Tuesday, December 11, 2012

anti food snobbery ignorance

I realize that I haven't posted in QUITE SOME TIME and that this isn't going to be my normal kind of post.  (I do hope to get back to those soon, by the way.)  This post is being written out of disgust at how we're blindly force fed faulty information along with our food.  I was going to write a simple little status update but I had too much to say.  What is all this babbling about you ask?  Well, I just read an article in the December 3 issue of Time magazine.  This article is in the "health" section and while it's not filled with blatant lies the omissions and justifications are unforgivable in my opinion.  In "Give (Frozen) Peas a Chance", Dr. Oz, you have shown us that your opinions can be bought by the highest bidder.  My guess is that the highest bidders in this case are the USDA and Monsanto, who share a very cozy bed together.

Before I really get into this let me acknowledge a few things.  I absolutely can not afford to buy all organic, free range, grass fed, lovingly tended foods.  I would love to, but it's simply out of reach.  That being said, the broccoli I grew in my backyard without fertilizer or pesticides was by far the best tasting broccoli I have ever enjoyed.  My boyfriend and I shared it at a pre-Thanksgiving meal with my family and everyone agreed it was delicious.  The easy part is that we didn't put too much time, energy or expense into growing it.  I also need to acknowledge that I love Cheetos and Oreos and other processed-to-the-hilt food sins as much as the next person.  With these acknowledgements made I will say that I eat these foods with the full knowledge that they contain things I would not put in my body if they weren't in such a tasty or convenient wrapper.  Would I chug a jug of pesticides?  No.  Would I chow down on whatever it is they have added to corn to make insects stomachs explode?  Hell no.  But I will make an INFORMED choice to eat these things when I want said Cheetos and Oreos.

For the last several years America has been so concerned with oil wars and what color our president is and who can marry whom that all these horrible food atrocities have just been slipped under our noses without any informed consent.  Take a look at a GMO map of the world and you might be astonished.  As a matter of fact, I'll provide you with one.  GMO FOOD MAP.   So, we have all these foods that have been modified in terrifying ways and our government refuses to require them to be labeled.  We don't even know what effect these foods will have on us.  Then we have our more traditionally scary foods.  Pesticides, hormones and anti-biotics fill our "regular" foods yet we label the organic stuff as the oddball, fancy schmancy food.  Organic foods contain ..... food.  Wow, shocker there.  Granted they cost more because they produce lower yields and they are now the rarity instead of the norm.

I know I know, I ranted and never got to my point.  So here it is.  In this article Dr. Oz talks a lot about how frozen and canned supermarket food is "nutritionally speaking" very close to the food you would buy with an organic label or at a farm stand.  That's some very tricky speech right there ... "nutritionally speaking".  He uses that phrase often in this article and it's not a lie.  Frozen strawberries still have vitamin C and canned meat still has protein.  Organic milk and "regular" (hormone and anti-biotic laced) milk both contain calcium and protein and are fortified with vitamin D.   This is absolutely true.  And if you have to take your 7 year old daughter bra shopping while trying to decide if it's ok for your 9 year old to use tampons and puzzling over why your son's bronchitis won't go away despite 3 rounds of anti-biotics then by all means please call them equal.  I, for one, will pass.

