Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Some thoughts on New Nutrition Labels

Mostly, I wish the money/effort being put into labels on packages was instead directed toward getting people to eat food that doesn't come in packages.

We do live in the real world, however, and even my family (one that strives to eat as much whole foods as we can), buys snacks, bread, condiments, and other things, in packages. And, I'm glad the labels are there. But, mostly I read the labels for ingredients. When I buy a snack for my 5-year-old, I don't care about the calories. I care that there's not a ton of sugar and food coloring. He needs calories, but they need to be quality calories.

On the other hand, many people who are not skinny, active 5-year-olds, would benefit greatly from eating fewer calories. But, is changing the way they are labeled on packages the answer? I tend to think not. While limiting the calories consumed is definitely something many people need to be concerned with, if people are using the information on labels to count their daily intake, they are able to do the math to figure out how many calories are in multiple servings -- regardless of the size of the serving, or the size of the font the calorie count is written in.

There are other changes on the label, too … Does added sugars vs. sugars that naturally occur in foods make a difference? I think so, and I like this addition to the labels. Even if eating the same amount of naturally occurring sugar has the same impact on your health as eating added sugar (which I suspect it doesn't), putting the amount of added sugar in black and white will be an eye opener for many consumers.

Swapping out Vitamins A and C to add potassium and magnesium? Ummm … Seems like a six of one and half-dozen of another scenario. Why don't we just list the nutrients that are present and leave off the ones that aren't? That seems like it would give the label the most value.  

Friday, January 17, 2014

On learning to live in the present with focus

Now that Bear and Dan are off to work and school, and I've been to yoga, I have my chance to write a little. My temptation is to scroll through Facebook, read my messages and email, look up this or that, and make phone calls for appointments. That is my temptation, just as eating a big chocolate brownie or bowl of ice cream is my temptation. Instead I've made myself a smoothie (banana, almond milk, cinnamon, flax seed, macadamia nuts, … ), and I will write before I clutter my head with all the junk.

This is my theme right now. My mantra, perhaps. Clear the clutter. Not just the physical clutter (although that's vital, too), but also the mental and emotional clutter. And, I need to stay present; focus on the here and now. I need to make room for the things that are to come. And, whatever the future holds, it depends on my becoming a more focused person now.

This is much different from what I would have written earlier this morning. Or, even on my way home from yoga. I am so tempted to always think about what I want to do next. “What am I going to do with my life?” I want to be a teacher, a speech pathologist, a librarian, a journalist, a farmer, a food writer, … But, how will I ever reach any goal I set, if I'm completely unable to focus on the present?

I started going to yoga 10 weeks ago with the intention of keeping my physical self strong. I wanted to be active, not sedentary during pregnancy. And, yes, I am accomplishing that goal, but I'm also finding a lot more. Learning to be in the present moment and live with intention is perhaps the greater piece. I have a long way to go, just as I have a long way to go to achieve forearm stand, but it's not all or nothing. There is benefit in just practicing.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

On feeling better and being fair

For nearly 4 weeks, I grew more and more tired each day. My nausea came and went, but mostly came. I had no motivation to do anything. All I did was worry and sleep and try to escape feeling sick.

I had a few OK days in there, but if I pushed to my limit on those days, I was useless on the next.

I'm wondering now if the tides have finally turned. I'm on day 4 of feeling not too bad. I'd say yesterday I actually felt good. Three days in a row I've made dinner -- a feat I would normally consider a necessity and not an option, but one I have not achieved too many nights over the past month.

Now is time for organizing, prioritizing, getting things in order, and putting together the life I want to bring a new life into. Which is to say, I'm pulling together the life I want to live anyway.

And, of course I want to write about it.

I didn't really write while pregnant with Bear. I tried to write some when he was a baby, but I don't even know where I kept that. I was in such a fog. So, I wonder if writing about this one is being unfair.

But, it occurs to my that very little is fair between siblings. I could start out trying, but it will never happen.

