Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Twelve Days of Cooking: Day 12 (Belated)

              Hey! It was supposed to be the last day of the Twelve Days of Cooking on Christmas Eve, but the holidays were very busy so I didn't have time until today!

              Here is a new video where I interview three friends and my history teacher, Susanne (we call our teachers by their first names at my school)! I made this video to show you what kids know about local food and what we can do to learn more. I didn't pick these four because they were especially knowledgeable or didn't know much or whatever (except Susanne, who knows a ton about local food). I just picked them because they're my friends and they were willing to be on YouTube!

             Please subscribe to my YouTube channel, like the new video, follow me on Twitter, follow this blog and email me! All my information is in the sidebar. I'm sorry I haven't been as good about posting every day lately, but now I'm going back to posting every Thursday. Tomorrow there
won't be a post because I'll be seeing the PNB Nutcracker with a friend! However, next Thursday I'll definitely post something. Stay healthy and happy New Year!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Twelve Days of Cooking: Day 11

             Hey! Today is the 11th day of the Twelve Days of Cooking! I don't have much to share about cooking, but I have lots to share about the holidays in general.

             Today my family did a lot of preparing for Christmas. We're hosting a Christmas Eve gathering for the extended family tomorrow, so we had to get lots done! My mom made ginger snaps and peppermint fudge, and tomorrow we're going to make German Christmas cookies and regular sugar cookies (hopefully). I wrapped a bajillion presents, and we're super close to being done with all of our wrapping! We did the very last of our holiday shopping today, too. Plus, we hung our stockings today!

             I'm hoping to post pictures of all of our holiday cookies and fudge tomorrow, but we'll see if I have time. While cookies aren't the healthiest thing in the world, it's Christmas so it doesn't really matter that much. We have permission to splurge!

            I found two really funny holiday videos that I thought I'd share. The first one is a Miranda Sings video. I LOVE Miranda Sings, although lots of people don't really understand it. Miranda Sings is a character portrayed by a comedian and singer named Colleen Ballinger. Miranda is a stuck up person who can't sing to save her life, can't pronounce anything correctly, wears way too much red lipstick and moves her eyebrows too often. I personally find her videos hilarious, but she's not everyone's cup of tea.

          The second video is one that my mom found on a friend's blog. It is a terribly painful (but hilarious) cover of "O Holy Night". It starts to get really bad around 1:16. I'm listening to it now as I type and I'm practically crying because it's so bad!

          Please subscribe to my YouTube channel, follow me on Twitter, follow this blog and email me! All my information is in the sidebar. Stay healthy, happy holidays, and have a great Christmas Eve!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Twelve Days of Cooking: Days 7-10

               Hey! I'm so sorry that I haven't posted since Tuesday - on Wednesday I went to a concert, on Thursday I had a ton of homework, and on Friday I got sick. I'm still sick, but I'm feeling good enough to be productive and make a blog post.

               A couple days ago, I tested out my new recipe for root vegetables. My idea was to make a "stack" of sorts. The first layer would be mashed butternut squash, then roasted root vegetable of your choice, then mashed sweet potatoes or potatoes, and then roasted golden beets. However, my experiment kind of failed. I definitely won't be saving this recipe.

              The first thing that made this recipe a failure was the butternut squash. I roasted the beets and other vegetable at the same time as the squash, which meant that the squash had to go on the bottom rack of the oven. Because of this, it didn't get soft enough. I concluded that next time I'd have to make a butternut squash puree, but I didn't have time to roast it more and puree it so I just put the mostly-roasted squash in the fridge. Secondly, the root vegetable of my choice was... interesting. I found this root called a scarlet root at Whole Foods (picture below). It looked pretty and was grown in Washington so I bought it. When I tasted it raw, it tasted exactly like a radish, which worried me. After it was roasted it tasted pretty good, but still had a little bit of that radish-y bite to it. Once I put the veggie stack together, it was just weird. If you see a scarlet root anywhere, don't roast it! It's like a radish and I think it's meant for snacking on raw instead of being paired with beets and squash.