The article boasts a nifty little "supermarket" vs "gourmet market" food comparison chart which is very trickily crafted.  He compares regular store brand olive oil at $5.49 a bottle to fancy gourmet organic extra virgin at $25.29 a bottle.  Let's compare regular non-virgin to organic non-virgin or regular extra virgin to organic extra virgin.  Staying within the same manufacturer would give us an even truer comparison.  He does a similar trick with peanut butter, calling the store brand regular stuff just as healthy as the organic but ignoring all the additives in it.  He's also skips over the bulk aisle peanut butter.  My peanut butter is cheaper than Peter Pan or Jif or even the store brand.  I get it from the bulk aisle and guess what it contains .... smashed up peanuts and salt.  They even offer a salt free version.  I also buy organic popcorn in the bulk aisle since GMO corn is the first thing I'm consciously eliminating from my diet.  It costs less than ANY of the packaged brands on the shelf.  So if he's really trying to help people eat healthy for cheaper why not suggest this?  Because it doesn't have a big company, or a line of them, paying him to do so.  He's not advocating junk food but he's ignoring all the junk that is in our food.  Call these foods nutritionally sound, call them cheap, but please don't call them healthy.  He's glossing over all the chemicals and additives and who-knows-what that is in our food that is KNOWN to cause health issues as well as the ones that haven't been around long enough to have any idea what they'll do to us.  I just found it to be a very biased article that insulted the intelligence of the average American.  While a lot of people may not realize what is in our food or how harmful it can be let's not pretend they aren't intelligent enough to grasp and process this information if it's given to them.  Many countries are banning GMOs or at least requiring them to be labeled.  Go ahead Dr. Oz, Monsanto, USDA and corporate farms, feed us the Kool-aid but at least have the guts to tell us that you poisoned it first!

(As not to offer griping with no suggestions here are my humble suggestions about eating cleaner food.  Do some research and find out which foods are the worst and try switching to organic versions at least part of the time.  Research food co-ops, something I will start taking part in soon.  Grow what you can.  Yes, a field of corn in your back yard probably isn't realistic but some lettuce and carrots and broccoli are pretty easy.  Some things can even be grown easily on a south facing window sill.  READ YOUR LABELS.  While things like pesticides and GMOs won't show up there a whole litany of other additives will.  Buy local when you can. This is just better for the world over all but your food will have more nutrients and better flavor as well.  And think about this .... organic is more expensive because it gives lower yields, yes, but it's also more expensive because it is rarer now.  If we start supporting local (and far away) organic farms and co-ops and the like the cost of these foods will fall back into line.  I'm sure they'll always cost a little more.  After all, there are reasons that the dirty foods are produced the way they are ... it's cheaper.  Educate yourself at least a little bit and make changes where you can.  Whatever you do, please don't blindly eat as if it's safe to do so anymore.)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Delicious Mess

Oh toffee. Why won't you work for me? Why do you insist on being mooshy and chewy rather than crisp? Oh toffee, why do you let me down?

This was my THIRD try at this toffee. The chocolate won't stick and the toffee just turns into a soft mess. I even cooked it at a higher heat. I would love to abandon this recipe and try another instead but here's the problem .... IT'S ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS! The taste of this toffee makes you feel like you're committing some unforgivable sin, and so does the mess on your hands.

 I'm going to break my rule and post the recipe so maybe someone can help me out. It's from page 170 of "Bite-Size Desserts" by Carole Bloom.  I may be paraphrasing a tad on the directions.  There are a lot of great treats in this book that are single bites or just a couple of bites each.  They're perfect for a party where everyone will be bringing something or for those trying to watch their portion sizes.

2 cups (6 ounces) sliced almonds
1 tablespoon canola or safflower oil
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
3/4 cup (5 ounces) granulated sugar
3 tablespoons water
1/4 teaspoon kosher or fine grained sea salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate (62 to 72% cacao content), finely chopped

