Pumpkin Seed Pesto Recalled?! DIY Pesto Coming Up!

FSNBOkay, so I know for sure I am a total food weirdo. Generally speaking when I share these recalls and food safety warnings, I am a little grossed out. I am a bit of a weenie on matters of… well… how do I categorize this? Most things to do with the body except when it relates to someone that I love. So I share these things with a shiver. I don’t really want to be thinking about spoiled whatever – especially when it’s stuff I don’t eat and don’t get me started on chicken. But THIS recall. This one only made me go hunh… really…. oh boy!

So here’s the important info. The pesto in questione (yes, I misspelled it so it would almost rhyme, humor me) is a Williams Sonoma product. Details here. While i can assure you I won’t be eating any Williams’ Sonoma Pumpkin Seed Pesto, I can PROMISE you I will be making my own. Oh yes, I will. And I’ll tell you all about it. AND it won’t have botulism.

If you now find yourself in the strange position of craving pesto, despite whatever image the words Clostridium botulinum put in your head, you should TOTALLY check out some of our super duper dairy free homemade botulism free pestos.

How about some creamy walnut pesto?

or welcome home pesto?

or sunflower lemon pesto?

All delicious. All dairy and botulism free. Eat well, be well friends!

Asian Cabbage Rolls with Spicy Lentils

 photo DSC01007.jpgAs you can imagine, when I find myself in a food rut, I turn to the blogger community for a little boost. I’ve found some lovely meals this way. This find, however, deserves a little more than a “lovely” title. Batter Licker’s Asian Cabbage Rolls with Spicy Lentils were a culinary revelation, and not just because it’s another lentil dish although that may be part of it. 😉

Let me start from the beginning. I’ve been working on planning my meals a little more carefully. Big Sis has a great system and is really good about making meal plans and following them. My intentions are good, but in all honestly I usually don’t make it to the finish line on this particular goal. As a result I spend more at the store than I should and I waste a lot of time late in the day coming up with a last minute fix (although some of these have turned out quite well).  In planning, I also provide myself with the opportunity to try to incorporate some new meals using ingredients I already have or know how to work with rather than scrambling at the last minute to follow someone else’s instructions. A few weeks ago Asian Cabbage Rolls made it onto my plan and BOY am I glad they did.

These rolls are warm and satisfying without leaving you feeling loaded up and weighed down. The lentils work beautifully with the Asian flavors. I can’t say enough about how much Mr. Little Sis and I enjoyed this dish. At first glance the dish looked complicated, but really, the only tricky part is making the rolls themselves. The rest of the procedure is pretty similar to making any simple bean dish. The only changes I made to this recipe were ditching the egg (something the original author said she’d do next time), switching out the sugar for maple syrup in the sauce, and decreasing the chile in the sauce in favor of adding it at table for the sake of the little people.

This lovely meal goes something like this. There is admittedly a bit of chopping. And if you don’t have leftover rice and cooked lentils, that needs to be done as well. May I suggest you start the rice first, then the lentils, then the chopping and gathering of other ingredients and preheating the oven. Mark Bittman has rightly criticized the overly organized French method of mise en place, and I suddenly realized, upon finding out what his book was about, that I should have written that a while ago… another missed opportunity. 😉 I digress. The point is, start the longest bits first, then prep the rest. It’s efficient, and still yummy.

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After the chopping and cooking, there is some combining and then the fiddly part, the daggone cabbage wrap bit. I have tried making various cabbage rolls before and had all manner of trouble getting them to roll and stay rolled. I now have a trick, which I will share with you so you don’t curse and stomp in your kitchen. When you choose a cabbage leaf, get a big one that is not torn. Then chop a couple of inches off the bottom where it connects to the head. What you’re trying to do is to get rid of the thickest, toughest part of the cabbage leaf, you know the part that won’t roll. Get rid of it and you know what? They roll. IMagine that. The next part of the trick is to use a kitchen utensil to hold those rolls in place as you create them and place them in your dish.

