Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Monday, November 01, 2010

apparently Ottawa does not have enough places to buy food...

Pin It Now!

...because now "Canadian Tire is consistently working towards becoming a one-stop shopping destination for our customers" by expanding its food program to all Ottawa locations.

This, according a release I got in my inbox today. LOL.

The strategy here is, frankly weird. CT cares enough about promoting its food that it has procured the services of a PR firm to SPECIFICALLY promote food in its Ottawa stores to Ottawa food bloggers.

For those not in the know, CT is a Canadian icon, classically a tire/hardware/outdoors store, more recently popular for small appliances and housewares, and now seems to be attempting to turn itself into more of a Walmart than a friendly hardware store.

Anyway, CT is popular because of their frequent fabulous sales (think: 70% off expensive things like tools and pot sets). I'm not sure why they think they need food to get more people through the door.

Especially when I just checked out CT's online flyer, and it MENTIONS that there is food, but the only specific examples are sugar and chocolate. Which, *clearly* will motivate the average food buyer to run right out to Canadian Tire. Really, it's exactly what I'm seeking the day after Hallowe'en. More sugar and more chocolate. :p

So, while I may check out the food section of CT when I'm there, I seriously doubt that this is a move that's going to drive up traffic to their stores. Especially when the CT nearest me is located right across the street from a large grocery store, a medium-sized grocery store and a walmart. Also odd is there is no online version of the news release I was sent (trust me, you're not missing much). Weird, weird, weird.

With all that, welcome to NaBloPoMo. Where I attempt to dig myself out of my blogging funk. :p Thanks for reading! I swear I will share more recipes soon, bear with me.

Monday, August 23, 2010

wendy's, you suck.

Pin It Now!

So, I was chatting with some friends and the topic of Wendy’s new salads came up. Being someone who tends toward a hearty delicious salad, I was definitely intrigued – it’s always nice when someone comes up with something outside the Caesar/garden salad box to keep “healthy” eating interesting.

But we were all SHOCKED by what we found out on the Wendy’s nutritional information page. These salads are NOT good for you.

Like, really not good.

Like you’re almost better off with a burger and fries not good for you.

And we all know that burgers and fries epitomize healthy eating, right?

I mean, if you take your average person on a diet, you’re looking at about 1500 calories a day. If you divvy up these calories in a way that you don’t end up a ravenous starving maniac, you’re looking at a meal plan something like this:

300 calorie breakfast

150 calorie snack

400 calories lunch

150 calorie snack

500 calorie dinner

This level of energy should keep you feeling like a reasonable human being most of the time. And nutritionally, it really doesn’t make a whoooole lotta sense to have the largest meal be dinner, but frankly, I’d much rather eat a big plate of dinner than a pile of egg whites any day. ;)

So how exactly do these Wendy’s salads stack up? You can check for yourself on the Wendy’s nutritional calculator, but I’ll be nice and break it down for you.

Salad

Calories

Total Fat (sat fat, trans fat) (g)

Sodium (mg)

Sugar (g)

Apple Pecan Chicken Salad

580

30 (10, 0.4)

1510

36

Baja Salad

740

48 (17, 1.5)

1990

14

BLT Cobb Salad

670

49 (17, 1.0)

1840

6

Spicy Chicken Caesar Salad

730

48 (15, 1.0)

1720

5

This is a nutritional minefield. Actually, correct that….it’s a nutritional IED…as in, it’s coming, you totally don't expect it to be bad, and if you eat these salads, you’re bombarding your system with a whole pile of poop! I’ll excuse the chicken Caesar (does anyone actually still think Caesar dressing and bacon are healthy?), the BLT cobb salad (blue cheese, bacon, etc.), but I take issue with the Baja Salad and the Apple Pecan Chicken Salad.

Aside from the chili on top of the baja salad, it doesn’t initially look that bad for you….I can totally make a healthy (but delicious) taco salad at home and feel great about eating it. But on top of the baja salad, you have the oft-vaunted pico de gallo (OMG THEY CHOPPED SOME TOMATOES), but you also have two different types of cheese, seasoned tortilla chips, guacamole, and sketchy fatty dressing. It all adds up to be super salty (a day’s worth of sodium), and really high in saturated fat (almost two day’s worth of saturated fat). Not cool from a single fast-food salad. And let's not forget the 1.5 g of trans fat. Which is pretty much the worst thing you can eat.

