Category Archives: artificial ingredients

Real Chocolate Fondue

chocolate fondue titlesGive your special people some seriously delicious love this Valentine’s Day. This chocolate fondue recipe is simple but sublime – a treat that definitely says “I Love You!”

Fair Trade Slavery-Free Chocolate

Say “I love you” to the farmers and harvesters by using the really good stuff.  Look for fair trade, non-gmo verified dark chocolate. 70% cacao or more means lots of antioxidant power. I’ve tried Endangered Species, Theo and Dagoba brands and like them, but there are plenty of others that are good – just look for the fair trade or slavery-free verification. I really don’t want my chocolate at the expense of someone else’s hardship.  Plus, over the last several years the mainstream chocolate companies have realized they can make more money by fractionizing their chocolate, taking out the cocoa butter to sell as a separate product, and replacing it with an artificial emulsifier called PGPR.  To those who know better cocoa butter is a natural, healthy, tropical fat, and taking it out of chocolate decreases the food value of that chocolate. So read your labels and don’t buy anything with artificial flavors or emulsifiers with capital letters for names.

fair trade chocolate

Try these dipping ideas

Get creative with what you dip into this fabulous fondue! I like to keep it on the healthy side as much as possible so I usually offer big, red, ripe strawberries which are in peak season right now where I live in Florida. Banana slices are good too, as are any tropical fruit like kiwi, pineapple and even orange. Apples or pear slices work too. You can also use homemade shortbread cookies, large walnut halves, little squares of homemade pound cake, or how about homemade marshmallows?!

Real Chocolate Fondue

Ingredients

12 ounces of fair trade dark chocolate (chips or a bar cut into small chunks)

3/4 cup heavy cream (preferably raw but definitely not ultra-pasteurized if possible)

2 teaspoons vanilla extract or almond extract OR you can make this more grown-up and use 1 to 2 Tablespoons of cherry brandy or orange liqueur. If you like coffee you could also use 2 teaspoons of espresso powder.

Dippers such as fresh fruit, homemade cookies or cake, marshmallows or nuts

Preparation

Place the chocolate and the cream in a heavy-bottom saucepan and melt over very low heat, stirring constantly until smooth. This doesn’t take long at all. You are not cooking this, simply melting the chocolate and combining it with the delicious cream. Remove from the heat and stir in the flavoring of choice. Transfer this chocolate mixture to a fondue pot or individual small ramekins and serve with your choice of dippers.

Real Chocolate Fondue
 
Author:
Recipe type: dessert
 
Share the love with this delicious chocolate dessert treat.
Ingredients
  • 12 ounces of fair trade chocolate (either chips or a bar cut into small chunks)
  • ¾ cup heavy cream (preferably raw, but not ultra-pasteurized if possible)
  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract or almond extract for a family-friendly version
  • OR 2 Tablespoons of cherry brandy or orange liqueur OR 2 teaspoons espresso powder
  • assorted dippers such as fresh fruit, homemade cookies or cake, marshmallows or nuts
Instructions
  1. Place the chocolate and cream in a heavy-bottom saucepan and melt over very low heat, stirring constantly until smooth.
  2. Watch constantly and do not let this come to a boil or you will scorch the chocolate!
  3. Remove from heat and stir in flavoring of choice.
  4. Transfer the chocolate mixture to a fondue pot or to individual ramekins, and serve with dippers.
  5. Makes about 2 cups.

 Share your favorite dipping ideas with us in the comment section! Be sure to Pin this for later using the Pinterest buttons at the top.

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The High Cost of the Value Meal

value meal titles

A few weeks ago I shared the picture below on the Well Fed Family Facebook page. It received a lot of comments ranging from those who were disgusted to those who really wanted to know how it was possible to eat well when you didn’t have a lot of money.

too poor to be healthyWhen I mentioned that I had once blogged about how if someone was willing to just cook for themselves they could eat organic potatoes and grassfed beef burgers for less than the price of a fast food meal. Several people asked if I’d repost the article. So here it is, updated with current prices and including some recipes. I’m also going to post more budget-friendly recipes here on Well Fed Family that are healthier and cheaper than eating off the $1 Menu.

