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.

 

limbo-bar

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.

 

 

 

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!

 

20140414_181551

 

20140414_181719

 

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.

 

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.

Eat the fruit….. Feel the love

Would you like seconds?  There’s plenty! Please help yourself!  I’m so glad you like it.  I made it just for you!  I remember you liked this last time you were here….. Oh I knew you were coming so I baked a cake :-)

It’s love we want to give them.  Isn’t it?  Of course we also want them to enjoy and be satisfied….. and be quiet and quit telling us they’re hungry, or to stop being cranky….. or I want ME to be less cranky (Little Sis knows about hungry me and cranky)…. but some of providing food for loved ones (including ourselves) is loving them.

How to walk the line between loving them with food / pleasing them with food / and wanting their food to promote health?

It ain’t easy.  And it’s very complicated because it’s not just about them, or just about us, it’s about us and them, living together, getting along, living in our convenience/sugar/fat/salt-full society, knowing of each others’ care and hopefully living a healthful long life.

Of course there is no guarantee that our ministrations of healthy food will keep them healthy, but there is great evidence that it helps.  We know that eating high vegetable, high fiber is good for you.  We’ve all seen the scary stories about how meat is processed (McDonald’s is finally putting an end to their use of ammonium hydroxide treated pink slime in their meat products)…. and LOTS of research finds a link between good health and increased intake of vegetables; AND lots of research is showing the detrimental effects of processed foods.  As the World Health Organization reveals new (lower) recommendations for added sugar intake, the world is waking up to sugar’s role in the increasing amounts of chronic disease in the world.  WHO’s recommendation is less than 6 teaspoons of added sugar a day (which is less than a can of coke).

When you think about giving people food / feeding people, we want them to be happy, pleased, satisfied, etc. because we want them.  We want time with them – pleasant time with them.

So here’s a new way to look at loving them with food.  Love them with healthy food, but give them time as well.  Healthy food doesn’t have to mean hours spent in the kitchen, although if they help you it will be time together in the kitchen!  Try some simple, real food.  If you have some fruit in the house and there is no junk food, and you sit down with your kids for a snack, they might eat it.  They might try it – hunger is pretty good at opening the mind.  Encourage everyone to try the fruit and feel the love.

P1010623

That’s my new motto, “Try the fruit…. Feel the love.”  “Try the vegetable….. Feel the love.”  “Try the Real Food…. Feel the love.  “Share some time….. Feel the love.”

Feel and taste and smell the goodness of that simple package of delicious nutrients.  Nothing added, nothing needed.  Just good.  Kind of like family and friends.  Just being together is nourishment.  Maybe the food is a bonus, an excuse, a centerpiece, a schedule…. but it’s the together part that matters in the long run.   Healthy food shared is much more fun than unhealthy food all alone.

The together part is what comes into play when we are faced with impossible challenges and unimaginable loss.  Our friend Annie who blogs at An Unrefined Vegan faced such a time when her brother Charles was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer.  She shares what she learned about walking that difficult journey with a loved one in an e-book titled :
A Terminal Illness Primer for Caregivers: Lessons from My Brother’s End-of-Life Journey

Annie loves her brother and shared her care by sharing her time and her ability to go to bat for him, in love.  She is a wonderful writer and we recommend this book for anyone who is facing a difficult diagnosis as a patient, a caregiver or a healthcare provider.  In addition, all proceeds from the book benefit research into brain cancer.

Time is probably the hardest thing to come by these days and it is one of the best reasons to eat healthfully.  You want your loved ones to be around for as long as possible with a good quality of life.  And there is something about Real Food that slows you down just a little bit.

So what’s the rush?  I know, I know, there is a rush to get it all done, be there on time, etc.  Many of us have come to rely on convenience foods to accommodate our busy schedules.  But convenience foods are not only generally unhealthy, but they often signify that the most important part of nutrition and of love is being stretched and cheated….. time together.  A simple meal of whole grain bread and nut butter, carrots and fruit can be eaten in the car outside the hockey rink or the dance studio together just as easily as waiting in line at McDonald’s.  Making it together beforehand is even better.

And the answer to why they have to eat that instead of McDonald’s?  Because I love you.  Now, let’s be nourished by this food and by this time together.

