A PB&J is classic American comfort food. It’s easy, it’s tasty, it’s fast. Kids love it! But it isn’t necessarily good for you. Not if you’re buying the big name brands off the grocery store shelves. They contain unhealthy and completely unnecessary ingredients such as corn syrup, hydrogenated oils (aka trans fats) and soy protein solids to name just a few.
The good news is, it is possible to turn this ship around. Wanna know my trick for making all your favorite snacks better for you?
Buy artisanal versions of all the things you love. Artisanal typically means it was made out of love and passion by someone who actually gives a damn. Artisanal products are made by hand, in small batches, using old world techniques with the best ingredients available. This trick goes for chips, candy, bacon, cheese, ice cream, and yes, even peanut butter and jelly. Your neighborhood stores and specialty markets typically carry a lot of foods often made by local food artisans so shop local and check them out. These products are a bit more expensive but worth it. Consider them a lifestyle upgrade and slowly integrate them into your life.
The bonus for you? The products taste AMAZING. They’re actually healthier for you; you feel better, look better and damn aren’t you clever.
Here are my personal picks for making the best peanut butter and jelly sandwich on the planet.
There is only one peanut butter on my list and it’s Cream Nut. Made by the Koeze family in Michigan for 80 years, they make their PB in small batches on vintage machines using only Virginia peanuts and a pinch of salt. The flavor will blow your mind. Available online and at specialty stores around the country.
All of the artisans below make their products with perfectly ripened fruit from local farmers, preserving their flavors at the peak of ripeness. Everything is made by hand in small batches. These are not just great on bread but used on meats, with cheeses, in baking, the uses are endless and so delicious.
Beths’ Farm Kitchenmakes their 90 flavors of jams and chutneys in an 1850′s farm house in Hudson Valley, New York. They have a stall at the Union Square Greenmarket in Manhattan and also sell on the web. Try the Cherrycot or the Strawberry Rhubarb.
Flora Confectionsis a local hero of mine in Chicago. She makes classic confitures (French for preserve or jam) in the most delicious flavors: Blueberry Pinot Noir, Caramelized Plum, Chile Cherry and Double Honey made with Honey Crisp apples in season. She sells at Chicago’s Green City Market and also on the web.
June Tayloris the known as the Godmother of jamming. Her conserves are made with no commercial pectin and very little sugar. Her flavor combinations are out of this world: Burbank Plum and Meyer Lemon, Sweet Peach and Fennel, Pluot (Plum Apricot) and Rhubarb and Blood Orange to name just a few. She sells at the Ferry Market Plaza Farmers’ Market in San Francisco, online and at specialty shops around the country.
I have decided to make the move away from plastics in every area of my life. I realize it’s going to take some time but I am committed.
Why? Because whether you’ve had it implanted in your body, (Why Heidi Montag, why?) you’re drinking water from it, or you store your food in it, you are being exposed to dubious amounts of chemicals.
The two we read most about are phthalates and BPAs. These chemicals can break down and literally get into our bodies and constant exposure to them can have a negative cumulative effect. Now, there’s even a new study that shows a connection between phthalates and obesity. Many of our common beauty and household products are loaded with them, and you owe it to yourself to get educated about it.
Hey, let’s look on the bright side; this is a great excuse to shop! It’s better for your health and the health of the planet. And, there are so many new, well designed products out there made of green, reusable and chemical free materials to discover. I do want to suggest that you recycle or responsibly dispose of any and all plastic you currently have as you’re making this switch. OK, let’s pack up our hemp hobo sacks and get out there and do some damage shall we?
A beautiful design made from a new BPA-free material called Tritan. It’s extremely durable, lightweight, recyclable, has a comfortable carrying handle and a wide mouth for drinking. It won’t retain or impart flavors and honey child, get one of these and I guarantee you will be the talk of your yoga class! Snap!
Glass storage with water-tight silicone lids. These also come in round shapes if that’s more your style. Non-toxic, non-reactive, you can marinate in these or store soups without anything leaking. Simple, practical, you can’t lose. Run don’t walk.
This one’s also a real show stopper. Imagine your kids shlepping into day care with one of these babies. Or for you when you bring your lunch to work? You can use all tiers for a three course lunch or just one. It also comes with a little sidekick to store dressing or toppings like croutons for your salad that might get a little soggy sitting with your veggies.
I am not a gadget person. QVC ain’t got nothing on me. These people hawking their plastic egg slicers? Do we really need more useless crap cluttering up our lives? More doesn’t always equal better, you know. Not unless you’re talking about shoes. Now, shoe hoarding – that’s something I can totally get behind.
