Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Does food from scratch cost more than packaged food?

Is it really true that processed food is cheaper than the real thing? Let's start by reading the article below which is my inspiration for writing this blog entry.

Article: The Shopping Cart Index: What Our Grocery Bills Reveal About the Food Economy

What else is cheaper to make from scratch? I've already started a list and will continue to keep it as I experiment with the most commonly found foods in the grocery store and what they cost to make. Of course, there will be cost differences depending on where you shop (Whole Foods vs. Walmart) so for the sake of comparison, I'm going to use Safeway's online shopping for all of my food choices.

Here is how it will work.

1. Each week I will pick a packaged food product to make from scratch.
2. I will do a price comparison using Safeway's online shopping store.
3. I will compare the nutrition of each version for quality control.
4. I will post the results on this blog for all to see!

My first Choice: Wishbone Italian Dressing

Results...coming soon!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Cook-off Madness!

Haven't written in a while so I thought I would just post a few pictures from last weekend's Mayors' Healthy Cook-off in Clayton, where 14 Mayors battled it out making a healthy brunch. This event, started by Cindy Gershen and the Wellness City Challenge is in it's third year and is about to go bay area-wide! A big shout out to the Pacific Coast Farmers Market and Whole Foods Market for providing the healthy produce and whole grains! There were also some great booths including ConnectWell, American Heart Association, and the Master Gardeners of Contra Costa County.

Andrea Bloom, CEO and founder of ConnectWell with Dana Wenter and myself, showcasing our program! 

Chef Kevin of the Walnut Creek Yacht Club was turning up the heat in this competition!

Our wonderful Judging Team!

Beautiful farmers market fresh fruit plate!

Delicious Mexican-style cuisine presented by stand in chef Steve James from Lafayette. 

Concord took the Trophy for the second time in 3 years, winning a Whole Foods Market Organic Garden!

Above are the teachers and students of Serenditpity Culinary Academy of Mt. Diablo High School in Concord. 

My favorite part was all of the salsa recipes. In fact, I'm including a recipe from chef that has the special talent of teaching kids how to cook and eat healthy, Shane Valentine, author of Kid's Cuisine. See recipe below.

Peach Salsa

·         Peaches
·         Garlic
·         Salt and pepper
·         JalapeƱo
·         Cilantro
1.       Dice all ingredients and mix together in bowl.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Preventing the Holiday Hangover!

Happy Holidays on this lovely Taco Tuesday. The weather is cooling down as the holidays come into full swing! With all the changes, it is easy to pick up some no so good know what I am talking about! Just one more piece of holiday candy...or just that one extra glass of wine to get where I am going.

But wait! Before you give in to the temptations that America calls the "Holidays", let me interject. I've been hard at work in the past few weeks developing ways to prevent the "Holiday Hangover" that you will probably experience if you're not careful!

So, tonight's blog is dedicated to Preventing the "Holiday Hangover"! What is a Holiday Hangover, you might be asking?

Similar a real hangover, the "Holiday Hangover" includes:

- General bodily discomfort
- Lack of energy
- What I like to call "brain fog"
- Probably a few extra pounds you didn't have last month
- And a total lack of motivation to do anything about it.

There you have it. Not what I want to be feeling come the New Year!

Now I could just tell you what to do once you're feeling the "Holiday Hangover", but I thought I'd do you a big favor, let's call it my GIFT to you, and help you PREVENT it in the first place.

5 Ways to Prevent the "Holiday Hangover"

1. Plan Ahead Know what meals you will be eating at home and away before you go to the grocery store. Make a list and plan your meals. You will thank me later.

2. Eat a small, but healthy snack before you go to a holiday party or get together. This will help by decreasing your chance of overeating and increasing your ability to make healthy choices (aka ability to use your brain instead of your stomach!) Note: This is also a great tip to do before hitting the grocery store.

3. Moderation Just like my Mom has always told me, everything is ok in moderation, but please, still remember the discussion from my last post. How many desserts you want to have to stay healthy? My guess is it still is just one. Reading labels still applies here!

4. Have healthy snacks available to guests who stop by. Give them the gift of good health and lead by example. I have listed below a few healthy snack/appetizers to get you started.

5. Drink plenty of water! Just like a real hangover, water is crucial to your health, especially as the cold weather can be very dehydrating. Try adding fresh mint, orange or lemon slices, to your water for a festive look and a little taste. Sparkling water is also a nice alternative.

