How Sugar-Strict Should You Be?

I recently had a conversation with a colleague about her ‘crazy’ sister-in-law who won’t let her kids (or the visiting kids) have a soda.  My colleague thought this was a little over the top and that there was nothing wrong with having a soda now and then.  While I confess that I have on occasion let my son have a soda, usually at a birthday party or other celebration hosted by others, I did have an answer for her and came to the defense of the unseen crazy sister-in-law (takes one to know one, right?).

The Sister-in-law’s defense your honor is a matter of the bar.  Not the legal bar exam to become a lawyer, but the bar which is a standard or expectation to which we, or the foods we put in our mouths, all must rise.  When someone raises the bar then they are increasing the expectations.

 

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When someone drinks a soda their expectations for what is considered sweet just got thrown at the ceiling. Splat!  Will it fall on someone’s head like a wet wad of toilet paper from the school bathroom ceiling?  Yes.  It will fall on the heads of parents everywhere who are trying to keep reduce the amount of sugar their kids consume…. and perhaps struggling with their own sugar consumption as well.

Consider this – most people would agree that fruit is sweet.  Kids even like it, or they used to.  I am amazed by how many kids come over to ‘hang out’ (my son is now too old to play) who refuse a piece of fruit.  They don’t like fruit.  Now, surely there are people with fruit preferences and allergies or a particular fruit that just doesn’t a-peel (harhar)….. but I have to stop myself from saying, “What do you mean you don’t like fruit?  What’s not to like about fruit?  What DO you like?”

Candy, soda, sugar – then throw in some chips
Gimme candy, soda, sugar – right past my numbed out lips

When you drink a can of soda that has
39 g (about 10 tsp) of sugar in a 12 ounce can of cola;
23 g (almost 6 tsp) in an 8 ounce serving of minute maid orange juice;
the 23g in an 8 ounce serving of snapple lemon iced tea;
the 33g (over 8 tsp) in a 20 ounce bottle of vitaminwater….. isn’t that supposed to taste kind of like water?

Then don’t you think the following will seem a little less than sweet to your palate?:
9 g of sugar (about 2 tsp) in a serving of pineapple;
7 g (less than 2 tsp)in aserving of strawberries
17g (a bit more than 4 tsp) in 1 large banana
11g (almost 3 tsp) in a cup of apple slices

With or without scientific evidence, we all know that comparisons affect what we eat.  You get used to Starbuck’s coffee and then some other coffees start to taste a bit weak.  You eat lots of salty chips and you will probably find yourself reaching for the salt shaker more often when eating potatoes or eggs or other bland salt vehicles.  It’s the old Ka-Pow theory of the Sis Sisters – as we increase the amount of sugar (or salt for that matter) we feel constitutes the description ‘sweet’, a little less just doesn’t register as sweet anymore.  And sweet is oh so powerful….. it attracts more flies than vinegar after all and it is what little girls are made of along with spice and everything nice.  Or perhaps big girls like sweets so much because we never felt as sweet as we were supposed to be….. okay, I’m coming back, that’s another post entirely.

Back to kids and sugar.  By the time most kids finish the load of candy in their Easter basket there will be some other occasion to inundate them with candy.  In fact they’ll probably be given some at school next week, or at a meeting or gathering of some sort – along with some soda or juice to drink… or water with flavor (chemical crap) in it.  Is it any wonder that they are not interested in fruit?

So how strict should you be with your kid about sugar?  It’s a heck of an uphill battle, but preserving their ability to taste the sweetness in real food will shape what they choose to eat.  Sometimes you just have to draw the line somewhere…. I definitely draw the line at soda.  I do not provide soda for my son and his friends.  Perhaps someday he will go hog wild and drink a bunch of soda…. but he will know just how horrifically, un-naturally sweet it is, and hopefully the rebellion won’t last so long as to re-set his sugar bar.  Unfortunately it doesn’t take much of a miss to bump that pole up a little higher!

Mind you – we are all about Baby Steps even when it comes to kids and sugar – and perhaps especially when it comes to kids and sugar.  Work it down and work it out a bit at a time, hopefully with their agreement for lasting effects.

 

 

 

Veggies Au Vin

Many years ago Mr. Little Sis and I were fortunate enough to enjoy a few cooking classes at an excellent cooking school. Our culinary skills improved, our foodie horizons expanded and evolved, and we both were forced to admit our undying affection for French cuisine. Play a little Edith Piaf and we both begin drooling and placing our napkins in our laps… okay it’s not that bad, but you get the drift.