But what really gets my goat is the apple pecan chicken salad. Perhaps it is because this salad reminds me of the delicious strawberry, chicken, pepitas and feta salad I made yesterday. Here’s the issue I have with the apple pecan salad. The chicken breast is adding almost 700 mg of sodium to the salad. That is terrible…one little bit of chicken. Also, they’ve thrown blue cheese into the mix (blech aside, the blue cheese is adding 430 mg of sodium). AND, they’ve roasted the pecans in SUGAR. Pecans are naturally pretty sweet….no need to candy them. Just a simple oven roast and you have a wonderfully rich crunchy bite for your salad. And the dressing (pomegranate vinaigrette) contains 15 g of sugar. This is awful.

Let’s compare ingredient lists between MY chicken salad and the Wendy’s salad:

Leslie’s salad: 2 cups organic baby spinach, 2 T sliced red onion, 2 large strawberries, thinly sliced, 1 T pepitas, 1 T crumbled light feta, 3 oz oven roasted chicken breast [roasted it myself], 1 T dressing [comprised of vinegar, canola oil and a bit of Dijon mustard]

Total calories for a delicious plate of salad, according to nutritiondata.com: 321 calories, 16 g fat (4 saturated, 0 trans), 239 mg sodium, 6 g sugar.

And that’s no slouch of a salad – you have fat and flavor from the pepitas and the feta, as well as the canola oil in the dressing, antioxidants from strawberries, and lean protein from the chicken. The dressing is delicious (I used strawberry-infused vinegar) and you can pronounce every ingredient you’re eating.

Compare that with the ingredient list of the Wendy’s salad:

Greens: baby lettuces (red&green romaine, red&green oak, red&green leaf, lolla Rosa, tango), spinach, mizuna arugula, tatsoi, red chard, green chard

Apple chunks: apples, calcium ascorbate

Blue cheese crumbles: pasteurized milk, salt, bacterial culture, calcium chloride, microbial enzyme, penicillium Roquefort

Dried cranberries: cranberries, sugar, sunflower oil

(I should add that I don’t have an issue with any of the above ingredients). But here is where it goes wonky.

Chicken (grilled): chicken breast, water, seasoning {sea salt, maltodextrin*, natural flavours, yeast extract, onion powder, garlic powder, sugar, gum Arabic**, dextrose, modified corn starch, sodium phosphates***)

Roasted Pecans: pecans, sugar, wheat starch, honey, maltodextrin, soya oil, sea salt, lactose, cayenne pepper, soya lecithin, xanthan gum***

Pomegranate Vinaigrette dressing: water, sugar, concentrated pomegranate juice, soya oil, white wine vinegar, concentrated orange juice, balsamic flavoured vinegar (wine vinegar, grape must, sulphites), white vinegar, salt, orange peel, shallots, spices, natural flavor, xanthan gum.****

Gourmet croutons: wheat flour, sunflower and/or canola oil, salt, garlic (dehydrated), water, yeast, malted barley, seasonings (sea salt, black pepper, natural flavor), natural butter flavor (milk), oleoresin rosemary, ascorbic acid, citric acid and/or tocopherols.*****


I bolded all the different types of sugar. I've probably been spending too much time reading Fooducate.

*Maltodextrin is a polysaccharide used as a food additive. It is produced from starch by partial hydrolysis and is usually found as a creamy-white hygroscopic spraydried powder. It is easily digestible, being absorbed as rapidly as glucose and might be either moderately sweet or almost flavourless. (Thanks Wikipedia!). So um….why are we adding this???? WHY??????

**Gum Arabic is a natural gum made of hardened sap taken from two species of the acacia tree. It is a complex mixture of polysaccharides and glycoproteins used primarily in the food industry as a stabilizer. It’s also a key ingredient in glue, printing, cosmetics and ink. (again, thanks Wikipedia). I’m still not sure why chicken breast needs a stabilizer.

***Sodium phosphate is a cleaning agent, food additive, stain remover and degreaser. It’s used as a meat preservative. You ever heard of TSP? Yah, that’s the same sodium phosphate. G ross.

