Baseball season has begun. Between practices and games, you can find us at some baseball field (around northern Indiana) from now until late October (regular ball plus Fall ball.) That’s a lot of NOT being at home, which includes a lot of meals on the run. Since our family does not eat fast food or processed junk foods, finding healthy alternatives takes a little thinking and planning.
I’ll admit. I’m a people watcher. A cart watcher. A cooler watcher. A watcher of food in general. It’s what I do. I don’t do this out of judgement…well, maybe a little…but mostly because I’m interested, interested in the choices people make with their foods. Sometimes the choices are pleasing, but most of the time I just want to yell, “Stop! Please, please don’t eat that!” While sitting at our son’s baseball games, I often look around. Flavored drinks filled with artificial flavors and food dyes, potato chips, soda, donuts, snack cakes, “fruit” snacks (if you can call them that)…tons and tons of items that can barely be considered food. You’re probably thinking, “So what, it’s a baseball game. It’s not going to hurt anything for now.” Well, we have one child. That child keeps us at a field three to four times a week, usually at dinnertime…from April to October. Some families have two or three kids in baseball, which means they are probably eating these foods for dinner, five to six times a week. That is scary…and saddening. It’s just not healthy, which contradicts the fact that we put our children in sports to keep them healthy and active.
My job, as a mother concerned with healthy eating, is to come up with alternative foods that we can enjoy when we’re on the run. Having these tasty items on hand also helps eliminate the temptation of filling up on concession stand candy and nachos. For our drinks, we always fill water bottles to carry in the cooler. What has happened to children drinking plain ole’ water? When we were little and playing outside at my grandma’s house, she would tell us to get drinks from the hose. We didn’t refuse and beg for pop. We drank water and usually had fun with it (and we never got sick.) One drink I do keep around the house, for most of the summer, is Hibiscus water. Our son drinks it during baseball games – purely Hibiscus flowers, cane sugar and water. No artificial flavors or colors to bog him down. Aside from bringing fruit and peanuts, another easily portable snack is homemade granola. If you’re looking for something a little more protein centric, how about pita bread and hummus? There are so many choices. Just simply take the time to get creative and be prepared.
What screams baseball more than a hot, soft pretzel (aside from an ice cold beer?) Here’s a recipe that everyone in my family loves. It may sound overwhelming, but trust me, it’s not. My 13 year old son made them for our last NWI Food Swap. I’ve modified the recipe to add dried fruit and spice. I’m thinking of making these today and freezing for the days to come. When a quick snack is needed, just remove from the freezer, pop in the microwave and go!
- 1½ cups warm (110 to 115 degrees F) water
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 package active dry yeast
- 3 c. unbleached flour
- 1½ c. white whole wheat flour
- 2 TB ground flax meal (optional but good addition)
- 2 ounces butter, melted
- Vegetable oil, for pan
- 10 cups water
- ⅔ cup baking soda
- 1 c. dried apples, chopped
- 2 t. cinnamon
- 1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
- Pretzel salt
- Combine the water, sugar and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam. Add the flour, flax meal and butter and, using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined. Change to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the dough from the bowl, clean the bowl and then oil it well with vegetable oil. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and sit in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly brush with the vegetable oil. Set aside.
- Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an 8-quart saucepan or roasting pan.
- In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface. Knead in the apples and cinnamon. Divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope. Make a U-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel. Place onto the parchment-lined half sheet pan.
- Place the pretzels into the boiling water, 1 by 1, for 30 seconds. Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula. Return to the half sheet pan, brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with the pretzel salt. Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.
- Adapted from: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/homemade-soft-pretzels-recipe/index.html?oc=linkback
**Just for comparison’s sake, here are the ingredients in one Superpretzel sweet cinnamon: Enriched wheat flour ( wheat flour, malted barley flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), water, fructose, vegetable shortening (palm oil), sugar, cinnamon bits ( sugar, wheat flour, corn cereal, cinnamon, soybean oil), yeast, natural and artificial flavoring, malt, salt, dough conditioner (wheat flour, calcium sulfate, salt, enzymes), cinnamon, acesulfame potassium, aspertame, bicarbonates and carbonates of soda**