Monthly Archives: November 2008

Green bags: The fountain of fruit and vegetable youth?

I ran home last night with all my Thanksgiving ingredients, a night earlier than I’d planned to shop because of an early morning appointment, and my entire refrigerator is a sea of Debbie Meyer Green Bags.  The hardest part about Thanksgiving is doing the shopping early enough to avoid being caught in the vast human struggle that is acquiring groceries for the big event, but not so early that the wilted salad with aging cucumbers and overripe tomatoes actually implies that you may wish your family bodily harm.  Enter the miracle bags that could have kept grapes fresh from the Pharaoh’s tomb to the present day.   That might be a slight exaggeration.  But heck, I figure maybe the stuff will make it to Thursday looking like it was plucked from the very ground just minutes before.  And if it all works out, I can thank my mother.  Then Debbie Meyer.

My mother’s gone into late-night sponsor-mode for Green Bags.  She brought some over for us both to try, and gave me about debbie-meyer-greenbags11half of them.  I tossed some grapes, in their protective plastic box, into a green bag.  Frighteningly, they lasted over 3 weeks.  My mother could make major commish on QVC she’s so excited about these bags.  If someone appears to be dying, they could probably be preserved in one until help arrived.

So the Green Bags do appear to work.  But how?  Are they safe?  They claim to be made with a “natural mineral” called “Oya®” – so what the heck is that?  It’s actually a form of mineral called zeolite.  Zeolite, according to my friends at Wikipedia, absorbs gases.  Which means it can absorb the ethylene gases given off by ripening fruits and vegetables.  (Yes, one bad apple will spoil the whole bunch, because it will give off lots of ethylene gas, pushing the rest from ripe to rotten.  Just saying.)  So the bags are sprayed with this stuff, and it absorbs the gases, preventing further ripening/rotting.  Very clever indeed.  You can rinse them, but not wash them with soap, and you can use them up to 8 times according the web site, so I’d recommend putting fruits and veggies in there in their original packaging so that you can reuse the bags without worrying about other microbes that can’t be washed away but that can cause food poisoning.  Also, the bags and produce have to be dry.

All this crazy comes at a price — something on the order of $9.99 for 20 bags.  Great for Thanksgiving, but I’m just going to be honest: I feel better about buying only what we can eat and buying more often than trying to preserve stuff forever.  But if you live alone, and food comes in large supply, this can be mighty helpful and might even save money in the end.  I’m a little hesitant about placing food directly onto this “natural mineral” – so be careful there.

As an alternative, there are also disks you can put into your produce drawer that will last a few months and also slow the path from ripe to rotten.  Here’s a link.

buffetgFor the record, some of the other Debbie Meyer stuff makes me a little nervous, particularly the cold cut bags.  Don’t store cold cuts forever, then eat them, then reuse a bag you stored them in directly without washing it because you can’t use soap.  Just tell Debbie Meyer it makes me nervous and we just can’t have that.

But she is the mastermind behind the hilarious Buffet Genius, and make no mistake about it, I love her for it.

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Soup on the fly

healthysoupWhat happens when I have a child in the bath and I’m still thinking of what to whip up for dinner?  This is what happens: soup.  Our child loves soup, so on this night, when we were eating something she wouldn’t touch (Spanakopita; is she nuts? Her loss.) I whipped this up while she threw on some jammies.  Soup for one:

  • Broth (we buy a carton for $1.99 at Trader Joes – chicken or veggie — we use veggie.  The following night/day it can be used to make some really excellent rice when it’s the cooking water, or cooking water for vegetables.  Adds flavor without much salt.
  • Rotelle (spiral) pasta – always good to keep on hand.
  • baby carrots
  • frozen broccoli — just take out what you need
  • ditto the frozen, sweet corn
  • beans from a can, or leftover homemade, which was the case here

Microwave the broth with the rotelle pasta and carrots for 5 minutes.  Toss in the broccoli and corn, microwave for another 4 minutes.  Toss in the beans, 1 more minute.  Done!