I’m a single gal and on average I prepare at least two meals a day for myself because I have to. I don’t have the budget for take out food. Besides, what I make is fresher and healthier and I do it with very few tools in my kitchen. Buy less but spend more on quality. Here are the essential tools I reach for again and again.
I keep my spinner within reach because I use it every day. I can make a 5 minute salad with greens from my local farmers’ market by gently rinsing and spinning them in this. HOT TIP: Oil and water don’t mix: spin your greens dry otherwise the dressing won’t adhere to the leaves and your salad will taste like caca. Also, here’s a link to my Beginners Guide to Homemade Salad Dressing.
I keep black truffles at home and slice them on everything, dahling. Thanks Zsa Zsa, but this adjustable slicer is also perfect for slicing radishes, red onions, carrots and cucs for salad and even chocolate and cheese shavings. HOT TIP: Toss thinly sliced veggies in a bowl with some feta or other cheese, add a protein like garbanzos, boiled egg or cut up rotisserie chicken, season with s&p and dressing for a quick meal.
My favorite spatula. It’s sharp, thin and flexible for turning anything in a pan, even if it’s stuck or extremely delicate. HOT TIP: Don’t be intimidated to buy fish at the supermarket. The trick to cooking fish is to get your pan nice and hot over the flame for a couple minutes first, then add oil and wait for that to shimmer. Then add your fish and you should hear a sizzle. No sizzle? Then your pan isn’t ready.
This set will easily peel everything from potatoes to tomatoes, mangos and melon and even julienne some of your vegetables. HOT TIP: Buy fresh carrots and peel them yourself. Odds are those baby carrots you’re eating were picked at least two seasons ago, extruded out of a machine, bleached and placed into a bag, then gassed to keep them “fresh” and shipped from god knows where before they arrived on your grocery store shelves. Good times.
Yes, it’s true, I do have my own food-based version of The Ten Commandments, and sometimes I like to imagine them being delivered to the masses by Chuck Heston, just like in the movie. I imagine him on the side of a craggy mountain, wearing some billowy, woven textile, holding giant stone tablets and declaring in his booming Moses voice:
Thou shalt keep thine pantry full of great ingredients with which to create healthy, delicious meals anytime.
Thou shalt learn some basic cooking skills.
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s Fry Daddy.
Thou shalt only eat packaged foods with five ingredients or less.
I live by these rules myself, however I couldn’t live without my salty, snacky treats from time to time. Yes, there are nights when I don’t feel like lifting a finger and it’s just me, Netflix, a great beer and some salty snackage.
But unlike the other Dana, beloved creator of The Possessionista and number one Cheetos fan, I can’t put that day-glo shit in my body, so I’ve found some great alternatives that are yummy, satisfying, clean and have five ingredients or less.
Roasted Salted Fava Beans
Like corn nuts? These are so much better for you and have that hard, crunchy, salty, nutty thing going on that pairs so perfectly with cocktails. A must try and also impressive to whip out when guests come over.
Have’ A Corn Chips – I discovered these chips in L.A. and search them out every time I’m out there. They’re now available on Amazon! They are hands down the best corn chip I’ve ever tasted. They’re made in small batches in Laguna, California with a touch of soy sauce as their secret ingredient.
In a pinch, there’s always Fritos Scoops. I love the taste of Scoops, and they only have three ingredients: Corn, Oil and Salt. However, my one beef with them is that they’re made with genetically modified corn (GMO). (This is my opportunity to beg the Frito Lay company to make a version with organic corn. Please!)
Allow me to clarify: I do not have an autoimmune disease. My small intestine has not been damaged by eating gluten (presumably.) However, it seems I meet more and more people who are or at least claim to have low-level intolerances to the stuff.
Over the years, in my on-going pursuit of good health and eternal foxiness, I have tried many elimination diets and cleanses for weeks on end, which have required me to remove wheat and gluten from my diet. I can honestly say, I felt fantastic: I lost weight easily and effortlessly. Any body aches and inflammation I had disappeared and I was positively glowing.
But, lets face it, on any given day if you put a freshly-baked boule or a slice of great pizza in my path, I would eat it happily and say to hell with the puffy consequences because handmade, savory breadstuffs (and cheeses) are my thing – in moderation of course.
To be serious, this is not about dieting. There are those whose life and well-being depend on maintaining a gluten-free lifestyle – including Elisabeth Hasselbeck who has been instrumental in raising awareness for celiac disease.
And although there are a lot of products out there now, many of them are highly processed, bland, have a very strange texture and quite frankly, don’t contain the greatest ingredients.
After extensive research, here are some great products available online – ones made with great ingredients, many of them artisanally-crafted, delicious and satisfying.
Just because you’re gluten-free shouldn’t mean you have to compromise.
Except for you, Elisabeth Hasselbeck. Can’t we all just get along?