Many of the classic dishes that we learned to make during our cooking school days are not exactly on the menu in this food era of ours, but they need not be cast aside. There are ways to apply those fantastic flavor profiles, scratch that culinary itch. Mr Little Sis’s most frequent Frenchie cravings involve chocolate croissants (I’m not even going to think about it), French bread (he’s done that one), and coq au vin (chicken and wine). While tripping around the internets looking for culinary inspiration for dinner, I came across this recipe which gave me hope that we could approach this classic in our own meatless way. Continue reading

Fruit Glorious Fruit!

Was that the name of the musical or just one of the songs?  I don’t remember ;-)

At any rate we are coming up on yet another wonderful holiday which has been transformed from a celebration of renewal, life and goodness into yet another opportunity to stuff candy in all colors of the rainbow and all textures imaginable into our gullets.  Okay, that’s a little harsh, we will stuff other things into our gullets as well…. personally I’m hoping for some asparagus.

But can our children truly appreciate the deeper meanings of the day and the time with friends and family while glazed over with sugar inside and out?  Well maybe they can, but I certainly can’t and it makes me hyperventilate just thinking about it!  Whew.  Caught my breath, clearly it’s time to stop ranting and share something meaningful here.

Like fruit!  Fruit is meaningful and wonderful and full of life and juice (usually).  It grows on trees, bushes, canes, vines… and in baskets!  You’ve seen fruit baskets right?  Incredible how the different varieties can grow from the same basket.  And baskets fit in perfectly with Easter!  So am I suggesting that you give your children fruit baskets for Easter?  Ha!  Even I am not that much of a nave fool.  I am however going to suggest that you make a fruit dessert.  Why not?  And if you really wanted to, you could substitute some of the candy for interesting or exotic fruits in the basket and I wouldn’t tell a soul.

I found all manner of suggestions – all of which are fast and easy – with presenting fruit in a fancy dessert-like way.  I decided to find a way to make a dairy free fruit dip / cream that could be used with any fruit to make it fancier.  That recipe follows and then the list.  In addition, Little Sis has some creamy, dairy free fruit zipper-upper in her nectarine pie.  Check that one out as well!

Mine is sweet orange sunflower dip

1 cup raw sunflower seeds soaked for at least 6 hours in 2 cups of water
zest from 1/2 – 1 orange.  Zest is a little tart, so if you are wary, start with 1/2 and add more if you want
juice from 1 orange (was a bit less than 1/4 cup if you have juice in the frig)
1 Tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla

Place all ingredients in food processor and run it for a few minutes until well combined.  Scrape down the sides a few times to catch the errant seeds.

Serve with fruit.  My 13 year old enjoyed this and didn’t do his usual, can I have some dessert after eating it, so it did the trick!

 

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So here is a list of fancy sounding, delicious looking and easy fruit desserts that you might serve up on Easter, or on any day!  I am intrigued by the idea of just broiling some fruit (like pineapple or mango) and it’s ready to go.  You might put a little ice cream with it, but you might not, and if you did, at least there would be more fruit and less dessert on the plate, right?

Saucy & Sweet Grilled Pineapple:

Citrus Salad with Lemongrass Syrup

Easy Glazed Banana

Tropical Fruit Salad with Creamy Lime Sauce

Mixed Berry Salad with Mint

Citrus Infused Strawberries

Cocoa-Nut Bananas

Broiled Mango

Chocolate & Banana

Carmelized Bananas

Almond Cream with Strawberries

Enjoy and have a rejuvenating and wonderful celebration of the return of spring and the power of goodness and love.

 

Chickpea and Cashew Tikka Masala (GF,V)

IMG_0283Things have been a little rough here at the Northern office of the pantry. I’m now 4 weeks out of foot surgery and while things are decidedly better, I am still somewhat limited in my activities and as the day wears on I get pretty uncomfortable from swelling and aches associated with walking on this ridiculous contraption. As a result, my desire to stand and cook for extended periods of time is pretty limited.

While I was sitting on my fanny for the initial two weeks after surgery, I did have the opportunity to come across a feature in Vegetarian Times on “30 Minute Skillet Suppers.” Yes, please. So last night I gave one of these a go, and in my usual fashion I made some modifications to make it just right for my family (yogurt out, cashews in; serrano chile out – red pepper and chile powder in; fresh ginger out – powdered in).  This experiment was wildly successful, and it really did only take 30 minutes. The cashews balanced the spice and I love the texture they added. The greater adjustability with powdered chili allowed me to knock it down for the kids and adjust on the plate for Mr. Little Sis. My sore feet and legs were spared extra standing and our little tribe got to enjoy some fabulous Indian flavors for a very reasonable price, right there on a weeknight in our kitchen.

