The Odd Carrot Out

I’ve opened hundreds of bags of baby carrots.  I’ve never quite seen anything like this…

Double yolks are cool. I usually tell anyone who’s nearby. “Hey look I have a double yolk!” What the heck do I say here? “Hey look, I have a… conjoined baby carrot?

I’ll admit, it’s not yolk-cool. But definitely pretty weird!

Koalas Eat Eucalyptus, Humans Eat Red #40

In 6th grade band class I decided to eat Doritos right before my clarinet lesson. After eating and playing, I noticed the reed turned red. In 6th grade, that means “get another one”.

In adulthood, to me it means concern. The dye is an additive of course, so what are the risks associated with these “additives” everyone’s been talking about and how do they affect me?

Whether you know me personally or not, lately I’ve been reading and studying koalas. Every day I’m talking about their habits, diet or thinking about them in some way. Today it hit me- you’d never see a koala eating anything with Red Dye #40 in the trees of Australia (or going to clarinet lessons for that matter).

We, humans, are much more advanced and intelligent than our koala friends. However, even the simple creatures can, unknowingly, point us to healthier eating. Our foods are processed, sprayed, dyed and disfigured to somehow preserve, add fun, and consumer appeal. The food market is saturated and competitive so it’s only natural that over time, we’d come to our current state of market conditions.

Back in 2010, I conducted an experiment. It went a little like this:

Goal : Eat only raw, non-processed and 100% organic foods for 14 days.

By then end, I was hungry, tired and broke. Even in organic sections of the store, you aren’t sure if the food is “100% organic”. The truth is unless you’re growing it in the backyard you can never be 100% certain where it came from or how it was harvested/treated. Some foods are allowed to carry the organic seal even if they are under 100%.One site I really like that describes organic labeling is the The George Mateljan Foundation
for The World’s Healthiest Foods.
They list the following below:

  1. Food that is 100 percent organic may carry the new “USDA organic” label and say “100% organic.”
  2. Food that is at least 95 percent organic may carry the new seal.
  3. Food that is at least 70 percent organic will list the organic ingredients on the front of the package.
  4. If a product is less than 70 percent organic, the organic ingredients may be listed on the side of the package but cannot say “organic” on the front.

We know more about organic and what counts as organic (good tips for your next shopping trip). Yet the focus of this article is Red #40 and to get to the bottom of it, I’ve brought one of the many stories online right here (Red Dye #40 stories never cease to amuse me). One from BrightHub.com mentions Red #40 linked to ADHD:

Red 40 dye, an artificial coloring that is added to many food and drink products, has been linked to ADHD and found to potentially increase hyperactivity and irritability in children. Those who are sensitive to the red 40 dye can sometimes benefit from having the additive removed from their diet

I don’t see any specific study linked, therefore the saying goes “don’t believe everything you read”. For the facts though, I lead you to the  Center for Science in the Public Interest,

[Red 40] The most widely used food dye. While this is one of the most-tested food dyes, the key mouse tests were flawed and inconclusive. An FDA review committee acknowledged problems, but said evidence of harm was not “consistent” or “substantial.” Red 40 can cause allergy-like reactions. Like other dyes, Red 40 is used mainly in junk foods.

Inconclusive, but not exactly comforting. Truth is there are tons of “potentially” harmful drugs, foods, additives and so forth. The good news is if you’re not allergic to Red Dye #40, limiting your intake would be the safest way to go. If it isn’t Red Dye #40, it’ll certainly be something else next time around.

 

10 Ways to Save Money on Food in 60 Seconds


Check out our list of the 10 best ways to save money at the grocery store:

1. In Store Ad Magazine. Grab a circular or booklet at the entrance  of your grocery store. Quickly scan for the best sales and shop those items.

2. Newspaper inserts. Take one minute  to scan through coupons in the paper and put them in your wallet for the next trip.

3. Go online. Check your grocer’s website for deals and promotions, or go to a competitor’s and see who’s got the best deals.

4. Apply for a store card. If you don’t, you’ll miss out on multiple sale deals (10 for $10) and regular promotions. Shop at Ralphs? Get one here.