I hope that these FIVE simple tips will help you avoid the "Holiday Hangover" and stay well this holiday season!

If you happen to live in the bay area, I would like to invite you to a more personalized version of my blog at the Sunrise Bistro in Walnut Creek on Thursday December 16th from 6-8pm. Piggybacking of the Eat and Learn philosophy, we're doing a Holiday Eat and Learn, providing a healthy dinner, cooking demonstration, and nutrition talk all about staying in good health during the holidays. Please send me a note if you're at all interested!

Below are a few snack and appetizer ideas to get you in the right mindset. Think simple, think whole foods.

Chargrilled Eggplant Bruschetta



1 Large Eggplant, cut crosswise into 5mm slices
Olive Oil
1 garlic clove

2 medium tomatoes, diced
1 tsp olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
small handful fresh basil leaves
1 garlic clove, crushed
salt, to taste


    1. Preheat oven to 350 F
    2. Spray eggplant with oil and rub each slice with salt and the garlic
    3. Place on oven rack directly, with cookie sheet on the rack below to catch any dripping. Bake for 20-30 minutes until firm, but done.
    4. To make salsa, combine all ingredients and season well.
    5. Spoon salsa mixture on top of eggplant slices. Enjoy! 

      Roasted Grapes (yes, really!)


      1/2 pound grapes, separated into small clusters
      3/4 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
      1/8 tsp kosher salt, to taste
      Freshly ground pepper, to taste
      1/4 cup plain, organic yogurt

        1. Preheat oven to 450 F. Arrange grape clusters in a single layer on a baking sheet. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast until the skins are slightly crisp, but the grapes are still soft and juicy inside, about 15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature, with yogurt for dipping.

         Other Holiday Snack Ideas

        -a platter with almonds, cubed cheeses, fresh cut apple slices with a squeeze of lemon to keep from browning
        -Fresh, seasonal fruit (apples, citrus)
        -Home made trail mix from the bulk bins (be careful of pre-made due to sugar and oils added to most commercialized mixes)
         -hummus with fresh-cut, seasonal vegetables.

        I hope these recipes and ideas inspire you this holiday season! Thanks for reading!

        In good health,

        Zelda F.

        Tuesday, September 14, 2010

        Eat and Learn!


        Happy Taco Tuesday! I've got a lot of catching up to do!

        Today's post is going to be all about the latest project I've been working on with the Wellness City Challenge. After hours working in the kitchen learning the simple, yet powerful tips of cooking healthy, it's time to Eat! And Learn too!

        You're invited to my blog version of an "Eat and Learn". By the end of this blog, I hope you'll feel empowered to make better choices when buying food at the store.

        First, I'll introduce the Healthy Eating Guidelines. You may recognize them from my previous post about the Wellness City Challenge.

        1. No sugar in the first 3 ingredients or it's considered a dessert! There are over 40 different names for sugar, including my favorite, high fructose corn syrup. Others include organic evaporated cane sugar, dextrose, and even honey!

        Here is a link to a very interesting talk about sugar by Dr. Lustig, from UCSF.

        2. 3 grams of fiber per 100 calories. Look for a "whole grain" as the first ingredient. Rice, barley, quinoa, and corn all count as whole grains.

        3. No trans-fat! This one might be obvious, as they've made it clear on the labels, but still check the ingredient list to make sure there are no partially hydrogenated oils. Trans fat has been linked with heart disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes!

        If you make these three simple changes when shopping for food, you'll be surprised by the impact is has on your long-term health!

        Now, the above rules apply to processed foods that require a label. The ultimate goal is to eat less processed foods and more whole foods.

        Whole foods include: fruits, vegetables, roots and whole grains, legumes and animal protein (dairy, eggs, and meat)

        This is where I give you a recipe for a whole food meal that you can make for yourself (since I can't jump through the computer and bring it to you!). It's an example of what a healthy meal looks like. No added sugar. All REAL FOOD!

        Tonight's Dinner: Poached Salmon with Roasted Veggies, Green Salad with Feta, Strawberries, and Slivered almonds, and Creamy Polenta

        So there you have it, 3 simple rules and a healthy meal to get you headed in the right direction! I'd love to hear your comments as you begin to follow the guidelines!

        Now, going back to my original blog entry, I'm starting up the sustainable Taco Tuesday Challenge again but with a new twist.