Chickpea and Cashew Tikka Masala (GF,V) – inspired by Vegetarian Times’ Chickpea Tikka Masala

  • olive oil for panIMG_0297
  • 1 c finely chopped onion
  • 1.5 T garam masala
  • 1.5 T tomato paste
  • 1.5 t powdered ginger (or 3 t fresh grated – I was out)
  • 1/2 red or yellow pepper, chopped
  • 2 c cooked chckpeas
  • 3 small cans diced tomatoes
  • pinch paprika
  • pinch chipotle or other chile powder to taste
  • 1 c raw cashews
  • chopped cilantro

Warm oil in large skillet (I used cast iron – the pan should be relatively deep). Add onions and a sprinkle of salt. Sauté  onions for about 5 minutes on low-medium heat, until onions are translucent. Add tomato paste and spices (other than paprika and chile). Cook for another minute or so – until the spices become fragrant. Add peppers and sauté about another minute. Add chickpeas and tomatoes and bring to a boil. Lower heat to simmer, add cashews and remaining spices. Simmer for at least 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. We served ours with leftover rice and chopped cilantro as a garnish.  Absolutely delish and deeply satisfying.

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For more quick dinners, as well as some thoughts on convenience food, check out Big Sis’ post ReCon Convenience, Step 7 in our Baby Steps Series.

Digging Indian flavors? Give these dishes a try: Mulligatawny Soup, Pakistani Lentil Kima, and Cashew Carrot Curry.

Almost Spring Dried Fruit Cake (GF)

Soon you will have lots more fruit to choose from and you will not be interested in dried fruit (although mixed with nuts, seeds and low sugar cereal it is always a good snack)….. but perhaps you have quite a bit in your pantry and are hankering for a fruity baked  good while you wait for the new fruit to come in.  Well you can hanker less now.  You know, like a little less hankering a lot more baking?

My family LOVES this recipe which I shamelessly lifted and only slightly adapted from our good friend at Wuppenif….. She lives in a much colder clime and has a longer wait for summer fruit than we do.  It might cheer her up to know that we are all enjoying her delicious cake ;-)  You will enjoy her blog which includes GF cooking and baking with a woodstove and enjoying the great outdoors in Canada.

Wuppenif made this cake for Christmas, so you know it is special – and both of us make it GF.  I’m sure you could substitute whole wheat flour though if you are not so inclined….. or declined!

icing?  Who needs icing - moist and sweet with fruit, you don't need icing on this one.

icing? Who needs icing – moist and sweet with fruit, you don’t need icing on this one.

Dried Fruit Cake

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups dried fruit (I used raisins, cherries, and cranberries – use whatever you have / works for your tribe!)
75 ml brandy (I used red wine)
Juice from one orange
Zest from one orange
25 ml lemon juice
Splash hot water (use your own judgement; the idea is to provide enough liquid for the fruit to swell nicely)
1 cup Bob’s red mill GF baking mix
3/4 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup almond flour/meal (mine is from making almond milk – may be a little different, could also use coconut flour)
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp guar or xanthan gum
2 tsp ginger
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp dried cloves or allspice
1/2 tsp salt
7/8 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup nuts (she used slivered almonds, I used pecans in small bits)
2 eggs
1/2 cup coconut oil (she used butter), melted
3 Tbsp molasses
1/4 cup water (I used almond)

Method

Preliminaries – preheat oven to 350 F
Assemble and soak the dried fruit in a bowl with the wine, zest, juice and water; allow to soak for a minimum of an hour, but the longer the better (I only managed about 45 minutes and it was fine)
Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl
Melt coconut oil / butter, mix with molasses and water or milk
Combine wet and dry mixtures and add in fruit and nuts for a final stir
Pour into greased cake tin (I prefer a bundt pan)

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Bake for approx. 40 – 50 min

 

Let cool for a bit and then enjoy!

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Wuppenif has prettier pictures as well….. so you might want to check them out.  Personally, I’m going to go make the real thing and gaze only briefly at it before eating :-)

May thoughts of spring and summer warm your thoughts while tasty leftovers of the winter season warm your belly.

 

Baby Step 15: Shake Your Groove Thing

Shake your groove thing yeah, yeah. Show ‘em how we do it now….

All of the young readers are perplexed, and I’m sorry, but this is the price you pay for being, well, younger. A little catchup on the reference here.