***Damn guys, couldn’t you just have roasted some pecans? Why all the wacky stuff? Lactose, really????? To explain the other wacky stuff, soya lecithin is an emulsifier, because, um….peanuts need to be emulsified? It’s also used in non-stick cooking spray, but I would have thought the soya oil would have had that covered. So gross. Xanthan gum is produced by fermenting glucose or fructose, which is then precipitated from a growth medium with isopropyl alcohol, dried and ground to a find powder. Later, it is added to a liquid medium to form gum. It is used to increase the viscosity of a liquid (like a salad dressing…or….pecans?????).

**** It’s worth mentioning that despite the fact that this dressing is mostly sugar water, it’s got the shortest ingredient list of any of the Wendy’s dressings. AND keep in mind that concentrated fruit juices are basically flavoured sugar.

***** How about a side of awesome with all of that crap! Oleoresin rosemary is made from rosemary oil extract and is used to retard rancidity in natural oils. It’s not as gross as I first thought it might be. But still not really healthy. I don’t love the uses of acid, as they are generally not the nice happy lemon/orange juice that you might think they are, but rather a byproduct of the fermentation of yeast and mold. I’d frankly rather dust a little lemon zest over my croutons. Tocopherols are basically vitamin E (not a bad thing), but you can easily get Vitamin E from so many different natural foods (like vegetable oils) that it doesn’t make a lot of sense to just randomly add it to thing.

Did I mention that this is the least bad-for-you salad from their new menu? And I didn't even begin to examine the 'natural flavours' they've added to everything. Funny me, I thought chicken *had* plenty of natural flavour.

Anyway. That’s my rundown. I’m annoyed. Wendy’s, you suck. Not that any of the other chains are better. A&Ws veggie swiss burger has 1410 mg of sodium, just as an example.


So peeved.


Never eating fast food again.

Monday, July 19, 2010

something simple and delicious for a sunday night

Pin It Now!

I'll apologize in advance because I don't have step-by-step photos of this dinner. I didn't initially set out to blog it, as it was just supposed to be something quick and easy to finish off the week. But once I sat down to eat it, I immediately stopped hubs from digging in and went to grab the camera. It's pretty, it's simple and it was one of those rare dishes that manages to taste both good and virtuous at the same time. The initial inspiration came from Clean Eating (another plug for that magazine and no, they don't pay me), but as I'd used up some of the ingredients earlier in the week, I had to improvise a little bit.


DSC_0156

chickpea & coloured-carrot asparagus couscous
*first change - hubs roasted my coloured carrots alongside his buffalo steak on saturday night. I had asparagus, so that's what I used.

1 T olive oil
4 medium assorted carrots (or 1 bunch asparagus)
1 t curry powder
juice of 1/2 lemon (make sure you zest the lemon before you juice it, as you'll need the zest for the other recipe)
1 c low-sodium vegetable broth
1 cup uncooked whole-wheat couscous
1 can rinsed chickpeas
fresh parsley

1. In a medium pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add carrots asparagus and curry and cook for 2 minutes.

2. Add lemon juice and broth and bring to a boil. Add couscous, remove from heat, stir and cover.

3. Fluff with a fork, then stir in chickpeas and parsley. Voila. Done.

meanwhile..... (basically, once the couscous is in the broth), make this....

chicken almondine with lemon green beans

1/4 c sliver unsalted almonds, toasted, divided (note: I was too lazy to toast mine. so sue me. It was still good and my house didn't smell like burnt nuts)
1 T whole wheat flour
1/4 t spanish paprika (I didn't know what type they meant - I used 1/8 t cheap paprika, and 1/8 t bittersweet smoked paprika. it worked).
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded to 1/2-inch thickness (I actually used two largish breasts and cut them into three pieces each....the couscous/chickpea side is so substantial, you really don't need to add much, if any meat to it)
1 lb green yellow beans (it's what they had at the market)
zest of one lemon
juice of 1/2 lemon

1. Grind 1/8 cup almonds to a powder using your chopping device of choice (or a mortar and pestle).

2. Combine ground almonds, flour, paprika, salt and pepper. Dredge chicken breasts in this mixture and set aside (I just put them all in a container and gave it a shake. Like shake'n bake, except without hydrogenated oil, sodium silicoaluminate or maltodextrin....

