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  • This Week’s Healthy Dish: Quinoa Salad with Cucumber, Feta and Shrimp

    Cook a new healthy dish each week in 2015 - chieffamilyofficer.com

    As I mentioned previously, I’m making one new healthy dish per week this year to help me conquer my fear/reluctance to try new foods and techniques.

    One of those is quinoa. Well, it was, because I made it on Monday and it was great! I’ve actually had quinoa before, but I’ve just never liked it. Maybe it just wasn’t cooked well or something, because I was quite pleased with how it came out. I used one cup of uncooked quinoa, 3/4 cup of low-sodium chicken stock, and 1 cup of water. I combined them in a small saucepan, brought the mixture to a boil, and then left it to simmer for approximately 20 minutes. To be honest, I forgot about it until I smelled a slightly nutty odor and ran into the kitchen in a panic, convinced that I’d just burned the quinoa! But it was perfect – perfectly fluffy, that is.

    I then made this quinoa salad, although I skipped the carrot and added some sauteed shrimp. I sliced the cucumber pretty thin, and the salt from the feta pickled it slightly and gave it a marvelous crunch. I also added some Meyer lemon zest and lemon juice, since I wanted some acid to brighten the flavors.

    Quinoa Salad with Cucumber, Feta and Shrimp - chieffamilyofficer.com

    I will definitely make this salad again, and am on the hunt for other quinoa recipes to try.

    Image via FreeDigitalPhotos.net by KEKO64.

    New Cooking Strategy in 2015: A new, healthy dish each week

    Cook a new healthy dish each week in 2015 - chieffamilyofficer.com

    I’ve learned a lot about establishing new habits from James Clear, so instead of thinking in terms of goals and resolutions this year, I’m focused on changes and habits, and especially on changing habits.

    One change that I want to make this year is better eating habits – especially eating more produce and reducing my sugar consumption. However, I’ve noticed that I shy away from unfamiliar ingredients, or ingredients I’ve struggled with in the past even though they are supposed to be healthy.

    A good example is quinoa. I’ve never really liked quinoa, whether I’ve had it at a restaurant or made it myself. But a lot of people do like it and it’s healthy, and I’ve got a whole bag that I got for free at Ralphs sitting in my pantry. I’ve also got a bunch of beets from my CSA – I love eating them, but I’ve always been afraid to cook them. And, I just came across a recipe for Oven-Roasted Tofu, which is a way of eating tofu I’d never thought of.

    That got me thinking: Each week, I can plan to make a new “healthy” dish that makes me uncomfortable – whether it’s because of the ingredients and/or techniques, I will stretch my cooking abilities and knowledge, which is always a good thing, and my family and I can explore new foods. I know we may not like many of them (there’s always cereal to fall back on!), but I’m confident we’ll also discover some new favorites that will move out of the “uncomfortable” zone and into regular rotation.

    If you have beloved recipes for alternate grains, please leave them in the comments! Just keep in mind that we are a nut-free and seed-free house due to allergies (the only exception is sesame, for some odd reason). I’ll keep you updated in my weekly menu plans as to which recipes we are trying, and what we think of them.

    Spoiler alert: Since the beets are perishable, they’ll be the first new thing I try!

    Image via FreeDigitalPhotos.net by KEKO64.

    Chief Family Officer’s Favorite Things: The Sneaky Chef’s No Nut Butter

    This post contains affiliate links that help support this site at no additional cost to you. Thank you for using them! You can read CFO’s full disclosure here.

    Chief Family Officer's Favorite Things: The Sneaky Chef No-Nut Butter

    I have been meaning to write this post for quite a while now, because The Sneaky Chef Creamy No-Nut Butter has become a staple food in our house.

    It’s not the healthiest food, nor does it follow the “real food” rules of being minimally processed. The ingredients include powdered sugar with cornstarch, palm fruit oil, and mono and diglycerides from a vegetable source. But at least the main ingredients, golden peas and canola oil, are non-GMO.

    And it’s a great replacement product for us. Because where most families can use a 100% natural, organic, minimally processed nut butter like peanut butter or almond butter, or the popular alternative, sunflower butter, we eliminated those options when we discovered one of the boys is allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, soybeans, and most seeds, including sunflower. Thankfully, his allergy is not so bad that the tiniest whiff of one of these forbidden items produces a reaction. But I certainly wouldn’t risk having any of these things in my house.

    I stumbled across No-Nut Butter about six months ago while doing research for an article, and since peanuts and soybeans – like golden peas – are legumes, I wasn’t entirely sure that it would be safe for my son. But he’s been able to tolerate it without issue, and I’ve been delighted to discover that No-Nut Butter freezes and bakes well.

    In fact, I can prep ahead and make No-Nut Butter & Jam sandwiches to freeze for school lunches:

    Freezer-friendly No-Nut Butter Sandwiches - chieffamilyofficer.com

    I freeze half-sandwiches, since that’s what I pack for each boy. Each half goes into a plastic baggie, and then the baggies go into the bag the loaf of bread came in. When I’m getting lunch ready in the morning, I just pull a sandwich out of the freezer! {Making my own sandwich bread is one of my cooking dreams/goals, but I’ve yet to find a recipe that the kids like.}

    No-Nut Butter also served me well in a modified version of these Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies, and is great in smoothies as well.