        Goal: Create a different meal (for 4) each week, for $10 or less, that contains all whole foods, with at least half coming from local farms. I'd like to get to 100% local and seasonal, but half is a goods start!

        Recipes for Tonight's Dinner

        Roasted Veggies

        Carrots, largely chopped
        Zucchini, largely chopped
        White or Yellow onions, largely chopped
        Brussels Sprouts, each cut in half
        Red and yellow bell peppers, largely chopped
        Small mushrooms, whole
        EVOO (extra virgin olive oil), 3 T.
        Sea Salt

        1. Rinse and chop all vegetables (“Jungle Cut”—2 in. thick wedges).
        2. Mix veggies in bowl with EVOO and a little bit of salt.
        3. Line a sheet pan with veggies.
        4. Roast in oven at 450 degrees until lightly browned (about 40 minutes).

        Wild Alaskan Salmon, Halibut, or Swordfish
        Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 2 T.
        Sea Salt

        1. Take fish out of packaging. Keep skin on.
        2. Rub the fish with EVOO and salt.
        3. Heat a saucepan on HIGH heat. Add 1 T. EVOO and 1 tsp. salt
        4. Add fish to saucepan. (Keep the thickest fillet in the middle of the pan).
        5. Turn over after about 6 minutes.
        6. Take off heat when the fish becomes flaky.

        Packaged dry Polenta
        5 Cups water

        1. Bring 5 cups water to a boil in a small pot. Lightly salt (like the Mediterranean Sea).
        2. Turn to LOW.
        3. Whisk in 1 cup polenta, slowly but consistently.
        4. Stir every 10 minutes for 1 hr. (The goal is for the grains to open up, so that they are neither hard nor mushy).

        Green Salad with Strawberries, Feta, and Slivered Almonds

        Romaine Lettuce, torn into bite size peices
        Strawberries, sliced
        Feta, crumbled
        Slivered Almonds

        Dressing: Mix equal parts olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

        1. Wash lettuce and strawberries.
        2. Tear lettuce into bite size pieces, put in bowl.
        3. Add strawberries, feta, and almonds.
        4. Drizzle with olive oil/balsamic mixture just before serving.


        Thanks for reading!

        Monday, August 2, 2010

        Chef in Training!


        I'm excited to let you all know what I've been up to for the past month and share with you some new exciting and delicious recipes!

        This week my blog is all about "Learning the Cooking Basics!"

        A while back I mentioned my involvement with the Wellness City Challenge and the Healthy Eating Guidelines...remember, label reading 101. Well, we decided that it is time that we created something that will revolutionize kitchens all across America! What is that you might ask???

        A Healthy "Eating-on-a-Budget" Cookbook. (we haven't decided on a name yet)

        So for the past 3 weeks, Cindy Gershen, owner of the Sunrise Bistro in Walnut Creek and founder of the Wellness City Challenge, has been gracious enough to teach myself and our other intern Robyn how to cook over 50 delicious, simple and extremely healthy recipes! From roasting vegetables to boning out a chicken, we've learned it all!

        At the end of my blog I'm posting my favorite recipe so far!

        So here are some things I've learned from Cindy during our cooking classes.

        1. Buy it whole and never waste anything. It's fresher and more nutritious this way!

        2. Keep it simple. No one wants to spend all day in the kitchen!

        3. Feel your food! Literally, give it a poke, it won't bite!

        4. You can cook a healthy meal for less than $2 a person. We've got the receipts as proof! This is a highlight of our cooking project and our goal has been to cook on $4 a day per person!

        5. No one is perfect and everyone can learn to cook.

        6. Shop at your local produce market or even better, farmers market!

        7. When making creamy polenta, salt the water until it's a Mediterranean sea! (not literally, but a little more salt in this recipe makes a huge difference)

        8. Making a berry pie is one of the simplest things ever! (Note: This still belongs in the desert section)

        9. Though we're making a "recipe" book, it's really about using what you've got on hand! Get creative and don't be afraid to try something new!

        10. Share, inspire, and love each other! That is what life is about!

        In just three weeks I learned a whole lot more than how to cook some broccoli, I learned the joy of cooking! And there is so much more to come!

        Below is one of the simplest recipes and can be used in a variety of different ways.

        "Italian Stew"


        Cauliflower, 1/2 head

        Broccoli, 1 bunch

        Green beans, 3/4 lb.

        Zucchini, 4

        Swiss chard, 1 bunch


        Rinse and cut all vegetables into large chunks.

