Monthly Archives: February 2013

Time to unplug

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National day of unplugging begins tomorrow, March 1, at sundown and lasts until March 2 at sundown. Are you joining me?

To prepare for this, I asked the kids to think about some of their favorite activities that do not involve electronics. I’m defining electronics as basically any electronic entertainment. For me that also involves my cell phone. I do use my cell phone for work emergencies, so I am going to set a couple of times during the day to only check it quickly to make sure I don’t have any messages. I think we can each decide how much we want to unplug. But going without checking my phone at all, or carrying it around with me, for several hours at time will be a huge change for me. Not checking email and facebook every 15 minutes–pathetic, right–will be earth shattering.

I may be in the corner, hugging knees to chest, rocking back and forth and muttering by sundown. I’ll check in and let you know once it is safe to touch the computer again!

Controlling Cravings

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Remember when my small one and I “killed bananas into slime” (see my post for more on that if you have no idea what I’m talking about). That double coconut banana bread was the bomb. Moist, crisp on the outside, sweet… I used stevia so I could rationalize away the sugar, but the coconut oil… If you’ve drunk the koolaid you know that coconut oil has lots of healthy fats in it, is free of cholesterol, and has been praised for everything from improving health and fighting disease to correcting the lean of the leaning tower of Pisa (ok, I made that up, but you get my drift). But the bottom line is, just like “sugar is sugar”, “fat is fat.” If you take in more of it than your body needs, it gets stored. And it gets stored easily because, well, it’s already fat. It is the last thing our bodies burn off in digestion, because digesting sugars and proteins is a little easier (that’s why a gram of fat is higher in calories than a gram of protein or carbohydrate).

The way I figure it, that banana loaf had 1/4 cup of coconut oil, which is 4 tablespoons. So if the loaf is cut into 8 slices, then each slice has about a half tablespoon of oil. Not so awful as a treat.

As a treat.

Not as in “I’m going to eat all 8 slices right now real fast before anyone else gets them.” Ok, it wasn’t that bad. Without other coconut-banana lovers to share with, the hubs and I probably split this loaf pretty evenly over several days. But it is still more fat than I really would like to eat. And I had trouble resisting it, seeing the shiny aluminum foil wrapped loaf sitting on the counter day in and day out.

How do you control your cravings? Eating other food doesn’t really help me. If I want a sweet and I go load up on fruit and veggies, I usually still want that sweet. And then I cram it in on top of whatever I tried to load up on. I read somewhere that our body doesn’t process “full” when faced with sugars–that’s why there’s always room for dessert. So for me, controlling access helps. There are two concepts that apply here–one is stimulus control. Basically, if you don’t want to eat it, don’t have it available. Don’t buy it, bake it, or open the package. Don’t be around it if others are doing it. If you like to bake and try out recipes, one “stimulus control” method that works for me is to freeze things. I have to be a little more deliberate about pulling something out of the freezer and defrosting it (in the microwave cause really who can wait?). And it is not sitting out on the counter as a constant reminder to eat it.

Another method that works is called incompatible behavior. Do something that makes giving in to a craving impossible–by changing your environment or filling your hands with “other than food.” Busy your hands with a craft, needlework, housework, or a game of cards. Go for a walk or exercise. Leave the kitchen and connect with a family member in another room. If you are eating mindlessly in front of the tv, switch it off and change your scenery.

Not going to bake that banana loaf again soon unless I know we have company and it will get consumed by a bunch of people. Or I may try it in muffin cups to make the servings more controlled. What do you do to control your sweet tooth?

National Day of Unplugging March 1-2

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It’s getting worse. Daily I feel the pull on me increasing. That darned iphone. When I first bought it a little under two years ago, it was a treat, a luxury, an upgrade from my no-data-plan palm phone (which was also my scheduler and worked great). Now I am hyper-connected through my iphone. Facebook, email, the web, games, calendar, maps, passcodes to everything I know–all safely travel around with me in my pocket. Do we need such quick access to information? What happened to, “Let me check my schedule and call you back.” Or, “That sounds like something to research.” Well just whip that handy phone out of your pocket and you have it all there in front of you. Maybe not such a good thing. Undoubtedly contributing to our sense of frenzy and hurriedness.

I’ve become so that I have mini panic attacks when I can’t find my phone. It is the connection to my business so there is some reality to that, but really, why should my business have access to ME 24/7/365? Isn’t that too much? While the days of secretaries and answering services predates my entry into the working world, sometimes I think I’d really like those.