                What I learned from this experience are three valuable lessons. One: don't buy something at the store unless you know what it is. If something intrigues you, ask an employee to tell you about it before you purchase it! Two: If you have a bunch of homework but want to cook something, homework should come first. I had two quizzes to study for and an essay to finish writing when I made this, and I took up a lot of time making this that I could've used to prepare for my quizzes. Three: Always test a recipe before making it for a party, dinner with friends, etc. I was going to make this dish for Christmas Eve dinner for my extended family. If I hadn't tested it before, I would've made something weird that no one would've liked. I'm so glad I tested it.

                Christmas Eve is so soon and I'm so excited! I have to come up with another recipe very soon to make. My mom is making a spiral ham and a vegetarian entree for me and my cousin. I've never liked ham and my cousin won't eat red meat, so we're serving a vegetarian entree, but everyone else will probably want to eat it with their ham, too. I'm pretty sure it's a polenta dish but my mom may have changed her mind.

                Please subscribe to my YouTube channel, follow this blog, follow me on Twitter and email me! All my information is in the sidebar. I'm hopefully going to post a new video either tomorrow or on Christmas Eve, so check YouTube! Stay healthy and happy holidays!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Twelve Days of Cooking: Day 6

                    Hey! Today is day 6 of the Twelve Days of Cooking. Today's post will be fairly brief because I have a lot of homework and three hours of rehearsal. I barely have time to fit in today's blog post.
                    I went to the Food Network website and found the section for healthy holiday recipes. After browsing for a bit, I found a recipe that you can make using a couple local ingredients. This recipe is for Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Swiss Chard and Pecorino Cheese. None of the other ingredients seem like they could be local, but they actually can be. There are lots of family-owned companies that sell cheese and other dairy products. If you look at the labels of the Pecorino Cheese you buy, I'm sure you can figure out if the company is local or not. Whole Foods, PCC and other natural markets will have a better selection of local cheeses than an ordinary supermarket. No matter which store(s) you have access to, check the labels! Finally, the pasta could potentially be a locally produced item. There are plenty of local companies that produce all things relating to grains. An example of this is Bob's Red Mill, which is located in Oregon (not within a 100 mile radius of where I live, but it's still very close). While Bob's Red Mill doesn't carry pasta yet (if they do I'm not aware), they sell a wide variety of whole grains, flours, flour mixes and more. Even if you can't find any locally grown ingredients for this dish, this recipe is a great because of its health benefits. It's not perfect, but it's much healthier than most holiday foods will be.

                    Over the holidays, I'm going to be staying in the Seattle area and doing fun holiday things. My family is hosting a Christmas Eve gathering for my extended family. I'm also going to see the Pacific Northwest Ballet's production of the Nutcracker and go ice skating with a couple friends. My winter break agenda will hopefully get more exciting as break approaches. I really want to go see a few movies, like Les Miserables and Life of Pi. I'll hopefully get to do some Christmas shopping in the few days before Christmas and wrap lots of presents!

                    Please follow this blog, subscribe to my YouTube channel, follow me on Twitter, email me and comment your thoughts about local food or your holiday plans below! I'd really appreciate it if you share my posts with your family and friends. I want to make an impact on the food system and how teens view food, and you could help me do that by exposing my blog to more people. Stay healthy and happy holidays!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Twelve Days of Cooking: Day 5

               Hey! Today is Day 5 of the Twelve Days of Cooking, and I'm going to share a holiday recipe. For the next couple of days, my posts aren't going to be about the things I've been cooking because I have a really busy week ahead of me. Hopefully the posts will still be worthwhile and fun to read!

               I went to the PCC Natural Markets (a natural/organic grocery store in the Puget Sound area) website and found some good holiday recipes. The one that looked the most appealing to me was a Butternut Squash-Apple Soup. This is an awesome holiday recipe; apples and butternut squash are in season in Washington State during December, it's comfort food and will pair well with just about any traditional holiday recipe you serve along with it.