5. Cut down your list. Do you really need Milano cookies or three varieties of graham crackers?

6. Check the clearance section. Target has food on clearance all the time, be sure to check the expiration date first. If you’re going to it the food tomorrow and it expires in two days you’ve just saved cash.

7. Buy in bulk. Forget mainstream groceries and check out BJ’s or Costco. Not only will you save money, you’ll make fewer trips to the grocery store  each month.

8. Say “Bye-bye coffee”. Just another  added expense.  Kick your caffeine addiction and save money in the meantime. Plus, creamers and sugar are hidden expenses.

9. Eat before you shop. Hungry shoppers spend more when grocery shopping. Fill up with a nutritious meal before you wind up bringing the entire grocery store into your home.

10. Eat smaller portions. Truth is, your portions are probably too big. A serving should be about the size of your fist (or a deck of cards).

 

Have your own tips and tricks? Share ‘em below!

One Year Without a Microwave

Moving across the country is a big step in life. So is ditching the microwave oven.

I realized my dependence on the microwave once I ran out of space for it in my new apartment. So many questions about how I’d cook food were swirling at that point, but I decided against purchasing even a tiny one. My friend called and asked how I had been with the Big Move. 3,000 miles is a long, long way.

“…wait, you don’t have a microwave? So you use, like, a stove?”

I’ll admit I felt a bit embarrassed. Everyone I know has one in their home or apartment. I’m assuming you do too.  I’ve seen so many different microwaves, it seems there’s one to suit every style.

  • Hangers: Those hangin’ out under the cabinets
  • Stealths: Those built into the wall
  • Sitters: Those sittin’ on the counter top or island

And then there are microwaves for people like me: the non-existent ones.

So what’s it like without one? Well, I’ll be candid and tell you this:

  1. More burns on my arms and fingers from using the oven.
  2. Less junk food and pre-packaged meals
  3. Still splatter to clean up. Microwave or stove, it gets everywhere.
  4. I absolutely love it.

After doing a bit of research, I found lots of other people have given up microwaves for one reason or another like Janelle Denison and Tyla Fowler. I also found this really bad joke on the Joke Buddha while hunting for some microwave humor:

Why’d they create the microwave? So blondes could cook, too

Anyway, it’s been a year and I have no intentions of going back to the ‘waves. There’s even a Facebook group I’ve considered joining. I’d like to hear from anyone who’s given this a try– or who is scared to even consider life without a microwave!

*Warning- Avoid making more unwanted waves by consulting your husband, wife or children before permanently removing your appliance from the kitchen.

 

 

Boxed Desserts Made Healthy and Tasty

For those of us who are too busy to make  baked goods from scratch, we simply pick up a box at the market. Whether it’s  muffins, cake, or cookies the aisles are teaming with easy to make treats. We have a few simple tricks to lower the fat in your baked goods without sacrificing the moisture (because no one likes dry, ”healthy” brownies).

How do you screw up a boxed recipe? It’s easy. That’s because most boxed recipes aren’t good. Plain and simple. We’ve got a few tricks and tips to make your boxed muffins taste like homemade. Oh, and your significant other will start referring to you as the “baker” in the family. If you don’t believe me, TRY IT.

Speaking of great baked goods…

…we’re all about moist and decadent at FFL! That’s why we’ve created five fast tips for the best initial bite…ever. Healthy eating should be a lifestyle for you, your family and friends. We get it; not everyone wants to eat carrot sticks and blended fruit smoothies every day. When you’re heading for the boxed baking section and want to “splurge” check out these ideas to make it a bit healthier and tastier!

  • Substitute applesauce in place of oils.  You will reduce fats in your baking items and  increase the moisture. The muffins and cakes will taste soft and fresh even longer. Either plain or cinnamon will work equally well.
  • Creating a dish that involves raisins? Heat up a sauté pan with about an inch of water on medium heat. Dump designated amount of raisins in according to recipe. Let them soak for 4 minutes and drain. Add to your concoction and bake. You will have the most plump, delicious raisin bread or muffins your family has ever experienced.
  • Remove your baked goods from the oven a minute or two early. This will compliment your previous efforts to make moist baked goods. They will stay softer longer.
  • Using cinnamon? ADD MORE! The amount supplied in the mixture? It’s weak and feeble. Invest in a large jar of ground cinnamon at your local grocers and add extra tablespoons to your mix.
  • Use non-stick pans and forget the muffin cups. They leave cake, what a waste! Get as much cake from the cup as possible. Use non-stick butter flavor or baking spray to assist you with easy removal and clean up from the pan.