3. Heat a large skillet, if it's non-stick, spray with cooking spray (if it's stainless steel like mine, use enough oil to just coat the bottom of the pan or you WILL regret it). Sauté chicken for 3ish minutes per side, or until cooked through. Remove from heat.

4. Cook the beans to desired doneness (I use a microwave because it's fast, but you could also blanch/steam/boil them). Then toss with lemon zest and juice, salt and pepper.

5. To serve, sprinkle remaining almond slivers over chicken.

A couple of tasting notes on this recipe - the chicken was outstanding. I'm not sure how much of it was the almond/paprika coating, or how much of it was that I used organic, locally-raised chicken. Whatever. It was really good. Don't go cheap on your chicken breasts here, because it's SO much better with good chicken. The other thing is that the beans were AWESOME. I've always been a bit meh on lemon beans because I find the acidity of the lemon juice really just makes it sour....but zest. Man, this has opened my eyes to a whole new world of possibility. The little bits of zest on the beans were like delicious little non-sour lemon explosions in your mouth. It was delicious.

Anyway, if you're bored, this is good. You should make it. It's simple and it's healthy and best of all, it easily serves six hungry people (with just two chicken breasts) and has left me with a bevy of leftovers for delicious lunches. YUM.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

when you're dumb and buy fifty zillion crappy apples at costco...

Pin It Now!

...then you have to get a little creative about using them up.

DSC_0143

Normally, I'm a huge apple fan. There is just nothing more delicious than biting into a crispy, juicy, delicious apple. And as much as I'd love to buy local all the time, let's face it, I live in Ottawa, and the Ontario apple season is September/October. So at this time of year....there's not a whole lot of tasty local apples to be had.

However, usually the apples from Costco are pretty good - probably overbred beyond all scope of imagination, but generally living up to the platonian ideal apple (with a little help from some wax, etc.).

Anyway, so this batch of apples REALLY sucked. They looked really pretty, but in terms of texture, they were mealy and kinda soft. And in terms of taste, they just didn't really have a whole lot of it. So these were dry, soft, tasteless apples.

And because I bought them at Costco, I had like fifteen bushels of them (yes, I exagerrate).

So I used up nearly a dozen apples making apple crumbles, which were awesome for breakfast (I make my crumble with lots of oats and spelt flour, so it's not as desserty as a typical crumble).

But I still had a whole whack of 'em.

So I trawled through the internet, in search of ways to disguise these nasty little things (I'm trying to throw out less food, and to be more efficient in using all of the food that I buy....).

I thought it might be a good idea to make some apple fritters, because that's hubs' favourite pastry, and because, well, I thought it might help me plow through the apples. A quick google brought me to a perfect recipe from An Edible Mosaic. It was great because it was whole wheat, baked and pretty easy to make (pretty much entirely pantry staples). I'm not going to re-post the recipe, but I do recommend heading on over to An Edible Mosaic if you want some yummy apple fritters of your own. Miss Z absolutely gobbled hers. And then she gobbled mine. And then she hollered "MORE mommy....pleeeeeese?!!??." After which she gobbled hubs' proferred fritter.

DSC_0110

The other recipe I came across was a Senegalese chilled soup with apple, carrot and onion. It's not bad. It's not the best thing I've ever eaten, but it's pretty, has a nice kick to it (my curry powder is pretty spicy) and is a little out of the ordinary.

DSC_0150

I think next time I look to put apples in soup, I might go for an apple-parsnip soup...or something hot. Or maybe have apples that actually have some flavour, because I found that the curry flavour of the soup overwhelemed everything else, not allowing either the apple or carrot to poke through. You can check the recipe out for yourself though, at epicurious.

For tonight, I'm going to have blackberry-glazed grilled salmon over a bed of greens. Should be tasty!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

fresh, fast and local(?) on a saturday night

Pin It Now!

I'm intrigued by the idea of a 20 minute supper every night....intrigued but not yet convinced.


DSC_6905

I'm not saying that you should slave away for 2+ hours just to put a decent meal on the table, but I also have a hard time accepting the value proposition of a recipe that promises dinner in 15-20 minutes, but involves 15 minutes of cooking time. Unless you are a super-star chef with the world's most organized kitchen (and that excludes like 99.9% of us), you probably can't get everything prepped for a recipe in 5 minutes.

