Dump the Unhappy

Dump the Unhappy

just not in the ocean… the fish don’t need it either.

For tips on giving up soda and other sugary drinks, see Baby Step #1. You don’t have to dump it in the ocean to get off the fizzy stuff. We can help.

Why Should I Eat Something I Don’t Like?

Indeed.  Why should my son who asked that question of me?  Why should I?  It got me thinking about ‘First World Problems’ and starving children, but, let’s be honest.  Generations of parents have tried to convince their children that they should eat something nasty just because there are people in the world who would be happy to have that nasty thing which is WAY better than nothing.  But it doesn’t work.  It doesn’t work for children OR adults.  Empathy is not the forte of the young, especially when it really doesn’t make sense.  It is sad that others do not have enough to eat, or what they want to eat, but my son will say that if there is something he prefers right there in the cabinet, then why can’t he have that right now?  He knows what he eats for dinner won’t affect that poor child’s hunger either way.  So how to answer that question for him, and for myself.  In a culture that emphasizes choice, reward and satisfaction, why shouldn’t we always have something we like to eat?

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I chose a picture of broccoli because my son used to hate broccoli. The only way we could get him to eat it was to allow him to put ketchup on it (Bleah!) He still does not love it, but he eats it, without complaint, and without ketchup ;-)

I’ve got 3 responses to share with my son and myself:

A) You can acquire a taste for things / change your taste for things;

B) You have 1 body which you would like to be able to navigate through as much of this world / life as possible; and my personal favorite….

C) Because I made it and we’re all sitting down here together to eat it, dammit!  i.e. this is about more than your personal satisfaction.

I know, that’s all a bit flippant, so allow me to expand…

A) Indeed you can acquire a taste for things and even lose a taste for things!  I recently splurged on a purchase of some fancy Italian ice cream which was labelled chocolate / peanut butter.  Who knew the fancy Italian ice cream would have little peanut butter cup candies in it?  My mother will think I’m lying, but I removed the candy peanut butter cups because they were too sweet.  They made the ice cream cloyingly sweet to me, so I didn’t eat them.  Mind you, I used to ADORE Reese’s peanut butter cups.  They were my candy of choice and Younger Big-Bro could always get a good trade out of me at Halloween if he had Reese’s cups to offer.  However, I have lost my taste for milk chocolate and heavy duty sweets because I stopped eating them and learned to love other things that are not so sweet instead.  It can happen.  It took awhile!  Baby Steps friends, remember to take Baby Steps – small changes a bit at a time, like reducing amount or cutting it with something.  With chocolate you can slowly switch over to darker chocolate.  For more info on making switches – either fast or slow, see Baby Step #1 The Ol’ Switcheroo, or Baby Steps Boost which makes suggestions for how to take Baby Steps away from some common unhealthy foods.

It can also happen that people’s taste buds change as as they mature and as they age.  Little Sis will tell you that Miss Picky Pants (my adorable niece) has taste buds that can change overnight ;-)  If they haven’t tried it in awhile, have them try it again.  And not the touch the corner of the fork with your tongue and then make a face try.  An actual try that involves a bite, followed by chewing and swallowing.  We require 2 bites because the first one is still colored by negative expectations, or a poor guess.  This rule goes for adults also.  As a precursor to answer ‘C’ I say, “Put your Big Girl Panties on and just eat it – it won’t hurt you even if you don’t like it.”

B) If children were left to eat without any input, some of them just might develop some serious nutritional deficiencies.  Heck, many adults have serious nutritional deficiencies.  Personally I am low in iron.  I try to eat greens and cook in a cast iron pan to amend that situation.  I’m sure you know the basics of balancing protein, carbohydrates and including lots of veggies and fruits.  Perhaps more information about what nutrients are in our food and what those nutrients do for us would help allay the tendency to eat pizza every night.  Check out some resources for nutrient information:
Charts on the nutrients in fruits, vegetables and fish
An extensive list of foods and the nutrients they contain – this is a pdf booklet – you have to go through about 10 pages of other info before you get to the chart, but it is a good resource.

As we mentioned in the Baby Step on getting your kids engaged with change, try to tie in their personal goals with their food intake.  In other words, if they want to be an athlete stress the nutrients needed to help them get stronger and to grow healthfully.  If they want to do well in school stress the foods that will feed their brains….

Understanding the physiological need for a variety of healthy foods and the physiological benefits of a variety of healthy foods can be helpful in convincing yourself and others to eat things that are not your first, or even second or third choice.