 

Easy enough to follow? We’ve got one more.

  • If a recipe calls for multiple eggs, ditch some of the yolks. You’ll reduce the amount of cholesterol AND fat.

Leave us feedback on quick, easy techniques for every day “out of the box” bakers (and thinkers)!

Easy-Bake Oven and the Incandescent Bulb

The 100-watt incandescent light bulb is being phased out by the government starting next year. What’s making the news: The Easy-Bake Oven is getting a makeover.

You might remember baking small brownies, cakes and other delights. The best part about the oven is it’s small size, perfect for traveling to a friend’s house— or anywhere with an outlet. I’m proud to say not only did I own an Easy-Bake, I took my oven on trips to my bedroom where I’d create masterpieces while watching cartoons. Baking for friends, mom, dad and my cousin made me feel independent, resourceful and skilled as a 10 year old.

Easy-Bake produced by Hasbro uses a 100-watt incandescent bulb to bake food. Hasbro is in compliance with the government standards but the outrage has consumers swirling with emotions.  Katy Burns of the Concord Monitor writes

…for sheer over-the-top hysteria you can’t top Brian Williams, the most-watched newsman in America. On Thursday’s show, he took nearly two minutes out of the 22 minutes or so devoted to actual news on NBC Nightly News to announce that “Congress has managed to kill the old school Easy-Bake Oven, an icon of growing up in America. . . . The fun is over, thanks to the light bulb police.”

She continues,

Brian, listen up. Ditto, all you others having a breakdown over this. Get a grip!

On the flip side, the debate is heated on why the government is regulating Edison’s pride and joy. Bruce Felps of NBC-DFW writes

Seems government intervention knows few, if any, bounds.

Felps goes on,

what toy is next on the government’s hit list? …They can take my Silly Putty when they pry it from my cold, dead fingers.

For others, they’re tired of the government’s grip.

And lately, some would say it’s been a strong one.

Less Butter, More Butter Alternatives

A trick my mom taught me years ago helps me avoid unwanted calories from butter. In places such as college and work cafeterias, buffets and catering events there’s a simple way to steer clear from foods loaded with extra fat from butter.

As you’re on the tour of food options, take note of the liquid surrounding the food. If it’s clear and looks like water, you know the food has been steamed or boiled. The liquid that’s golden and bubbly has been cooked with butter or oil. Sometimes there aren’t any choices and you might have to choose the latter, but by using this test you can quickly spot whether those veggies are healthy or playing a trick on you.

About.com’s calorie count is a useful resource to determine calories in almost any food. I searched for “butter” and learned one cup has 1,628 calories, 283% of your daily value of fat and 583% DV of saturated fat. If you’re making a large dish and use one cup of butter for vegetables you’ll only be taking in a portion of calories from butter but over a period of two or three days, someone could potentially eat all the vegetables and consume these unnecessary fat calories.

Alternatives

The truth is, we know butter isn’t good for us but we still use it anyway. Friends and family members have told me they won’t give it up because of the taste or the texture it provides for food. It’s hard to limit butter completely so I’ve found a few options that are healthier and still add the “butter” flavor.

  • Molly McButter- One tbsp has only 5 calories, 1 gram of carbs and 180mg of sodium. They also offer a cheese flavor, which is great on popcorn or casseroles.
  • Smart Balance- Omega 3′s and plant sterols are this company’s claim to fame. One tbsp has 80 calories and 9 grams of fat. According to their site, “our products have absolutely no hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils and are naturally 0g trans fat, so you can enjoy the delicious flavors you love while helping to reduce your intake of damaging, man-made trans fat”. If you have to take the butter route, the Smart Balance brand is a top choice.

 

Businesses Limiting Profits on Purpose?

You can sell whatever you’d like but no one will buy it unless they know it exists.

