What’s for Dessert Wednesday

Let’s get real for a second…I am DYING with this no sugar thing.  oh my goodness.  I didn’t realize I was this hooked on it, but I have always had a bit of a sweet tooth.

In an effort to help, my sister gave me her secret recipe for banana shakes, so I tried it out tonight.

Banana Shake

  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1-2 cups of milk
  • peanut butter
  • pumpkin pie spice

Dump it in the blender and mix it up.  Pour it in a glass and voila!

Consensus:

It was refreshing, yes, but still not quite sweet enough for me.  I am going to do some experimenting and see if I can add some cocoa powder and honey or something… stay tuned.

 

Here’s what we’ve been eating lately:

Breakfastwhole wheat biscuits (in the shape of footballs!),  eggs with cheese, fruit

Snack:  pears and raisins

Lunch: tortillas with hummus, corn, plain yogurt with strawberries

DinnerLayered Vegetable Enchiladas, salad with blue cheese dressing

Note:  This was a little bit dry, so we put some green salsa on it and then it was AMAZING!  And so healthy!!

 

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Low-Fat / Sugar-Free

I recently read a blog post (here) that brought up some things I have been thinking about lately, so I wanted to share.  I’ve been sitting here scouring over the many nutrition books I have in our bookcase trying to find studies and info on this topic, but I can’t!  I will just speak from memory (I hope you don’t mind)…take it for what it’s worth.

I used to be a certified personal trainer.  I only used it a bit, but it frustrated me that there are so many misconceptions in the “health industry” and people have things ingrained in their heads.  It is very difficult to get people to change the way they think, especially if it is the opposite of what they have always heard, and especially when “experts” and the media are constantly throwing them messages.  There’s been a huge “low-fat” craze in America for the past couple decades.  Nutritionists, Scientists, Professors, and even Doctors have been recommending a low-fat diet to boost our health and prevent disease.  The ironic thing is that since the low-fat craze started, we’ve actually gotten fatter and sicker.  I know other factors play a role too, but the low-fat thing has a lot to do with it, in my opinion.  Sugar has been a culprit too and the food industry has come up with all kinds of products to replace it (ie nutrasweet, which ended up in an extensive controversy).  I’ve been thinking a lot about this because for these products to hit the market, people have to mess with the molecular structure of a food.  It can’t be good.  We have been consuming fake food and thinking it’s healthy.  It irks me.  I always envision eating something that is not meant to be eaten, like cardboard.  Can your body digest it?  Yes, but that doesn’t mean that you should eat it, or that it’s good for you.  Although I am convinced that if they added enough things to a piece of cardboard they could get it to taste good.  Slap a few labels on there about it being filled with fiber or protein and we’d have a frenzy in the grocery store.  Tricky guys, those food manufacturers.

Anyway, going back to the low-fat fad, here’s the breakdown:

1.  We need fat.  Our brain is made up of 60% fat, and the neurons inside are wrapped in a sheath made up of mostly fat.  Some vitamins can only be absorbed if fat is present in your diet.  Cell walls in the body have fat that determines the permeability of the cell.  It’s a good thing.

2.  There are good fats and bad fats:  Trans fats are man-made and absolutely HORRIBLE for you.  Avoid them at all costs.  Saturated fats (mostly in animal products) aren’t the best either, but even some studies have not shown a link between saturated fat and diseases.  Eat natural fats mostly produced by plants and you’ll be set.  Nuts, avocados, fresh fish, olive oil, etc.

3.  I won’t go into detail about monounsaturated, polyunsaturated fats or omega-3s or omega-6s, but I will say this:  Fats are made up of a certain number of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms.  Low-fat or sugar-free products have messed with the molecular structure of things: breaking a double bond here, or adding on an atom there, etc.  It changes the shape of the molecules to where the body processes it completely differently.  It’s horrible on your system and horrible for you.

I have not purchased anything low-fat or low-sugar or sugar-free for years and years, and I have also not looked at the nutrition labels (aside from ingredients) for the same amount of time.  Eat real food.  It will not make you fat.  Fake food is the culprit, and the sooner we recognize it, the sooner we can start getting our health back.

Off my soapbox. 🙂

Day 4 of no processed foods went great.  More to report tomorrow.

No Processed Foods Challenge: Report

Remind me why I decided this would be a great idea during the month between THANKSGIVING and CHRISTMAS!  Hello…people (including me) wait all year for these seasonal delicacies and I am forfeiting all of it.  😦  Plus it is getting cold here and every night I say, “Let’s go home and make some hot chocolate.”  Wrong.  So here I sit sipping my room temperature water, and giving myself a pep talk.