Sweet Potato Be-Crusted Quiche & Apple Pie – GF, DF

Why didn’t I think of this?  Do you ever say that?  I say it a lot, but I guess it means that at least I recognize genius when I see it.  In this case, Claire at Just Blither Blather thoughtfully shared her brilliance with the rest of us, and from her Collard Quiche with Sweet Potato Crust, I thought that what is good for the quiche is good for the pie, right?

Well, I hope so.  I’m typing this while sweet potato be-crusted quiche and apple pie are filling the house with wonderful aromas.  I did not follow Claire’s quiche recipe to the letter simply because I didn’t have all of the same ingredients, but hers looked and sounded so fabulous I didn’t want to wait.  I did however follow the crust instructions, and that is the beauty part of this whole experiment because I can think of lots of things to put in this crust!

So check out her recipe for the quiche as well as mine….

Sweet Potato Crusted Apple Pie

Crust:
3 cups shredded sweet potato
1 tsp coconut oil
1 tsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp. maple syrup

Pre-heat oven to 375
Mix together ingredients and press into 9 – 10″ pie plate
Bake for 15 minutes

Filling:
4 apples, chopped into chunks
1/4 cup oats
1/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. cinnamon

Pour filling into crust
Cover loosely with aluminum foil
Bake at 375 for about 35 – 45 minutes.  Peek, smell and listen ;-)

P1010566-001

So I started with dessert – it’s a plan that some people swear by….. but don’t worry – there is a main dish as well.

Sweet Potato Crusted Quiche
Crust:
3 cups shredded sweet potato (I used the food processor)
A drizzle of olive oil

Preheat oven to 375.
Mix sweet potato and a little olive oil and press into a 9 – 10″ pie plate
Bake for 15 minutes

Filling:
1 onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, minced
oil for saute
2 cups of vegetable of choice (I used shredded broccoli stem – yes I am that cheap- and some leeks)
salt and pepper to taste
6 eggs
Splash of water
Saute the onions and garlic until translucent
Add the other veggies you are using and cook til a little tender
Add salt and pepper to taste
Claire used collards which sounds lovely, but I didn’t have any greens available, so I just went with the other veggies.  Use what you like or what yo know your family will eat!
Place veggies in crust after it comes out of the oven
Beat the eggs and splash of water together and pour over veggies
Bake at 375 for 35 – 45 minutes or until set.

P1010565-001

P1010568-001

Now we have eaten both of these ‘pies’ and they were both delicious! The pie is (as seems to be the case with my gluten free pie attempts), more of an inverted cobbler, but it is a very tasty inverted cobbler!  The sweet potato gets a bit chewy and crispy along the edges but it can’t hold a wedge together.  We didn’t mind.  The quiche holds together nicely.  It was a delicious meal with extra veggies at the bottom!

Naturally Sweet Sweet Potatoes

Sitting here between these two holidays and all of their associated traditional dishes, I find myself scrambling pretty regularly to get some non-holiday food on the table between chores in preparation for family, friends, and food. Last night I ran an experiment that just may change my holiday table forever – it certainly gave us a pleasant surprise for dinner.

IMG_0439I love sweet potatoes.  We’ve gushed about this nutritious tuber here before, and found ways to work it into so many different meals and treats (breakfast, soup, more soup, brownies, cookies, dinner). I know that many families have a tradition of holiday sweet potatoes that include all manner of sweetener from maple syrup to marshmallows. I confess these preparations have rarely appealed to me, but I wondered if there wasn’t another way to go with that sweetness – to enhance the natural sweetness in a nutritious way.  Looking around the kitchen I spied an overabundance of ripening bananas and it occurred to me that I might be on to something.  A quick google search told me I could, indeed, roast bananas.  One small step for me, one large step for sweet sweet potato dishes. Continue reading

Nut Butter Bliss Balls

Ooooh boy these are some good little cookie like thangs!  There is no baking involved and lots of goo on the fingers to lick off when you are done.  What could be better than that?