The High Cost of the Value Meal

It’s been 10 years since filmmaker Morgan Spurlock released his documentary Super Size Me where he eats 3 meals a day, 7 days a week, exclusively from McDonald’s. It’s doubtful anyone really thinks they are getting a healthy meal this way, however we still choose it all too often, eyes wide open to the detriment to our health and our children’s health. Why? Because often we perceive these foods to be inexpensive, a good value for the money and time spent. Some go so far as to say they cannot afford any other kind of food; that they are victims of the food industry. I’m here to show you nothing could be further from the truth.

Is a value meal really as cheap as it seems?

Let’s look at two common meals from two familiar fast food chains. Then we’ll compare costs with what we’d spend if we prepared these meals at home. I’m using restaurant prices from Fast Food Prices and grocery prices from my own personal grocery receipts from stores here in the metro-Orlando area where I live.

 

chickfila 1Meal 1:
Chick-fila original 8 count nuggets plus waffle fries and a sweet tea:
Items purchased individually total $6.59, purchased as a meal combo $5.95

The Chick-fila chicken nuggets are a favorite with most of the little kids I know. It’s the same chicken recipe as the original chicken sandwich, but cut into finger food sized pieces. Reading the actual ingredients might shock a few playgroup moms to discover they are seasoned with mostly MSG (monosodium glutamate – a known neurotoxin ) and sugar plus over 15 other ingredients. By the way, if you order the sandwich instead of the nuggets you might want to know there’s no actual butter on the “buttered bun” and the pickle chips contain 9 more ingredients in addition to cucumbers including two chemical preservatives and two petroleum-based artificial colors.

The waffle fries are made with potatoes but also include GMO canola oil, TBHQ, anti-foaming agents plus a little dextrose (sugar) and some color enhancers. All total it looks like about 8 ingredients not counting the salt.

Thankfully the sweet tea is simply water, sugar and tea. whew!

Cost breakdown for Chick-fila meal:
4oz of chicken nuggets for $3.25 is $13/lb.
4 oz of waffle fries for $1.65 is $6.60/lb.
15 oz of sweet tea for $1.69 is $14.36 per gallon

Mcdonalds 1Meal 2:
McDonald’s Quarter Pounder with Cheese, medium fry, medium soft drink:
Items purchased individually total $7.17 or purchased as a combo meal $6.39

The Quarter Pounder with cheese is a McDonald’s staple. I have to say the burger itself isn’t bad – 100% beef, salt and black pepper. The bun, however, has the usual suspects in any factory-produced bread, things like GMO soybean oil, yoga mats, and several other chemical conditioners and preservatives. The burger toppings add more chemical preservatives, plus a hearty serving of high fructose GMO corn syrup in the ketchup.

The fries are worse here than at Chick-fila with three kinds of GMO industrially processed oils including trans-fat filled hydrogenated soybean oil, plus the usual chemical preservatives and anti-foaming agents. Interestingly these fries are vegetarian, but they contain “natural beef flavor” made from hydrolyzed wheat (a hidden source of msg) and milk.

trivia mcdonalds fries

As for soft drink ingredients… Do I really need to tell you what’s in these? Do yourself a favor and just order water.

Cost breakdown for the McDonald’s meal:
Quarter pounder with cheese is $3.89 which is $15.56/lb
4oz fry is $1.79 or $7.16/lb
21oz soft drink is $1.49 or $9.07/gallon

Here’s the “I told you so” part:

Making chicken nuggets or hamburgers isn’t rocket science. If you can follow the directions on a box of Easy Mac, you have the cooking skills to make these things at home.

Easy Nuggets or Chicken filet:
Cut your boneless/skinless chicken breast into whatever size/shape you want, stick it in a ziplock bag along with ½ cup flour, 1 tsp garlic salt, 1 tsp black pepper and shake it up. Fry the chicken in a skillet over medium-high heat with some melted butter until it’s brown all over and done on the inside – about 8-10 minutes per side. Voila! Chicken nuggets!

Fries are super easy as well if you make them in the oven. Use one large potato for each person being served. Cut the potatoes lengthwise into 8-12 wedges. Toss with melted butter or olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Bake at 475 degrees in a cast iron skillet for best browning and crunch, or just use any baking pan or stoneware pan. It takes about 20-30 minutes. If you want to kick up the flavor of your fries then crush a clove of garlic into a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. When the fries come out of the oven drizzle this garlic oil over the hot fries with a little more salt. Wow!

Sweet tea: Bring 1 quart of filtered water to a boil. Add two teabags and allow to steep for ten minutes. Sweeten to taste and serve over ice.