Textbooks and marketing professors have said for ages that sales and marketing are separate but this doesn’t hold true anymore. Without marketing, whether it’s word of mouth, street signs, internet, billboards or radio you won’t get new customers because they won’t know the business exists. Imagine having a business in the middle of the woods where foot traffic is minimal. You set up shop, fail to tell anyone and sit waiting until the sale is made. At that point, you better start digging a grave (or get a really large dumpster) for your business. To attract new customers you must be reaching out with effective methods of marketing.

Since moving to the San Fernando Valley, I’ve noticed a troubling trend. Businesses that produce excellent food, and have no website or twitter/facebook presence. The Valley is packed with people and congressman Brad Sherman’s site says it best:

The more than 1.75 million people who live in the Valley exceed the populations of all but the four largest cities in the United States – New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Houston. The Valley’s population has increased 3.5% since the 2000 Census.

There is clearly a HUGE opportunity to attract more people via web based media and many businesses simply fail to capitalize on this  opportunity.

A frozen yogurt shop called “Nummy Nums”(I’d link but there’s no website) is a self serve low fat and fat free frozen yogurt shop. Not only do they have over 10 delcious flavors like dark chocolate, praline, and red velvet, they have recently changed their menu to offer candied apples, and yes, fried chicken. I know because I’ve re-visited the store and seen the menu change. The repeat customers are educated by a sign in the store, but what about attracting potential new customers? There’s nothing wrong with putting up a few signs around your business, or having an expensive interior design, but why spend the money first when you’re not taking advantage of the cheapest way to get more customers?

Between properly using social media and having a website I’m betting Nummy Nums could double, maybe triple the customers they bring into the store. Double the customers = double the profits. The Valley is filled with frozen yogurt shops– a saturated market and strong competitors with multiple locations like PinkBerry.

As a small business how are you going to stand out of the crowd when you can’t even use the easiest, cheapest resource to gain new clients?

 

 

After School Snack: The Panwich

Tired of Totino’s pizza rolls commercials? Try making a healthy snack for you or the kids. No, we don’t have a commercial for the Panwich…yet.

The pancake sandwich (Panwich) is very simple. You’ll want to pick up fat free instant pudding mix and pancake mix. Instant pudding takes about 5 minutes to set, so prepare ahead of time and chill the pudding for 10 minutes. Start by making two pancakes (for one serving) and plate one pancake first, topping it with chilled pudding. Then, just like a sandwich top the pudding with your second pancake.

That’s it!

Two simple foods can create a healthy, fun snack for anyone. This is extremely customizable, from the size of the pancakes to the flavors of pudding. We’ve tried: Fat free pistachio, fat free vanilla and fat free chocolate. They all taste great— ask your kids what they’d prefer and let us know who was saying “Pa, more Panwich please!”

Bring Your Lunch to Work

It’s been 8 months on the road and I finally decided to stop with granola bars, Powerbars, fruit ‘n nut bars, Cliff bars, gross bars.

I’ve tried them all. None are filling, none are a good meal replacement. My job is on the road, so I’m not able to access a work cafeteria.

When mom used to pack your lunch, you might have thrown out the sandwich and bought pizza, or maybe you traded with your friends at the table. If your mom bagged you one Powerbar…I’d like to have a word with her. The question is why would I (or someone else) think a small meal during the day would be a good thing? Here are a few reasons:

Ease: People are tired and want something easy. There’s nothing easier than throwing in a bar into your work bag (except not doing that either).

Money: How cheap is a pack of 24 Cliff bars for $22.35 at Costco? Less than a dollar a day cheap, for 24 whole days!

Reality: Coming home hungry will cause you to binge eat, feel tired and is one of the top reasons why diets fail. Starving yourself is worse than eating more calories (as long as they’re nutrient dense foods within your RDA). We have a plan…

Your lunchbox should look like:

  • Whole grains
  • At least 1 serving of fruit
  • 1 serving of dairy
  • 1 serving of veggies

My lunch today consisted of a turkey sandwich with mustard on whole wheat bread, carrot sticks, and a fat free strawberry cheesecake yogurt from Target. I can’t stress how much better I feel during the day now that I’m eating healthy meals. If you stay hydrated and get enough rest, you shouldn’t need 5 Hour Energy if you’re packing it in your lunch.