In our baby steps series, we’ve talked about food.  Okay, we’ve talked a WHOLE LOT about food.  We’ve also talked a great deal about how we think about ourselves and how we think about food, the ways we use food appropriately and inappropriately, the ways our culture portrays and uses food. We’ve talked about honoring and respecting ourselves enough to nourish ourselves. But we haven’t talked about everything we need to do to be in better health. Heck, in some ways we haven’t even scratched the surface, but even in the interest of keeping it simple, we’re not done.  There is an elephant in the room, and I’m not talking about my maternity pictures…

Big Sis and I started with food because… we really like food… AND we truly believe that eating more healthfully makes all other aspects of self care easier. But even with all the healthy food in the world, there’s something simple our bodies need that we’ve not talked about. It’s time to move. NONONONONO, don’t click away. Don’t click away because this is NOT where I tell you exactly how much to exercise every day and how to use some equation to calibrate that perfectly with what you’re eating. Don’t click away because this is NOT where I have some miraculous contraption that will give you a great butt. Don’t click away because I have no interest in having you look at your body to find fault with it.

babystep15Stay here and do a little thinking about how much you move your body. I don’t know you – you may run marathons. I know I wanted to. You may have an exercise routine down, and if you DO, that is awesome. If you’re like a WHOLE lot of people and you don’t have time to have an exercise routine, you hate to exercise, you can’t imagine running a marathon being even remotely appealing… stay here and think a little about baby steps. Let me illustrate with a couple of stories…

Story 1

Mr. Little Sis and I had a really rough couple of years.  REALLY rough. I had a miscarriage that nearly killed me. Mr. Little Sis got laid off and then Mr. Little Sis’ Mom died. Believe it or not there are more bits of woe from that time, but those are the highlights. I was low, I mean not talking to anyone, not wanting to do anything, not wanting to go to the graduate program I’d worked so hard to get into. One day a friend asked me to go to the park and as our dogs cavorted and tried to start trouble with other dogs we talked honestly about my fragile state. When I revealed the utter lack of motivation that seemed to start every day for me, he asked a simple question. “What if you pretended you didn’t have a choice? What if you just decided you HAVE to do these things?” It was an interesting perspective. I was attending my graduate program, but was deeply distracted by not WANTING to go because I was so down.

I took his advice to heart and decided to pretend I didn’t have a choice about anything. And one of the first things I decided to do was to start taking a slightly longer walk with my dogs every day. I started parking a little farther out in the student lot and walking in to campus. I went back to my old habit of looking for the worst parking spot at the grocery store and forgetting where all the elevators were on campus. I became the stairs. Each step made me feel more alive, more energized, and more in control of my days in a time when I was clearly not in control of much of anything. I began to run and search out my knee joint tolerance level for pavement pounding, building up a little bit, month by month – slower than even the most judicious trainers would recommend. I was renewed and that sense of renewal, physical and mental, carried me for quite some time, through graduate school and a few years beyond until I found myself carrying twins… There’s no jogging or baby stepping around that one.

STORY 2

IMG_8272There was a day at my OB’s office that when I stepped on the scale and I gasped. The nurse said “Honey, let’s have you face the other way for the next couple of weeks. I’ll let you know if we’re getting into a problem area.” Yeah. A problem area.  My children were 7 and 6 pounds when they were born – pretty big for twins, and I was so big with them that I required a walking stick to raise myself from my mandated bed rest position to standing (in order to pee, of course). The few pictures my husband was brave enough to take during this period show a tired woman with what looks like a balance ball shoved up her weirdly cut shirt. The children were born, and they took some of that weight with them, but not enough, and after bed rest and the relatively lower level of physical activity before that time had left me unmotivated, out of shape, and without a starting line at a time when I was averaging about 3 hours of sleep a night.

I don’t know what motivated me – whether it was a friend, something I read, or sheer delusional brilliance, but I ordered a pedometer. There was not a lot I could do in terms of serious exercise with infant twins, but I could walk. Heck, I was already walking a lot – back and forth from bedroom to bedroom, back and forth next to the crib, back and forth in the living room doing the bouncy thing, and up and down the hills of my neighborhood with a stroller. While I don’t recommend counting many things, there is a value in knowing what you are currently doing if you are attempting to do MORE of anything. The pedometer let me set new goals, add some steps over time and give myself the room I needed to get back into reasonable shape, feeling more like myself, and again a little more in control of my daily existence at a time when I really wasn’t in charge at all.

