{I don’t understand – food labeling confusion}

I’ve been a fool to food marketing ploys for far too long. While standing over the egg display at Wal-Mart, I’ve found myself utterly confused over the use of words like cage-free, natural, free-range, vegetarian-fed and no added hormones.

I did a little research, and learned that I’ve wasted way too much money on meat, egg and dairy products marketed under the guise of humane living, only to learn I had been duped!

So here we go, my breakdown of all the glitzy, food marketing words that make us think we’re buying this:

free range chicken

when if fact, you’re probably getting this:

factory chicken

Natural:

Natural means minimally processing which does not fundamentally alter the product. Guess what, whole meat purchased is natural whether the label says it or not. This label essentially means nothing when purchasing meat. This term does not reflect how the animal was raised, and only refers to what happened to the animal after slaughtering. Most labels that contain the word “natural” will follow with “no artificial dyes and colors.”

Don’t waste your money!

Vegetarian-fed:

This is one of my favorites. I’ve seen this label a lot lately on chicken eggs, and have been tricked in the past to purchasing eggs from vegetarian fed chickens. Well, stupid me, chickens are not vegetarians by nature, and therefore means the chickens were not allowed to eat their natural diet! Purchasing grass-fed or vegetarian fed cattle, sheep, goat or bison is a good thing because those animals are herbivores.

A vegetarian-fed labeling means that animals have been fed a diet free of animal products. This does not mean animals were raised outdoors on a pasture or were fed a 100 percent grass-fed diet. Also, manufacturers may use this labeling without third-party verification.

Free-Range:

This is a term used for poultry only. It generally means that they are required to have access to outdoors at least 51% of the time. There is no restriction on the type of outdoors provided, it just needs to be outdoors. There is also no independent third-party verification that this practice actually occurs.

Be prepared up to $2 more for a label that states “free-range.”

Cage-Free:

Cage free means not caged inside a barn or animal house without access to the outdoors. Previously, when I envisioned “cage free” I saw chickens roaming on hills with songs from The Sound of Music in the background – not so much.

Don’t waste your money!

No Added Hormones:

This label makes me most angry. Federal law prohibits the use of hormones in poultry and hogs. Don’t pay extra for pretty packing on chicken, eggs, and pork that says “no added hormones”.

Hormones are allowed in cattle to speed their growth, so it would be wise and worth the extra money to purchase cattle products that state “no added hormones.”

 

Don’t take my word for this, do your homework. Visit www.sustainabletable.org to learn more about food labeling and sustainable living.

By local, sustainable food when possible, and don’t be a food fool!

 

Advertisements

{Spring Salad is in the air}

 

I like big salads and I cannot lie!
I like big salads and I cannot lie!

I love a big salad! The combination of greens, fruit, and protein makes for one happy girl! I also like looking at my plate and seeing almost every ingredient from a local vendor!

Spring salad with balsamic vinegar

Ingredients:

Balsamic dressing

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup olive oil

1 tbsp Dijon mustard

1 tsp garlic powder

Salt and pepper to taste

Salad mix

1 cup of spinach

1/2 cup romaine lettuce or kale

4 strawberries (cut in half)

1 cutie orange (peeled)

1 cup of cooked (steamed, sautéed or boiled) Louisiana Gulf Shrimp (if you don’t have shrimp, you can sub shredded or chopped chicken)

Salt and pepper

Directions:

Making salad dressing is really simple, and when you make your own dressing you don’t have to worry about the nasty fillers and preservatives in store-bought dressing!

1. Make your dressing! Whisk the balsamic vinegar, olive oil, Dijon mustard and spice together; and set aside.

2. Toss spinach in about 1 tablespoon of dressing (if you like more dressing, feel free to add more! I prefer my salad lightly drizzled, not drenched).

3. Sprinkle strawberries, orange slices and shrimp over salad.

4. Add salt and pepper to taste.

This is my favorite spring salad! It’s easy to assemble at work or on the go. Its super healthy and filling, full of protein and nutrients, and balsamic and strawberries are a match made in food heaven!*

*Strawberries are loaded in Vitamin C which can help to boost immunity and fight the effects of aging (wrinkles be gone!)

 

 

 

 

{Not green, green smoothie}

If you’re interested in jumping on the green smoothie bandwagon, but can’t get over the green appearance, I may have a solution for you.

But first, here are a few reasons why I think juicing is awesome:

  • It’s a great way to add nutrients to your overall diet.
  • It’s a great way to consume fruits and veggies you wouldn’t normally eat.
  • It’s a great way to get rid of produce that might otherwise spoil.

Let’s get juiced up….

You’ll need:

  • A handful of your favorite green (I use spinach, but you can use kale, swiss chard, collard greens, etc.) I prefer spinach when trying to mask the “green” flavor. Spinach is also very soft compared to kale, so I find it easiest to blend.
  • 1/2 cup blueberries
  • 4-5 Louisiana strawberries washed, but you can leave the stems on (Strawberries are in season now! Shop local)
  • 1 tablespoon organic flax seed or chia seeds
  • the juice from 1 freshly squeezed lemon
  • 14 ounces of water

Add all the ingredients into a blender layered in the order listed (I use a NurtiBullet, but this can be done in any blender). Add water. Blend for 45 seconds.

Your drink should look like this:

010

Although I think juicing is awesome, I in no way shape or form would EVER promote “juicing” as someones primary source of calories and/or a juice cleanse.