  • Preheat oven to 350F then toast almonds in a pie pan for 12 to 14 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes.  Cool completely then chop finely.  (I chop medium-ly because I like them better that way.)
  • Line a 7x11 inch baking pan with foil snuggly and so that the folds over the edges.  Oil the foil (that's fun to say) using a paper towel.  Sprinkle 3/4 cups of the toasted almonds over the bottom of the pan.
  • Melt the butter in a heavy 3 qt sauce pan over medium heat.  Add the sugar, water and salt and cook, stirring constantly with a heat resistant spatula, until 260F on a candy thermometer.  Stir in 1/2 cup of the almonds and continue cooking until it reaches 290F.  (I went to 310F last time in hopes of getting a crisper candy, didn't work.)  Immediately stir in the vanilla and baking soda.   BE CAREFUL, it will foam and bubble and do other entertaining yet potentially dangerous things.
  • Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and spread evenly.  Sprinkle chocolate on top.  Let it stand for 2 minutes to allow chocolate to become melty and then spread.  Sprinkle remaining 3/4 cup of almonds on top of chocolate.
  • Let toffee set up at room temperature for 30 minutes and then refrigerate for 15 minutes to set the chocolate.  (This seems like it may be a major contributor to mooshiness.  Could the humidity in the fridge be killing my toffee?  Maybe cooling it for a few hours at room temp would be better????)
  • Lift from pan by grabbing edges of foil.  Be careful, foil cuts are way less fun than paper cuts, trust me!  Peel foil away from toffee and break into small pieces.  Serve at room temp.
Like I said, it tastes incredible.  It's smooth and delicious but ... it's moosh.  Can you help me fix it?  Pleeeeeease??????

Thanks and enjoy!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Holiday Trays

I've made individual holiday gifts for hubby's team at work ... until this year.  His team kept growing and growing and this year I just couldn't keep up.  Instead, I set up trays in their break room and left him with boxes of treats to refill them.  Everything got devoured by mid-afternoon.   Game developers like their treats!

Red Tray: toffee, red velvet cake balls, oatmeal cocoa nib cookies.   
Green Tray: peppermint bark, snickerdoodles

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Oatmeal Cocoa Nib Cookies

For my birthday a sweet friend gave me a jar of cocoa nibs and a jar of cocoa beans.  She painted the tops of the jars with chalk board paint so she could label them and then attached peacock feathers to each.  Super adorable gift!  A few days later a can labeled "Theo's" showed up in my mailbox.  My sister sent me a can of roasted cocoa nibs from her favorite chocolate factory.  (She's going to take me there when I venture north to visit her!!!  I should probably be prepared to send a flat rate box home to myself.)

Before my birthday I'd heard of cocoa nibs but I'd never seen one, never tasted one, never touch or smelled one.  Now I was desperate to figure out how to use them so I did A LOT of reading.  First thing, they MUST be roasted.  If not they will taste bitter.  Roasting them is easy, just put them on a baking sheet in a 350F oven for a few minutes, until they are darker and smell amazing.  My oldest little sister (who sent me the Theo's) puts them on her oatmeal.  My middle little sister and I made berry crepes (store bought crepes), topped with homemade whipped cream and sprinkled with cocoa nibs.  It was incredible.

 And then came the cookies!  I've made these twice, once as minis and once as regular cookies.   Minis were for Christmas trays I brought to hubby's office.  I had plenty of leftovers so they went to New Orleans for Christmas.  The regular size cookies were for an event with friends which ended up getting snowed out.  Here in North Texas we don't deal so well with frozen conditions on roads, I mean, come one, it's Texas.  So, those went to hubby's office as well.

These cookies are delicious!  The little bit of crunch from the roasted nibs is a special treat, it gives the chocolate flavor without the predictable texture of chips.  I based the recipe on Shirley's cinnamon oatmeal cookies but I took out the raisins and put in the same amount of nibs.  It's too similar to hers for me to post the recipe, if I switch it up more in the future I'll post it.  Her recipes are just so .... perfect that it's hard for me to want to change a thing.

If you ate any of these I'd love to know what you think.


Monday, January 24, 2011

Kelli's Famous Peppermint Bark

Since my husband has been at his current company I've made peppermint bark every Christmas, as gifts for his co-workers.  Somehow my peppermint bark has become famous.  I really don't understand it, it's so simple.  Last year one guy left the company to go travel and requested a batch for himself.  This Christmas I made some trays of treats.  Someone told me they saw the bark in the kitchen but didn't eat it because they didn't know who had made it.  When I told them it was mine they went and put a stack of it on a napkin and brought it back to their desk.  Honestly, I don't understand it, it's so simple.