Story 3

IMG_0283This story is a little more modern… It’s from today. As many of you know, I’ve recently been subjected to surgery on my big toe joint.  Apparently I injured that joint at some point and it’s been wonky ever since. That wonkiness led to bone spurs. Ignoring bone spurs while you walk aggressively and occasionally run for exercise is, well, not good. So my rock star orthopedist has removed all those nasty spurs and I have been sitting on my growing by the minute posterior for two weeks.  I’m not sure how much of my personality has come through in this online adventure, but let’s suffice it to say that two weeks is pretty long for me and my antsy brain to be sitting still. The difference this time is that I can’t simply now begin to exercise again by measuring the steps I’m taking and increase their number, I have to go WAY back. I have to go to a physical therapist and have him move my toes.  That’s step #1 this time. Moving the toes and not beating myself up too badly about the weight gain during my mandated idle time. After moving the toes for a few weeks, I get to take this cumbersome walking boot off and try walking in regular shoes, short distances with ice to follow. At some point in this progression I will be stable enough to have our 85 pound dog join me and take a REAL walk. As for running, rock star orthopedist is not a fan but allowed that I could try it as one part of a multi-faceted approach to exercise. Great.

Baby Steps and Exercise

The point of sharing these stories is to demonstrate a key principle of our beliefs about better nutrition and better health. You have to start where YOU are. Maybe you’re ready to run a 5K, maybe you are ready to walk the dog twice a day, or maybe you need to start by wiggling your toes. Doing someone else’s next step will not get you further down YOUR path. Changing habits and changing our lives and bodies takes time and that oh so elusive (especially for me) patience and some honest thought.

As with all of our endeavors, the Sis sisters recommend facing exercise with an honest assessment of what you currently do. This is not the same as asking whether or not you go to the gym. Perhaps you also have a canine friend who requires walking, maybe you go on hikes on the weekend, maybe you are a floor nurse and walk ALL DAY LONG. The next question is whether your current level of exercise has you feeling as fit as you’d like to be. If not, the follow up to the honest assessment is to choose one thing you’re going to do to increase your fitness level. Execute that plan for a time and see how you feel. I know, I know you don’t have time – seriously I get it. Choose something small that you can add that doesn’t make much time. It’s much easier to adjust your schedule 15 minutes at a time than to add an hour of activity all at once.

Baby Steps to Fitness - Some Really Easy Places to Start

  • Parking Lots – Stop looking for the best space, look for the worst, or as bad as you can tolerate and walk it.
  • Stairs – Take them all or part of the way to your destination.
  • Public Transit – get off a stop earlier and walk it in.
  • Don’t use a riding mower – unless you have way more land than you can cover, use a mower you walk behind.
  • Extra Stairs – when going up or down the stairs at home, repeat the trip at the steps for a boost.
  • A Short Walk – take a few minutes sometime during your day for a short walk – the fresh air and natural light can do wonders for you.
  • Errand on Foot – If you live where you CAN actually walk to the market or the library, do it. There are all manner of carts and wagons in the world that can help you bring your loot home.
  • Enlist a Friend – we all have friends who are more fit than we are (Big Sis is SUPER scary fit). Observe, listen, pay attention. What do they do that we don’t do? Can we borrow some of their habits, activities, or ask them to take a walk?
  • Try Something New – maybe you didn’t like to swim as a kid and haven’t done it since – our tastes do change, perhaps the pool is the place for you.

Increasing our fitness and activity level doesn’t have to mean joining the gym (unless you want it to). What can you do that’s a little more than you do today? Where do you park your car at the grocery store? As for me, my toe moving begins Wednesday (which seems eons away), and I will take it from there, one halting and healthful step at a time.

Think Outside the Oil – lower fat salad dressings

What could be healthier than salad right?  All those crisp raw veggies!  Sunshine in a bowl.  Sunshine with some potato salad and macaroni salad drenched in mayo and shredded cheese and fat & chemical laden salad dressing…. ooops!  What happened to my nice healthy salad?  It’s still in there….. waiting to be rescued from the oil spill that is luckily not endangering any wildlife in your kitchen!

Easy enough to avoid the potato salad and macaroni salad and cheese, but what about the dressing?  Truly the solution to the chemical soup that passes for salad dressing in the grocery store is to make your own.  It can be very simple! (and there are links to a few we’ve already published below).  Little Sis likes avocado and a sprinkling of rice vinegar.  Mix around a little and the avocado flavorfully moisten all those nice crisp veggies.  The secret lies in the avocado which is full of healthy oily creaminess.

So try some easy homemade salad dressings that satisfy you and your salad without the oil spill.