Hamburgers: Use 1 pound of ground chuck to make four burgers. Each burger will be ¼ pound pre-cooked weight. Mix 1 teaspoon of sea salt and 1 tsp of black pepper into a pound of ground chuck. (preferably grassfed or antibiotic-free) weigh out ¼ lb of the ground beef mixture and use your hands to shape it into a pattie. My mom likes to use the plastic lid from a quart yogurt container to help make the right size and shape to fit a bun. Grill or pan fry on medium-high heat for about 3-4 minutes per side until done to your liking.

Make your own buns with just flour, water, egg and yeast following this recipe from King Arthur Flour.

Soft drinks: like I said earlier, don’t even go there. Drink water. Learn to make kombucha or water kefir. Make your own lemonade if you want.

Ok, so what’s the bottom line on our homemade chicken sandwich meal?

Conventional boneless/skinless chicken breast is $5.49/lb. I like to buy the non-GMO verified/antibiotic-free chicken which is about $7/lb for breast meat or $5.50/lb for thighs (which I think taste better.) However if you have a little skill with a knife you can buy bone-in chicken and remove the bones yourself. This saves you money and gives you the side benefit of having bones leftover to make homemade broth (instead of buying those expensive cans of broth – more money saving!) Boning your own chicken saves you another $2-$3 per pound.

Organic russet potatoes are $1.79/lb
Tea bags are about $4 for 100.

Cost breakdown for homemade chicken nugget meal for one serving:

$1.75 for chicken meat
.45 for potatoes
.08 for teabags
$2.24 is the grand total.

This leaves you between $4-$6 less than the purchase price at the fast food restaurant. This leaves plenty of change with which to buy the extra ingredients to make it from scratch and still have some leftover money to put in the savings account. (You only use a fraction of the flour, salt or olive oil so the per-serving amount cost from those ingredients is still very small.)

Bottom line on the Quarter Pounder meal?
Grassfed beef prices are high, but going down as the demand for this healthy meat increases. Right now I can get it for $7/lb from my grocery store. (I also have access to bulk beef and can get ¼ of a whole cow for about $6/lb. meaning steaks, roasts and ground beef are all the same price. This doesn’t have bearing for this argument unless you have a deep freeze, but the fact remains that you can get good prices on this kind of high quality meat if you know how.) Regular feedlot grocery store ground beef costs even less, and is still better for you than meats processed with nitrites, msg or preservatives. I’m sticking with grassfed beef because it proves my point just fine for this argument. This means our quarter pound burger is about $1.75.

Cheese: if you own a knife you can make your own cheese slices. Buying pre-sliced cheese is a waste of money and usually you can get much higher quality cheese if you buy it in a chunk. A good grocery store brand is Cabot. 8oz for about $3 means .38cents for a 1oz slice. (btw you can get Cabot for about half that price if you have a Sam’s or Costco membership. The big warehouse membership stores often have high quality cheese, even raw cheese, for very reasonable prices.)

Soda – remember, we aren’t drinking this, but for comparison’s sake you can purchase a 2 liter of soda for $2 or less. 2 liters = roughly 64 oz. That’s about 3 cents per ounce making your grocery store soda roughly 48 cents per 16oz glass.

Cost breakdown for the hamburger meal for one serving:

burger 1.75
cheese .38
soda .48
fries .45
$3.06 is the grand total.

Making it at home saves you between $3-$4, that’s plenty of cash leftover to more than supply funds for pickles and ketchup.

Feeding a Family of four?
Using the prices on our example meals you would spend $25.56 for McDonald’s or $23.80 for Chick-fila. Food for thought – feeding a family of four from Chipotle is $26.60 even if you ordered the most expensive thing on the menu for everyone, but it is quite a bit healthier with all of the vegetables, beans and quality meat choices. Feeding this family homemade organic/antibiotic-free versions of the fast food meals would cost between $8.96-$12.24. Now tell me you don’t have enough money to eat healthy.

determination to eat well quoteSave even more money by preparing Taco Stew, Rosemary Garlic Grilled Chicken, Cheesey Parmesan Fish, or Creamy Turkey and Brown Rice Soup for your family.

Here at Well Fed Family we post recipes all the time. Frequently they are very budget friendly, because that’s how we eat in our own homes, too! Subscribe to our newsletter (use the link at the upper right of this page) and we’ll send you more recipes and tips for healthy living each month, plus you get a bonus free e-book on how to make your own homemade ice cream! Follow us on Facebook or Pinterest for even more recipes and ideas.