Add a little bread and butter on the side and you’re good to go without having tons of soup left over.

Good snacking!

Well, we’re getting to that time of year where food and socializing are abundant, holiday celebrations at your kid’s school and at home abound, and many of us start the downward spiral that is the source of many lofty resolutions for the coming year.snacks

This applies most of all to your children (if you have any lying around). Since our child entered public school this fall, I’ve been made aware of what many parents consider a proper snack for their child (mainly because my child relays this to me in a “why-can’t-I-have-

red-hot-cheetos-and-

Chips-Ahoy!-cookies for snack” diatribe). Let me just say that I’m not entirely against such foods on occasion, but they are not snacks; they are indulgences and should be treated that way.

The average child usually consumes between 1,000-1,400 calories a day (to find out what your child should be consuming, head on over to MyPyramid.gov and on the left, click the “For preschoolers” or “For Kids” link.  If you download MyPyramid plan for your kids and can’t read it, try opening it in Word.  Anyway, my point is that if you’re giving a kid a 200 calorie snack and it’s devoid of any meaningful nutrition, it wastes anywhere from 10-20% of their day’s calories.

So it’s good to find snacks that are healthy, fast and well accepted by your kids.  The ones we’ve been able to agree on: applesauce, carrots with dressing, celery with peanut butter, yogurt, grapes, nuts, bananas, cheese (not cheez whiz stuff, but real cheese) and whole grain crackers.  Buying a fancy little spoon for their lunchbox and a $1.79 refreezable ice (see the butterfly in the pic?) keeps everything cool and makes everything look more acceptable to both your child and their inquisitive friends.  I once made our child a pasta salad with chopped vegetables and a tiny bit of salad dressing.  She loved it, but her friends made fun of her (“what is that?” and that was the end of that).

Since we run out the door like lightning every morning, it helps if snacks are packaged and ready to go.  And cheap.  I know that.  For many people, that seems limited to 10-packs of chips or 100-calorie cookie packs.  These are not great snacks — they contain little if any vitamins and minerals, and they also disregard one very important point: children are a captive audience during snack time at school.  This means that they’re hungry, and whatever is packed (unless positively shameful) will be quickly consumed because it’s available.  Thus, it’s a great opportunity to get some veggies, fruits or other healthy snacks down the hatch.  A  4-pack of applesauce is about $2.00-$2.50, 3 packs of carrots and ranch, or celery with peanut butter are $2 at Trader Joe’s, little packs of Stoneyfield yogurt are about $3.50 for 6.  Motts makes a “natural” applesauce (avoid the original; it’s sweetened with high fructose corn syrup — and the natural costs the same – about $2.50 for 6 at Target).  Theoretically you can do healthy snacks for kids at well under $1 a day.  And that’s for high-end, organic good stuff.

As a rule, read the label for sodium and fat and avoid the product if either of those ingredients is listed as 20% or more of the Daily Value (that’s those percentages on the right).  That’s about 480 mg of sodium and (yikes) about 12 grams of fat.  Keep the cheese low fat; they won’t know if the difference.

All of this, of course, is good advice for you, too.  If you want to start the year healthier and wealthier, bypass that snack machine at work, bring your own snacks and eat just those (squirrel the money you would have spent at the vending machine or the coffeehouse — those frappucino dealies with whipped cream can kill anyone’s diet — into a jar and you’ll have some money for nice clothes during the holiday sales).  Bring a container to work to take home any especially fabulous goodies, but unless it’s the Christmas party, you really need to just say NO.  Try to remember that alcoholic beverages pack up to 200 calories a pop, so try to choose between one of those or dessert (um, and presumably we’re talking after work, unless things are really going downhill at the job!).  Save the snacking and grazing and enjoying for the social occasions when you’ll want to let go a little, and for the rest of the time, polish that halo!