Anything that can maintain a little thick and creamy can be used with some vinegar, and/or salt, and/or a little sweet and some oil if you like, to make salad dressing.  Today I made a dressing with leftover cooked sweet potato.  Sounds crazy I know, but cooked sweet potato (without the skin) is creamy and thick.

Balsamic Sweet Potato Dressing
1/2 cup sweet potato
1/4 tsp marjoram
2 – 3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp Bragg’s liquid aminos (or soy sauce)
1 Tbsp oil
3 – 5 Tbsp water
1 tsp maple syrup

Combine all in blender or smoosh / stir / blend by hand.  This was a small batch because I wanted to try it first, so it is a little messy in the blender since there is so little of it, but if you like it, make a larger batch next time.   Try the smaller amount of ingredients first and then taste and add.  The water is there to thin, so add bit by bit to your desired dressing thickness, so again, start low and add as you see fit.

sweet potato dressing

Nice and thick.

I am going to try this again with no oil.  Why not?

Sorry, my picture of this dressing on the salad did not turn out and I had already eaten it.  I was hungry.

I am trying to adapt to my new ‘smart’ phone which is smarter than me.  I no longer look like a Luddite, but looks can be deceiving!

 

Homey Honey Mustard Dressing
1/2 c plain yogurt of your favorite type (I had some actual dairy and used it because Mr. Bigg Sis doesn’t like honey mustard)
1 Tbsp & 2 tsp maple syrup
1 Tbsp & 2 tsp dijon mustard (or try a different mustard!)
1 tsp apple cider vinegar (optional but a nice tang – stronger flavor)
pinch of salt

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Mix all ingredients together.  Pour it on your salad ;-)

Other homemade salad dressing ideas…..
A few from me
A
nother from Little Sis
One from our buddy Annie at An Unrefined Vegan

Tasty Dairy-Free Pasta Toppers

Some of you are excited at the thought of a replacement for these things and some of you are probably wondering “What’s the problem with dairy?”  In our case, due to some intestinal problems, our MD thought that my husband should avoid all inflammatory foods, i.e. foods that cause inflammation, which include dairy.  For many people, myself included, dairy is difficult to digest leading to bloating, gas and pain.  And on top of that, dairy is very fattening.  In addition, some people are trying to reduce their animal fat intake because there are experts who say this is better for your heart and cancer prevention.  (Of course there are MANY opinions on health and wellness in regards to diet…. just some food for thought as you make choices for you and your family).

I suppose one could purchase vegan cheese products from the grocery store, but frankly they are expensive and I don’t like their ingredient lists much better than the ingredient lists of other processed cheeses and foods.  So Little Sis and I blend, borrow, steal and amend the ideas of others with our own to try and reclaim the wonderful taste and texture of added parmesan, mozzarella or ricotta.

I am very pleased with these 2 additions to the DF arsenal.  My son has never liked parmesan on his pasta (clearly there was a switch in the hospital, but other than this we like him and didn’t complain to the authorities), but my husband whose GI troubles led us to do away with the dastardly dairy, and I both always LOVED a little pasta with our parmesan.

So I offer you my version of DF parmesan (which is high in iron because of the presence of sesame seeds) and a ricotta-ish substance that can be used plain or with tomato sauce.  This one is an adaptation of Little Sis’ creamy orzo ‘nofredo’ sauce.  This deliciousness has the advantage of using pureed cauliflower, no really – it’s fabulous – and the more veggies, the better!

Moo-less, Flavor-full Parmesan sprinkles
-adapted from Angela Liddon’s vegan parmesan cheez

1/2 c sunflower seeds
3/4 c sesame seeds (I used raw rather than toasted)
1/4 c nutritional yeast flakes
1/2 tsp salt

Place all ingredients in blender
Blend until powdery – don’t go too long or the sunflower seeds will start to turn into sunflower butter!
Place on top of pasta….. or other things as well!  I think the sunflower seeds give it a heartier flavor and the ratio of the other ingredients in mine is a little different from Ms. Liddon’s – but check that out as well!  You might prefer it.

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Teat-free Ricotta.   Okay, that’s gross – Zippy Dairy Free Ricotta
- adapted from Little Sis’ Nofredo Orzo with Chickpeas and Kale

1 c walnuts
2 T olive oil
2 T nutritional yeast flakes (opt.)
1 – 2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar (I accidentally put in 2 rather than 1 and I really liked the zip – try one and see what you think)
1/4 c water
1 t salt
1.5  cup roasted cauliflower pieces
fresh ground pepper

Place all in the food processor and process.
This comes out thicker than the nofredo sauce and is more like a ricotta or cottage cheese.    If you want to make it thinner – add some water or non-dairy, unsweetened milk.