That said, when a friend posted this recipe on facebook, I thought I would try it anyway....even though I changed it up a bit (so it took quite a bit longer than 20 minutes), I think it's a good recipe. Plus, I loved the fact that it called for maple syrup, as my uncle just dropped off a big jug of this year's batch. It's deliciously thick and dark and flavourful. So I thought this would be a good way to try out a more savoury use of maple (as opposed to me either drowning my french toast, or just plain eating it out of a bowl, both of which I have been known to do).

Anyway....I figured that with a fairly richly-flavoured meal, it would be best to pair it with a light dessert. And since it's the time of year when we're just starting to see shoots and starts of local produce, I decided to make a clafoutis (it also helps that a friend had me over for dinner earlier in the week and made a delicious blueberry version, which reawakened my love for this ultra-simple dessert). I've made clafoutis before, and I pretty much used the same recipe this time, except I made it with cherries (not local....they weren't the best cherries ever so I thought they might be improved by baking in a vanilla custard pancake). I kept my local strawberries for noshing instead.

I'm going to repost the clafoutis recipe because I think it's totally underrated and super delicious. Plus, I think I've got the baking time mastered now. As much as I LOVE my copy of how to cook everything, I think Mark Bittman brutally underestimates the amount of time it takes to bake.

Maple Roast Chicken and Peppers with Thyme New Potatoes - stolen and lightly adapted from 20 Minute Supper Club

1/3 c maple syrup
3 T cider vinegar
1 t minced garlic
1/4 t sea salt
1/4 t black pepper
pinch red pepper flakes
(1/3 c marsala --> it was just sitting around, so I added it in!)

4 boneless chicken breasts (I had three monster-sized ones, so I sliced them to make 6 pieces of chicken)
2 bell peppers, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 lb small new potatoes
1 T unsalted butter
2 t fresh thyme (I used dried...I don't think it's worth it to buy fresh...dried thyme is fine)
1 t grainy old-style mustard

1. In a bowl, combine the first six ingredients (and the marsala, if you're using it). Add the chicken and let marinate for a while (I recommend an hour or two, if you have the time).
DSC_6887

2. Preheat oven to 425F.
3. Add potatoes to a large pot of salted water and bring to a boil. Cook until tender when pierced with a knife (20ish minutes, unless they are really tiny). Drain well and toss with butter, mustard and thyme. Keep warm and set aside.
DSC_6894

4. Meanwhile, heat an oven-safe frying pan****(see below for instructions on how not to eff this up with a stainless steel pan). I thought the chicken would benefit from being dredged in seasoned flour....so I mixed together about 1/2 c flour, 1 t ground mustard, 1 t garlic salt and pepper. I lifted the chicken pieces out of their marinade, let them drip and then dredged them and plopped them in my hot, oiled pan.
DSC_6892

DSC_6893

5. Cook until they are a bit brown (3-4 minutes) and then flip. Once you flip, add the maple mixture and peppers. Bring to a boil (it is a chicken marinade after all...you don't want a side of salmonella with your dinner).
DSC_6895

6. Pop the skillet into the oven (uncovered). Let bake for about 12-15 minutes.
DSC_6903

Enjoy!

**** I am the recent, but very proud owner of a very heavy stainless steel pan. We have decided to try to minimize our use of (and exposure to) non-stick cookware (read more here). BUT, the whole reason that non-stick pans have become so popular is that it takes a little bit of know-how to cook with stainless steel. SO....if you're going this route (though I also highly recommend cast iron; it's less touchy, but it is reactive, and that can cause problems if you use a lot of lemons or tomatoes...but I digress)....anyway, if you're going to go this route, this is what you can do to save yourself a lot of scrubbing and frustration:

1. Heat a dry, clean pan over medium heat.
2. After a few minutes (unless you have a gas stove, in which case, check quicker), flick a bit of water at the pan. If it bounces/evaporates immediately, go to step three. If not, wait another minute or two and try again.
3. Add your oil. You have to use a reasonable amount of oil with a stainless pan....cooking spray won't cut it. You need *just* enough to very thinly cover the bottom (about 1.5 T will do it). Let it get hot (the surface will shimmer, and the oil will become very thin, runny).
4. NOW add your food.

