April 14, 2014

New Food Labeling in Your Grocery Store ~ Get the #FactsUpFront {sponsored post}

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Facts Up Front program.

The Modern grocery store -- There's a sushi bar, a gourmet coffee kiosk, an organic produce section, and a kaleidoscope of colors and flashy packaging down every aisle.  Dizzying, isn't it?  Mr. Olsen isn't standing behind the counter in his tidy little apron to fetch you a can of beans (The kidney beans -- the only beans on the shelf; the ones right next to the sold-by-the slice suet and the flour in bag that is destined to be next year's school dress).  Oh, you wanted nonfat, low-sodium refried beans?  Sorry sister, you're in the wrong century. 

Food labels have come a long way.  Sure, your grandma's pantry must have been mighty pretty.  Some of those labels were downright works of art.  But what, I ask you, do roses have to do with canned pumpkin? That lovely label sure puts a smile on my face, but if I want to know if there's any added sugar inside I'm out of luck.  Heck, it's probably not even pumpkin but Hubbard Squash, but I digress.

The point is, things have changed -- I'm not here to wax nostalgic or be the next Michael Pollan.  Everyone can make their own choices when it comes to the food they buy and what they put in their mouth.  In order to make smart choices, people need access to information and that's what this post is all about.

Maybe your idea of a good time is clamshell of organic baby greens
Maybe it's a jar of Nutella and a spoon
Or perhaps you have a fanatical obsession with neon orange cheese puffs.
Who am I to judge?

Educate yourself.
Decide what's right for you and your family.
And read those labels.

That's where the Grocery Manufacturers Association #FactsUpFront initiative comes in. The goal of the initiative is to put key information from the Nutrition Facts Panel in the hands of consumers by slapping them right on the front of the label -- not the back. If you're watching your calories, your sugar, sodium, or saturated fat intake you're not going to have to go all Sherlock Holmes with your magnifying glass on the back of some label written in Lilliput. Boom! It's all up front. Too much sugar for your liking? Move on. Does that snacky indulgence have just a wee bit more saturated fat than you were hoping? No sweat Smarty, that bag right there has 5 grams less.

Want to learn more?  Visit FactsUpFront.org for a generous  helping of useful information -- nutrition facts, healthy eating tips, recipes and more. All the tools you need to be an empowered consumer are out there -- and the resources are all free

You'll find the Facts Up Front, but want to go deeper?  You're the curious sort aren't you?  Always questioning...craving knowledge. Try the Interactive Label.  This nifty gadget from the website goes into full detail for each nutrient featured on the Facts Up Front and how they fit in to a healthful diet.  

What information is most important to YOU on a food label?

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This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Grocery Manufacturers Association.  

April 13, 2014

Free Vintage Easter Graphics, Clipart & Scrap Sheets

Chick it out, peeps:

It's a round-up of vintage Easter graphics from my personal collection. 

I picked up this sweet vintage postcard at an antique store in Wine Country a few weeks ago:

This cute little accordion card features chicks in bonnets bearing the message: "Because it is Easter, these Chicks, you see, Are bringing good wishes, to you from me!"  You can download the printable HERE.

Here's a collection of chicks, bunny rabbits and eggs from my grandmother's scrapbook:

If you prefer, you can download them all as a scrap-sheet  HERE.


Feel free to show off your creations on the Rook No. 17 Facebook Page.

April 9, 2014

Cooking with Edible Flowers ~ Honey Viola Lollipops

It's finally starting to feel like spring around here!

The sun is shining.
The birds are chirping.
And the flowers are all in bloom!

I've been waiting all winter long for the arrival of spring flowers in order to start enjoying the beautiful and wildly creative recipes in Miche Bacher's book, Cooking with Flowers.  I'll be sharing my review and giving away a copy next week, but today I'm pleased to be showing you how to make Honey Viola Lollipops, inspired by Miche's Pansy Lollipop recipe.

For my recipe, I went with the pansy's smaller cousin, the viola. I replaced 1/4 cup of corn syrup from the original recipe with 1/4 cup of organic honey.  You can use any type of edible flower, and can flavor the lollipops to suit your taste.

A few notes:  
  • I found that the darker blossoms work better than the lighter ones.  The yellow violas were barely visible inside the sugar.  
  • Pouring the molten candy into uniform circles is a bit tricky.  Even though I like the free-form look of these lollipops, I'd like to try them next time in a mold.  
  • If doing free-form lollipops, I'd recommend using two baking sheets.  This way you have more room for each pop, and are less likely to have them run together.

Honey Viola Lollipops

adapted from Cooking with Flowers by Miche Bacher

12 lollipop sticks
scotch or craft tape
Non-stick spray
12 violas (or any edible flowers you like)
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup corn syrup (not HFC)
1/4 cup organic honey
1/3 cup water

Step 1:  

Free-form Option:  Line 2 baking trays with parchment paper.  Arrange 6 sticks on each tray.  Tape in place so that the sticks don't roll.  Spray areas where candy will be poured with non-stick spray.  Arrange one viola directly above each stick.

This photo gives an idea of how I taped the sticks down and placed the blossoms.  I'd recommend dividing the sticks between two trays, however.  This configuration was a little too cramped.

Molded Option: Spray a 12-cavity lollipop mold with nonstick spray.  Set sticks in place.  Place a viola in the center of each cavity.

Step 2:  Place a large metal bowl full of ice cubes next to the cooking surface.  Spray a 1 or 2-cup glass measuring cup with nonstick spray.  

Step 3:  Combine sugar, corn syrup, honey and water in a saucepan over medium heat and stir until sugar is dissolved.  Then, let it come to a boil and insert a candy thermometer.  Boil syrup mixture without stirring until the temperature reaches 300° F.  Remove from heat and immediately place the saucepan on top of the ice to stop the cooking.

Step 4:  Carefully pour the hot syrup into the glass measuring cup.  This will make it easier to pour the syrup.  Gently pour the hot candy into the molds or over the flowers on the prepared pans.  Let pops cool completely (about 10-20 minutes) before moving.  Store in an airtight container and away from humidity.

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