I’m thrilled to have my blogging friend, Jennifer, guest posting today! Jennifer blogs at jenniferlself.com, and is passionate about living well at home.
Many people wishing to make healthier food choices have two major things holding them back. The first is healthy eating is too expensive. The second is healthy eating takes too much time. While this can be true in some cases, there are a few healthy food replacements that can save you money and time in the kitchen as well as save you from preservatives and toxic ingredients. Here are three healthy and delicious recipes for replacing your favorite convenience foods:
Breakfast cereal is the classic staple in a home with children. It is quick and easy to grab before school, and it has long been touted as healthy and nutritious. However, even if you abstain from the brightly colored and sugary versions, you will likely find a questionable list of ingredients on the side of the cereal box in your cupboard. Interestingly enough, some of the ingredients found most often in foods marketed to children are banned in other countries outside the United States.
Our children experience migraine headaches after eating most commercially produced cereals. Cereal is also expensive for us considering they will eat an entire box during one breakfast and be hungry again two hours later.
I have replaced cereal in our home with granola. It is easy and delicious and can be made inexpensively. I simply mix 3 cups of old fashioned oats with 1/3 cup of raw honey and ¼ cup of melted coconut oil and bake in a 13 x 9 inch cake pan at 325 degrees for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes to keep it from sticking.
You can add anything to it according to your personal taste. Some things we have added are toasted nuts, chocolate chips, dried cranberries or coconut flakes. Besides serving it up in a bowl with milk and eating it like cereal, we love it in granola parfaits. To make these, I layer Greek yogurt, fresh or defrosted frozen fruit and the granola in a mug or bowl.
As the weather grows more frigid, you may be tempted to stock up on hot cocoa mix for a quick treat to warm you. However, you can make this just as easily without the mix, and it will taste much better. If allergies are an issue, you can adapt it to a dairy free version or even make it with a healthier sweetener.
To make your own single serving of delicious cocoa, heat 1 cup of milk (regular, almond or coconut) in the microwave for a minute and a half. While it is heating, mix 2 T. sweetener (sugar, xylitol, honey or pure maple syrup) and 2 t. cocoa (or raw cacao powder) and a dash of salt in a mug. Pour the heated milk into the mug and stir well. Add ¼ t. of vanilla extract and enjoy!
Note: You can make your Hot Cocoa even more healthy by using the stove to warm up your milk. Simply warm the milk in a small pot on the stove until little bubbles start forming around the edges of the pot and the milk starts steaming. Make sure to turn the heat down to medium so you don’t scorch the milk.
Popcorn is a great replacement for salty but non-nutritive foods like chips and pretzels. However, the microwaveable bags you get in the store include a host of toxic ingredients not to mention the material from which the bag itself is made. Add to that the problem of genetically modified corn, and this innocent grain can destroy a healthful diet.
All you need to do to save money and your health is purchase some old-fashioned brown paper lunch sacks and some quality popcorn from a farm or health food store. If GMOs aren’t a concern for you, you can even purchase the regular popcorn from the grocery store.
When you are ready for a delicious snack, melt a couple tablespoons of butter in a small bowl. Stir in ¼ to 1/3 cup of popcorn until the popcorn is completely coated. Sprinkle generously with salt and stir well. Dump this mixture into a paper lunch bag and fold over the top a few times. Put in the microwave in an upright position and cook like regular microwave popcorn.
For a special treat, you can coat the popped corn with homemade caramel coating for caramel corn or drizzle with melted chocolate. However, it is great just like it is: buttery and salty.
Note: For even healthier version, follow the directions above but use a pot on top of the stove instead of the bag. After adding the popcorn to the melted butter (over low to medium heat), stir it really well then place the lid on top and shake (or you can use a popcorn popper that has a crank like this one). Make sure to have pot holders so you don’t get burned while you shake the pot constantly over the low to medium heat. Shake, or stir if you have a popcorn popper, until you don’t hear popping for 4-5 seconds (just like microwave popcorn).
Warning: If you try these alternatives to convenience foods, you are likely to discover how much more delicious real food is. This may cause a reluctance to return to the staples you usually purchase at your neighborhood grocery store. It may also encourage an obsession with researching other foods you can make at home. Homemade ketchup, anyone?