Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Homemade gifts

We were planning to celebrate my mother-in-law’s birthday on Saturday.  So, last Thursday, Oliver decided he wanted to sew something for her.  My first thought was “really? now?”  I have actually never done a sewing project with the boys, but since Linnea seemed content, I thought I ought to say “yes, let’s do it!” 

The only little project I could think of was potholders.  So, they got to dig into my fabric stash.  Oliver picked out green fabrics and Benton opted for blue.   I let them use the rotary cutter to cut strips of fabric (hand-over-hand for Benton), then they laid out a design (a nice ABC pattern for Oliver, random for Benton), then started stitching them together.  The boys got to run the foot pedal and I pretty much guided the fabric.  I trimmed them up into squares got out some batting and made a quilt sandwich.  They really enjoyed it all and then came the moment Oliver has been waiting for, for years.  He (and Benton too) got to pick out the decorative stitches to quilt the potholder. 

I think they turned out pretty nicely.  I forgot to get a picture of the finished product, but the boys made cards and wrapped them up.  They were pretty colorful for my mother-in-law, but I think she like them anyway. 

Uncle Josh and Aunt Elizabeth came into town to visit and celebrate with Toni.   We all (joel and Jeanne too) pitched in and made dinner for Toni.  I made baguettes and those tenderloin sandwiches.  It was a full day for me, but fun too.

Linnea’s first tooth broke through on Saturday too.  Explains all the recent drooling.  :)

*It was Benton day to refuse to have his picture taken.

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As the object of all the attention, I can attest to the wonderful treatment by Kjerstin and her boys.  The potholders are quite lovely and, yes, Oliver was quick to point out the stitching on the back, especially his favorite design.  And even in my "white" kitchen, they hang prominently on the cabinets. (The other day I was washing my regular potholders and had to grab for one of the boys' potholder and it almost felt sacrilegious!) Then there's the food Kjerstin made!  What can I say about her cooking - it never disappoints!  Homemade bread, red meat,and truffle butter!  Doesn't get much better than that.   Thank you, dear, for all you did to make the big 65 so special.
Saturday, April 3, 2010 - 09:56 AM
Ah,  I'm happy to have had a part in celebrating your birthday!
Wednesday, April 28, 2010 - 10:18 PM

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Hi, my name is Kjerstin, and I am addicted to sugar.

So a couple people have asked me about the changes we have made around the house.  The quickest way to say it is “I quit sugar.”  It sounds a little like “I quit drinking” or “I quit smoking,”  but I have never had issues with either, but sugar, yes, I can confess to having issues with sugar.  

While I was pregnant with Linnea, I had minimal sweets.  I just wasn’t interested.  I could eat one cookie and be satisfied (maybe it was the impending heartburn, that kept me from eating too many), but I liked it. 

Then comes life postpartum.  Three times I have had babies in September, followed by winter and the holidays.  You’d think I would have figured it out by now.  I really haven’t and before I knew it, I was on a roller-coaster ride of sweets and caffeine (not too much, but it really affects me). 

The combination of being sleep deprived, overworked, stressed out, nursing mother of 3, whose husband works too much, left me feeling drained all day.  The easiest way to get a little energy was to eat something sweet or sip something with caffeine in it.  I managed to gain 15 pounds after giving birth, more than I gained while pregnant. 

Sigh, I will never be one of those moms who loses weight while nursing, at least not during the first few months. 

Anyway, none of these changes are about my weight.  They are about raising healthy kids and living long enough to enjoy their company.  My motivation came from learning more about the foods I thought were healthy enough and that sugar is in everything and that maybe the calories we were consuming, did not give us sustained energy and furthermore, could eventually cause health issues.

It has been almost 4 weeks since I quit my morning cocoa and started making changes around here.  The first 10 days were difficult, but I feel a lot more balanced now.

More specifics to come...

