Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Cooking Up a Storm

Over the last month or so we have been trying to eat better for several reasons, not the least of which is that we are trying to diagnose some possible food sensitivities in one of the kids.  So we've been avoiding all things dairy and soy.  Most of us are still eating stand-alone dairy products, but anything prepared for the whole family is now milk- and soy-free, unless you count rice milk or almond milk as milk! 

As it turns out, every packaged food in the universe has either milk or soy, or both.  So this has pointed out to me just how much of that stuff we used to eat. I would have said it was not that much, but now that I have been forced to read every label I have noticed that is simply not true.   Even the foods I would not consider to be junk are full of junk.  I could not find a loaf of 100% whole wheat bread that does not have soy of some type; the few that do not, have milk.  Most have both.

This caused me to make a trip to the mecca of healthy and organic foods, Whole Foods.  A million other people and I were all there one Saturday.  They did have soy- and dairy-free things, even chocolate chips.  I found the soy-free margarine I knew must exist somewhere.  They had every kind of "milk" you can imagine.  I am sure for the food allergic the place is heavenly - I was really very happy to find that margarine and some chocolate candy for Easter.  And my reward for going there, fighting the crowd, and reading every label was a Jamba Juice, since they are located right inside the store.  Who knew?

The main trouble with Whole Foods is the price!  Yikes!  There were a ton of people there, wandering the produce department, all willing to pay $4.79 a pound for organic green peppers.  I discovered right away that I needed to only buy the things I could not find anywhere else.  And that maybe a little soy was ok for the rest of us, only allowing the 1/7th of us to whom it actually made a difference to eat some of the golden snack food.

So I have turned to lots of cooking and baking.  No one actually puts soy in home made cookies, or home made bread for that matter!  After paying nearly $5 for a loaf of bread without any soy flour, I decided I could make home made bread.  I've been using my stand mixer and so far it's going pretty well.  I'm still learning how much flour to use; so far it's been a bit on the dense side, so I keep backing off on the flour.  But we all think it tastes great. 

I've been making snacks for the kids, too, like cookies and muffins.  I have been using new recipes that are improved with whole wheat flour and less sugar.  The results have been mixed, but we're finding things they like and I approve.  The kids are growing so fast that they need to eat all the time it seems.  If I give them anything that holds them more than 3 hours I count it as a great victory.  One such score are these Good Morning Cookies, billed as a breakfast cookie, but a bit sweet for that.  They make a great snack, though!

Currently I am baking our standard baked oatmeal recipe (except with almond milk and canola oil instead of milk and butter) in a muffin tin, for a change.  Portable baked oatmeal - who knows how it will turn out?  I hope it will take care of the texture issues a couple of the kids have with the regular baked oatmeal.  Breakfast has been improved a good deal around here.

I must admit I have been tempted to complain about all the cooking, but now I am starting to enjoy it.  We're saving money and eating better.  I really do have time to squeeze it in, since I am home all the time.  I start the bread dough right after breakfast while the kids are doing chores, and that usually works ok.  Yesterday I got distracted by a geometry question and totally forgot the yeast, but I hope I'll get so used to this routine that I will not have to think so hard about it.  Once I get the recipe figured out I will probably hand it over to Anna, or even one of the boys to manage.  Anna already loves to bake, and it's great that she can make just about any recipe with no help from me now!

So that's what has been going on here.  Cooking simple food.  Filling the house with yummy smells.  Saving a few dollars for my trouble.  And knowing we are all better off for it.

***If you have a favorite breakfast or snack recipe, will you please leave it (or a link) in the comments?


Julie Bean said...

My girls love this snack. We don't always make the chips.

Fruit Salsa and Cinnamon Chips
2 kiwis, peeled and diced
2 Golden Delicious apples - peeled, cored and diced
8 ounces raspberries
1 pound strawberries
2 tablespoons white sugar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
3 tablespoons fruit preserves, any flavor

10 (10 inch) flour tortillas
butter flavored cooking spray
2 cups cinnamon sugar
1.In a large bowl, thoroughly mix kiwis, Golden Delicious apples, raspberries, strawberries, white sugar, brown sugar and fruit preserves. Cover and chill in the refrigerator at least 15 minutes.
2.Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
3.Coat one side of each flour tortilla with butter flavored cooking spray. Cut into wedges and arrange in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Sprinkle wedges with desired amount of cinnamon sugar. Spray again with cooking spray.
4.Bake in the preheated oven 8 to 10 minutes. Repeat with any remaining tortilla wedges. Allow to cool approximately 15 minutes. Serve with chilled fruit mixture.

Anonymous said...

Wow! I am going to try that cookie recipe--it looks really good and like you could easily cut back a bit on the sugar and still be fine. I make granola almost once a week and it seems like we go through it so fast that it's hardly a saving over a box of breakfast cereal. And on mornings like today it's all we can do to scarf a bowl down before we run out the door and we're still three minutes late for class. These could come in handy.

Nora said...

Hi Tracey,

I understand what you are going through, my son is allergic to Milk, Wheat, Peanuts, and Eggs. Finding items without these is like finding a needle in a hay stack. I've found a few items at Trader Joes, they are not as pricey as Whole Foods. Bread was hard to find, I found a Rice bread that I could eat at Trader Joes, I had tried one that was awful. It is very dense.

A friend of mine recommended a book "Allergy Proof Recipes for Kids" by Leslie Hammond and Lynne Marie Rominger. I found it in the library, you may want to check it out.

Tracey said...

Julie - Thanks for the recipe! Can't wait to try it!

Susan - Don't make more of the cookies than you guys can eat in a couple of days (or put some in the freezer). We noticed today they seem to have gotten a bit stale quickly!
And I have been wanting to try your granola, ao I am including a link to it here:

Nora - Thank you for the book suggestion. I can't count how many times I have been thankful we can still have eggs. That seems to be one of the hardest allergies to cook around!

Anonymous said...

That is so great all that cooking you are doing. I too am trying to get away from all the processed foods. Looking at the labels and eating real food is good for all of us not just for those with allergies. You guys (you and Edwin, not the kiddos) should check out 'foodinc'. It is a documentary on the state of America's food production. Warning, it is gratuitous and sensational. They show all the worst parts of America's food industry. But, it is very motivating to do better and to try to buy local home grown organic meats, dairy, and produce.


Tracey said...

Amy - That film sounds like I might never want to eat again, which might not be bad! ;)
Edwin and I eat almost 100% whole foods now - meat, veggies, and fruit, with some type of grain at dinner. It has been good for us and our waistlines, which are slimming slowly. It does seem to be more of a lifestyle change than a diet, and something we can maintain. The kids are benefitting, too, by getting into much better eating habits while they are young!