Yogurt Sundaes: A healthy treat!

I’ve been eating Yogurt Sundaes since I was a teenager.  This versatile bowlful of food can be a yummy breakfast, a light lunch, a late-night snack that keeps you full until morning (crucial for fighting pregnancy nausea!), or a satisfying treat when you want the fun of eating a sundae without the calories and sugar of ice cream with syrup.

Yogurt SundaeYou can make it any size, you can use any kind of fruit and any kind of (optional) crunchy stuff, and you certainly could make it look fancier than I did last night when I spontaneously decided to snap a photo.  I’m not big on appearances, and my 11-year-old food stylist was asleep!

This particular Yogurt Sundae was made with plain whole-milk yogurt, unsweetened organic applesauce, Cheerios, cinnamon, and allspice in a cereal bowl.  I did not add any sweetener, yet I thought it was pleasantly sweet.

Here’s what you need to make your own Yogurt Sundae:

  • Dish.  Choose one that will look pleasantly full with the amount of food you should be eating–if you feel like having a snack but aren’t all that hungry, use a small dish to avoid overeating.  You might want to use a proper sundae glass or other fancy dish to enhance your perception of enjoying a sweet treat.
  • Yogurt.  I recommend using plain yogurt and adding fruit, and sweetener if you must, rather than using flavored yogurt, which can contain more sugar than chocolate-caramel sauce!  The fruity stuff in fruit-flavored yogurts is more highly processed and therefore lower in vitamins and fiber than fresh fruit, frozen fruit, or even some canned fruits.  My very favorite yogurt is the whole-milk regular (not Greek) style from Trader Joe’s–it doesn’t taste sour or acidic at all.  (Yes, it does have cholesterol and saturated fat.  I eat very little meat and cheese, so I’m not worried about getting too much of those.)
  • Fruit.  You might dice a fresh peach or banana.  You might dice a fresh apple or pear and cook it quickly or keep it raw.  You might use cooked fruit that you made from odds-and-ends.  You might microwave some frozen berries.  You might open a can or jar of fruit–try to buy unsweetened or “packed in juice.”  Last night, we were out of fresh fruit but had an open jar of applesauce.
  • Crunchy stuff (optional).  I usually include some granola or other cereal–but I’m one of those strange people who thrives on carbs and stays slim.  Chopped nuts also make a great sundae topping!  If you want cereal but need to limit carbs, try sprinkling just a tablespoon on the top of your sundae.
  • Sweetener (optional).  Taste your sundae first to see if it’s sweet enough; you might be surprised.  Even if you drizzle it with maple syrup or sprinkle it with sugar, you’ll likely use a smaller amount than the added sugars in flavored yogurt or canned fruit packed in syrup!
  • Other toppings (optional).  Some fruits taste better with cinnamon, ginger, etc.  If you have a chocolate craving, try sprinkling on cocoa powder.  If you want to take this in a really healthy direction, sprinkle with ground flax seeds or wheat germ.  Maybe even put a cherry on top!
  • Spoon.

Think this is too healthy to satisfy you?  Try it as a breakfast first, then as a snack, and in a few years you might find yourself eating it for dessert as well as gradually decreasing the added sugar.  That’s what I did.

Visit Real Food Friday and the Hearth & Soul Blog Hop for more great recipes!

Whole-wheat Zucchini Bread

This is a great high-fiber food for breakfast, snacks, or side dish and an excellent way to use the zucchini that is abundant at this time of year.  I just made a batch yesterday and served it with baked beans from a can (traditional Fourth of July food, and easy to prepare after all that baking!) for a nutritious meal to kind of counter-act whatever we might eat at the party today.  I started making zucchini bread a few years ago using a recipe I’d gotten from a co-worker, but now I’ve made enough modifications that I consider it my own, different recipe.

I started with 5 small-to-medium zucchini from our weekly farm share, shredded them in the food processor, and measured the shreds.  This is how I decide how many loaves to make: Each loaf requires 1 cup of shredded zucchini, and I have 4 loaf pans, so if I have at least 4 cups then I can make 4 loaves (for maximum efficiency in heating the oven and in using my own energy), and then I freeze any extra shredded zucchini, labeling the bag to show how many cups it is, and I can use it to make zucchini bread in the winter or to supplement a smaller weekly share of zucchini.  This time, I had 6 cups, so I froze 2 cups and made 4 loaves.