So enter the National Day of Unplugging. The concept is simple–unplug from sundown on March 1 (a Friday, so don’t get all “but my work needs me” freaked out on me folks) until sundown on March 2. No tv, computer, phones, or other electronic means of connecting or being entertained. Are you up for it? What will you accomplish without your electronic tether?

Go here for more details: http://nationaldayofunplugging.com

Butter (bean) your cookies, boy!

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That’s butter your bacon, Bart. Those of you who get that quote, I know who you are. ūüėČ

I never would have thought to increase the nutrition factor of a cookie with white beans. So when I saw
http://happyherbivore.com/2010/04/butter-bean-cookies/
this recipe from the Happy Herbivore, I had to try it. The first time I made them, they took a little longer to cook than the recipe called for, but everyone in my family including all 3 kids liked them. They are not super sweet, more like a granola bar in some ways, but definitely good. And no one guessed there are beans in the cookies. And I haven’t told the kids. So if you tell my kids, you will have to deal with one angry mama.

I made the recipe again today but doubled the recipe and cooked them on a bar pan instead. This was a little simpler than scooping individual cookies, especially as the dough is pretty stiff. I had to adjust the cooking time but they came out just fine. I cut them into 24 squares before they totally cooled, and I lined the pan with parchment which made it very easy to remove the cookie bars. This time I also added about 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, and subbed stevia in the raw for the sugar. I’d like to try them again with shredded coconut, or with raisins and walnuts for more of an oatmeal cookie flavor.

Here’s my sous chef gathering the ingredients. He looks quite serious, and with all those kitchen implements I sure wouldn’t mess with him in a dark alley.
bean cookie ingredients

And here’s the final product. Yum!
bean cookie bars

The trickiest part of this recipe, for me, is not eating them all at once.

Soupe de la Semaine: White Bean and Kale

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One of the easiest ways to eat healthier is to be intentional about your food choices and plan meals in advance. This is all great in theory but when life gets busy (I’m looking at you, Wednesday morning…) our best intentions can go out the window. Making a large batch of a favorite healthy food on the weekend is a great way to stay ahead of the curve. Cold Sunday afternoons are a great time to make a big pot of soup or chili and divvy it up into small containers to stock the fridge or freezer. That makes it easy to grab a portion on the way out the door in the morning to heat up for lunch, or an easy dinner on nights when you get home too tired to cook.

We all love soupe du jour–the chef’s soup of the day–at our favorite restaurants. Why not try a soupe de la semaine–soup of the week–cooked chez vous. This week I made a big pot of white bean and kale soup. I’ve been enjoying kale in my smoothies for a few months now, but I confess this is the first time I cooked with kale. And I have to say I really like it in this soup. Kale mellows a bit when you cook it and has a bit more sweetness, a nice texture, and a little bit of a broccoli-like flavor. I used this recipe I found from the curvy carrot: http://www.thecurvycarrot.com/2012/10/17/white-bean-and-kale-soup/

I really liked the soup, and it made a nice big batch–at least 6 or 8 servings depending on your appetite. A few notes–I did not have red potatoes and substituted russet potatoes. Mistake. They are too starchy. Red potatoes would be much better. I still like it with the russet potatoes but the next time I make this soup I will definitely use red potatoes. Or I may try making it with no potatoes and substituting another veggie, like maybe zucchini. I also added some seasonings–I threw in 1/2 t dried rosemary, black pepper, and kosher salt, and 1 t each of oregano and thyme. Doesn’t this make a pretty soup?
kale and white bean soup

I would love to hear how you all store big batches of food. I have some go-to 1.5 and 2 cup plastic containers that work well for single servings to take to work. But when I make really big batches–for instance, when I make veggie stock from scratch–I like to use larger storage containers. I had been using quart size mason jars. These work well in the fridge, but I rarely need to use 4 quarts of vegetable stock in a week so I need to pop it in the freezer. I had read somewhere that it was safe to freeze in mason jars as long as you leave enough head room. I did this successfully several times, but here’s what I was faced with from the freezer today:
broken jar

Isn’t that crazy? Luckily no one got hurt, but it burned me that I had to throw the whole thing out. And I did leave headroom. It is a waste of my time and of food to have to toss things due to broken containers, so I am going to have to go back to storing in gallon size ziplock freezer bags… which are far less convenient to pour from. Unless there are plastic mason jars out there somewhere? Ideas?