This blog is for informational purposes. Some links may be monetized. Thanks for supporting Well Fed Family!

 

In Search of Gluten-free Dinner

It’s Memorial Day weekend which for me and thousands of other homeschooling families in Florida means it’s time for the annual FPEA Convention. We’re at the Gaylord Palms Resort Hotel in Kissimmee which is a world unto itself! Themed sections like Everglades (where our room is), St. Augustine or The Keys are where the rooms are. There are at least a half dozen swimming pools, an atrium garden area with live alligators, turtles and snakes, and at least two jumbo movie screens playing family-friendly videos. The hotel area bridges to a large convention center area where they have all the seminars and the largest exhibit hall I have ever seen filled with every kind of curriculum you can imagine.

Bringing in my cooler of breakfast and lunch from home I was not the only one schlepping in food from home. Yesterday I even met another lady who carries sea salt in her purse.  :)  Still, now that I’m eating gluten-free it has been a struggle to find enough to eat. My groceries were for breakfast and lunch, I still needed to buy dinner.  The hotel set up a food court area on the convention center side. That was the closest place so we started there first. DH got a bowl of chili and I started to do that too but something told me to ask first. Glad I did – after checking with the manager it turns out the ONLY thing they had that was gluten-free was a small garden salad and the only GF salad dressing was fat free and full of msg. :(  So I left there empty handed and way too hungry. Eventually I found a small bowl of black bean soup at the sports bar. But when I asked to check the ingredients on the sour cream it was filled with guar gum, potassium sorbate and about six other chemicals. So just plain black bean soup was all I got. I supplemented with some of the lunch stuff I’d packed.

Tonight we tried again.  Last year we really liked the Italian themed Villa de Flora so we headed there first. I asked the hostess “Do you have any gluten free options?” and was thrilled when she said “Yes!” PLUS she said it was their practice to have the chef come personally speak to me and find out what kind of special restrictions I had so they could accommodate!  Sure enough the chef came out and escorted me on a personal tour of their dinner buffet and pointed out every item that was GF plus he offered to make me GF pasta and offered GF rolls if I wanted them. Then he said that for dessert he had several GF choices and just to call on him when I was ready and he’d bring them out.  Kudos to Villa de Flora for such a great variety of real food options for gluten-free guests and for such great customer service!

GF meal at Gaylord Palms 1

grilled vegetables, salads, red pepper hummus, parma ham and cheeses

GF meal at Gaylord Palms 2

tomato bisque, saffron shrimp and mussels, veal osso buco, mushroom polenta, haricot verts

 

 

 

 

 

 

GF meal at Gaylord Palms 3

amaretti cheesecake, herbal tea with heavy cream and honey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have you ever had a rough time finding gluten-free food while eating out? Have you ever had exceptional customer service when making a special request at a restaurant?

some links may be monetized. This blog is for informational purposes only.

 

 

 

 

Artificial Colors: A Real Danger

According to the FDA a color additive is “any dye, pigment or substance which when added or applied to a food, drug or cosmetic, or to the human body, is capable (alone or through reactions with other substances) of imparting color.  The FDA is responsible for regulating all color additives to ensure that foods containing color additives are safe to eat, contain only approved ingredients and are accurately labeled.”

cherry creek first egg This sounds fine on the surface. But remember the FDA is also the organization responsible for the US Dietary Guidelines, the food pyramid, and the condemnation of eggs as a healthy food. The FDA is the organization that says it is safe to feed your children Twinkies and Diet Pepsi but says that milk from healthy cows living outside on green pastures must first be cooked (pasteurized) or it is dangerous.


So, the FDA is responsible for color additives.  They are the ones who say the additives are safe to eat. They are the ones who give approval for the ingredients and make sure they are accurately labeled.  They also allow food companies to claim “Zero grams trans fat!” as long as one serving has 1/2g or less – who cares if your serving size is artificially small (who really only eats one Oreo?).