*gratuitous picture of my girl wearing pants I sewed for her and working on her tom-boy image
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Well, maybe you can figure it out when you have the fourth child :)  Just kidding!
Wednesday, March 17, 2010 - 11:40 AM
Another September baby might just send me over the edge.  :)
Wednesday, March 17, 2010 - 02:56 PM

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Changes in our pantry

So, if you look at a nutritional label, you will see Sugars listed under Carbohydrates. Those sugar grams could be from lactose (milk products), fructose (added fruit products or the dreaded high fructose corn syrup), sucrose (white sugar, brown sugar, honey, maple syrup, cane juice, molasses, raw sugar etc,), glucose (light corn syrup, dextrose, etc.). 

That number doesn’t say too much, but if it is more than 4 grams per serving, I would be suspect and read the ingredients.   4 grams is equal to 1 teaspoon of white sugar. 

Although many would argue that all sugar is not the same.  From what I have learned, and the fact that I am not diabetic, I am not too concerned about glucose or lactose.  I am trying to limit sweets in general, but added fructose and sucrose (1 glucose molecule and 1 fructose molecule), in particular.  To be clear, fresh organic fruit and vegetables are part of every meal around here.  It is added sugar I want to reduce.

We eliminated High Fructose Corn Syrup years ago, but learning that sucrose is 50% fructose and HFCS can be anywhere from 55% to 90% fructose, I can’t really see how sucrose can be considered any healthier, except maybe raw honey.  While there may be issues with the manufacturing of HFCS, the fructose part is probably a bigger issue.

So, I had to go through our pantry again.  We don’t buy the usual junk food. I buy a lot of organic foods for other reasons. I make all my baked goods from scratch, including bread, but not usually bagels. So here are a few surprising foods I found in our cupboards that contained sugar:  organic marinara sauce, organic chicken broth, Annie’s canned ravioli, chicken bouillon, canned chili beans, flaked coconut, tortillas, organic ketchup, seedy mustard, mayonnaise, peanut butter, Worcestershire sauce, and every condiment in the refrigerator.

Not so surprising sources, that now seem unacceptable: Honey Nut Cheerios, or any boxed cereal, Hero jam, granola bars, graham crackers, orange juice, baked beans, and sweetened yogurt.

New stuff in the pantry:  jam with less sugar (loving Crofer’s Superfruit Spread and pumpkin butter), organic peanut butter (and almond, no sugar), snack bars without added sugar (Oliver loves his snack bars!  I had to find something, LaraBars are pretty yummy with a simple list of ingredients), homemade granola and steel oat porridge for breakfast, more dried fruit, new (canola-based, sugar-free) mayonnaise, a variety of whole grain flours, and more actual whole grains,   You won’t find all-purpose flour, and the white and brown sugar are almost gone.

We have been experimenting with sugar alternatives in our baking and have some other new stuff in my baking cabinet: barley malt syrup (great in bread),  brown rice syrup, Karo light corn syrup (glucose), dextrose crystals, xylitol (sweetener made from birch trees, I put it in my morning decaf coffee).  In baking, which has mostly been breakfast muffins, I have been using the Karo or brown rice syrup, dextrose crystals, and a little molasses or maple syrup for flavor.  It results in less sugar grams per serving, and little to no fructose in a recipe.

Oh, if you come over, the only drinks I can offer are water, milk, tea, decaf coffee, and maybe beer on the weekends.

Now, I do believe in moderation, but there is no moderation, if food manufacturers put sugar in every processed food product.  The only alternative they offer is products with artificial sweeteners.  I won’t buy that stuff either.  So, I find myself making even more stuff from scratch and as a bonus to the environment, we have less trash to throw out/recycle.

Basically, my goal is to get sugar out of our everyday foods.  That way when I make a yummy dessert, it will be a treat, and undeniably sweet.

So, enough about the food for a bit.  My next post will either be kid or sewing related, or both.