For the love of all things Chocolate

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Chocolate. It’s a plant. Don’t question it. It’s probably all the garbage that we add in to chocolate, like milk and sugar, that makes it so bad for us. Chocolate is a known and powerful antioxidant. I’m not terribly certain what that means but the media has led me to believe that antioxidants are good things. Actually I think it means it helps you clean up at the cellular level–but don’t quote me on that.

I’ve been eating a lot of smoothies. My typical smoothie recipe is a cup of non-dairy milk (usually unsweetened almond or almond-coconut blend), a banana, a cup to two cups of greens (kale, swiss chard, spinach, beat tops, whatever looks good at the store), and an assortment of other fruits based on what’s in the fruit bowl. My favorites are fresh pineapple, strawberries, blueberries (fresh or frozen berries work fine), peaches, pears… pretty much any ripe fruit works. Occasionally I add a tablespoon of chia seed or 1/4 cup of rolled oats if I have a big morning and need to be extra full–like on days I am exercising in the morning or know that I won’t get a break for lunch until late. I’d say probably at least 6 out of 7 days of the week, that’s my breakfast.

We’ve been transitioning our kids off of cow’s milk. It has been a process. There has been much rumbling amongst the natives. But eventually they accepted it. Easy for me to write this now, parenting is always simpler in hindsight when you’re successful than while you’re in the trenches. My oldest likes to have smoothies–they used to have lots of regular milk and yogurt in them, now he has them with almond milk and fresh fruit (no greens, we haven’t crossed that bridge yet). Today my middle child asked for a smoothie, which is rare for him to request. The key? He wanted to use the blender himself. Whatever works. Letting kids feel ownership–whether it is for their diet, their homework, their exercise, their household jobs, their activities–is always a good thing.

Being that I was half asleep wanted him to “own” his smoothie, I told him to go for it. Much to my surprise, he grabbed the carton of dark chocolate almond milk (one of my ways of bribing the kids to drink almond milk). My kids have compared this to the taste of liquid Hershey with Almonds bars. Mmmm. Into the blender went a cup of dark chocolate almond milk and one banana. I suggested he also add a tablespoon or so of peanut butter (we buy the grind it yourself stuff, so it’s just straight peanuts). He wanted to add a pear. An odd choice but it worked. Everything salsa-ed about in the blender, then in went a handful of ice. The result was very good. And pretty darn healthy–healthy protein and fats, no cholesterol, as well as two full pieces of fruit. And it tastes like a milk shake. Can’t beat that. This made enough for two servings–he will probably have his leftovers for a snack a little later.
Chocolate
How do you get your kids to eat healthier foods?

Killing Bananas into Slime

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Did that get your attention?

I had the pleasure of hanging with my smallest small one today, just the two of us. ¬†I had plans to try out a few new recipes and it seemed like a good time. ¬†Sometimes I prefer to cook by myself–I’m faster that way and things are done “my way.” ¬†But I’m trying to make an effort to give up some of that control. ¬†Ultimately, the time spent together and the opportunity to teach my little one to enjoy cooking are far more important than a recipe turning out “right.” ¬†So today we killed bananas into slime. ¬†His words, not mine. And that slime was a key ingredient in some very, very, very tasty coconut banana bread.

I used this recipe: http://lizlemonnights.wordpress.com/2012/03/05/double-coconut-and-banana-loaf/

(PS go read her blog, she is a hoot.)

I used stevia in the raw (aka, scoopable, measures-like-sugar stevia product for baking). My personal jury on stevia is still out–I’ve read some things that make me question it’s use. But I figure as long as I am not consuming my weight in stevia daily like a lab rat, I’m probably ok, and it’s probably better for me than sugar. I did not have shredded coconut, I just had flaked unsweetened coconut, and it worked just fine.

I had bought a jar of coconut oil awhile ago, seemed like something the Pinterest Powers that Be told me I should purchase. But this is the first time I used it. Weird stuff. But it worked great. This cooked up into a breakfast bread/cake that is so moist with a little bit of a crunchy, cripsy crust. Yum. Hard to believe it doesn’t have any butter or eggs.

I’m including this handy ingredient picture. It is very important to have a sous chef. Preferably one who is cute, and one who’s ears stick out from his tocque. Did you know a chef’s hat is called a tocque? I did. My sous chef is particularly skilled at killing bananas into slime. And here’s a picture of the finished product. Minus one slice. Which is in my belly. Soon to be followed by more.
banana coconut bread ingredients

double coconut banana bread