Other than THAT, this is really going great.  It’s been pretty easy except for snacks.  I usually graze a little bit, because I am giving the boys snacks all day long, and it’s been tricky for me to forego the organic animal crackers.  This lady is literally my idol.  I would be having a MUCH harder time if it weren’t for her website and I am getting lots of recipes/good ideas from her.  So grateful for the internet.

So far I have had no slip ups, but I did change my policy on treats.  I originally said no sugar, and I am sticking to my guns, but I’ve softened up a little bit.  Here’s why:  After reading Intuitive Eating, I adopted the practice of never restricting anything.  It only makes you want it more, and when you get around it you go on an uncontrollable binge.  Also, I’m currently reading Michael Pollan’s book In Defense of Food, and I am on board with basically everything he says.  In his opinion, an occasional treat is okay, as long as you make it yourself, because there are less artificial and fake ingredients.  In addition, Lisa allowed her readers who took the challenge to have alcohol in order to stay sane, and I am a non-drinker!  So, having all of that in mind, I decided it would be okay to have an occasional food that contained a bit of sugar.  That doesn’t mean I am going to go buy some ice cream or chocolate (although I’d like to).  But I DID have a small slice of whole wheat pumpkin bread, which has a small amount of sugar.  I was satisfied, and in my mind, I consider that healthy.  But still, I am not going to have it every day, just on occasion when I really feel like I need something small.  I’m not going to get any more rigid than that – use your discretion and do what you feel would be fair – make it a sacrifice but don’t get crazy.

Oh! And my other rule  is to allow exceptions when we are guests at someone’s house, which will most likely happen in the next couple of weeks.  I’ll grab the healthy options if I can, but I don’t want to make anyone feel bad or awkward.

The fam is also doing great on this and feeling superb.  The Mr. commented to me yesterday on how good the boys were being and I honestly think the challenge has something to do with that!  Of course, later on in the day one of them decided to pee on the floor, and the other one decided to crawl through it, but hey, you can’t win ’em all.

Here’s what we had today:

breakfast:  whole wheat pumpkin waffles and maple syrup

snacks:  fruit, whole wheat banana bread

lunch:  peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on homemade wheat bread, pears, hummus and chips

snacks: PGM granola, raisins, dried fruit

dinner:  Pesto, cheese, and roasted vegetable sandwiches (recipe below), peas

snacks: bananas, milk

Overall, I feel like this has been great for us.  It takes a little bit more planning on my part to make sure I have good snacks on hand, and an idea of what I am going to have to make, but I am not in the kitchen for any greater amount of time.  I haven’t felt deprived yet…most everything has been tasting pretty yummy.  Real food is actually delicious if you find good recipes.  The Mr. is well fed and happy, and so are the kids, so that’s all I really care about.  We’ll see how it continues when I am a bit farther into it.

Pesto, Cheese, and Roasted Vegetable Sandwiches

  • Homemade Pesto
  • 2-3 cups of chopped vegetables
  • Any kind of cheese
  • bread
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees while making the pesto.  I used vegetables I had on hand: potatoes, carrots, broccoli, tomatoes, and green beans.  Any veggies will work.  Chop them up and spread on a cookie sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle salt, and mix them around to coat evenly.  Place in the oven for 8 minutes and remove.  Turn vegetables over with a spatula to cook the other side.  I sometimes have to sprinkle more oil if it is looking dry.  Place back in the oven for another 5 minutes or until vegetables are soft and lightly browned.  note:  I put the carrots and potatoes in by themselves for about 5 minutes before adding the other vegetables, because they take longer to cook.  Spread pesto on slices of bread, add a large scoop of roasted vegetables, and top with cheese.  A toaster oven probably works best to melt the cheese, but I don’t have one so I put the bread in the toaster before assembling, and then microwaved for a few seconds.
Consensus:
Me:  So so good.  Pesto is delicious, and tastes sooooo much better if it is homemade.
The Mr.:  He walked in and instantly knew it was pesto.   It’s one of his favorites, so he scarfed it down in record time.
The Wild One:  Picked all the veggies off, but said, “I like pesto!”
Tornado:  No complaints

Oh Snap…Crackle, POP

Did you know you can make homemade microwave popcorn in a paper bag??  This is the best thing to happen to the Mr. since 2004 when he met me. 🙂

He has a serious obsession with popcorn, to the point where I have to remove the bowl from his presence to allow others to get in on the action.  Since we got on this health kick, he’s slipped into a mild depression because basically every brand of microwave popcorn has baaaaaaaaad stuff in it.  If we ever did find a brand without trans fat, it had a bunch of processed stuff or weird butter flavorings and tons of salt.  I know– easy solution would be to get an air popper, right?  I guess my excuse in the past was WHERE we would keep that bulky thing in our teeny NY apartment.