Did you think I wasn’t going to tell you what was better than that?  Well!…. These lovely little sweets were consumed, enjoyed and complimented by folks from all ranges of the baked goods and sugar consumption spectrum.  In other words, as my son would say, both the health whacks like his dear old Mom and the normal people liked these cookies.  This is not always the case with the sweets that come out of my kitchen.  In fact, both of my sweet offerings were appreciated.  One of them, Healthy Pumpkin Cookies, was shared earlier in the blog and now, because I am so nice and generous and love to toot my own stolen horn, I will share the Nut Butter Bliss Balls recipe with you!  I hope these recipes (along with the list of healthier holiday foods from our blog that Little Sis is working on) will help you party with folks from all over the spectrum this holiday season.  ‘Tis the time of year for sharing, right?

P1010223

So back to tooting my own stolen horn…. I didn’t steal a horn, I adapted a horn, er…  recipe, from the wonderful Diana Herrington at Real Food for Life.  She calls them Peanut Butter Bliss Balls.   Mr. Bigg Sis doesn’t do peanuts, so I made them both with almond butter and the original way because my son and I LOVE peanut butter.   They are heavenly either way.

Nut Butter Bliss Balls
1 cup toasted sunflower seeds
1 cup nut butter (I have tried almond and peanut – you can cheaply make your own almond butter – with or without chocolate!)
1/2 cup honey (original is 3/4 cup – I found 1/2 to be awesomely sweet but chickened out and added another Tbsp tothe1/2 cup for my guests batch)
1/4 cup coconut (unsweetened, flaked)
1/4 – 1/2 cup almond flour (original coconut flour which is costly) but you could also use oat flour
1/4 cup oats
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds

First off – if you don’t have toasted nuts and seeds, I toasted the sunflower seeds at 350 for about 8 minutes – just keep an eye on them so they don’t burn, and the sesame seeds for about 5 minutes, again, watch them as ovens are different, pans are different, it’s a beautiful variable world!

Secondly – the reason for the wishy-washiness of the flour amount.  Peanut butter and almond butter (beautiful variable world consideration again) have varying consistencies, and honey is hard to measure accurately, so the stickiness of your final product is affected by these variables.  I use almond flour which is the dried out leftovers from making almond milk, so it may be a bit lighter than store bought almond flour.  Basically you want a dough consistency that is sticky enough to hold together and pick up a coating of sesame seeds but not too sticky to eat.  Start with the lowest amount of flour and add more until you like the consistency.  Taste tests are totally appropriate and recommended.

After you’ve toasted the sunflower seeds, place them in a bowl with all of the other ingredients except the sesame seeds and smush it all together, preferably with a purple spatula ;-)

P1010220

 

Pour your toasted sesame seeds onto a plate, form edible size balls (this of course will be affected by the wonderful variety of mouth sizes…. I make mine large) and roll them in the sesame seeds.  For more variety you can roll them in unsweetened coconut.

P1010225

I am singing a happy song of variety….. and one must try all of the varieties to be equitable (after eating your pre-emptive veggies of course!)

P1010226

Breathe, enjoy the season, and as Little Sis says when I worry over pleasing guests that are coming…. “It’ll be fine.  They’re your friends!  They love you.”

Peace and love to you and yours in this world of infinite variety and possibility.

Morning Veggies

I am frequently reminded (in documentaries about other places that my son loves) that much of the rest of the world actually eats a breakfast that looks a lot like the other meals of the day – some kind of grain and some veggies, maybe a little protein, maybe not. And yet these sweet loving taste buds lead so many of  us to constantly seek out a breakfast that does a great job in satisfying a sweet tooth, but doesn’t necessarily do much else.  Despite all my sugar busting, I confess that my own flavor preferences in the morning tend toward the sweet side of the spectrum.

While on the morning in question, I wasn’t necessarily interested in simply having leftovers for breakfast (although this is an entirely reasonable proposition), it occurred to me that I had no good reason for not including vegetables in my morning repast. Vegetables CAN be in a dish that’s not primarily savory. I took my lead from my sister (yet again ;-) ) and just turned up the volume.

The result? Very slightly sweet, super satisfying, nutritionally superb and a definite keeper.

