Chocolate Almond Butter

Almond butter is a wonderful indulgence.  A nice change from peanut butter, not an allergen for as many folks, some would argue it’s better for you, and it does not have the problems of some molds and toxins that may well be what sets off some people’s peanut allergies.  Alas, it is an economic indulgence.  It costs at least twice what peanut butter does in the store and much retail almond butter is produced in factories that also process peanuts and so still is inedible to those allergic to peanuts.

Enter this wonderful blog-o-spere linking so many creative (and cheap) people to me!  I found lots of people are making their own almond butter who claim that it is easy in a food processor.  They were right!  And inspired by my Little Sis who can never leave a recipe well enough alone… I decided I should put my own stamp on homemade almond butter to share with you.  But what to do to almond butter?  Clearly, chocolate should be involved.

This is not a great innovation mind you.  Chocolate and nuts have been meeting in back alleys and broom closets for centuries.

Lots of my co-workers rave about Nutella ( a hazelnut and chocolate spread) and I have eaten it before – but it packs a whopping 21g. of sugar per 2 Tbsp serving.  Sugar is the first ingredient and palm oil is the second, relegating the hazelNUT part of the nutella to 3rd place on the ingredient list.

This recipe of mine also foreshadows our next Baby Step which will address the notion of baby stepping away from the more dangerous food choices in your life (or your kids lives).  Lots of kids eat sugar-y crap for breakfast…. Pop-tarts, sugar-y cereals, doughnuts, etc.  One way to move away from those choices is to offer an alternative that still provides a nod to the devil in one ear whispering
“I want sugar with Ka-POW,
Give me sugar, give it to me NOW!”  (scene shifts to hyper child jumping around and evil laughter in the background.) Continue reading

Lessons from the Cereal Aisle

So we’re in Costco and I HAD to go in the cereal aisle to get my big honkin’ box of Quaker Oats.  The reason I did not WANT to go into the cereal aisle is that my twin 5 year olds were with me and I have successfully kept their cold cereal world pretty limited in scope, although they have become aware over the last however long that there are other options out there.  Anyway, I HAD to do it, and being too tired and cranky to devise a clever distraction, I decided the speed method would be adequate.  Right.  It took about a millisecond for them to notice and gravitate toward the most egregious options on the shelves.  A chorus of  “Mama, can we please, ” and “This looks really yummy,” and “Sophia says HER mommy buys her these” erupted in rapid fire.  Don’t know if you’ve ever had two five year olds begging from you at a store before, but it’s not pleasant.

I took a deep breath and said, “Okay, guys, do you want to know why I’m going to say no to all of those?”  They nodded.  Right there in the Costco aisle, I began turning the enormous cereal boxes on end so we could look at the nutrition information.  I showed them the line for sugar (and we did a little reading practice, yay).  We noted the sugar content for each of the options that they had chosen (they ranged between 10 and 12 grams per serving).  We then noted the sugar content for Kashi’s Heart to Heart, a cereal we have offered them in the past (5 grams).  They were surprised by how much less it was.  I then showed them the Quaker Oats box (unfair, since it’s just oats, but it helped make the point – 1 gram).  I was expecting continued complaints, because that’s what they’d been doing for most of this particular store visit, but miracle of miracles, they then offered to help put the oats and the Kashi in the cart.   Simple as that.

Now I should say that we talk about nutrition a LOT at our house, so this wasn’t really simple as that.  However, all of these conversations have to start somewhere.  I’ve found that when they believe the choice I’m forcing on them really is something I’m doing because I believe it is healthy for them and not just because I’m in charge, the level of compliance goes WAY up and the level of complaining decreases.  With that said, my kids do love some sugary stuff and cereal is particularly challenging.  In our current state of heightened awareness, I’ve decided to implement an old policy of mine, the cereal mix.  If my children want a sweeter cereal (and for us right now that means a 5-8 grams of sugar cereal), they must also have a lower sugar cereal mixed in.  I’ve got a big bag of whole grain O-shaped dealies with a 3 grams of sugar for just such a purpose.  If they resist, I suggest oatmeal instead.  They have made both choices, and have generally accepted the lower sugar payoff without much noise.  In return for my authoritarian behavior, I have the assurance that they’re having a little less sugar (good), I take one step further in re-educating their palates to healthy levels of sweetness (fruit is unbelievable when you pull this off), and I get the immeasurable pleasure of experiencing children who’s highs and lows don’t swing so very far (a blessing).  No mid-morning meltdowns or post-crash tears.