Why add color to foods? To give the illusion of a healthier product, and for profit.  Color is  added to things that are colorless to make them, in the FDA’s words, “fun”.  Without color additives colas would not be brown, margarine would not be yellow, mint ice cream would not be green and Cheetos would be gray instead of orange.  Food companies say people think colorful food tastes better – no taste testers wanted uncolored Cheetos, they tasted bland even though the taste was identical to the orange-colored version. The vast majority of these colors are synthetically produced. Again the reason comes down to money.  The artificial colors are more intense, more uniform in appearance and less expensive.  Using naturally derived color additives are more expensive and there are some colors that just aren’t available in nature that we have come to expect in certain foods.  Hang around the concession stand at any little league ballgame and you’ll hear a conversation like this: “What flavor do you want?” “Gimme a blue.”  Blue isn’t a flavor, it’s a color, and one not often found in real food, but most kids don’t even know what flavor these colors are supposed to represent anymore – they just know what color they like.

If color were the only thing affected by these synthetic color additives in our food it might not be such a big deal.  But unfortunately there is much, much more than just blue or red sports drinks to worry about.

Numerous independent studies have shown for many, many years that certain people have serious reactions to certain synthetic food additives.  These reactions range from chronic troubles with ear infections and asthma to full-blown attention deficit, learning disabilities and depression. These chemically sensitive people are at the greatest risk but they are not the only ones at risk.  Other numerous independent studies have shown convincing evidence that many synthetic food dyes cause tumors and cancer.

The FDA’s website FAQ section poo-poohs these claims. They say the idea that food additives cause behavioral problems is an old hypothesis from the 1970s. They say eliminating food dyes from children’s diets is extremely difficult and not recommended since it isn’t likely to help anyhow.

Tell that to the thousands and thousands of people who have literally found a new life with the Feingold Diet which is, in essence, eliminating synthetic food dyes and other artificial ingredients from ones diet.

The CSPI (Center for Science in the Public Interest) petitioned the FDA for a complete ban on Red 3 in 2008.  All the way back in 1983 there was a committee who reviewed Red 3 and recommended that it be banned. But due to pressure from other interests the FDA caved and Red 3 is still in use today in spite of convincing evidence that it causes thyroid tumors. You can still find it today in cake icing, fruit roll-ups, ring pops and chewing gum. I have a packaged ring pop sitting on my coffee table as I write this blog that was given to my daughter at a party and Red 3 is on the label. Ironically so are the words “Made With Real Fruit Juice!”  Without the red dye the ring pop wouldn’t look very fruity or appealing.

Yellow 6 is the third most widely used coloring and is found, among other things, in beverages, candy and packaged baked goods.  Yet food industry-sponsored animal tests indicated it caused tumors of the adrenal gland and kidney. In addition to that there is no way to produce Yellow 6 without contamination by several known carcinogens including benzidine (linked to bladder and pancreatic cancer and included in the EPA’s list of Chemicals of Concern.) People who are chemically sensitive often have severe hypersensitivity reactions to Yellow 6.  This reaction is so common that any prescription drug containing this color must wear a warning label.  But  bake up a box of butter flavor cake mix and you’ll be eating a lot of it!

If these reasons aren’t enough to make you eliminate synthetic colors from your diet then consider this. These food colors are manufactured from petroleum.  They are NOT FOOD!

I think the CSPI summed it up well with these words: “Most artificial colorings are synthetic chemicals that do not occur in nature.  Because colorings are used almost solely in foods of low nutritional value (candy, soda, gelatin desserts, etc.) you should simply avoid all artificially colored foods.  The use of coloring usually indicates that fruit or other natural ingredients have not been used.”

To add insult to injury you need to know that any food company that sells their products to the United Kingdom or many other foreign countries already has formulations of their products made without artificial colors because they are banned in those countries. Yet the exact same item sold to Americans (usually by American companies) are made with the synthetic version.

photo from CSPI

photo from CSPI

 

 

This article was originally written in February of 2011. Since then I received this testimonial from a reader:

comment from “Jenny”

We have been on the Feingold Diet since August 2009 and find it has helped our son SO much… but not only that, it’s just healthier. And the thing is, he can obviously tell a difference in how he feels b/c he doesn’t fight us on it. Yes, he is disappointed occasionally when we say he can’t have a favorite food item, but there is almost always an appropriate alternative. Feingold doesn’t necessarily mean “healthy”, but it is a first step to taking control of what you put in & on your body – and your kids’ bodies; and it’s a wonderful alternative to both unbearable behavior (or medical conditions) and undesirable medications. And if you hesitate to try it, just realize it can’t hurt to try and results can be seen in a matter of days.
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