Chocolate Covered Banana Pops

I feel like I have posted a lot of nutrition tips recently, so I thought I would switch it up and talk about one of my new favorite healthier treats.

My idea of fun last Saturday night was spending my sweet old time walking up and down the aisles of the grocery store. It is amazing what you can find when you aren’t in a hurry to grab all your usual items! My exciting find this week was Diana’s Banana Dark Chocolate Banana Babies.

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These delicious treats are simply a frozen half of a banana covered in dark chocolate on a stick. Even better…each one is only 130 calories and they only have three ingredients: banana, chocolate, and peanut oil (no crazy chemicals or preservatives)!

They also make little banana slices covered in chocolate, but I like the ones on the stick because you don’t really have to worry about the chocolate melting on your fingers. I have also seen tons of recipes on Pinterest to make your own chocolate covered banana treats. I have tried to make the slices before and it was a bit of a mess, but the pops would be a fun, healthier treat to make with kids. They can even decorate them with toppings like nuts and sprinkles!

Enjoy!

P.S. Remember, even though they are healthier and one of my new favorites doesn’t mean they should become your new breakfast or entitle you to the whole box. They still have a saturated fat and sugar, just a lot less than some of your traditional desserts.

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Peruvian Cuisine

After an amazing and adventurous 10 days in Peru, I am home and back to reality. Since food is always the topic of conversation here, I thought I would share some of my experience and thoughts on Peruvian foods I had while in Peru. Here are a few highlights:

  • Quinoa or Kiwicha (amaranth) is very popular and is in many traditional dishes. They even use quinoa to make risotto calling it quinotto. Peruvians also refer to Kiwicha as quinoa with a lot more nutrients. It is used to make oatmeal, muffins, and bread or added to yogurt or cereal.
  • Corn and potatoes are major crops in peru, each being grown in hundreds of different varieties. Lots of candies, chips, and snacks are made of corn or corn flavored. At least one of the two comes with almost any entrée you find on a restaurant menu.
  • Rice is another common grain that comes with many meals. My favorite dish was arroz tapado, which is rice with ground beef cooked in a dressing, with hardboiled or fried eggs.

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    Alpaca for dinner

  • As for animals, alpaca can be found on many menus (which I tried once! – it is a mix between lamb and beef. It was a bit tough but had good flavor) along with beef, pork, and chicken. Guinea pig is a delicacy that can be found at some fancier restaurants (and is typically only eaten by Peruvians on special occasions).
  • Fish, especially trout, is on almost every menu due to the long Pacific coast and wildlife in the Amazon River. Other seafood, including octopus, shrimp and oysters, are also common specifically in Ceviche

Aside from these main foods and dishes I found throughout Peru, I also got the chance to visit a farm in the rainforest and eat some fruits that grow there. Some include:

  • Mandarins and oranges

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    Our guide peeling a lime for us to try.

  • Limes- which weren’t really sour
  • Cocoa- The beans of the cacao used to make chocolate come in a big pod. Surrounding each bean is a jelly-like coating that you can eat, which is actually really fruity tasting.
  • Grapefruit
  • Cedro- A fruit similar to lemons, which is very high in vitamin C and used by the locals to stop itching.
  • Mocambo- Imagine the taste of a cantaloupe in the shape/texture of a banana–I didn’t enjoy it.
  • Camu camu is another popular fruit, which is known for its high vitamin C content. I didn’t get to try the fresh fruit, but I did try camu camu juice. It wasn’t bad but didn’t have tons of flavor.

While we visited the Amazonian farm, our guide taught us a lot about how various fruits, leaves, and plants were used by the Amazonian people to cure everything from itches and stomach aches to ulcers, cancer, and conjunctivitis.

Finally, because we all know how much I love grocery shopping, I had to spend some time roaming the aisles of Peruvian grocery stores. Most of the grocery stores are much smaller than the ones in the U.S., but they have quite a variety of products. I found Ritz crackers and Oreos but also many of the traditional foods I mentioned like kiwicha, corn, and quinoa.

While the grocery stores did have some meat and produce, I learned that most Peruvians get those types of food on a daily basis at local markets. I visited the San Pedro market in Cusco where hundreds of local farmers, butchers, and vendors were selling cuts of meat, fresh fruits and veggies, nuts and seeds, cheeses, and some grains.

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Slices of fresh watermelon and pineapple on the street

Personally, as someone who loves grocery shopping and cooking, I love the idea of getting fresh food at a market everyday. I wish I had had a place to cook while I was there because I would have had a field day buying all the fresh food.

Overall, it was an exhausting but amazing, memorable, and delicious trip, but I am glad to be home and back to cooking in the kitchen (instead of eating every single meal at a restaurant).