Veggies ‘N’ Oats IMG_0330

  • bowl of oatmeal & leftover sweet potatoes (cooked to your preference; I like my oats decidedly underdone)
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped and cooked with the oats
  • handful of fresh spinach or other mild green, chopped
  • palmful of raisins
  • sprinkle of grated coconut
  • handful of walnuts
  • splash of coconut milk (or your preference)

I thought the celery and greens would interfere, but truth is they were absolutely delightful.  And I don’t care who you are, there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with sweet potatoes for breakfast.  Okay, so I haven’t shaken the sweet tooth just yet, but things are definitely looking up. Throw some greens in there – you just might be surprised. Delish!

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.

IMG_0255 IMG_0259 IMG_0262

Halloween Madness

IMG_0239 IMG_0231 IMG_0250

Wait! don’t EAT that Halloween Candy…

Not when there are so many other things you could do with it.  Seriously.

Lately I’ve been pondering the merits of meat, vegetable oil, different oils when heated and even dried fruit.  I could point you to all sorts of conflicting opinions, ideas and even science on the merits or demerits of those foods, but no one would argue that while candy might make a child smile, it’s not good for that sweet little tyke’s body.  Of course, there is always the all things in moderation argument…. but since when do we do things in moderation anymore?  Some houses give out actual little baggies of candy that it would have taken me a whole block to collect when I was a kid…. in the snow…. uphill both ways ;-)

So my poor son faces every Halloween knowing there will be a time limit after which the remaining candy gets thrown out.  He does not over indulge except for the first night so we always end up throwing quite a bit away.  However, the presence and consumption of candy resets the bar for what constitutes a treat, or dessert.  I hate when the bar gets reset.  It takes a lot longer to get that bar inched upwards than it does to knock the sucker right off of it’s holder!

This year we may participate in our local dentist’s Candy Buy Back.  The sign says they are buying Halloween candy on November 1st and 2nd.  I don’t know if they are sending the candy to the troops or not, but “Operation Gratitude of the CA Army National Guard” accepts candy donations from dentists collected in buy backs and sends it overseas to the troops.  It’s a twist on a nutrition minded Robin Hood – take the candy from the most physically vulnerable and send it to grown ups instead ;-)  A nice program all around, don’t you think, especially for the men and women overseas who are away from family and tradition.

So what else can you do with the Halloween candy besides sell it?  Well, you can build stuff out of it using lots of glue so no one will be tempted to eat it.  You’ve heard of gingerbread houses?  Make a Halloween House or tower or igloo or yurt by gluing the Halloween candy together (wrappers will probably stick better!)

How about a read the label contest?  If you can’t pronounce something on the label then you don’t get to eat it?  Okay, okay -that one is mean.  Plus the ‘fun size’ little bits that come in big bags are probably not individually labelled.  Although it wouldn’t hurt to look up some ingredients on-line.  Most companies have their ingredient lists at websites and from there you can check to see what ingredients are found on the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s lists of food to avoid and cut back on.  You will of course find lots of varieties of sugar and also probably some caramel color and food color which are outlawed in Europe because of evidence of bad effects on health.

You can run some science experiments in the backyard if you have no pets.  Place some unwrapped candy outside and see if any creatures will eat it – and see what types of candy last the longest out there.  Some might make it til Spring.  Does that make you want to eat it?  Ever notice there are no expiration dates on candy?

You can do a ‘science experiment’ in the kitchen where you melt a variety of candy in one big pot just to watch the colors and textures swirl around before throwing it away.

You could also do your own buyback where you offer special activities, art supplies, or special time with Mom and/or Dad in exchange for coughing up the sweet goods.  And what about poisoning the neighborhood children?  Well…. this year I am giving away fake, plastic roaches, because who doesn’t need one or two of those?, as well as boxes of raisins, AND I will have one bowl of candy reserved for the older kids because I do not wish to spend November 1st picking toilet paper out of the trees.

P1010133

Last year it was plastic spiders and a good many of the older kids opted for spiders over candy…. after all they were getting that everywhere else!

And lastly, emphasize all of the other non-candy elements of the holiday.  Enjoy carving pumpkins, drinking special teas or a little hot cider, decorating your yard or house, making or planning costumes, walking around the neighborhood together and telling Halloween jokes…..

What did one casket say to the other?…………………..Is that you coffin?

Ba dum bum.         Now THAT’s a little scary ;-)