(From the PCC website)

               I encourage you to go to the websites of Food Network, Whole Foods, PCC, famous chefs, the Cooking Channel and more to find holiday recipes. Every time you find one, think about which ingredients in it could be grown locally and which ones can't.  Like I've said over and over, it's so important - especially in the wintertime - to buy local food and support local farmers/companies! I found a food mile calculator that you can use to figure out just how far your produce travelled. While this calculator only accounts for countries and not individual states and provinces, it gives you a good idea of how far away a lot of the food we eat really is. Bananas, pineapples and tomatoes are among the foods we eat all year round that often (or always) are shipped into the US from Mexico, Central America or South America!

              Please subscribe to my YouTube channel, follow this blog, follow me on Twitter and email me! All my information is in the sidebar. To be a follower of this blog, you need to have any account affiliated with Google: a Google account, a YouTube account, a Google+ account, etc. Being a follower doesn't take anything except clicking a button - Blogger will send you updates via the Blogger interface, but it won't bombard you with emails or do anything to annoy you. By following me, all you're doing is showing that you like my blog and support what I do. Stay healthy and happy holidays!            

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Twelve Days of Cooking: Day 4

Hey! Today is the fourth day of the Twelve Days of Cooking! Today’s post will be a lot more exciting than yesterday’s. It’s about muffins! And who doesn’t love muffins?
            Yesterday, my friend and I made country pear muffins. The recipe is from Eat Fresh Food by Rozanne Gold. I had to bring a dish made of local ingredients to my Girl Scout meeting, so I brought the muffins. The muffins were cooked with local eggs, pears, and baking powder.  They turned out so well that I splurged and ate about… 4? 5? 6? I don’t remember anymore… PLEASE do not follow my example! I was a bad child! ;)
            I noticed that pretty much all of the dishes that were brought to the meeting had apples as the local ingredient. Then, we discussed some of the seasonal produce we can buy at different times of the year. Even I, the food geek, didn’t know exactly which vegetables are in season during the early spring! It occurred to me that when people think of the seasons, they think of one or two fruits and aren’t really sure about the rest. (This is a general statement, of course.) I urge you to look at the Pacific Northwest growing seasons chart I posted a couple days ago to learn about which fruits and vegetables are in season! I also recommend that you save that link somewhere, for it’ll be really useful if you try gardening in the spring and summer. It’s also good to know which foods are locally grown when it comes to meal planning. If you know a few vegetables and fruits that are in season during a particular month, you can plan meals that use these seasonal ingredients!
            I am so excited for Christmas!!! There are only nine days left (probably eight for you, since I’m posting this so late at night and you’ll probably reading this on the 17th) until Christmas and I can’t wait. Before making muffins, my friend and I went Christmas shopping and had so much fun! We got my cousin a little gift and tried on clothes at BP. One of the jackets we found looked like a quilt… good times.
            Please follow this blog, subscribe to me on YouTube, follow me on Twitter and email me! All my information is in the sidebar. Also, remember to vote on the poll – there are just a couple days left! Based on the current results, I started planning a holiday duet with my friend Connor. We’ll hopefully be able to find a time to rehearse it before, after or during rehearsal for Aladdin. If it doesn’t get posted, then at least we tried!  I’d love to hear more suggestions of something fun and non-food-related that I could post for the Twelve Days of Cooking. Comment your thoughts below! Stay healthy and happy holidays!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Twelve Days of Cooking: Day 3

                  Hey! Today is the third day of the Twelve Days of Cooking! Today's post will be short, as I was running errands all day today and wasn't able to actually cook anything, but I did take a trip to Whole Foods.

                  I'm making apple-pear muffins for my Girl Scout meeting tomorrow. We're completing a journey - a series of activities that we're required to complete before we start our Gold Awards - about food, and everyone is supposed to bring a dish created with local ingredients. I found a tasty-looking recipe for apple-pear muffins in Eat Fresh Food by Rozanne Gold (one of my favorite cookbooks). Tonight, my friend and I are going to bake the muffins and then on Sunday I'll bring them to my meeting.