If you follow these steps, you shouldn't have any problems. If you skip them and get impatient, your food will stick. And then it will suck to be whoever is on KP.

Cherry Clafoutis - from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything
DSC_6935

3 cups cherries
3 eggs
1/2 sugar (I use vanilla sugar)
1/3 c flour
3/4 c milk
3/4 c THICK yogourt - I used Phoenicia non-fat. It is deliciously rich and tangy.
pinch sea salt
1 t vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. Prep your cherries...basically, you'll need to pop them (hahaha... :p ) with the side of a broad knife. Don't to it too enthusiastically or they will spray everywhere. (note to self: lesson learned). Once you've lightly crushed them, you should easily be able to open them and take the pit out. It will turn your hands and nails a rather objectionable nasty colour. But such is life. I like to toss them in a bit of vanilla sugar, especially as my cherries were not very sweet.
DSC_6908

3. In a bowl, whisk the heck out of your three eggs. You want them to be a bit foamy.
DSC_6915

4. Add the sugar and whisk some more (again, you want it to be thick and foamy).
5. Add flour. Repeat.
6. Add the milk, yogourt, salt and vanilla. Whisk until smooth.
7. Take some butter and grease your pan. Sprinkle the pan with about 1T sugar, toss it around, and dump out the excess.
8. Spread the cherries in the bottom of the pan.
DSC_6912

9. Pour the batter over the cherries.
DSC_6924

Bake for 35-40 minutes. The edges will be brown and the middle should be *almost* set. Let it sit for a few minutes, and you will have the easiest, most delicious dessert you can make with fruit.

DSC_6932

sometimes you just have to go simple

Pin It Now!

As always, I am lamenting the long-neglect of this blog....and the longer I don't post, the more I work myself up into thinking that my 'come back' post absolutely must be something of such epically delicious proportions that it will act as a personal catalyst for revolutionizing my approach to blogging.


So...moving right along....that's not going to happen. I don't want to post something so complicated, arduous or impressive that no one will ever come back....I want to share something simple, quick and delicious. Because really, that's what food is all about. Enjoying something that tastes fantastic, but doesn't require endless hours of labour in the kitchen.

I actually thought this dish might be a little humble for posting, but when discussing the subject with hubs, he actually INSISTED that it be shared. Because it's really good.

And the more I thought about it, the more perfect this meal was for posting. It's a great representation of the type of cooking I find myself doing these days....between having a crazy (crazed?) toddler, a commute that sucks way too much of my life (90 minutes each way...ugh), and just not having tons of extra energy, this is the perfect kind of thing to make at the end of the day. And even better, you don't have to feel like a jerk for serving it to your family because it's balanced and healthy.

So without further ado....

Curried couscous with broccoli and feta - stolen and adapted from Cooking Light
serves 5
DSC_6883

1 3/4 c water
1 c. whole wheat couscous
2 c. broccoli florets
1/2 c. finely chopped red onion
1/3 c. shredded carrot (I didn't have carrot so I used a combination of peppers and celery....and I used way more than 1/3 c.)
1/4 c. raisins (used a combination of sultana and thompson raisins)
1/4 c. dry-roasted cashews, chopped (I roasted my cashews in a clean frying pan)
2 T white wine vinegar
1.5 T olive oil
1 t sugar
2 t curry powder
2 t grated ginger
pinch salt
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
crumbled feta cheese

1. Boil water in kettle. Put couscous in a glass container. Pour boiling water over couscous, stir and cover. Voila. couscous done.
DSC_6869

2. While couscous stands, nuke the broccoli florets for about 90 seconds.
DSC_6870

3. Whisk vinegar, oil, sugar, curry powder, ginger and salt together in a small bowl.
DSC_6876

4. Combine couscous, broccoli, onion, veggies, chickpeas and dressing.
DSC_6871

5. Serve warm, hot or cold and sprinkle with crumbled feta.

DSC_6878

And voila. A complete, speedy, yummy vegetarian meal. If you insist on meat, you could add chopped chicken or crab.

As an addendum....remember waaaaaay back when when I stated that I didn't like frozen food? And that I wasn't really eating all of the food I had made in anticipation of Lil Z's arrival....almost two years ago?????

Hubs finally got fed up with me ignoring its existence in our deep freeze and ventured into that frozen tundra of dehydrated and now well-past-its-prime food.