One will always have had the undivided attention of having been an only child for nearly six years, while the other will get the benefit of having parents who have already been through each stage. One will always be the first child and the other will always be the youngest. One will always get the love of an older sibling and the other will always have the admiration of a younger sibling looking up to them.

No matter what, they will both always have all my love.

And, right now, I feel myself wanting to pour even more love and attention unto Bear knowing that when the baby comes, he or she will need me constantly.

(Almost) 40 and Pregnant

This post was written a few weeks ago, but I couldn't publish it because I wasn't yet sharing the news. Now, the announcement has been made and I want to write more. So, here it is ...

Life has been turned on its head.

Mostly, I'd given up any hope for a second child. Bear was an only child and would reap the benefits of all his parents' attention. Dan and I would enjoy the relative easiness of dealing with just one child - no sibling rivalry; no juggling the needs of two different children; no more diapers.

I felt a twinge of desire a few weeks ago. I knew Bear wanted a sibling - a brother specifically, but I suspect he'd take one of either gender. And, I wanted another baby. Just one more.

And, out of that hope came a new life.

I was clueless at first. I didn't feel well. The symptoms were there. I just didn't pay that much attention. Then, more than a week passed of feeling this way.

I sat and thought. Suddenly, I had to know.

Taking the test, I really had no doubt. It was just confirmation. A formality, really.

That was five days ago. Now, yesterday it started, I can feel my belly tightening. It's not getting bigger, but it's filling up. It's filling with life.

At first, I was so worried something would be wrong. That feeling in my belly makes things clear. Now, all I can imagine is a healthy baby. The perfect addition to our family. This is how it was meant to be.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Locavore & No Sugar Challenge: Days 1 & 2

DAY 1:

I started my day with black coffee and peaches with locally-made yogurt (I have homemade yogurt, but I was gifted some, as well). I thought I was off to a great start, but things kind of crumbled later in the day.

We went to a gathering at my sister-in-law's. I was happy to see everyone and I was prepared to resist temptation. I cut up a watermelon, which I figured I'd snack on and share. Sadly, it wasn't very tasty. I made peach cobbler to share, but packed myself a plain bowl of peaches. The peaches were so delicious, I thought I'd be happy with them. But, when everyone oohed and ahhh'd about the cobbler, I had to try. And, I packed myself a huge salad, figuring that would help me resist the non-local veggies and meat. But, I was worried I was causing too much of a stink, so I ate packaged sausage and mac and cheese.

Oh well, there's always tomorrow.

DAY 2:

The second day was much better. I had five delicious meals and all of them had almost all local ingredients and no processed sugar  -- well a touch, but I'll get to that.

Breakfast: Eggs from KFF scrambled with tomatoes from my garden and a bit of feta. The feta wasn't local, but it was in the fridge and I figured it was better to eat it than toss it.

Second Breakfast: Oatmeal with peaches and maple syrup. The oatmeal was organic and from the coop. I don't think they were local oats, but I feel good that they were locally source. The peaches were from the bushel I purchased from the corner veggie stand and came originally from Germantown - maybe a bit too far south to technically be called local, but they seem local enough to me and taste out of this world.

Elevensies: Yogurt with raspberries. The raspberries were from my yard.

Lunch: A salad of lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers from my garden.

Dinner: Hamburgers from Grazin' Acres in Argyle; corn from Pleasant Valley and potato salad made with potatoes, onions and eggs from KFF. The mayo was not homemade, nor were the burger buns -- it's kind of a busy week.

For dinner, I splurged and let myself have homemade pepper relish on my burger ever though it has sugar in it. I figured the tiny amount of sugar in that spoonful of relish shouldn't stop me from enjoying something I made myself. And, I'm sticking with that rule. But, only for very small amounts of things.

Now, for another day.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Cutting the sugar

For a long time now, I've been thinking about my need to cut the sugar out of my life. I've become increasingly addicted.

As much as I love fresh fruits and vegetables, and eating healthy foods, I also have ridiculously powerful cravings for ice cream, brownies, cookies and cake. And, if quality versions aren't available, I'll dive right into the crappiest convenient store varieties and end up feel disgusting afterwards.