                  Whole Foods is a great place to find local ingredients. Not only did I find locally grown Gala apples and D'anjou pears on sale, but I found a bunch of other locally grown fruits and veggies. Among these were enormous golden beets and a beautiful vegetable that I had never heard of called a scarlet root. I saw others, but I can't remember what they were. Still, there were lots of interesting and delicious choices. The employees at Whole Foods are super nice and will be willing to give you samples, tell you about the local farms their produce is from and more.

                  I'm sorry that today's post wasn't especially exciting; I didn't have much time today to do anything interesting or post something worthwhile. Tomorrow, however, I'll post about the muffins and our Girl Scout meeting! Please subscribe to this blog, follow me on Twitter, subscribe to me on YouTube and email me! All my info is in the sidebar. Stay healthy and happy holidays!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Twelve Days of Cooking: Day 2

         Hey! Today is the second day of the Twelve Days of Cooking! Today’s post is all about healthy holiday snacks.         

         During the wintertime, there aren’t very many fruits and vegetables grown locally. This means there are fewer options for snacking. Yes, you could eat processed and packaged food, but that’s not very healthy. We need to eat our daily servings of fruits and vegetables, and snacking on them is a great way to meet our requirements. When there aren’t many options for fruits and vegetables to eat, what do you do?

            Most people buy non-local produce during the wintertime. However, as I explained in yesterday’s post, local foods are better for the environment and the food system. We should definitely be snacking on local foods instead of fruits and vegetables grown thousands of miles away from home. By only purchasing local fruits and vegetables, we barely have any snacking options. So what should we snack on during the holidays? My favorite holiday snacks are frozen fruit. It might sound weird to eat frozen fruit plain, but it’s actually delicious.

I love frozen blueberries. I eat a small bowl of them every day when I get home from school. I like frozen blueberries much better than fresh ones, and I don’t really know why. They’re both delicious, but frozen blueberries are better. Even though blueberries can’t grow in December in Washington (or most places, for that matter), they can still be a local snack. This is because a lot of local farms grow blueberries during the summer, pick them at their peak of perfection, freeze them and sell them. In the Pacific Northwest, companies like Remlinger Farms (located in Carnation, WA) and LaPierre Organics (located somewhere in WA) sell amazing frozen blueberries for great prices. I’ve been able to find local frozen blueberries at QFC, Whole Foods and PCC. I haven’t checked other stores, but I’m sure they have them.

            Another great frozen snack is frozen peaches. These aren’t something to eat straight out of the bag, but you can thaw them and make creative comfort foods with them. For example, you could thaw the peaches and cook them with a bit of honey and cinnamon until warm. You could eat this plain, add thawed and heated frozen blueberries, serve it over ice cream on Christmas (you deserve to splurge and eat ice cream on Christmas), etc. Frozen peaches are another local item; Remlinger Farms sells frozen peaches. There are other types of frozen fruits that you can find in your local grocery store to snack on. Be creative with the tools you have and the foods you find!

           Enough talk about frozen fruits. What are some other snack ideas? Nuts are a fantastic, healthy holiday snack! Nuts have lots of protein and healthy fats in them that our bodies need. My favorite kind of nut to eat around the holidays is hazelnuts. The hazelnuts that we have in my house are from Oregon, which is pretty close to being local. Nuts keep for a long time, so you don't have to worry about the seasons with them. If you do some digging, I'm sure you can find out where the nuts were grown and packaged. Remember to buy dry roasted (salted or unsalted) nuts; this means they aren't roasted with any oil. The oil that regular roasted nut are cooked with adds bad fats to your snack, and you want to try and avoid that.

