Monday
Sep292014

Coming Soon: October #Unprocessed

 

I do my best to be honest with you guys, so have a confession to make. As much as I pride myself on creating home cooked meals from scratch, in the past year I've slowly let processed foods creep back into our diet. Sometimes I wasn't even aware of this happening. In one instance our preferred brand of "natural" peanut butter changed the ingredients and I didn't even notice. What in the past only contained peanuts and salt now has palm oil, which is a type of highly processed vegetable oil. The whole purpose of my purchasing natural peanut butter is that it is supposed to be, well, natural. It isn't supposed to be loaded down with sugar or contain highly processed ingredients.

That was the first offender I noticed. After a not so quick reorganization of my pantry I realized I had been slowly filling it with less than healthy items as I stocked up for winter. We've had some very expensive home repairs this year and because of this I've been cutting corners where I can. Many of the items I've recently purchased were less expensive than my normal brands, but also contain more non-food ingredients. I have to stop cutting corners with food, it's as simple as that. These items I've been stocking up on may be less expensive, but they're not really, not if you think about what these types of food are doing to our health. 

My takeaway from this is that I need to make some huge changes to our diet. We're eating a lot more processed food that I ever thought possible. I need to go back to reading the ingredients of every item, every time I go shopping. While they aren't something that frequently change, manufacturers do sometimes make changes to save money during production. It happens, it's up to me to keep an eye on the situation and stop purchasing those items with non-food ingredients. To help facilitate this change I decided I was going to participate in October #Unprocessed, a month-long challenge to eat only foods that have no processed ingredients. Andrew Wilder, who started the challenge in 2009, even has what he calls the kitchen test, to help make the determination of what is really an unprocessed food. 

What is the Kitchen Test?

"Unprocessed food is any food that could be made by a person with reasonable skill in a home kitchen with whole-food ingredients."

In other words, if you find an ingredient that you'd never be able to make yourself, it is a processed food. Sounds pretty simple to me, but as I've been reading I've discovered that there are many ingredients that I use frequently that don't pass the kitchen test. All-purpose flour, sugar, and chocolate are some of the biggest offenders you'll find in my pantry, but I'm also prone to stocking up on enriched dried pasta, taco shells, tortillas, and various condiments like mayo, BBQ sauce, and ketchup. 

My goals for the month

Naturally I expect this to evolve over time, but to start out with I want to double check all of the items that are in my pantry and make sure they pass the kitchen test. I'll give away what items I can, but for the most part I'll be consuming my processed food items in moderation (once October is over) until they are gone. They will then be added to the list of things I don't allow in the house. I do keep a list of those sorts of things, I've just been lazy about updating and following it. 

If I were in a position where I could afford to donate my processed food to the food pantry I would, but our grocery budget for our family of 3 is only $300 per month, that doesn't give us a lot of wiggle room. The biggest part of this challenge is that I don't have the ability to increase my grocery budget to make room for healthier options. I have $300 to work with, $50 goes to my parents for our beef, $40 is spent on organic milk for my toddler, which leaves us with $210. It's a tight budget that leaves no room for waste, but we make it work the best we can.

I would also like to come up with a list of deliberate exceptions to the kitchen test. There are a few items, such as baking powder and citric acid that don't pass the kitchen test that I absolutely can not live without. My husband would also stage a revolt if I switched over to brown rice again. Brown rice may be the healthier option, but no one in this house particularly enjoys it. Food is meant to be both nourishing and enjoyable, so I'll happily make this exception. I will keep my exception list small. My goal is 5 items or less, but I'm not sure that is reasonable. We'll find out in 31 days.

I want to explore making less process condiments because they've been an endless source of frustration for me. I'm having an incredibly hard time finding sweet relish and ketchup that isn't full of High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS). I'm going to attempt to make both of these items and see if I can do so in a cost efficient manner. Currently we minimize the amount of condiments we use, but I find that I really miss them.

I want to determine how much added sugar I consume in a week and work to reduce that amount. I'm sure I still consume an appalling amount of sugar, I have a huge sweet tooth.

Above all else I want to learn from my mistakes. I know I'll have food cravings this month, I may even give in to them at some point, but the key to maintaining a well-balanced diet will be moderation and determination. 

How to take part in October #Unprocessed

If you're interested in joining me in October #Unprocessed head over to Eating Rules and take the pledge. As a bonus for signing up you'll be sent an assortment of printable coupons from Bob's Red Mill to help you stock your pantry with unprocessed foods.

Saturday
Sep272014

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus #MezzettaMixer House Party

In honor of my son's third birthday I thought I'd share a recipe for one of his (and my) all time favorite snack foods. We go through an obscene amount of hummus in this household. Our flavor choices tend to run a pretty wide gamut, but we always seem to come back to roasted red pepper. When I decide to make up a batch it's generally gone in under ten minutes.