It needs to stop!

For the month of September, I've decided to cut out all refined sugar. I'm making my own rules here. I know I'll be miserable if I completely deprive myself, so I'm not cutting all forms of sugar. Honey, maple syrup and fruit will be acceptable. But, table sugar, anything baked with sugar, and any packaged products with corn syrup are out.

This means no sugar in my coffee, no ice cream, no store bought breads and no jam. It also means no chocolate. Don't be surprised if you find me trying to mix cocoa powder with honey to get my chocolate fix without breaking the rules. I might resort to straight up cocoa if things get really bad.

Besides an attempt to break my sugar addiction, I think this is an appropriate way to kick off Locavore Month. As I've done the past two years, I again signed up for NOFA-NY's Locavore Challenge. During the month of September, it's pretty easy for me to eat a mostly local diet. I wouldn't consider getting any vegetables, fruit or meat that weren't local. Most of my dairy comes from local sources. So, if I'm going to make this a challenge for myself, I needed to up the stakes. Using only local sweeteners seems like the way to go.

Now, I have double motivation to meet this challenge.

It's only 8:20 on the first day of the month, but I'm off to a good start. Breakfast was local peaches topped with Argyle Cheese Farmer yogurt. The super juicy peaches satisfied my sweet tooth. The vanilla yogurt was sweetened with honey. And, the black coffee went down just fine.

Tomorrow morning, I'll let you know how the rest of the day went.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Chicken and Cucumber Crepes with Plum Sauce

Friday night is usually pizza night in our house. I normally find pizza to be a good way to use up the random vegetables in the refrigerator before I gather more Saturday morning.

This week, when I went into use-it-or-lose-it mode, pizza was not going to work. There was grilled chicken from the night before. Sure, that could go on pizza. There were quite a lot of cucumbers. OK, we could have a salad with the pizza. There was Chinese plum sauce. Ummm ... Need a different plan.

I made and canned the plum sauce two summers ago using a recipe from Pickles & Relishes by Andrea Chesman. You're really not supposed to keep your canned condiments for more than a year. But, I find that most things keep about two years, and I was on the verge of losing that sauce. It was quite tasty, but for some reason, I hadn't found a lot of uses for it. I don't think I tried hard enough.

I stumbled upon the sauce while searching for some kind of barbecue sauce for my grilled chicken. It worked quite well for the chicken, and that used up one half-pint. With the leftover chicken, I figured I could use another half-pint, and I was considering just putting it on the table for dipping.

Perhaps there was a more interesting use, I wasn't thinking of. I googled "recipes using Chinese plum sauce." Somewhere in that search -- I think it was on chow.com -- I came across the suggestion to use it with crepes.

Aha! Things were settled. Sounded good to me and sounded like something the boys would like too.

To my surprise, my pancake loving boy resisted the crepes, but I really never know what will please him. All three of us enjoyed the chicken and cukes with the plum sauce. Now that I have a use for it, I need to decide whether I should make another batch this year.

Chicken & Cucumber Crepes with Plum Sauce

  • 1 batch of crepes (I used Alton Brown's recipe on foodnetwork.com and swapped gluten free flour for the wheat flour, but use whatever recipe works for you)
  • 2 cups shredded chicken
  • 1 cup diced cucumber
  • 1/2 cup Chinese plum sauce
Mix up your crepe batter first. It should chill in the refrigerator for about an hour before cooking. (I neglected to do this and managed to get a few decent crepes, but I'm sure I would have had fewer tears if I'd followed this step.)

Shred the chicken and dice the cucumber before you start cooking the crepes. 

Cook the crepes according to your recipes instructions.

Lay a crepe on a large plate. Layer about a 1/3 cup of chicken and a couple tablespoons of cucumber down the middle of the crepe, then top with a tablespoon or so of sauce. Roll it up. Repeat until all the crepes are used. 

Serve with extra sauce for dipping.