C) Eating is about more than personal satisfaction.  It is part of the ritual of converting the bounty of the planet into bountiful community.  It takes a village to feed one gaping maw.  Recognizing the involvement of community, family or personal involvement on the resulting meal or even packed lunch takes a little emphasis off the pleasure and places it back on the living, necessity of eating.  So when our culture shines through in my son’s belief that he is entitled to have something delicious every time he eats, I can try to re-focus him on all of the reasons and all of the work that goes into feeding people.  Little Sis’ family starts the evening meal with some thanks to the one who prepared the meal.  What a great way to re-focus the meal on the bounty of being fed…. the bounty of having good nutrition…. and the bounty of being together and taking care of each other.

Should we live to eat? or eat to live?

Here at the Pantry we usually fall in the middle on such spectrums of possibility.  It surely seems too stringent to do either exclusively.  But there is definitely room in most of our lives for a little more eating to live.  Such a blessing to even have a choice!

Fed Up with Diet By Advertising

Sugar – looks pretty innocent, doesn’t it?

In honor of the release of Fed Up, a documentary about the power of sugar in our food supply, I’ve decided to take another look at my own (and my children’s sugar intake), and to remind myself WHY I would still be concerned about it.

This documentary, and most of what I’ve read about sugar and processed food in the last 10 year,s leads me to the conclusion that I cannot trust food manufacturers with my health. (See Salt, Sugar, Fat for more about that.) And it seems to me that there is often an inverse relationship between the amount of packaging and readiness and the healthfulness of the actual item. There are, of course, exceptions in the “natural foods” category. I can purchase prepared foods with less sugar, fewer chemicals, but these items ARE exceptions.

I don’t particularly want to build a life of eating exceptions. Processed food that doesn’t contain excessive salt, sugar, and fat is usually very expensive, and frankly, it’s just unnecessary. Somewhere along the way some very smart guys (think Mad Men with fewer cocktails and hopefully a little less infidelity) did a real good job of convincing Americans that we don’t have time to actually prepare (rather than warm) our food and that we’ll be fine just purchasing and warming the stuff their corporate sponsors produce.

The notion that we should be eating processed food, that it’s yummy, that it’s nutritious, that it’s convenient, that it’s inexpensive is an ad campaign. That’s it. And ad campaign. It’s not science. It’s not sound personal finance or family friendly economics. It’s not what your doctor recommended or what your grandma told you to do. It’s an ad campaign. I don’t want to build a life on an ad campaign. I don’t want my children’s health to be the result of an ad campaign.

Here at the pantry Big Sis and I have consistently embraced the fundamental importance of real food – food that you cook for yourself – as the cornerstone of a healthy diet. There are lots of models of “healthy” eating out there and they differ in some pretty important ways, but almost all of the ones that involve a lifestyle change, rather than a temporary restriction or substitution of their processed food for your preferred processed food, will lead you to Michael Pollan’s very sound, and very simple advice about food. 1) Eat food (by this he means food, not packages or chemicals), 2) Mostly vegetables, 3) Not too much.

Notice that nowhere in this simple advice does Mr. Pollan suggest that you consume a whole lot of sugar. If you are convinced that you don’t have time to eat better, or that there’s no way that changing your eating habits can really work or be affordable or fit into your schedule, I implore you to see Fed Up, or read Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us. Don’t have time for all that? Check out our posts on sugar, on Salt, Sugar, Fat. Make sure you know the true cost of that easy food. If you’re convinced, but not sure where to turn, we can help. Check out our Sugar Busting and Baby Steps to Better Health series. Or take 5 minutes and read about cutting sugar at breakfast time. You can do this; you really can. We’ll help.

While you get started, I’ll be doubling back, checking for slippage, doing some quick calculations of my and my kids’ regular sugar intake. When it comes right down to it, we just don’t need that much, and the less we eat, the less we need to enjoy a little sweet satisfaction in our long, healthy lives.

Fed Up – Hollywood Takes on Sugar

Have you heard?

Have you seen it?

I haven’t seen it yet, but seeing who they’ve interviewed, I’m pretty sure I know what’s in there. And I’m so very glad to hear people talking about sugar with such big voices on such big screens. Maybe you’re not as excited as I am.

Are you afraid?

Are you ready to change things?

Are you ready to take control of your health?

You don’t need that stuff.

We’ll help.

For tips on how to start cutting sugar in your diet, click on the Sugar Busting category on the sideboard or on the tabs above. For a more comprehensive overhaul (which will include cutting the sugar), click on the Baby Steps to Better Health category.

You can do this, and you’ll be awfully glad you did.

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.