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There you go. Awesome tricks so you can now make cabbage rolls – Asian ones, Polish ones, Italian ones, whatever you want. Cut the inflexible bit and hold everything in place. I’m sure there’s a life lesson in there somewhere. I’ll find it after I eat more of these. Delish!

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teaspoon sugarHoney, (dum de dum dum dum-dum),
Awww sugar, sugar dum de dum dum dum-dum)
You are my candy Girl,
And you got me wanting you….

and wanting you, and wanting you, and wanting you.

Candy is dandy but it would appear that it is not just sugar that gets our little addiction centers flaring and sends us diving into the far reaches of the pantry searching for something, anything that might be left over from the last candy-bash-of-an-excuse-for-a-holiday-celebration.

Sugar (in all of it’s manifestations) is a purveyor of the addiction, but it is the sweetness of sugar that makes us want more.  Unfortunately, this means that sugar substitutes, the supposed friends of dieters, also increase our desire for more sweets.  As the writer of a review of the latest condemnation of non-caloric artificial sweeteners (NAS) puts it, “There is every reason, residing in sense as well as science, to suspect that NAS contribute just as readily to this phenomenon as caloric sugars. The commonly used artificial sweeteners are intensely sweet, all much more so than sugar. The net result, then, is that while NAS might remove sugars and the associated calories at any given time, they would cultivate the sweet tooth that would favor their readmission at some other time. That’s easily done, since there are popular brands of bread, crackers, chips, pretzels, salad dressings and pasta sauces with added sugar. One might favor such products due to a sweet tooth, and never even be aware of it,” (David Katz, M.D.)

In other words, artificially sweetened foods and beverages still up the ante in what you consider to be sweet and encourage your preference for sweet foods.  Thus the buns and fries at McDonald’s which have sugar added, might be preferable to a whole grain bun or oven baked fries simply because they are sweeter.

Unfortunately, I am personally very aware of the sweet side of cravings.  Despite the fact that I have greatly decreased the amount of processed sugar in my diet and can no longer tolerate many commercial products because they are too sweet, the amount of raisins in my day seems to be escalating… and I have been choosing a rather sweet poppy seed dressing over my usual balsamic vinaigrette on my salad that just isn’t quite right without some fruit on top (raisins if nothing else seems to fit).  These are not necessarily bad choices but I know when I’m peering over the precipice of the slippery slope people because I have been at the bottom of that slope.  I was a jawbreaker cracking, gum chewing child who spent most of her allowance on candy and boxes of Lucky Charms or  Count Chocula cereal.  Yikes – I’m dating myself again as Count Chocula was apparently the very first chocolate flavored cereal with chocolate marshmallows.  Such a distinction! 😉

All this to say that decreasing sugar is difficult because it is very prevalent and we love our sweet.  Unfortunately how much sugar you consume is also an important health choice, for you and for those you feed.  The publication of the above article which reveals that NAS also destroy the good bacteria balance in your gut prompted me to review some of our pantry Sugar Busting strategies and I thought you might enjoy, or benefit from some of our early posts on Sugar Busting as well.  Someday advertising for highly sweetened products (be it with sugar or NAS) will be banned from television as were ads for liquor and cigarettes to protect the public health.  But in the meantime, here are some of our past blogs about the evils of sugar.  The Sugar Busting Series also has a lot of recipes for reduced sugar treats and breakfast alternatives (since breakfast is a very sugary affair for most people), but for the most part the following are information about sugar, where sugar is lurking, and ways to reduce sugar in your diet.  Sorry to be the bearer of bad news…. but it keeps me off the streets seeking my next score of sugar ;-).

Here are the links and I wish you a healthy and savory weekend!

Sweet Duplicity – The many names of sugar and how manufacturers hide them from you!