We can be such gluttons sometimes (please don't judge me!)

I've been slowly tweaking the recipe and my latest addition, a combination of smoked paprika and cayenne pepper, really makes the flavor stand out far above anything you'll find at the supermarket. It's absolutely addictive and comes together quickly (which is doubly dangerous if you're a glutton like me, I just thought I should warn you.) It's great for last minute company, or can be made a few days in advance for the times you have a mass of hungry people descending on your home. I'll be whipping up a double batch to feed the hungry hoard we have visiting for the party and I bet it's gone not long after it hits the table. This is one dish that never has leftovers.

I would like to thank Mezzetta and House Party for the awesome box of goodies they sent me for the Mix it Up with Mezzetta House Party on Saturday, 27th September. I was able to experiment with ingredients I haven't worked with before and my guests got to go home with some pretty nifty swag. Keep your eyes peeled for my Antipasto recipe, also using Mezzetta ingredients, I'll be posting it soon.

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus
makes 4 servings 

Ingredients

15 ounces canned garbanzo beans, no salt added 
1 cup Mezzetta roasted red peppers or roast your own pepper (see notes)
3 tablespoons lemon juice, fresh
2 tablespoons tahini
1 clove garlic, minced
½ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon cumin, ground
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper 
¼ teaspoon smoked paprika, ground 

optional

1 teaspoon parsley, dried
2 tablespoons olive oil

Directions 

  • Drain and rinse garbanzo beans, be sure to remove any skins that remain attached.
  • In a food processor or blender combine the garbanzo beans, red peppers, lemon juice, tahini, garlic, sea salt, cumin, cayenne pepper, and smoked paprika. Pulse or blend until smooth.
  • Optional: top with additional red peppers, dried parsley, and olive oil. If using olive oil you'll want to add it just before serving since olive oil turns cloudy and hardens when refrigerated.
  • Serve with pita chips, flat bread, or an assortment of fresh veggies.

Notes

If you don't want to used jarred roasted red peppers you can roast your own. Substitute 1 whole red bell pepper (peeled and chopped) for the cup of Mezzetta roasted red peppers.

Disclosure

In an effort to be open with my readers I want to let you know that House Party and Mezzetta have provided me with free or discounted products that I've used to create this recipe. As always, all opinions are my own.

Wednesday
Sep242014

Cookware Review - Crock-Pot® Little Triple Dipper

Description:

This travel-friendly entertainer is designed with all the conveniences for enjoying an array of warm appetizers and dips. A trio of 16-ounce stoneware warmers hold appetizers, dips, desserts and much more. Gently heats foods to perfect serving temperature. Travel bag included for transporting with ease.

Features:

  • 3 - 16-oz. capacity warmers
  • ON/OFF setting
  • Black, travel bag included
  • Sleek stainless steel and black design
  • Dishwasher-safe stoneware and glass lids
  • Other Information:

    Where to Purchase: Crock-Pot SCRMTD307-DK 16-Ounce Little Triple Dipper, Silver and Black 
    Price: $21.84 as of 9/20/14 

    Review:

    This crock-pot is the straw that broke the proverbial camel's back. When my husband saw me cart it home after I found it on clearance for $9.99 at Target, he told me that I'm absolutely not allowed to buy any more crock-pots. He tends to tell me that a lot about my kitchen gadgets. We have a tiny house and I ran out of room for cool toys within a year of moving in, so like many of my previously acquired crock-pots it resides under the guest bed.

    Hopefully no one ever looks under there, it's better stocked than some department stores, but it's also a dusty mess.

    I find that I don't pull this crock-pot out as much as I thought I would. The small crock size and lack of temperature controls mean it's only useful in a small handful of instances. For the most part I tend use it when I'm serving dips or making caramel apples. Although it's pretty handy when I have toppings to serve for a pasta buffet or holiday meal. While my husband may disagree, it does have it's uses; besides, my crock-pot collection is the only way I get through the holidays. Without them I'd never get multiple side-dishes on the table, while still warm.

    Pros:

  • Easy to transport and store, comes with a carrying case
  • Easy clean-up, crocks and lids are dishwasher safe
  • Removable crocks (can be stored in fridge once cooled.)
  • Crocks are microwave safe

  • Cons:

  • Does not cook food, only warms
  • No individual temperature controls
  • Tends to burn cheese-based dips around the edges after extended warming time
  • Lids have plastic handles and are not oven safe
  • Would I order this again? Probably not. Even though I use this every time we entertain, I could probably live without it.
    Disclosure
    This post contains my Amazon affiliate links. I try to keep advertising unobtrusive and to a minimum in order to provide you with the best experience possible. Please keep in mind that this is a necessary evil to cover my expenses in running this blog so I can continue to provide you with quality content.