Baby Step # 14: Add Some Nourishment

BabyStep14Bad weather brings out the survivor in us, doesn’t it?  Threats to our electricity, our ability to drive (with all the inherent loss of access to food and other stuff), ability to do our job, and our plans in general, are indeed very upsetting threats.   Some of us bring in the outdoor furniture or delicate plants, some of us check the batteries in the flashlights, some of us buy lots of bread and milk, some of us check the firewood, blankets and maybe even fuel supply for the generator.

It is a giant step in our culture to go from: “You deserve a break today….. Treat yourself….. A moment for you…… You deserve the best…… Because you’re worth it” and all the other attempts by advertisers to get us to reward ourselves by purchasing their products to: “Batten down the hatches!”  We don’t have to batten down very often, do we?  Left to our own devices and the influence of Madison Avenue we’ve become quite accustomed to having our favorite food or at least something we genuinely like when we eat.  Every time we eat.  Why not?  Who wouldn’t choose what they like over what they dislike? Restaurants, convenience stores, vending machines and the center aisles of the grocery store are all too happy to provide our favorites, with plenty of questionable additives to keep them from spoiling and to make them easy to prepare.

My fellow nurses and I marvel over the number of patients who will say, “I can’t eat that”, or “I don’t eat that” when offered hospital food, not because of allergies or being vegetarian, or gluten-free, but simply because they don’t like it, or it’s not what they are used to or not the way they usually fix it.  Why should the nurses be surprised?  Nurses are surprised because nursing is a fast-paced ‘batten down the hatches’ kind of job.  With far too many tasks to complete in far too little time, we are in survival – and patient survival! – mode.  As a result, we just don’t always understand that patients who are recovering or depressed or feeling lousy but not in danger, continue to behave within the rules of this culture.  “You deserve something that you like, why not your favorite?”  And so when the patient complains about the food, we ask them what they want, call the fine people in nutritional services, get the patient’s request filled if at all possible, (no matter if it’s not terribly healthy), and then make jokes in the nurses station about how we work in a spa rather than a hospital.   (Some of the high cost of American health care, this spa mentality, but we won’t go there today).

I am not trying to say these patients’ behavior is bad or wrong, it is our culture and it is what it is, but it does offer some insight into the difficulty of improving eating habits and trying to maintain a healthy weight in this American culture.  How is a person supposed to feel satisfied by a meal or a snack if that meal or snack represents less than what one likes, or is less than is ‘deserved,’ or somehow less than what society says is good, best or one’s right?

I believe that part of the battle for creating a healthy lifestyle is identifying what nourishes you.  Taste buds are not the only players in the satisfaction game.  A nourishing meal or experience is satisfying because you have been nourished, i.e., your body, mind or spirit has been strengthened, guided, fed, nurtured, sustained, encouraged, cultivated, supported, fostered, developed and/or promoted.   I’d like to see a McDonald’s french fry do that all by itself.  Mind you, a McDonald’s french fry eaten with friends….. or after basketball practice….. or on a date…… or any other physically, emotionally or spiritually fulfilling activity is another story.  So, it’s not always the french fry that satisfied you, but the company or the circumstances in which you ate that fry.

Baby Step #14: Add Some Nourishment

What Nourishes You?

To add some nourishment, you have to figure out what nourishes you. Consider the following:
- What makes you feel good for a prolonged period of time?  What do you talk or think about a day, a week, or a year later?  I bet it’s not the french fry.
- Why do you find unhealthy food (pick your fave) satisfying?  Is it the convenience?  Is it buying something?  Is it the restaurant atmosphere or sneaking something once the kids have gone to bed?  Is it the taste, the texture?  Is it having someone make something for you?  Does it represent a break from an activity that you find difficult or draining?
- Do you plan nourishing activities to feed yourself and possibly your family in body, mind and spirit?

If you can recognize some truths about what nourishes you, it might be easier to get more nourishment and less ‘processed food Ka-Pow sugar/fat and salt taste’ into your life.

Check your self-worth.

In order to add some nourishment, you must believe that you are worth nourishing.  It is easier to believe that you are worth nourishing when you are well nourished.  “Them that’s got, shall get,” right?  Kind of twisted, but I believe it’s true.  It’s like smiling at yourself in the mirror when you don’t feel very up.  It makes you feel better.  Steve Martin says you can’t play a sad song on the banjo.  It’s also hard to be sad when you are smiling.  It’s also hard to choose unhealthy food once you have experienced nourishment.  But you have to pay attention.  You can’t attribute feelings, behavior and choices to feelings, behavior and choices unless you are paying attention.

