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Thursday, November 1, 2007

Croutons

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With all the high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oils (trans fat), MSG, artificial sweeteners (like Nutrasweet and Splenda), and more in packaged food I see that we really just have two options.  We can cut the items out of our diets altogether OR make the item from scratch.  I am going to focus on this for a while.  I thought about moving on to healthier things, but I think a big hurdle for a lot of people is cutting out packaged food.  So I will offer many homemade alternatives.  I’m not saying these foods are healthy, but they are SO much better than their packaged/store-bought counterparts.  The key here is moderation.  If I post a brownie recipe (which I will soon), this does not mean I make brownies every week nor do we eat desserts after every meal.  But we do enjoy sweets from time to time and I feel so much better when I have put quality ingredients into my sweets rather than opened a box mix that is loaded with harmful chemicals. 

In the world of food there are greater and lesser evils.  I hear a lot of people say that they know (insert food item here) are bad so why does it matter if it’s a box mix or from scratch?  If you make things at home from scratch with the RIGHT ingredients then they will be much better for you.  The big deception is that sugar is sugar and fat is fat, so it doesn’t matter which kind you choose.  I’m here to tell you, you don’t have to stay away from all sugar and all fat.  There are good kinds and bad kinds.  What’s my motto?  If God created it, it is good for me; if man has changed it, it is bad for me! 

Croutons are so easy to make at home and really taste much better than store brands and IF you use the RIGHT FAT they are much healthier.  Most store brands of croutons contain partially hydrogenated oils (trans fat).  

This is an excellent way to use the leftovers from the Crusty French Loaf.  Cut bread into slices, and then cut the slices into cubes.  In a bowl toss the bread cubes with Peanut oil, garlic powder, and dried herbs (like Thyme, Basil or an Italian blend).  You could try some Parmesan, too, if you like.  Spread the cubes on a cookie sheet and bake in a 375°F oven for approximately 30 minutes or until brown and crisp to your liking.  I set my timer and stir them every 10 minutes or so. 

CHOOSE THE RIGHT FAT – Peanut oil is a stable, neutral oil and works well cooking at a high temperature or getting foods like croutons and French fries nice and crisp.  If you are using shortening, Canola Oil, vegetable oil or buying packaged food, please give Peanut oil a try.  It is much healthier than those. 

Basically the long and short of oils is that there are saturated fats and unsaturated fats.  Among the unsaturated are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated.  Poly means many; so polyunsaturated means many unsaturated fats.  Some of these unsaturated fats are essential to our diets, omega-3 and omega-6.  Peanut oil has no omega-3, only omega-6, which makes it more stable.  But wait, you say, don’t we want all the omega-3 we can get?  We hear so many good things about omega-3 these days; it’s the new trend.  But the food giants are not telling us the whole truth.  Omega-3 oil is very healthy, but it is also very unstable and easily damaged.  We DO NOT want to be consuming damaged omega-3!  It is chock full of free radicals and wreaks havoc on our bodies.  Take Flax Seed Oil, for example.  It is known for being a healthy source of omega-3 and we are told not to heat it or cook with it and we store it in the refrigerator.  This should give us a clue.  If oil contains omega-3 it should never be used for cooking.  This includes Canola Oil.  It contains 10-15% omega-3.  We should be getting our omega-3 from whole food instead of vegetable oils. 

So when cooking, I choose Peanut oil for stir fry, French fries, and these croutons.  Peanut oil is not the healthiest oil to choose, but it is a lesser evil.  Again, moderation is key.  We don’t eat stir fry and French fries all the time, but when we do I cook with Peanut oil, a much healthier alternative to vegetable oil and shortening.  You definitely want a balance of different oils.  If Peanut oil was the only oil you chose that would be bad, because you don’t want too much omega-6.

3 comments:

  1. I agree that the biggest step for many people is getting away from packaged foods. I have begun to realize that so many of the packaged foods are based on fairly healthy foods and that most people equate the two. Just two days ago I ran into someone bringing canned chicken soup to a person with strep throat--I know they thought it was a good old-fashioned remedy in a can. Thanks for helping us step away from packages and for advising us about the healthier oils. Those small steps make a difference.

    :)
    Justine

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  2. True, most packaged food items are based on healthy foods. The problem came when someone wanted to make a few bucks. "Let's mass produce this food item and make it with the cheapest ingredients possible!" The result - we pay less at the grocery, but our bodies pay more.

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