Roasted Beet Salad

This week we received beets in our CSA box, and it took me a while to figure out what to do with them. I thought about beet chips, smashed beets, I even tried juicing the beets, and nothing seemed right. I finally decided to roast them and make a salad. I was inspired by an older Ina Garten recipe (my cooking hero!), and I made a few transitions to make it my own.

Beets are a fantastic root vegetable. They’re high in vitamins A, B, C, beta-carotene and folic acid.

Let’s roast…

Roasted Beet Salad

I will say this takes a little forethought. This is not a salad you can throw together in 5 minutes. I do promise that the time you put in will yield a great reward!

Time: 1 hour 10 minutes

Servings: 2 

Ingredients

1 medium to large beet (remove tops and wash really, really well) 019

1/4 cup good balsamic vinegar (I’m going to plug www.redstickspice.com)

1/4 cup good garlic infused olive oil (if you don’t have garlic infused, regular olive oil is fine, just make sure it’s a good olive oil)

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1/2 cup spinach

1 tbsp pecans

1 tbsp feta cheese

salt and pepper to taste

Steps:

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

2. Place the clean, scrubbed beet in a pan and roast for 1 hour. When the beet  comes out the oven it should be soft (think consistency of a baked sweet potato). Allow the beet to cool until it becomes easy to handle without burning your fingers.

3. Peel the beets over a piece of wax paper or something that you don’t mind getting stained. Beets stain. Again, beets are amazing veggies, but they will stain your favorite shirt, your fingers, your counters, etc. USE CAUTION!

4. Cut the beet in half, then quarter. Allow to cool further.

5. While the beets are cooling, mix balsamic vinegar, olive oil, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper. Reserve half the mixture for salad dressing.

6. Toss the sliced beets in the other half of the balsamic mixture.

020

7. Place the spinach on a platter and drizzle with enough reserved balsamic mixture to lightly coat the leaves. Top the leaves with pecans, feta cheese, beets and salt/pepper (optional).

021

This is such a yummy salad. It can be eaten alone as a main dish, or served with a fresh piece of fish or chicken. I love to eat it with wild salmon.

025

Baby tested and baby approved!

026

*Hint, hint!  One of the first known uses of beets was by the ancient Romans who used them as an aphrodisiac. Use caution when eating beets, ha!

{That’s how I roll}

I love cooking with cabbage! There are so many benefits to adding cabbage to you diet. It’s brain food – cabbage is full of vitamin K  which helps with memory and overall brain health. As a mom, I sometimes feel as though I’m loosing my mind and memory, so I need all the help I can get! It’s also high in potassium which helps to open up open up blood vessels, increasing blood flow. Its also delicious, so I’d call it a winning veggie.

I also love PF Changs. From the combination fried rice, to the Mongolian beef, it’s one of my favorite cheat meals. My absolute favorite is the Lettuce Wrap appetizer. The problem with eating PF Changs is the astronomical sodium content in the dishes. The sodium content in one lettuce wrap appetizer is 2090(mg) – eek! So I set out to create a dish that paid homage to the lovely lettuce wrap without all the sodium!

Let’s roll…

Asian Cabbage Wrap

Time: 40 minutes

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

12 savoy cabbage leaves + 1/2 head of cabbage shredded

1 lb ground turkey (you may substitute ground chicken or pork)

2 tbsp low sodium soy sauce

3 tbsp homemade chicken stock (you may substitute store bought stock, just buy the low sodium stock)

1 tsp fresh black pepper

1 tbsp good olive oil

1/2 white onion

1 clove garlic

1 tsp ground ginger

1/2 cup water chestnuts

3/4 cup shredded carrots

Steps:

1. Put a large pot of salted water to boil.

2. While waiting for the water to boil, remove and wash 12 cabbage leaves from a head of cabbage. I also cut off the stems (the “meaty” part of the leaf). Place the leaves in water, and boil for 4 minutes.

017

3. Remove the leaves from the water, and place on paper towels to allow them to dry. *For all the perfectionists in the world, the leaves may tear or break – it’s okay!

4. While the leaves are drying, in a separate skillet, brown the turkey. Drain any excess grease after the meat is cooked.

5. Combine the cooked turkey, soy sauce, chicken broth and black pepper in a bowl and allow to marinate for at least 10 minutes.

6. In the same skillet you cooked the turkey, heat the olive oil. Add onions and cook until they become transparent (about 5 minutes on medium heat).

7. Add garlic and ground ginger to onions, cook for 1 minute (until it becomes aromatic).

8. Stir in water chestnuts, carrots and cabbage. Allow to cook down for 2 minutes on medium heat (you will have to stir a lot – it’s okay you’ll get a great arm workout!).

9. Now’s the time to combine the meat. Cook all ingredients together for 10 minutes.

018

10. By this time, your cabbage leaves should be dry.

Time to roll tide roll, ehhh, just kidding!

11. Place your  cabbage leaf face down. Add 2 tbsp of the meat mixture to the cabbage leaf, fold up the sides, roll up the middle and place seam side down on a platter to serve. Depending on how big your leaves are, you may have to give or take the amount of “stuffing” you add to the cabbage leaf.

Ta-da! You’re done. How easy was that??!! This is a great weeknight meal. It takes minimal effort, its quite delicious and its really healthy. We usually eat this meal with a side of quinoa and wild rice. It’s also great with salad.

007

By cooking at home, you’ve cut your sodium content in half. I say that’s an incentive to put down the take out menu, and pull out the pots!