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Posts Tagged ‘peanut butter’

How weird to be in the middle of a food trend and not realize it.

I’ve been trying to reduce the amount of processed food in my family’s diet for the past few years. I was unemployed for a few months when we first moved to Huntsville, so I started cooking a lot to try to save money and fill time. And not Hamburger Helper-type cooking, either. I’m talking from-scratch cooking, as in grate your own cheese (melts so much better than pre-shredded) and making your own meatloaf spice mixture (because have you READ the ingredients on those little flavoring packets?). The salad spinner became a permanent resident in the fridge, always filled with fresh (and local, when available) greens.

We didn’t give up EVERY processed food, mind you. There may or may not be a multipack of frozen pizzas from Costco in my freezer right now. The peanut butter that the husband eats every day is incredibly hydrogenated (I’d go bankrupt trying to feed him the real stuff). I don’t make my own mayonnaise, although I should make my own salad dressing.

So I’m not claiming that we’re dietary saints. But we’ve both maintained our weight for the past five years despite some substantial lapses in workouts, and we’ve put a significant dent in the number of colds and other odd viruses that haunt so many households. Coincidence? Maybe, but I’ll take it.

We find ourselves in the middle of the Real Food Movement. Come on in. It’s delicious.

I rescued a copy of The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite from my mom’s Goodwill box a few months ago and just got around to reading it. Author David A. Kessler explores, among other things, how utterly processed the average American diet is. The food industry exists to sell us cheaply manufactured goods that make us want to eat more, no matter how much sugar, fat and salt it takes to get us hooked.

I spotted a title at Barnes & Noble this weekend that actually distracted me from the Harry Potter table: Skinny Chicks Eat Real Food: Kick Your Fake Food Habit, Kickstart Your Weight Loss. Author Christine Avanti explores factory food addiction and how her move to fresh, real foods helped her lose weight and, more importantly, maintain her weight. I didn’t pick up the book because, I told myself, I’m not trying to lose weight OR fill up my bookshelves right now, but I’m very curious to read Avanti’s findings.

The thing about (who knew?) being part of the Real Food Movement for the past couple of years? I can now often taste the difference between processed foods and real foods. For example, I can taste the excessive sugar in jars of spaghetti sauce — there’s only one variety I can really stand to eat now, and the husband’s not fond of it. The flavor of salt in canned soup is getting overwhelming — heck, I can taste salt in one variety of CHEESE now, prompting me to replace it with another.

So, as anticlimactic as it may be, my New Year’s Resolution is to keep following the Real Food path. I’ll also be changing up my exercise routine (more on that later), but mostly I’ll continue figuring out how to feed the husband and myself quality, delicious foods and get further away from the “better living through chemistry” theme that has overtaken our food industry for the past few decades.

To that end, I’m afraid the pantry is about to lose two longstanding residents. You’ve been handy, jarred spaghetti sauce and canned soup, but I can taste your additives, and I can make you better without them.

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I haven’t bought Girl Scout Cookies in several years, mostly because it got really awkward in my former workplace when five co-workers were selling them at the same time. I certainly couldn’t afford to buy them from everybody.

Confession: I don’t really care about Thin Mints. I know.

My all-time favorite is the Samoa (weird, because I generally don’t like the texture of dried coconut), with the Tagalong running a close second.

Today, Serious Eats offered a recipe for Homemade Tagalongs that I might have to try. I’m thinking they might be even better using freshly ground peanut butter from Earth Fare.

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I spent several hours last Friday making a sweet potato pie, only to discover that my husband really doesn’t like sweet potato anything. I found the pie cloyingly sweet, and certainly wasn’t going to finish it by myself anyway. The only household member who liked it was Yang, who snagged a morsel that I dropped on the floor. He looked up at me like I had dropped the rarest, most delicious piece of fish he had ever eaten. Alas, aged cats do not have sweet potato pie on their list of dietary allowances.

Monday, I spend 30 minutes halfheartedly dipping some unsalted pretzels that were nearing their expiration date into leftover chocolate coating from the grand cake pop experiment. I sprinkled each one with the tiniest bit of kosher salt and laid them out on waxed paper to dry.

Little did I know they were to become the snack of the week. The husband and I both love them, particularly with a little peanut butter smeared on top.

Yang has shown no interest in them.

So, hours of effort yield a pie that no one likes, while a last-minute attempt to clean out the cabinet without trashing food yields delicious goodness. You never know.

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It’s good to have friends who help you maintain a positive attitude and healthy habits. It’s also good to have friends who urge you to make questionable choices every once in a while.

When I emailed a photo of a surprising food find — Little Debbie Banana Pudding Rolls — to a former colleague earlier this week, he responded immediately:  “My professional advice to you is to buy two boxes of them right now. Why two? Because you’ll eat one box on the way home from the store.”

How could a girl resist?

I grew up eating Little Debbie products at my grandparent’s house in South Mississippi — my brother and I could always find a box of the treats on top of the refrigerator. I am the Forrest Gump of Little Debbie products, with a readily accessible running list of the different varieties taking up valuable space inside my brain. Ask me about nearly any of the company’s products, and I can run down a quick review for you. Here are just a few that popped into my head this very minute:

Devil Squares: Their substantial filling and sort of weirdly textured chocolate coating combine for a unique and delicious culinary experience that made me, as a child, feel slightly more sophisticated than my tomboyish habits generally merited. (more…)

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I finally made it to Huntsville’s new Earth Fare location last weekend, although I failed to spend the requisite $100-plus some customers have brag-complained about.

Earth Fare is like any other grocery store in its basic layout: If you stick to the perimeter, where the produce, dairy products, meats, cheeses and breads are located, you’ll spend less money and get healthier food for your family. Head to the interior aisles, however, and you may spend more than you should on things you don’t need, like frozen waffles,  cereals, prepackaged mixes and fancy juices.

Yes, eventually you’ll have to venture to a middle aisle, if nothing else than to find Reed’s Extra Ginger Brew, seriously the only soda I waste calories on anymore. But consider another pass through the produce area instead of grabbing a couple of boxes of all natural fruit chews off the shelf, especially if you intend to grouse about prices later.

Earth Fare’s biggest draws for me, in order: the bulk bins (grains, not candy), the produce selection, the fresh peanut butter grinders (husband thing) and the olive bar. The olive bar is a tad pricey at almost $10 a pound, but it’s great when you just need a few olives of a certain type for a recipe, or you get a craving flung on you for a few spoonfuls of marinated mushrooms.

Some folks want to criticize the store for carrying non-local produce, and I admit I was momentarily disappointed to find watermelons from Honduras on display. What I forgot for a second, and what a lot of people forget when they rant about produce being shipped into their regions, is that we don’t HAVE watermelons locally in May. Local tomatoes don’t exist in March. Local citrus … uh, no.

If we want all fruits and vegetables the whole year round, we have to accept the fact that they will not come from any place close by. I do hope to see local produce in Earth Fare as the summer progresses, however, and the natural crop cycles play out.

In the meantime, my supply of steel-cut oats has taken a beating this weekend (they take a ridiculously long time to cook, but emerge from the pot chewy and creamy, subtly sweet after I add just a hint of brown sugar and a scattering of raisins), and the freshly ground peanut/dark chocolate mixture my husband requested seems to be dwindling as well. A return trip to the outer edges of Earth Fare may be in order.

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