        Fill large pot with 1 in. water and 1 T. salt.

        Bring water to a boil.

        Add all vegetables in this order: cauliflower, green beans, chard stalks, zucchini, chard leaves

        Cover pot almost all the way with a lid.

        Let steam. (It’s ready when you can pierce a fork through the mixture easily).

        Serving suggestions. Toss with olive oil and Parmesan cheese and serve as a side dish. Or add to cooked pasta with a marinara sauce. Add some spices such as oregano or a simple Italian seasoning.

        I even did a nutritional analysis of this recipe! Serving size is 5 oz.

        Calories per serving: 32 Servings per recipe: 12

        Total Fat: 0g
        Saturated: 0g
        Unsaturated: 0g
        Polyunsaturated: 0g
        Cholesterol: 0mg
        Sodium: 67 mg
        Total Carbohydrate: 7g
        Fiber: 3g
        Sugar: 2g
        Protein: 2g

        This food is low in Saturated Fat, and very low in Cholesterol. It is also a good source of Protein, Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol), Thiamin, Riboflavin, Pantothenic Acid, Calcium, Iron, Phosphorus and Copper, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Vitamin B6, Folate, Magnesium, Potassium and Manganese.

        Resource: http://nutritiondata.

        Well, that's all I have for today! Thanks for reading and look for more updates soon!

        In good health,

        Zelda F.
        Food Enthusiast Extraordinaire

        p.s. Visit the Wellness City Challenge Website at

        Wednesday, April 14, 2010

        Going Green!

        Happy Taco Tuesday! I’m back! I took a little blog vacation for some personal reasons but also to give myself some time to rejuvenate for this spring blogging season!  So much to talk about, and with spring it full bloom I am so excited to explore the farmers markets and find you delicious new recipes!
        But today I want to talk about a food that often gets overlooked, GREENS! Not the most popular food in the world, but once you know how AMAZING they are for you, you might reconsider them as more than a pretty garnish.

        Some fun facts about GREENS
        • Greens are an excellent source of protein…I repeat, greens are an EXCELLENT source of protein.
        • Technically speaking, greens are NOT vegetables
        • Greens contain lots of FIBER, both soluble and insoluble, which aids our digestion and is very beneficial to our health. (I could write a whole blog on fiber alone!)
        • Consuming greens makes the body more alkaline
        • And finally, greens are packed with vital nutrients such as calcium, iron, and zinc to name just a few that keep your body at optimal health. Consider them like taking a multi-vitamin!

        Information taken from “Green for Life” by Victoria Boutenko. (Highly recommend this book)

        So now that you’re intrigued by how nutritious these greens are for you, let’s talk about how to get them into your diet! My favorite greens include: Kale, spinach, romaine lettuce, swiss chard and arugula. I admit that I was skeptical of liking greens, especially kale (its tough, weed-like appearance didn't help)! BUT, with the right preparation, greens taste delicious!

        Below are three recipes, a salad, a smoothie, and a side dish. I’m also including a special recipe that incorporates greens and has a very special meaning in my life.

        Arugula Salad

        Nutritional Highlights: Excellent source of Vitamin A, C, Folic Acid, Maganese, Calcium, and Magnesium. Contains anti-cancer compounds and omega-3 fatty acids.

        Equipment Needed: Salad bowl, knife, fork

        Ingredients: 2 1/2 cups arugula, 1 green onion
        (sliced), 9 sprigs cilantro (chopped), 1/2 avocado, 1 TBSP flaxseed oil, juice of one lemon, 1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds, fresh ground pepper (to taste)

        Directions: Using a sharp knife, cut green onion and cilantro. Place arugula in a large bowl. Drizzle with flax oil and toss to coat. Add onion and cilantro. Squeeze lemon juice (start with half and add more to taste) and toss again. Slice avocado in half and then into
        chunks. Add avocado and pumpkin seeds. Add pepper to taste. Serve and enjoy!

        Green Smoothie

        Nutritional Highlights: High in Vitamin A, C, K and B6. Great for the immune system. Blending increases absorb-ability of nutrients.

        Equipment Needed: Blender

        Ingredients: One Banana, 2 cups spinach, 1/2 cup orange juice, 1 TBSP parsley, 1 cup ice

        Directions: Put all ingredients in blender. Blend on high until liquified. Garnish with extra parsley. Enjoy!

