Posts Tagged ‘hamantaschen’

Dye-Free for Purim and Every Day: Sign the FDA Petition

Monday, March 21st, 2011

Did you know that the E.U. requires warning labels on foods with certain artificial food dyes? And that American brands have adapted their foods for sale in Europe? It doesn’t seem so far-fetched, then, to ask why they aren’t making the same changes to the products sold here, right? Well it turns out some companies are, though the incentive may be less goodwill and more fear of an anticipated crackdown after the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) announced hearings on the use of artificial dyes in food, taking place next week. Artificial food dyes have been linked to ADHD, cancer and allergies for quite some time, and one can only hope the FDA will fully consider the science behind those concerns.

hamantaschen purim cookies

Not long ago, the husband returned home from Target bearing rainbow-colored goldfish crackers. Before I could, ahem, react, he quickly pointed to the label: “Colors from Natural Ingredients!” I was still skeptical so I turned it over to see — in fact, they use annatto extract, beet juice concentrate, paprika, turmeric, huito juice concentrate and watermelon juice concentrate. And they are just as boldly colored as can be — so clearly, the question of can we replace artificial dyes with natural ones has already been answered.

The trouble with food dyes, as with so many additives, is that they are not just in the obvious junk foods but so many other foods you wouldn’t even expect to see colors. Plain white marshmallows? Artificially white. The potato rolls we buy because they don’t have HFCS? Yellow #5 and #6. (Maybe it’s crazy to ask why can’t potato rolls just be white? Aren’t potatoes white?)

I’m able to avoid some of the grocery store battles by shopping at the organic market as much as possible. But on a recent trip to the regular grocery, the dreaded meltdown occurred in the cereal bar aisle when the boy spotted Nemo, Cars and other full-colored “fruit” snacks conveniently located at his eye-level. Now we sometimes buy Annie’s brand fruit snacks, which I fully realize are still not much more than a dose of sugar, but at least they’re made of natural sugar and colors. Trying to explain to a hungry and tired 4-year-old why some fruit snacks are only special treats he gets at birthday parties was an unpopular argument, to say the least, but I pressed on and later let him choose some of those colored goldfish crackers for his after school snacks.

Before I had kids I didn’t appreciate the power of marketing to young kids, thinking surely parents just needed to learn to say no. I’ve since been educated in the magical powers of branding (thanks, PBS, for making sure my son recognizes McDonald’s golden arches). Sure Annie’s bunnies are cute, but why settle for bunnies if you can get snacks that look just like Dora?! Wouldn’t it be nice to have to say “no” just a little less often? The folks behind the movie “Fresh!” are running an online petition you can sign to urge the FDA to ban artificial dyes in food. Click here to sign the petition today. (Deadline is Wednesday, March 23.)

The Foodie Tot and I did some baking over the weekend, making hamantaschen for Purim. No dyes needed as hamantaschen get their jewel tones from jams — raspberry, blueberry and poppyseed, this time. Here’s a little clip, enjoy!

The Foodie Tot Makes Hamantaschen from Colleen Levine on Vimeo.

(And please see these other great posts on food dyes in children’s food:

Hamantaschen with Jam

Monday, March 1st, 2010

As I mentioned Friday, I planned to make Jewish cookies known as hamantaschen over the weekend. Hamantaschen are triangle-shaped cookies traditionally filled with thick poppyseed or prune spread, or other fruit preserves. They are traditionally made during Purim — a Jewish holiday festival similar to Mardi Gras — but can be found year-round in Jewish bakeries if you’re fortunate enough to have one nearby. We are not, so the past couple years I’ve simply picked up hamantaschen from Whole Foods, which were fine but nothing to get excited about.

Fortunately, Ruth of Once Upon A Feast came to my rescue with not one but two hamantaschen recipes; I went with Marcy Goldman’s recipe. With all due respect to Marcy’s Bubbie, I swapped butter for the oil (I prefer not to bake with oil), and omitted the orange zest in deference to the husband’s zest-dislike. Next time I’ll try it with the zest for a little more flavor.

The dough was simple and resulted in a soft, sweet cookie. The husband doesn’t like the traditional fillings, so I took advantage of our extensive jam collection and we made an assortment of flavors: strawberry-rhubarb (courtesy of my sister-in-law), apricot, raspberry (both from local farms), and some Ficoco — a fantastic fig and chocolate spread, think a fruity twist on Nutella.

I’m pretty certain we’ll stick with homemade from now on, these were fun and delicious!

Since only one cookie unfolded into a pancake while baking, I consider myself fully qualified to offer the following expert suggestions:

  • Don’t go overboard with the filling, but don’t be too stingy either — the ones my son plopped a larger spoonful of jelly on turned out best. I think the weight of the jam helped keep the center from puffing up as much when they baked. And, they have the perfect jam-to-cookie ratio.
  • Don’t be afraid to fold the edges up over most of the jam — and pinch tightly. The ones folded up more tightly also held their shape better while baking.
  • I brushed the outside of the cookies with egg wash — in reading other posts, it seems this may help them stay together while baking.

5 for Friday

Friday, February 26th, 2010

I have a bad habit of “starring” links in my Twitter feed to share later, and then never getting back to them. (Surely someone out there could create an app that reads those links and sends you back a cliff notes version, right??) So I thought I’d try sharing a few favorite things with you on Fridays, with the caveat that I may not get to it every Friday. But I hope you find it useful and will share anything interesting you’ve come across during the week, too, okay?

  • Health Note of the Week: A new study gives hope that some of the negative effects of exposure to BPA (you know, if you used plastic baby bottles pre-2009, or ever eat food or beverages from a can, or use toilet paper, or … ) may be offset by eating leafy greens and soy. Bring on the miso soup!
  • Food FAIL of the Week: New York City schools have decided that kids can buy pre-approved packaged snacks like Doritos and Pop Tarts at school bake sales, but not homemade treats with all those frightening real sugars and non-trans-fats. It would almost be funny if it wasn’t just so flat-out maddening.  Speaking of bake sales, remember to save the date for the National Food Blogger Bake Sale on Saturday, April 17 — coming to a city near you!
  • timeforlunchLunch Bite of the Week: Moms are getting fired up for Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move initiative, and particularly for getting healthier food into school lunches. Here’s a great post from Ilina at Dirt and Noise.
    (Have you emailed your Congressman/woman yet?)
  • Recipe of the Week: The Jewish festival of Purim is this weekend, and I promised the husband homemade hamantaschen this year. Anyone got a favorite recipe to share?
  • Blog Find of the Week: One of my favorite parenting blogs, Simple Mom, has launched a new food site, Simple Bites. Even better, Simple Bites is edited by one of my favorite foodie mamas, Aimée of Under the High Chair. (Why do I love Aimée? Check out the adorable Pat-the-Bunny cake she made for her younger son’s first birthday.) And there’s the new Simple Organic, too. Love.