Dana

Thankful for Fruits and Veggies

Happy belated Thanksgiving! Here is a little update on my Thanksgiving festivities and foods.

Before heading back home for Thanksgiving, my roommates and I had a Friendsgiving at my apartment last Tuesday. It was my first time any of us had cooked for a large group of people or been “hostesses” of a little gathering. Last weekend, we planned the menu and went grocery shopping and then Tuesday after we were all done with class, it was all hands on deck. We had lots of paper chains and toilet paper tube turkeys for decorations, plus lots of peeling, chopping, mixing, and cooking for our meal. We served chicken (I know, not your traditional Thanksgiving but we were all going to have turkey on Thursday so we decided to mix it up), sweet potato fried, corn on the cob, homemade bread, and an apple crisp, plus the mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, green beans, broccoli, and pie, our guests brought. We had an amazing time and would love to do it again!

For our family Thanksgiving, I had to get creative after my Fruiturkey from last year. This year, my mom and I made a turkey out of vegetables. Our vegetable turkey was much easier and less time consuming than the fruit turkey, but he was just as cute and delicious.

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We used pea pods, bell peppers, cucumbers, baby carrots, grape tomatoes, and broccoli around a bowl of hummus. The body is made of a mini cucumber with a carrot beak, red pepper snood, and black peppercorn for eyes.

I also tried to get creative with the fruit tray this year, but it didn’t work out completely as planned. The goal was to make a cornucopia out of waffle cones and stuff them with fruit. It didn’t quite turn out to look like the cornucopia– Oh well, just an excuse to try to make something new next year. But in any case, grabbing a cone filled with fruit was a new, fun twist on the traditional fruit bowl.

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Which Organic Produce Items Should I Buy?

Buying organic has become one of the major health and diet trends of the 21st century. Therefore, it is no surprise that sales of organic products in the US has jumped more than 30 billion dollars since 1997, and 51% of families are buying more organic products than they did a year ago (Organic Trade Association). While we all want to buy organic products for their health and environmental benefits, it can be tough for your bank account to keep up with all your organic purchases. Conveniently, The Environmental Working Group, an organization that aims to “empower people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment”, comes out with two lists each year that can help you choose which items to buy organic: The Dirty Dozen and The Clean Fifteen. These lists are based on a series of pesticide residue tests that the U.S. Department of Agriculture conducts on nearly 7,000 produce items. The Dirty Dozen is a list of the twelve “dirtiest” produce items – meaning those found to have the most pesticide residues. And if you haven’t already guessed, The Clean Fifteen lists those produce items that were found to have the least pesticide residues. Here are the lists for 2016:

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So, if you are looking to incorporate some organic products into your weekly shopping list but don’t want to go 100% organic, it might be handy to bring these lists with you to the store. Buying the organic version of “The Dirty Dozen” products would be of greater health benefit than buying the organic version of “The Clean Fifteen” products.

How do you decide which items to buy organic?

Read more about The Dirty Dozen and The Clean Fifteen here: https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/summary.php

Meal Planning

Happy Sunday! When I’m not living with a host family in Denmark, Sunday is usually my meal planning and grocery shopping day to get ready for the upcoming week. Being busy with class and homework makes it difficult to just “run to the store and grab something”, especially when the good grocery store is a 20-minute drive from my apartment. That is where the meal plan comes in. Every Sunday I sit down and figure out what I am going to eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks each week. This makes it super easy to put together a grocery list of everything I need, and it prevents me from coming home at the end of a long day and having a box of crackers and a spoonful of peanut butter for dinner. Here are some reasons why I make a meal plan (and you should too!):

  1. Less food waste. If you have a plan for what you are going to eat and only buy those things, much less ends up in the dumpster. Similarly, you won’t buy things you don’t need. We have all gone to the store and thrown items in the cart “just in case” we need them. But, if you already have a plan for what you are going to make for the week, there is no guessing what you “might” need.
  2. Saves you trips to the store. When you go to make your favorite pasta dish for dinner Wednesday, you will already have all the ingredients because you thought about it before hand. No more last minute stops at the store because you don’t have the ingredients you need.
  3. Eat healthier. Instead of grabbing for the cookie jar because there is nothing else in the house, you will have all the healthy snacks you bought based on your meal plan. You are also more likely to stick to a healthy diet when you have it written down.
  4. Creating a grocery list is easier. Most people already know that you aren’t supposed to go to the grocery store without a list. With a meal plan, it makes it easy to know exactly what you need and how much so there is no more aimless wondering through the grocery store grabbing each item that looks good.

Here is a template for a meal plan that I found on Google and there are tons more to choose from (or make your own!).

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To my surprise, my host family asked me to help them create a meal plan for dinner this week. I guess meal planning is popular in Denmark, too!

Happy planning!