in my usual skirt and knee-high socks. I’m still curious to how I have all of my limbs.

The point of this whole thing is…my ultimate expression of hatred towards my high school and Catholic schooling.

In Cincinnati when a person questions the school you attended they are not referring to the usual college or university, they’re referring to your high school and then promptly begin to make their accusations about you all in one sitting. Whenever I face this question, I reply, but back track to state that although I went to a certain school, I wished that I hadn’t or that I spent my days being home schooled. My thoughts though, in a nutshell are a hit to my parents who paid for a good Catholic education and not entirely true. Through a large part of high school I dealt with bullies, the ones who nitpick you to the bone, suggest that you go “kill yourself” because you’re a worthless loser, and create drama where it isn’t necessary all because you cannot be controlled by one or a party of people or because you’re quiet and available to become a scapegoat. It was devastating…so much to the fact that a good part of me lost a lot of faith and trust in people

For a while I firmly thought that being at a different school would have made a difference, but it really wouldn’t have because there would have always been someone around causing trouble or not accepting me for who I am. However, realizing this hasn’t made a difference in the fact that I will never attend a reunion or alumni event or show any support for the school. Realizing this also hasn’t changed the way I feel about my shaken faith (the fake personalities of devout Catholics, my former grandmother, and those nasty people who bullied me really set my mindset).

And then, as my mind always does…I began thinking even more about why I should leave my poor thoughts of schooling behind and why I should find something that was worth it. I did, of course through the words of Albus Dumbledore, ” Help will always be given at Hogwarts, Harry, to those who ask for it. I’ve always prized myself on my ability to turn a phrase. Words are, in my not so humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury and remedying it. But I would in this case amend my original statement to this; help will always be given at Hogwarts to those who deserve it.”

About 80% of my teachers fell into following this action…giving help to those who deserved or needed it even if they didn’t formally ask for it. I had teachers who stood there and helped me whenever I needed it, even if this meant allowing me to eat my brown bagged lunch in their classrooms and silently study because they found out that I ate my lunch alone in the auditorium and library which were both way too lonely. They were the teachers who taught me valuable lessons, a great education, and facts that I can actually keep with me and remember for the rest of my life. They helped make my days at school easier and  helped shape my school experience into something not as bad as I thought, but for some reason I hadn’t thought about that until now. They never received credit that they actually deserve.

These cold morning walks have been good for something….making me realize how much hatred I had been filled with. Hatred that has blinded me into seeing the good that my high school had given me, the education that my teachers and parents helped me with. They’ve also made me realize that I just need to let things go, forget my hatred, and move on without looking back.