Behold, the haul....
DSC_6884

A truly, truly shameful waste of food, I'm horrified to say. :( But at least now I have some room in my freezer! I've discovered my freezer is best filled with staples that can make something yummy, rather than something pre-made that just goes to waste....

Saturday, March 13, 2010

frozen pizza is making me mad

Pin It Now!

Ever since I was about five years old, I've made no secret of the fact that pizza is my favourite food. I pretty much like any kind of pizza except hawaiian (pineapple + pizza = all kinds of wrong).


I love the classic thin crust italian pizza, with fresh seasonal toppings, and I also love the local pizzeria special, loaded with toppings on thick doughy crust.

Pizza is good.

Sometimes I make my own pizza. In fact, earlier this week, I made a FABULOUS pizza with whole wheat crust, organic tomato sauce, part-skim mozza, local elk sausage, peppers, onions and mushrooms. Deeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeelish. OF course, that night, I didn't eat until 9, because it took that long for the dough to rise.

Sometimes I order in. There's a great spot near me that makes fabulous thin crust pizzas with lots of creative toppings.

And sometimes, frozen pizza is just fast, easy, cost-effective and convenient.

In the last few years, the frozen pizza selection has really broadened. A decade ago, you could purchase cardboard-like discs with a couple of classic toppings - pepperoni, deluxe, cheese.

Don't get me wrong, I've scarfed my fair share.

A few years ago, however, Dr. Oetker frozen pizzas entered the Canadian market and they seemed like such a great alternative - thin crispy crust, delicious cheese and a selection of inspired vegetable toppings - spinach, mushrooms, buffalo mozzarella, goat cheese.

And because of the thin crust, you can indulge a bit, and the calories weren't too bad.

Well, of course, with my latest post about HVP, I was curious. Earlier this week, I was craving pizza and picked up a couple of the Dr. Oetker pizzas (one spinach, one mushroom).

And then I read the label. Read it and weep:

Wheat flour, water, spinach, tomato puree, mozzarella cheese (milk, salt, calcium chloride, bacterial culture, microbial enzyme or rennet), edam cheese (milk, salt, calcium chloride, beta-carotene colour, bacterial culture, microbial enzyme or rennet), vegetable oil preparation (contains modified canola and palm oil, water, citric acid, artificial flavour, beta-carotene colour, mono and diglycerides), canola or sunflower oil, yeast, salt, sugar, modified cornstarch, seasoning (contains salt, hydrolyzed soya protein, autolyzed yeast extract, modified palm oil, caramel colour, dextrose, dried carrots, dried onions, spices), garlic, lactic acid, potato starch, spices


This is pizza that has crust, spinach, cheese and sauce. WHY does it need these chemicals? These ingredients are delicious on their own, and there is absolutely no defence for using these chemicals.


Conversely, though I don't love their pizzas, I do love a new initiative by McCain. Aside from the fact that their vegetarian pizza selection seems to start and end with cheese (seriously lame, guys!!!!), they have eliminated scary chemicals from their frozen pizzas. And they've eliminated nitrates from the pepperoni and sausage that adorn these pizzas. And I love them for that. And if I hadn't sworn off of factory farmed meat, I would fill my freezers with their products to let them know how much I love this movement. (Seriously guys, would it kill you to make a fab veggie pizza????)


As much as I rant about chemicals in processed food, and how easy it is to make your own chemical-free food....the reality is that not everyone has lots of time. Believe me, I REALLY understand this (work full time, commute three hours a day, have small child, devoted hubs, part-time business and try to actually do social stuff once in a while). I'm no paragon of perfection upon which you should model yourselves.


The essence is I think all of these companies that are pushing their chemical-laden crap on us should do like McCain, take a solid look at their ingredient lists and question....WHY am I putting this in food? Is there a NEED for this to be in there? Can I make this food without chemicals?


McCain sure thinks you can.


Dr. Oetker, I'm looking straight at you.


Editing to add - the formatting of this post (and blogger) is making me mental. There are LOTS of links in the text, but you'll have to mouse over to see them. GRRRRRR

Sunday, March 07, 2010

there is no defence for this food

Pin It Now!

So, I've been a really, really crappy blogger lately. And I apologize for that.