            Thanks so much for reading this post! Please subscribe to this blog, follow me on Twitter, subscribe to me on YouTube, comment on this post and email me! All of my contact info is on the right-hand side of this site. Also, please vote on the poll. I need ideas on what to post next! Stay healthy and happy holidays!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Twelve Days of Cooking: Day 1

Hey! As promised, here’s Thursday’s post. There will be a post every Thursday after this… but this week is special. I’m starting a series of posts called the Twelve Days of Cooking. In the twelve days leading up to Christmas, I will post every day about something that I or someone else cooked. Hopefully these posts will help you find holiday recipes and get in the holiday spirit!

            We all hear that it’s important to purchase local foods… but why? First of all, it’s much better for the environment to purchase local foods. It takes much less fuel for a vehicle full of food to travel 100 miles or less than to travel thousands of miles. By buying local, we can reduce the amount of pollution being released into the air. Secondly, the food system greatly benefits when you support local companies. Almost all local companies are relatively small, whereas a lot of the food that most Americans consume is produced far away in a massive factory with low quality ingredients. By supporting local companies, you are voting for (most likely) higher quality food and small businesses. If you want to read more about local foods, you can read a blog post of mine from about a year and a half ago about the subject!

            In the fall and winter in Washington State, most people don’t buy very much local food at all. This is because a lot of people think that the only local produce we can buy is apples and pears. However, we have many more options; still not as many, but we have more than we think. As consumers, we need to learn what the growing seasons of the region we live in are. While the supermarket doesn’t necessarily follow the seasons, nature still does. If you buy something that isn’t in season, then it definitely isn’t local. Take a look at the following chart of Pacific Northwest growing seasons. Keep in mind that fruits and vegetables that grow until November can be stored and sold through December. If you don’t live in the Pacific Northwest, I’m sure you can find a growing seasons chart for the area you live in.

            I found a recipe on Food Network last night that gives you an opportunity to cook with local ingredients for the holidays. It’s an Anne Burrell recipe for roasted vegetables. The squash and mushrooms are the two locally grown ingredients you need. While this recipe also uses non-local ingredients, it uses some, which is a start. See if you can find a recipe (on Food Network or elsewhere) that uses almost all local, seasonal ingredients! If you do, I encourage you to comment on this post, email me or tweet me the link. My contact information is on the right-hand side of the site.

            Please follow this blog, subscribe to my YouTube channel, follow me on Twitter and email me! I want to expand my network of followers, so I’d really appreciate it if you’d support me and tell your friends. I also want to open up some conversation in the comments of this post. Comment your favorite local foods, favorite holiday recipes, ask questions, tell me what to post in the upcoming Twelve Days of Cooking posts, etc. I will definitely respond to anything you post. Be sure to come back here tomorrow for Day 2 of the Twelve Days of Cooking! Stay healthy!


Thursday, December 6, 2012

False Advertising

Hey! It has been four and a half months since I’ve posted last… and that’s pretty pathetic. My summer got really busy at the end of July, and then school happened. However, I’m determined to post a lot more often now.

Today's post is about advertising. To make a product more appealing, companies use different advertising techniques. A lot of medicine commercials show people who “used the medicine” and were pleased with its results, but half of the time those people are actors. In some commercials, companies like Verizon Wireless and AT&T will compare the scope of their cell phone service compared to that of other companies. However, many times the graphs and charts they use to compare are disproportionate or don’t use correct intervals. We see stuff like this in commercials of every type…. But what about advertisements for food? Not just advertisements, but the labels that make the food more appealing. Food companies have a plethora of advertising tricks that make their food look healthier and tastier based on the words associated with that food. “Fresh”, “premium” and “all natural” are among these tricks. As a consumer, how can we figure out what the true meanings of these labels are?