We mixed of this some plain with pasta but then I added a dollop to my pasta with a tomato sauce. …. LAAAAAA Sweet mystery of life at last I’ve found you!  It really knocked my socks off.  I think this begs to be put into some kind of layered lasagna type thing.  It was very tasty.

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Veggie-licious Snacks

It all comes to down to space right?  Although some stomachs are bigger than othesr, and I’m talking on the inside, not the outside… there is a limited amount of space in a stomach for food.   The more of that space you fill with vegetables, the less space there is for more objectionable, less nutritious items.  This is not to say that only vegetables are healthy, but you pretty much can’t do better.  And you KNOW it is much easier to fill in the holes for carbohydrates and protein, I doubt you’ll go too low in either category if you eat more vegetables.

Although the eat more veggies philosophy will serve anyone who wants to be healthier well, it becomes problematic in relation to ‘snacks’.  My son will come home from school inquiring about snack food and my list of fruits and vegetables / dips / bread with a healthy topping is followed by his question, “after that can I have a ‘snack?”  Snack has become synonymous with treat… which in his mind is something he’s not supposed to have often.  Ah – that old beast – Forbidden non-fruit, right?

Again, and we have discussed this previously in our Baby Steps series, I rely on Pre-Emptive Produce, i.e. – fill up on veggies first!  Requiring a healthy snack prior to a smaller helping of whatever you allow as a less than healthiest snack choice in your home still means more veggies and less crap.  It works for me as well.  An orange, an apple, a carrot dipped in almond butter, some leftover roasted sweet potato, all make me able to remember that I don’t need to eat some of the more tempting items in my pantry.  So with the seasons of more plentiful produce upon us…. I promise they really are upon us, if a little delayed this year… here are some suggestions for veggie-licious snacks beyond the carrot and celery stick.

Sweet & Spicy carrots:
Cut 2 large carrots into chunks, microwave for 60 – 90 second or to desired tenderness

Mix together 1 tsp maple syrup, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/8 tsp ginger and a pinch of salt P1010627 Mix with carrots.
Make a double or triple batch and store in  the frig in little containers that can be grabbed – like a ‘snack’! P1010630 Pickly- cucumbers:
Slice 1 large or 2 med – small cucumbers into a glass container.
Add 1 Tbsp sugar & 1 Tbsp white vinegar
Cover with water
Add pepper if desired
Let sit for 4-5 hours – taste and add more vinegar / sugar / pepper if you like
Little Sis has some more complicated but delicious pickley cucumber goodness here.

Coleslaw cups
:
Coleslaw is very adaptable. Folks who don’t like (or don’t eat) mayo, can use alternate recipes and you can make it a little sweet without going crazy on the sugar!   Little Sis has a great cole slaw recipe here.

Roasted or baked potatoes
- this is a great alternative to chips. And if you can afford small, colored potatoes, then even better!  A mixture of potatoes and sweet potatoes is very nice and can be achieved in a 375 – 425 oven for 20 – 40 minutes depending on how small you cut the pieces.  But if you are making them for a snack it can go on while you are eating or doing something else right?  I just make extra when we have them for dinner – toss them in the frig and they are there to be easily heated up and scarfed down as a delicious snack!

Cauliflower crunch
:
Coat florets in olive oil then sprinkle paprika and breadcrumbs. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes (turning once).  I usually roast things at 375.

Frozen Grapes & Kiwi:
As simple as it sounds.  Place grapes and bite-sized chunks of peeled kiwi on a parchment lined baking sheet in the freezer.  When hard, place in smaller containers and keep in the freezer.  Healthy, tasty frozen snack!

Crispy Asparagus:
dip asparagus in egg white and bread with either whole wheat panko, or Italian breadcrumbs and bake til crispy.  I would think this would work with green beans as well – and again 375 would be a good place to start – but watch them closely the first time!

Unusual fruits and veggies:
Novelty can be good or bad – depending on the person, but it is at least special or different.  Try serving fresh pineapple for dessert one night.  It goes on sale and can be a lot cheaper than ice cream (if you buy good or non-dairy ice cream in particular).  Sugar snap peas make a great snack that many kids like because they are sweet and crunchy.  Offer something different!

