Friday, May 27, 2011

The Oatmeal Packet Scam

When I decided to try some plain organic oats in place of processed oatmeal, I had no idea that it would be so easy to make and that it would significantly contribute to weight loss.  Though the original reason for getting plain oatmeal was for its health benefits, I subsequently discovered that it actually tasted much better than the processed and packaged equivalent.  In fact, it tastes so good that I no longer have to add sugar or honey to my oatmeal.  I discovered this when I accidentally forgot to add sugar to the oatmeal and my kids ate it all without complaint.

So, in addition to being healthier, eating plain unprocessed oatmeal has wonderful weight loss properties since its filling, sugarless and does not have preservatives or artificial sweeteners which tend to contribute to weight gain.  The only draw back to to plain oats is that you must scoop instead of open a packet and you will also have to cook it 30 seconds longer in the microwave than the packet version.  Hardly seems worth paying more for a packet.

Quick Guide to buying and cooking plain oats:
1. First, go to the scoop section of your grocery store.  Wal-Mart stores may not have such a section.  Read the ingredients on the varieties of oats and get the one which says organic and which does not list any preservatives. None of the oats in this section should have chemicals added, but it doesn't hurt to check. Scoop the oats into the bag and tie.  (a little more effort than picking up a box)  Also, there is no need to get quick cooking.
2. When you get home, pour the oats in a container and add a 1/3 cup dry measuring cup to the oats.  This is the amount which cooks best in a regular size cereal bowl and is the closest to the amount you have in the packet variety.
3. When preparing oatmeal, get a microwave safe bowl, add a 1/3 cup scoop of oats and 2/3 cup of water.  Push the quick minute button on your microwave and cook.  After one minute, stir and cook for 20 seconds longer.  Stir again and cook for an additional 10 seconds.
4. Remove the bowl, stir and serve.  There is no need to add sugar, honey or any type of flavoring.  You will be pleasantly surprised how good it tastes.
5. If you are like me and tend to read the cooking instructions every time you make something, tape a sticky to the outside of the oatmeal container with the instructions. 1/3 cup scoop, 2/3 cup water, 1 minute-stir, 10 sec-stir, 5 sec-stir.

Sound easy enough?  That's what I thought.  I didn't even know you could cook regular oats in the microwave.  I realize now that the 30 seconds of my life which is saved by processed oats hardly warrants spending more money on oatmeal in a packet which only tastes good if you add a lot of sugar.  So by making regular oats, you are not only eating healthier by eliminating chemicals, dies and preservatives, you are also eating a quick filling breakfast which tastes great without adding to your waistline.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Five Processed Foods You Can Easily Make at Home

If you feel like you have no time to make homemade foods, you may be surprised how easily you can make some of the foods that you are used to buying at the store.  In fact, there are five types of processed foods that you can easily make at home.  These foods are breads, yogurt, ice-cream, syrups, and sauces.  One reason that certain processed foods can be made with minimal effort is due to cooking machines.  Cooking machines can be valuable additions to your kitchen since you can make certain foods with minimal time and effort.  Here is a breakdown of each of the categories:
  1. Bread: Using a bread machine can allow you to make quickly and easily make homemade bread.  This can be especially useful since there are many different types of bread that we may consume throughout the year and you can make them easily at home and without preservatives and additives.  In addition to sandwich bread, you can make stuffing for turkey, or bake your own croutons for salads.  These are all things you may not have imagined you could easily make at home.
  2. Yogurt: Yogurt cookers make the process of making homemade yogurt extremely simple.  You need only to measure and heat milk, add plain yogurt and pour the mixture into jars.  The cooker does the rest of the work while you sleep and in the morning you have your own homemade yogurt.  You can use a yogurt cooker to make a variety of different yogurt flavors as well as Greek yogurt.
  3. Ice-Cream: Though ice-cream is not the most health of foods, with an ice-cream maker you can make ice-cream and know exactly what is in it and can even make your own low-fat or low sugar varieties.  How many types of ice-cream can you find at the store that are made with a specific type of honey or the sweetener of your choice?  Furthermore, you can make desserts such as sherbets and frozen yogurt for a faction of the price of store bought frozen desserts.
  4. Syrups: You may be surprised how simple it is to make a fruit syrup.  All you will need is sugar or honey and frozen or fresh fruits.  Here is a simple recipe I found for raspberry syrup that can be used successfully with any type of fruit that you can think of.  When your syrup is ready, refrigerate it and use it for ice-cream toppings, to flavor yogurt or to flavor homemade milk shakes.  Additionally, if you buy canning jars, you can easily can the syrup and stock your pantry.  Just be sure to follow the instructions for canning on the jar label.  Plus, if you get into making syrup, you should know that you are only one step away from making jelly since the only difference is that you add fruit pectin when making jelly and jam.  Again, for best results, follow the jelly recipe on the fruit pectin label.
  5. Sauces: There are many different types of sauces, stocks and gravies that you can easily make at home.  So instead of buying spaghetti sauce, consider making your own.  If you don't have a cook book, Google it and you'll find plenty of recipes.  The same is true for broths, stocks, dips and salsa.  All of these types of sauces will taste much better if you make them on your own and will be without preservatives and other harmful additive found in processed foods. 
So, even if you live a busy lifestyle, there are plenty of healthy alternatives to processed foods which you can make at home with minimal time and effort.  Though these are only five food types, you will find that there are plenty of other types of processed foods that you can replace.  Just pay attention to what goes into your shopping cart.  If you find that you have grabbed a processed food, think about whether or not you can make it instead of buying it.  The chances are you can Google the recipes for many different types of foods that you would have never imagined to be so simple to make on your own.