For each loaf of zucchini bread, you will need: Read more of this post

Two Healthy Breakfasts for Late Summer

Tomato season is in full swing and apple season has begun here in Pennsylvania, so I’m alternating between these two delicious breakfasts!  Both are quick to prepare, with minimal dirty dishes.  They make good snacks, too.  You get plenty of vitamins and fiber from the fruit, plus protein and fat to keep you feeling full.

We planted two tomato plants in our front yard this year and had another tomato plant come up by surprise, and they’re all producing well.  We also get both tomatoes and apples from our CSA organic farm share.

Tomato Toast is simply buttered toast with nutritional yeast flakes, a nice thick layer of sliced tomato, salt, and dill.  (Cilantro instead of dill makes a different flavor, also tasty.)  If you’re really hungry, add a scrambled or fried or sliced hard-boiled egg.  An affordable gluten-free variation is a bowl of warmed-up leftover cooked rice or other grain, with butter, nutritional yeast flakes, diced tomato, salt, and dill.

Easy Fresh Apple Yogurt is simply a diced apple quickly cooked with seasonings and stirred into plain yogurt.  Sometimes I add granola or other cereal.  This morning, I made this with a pear instead (because we were given a bag of home-grown pears) and that’s good, too.  This recipe is ideal for people who get an itchy mouth or upset stomach from eating raw apples–a problem I had only while pregnant with Lydia, which is when I developed this recipe.

Enjoy the season, and check out all the great ideas at Real Food Friday and the Hearth & Soul Hop and Waste Not Want Not Wednesday and Works-for-Me Wednesday!

Two Affordable GMO-Free Cereals

I don’t trust genetically modified food to be safe for our health or environment.  About five years ago, I realized that several of our favorite breakfast cereals contained corn, and I’d been reading that most corn grown in the United States that isn’t organically grown is now GMO.  We gave up buying those cereals routinely…but it was hard to resist the best sales!  We love eating cereal, and the mainstream brands are inexpensive, especially on sale, whereas the organic brands are priced so much higher that we’re rarely willing to pay for them (except for this delicious, low-sugar granola from Costco).  We wound up getting most of our cereals from Trader Joe’s, where all house-brand products are GMO-free and the prices aren’t too bad.

Did you know that Cheerios contain corn?  You probably think that’s an oat cereal.  But if you compare Cheerios to most of the store-brand imitators, the flavor is a bit different: The generic ones taste more plain, while Cheerios have a particular roasty-toastiness.  The difference in ingredients is that Cheerios contain a small amount of corn.  Therefore, no more Cheerios for my family.

We were still buying Post Grape Nuts, though.  No corn in those!  But one day I noticed that the box said, “Now with more protein!” and read the ingredients for the first time in years: They now contained soy protein.  Most non-organic soybeans grown in the United States are now GMO, too.  Sigh.  No more Grape Nuts.

Then, one wonderful day last year, I noticed a sign above the enormous pile of yellow boxes that were on special at Costco: GMO-free Cheerios.  Really?!  I examined the box excitedly but saw nothing there about GMOs one way or another.  Warily, I bought one of the big double packs at the bargain price, and when I got home I searched for information online.  I learned that General Mills decided to put in a little effort to use non-GMO corn and sugar in original flavor Cheerios because the recipe is so simple (compared to flavored Cheerios) that this was easy to do.  Hooray!

Not long afterward, I was craving Grape Nuts, saw them on sale, and noticed the Non-GMO Project logo on the box!  Right next to it was a circle saying Soy Free, and sure enough, isolated soy protein is no longer in the ingredient list.  Post took the soy out of Grape Nuts to make them GMO-free to appeal to certain target markets–like me!

I’m so glad that my family can have convenient snacks of affordable Cheerios and Grape Nuts again!  Our nine-month-old daughter can practice her pincer grip on crunchy little circles without being exposed to weird untested ingredients, and when she accidentally scatters some of them on the floor I don’t freak out about wasting expensive food.  (I do eat Cheerios that have been on the floor, sometimes….)

I know that some of the most serious healthy eaters these days won’t eat any ready-made packaged cereals or won’t eat any grain foods at all.  I’ve heard the arguments against them–but I feel that my family is thriving on grains as a part of our diet, and some of the simpler and less sweetened cereals are some of the grain foods we eat.  It’s great that some of the major brands are responding to consumer pressure to sell foods free of GMOs.