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Larabars are good.  When I am eating good I try to eat whole foods, with less that five ingredients (i.e. a Larabar qualifies)
Wednesday, March 17, 2010 - 09:21 PM
I like the 5 ingredient rule too, especially ingredients I recognize and can pronounce.  Larabars have all the real flavor for the 3-5 ingredients in them.  Yum.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010 - 10:14 PM

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Cooking with Mr. Fizzy

I just reread my last post and even though it has been a month since I last posted anything, not much has changed.  I still feel overwhelmed, but hanging in there.    Well, I guess I have made some changes around here, but my life isn’t any easier because of them.

My friends around here and my husband can tell you I have been thinking a lot about the food our family eats.  I watched the documentary Food Inc. over a month ago and it spurred me to learn more about industrialized food.  Firstly, it made it impossible for me to buy meat that is not labeled “grass finished.”  We have been part-time vegetarians for awhile now, mostly because I don’t care to touch raw meat, but I always buy meat from the deli for sandwiches.  Sadly, I cannot do that in good conscious anymore.  So, I have been seeking out local grass-fed beef and chicken for a once a week meal (usually two nights).  Secondly, I am pretty much buying all organic, or making it myself.

Meanwhile,  I have also been getting a box of organic fruits and vegetables once a week.  Everything has been delicious and better than anything available at the grocery store.  It is really getting us to eat more vegetables and fruit.  The boys will eat any fruit if I get it ready and set it front of them, but not so much if I just offer it as a snack.  They are still leery of most vegetables, but will often take a bite or two. Benton tends to be more adventurous with his food.  Oliver is kind of stuck in his ways. 

I have been reading In the Defense of Food by Michael Pollan.  He was featured in Food Inc. and goes over the history of how our (America’s) food has changed dramatically over the last 30 years, mostly how it has been industrialized.  Pretty depressing, really. 

At the same time, I was trying to reduce the amount of sugar we consumed.  According the American Heart Association, the average American eats 22 teaspoons of added sugar a day.  They recommend no more than 6 teaspoons a day for women.  So, I am trying to stick to that.  The boys, Oliver in particular, were not happy when I stopped buying their favorite granola bars.  I quit drinking my morning cocoa* immediately after watching this lecture and I’m not buying orange juice anymore.  I was already dismayed with how orange juice is produced, but the fructose, without the fiber, in juice, made me think it shouldn’t be an everyday thing.  Dan and I are trying to seriously reduce the amount of fructose in our diet that is not from whole fruits and vegetables.  More about this another time, but watch that lecture, if you want to learn more.

So, back to the title of this post.  Most nights I make dinner, I set the table, Dan is often not home yet, I get everyone drinks, napkins, etc.  I put a hot dinner on the table and no one but me will eat it. 


So, I figured, I need to get the little people more involved in cooking dinner.  Knowing how much Oliver loves to print things from PBS Kids, I asked him to find some recipes for snacks and dinner that he would like us to try from Mr. Fizzy’s Lunch Lab.  He is always telling about Mr. Fizzy’s healthy meals.  Together, we worked out a meal plan for the week, plugging in his recipes for dinners and snacks.

He is holding a recipe for stir-fry that he helped cook.  Oliver said we could not “go off recipe” so we made it just as presented.  I liked it.  Oliver tried it and deemed it ok, but had “too many vegetables.”   Last week, together, we made a couple of other recipes, all vegetarian, including: a dinner frittata (a hit), popcorn with chocolate and cranberries (a snack, Ollie hated the cranberries), molasses cookies (went a little off recipe - less sugar), and a fruit smoothie (always a popular snack, but we had it for breakfast this morning).

We just worked on next week’s menu.  Oliver wants it to be all egg salad sandwiches and smoothies. 

Well see.

*Giving up my morning cocoa, meant giving up sugar (5 teaspoons worth), chocolate and caffeine all on the same day.  I won’t lie.  It was rough.  After a few days, I was pretty grumpy and I decided to try coffee again.  That helped, but after a week of that, I am now only drinking decaf.  Oh, I nibble a few pieces of bittersweet chocolate everyday.  Seriously, how could I give up chocolate?