    Of course, if you know of any other peanut-free, nut-free, seed-free alternatives, especially if they’re less processed/more natural, I’d love to try them, so let me know in the comments!

    Buy The Sneaky Chef Creamy No-Nut Butter for $7.49 at Amazon or Vitacost.

    5 Easy and Affordable Real Food Changes I’ve Made This Month

    This post contains affiliate links that help support this site at no additional cost to you. Thank you for clicking through them! You can read CFO’s full disclosure here.

    Easy Real Food Changes - chieffamilyofficer.com

    Ever since I reviewed Lisa Leake’s new book, 100 Days of Real Food: How We Did It, What We Learned, and 100 Easy, Wholesome Recipes Your Family Will Love, I’ve really focused on eating more “real food” – by which I mean, minimally processed food.

    We are not, by any means, an entirely real food family – every day, our family consumes some store-bought snacks, soda, and/or other processed foods. But I am making a conscious effort to reduce the amount of processed foods we eat, and that I keep in the house. Here are five easy real food changes I’ve made since reading Lisa’s book, which take almost no effort at all:

    1. We’ve switched to whole organic milk.

    I’ve always bought organic milk for the boys, but since my youngest turned two, I’ve stuck with 1% milk. As Lisa points out, however, reduced fat milk is much more processed than whole milk. So I’ve switched to whole milk and my kids haven’t said a peep. Fortunately, neither of them has a weight issue, so I’m not concerned about the additional calories.

    Although Lisa recommends non-homogenized milk, since it’s less processed, I haven’t been able to find it at the grocery store so I just buy organic homogenized whole milk. The nice thing about this switch is that a gallon of whole organic milk costs exactly the same as organic reduced fat milk.

    2. I now shred my own cheese.

    As Lisa notes in her book, commercially shredded cheese contains an anti-clumping agent and possibly other additional ingredients that need not be consumed. She recommends buying blocks of cheese and shredding them yourself. It occurred to me that my food processor can shred a block of cheese in just a couple of minutes, so when I needed mozzarella cheese last week, I bought a log and shredded it. {I did buy a part-skim log because the texture is so different from whole milk mozzarella and my kids prefer the less-creamy type. Baby steps!}

    I forgot to do an actual price comparison, but I think the price works out to about the same per pound, at least for part-skim mozzarella.

    3. I’m now using honey wherever possible.

    When I need sweetener, I now use organic raw unfiltered honey and organic maple syrup whenever possible {I prefer Grade B maple syrup because it’s darker and has a stronger taste, and Trader Joe’s stocks a great one}. I do still bake with organic sugar, but I try to substitute organic sucanat as much as possible, since it’s less processed that granulated or brown sugar. {However, I rarely use all sucanat because of its strong taste. I buy 12 1-lb bags at Amazon for just $45.88 with Subscribe & Save}.

    4. I now buy organic eggs.

    This is the one change that’s costing me more money. Organic eggs are at least twice as expensive as the “regular” eggs at Trader Joe’s, but I took the time to read the packaging this past week and discovered that the organic variety clearly states no hormones or antibiotics were administered to the chickens, whereas those claims are not on the “regular” eggs. I haven’t found “pastured” eggs yet, which Lisa recommends {meaning the chickens were allowed to graze outside}, but I’m looking.

    5. I read labels even more intensely than I used to.

    Ever since my son was diagnosed with food allergies, I’ve been a careful reader of ingredient labels. But now I’m not just looking to see whether the product is safe for my child or how “natural” it is. I’m also looking to see how processed it is. Lisa’s “five-ingredient rule” for store-bought foods is a great guideline. In other words, I try to buy foods that contain no more than five ingredients.

    This rule works especially well for pre-packaged snacks, which I do buy a fair amount of since we eat on the go quite a lot of the time, thanks to the boys’ busy schedules. So far, my kids have loved BOOM CHICKA POP Sea Salt Popcorn {contains just popcorn, sunflower oil and sea salt; $24 + free shipping for 24 single serve packs at Amazon – but they’re cheaper in the Halloween section at Target right now!}, and Crispy Green Freeze-Dried Asian Pear {contains just pear!; $17.12 for 12 packs at Amazon when you order through Subscribe & Save or $7.49 for 6 packs at my Whole Foods store}. They also like some of the freeze-dried fruit at Trader Joe’s, which are one or two-ingredient products.

    This post will be linked to Thrifty Thursday at Living Well, Spending Less.

    Image via FreeDigitalPhotos.net by Ambro.

    Food Recalls

    food recalls - chieffamilyofficer.com

    Food manufacturers and distributors initiate food recalls if there is reason to believe that a food may cause consumers to become ill, such as when it’s discovered that food contains an unsafe organism, packaging has been mislabeled, or an allergen has not been disclosed.

    Just today, Kirkland Signature sliced fruit and Dole bagged salads have been recalled. The recalls are limited in quantity and variety, but if you purchased any of the included items, you would definitely want to know about the recall so you can avoid consuming those foods.

    For consumers with food allergies, recalls can be of particular importance since a frequent cause of recalls is the failure to disclose or misidentification of an allergen like peanuts or milk.

    To stay up to date on recent recalls, you can visit the Food Safety web site, or better yet, sign up for email updates to have recall notifications delivered to your inbox.

    Image via FreeDigitalPhotos.net by Supertrooper.

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