I have a confession to make. I was raised on Little Debbie Snack Cakes. I know the song (Little Debbie, Little Debbie, Little Debbie Little Debbie and a glass of ice cold milk...) I can taste the difference between the cream in the Oatmeal Cream Pie and the cream in the Swiss Cake Rolls blindfolded. My mom put a Little Debbie in my lunchbox almost every day. Wow, it feels good to get that off my chest. I haven't had a Little Debbie in years. I bet you can guess why, but we'll go over it later. You know, just for fun.
As some of you may know, I taught special education for many years. I saw my kids' lunches--Little Debbies as far as the eye could see. And these were the Little Debbies of the '90s. Not the Little Debbies of the '70s that I used to eat. I haven't been able to find an old ingredient list, but I just bet that with all the "advances" in food additives, these newer Little Debbies are even worse for you than the old Little Debbies. This whole Little Debbie trend is vexing. These wee snacks are either a)versions of things you could make yourself (Oatmeal Cream Pies, Swiss Cake Rolls, Brownies, Cupcakes, etc), or b)weird stuff (Nutty Bars, Star Crunch, etc). Some of you may disagree, but....well, again, let's defer to the ingredient list. Let's pick a seasonal Little Debbie for Closer Inspection. Friends, I give you the Little Debbie Holiday Snack Cake:
Sugar, Corn Syrup, Enriched Bleached Flour (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Folic Acid, Water, Interesterified Palm and Palm Kernel Oil, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean and Cottonseed Oil with TBHQ to Preserve Flavor, (Contributes a Trivial Amount of Trans Fat), Dextrose, Soybean Oil, Toppers (Sugar, Partially Hydrogenated Cottonseed and Soybean Oils (Contributes a Trivial Amount of Trans Fat), Corn Starch, Dextrin, Soy Lecithin, Confectioner's Glaze, Red 40 Lake, Yellow 5 Lake, Carnauba Wax, Blue 1 Lake, Natural and Artificial Flavor, Yellow 6 Lake), Egg Whites, Whey (Milk), Emulsifiers (Mono- and Diglycerides, Sorbitan Monostearate, Soy Lecithin, Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, propylene Glycol Monostearate, polysorbate 60, Polysorbate 80, Polyglycerol Esters of Fatty Acids), Leavening (Baking Soda, Sodium Aluminum Phosphate), Salt, Corn Starch, Sorbic Acid (to Retain Freshness), Colors (Titanium Dioxide, Turmeric, Annatto Extract), Natural and Artificial Flavors.
Soak it in, people, soak it in. The list is courtesy of a Wegman's product information page. I added the bold and italics type so we could have a little chat about some of these ingredients.
- Interesterified Oils: This is what manufacturers do to plain old oil to make it more solid and less liable to go all rancid. It doesn't make bad old trans-fats, but our Wikipedia experts say that interesterified oil (note "ter(r)ified" is part of the name) may have worse health consequences than trans fats. Thanks, LD.
- Partially Hydrogenated Oils, blah, blah, blah: So, the geniuses at LD have not only saved (?) us from the evils of trans fats. They've also added some in, just in case we were missing them. Oh, and TBHQ is also used in lacquers and varnishes. And oil field additives. Num yummy. And they added this partially hydrogenated fat to the cake and to the "toppers." Yay.
- Carnauba Wax=car wax and furniture polish. That's all I have to say about that.
- Whey (Milk). Not exactly. Whey is the watery stuff left after all the milk proteins have curdled into cheese. Whey is half-milk.
- Emulsifiers: Do you see that list?! These ingredients all keep the batter nice and homogenized before baking. Yolks could do that, too. But why use a natural product when there are so many scientists just sitting around waiting to be given a chore?
- Sorbic Acid is also used to clean lime scale. You know, like off your shower head. Yum.
- Titanium Dioxide makes a fine sunscreen.
- Natural and Artificial Flavors: Thanks for that.
So, Merry Christmas and God bless us, Every One. Especially those who eat this stuff.
I don't mean to be a meanie; I know you're busy. But people, just make your kids (or yourself) some cake. Take any basic yellow cake recipe (not from a box please--have you even been listening?!), Spread it about 1/2 inch thick in a jelly roll pan and bake it. Cool the cake, cut it in 1 1/2"-2" squares, put some good old cream cheese frosting on one and sandwich it with another. Freeze them and throw one in the lunch box. Instant snack cake.
Here are some other Not Necessarily Healthy But Not Nearly As Deadly alternatives to prepared snack cakes:
- American frosting or cream cheese frosting between homemade oatmeal cookies, chocolate chip cookies or graham crackers. (One of my childhood favorites--grahams with butter icing. Joy!)
- Chocolate cake squares with a confectioner's sugar/milk/vanilla/salt glaze
- Simple coffee cake
- Shortbread drizzled with chocolate
- Melt some marshmallows and smash them between two cookies. Drizzle with melted chocolate
- Banana or blueberry mini muffins--make, freeze and throw in the lunch box
- Use holiday cutters to cut cakes or brownies for Seasonal Fun--hearts, Christmas trees, leaves for fall, etc.
- UPDATE 5/2015: If you simply must have a Little Debbie, try my copycat version of Little Debbie Oatmeal Cream Pies. They are The Bomb.
I hope this has given you some good ideas for lunches in the New Year. And that's it for now. As always, I'd love to hear from you. Do you/Did you have a favorite snack cake? What do you put in your kids' lunches? Or just stop by and give the old thumbs up.