These two nutritious cereals that I’ve been enjoying since childhood work for me now that they are GMO-free!  Visit Real Food Friday for more articles on healthy eating!  Visit the Hearth & Soul Hop for more great food ideas!

Fast, Frugal, Fruit-Flavored Oatmeal (or, how to use up the jam stuck to the jar)

When a jar of jam is depleted to the point that it’s difficult to gather up enough jam for a sandwich or a slice of toast, it’s tempting to just chuck it.  If you’re going to recycle or reuse that jar, though, you need to remove every bit of jam…and if you’re removing it, you may as well eat it, especially if this is not really “jam” but expensive organic juice-sweetened fruit spread…so maybe you stick that jar back in the refrigerator and open a new one to use in your sandwich.  Pretty soon there are a lot of almost-empty jam jars taunting you about how you never get around to scraping them.

Years ago I read in The Tightwad Gazette that the solution to this problem was to fill the jar halfway with milk and shake it, creating tasty strawberry milk (or grape milk or boysenberry milk or whatever).  It sounds good, but I found that cold milk doesn’t dissolve much jam; you still have to scrape the jar, and even then the jam tends to settle to the bottom, so you’re drinking mildly strawberry-flavored milk and then having a lot of cold clots of jam slide into your mouth.  Not so great.

I have now found a solution to the jam-jar problem!

  • Boil some water in your electric kettle or other boiling device.
  • Put some quick-cooking oatmeal in a bowl.  I don’t like to measure stuff before breakfast, but I use about 1/2 cup.
  • Pour boiling water into the jar until it is half full.  Don’t fill it more because you need to leave room for steam.  Hold the jar with an oven mitt.  Put on the lid and shake until all jam is loosened.  Alternatively, leave the lid off and stir the water with a spoon or butter knife until all the jam comes off.
  • Using oven mitt, pour jam-water from jar over oatmeal.  Stir.  If oatmeal is not wet enough, add more water.
  • Optional: Add some dried fruit, some milk, or some fat (butter, flax seed oil, coconut oil) to the oatmeal.

Making tasty fruit-flavored oatmeal and getting the jar clean without wasting water works for me!  Visit Waste Not Want Not Wednesday and Fabulously Frugal Thursday for other waste-reducing tips!

Optimal Oatmeal

This is the breakfast that works for me in chilly weather!  I have a fast metabolism, and prolonged hunger makes me dizzy, so it’s important for me to eat enough breakfast that I feel full until lunchtime.  This breakfast also is high in iron, which was especially important when I was anemic while pregnant and nursing.  Oatmeal is supposed to help increase milk supply for nursing mothers.  It also has lots of fiber for good digestive health.

This recipe is vegan yet rich and creamy.  It’s convenient because all the ingredients are shelf-stable, so I can make it even when we’re running low on fresh stuff.  Most of the ingredients are inexpensive in bulk at the food co-op.

UPDATE: I’ve slightly adjusted my oatmeal habits since I first posted this recipe in 2009.  I used to use flax seed oil, but after one bottle went rancid I lost my taste for it.  Then I was buying flax seeds and grinding them in the Magic Bullet, an appliance that didn’t work well enough for us–grinding flax was one of the few things it did well.  Then I got into coconut oil.  I love the flavor of coconut, it’s supposed to have health benefits and at worst is a saturated fat similar to butter, and it stays fresh for months at room temperature!  So now I always add a glob of coconut oil to my oatmeal.

I don’t measure anything.  I don’t see why anyone would want to make a recipe that involves measuring first thing in the morning, while waiting for the coffee to be done!  Just eyeball it!

Put into a bowl

  • quick-cooking oats (I like this kind because they can be cooked in the bowl, instead of gooeying up a pot)
  • almond butter or cashew butter or peanut butter
  • raisins and/or chopped dried apricots and/or frozen berries
  • sorghum syrup (huh?) or molasses
  • cinnamon
  • ginger
  • ground flax seeds (huh?) or flax seed oil or coconut oil

Add boiling water until it’s sort of flooded.  Stir thoroughly.  Keep adding water and stirring until oatmeal reaches desired consistency.  I like it pretty thick and chewy, sort of like oatmeal cookie dough, but warm.

Mmmmmmmm!!

Also check out my recipe for Fast, Frugal, Fruit-Flavored Oatmeal.

Visit Healthy Vegan Friday for more delicious recipes without animal ingredients!