Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Dark Chocolate Basics

Did you know that chocolate contains many of the health benefits of dark vegetables?! That's why I eat a few squares a day. Many people don't know what to look for in order to fully reap the benefits of chocolate. Here's the low down:
What are the benefits of dark chocolate? 
          * Flavanoids/Antioxidants that fight free radicals; reducing heart disease, high blood
             pressure, and fight high cholesterol.
          * stimulates endorphin and serotonin production
What to look for on the label:
          * First ingredient must be unsweetened chocolate or cocoa (WARNING: steer clear of "dark"
             chocolate bars that list sugar, corn syrup, or milk chocolate as the first ingredient)
          * 65% or higher cocoa to gain antioxidant and health benefits
          * the fewer the ingredients the better- make sure they are "clean" ingredients (no HFCS, dyes, etc)
          * look for certified fair trade chocolate (available at Trader Joes). Many cacao beans are harvested 
             in an unjust fashion which can include child labor. By purchasing fair trade you ensure that              
             the people harvesting your chocolate are treated fairly and paid an acceptable wage.
Remember to take the time to SAVOR your chocolate. While it's good for you, it's still a high-calorie/fat food. Consumption recommendation is no more than 3.5 ounces a day.

To learn more about Fair Trade Click Here

Health Benefits of Chocolate- About.Com
Dark Chocolate is Healthy Chocolate- WebMD

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Pizza Pockets

My kids won't eat chicken or spinach to save their lives, but they LOVE these whole wheat pizza pockets. There are hundreds of possibilities, but this is what I've been doing:

White Chicken Spinach Pizza Pockets with Whole Wheat Crust
1 cup cooked cubed organic chicken
1 cup chopped organic spinach
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup mushrooms (optional)
Egg-wash: one egg beaten with 2 tablespoons organic milk
One whole wheat pizza dough CLICK HERE FOR RECIPE
One batch white sauce CLICK HERE FOR RECIPE
1. On a floured surface, roll out pizza dough
2. cut into sections of desired size
3. evenly distribute sauce, and fillings on one side of each of your sections (pictured below)

4. using a pancake turner type of tool, gently fold in half and transfer onto greased cookie sheet
5. using a fork, seal all your edges
6. coat with egg-wash (pictured below)
7. Bake at 375 about 20 minutes or until crust looks lightly browned and cooked through
8. Enjoy the finished product

A few more tips:
* You can make the several batches of the pizza dough and white sauce in advance and freeze it
* Once baked, you can also freeze these pizza pockets and heat them in toaster or microwave 
* Feel free to get creative with your fillings/sauces
Other sauces to try: pesto, marinara, or any jarred pizza/pasta sauce. You may also want to hide pureed veggies in the sauce (mashed cauliflower in white, purreed carrots in red)
Other filling ideas: ANYTHING you like on a pizza you can try in a pizza pocket. You could also do more of an "empanada" and fill with refried beans, meat, cheese, salsa, then garnish with sour cream.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

"Roasted" Garlic White Sauce

When I cook, I rarely use recipes, and if I do I consider them more of a "guideline" than instructions. I don't like being held hostage by recipes and feel it squelches my own culinary creativity. Some of my best dishes have come from taking risks in the kitchen. My new white sauce is one of these recent successes. I hadn't planned on posting it, but after multiple requests I decided to go back in the kitchen, camera in hand and actually measure it out.

Heartland Hippie "Roasted" Garlic White Sauce
3-4 Cloves minced garlic
2 Tablespoons organic butter
1 Cup organic Skim Milk
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon salt
2 tabelspoons whole wheat flour

In a saucepan over medium-high heat, melt butter
Once butter is a melted and a tad bit browned, add garlic, salt, and spices (pictured below)

saute until garlic is browned about 3 minutes
add 2 Tablespoons flour and whisk for a few seconds
now slowly pour in the milk while whisking at the same time (pictured below)
bring sauce to a simmer then lower heat whisking often. Once sauce is thickened it is done (pictured below)
If sauce seems too thin, add a tad more flour. If it seems to thick add more milk.
Important part is to continually whisk, so that it doesn't scorch the bottom of the pan
Here's a photo of it in our "deep dish" cast iron pizza pan and a photo of the finished "greek" style pizza

Click here for whole wheat pizza crust recipe

Monday, April 4, 2011

Food to Dye For

It's been all over the news this week and it's something my family avoids; ARTIFICIAL DYES. So, what's the big deal?
     * Multiple studies have shown that children who consume artificial dyes are more hyperactive 
     * Studies have also shown children who quit consuming the  ingredient have much better focus in school
     * Carmel Coloring in soda has been linked to cancer
What are these products called? If it says a color and has a number it's bad. Ie;  Red1, Blue2, Yellow5, etc.
What products contain these ingredients? 
Pretty much all processed foods. Some of the big ones are;
Macaroni and Cheese (Annie's is safe), yogurts, cheese, cereal, soda, chips, candy, ice cream
What can I do to avoid these ingredients?
Eat "real" food. More fruits and vegetables, and make more food from scratch. Most organic products use natural dyes, so if you must buy pre-package food, READ THE LABEL.
   The FDA is further researching the link between hyperactivity and artificial dyes. It is not believed that is the cause of ADHD, but that it enhances the problem. Even if the ingredient doesn't cause hyperactivity, it is highly "fake" and processed, and I don't want it going into my child's developing body.
   If you have a child that suffers from ADHD, or has trouble focusing I highly encourage trying to eliminate all processed food from their diets. Many mothers that have tried this have seen drastic improvement in their children after only 2 weeks.
"Let thy food be thy medicine"- Hippocrates

Do Food Dyes Make Kids Hyper? Time Magazine
Where food dyes lurk- Reuters
Carmel Coloring in Sodas- USA Today