        Natalie’s Kale Salad

        Nutritional Highlights: Great source of Vitamin A, C and K. Kale is packed full of nutrients and is low in calories. A good source of protein

        Equipment Needed: knife, bowl

        Ingredients: 1 bunch kale, 1/2 cup white onion, 1/4 cup jalapeno peppers, 1/4 cup lemon juice, 1/4 cup olive oil, dash of sea salt

        Directions: Wash kale. Remove thick middle of leaves, chop finely. Also chop the onion and jalapeno finely. Toss together with the lemon juice and olive oil. Delicious add-ons include guacamole and roasted almonds.

        Three easy recipes that you can start making TODAY! Please, give me feedback on how you like them, any variations you tried and other great recipes with greens!
        Below, I’ve recreated a very special Pizza, with the help of my brother, and we like to call it Pizza de Matteo. This recipe is being posted in memory of Matthew Chance, a dear friend who happened to have very good taste!

        Pizza de Matteo (pizza is featured in my blog picture)

        In the oven : Pizza dough, marinara sauce, sliced buffalo mozzarella*

        Roll out dough, smear with sauce to your liking and top with sliced mozzarella*. Bake at 425 until golden brown.

        After baking, top with : Sliced fresh arugula, large shreds of Parmesan, quartered cherry tomatoes and pearl sized fresh mozzarella balls*

        *choose organic

        Fold a slice in half and enjoy! Thanks Matt! :)

        Recipe courtesy of Eric Zellhart (pizza dough tossing lessons available, haha)

        I have a very personal blog I'll be working on for next time, hopefully getting back into the once weekly updates :)

        Until next time, cheers!

        Zelda F.
        Food Enthusiast Extraordinaire

        Wednesday, February 24, 2010

        Sugar Baby!

        Oops, it's Wednesday! My how the week passes by so quickly! But what an eventful week I have had!

        On Saturday, I presented at "A Taste for You", teaching the audience the importance of reading a food label! Using an awesome video that Cindy Gershon, founder of the Wellness City Challenge, helped put together, I provided a simple three step approach to changing the way we choose our food.

        Here is a link to the video.

        I also printed business cards and started my recipe book! Below is my very first recipe for you all.

        Nut and Seed Brittle


        2 cups sunflower seeds

        1 cup cashews

        1 cup almonds coarsely chopped)

        1/2 cup flaxseed and sesame seeds

        1/2 cup maple syrup

        2 tsp cinnamon

        1 orange, zested.

        Directions: Oil sheet and lay down parchment paper. Preheat Oven to 350. Put 1/4 cup maple syrup in bowl, mix with sunflower seeds. Add remaining nuts and seeds and maple syrup. Mix well. Add cinnamon and orange zest. Spread mixture on cookie sheet and bake for 30 minutes, checking after 15 minutes to see if brittle is golden brown. Done when brittle is slightly hardened (not soft and sticky). Enjoy!

        Nutritional Highlights:

        This high protein snack is great to grab and go! It’s energy density makes it great to take along on a hike or sustain you until your next meal. Flaxseeds provide much needed omega-3 fatty acids and fiber.

        To tie this into my theme...

        Sustainable Taco Tuesday Rule #2: Read your food labels. Especially look at the ingredients.
        1. If there is sugar in the first 3 ingredients, consider it a dessert! 2. Look for 3 grams of fiber per every 100 calories. And 3. NO TRANS-FAT EVER! Easy enough right??

        I read a very interesting article this week in the chronicle that explained the different kind of sugars, including stevia and "fake" sweeteners such as splenda. Here is my take. Sugar is sugar is sugar. It's never going to be good for you in mass quantities. Even in small quantities, when not paired with nutrients to slow it's absorption, it can cause major health problems. This is serious business folks. SUGAR. Real health problems. SO, my advice is not to stress yourself out trying to avoid it altogether (or think you are fooling the system by replacing it with the fake stuff), but to become a conscious consumer. Where is the excess sugar in your diet?? Most likely its in the processed, boxed, junk! Right?? It's time to get back to the wholesome goodness of seasonal, local fresh WHOLE FOODS!

        Here's a link to the article.

        I hope that you like my recipe and continue to enjoy my blogging! I look forward to your comments and if you have any recipes you'd like to share, please send them my way!!

        Much love,

        Zelda F.
        Food Enthusiast Extraordinaire

        p.s. My brother and I had a great Tamaki making session tonight. I'd like to give a shout out to Eric for his inspiring, go with what you've got on hand, style of cooking. YUM!