So here it is .... my famous (for some reason) peppermint bark.

How To:

You'll need one large baking sheet, heavy duty aluminum foil, one package chocolate bark coating, one package vanilla, almond or white chocolate bark coating, 6 candy canes.

Line your baking sheet with foil, wrapping it up over the sides.  Unwrap candy canes and smash them up into bits.  A food processor is the easy way but if you have a young helper you can put the candy canes in a zip top bag and let the little one smash them with a mallet, heavy spoon or rolling pin.  Melt the chocolate bark in a double boiler or the microwave, DO NOT OVERHEAT.  Pour it into the baking sheet and spread it even with a heat resistant spatula.  Allow to cool and harden.  Melt white bark.  I'll often melt my white bark in the double boiler so that it takes more time.  It helps me deal with the impatience of waiting for the chocolate to harden.  Pour the melted white bark onto the cooled chocolate bark.  Sprinkle candy cane bits onto hot bark and pat down gently.  Allow it all to cool COMPLETELY and then break into pieces.


Friday, January 7, 2011

Red Velvet (virgin) Cake Balls and Amazingly Incredible Frosting

Over the summer I did Red Velvet minis for a party at a club.  Well, I guess they liked them because they ordered Red Velvet Cake Balls for their XXXmas party.  They asked for 120 Red Velvet Cake Balls with white coating and red and green sprinkles.

I made an extra 30 so hubby and I could snitch a couple and there would still be plenty left to add to the trays I made for his office.  (More on that another day.)

Here they are with some of that sprinkle bark I told you about.

Red Velvet Cake Balls:

makes ABOUT 50

1 - 8x2 round red velvet cake (I use the one from Rose's Heavenly Cakes)
Amazingly Incredible Frosting (basically buttercream with cream cheese replacing half the butter and 1 Tbsp cocoa powder added)
vanilla candy coating

Mash up cake in a large bowl.  Add a splash of buttermilk and enough frosting to make it all hold together.

Measure out 1 Tbsp at a time to form balls of cake and lay them out on a cookie sheet lined with parchment.  DON'T LET THEM TOUCH.  Pop this in the freezer for an hour or more.

Melt candy coating and dip frozen cake balls.  Top with sprinkles.  Sprinkles stick better before coating dries, I did a 'dip 3, sprinkle 3' rotation.  Allow to cool and then ....


Wednesday, January 5, 2011


As a kid I like helping out with the snickerdoodles.  I don't know which recipe my mother used but they were a little bit puffy and light.  The recipe I used, not so much. 

A couple of months ago I bought some flour at Whole Foods.  I poured into my flour container and threw away the bag so I can't tell you the name but it seems to be a very low protein flour and that makes my cookies sad.  I mixed 1/4 of that with 3/4 of gold medal all-purpose but still, sad cookies.  I was pleased and excited about the red sugar but otherwise my snickerdoodles spread too much and were too crisp.

I checked Bake Wise to see what Shirley might suggest for too flat, too crisp cookies.  She says higher protein flour and use butter flavored shortening instead of butter.  I think that using gold medal or pillsbury should take care of the flour issue but if not I'll have to hunt down some King Arthur.  I was, at least, happy with the way they looked although I suspect they may have been slightly over leavened.

So, here's what I'll do next time:

1/2 cup butter flavored shortening
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar (for coating)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (for coating)

In a medium bowl, beat the shortening for 30 seconds.  Add the 1 cup sugar and beat until combined.  Scrape the sides of the bowl.  Add the egg and vanilla and beat until combined.  In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and cream of tartar.  Beat into the shortening mixture gradually until all combined.  Cover and chill for one hour.

Stir together the 2 tablespoons sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon.  Shape dough into 1 inch balls and roll in sugar mixture.  Place 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake at 375F for 10 to 11 minutes, or until the edges are golden.  Cool on a wire rack.