However, I certainly haven't been idle in terms of food and eating....and especially in terms of reading. It seems to becoming de rigueur these days to read up on food and condemn factory farming practices and supply chain conglomeration and all those things.

So being the diligent little foodie that I am, I've been doing these things. I've read books (The End of Overeating by Dr. David. A. Kessler, Eating Animals, by Jonathan Safran Foer). I've watched movies (King Corn, Food Inc.). I've read articles (from the Center for Science in the Public Interest, from various other news outlets).

I've been horrified, grossed out, temporarily vegan....you name it.

But it's honestly hard to grasp just how ridiculous and fragile the North American food supply is. I mean, yes, we've all heard about recalls of ground beef, spinach, lunch meats and all that stuff. But that seems pretty straightforward.

But then you look at the current recall on hydrolyzed vegetable protein. And your first reaction is...wtf is hydrolyzed vegetable protein, and have I eaten it?

To answer the first, HVP (which sounds like a disease, if you ask me) is made by boiling cereals or legumes [like soy, corn or wheat] in hydrochloric [wha?????] acid, and then neutralizing it with sodium hydroxide.

To answer the second, yes, you've probably eaten it.

So.....we are boiling stuff we don't need in a highly corrosive solution and then making it palatable with a caustic metal base.

This totally sounds like something I'd want to eat. You?

Anyway, the resulting HVP is used as a flavour enhancer in processed food. So it's used in things like soup, sauces, chili, stew, hot dogs, gravy, snacks, dips and dressings. And sometimes it's blended with spices to make seasonings. A quick investigation into my own pantry found me four products containing HVP - a salad topping mix, a soup, a burger seasoning mix and a peppercorn sauce. These items are full of sodium and other chemicals and probably had no business entering my house in the first place.

So I've tossed them.

Anyway, what I find interesting about this particular food recall is that it really shows how incredibly fragile the processed food supply is. So you have this one company in Nevada that makes this nasty stuff.

And then they sell it to all kinds of food manufacturers (lots of brands and varieties) that make even more nasty stuff.

And those manufacturers sell to grocery stores all across the continent.

And we buy this crap, mix it with another ingredient or two, and feel like we're actually cooking something.

And so basically anyone in the ENTIRE CONTINENT who has purchased processed food since September 2009 needs to have a good go-through of their cupboard and fridge contents.

All because of one small company in Nevada.

And how many other small companies might there be out there helping to pump our foods with chemicals and "enhancers" that we simply don't need?

I'm just looking at the label of my instant leek soup....on the ingredient list, I see corn starch (okay), wheat flour (okay), modified milk ingredients (hmmm), onion powder (okay...), dried vegetables [potatoes and leeks], corn syrup solids [wtf did they do to it to make it solid?], salt, monosodium glutamate [blech], canola oil, hydrolyzed corn protein [HVP!!!!!], guar gum (huh?), natural flavour (awesome....what is it?), spice, natural colour and sulphites.

Ummm....that doesn't sound like potato leek soup to me. To me, potato leek soup is leeks, potatoes, broth and maybe some cream. And it's not very hard to make.

What this potato leek soup is, is actually a conglomeration of chemicals from a conglomeration of companies that food scientists have discovered tastes a lot like potato leek soup. And it tastes a lot like the potato leek soup that most people want to eat.

And this totally reminds me of a recent experience at work. A while back, we had a chili cook-off. There were ten entries (including mine) and they ran the gamut - there were spicy entries, mild ones, wildly varying ingredients. But when voting time came, there was one particular entry that won by a landslide (it had 10 votes, and the next closest had 3).

And it wasn't my chili, hehe.

It was actually canned chili. I'm happy to say that *I* didn't vote for it....I found it lacking in texture, with a bit of a dog food smell.

But most people DID vote for it (over half!). It was processed, hyper-palatable food that a team of food scientists has spent months perfecting and testing. I.e., it was a representation of what most people felt an ideal chili should taste like.

You can't win against that.

And anyway...I guess this big long entry goes to say....it's time that we cut the chemicals out of our food and start eating tasty, healthy home-made food that isn't going from the chem lab to our tables.

More on this later....thanks for being patient, and now that I'm well and thoroughly riled, hopefully you'll see some more entries from me....

I'd love to hear your comments and insights....

Related Posts with Thumbnails