I remembered I had read something about making popcorn in a paper bag a while back so we looked it up and made it tonight.

Homemade Microwave Popcorn

  • 1/4 cup popcorn kernels
  • 1 paper bag
  • butter (optional)
  • salt (optional)

Put the kernals in the paper bag.

Fold the top down twice to keep it from popping open.

Put it in the microwave for 3 minutes.  It takes about 40 seconds for it to start popping, and then it will begin to pop rapidly.  Let it go until it slows down and there are about 5 seconds in between pops.  Every microwave is different, but mine took about 2 minutes 45 seconds.

Here’s our moment of truth…

BAM!  I can’t believe this works!  How awesome is that??  So you can eat this plain if you like.  We put a little bit of melted butter and sprinkled some salt.

You can also put other seasonings on: parmesan, seasoning salt, cinnamon and sugar, etc.  Here’s a great link with some good ideas on homemade seasonings.

There you have it.  Healthy, easy, convenient, and cheap popcorn!

In other news…my 30 days of no processed foods is going…okay.  I’ve been really good, but it is challenging!  It makes me realize just how many processed foods I was eating before, and I really thought I had hardly any!  I will go into more detail tomorrow and give a run down of the past couple of days.

TTFN!

Bread Fail Part 2

Okay, I am down on my knees bowing to anyone who makes an amazing loaf of homemade bread.  It is a serious art, and I am still such a novice.  BUT I like doing it, and even though it is usually pretty ugly, it still tastes good so it’s not a TOTAL fail.  One of these days I hope my experimenting with things will all pay off.  My friend sent me this amazing recipe for bread, and I just had to try it.  Here’s how it all went down.

Honey Whole Wheat Bread with Walnuts, Flax & Sunflower Seeds

Recipe by Marisa Lowe, originally adapted from Weight Watchers
(Makes 2 loaves)

  • 2 cups warm water
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • 2 envelopes of yeast- or 4 1/2 tsp
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (or any combo of flour)- set aside 1/2 cup
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup ground flax
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup chopped sunflower seeds

First, add the honey to warm water and stir till mixed in. Add the yeast and swirl it around with a butter knife just so all the yeast gets wet. Set this aside for 10-12 minutes. It should get a frothy looking top, so you know that the yeast is activated.  Here is my yeast mixture…It looks activated?? I think??

In another bowl combine the flour, salt, flax, nuts and mix to combine.  I had whole flax seeds, so I had to grind it up in the blender and it worked just fine. 

After the yeast is all frothy on top, add the olive oil to it and then add this mixture to the flour mixture in a large bowl. Stir this till all the wet mixture is soaked up and spoon it on the counter to get ready to knead!

As I am writing this I just realized I forgot the olive oil.  Wow.  Mystery might be solved…

Set a timer and knead for about 8 minutes. Use the reserved 1/2 cup of flour to work back in the dough a little at a time because the dough will be sticky.  The dough is ready when its smooth (as it can be with the nuts poking out everywhere!).

Place dough ball in a bowl to rise for an hour.  Put a towel over it to keep it warm.  Tornado couldn’t keep his hands out of it!

After an hour the dough should be doubled, place it back on counter and seperate into 2 equal pieces, knead the separate pieces for 1-2 minutes, shape and place in a non-stick sprayed bread pans.  Cover again and let rise for another hour.  It should rise about double again.  Here’s where mine didn’t double again.  It rose, but didn’t really fill the pans.

Bake bread at 350 for 35 minutes. Let cool for 10 min and have a slice of your hard work!!!

Here’s my finished products…  Not as pretty, but still sooooooooo delicious.  Stay tuned, because I am going to try this again and my next title will either be:  “Bread Fail Part 3” or “Success!”

Food, Inc.

 

Have you heard of this documentary?  It will change your life!  Did you hear that guy?  “Imagine if…people actually felt better, had more energy, and weren’t sick as much.”  I am a walking testament to that.  It really really works!  I am going to cozy up and watch this over the Thanksgiving Break with the hubby (and boy is he excited, let me tell you).  He doesn’t know about it yet, but I know he’ll like it.  These guys all have amazing things to say, and are front-runners for this “whole food movement” that is taking off.  They have some awesome books too – I highly recommend “In Defense of Food” by Michael Pollan.  If you get bored over the break, this is an AWESOME one to check out and read.  I have a list about 1000 books long of things I want to read, but that is one of my top four.  If you only read one book on health and nutrition, make it that one.

That’s it for today.

Oh and here’s a teaser for you: we had a Thanksgiving photo shoot today.  The unveiling is going to be awesome, so stay tuned.