And of course there is the option of dipping various crispy fruits and veggies into:
hummus
salad dressing
nut butter
yogurt (yogurt mixed with a little cinnamon and sweetener, or onion soup mix – read the label!!!)
Nutty Lunch Dip

So change the snack paradigm in your house.  A snack is sustenance to carry you through to the next meal, or through a workout / physical trial.  It can also be a treat…. surely some of these will fill both bills for the snackers in your house.  And if they still have to have a little somethin’ somethin’ that is not at the top of your list of acceptable, they can have less of it on top of their healthy snack.

Real Green Food for St. Patrick or Every Day

I love my twins’ teacher. I really do. She’s smart, organized, thoughtful, compassionate, and inspiring. She has been super helpful with out big transition to first grade. In addition to all her other fine qualities, my favorite first grade teacher LOVES holidays. She loves all of them. She knows all the traditions, all the stories, all the everything about every holiday anyone might celebrate EVER.

My daughter knows more about St. Patrick’s day than Tommy O’Shaunassy in County Cork. Somehow in sharing these stories about St. Patrick’s Day, my daughter received the impression that EVERYONE experiences all the possible traditions and myths all day long. I know I sound like a killjoy, but frankly St. Patrick’s Day has had pretty limited implications for me in the past – a few jigs and reels, a green shirt, perhaps a green beer. I had no idea I would be expected to produce big green messes and pretend a leprechaun made them. If I’m forced to make a mess intentionally, I WILL be building a leprechaun trap and it will work – I don’t need help with messes in my house, thank you. I also had no idea of the variety of food to which green food coloring could be applied in celebration of good old St. Pat.

In order to satisfy my daughter’s rapidly increasing expectations where St. Patrick’s Day was concerned I confess that I did a little reel around Pinterest and I had a revelation. Here’s the thing to remember about St. Patrick’s Day – leprechaun aside, a great deal of the focus is on green food.  Guess what I try to get my VERY picky daughter to eat every other freaking day of the year? You guessed it, green food.  I had already decided not to apply green food coloring to anything (see yuckies about food coloring here), it was just a short step to decide to simply make green food – perhaps not the dishes we eat regularly – it need only seem unusual and green to be passable as a special St. Patrick’s Day meal. And a healthy day of eating ensued.

St. Patrick’s Smoothie (or We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Shamrock Shake)

  • 2 c fresh pineappleIMG_0274
  • 4 medium frozen bananas
  • 4 c spinach or other deep greens
  • 1/2 rolled oats
  • 1/2 c unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 2 c coconut milk
  • 1/2 large avocado
  • 1 T honey or maple syrup

If you have a power blender, load it up and let her rip as you usually do. If you have a standard blender, I would start with the milk and frozen bananas and add the other elements when possible. The result? Super creamy, super green, fantastic and delicious way to start a happy St. Paddy’s Day. And not a pinch in sight.

IMG_0271 IMG_0269 IMG_0276

While I’d hoped to pack lunch for the kids today, it snowed here in the Mid-Atlantic last night and so we had yet another Monday at home. Our lunch at home consisted of some Japanese style noodles. Know what goes great on top of Japanese noodles? Green things: dried seaweed, peas, and cucumbers. Yep, she did it. Ms. Picky Pants gladly took all those bits in celebration of St. Pat.

Dinner was a little trickier… we had a green salad because we often do and everyone enjoys it.  I figured why stop doing something that works.  The trick was to make the rest of the meal different enough. I had cauliflower I really wanted to use, but the only way that’s green is in spirit, and I knew that wasn’t going to cut it. I wanted to make cauliflower steaks – but what to sever them with that would be green enough? Time to get clever.

Savory Green Quinoa

  • 2 c quinoa
  • about 4 c water, divided
  • 2 c spinach or other deep greens
  • 1/2 t salt
  • Shake of nutritional yeast (opt)

Combine 2 c water and greens in blender and blitz the mess out of it. Add enough water to get 4 c liquid. Move the 4 c to a large saucepan. Add salt and bring to boil. While water is warming, rinse quinoa at least twice. When water boils, add quinoa, lower heat and cover. Cook for 15 minutes or until water is absorbed. Remove from heat and let it sit for 5 minutes. Fluff with fork. Add a shake of nutritional yeast if desired. Delish.

Having found a strategy that I can really get down with, I admit to having warmed to St. Patrick’s Day this year. I remind myself as I check the calendar for the next holiday my daughter will be excited about that which stories we tell, which traditions we follow, and what that looks like in our house is up to us. Green food doesn’t have to mean green cotton candy or even green beer, it can mean a day of eating the healthiest real foods we can find and enjoying them as we celebrate with family. Okay Easter, I’m ready now.