You’re watching TV and a Subway commercial comes on. Everyone knows the $5 Foot-long song, and that every Subway commercial ends with their famous slogan of “Subway. Eat fresh.” The whole nation has associated Subway’s food with the word healthy. Yes, Subway does offer nutritional information and has pretty healthy options, but there are also a lot of unhealthy options served at Subway. Why does is the word “fresh” synonymous for “healthy”? Let’s look at the definition of fresh food: food that is not preserved by canning, dehydration, freezing or smoking. Also, something that is considered fresh will not be rotten or expired. So how does this definition match up with what the public thinks about the term “fresh”? My theory is that the reason why so many people think that fresh = healthy is because of fruits and vegetables. Fresh fruits and vegetables that you can buy in the store are packed with nutrients, are (hopefully) not rotting and are the freshest a food could be. Since vegetables and fruits are fresh and healthy, those two words seem like they’d go together. While it is true that a lot of fresh foods are very healthy, there are also lots of fresh foods that are not healthy. Take fresh bread as an example. You can make or buy freshly baked bread, but when it is made solely out of highly processed white flour, it has lost almost all of its nutritional value. What about a fatty steak? It’s fresh, but is it good for you? No. The next time you see the word “fresh” associated with a food product that you are purchasing, read the nutritional information and ingredients. Yes, this item wasn’t frozen or canned with preservatives, but how healthy is it?

 “Premium.” We see this word everywhere when walking through the grocery stores. Food companies will use the word “premium” to make their products more attractive. I’ve seen “premium” used a lot for ice cream, dairy products, and store-brand processed snacks. The use of “premium” creates the illusion that the product is of a higher quality than its competitors… but is it? When I Googled “definition of premium food”, “does food need to be certified to be premium” and other keywords similar to that, I didn’t find any helpful results. I just found links of companies that claim to have premium foods. I’m almost positive that USA food companies do not have to be certified premium. Premium is a word that is used whenever to entice consumers, but it doesn’t actually have very much value. That being said, a lot of truly healthy foods are also advertised with “premium” on their packages. We as consumers can learn to ignore the “premium” and learn about the actual quality of the ingredients in our food.  

The term “all natural” is another term that we should sit back and think about. While a food that is all natural doesn’t contain any artificial colors, flavors or preservatives, it isn’t a perfect food. Many people think that if something is all natural, it’s healthy. This isn’t the case. Some types of Lay’s potato chips are all natural, but they have barely any nutritional value. The term “all natural” also made me believe that the dairy used in the products were hormone free, the eggs used came from chickens that were not fed antibiotics and hormones, and that the meat used also followed these guidelines. However, to be all natural, a food just has to be free of artificial colors, flavors and preservatives. While it is much better to eat all natural food than artificial food, it still isn’t perfect. Finally, companies do not need to be certified all natural. A food company could easily be lying about their food being “all natural”. As a consumer, what do you do with this information? When you see that a product is all natural, you’ll know that the company that made that product is making steps into producing better food. However, still check the package for an indication that it is free of hormones and antibiotics (if the product contains meat, dairy or eggs). Check the ingredient list even if it’s an all natural product. Finally, try to buy all natural food from smaller companies that you know use good quality ingredients. Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods are great places to find natural and organic foods with trustworthy ingredients and labels.

I hope you enjoyed my first post in a long time! Again, I’m sorry that I haven’t been keeping up with this blog very well. However, my goal is to post every Thursday from here on out. I also want to try and post a video every month, where that’s a cooking video or just a random video that shows you guys more about who I am and what I like to do other than cook. Plus, I’m going to start a series of special holiday posts called The Twelve Days of Cooking. In the final twelve days leading up to Christmas, I am going to cook something every day, and every day there will be a post about what I made.

As I get into a regular blogging schedule, I will try to make a Teens Can Cook, Too Facebook page. I know that I always find it annoying when my favorite YouTubers don’t post a link to their videos on their Facebook pages, and I feel like I should make my videos and posts easier to find than by digging through Google. For now, I need to get back into blogging regularly.

Thanks for reading this post! Please share my blog on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus (which no one uses, but whatever) ANYTHING! I’d love to get the word out about improving the food system and educating my generation about the food we eat. Remember to come here on Thursday for the kick-off of The Twelve Days of Cooking. Stay healthy and happy holidays!