This is NOT just about kids, though, is it?  The health problems that Dr. Lustig associates with sugar affect so many adults in the United States.  And yet, breaking the sugar habit, even with the knowledge of its impact on our collective health, seems awfully difficult when we love sweet things and food manufacturers are more than happy to provide them for us.  It calls for a certain level of vigilance that may seem unreasonable.  But what if we just take it meal by meal, decision by decision, baby step by baby step?

So maybe your own breakfast needs a little review.  I’ve been working on my own morning bowl, at the moment a mix of three different cereals with raisins and nuts plus almond milk.  The first couple of days I was okay with it, but honestly not wildly enthusiastic.  It wasn’t yucky or anything, it just didn’t give me that morning sweety-yum.  Now I look forward to my big bowl of mixed bits that has helped retrain my tastebuds.  I CRAVE my breakfast bowl.  I kind of want to go make one right now…  The inspiration for my breakfast bowl was Rip Esselstyn’s Big Bowl.  Now before you go copying Rip’s breakfast item for item, I would like to point out that Rip is a firefighter AND triathlete, so while everything in there is awesome for you, you might find the quantity overwhelming if you choose his bowl without editing.

MY BIG BOWL

  • 1/4c raw old fashioned oats
  • 1/4c Ezekial brand grape-nut type cereal
  • 1/4c Kashi Cinnamon Harvest
  • small palmful raisins
  • small palmful walnuts
  • almond milk

Delish.  And lower in sugar than any of my previous breakfast encounters.  So satisfying.  No sugar high, no gross greasy feeling, just good healthful and yummy fuel that will keep you feeling satisfied FAR longer than a bowl of sugar poo.  So here’s to the naturally sweet life, one bowl at a time.  More to come in our Sugar Busting series….

Sugar Busting

Looking around the blogosphere, it seems like sugar is on everybody’s lips… and no, I don’t mean they all just ate powdered donuts (please don’t do this).  I guess what I should say is that sugar is on everybody’s mind; according to a growing number of doctors and research scientists, sugar is also on our hearts, our arteries, our cancer cells, our livers, our EVERYTHING.  If you didn’t watch it, or haven’t seen it on some other blog since Sunday, here’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s story on sugar as a toxin.  This is 60 Minutes, folks.  Not a guru in Big Sur (no offense, California because I love you, this was useful as hyperbole only) describing his cosmic understanding of sugar.  This is a conventional news outlet running a story on what many doctors think is the biggest health problem in the United States.

If you have the stomach for it, the 60 Minutes website has a few links to off-air conversations about sugar.  The lead doctor interviewed, Robert Lustig, also has a longer documentary about the toxicity of sugar in the diet.  There is a shorter version, with the a great explanation of the science for non-science folks by Underground Wellness. If you find ANY of these remotely convincing, you’ll be wanting to decrease your sugar intake pronto. So, we’ve decided to become a little more focused (say WHAT?!) in our posts for the next several days to offer some simple strategies to cut sugar in your diet. Not enough on their own, but baby steps are, in our collective experience, a good place to start.

So we began our Sugar Busting Series this morning with Big Sis’s post about the ease and wisdom of brewing iced tea for the road when traveling rather than guzzling sugar poo from a convenience store. In a perfect celebration of the upcoming calvacade of candy that is Easter in the U.S., we will be offering several more posts about increasing the natural sweetness of a less sugary life.