Giving Hidden Sugar the Boot – Part 1

Giving Hidden Sugar the Boot – Part 2

Abstinence Makes the Taste Grow Stronger – the trap of ever increasing amounts of sugar

Reducing Sugar 1 Teaspoon at a Time

Lessons from the Cereal Aisle – reducing the cost and sugar in your breakfast

Info on the documentary Fed Up which addresses the power of sugar in our food supply

Special fruit recipes to rein the sweet tooth in a little

How Sugar Strict Should You Be?

Wait! Don’t Eat the Halloween Candy! – alternative celebratory ideas and what do you do about all that candy?

Replace Those Unhealthy Health Foods Part 1

Replace Those Unhealthy Health Foods Part 2

Chocolate Steel Cut Oats in the Crockpot (oh my but these are good and not very sweet!)

Here Comes Peter Cottontail – a meaningful holiday coated with sugar

The Real Bears – the real soda drinking bears…. a song and short video.  Check it out!

Homemade Sports Drink – most sports drinks have a ton of sugar or NAS – try an alternative

The Sweet Stuff – how much has amount of sugar we consume changed? Engaging graphics show you.

Sweet Stuff on Top – alternative toppers for pancakes, french toast, waffles…

Eat Food. Real Food.  – Sugar as we now eat it is not natural food.

Sugar Busting – Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s interview on 60 Minutes about the toxicity of sugar

Travelling Beverages – Make your own!


Slow Cooker Herbed Beans and Barley

The weather has been doing its transitional season flip flop around here. One week it’s summer, one week it’s fall with a little scent of winter in the mornings. And with the change of seasons comes the change of activities that makes the challenge of family dining a very real one. While I limit my kids to one after school activity, because there are two of them, we are still on a wacky schedule for two of the five weekend nights. Monday Ms. Picky Pants does gymnastics from 5-6 and Tuesdays my increasingly gigantic son plays T-Ball from 6-7. These times bookend our usual dinner time.

Because there’s no way my gentle giant of a boy could make it through T-Ball without dinner, we simply eat early on those days. Monday is more challenging as there’s no way we could eat in time for a 5 o’clock practice. And so, given these complications AND the drop in temperature, there is no better time than now to bring the slow cooker out of the corner cabinet and keep it in semi-permanent residence on the counter. Preparing the meal the night before, or in the morning and letting it cook all day allows us to eat at whatever time and frees me up during the crucial times for chauffeuring and cheering responsibilities (I especially like the cheering part).

Our favorite new slow cooker recipe was an improvisation of mine, a pantry wonder that is sure to become a regular in our house. I’ve used kidney beans because I had them on hand, and because I think they’re so good looking (that’s weird, isn’t it). I imagine just about any bean would work here, although this one time I’d steer you away from lentils as they do tend to mushify a bit and the pearl barley is already providing a creaminess that benefits from a little more substance in the bean department. White beans, black beans, chickpeas would all be great. This dish was so simple and satisfying. The gentle giant just LOVED it.

Slow Cooker Herbed Beans & Barley

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  • olive oil for the pan
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or mashed
  • 3 c kidney beans (soaked overnight or quick soaked*)
  • 1 1/2 c pearl barley
  • 5 c veggie broth
  • 1-2 t thyme
  • 2 t red wine vinegar
  • 2 T Bragg’s or soy sauce
  • salt and pepper to taste

Warm olive oil in pan on stove. Add onions and celery. Sauté until onions are nearly translucent. Add garlic and sauté for an additional minute or so. Place sautéed veggies in crock pot with all the other ingredients. Turn on low. Cook for 5-6 hours. Yes, that’s it. Stir, season to taste, and serve on a bed of deep greens. Spicy fans may enjoy a little hot sauce. I like it both ways. Delish.

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* Quick soaking beans requires bringing the beans to a boil, allowing them to really boil for 2 minutes, and then leaving them in the hot water for an hour, then rinse and use for cooking. They will not be tender as they are not fully cooked yet, but will not be little rocks anymore.