So again, ask yourself:

“Why do I choose what I choose?”
“Am I trying to nourish myself?” – remember all of those wonderful meanings of nourished: strengthened, guided, fed, nurtured, sustained, encouraged, cultivated, supported, fostered, developed and/or promoted.”
“What nourishes me?”
“How do I get more of what nourishes me in my life?”

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Sometimes after work when I’ve been out of the house for 14 hours and running around for about 11 of those I get home and feel ravenously hungry.  If I don’t pay attention I will overeat and sometimes choose the least healthy option in the house before realizing that I’m full and not running and my feet hurt less and I can slow down and take care of myself.  I just caught myself doing it again last night, so I’m going to pack one last healthy item in my lunch bag to eat on the way home.  That will take the edge off of feeling ravenous and allow me to come into the house and nourish myself by sitting down, relaxing and catching up with my husband and son.  They nourish me (when I spend time with them!!).  Allowing myself to be still after a very busy day nourishes me.  Reading nourishes me.  Making things nourishes me.  Meditating/Praying nourishes me.  So many things other than a quick fix of a Ka-Pow dose of sugar, fat or salt nourish me.  And it is lovely when I pay attention and care for myself enough to seek out nourishment over satisfaction.

Practice and Experiment with Conscious Choices

I am not suggesting that you should not choose to eat what you like to eat, but I am suggesting that consciousness about your choices may make you aware of more choices, both food and non-food, available to you.  If they are nourishing choices, you may ultimately find them to be more satisfying than what you currently choose.  I often use Lent as a time to remind myself of what a certain indulgence means in my life.  When I give it up, I either miss it terribly or find that it was not so important to me after all.  That is how I was able to reduce my sugar intake.  I found that after 40 days of nothing sweet I found most sweets unappetizingly sweet and by the end I didn’t miss them as much as I thought I would.  Giving up fiction did not have the same result.  I missed it very much and appreciated it more when I returned to it.  In fact, I think I chose my books more carefully because I wanted to read really good books.  Since those days of Lenten deprivation I have found it very helpful to ADD something for Lent – some devotional practice or amount of quiet time or time spent to help others and I find that to be very nourishing. What could you give up or add to challenge your conscious decision-making?

Baby Step #14 is really a life-long journey, but even long journeys can be taken in baby steps.  I certainly have made steps forward and backwards in learning what, and then pursuing, what nourishes me.  ‘Batten down the hatches’ can take us to survival mode when we know what is important to basic survival.  Finding and pursuing what nourishes us in body, mind and spirit can help us survive and grow with grace and with respect for ourselves and for others.  It’s not easy.  I have to remind myself that like all of the baby steps, a baby step forward is still a step forward.  In fact it nourishes me to attempt, to succeed, to fail, and to try again.  I remember and treasure this process long after the memory of tasty treats has faded.

I encourage you to figure out what nourishes you and to add some more nourishment to your life.

Bellywarming American Black Bean Soup

Have I mentioned that I LOVE soup? What could be better on these increasingly chilly days than a big bowl of warm and delicious? While I’ve shared quite a few soups with you (you’ll see they have their own category on the sidebar), I’ve admittedly been in a bit of a soup rut.  My Go To soups are really delicious, but after a while, the kids “THAT one again?” resonates a little too deeply.  I’ve gotten a little tired of my faves, and so went a wandering, with too little time for prep and a well stocked pantry. Problem solved.

Apparently it is possible to make black bean soup that is not Southwestern.  It had never occurred to me, despite my bean friendliness, to use those guys for a different flavor profile – talk about being in a rut! Once again my friend Deborah Madison (perhaps I should just call these posts Little Sis and Deborah), showed me the way out of my self-inflicted black bean tunnel vision.

IMG_0270Ms. Madison suggests a simple American styled black bean soup, and with a few adjustments it worked stupendously for Mr. Little Sis and I. After the whole crew tasted it, with lackluster response, Mr. Little Sis and I decided that since the kids had passed on it anyway, we would in fact add the bit of Madeira called for in the original version, and boy howdy was it great, even with my radically shortened cooking time.  This one would go gangbusters in a slow cooker. I finished the last bowl tonight and am happy to report that, as with so many soups, it’s even better after a few days.

American Black Bean Soup - adapted for speed and dairy considerations from Deborah Madison’s Black Bean Soup in Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

  • olive oil for the potIMG_0263
  • 2 c onion, chopped
  • 1 c celery, chopped
  • 1 c carrot, chopped small
  • 2 c green pepper chopped small
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 4 t chopped rosemary
  • 2 t dried thyme
  • 2 T tomato paste
  • 4 c black beans, soaked, cooked and drained or drained and rinsed from cans
  • 4 quarts water
  • leftover grains if desired (I used 1.5 c cooked brown rice)
  • salt to taste
  • 1 c Madeira
  • 1 c coconut milk (or cream)
  • chopped parsley

Warm oil in the pot.  Add onions and saute for a few minutes.  Add the rest of the veggies and herbs and cook until the color deepens a bit. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for an additional minute.  Add the beans and the water. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer, partially covered for at least 20 minutes.  Add salt to taste and grains if using.  Cook and additional 5 minutes.  Remove bay leaves and puree as much of the soup as your textural preferences dictate.  A smoother puree can be achieved in a blender, but I don’t like to do all that pouring of hot soup, so I use an immersion blender.  Add Madeira and coconut milk (or cream if you do moo). Serve with chopped parsley.  Wow.  So simple, so delish.  Perfect wholesome antidote for Halloween’s madness.

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Halloween Madness

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Baby Step 13: Saving on Produce

BabyStep13Last Baby Step we talked about taking a look at what we really spend on food – including all those last minute purchases and take out bits. Today I want to focus on saving money on some of the healthiest food around, produce. Saving on produce tends to fall into two basic categories: 1) spending less and 2) using more (or wasting less if you’re into complete grammatical parallels). Both approaches are obviously valid, but the greatest savings (and satisfaction if you’re a cheap freak like me) comes from employing methods from both categories to maximize the nutrish for the dinero, moolah, green, whatev.

Some of these are obvious, but if you’re anything like me you tend to get real good about focusing on one and then forget some of the others. Let’s run through the possibilities. Healthy food, which for most folks means adding more produce, is affordable because  it satisfies you and prevents spending money on chronic illness. Healthy food is more affordable if you get good at finding it cheap and using it all. Continue reading

Step 12: Winning at the Grocery Store

I’m at the grocery store.  I’ve brought the twins (something I try very hard to avoid).  One of them is chasing me with a package of purple glitter nail polish and the other is asking in his most polite voice if he can just SHOW me something he saw a few aisles ago.  I am maxed out.  I have a list but I can’t freaking find it. My cell phone is vibrating into my side and I can see from the screen that it’s an old friend I’ve been exchanging voice mail with for months. Calgon take me away indeed.  This IS shopping, though.  Purchasing the stuff of life happens on regular days with all of their regular promise and regular pitfalls. Despite the purple glitter nail polish pleading (or whatever drives you nuts at the store), we all make it home with some food. Well, at least mostly.

babystep12Here’s the thing.  Like so many of our normal self-maintenance routines, food shopping is very much an act of habit.  If you have not been in the habit of seeking out and buying healthier food, it becomes awfully easy to miss in the market.  And if your market is set up like most markets, they’re not making it any easier for you to get to those real food goodies. There are some critical things to remember about grocery stores if you want to make some healthier selections. 1) Most real food spoils. 2) Much of the food sold in the average grocery store does not spoil. 3) The grocery store is a for profit business, not a purveyor of health.

Let’s talk a little bit about these ideas. so you can come away from this step with a better strategy for hitting the market. Continue reading

Baby Step 11: Finding and Doling out the Food Dollars

Where are you spending money on food other than the grocery store? BabyStep11

Really.

Since we tackled the problem of time spent preparing healthier foods in Baby Step # 7, we Sis sisters thought we should address the cost of eating healthier food.

Food is available in many places, almost every place these days, and prices do vary.  I’m sure you’ve noticed.  It always hurts me to pay twice or three times as much for a granola bar in a convenience store than it would have had I bought a box (or made something and packed it in a little Tupperware cup).

And it also hurts to pay for food at work that costs much more than it would have cost me to pack leftovers because I ran out of time, or left my lunch at home.  We all do it, but we can’t honestly assess what we are spending on food each week or each month if we don’t include our expenditures outside of the grocery store.  I confess that my grocery bills are higher since we have begun eating more real food (un-prepared, un-processed fresh and some frozen foods).  However, I also spend less in restaurants, convenience stores, at work or on outings than previous to the change in diet.

While Little Sis and I have created some cheap healthy recipes (try the Cheap Eats category on the sidebar for a starting place), and can make many things ourselves more cheaply than we can buy them (almond milk, almond butter, high quality baked goods, macaroni & cheese, salad dressing, etc.), there is no denying that fresh fruits and vegetables, especially organic ones, cost more than a cart full of hamburger helper and canned green beans.  However, and again, the comparison is not fair unless you consider the entire picture of food costs. Continue reading