The Family That Went Sugar Free!

This is a fascinating story and one relevant to us foodie parents: The Schaub family decided to try an experiment: go sugar-free for a year.

What?!!

The thought of not being able to enjoy a glass of Pinot Grigio has me in fits. But I kept reading.

Eve Schaub, the mother, was inspired to try it when she started learning about what sugar does to your body:

“My husband showed me a video of a pediatric endocrinologist talking about sugar and what it does in our body. It’s much more pervasive in our food supply than we might suspect. ” – Huffington Post

At first she suffered from withdrawal: she saw sugar everywhere, and was craving in 24/7.

But after a couple of months of her and her family going off sugar, she suddenly stopped craving it. Not only, but when she did try it (on their monthly “cheat meal”), she would have terrible head-aches.

Sugar is a natural part of our diet: we’ve been eating it for hundreds of thousands of years. But it’s only in the past twenty years that we’ve started eating our modern version of sugar: high-fructose corn syrup.

High-fructose corn syrup, which is in more sugar products that table sugar nowadays, was invented in the 1970‘s. The technology to convert starches into sugars (America has an overabundance of corn, which has led to us inventing new ways to use it). In the 1980’s it was introduced into our products and gradually replaced sucrose (table sugar).

There are many who believe that this kind of sugar, which is absorbed by the blood more easily, is healthy for us (since we’re the first generation to use it). But there hasn’t been any publicly-available smoking gun evidence to prove it.

What happened to the Schaub family? After a year of going without sugar, they discovered that they really didn’t like it. The family lost weight, and found that the absence of sugar-highs and lows led to them having better relationships.

Here is a Video the Schaub Family Made of Trying To Buy Foods Without Sugar:

Should Kids Have Gluten?

Gluten has been shown to have deleterious effects on the average adult’s digestive system. But our dietary needs differ from childhood to adulthood. Could gluten-rich foods be an important part of a child’s diet.

An Analogy: The Role of Dairy in our Diets:

It’s a well known fact that the majority of humans cannot digest the main sugar in dairy products (Lactose). While a majority of people of European descent have developed a mutation that enables them to break down dairy, people of African and Asian descent almost universally cannot.

But most of us can digest lactose when we are children.

As we become adults, we lose this ability to digest milk. The evolutionary reasons seem obvious: as babies we are nourished by breast-milk, but we no longer need that nourishment as we become adults. Evolution didn’t count on us making cow’s milk a regular part of our diet.

So the question is: does gluten play a similar role in our diet? Perhaps wheat products are great for when you are a child, at home, growing food and eating it while the adult hunter-gatherers head out to capture meat and nuts to feed their families.

If this were true, then we’d see a pronounced different in gluten-intolerance in adults as compared to children. Unfortunately there isn’t much known about gluten and how it affects the body. While we know about Coeliacs and their life-threatening allergy, there are other forms of gluten allergies that express themselves via inflammation and hives.

Of course children’s sensitivities to gluten were one of the reasons it was first discovered in the first place. In the 1940’s a Dutch Paediatrician noticed that a bread shortage led to the improved health of several children who were chronically sick.

Making Salad On-The-Go [Easy Meals]

Eating well with four active kids is a constant challenge for me. I find myself preparing them great meals, but neglecting myself or eating their leftovers. A schedule full of pick-ups and drop-offs also means that I’m eating a lot of meals on-the-go. I find it challenging to pack a lunch for myself. I don’t love sandwiches and oftentimes lunch on the run for me looks like crackers and string cheese – things I’ve purchased for the kids but don’t necessarily look forward to eating myself.

I had a great wrap in San Diego recently, and tried my own variation at home. I think I’ve figured out how to take a salad along with me. No fork required.

salad on a tortilla2 600×450 Making Salad On The Go [Easy Meals]

Takeaway Salad:

1 sprouted grain large tortilla
2 tbsp humus
1 cup salad greens
1 tsp sesame seeds
1/2 cup broccoli (mine was grilled, leftover from the previous night)
1 tbsp balsamic vinaigrette
1 tbsp shredded carrots
whatever other salad fixings you fancy
Spread the hummus onto the tortilla (this keeps the tortilla from getting soggy). Mix your salad in a bowl, and then place it in center of tortilla. Wrap it up like a burrito and seal with foil.

Leftover Relief [Easy Meals]

Hi. Welcome to the weekend after Thanksgiving. You probably don’t feel much like cooking, huh? You might even feel like you don’t want to cook again for oh, maybe the next decade. I feel you, brothers and sisters. I do.
But. You have Mouths to Feed. Mouths that are going to revolt at the mere suggestion of leftover turkey for dinner. When that happens—long about Saturday if your house is anything like my house—you can make this. It’s fast, it’s delicious, and it has nothing whatsoever to do with Thanksgiving leftovers.
schooner tuna Leftover Relief [Easy Meals]

If you can find Neptuna, use it. It’s delicious and has great texture. Nobody paid me to say that, although I’m totally open to that idea.
So Not Your Mama’s Tuna and Noodles
1 lb – short dried pasta shape
2 tbls – olive oil
1 – red onion, diced
1 tsp – dried oregano
½ c – dry white wine
1 can – cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
Most of a 3.5 oz jar – capers (no need to drain them)
1 c – pitted Nicoise olives, cut in half
7 or 8 – fresh basil leaves, chopped
About ½ c – flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 – lemon, juiced and zested (keep another lemon hanging around—you might need it)
2 cans – olive oil-packed tuna, flaked with a fork and half drained
2 c – cherry tomatoes, halved
Step 1: Start some well-salted water for the pasta.
Step 2: Meanwhile, heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the onion. Cook until the onion is just starting to turn clear-ish, about 5 or 6 minutes. Add the oregano (rub it a little between your fingers) and the wine and cook until the wine has almost completely cooked away. Stir in the beans, capers, olives, basil, parsley and lemon zest and juice.
Step 3: The water’s probably boiling by now. If you haven’t already, add the pasta and give it a stir. Cook until it’s done the way you like it then drain. Let a little of the cooking water hang around.
Step 4: Put the drained pasta to the skillet and stir. Gently stir in the tuna and tomatoes along with a little salt (watch it, the olives and capers are pretty salty) and lots of freshly ground black pepper. Taste to see if you need more salt or more lemon juice. You want it nice and bright and briny.
Step 5: Serve to turkey-weary family.

Salad People

The first book I ever cooked from was a copy of The Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen. I stole it from my older, cooler sister when I was 16. Damn I loved that book. It had a cool California hippie vibe, fun drawings, and all the recipes were filled with cheese.

Moosewood1 Salad People
I think it’s time I got my sister a new copy.

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So there’s a certain symmetry to the fact that the first book my kid ever cooked from was also written by Mollie Katzen. She’s written a trio of great cookbooks for kids: Pretend Soup, Honest Pretzels, and Salad People. All of her recipes have picto-instructions in addition to the written ones, so even little kids who can’t read can follow along. Any of her books would make a great holiday gift for the foodie parents you know. (I swear nobody is paying me to say any of this. Hi Mollie!)

salad person in progress21 Salad People
My kid has been having Salad People over for lunch since she was two. In all that time I’m not sure she’s realized how many vegetables are involved.

Salad People

From the book of the same name by Mollie Katzen

1 – pear
1 ice cream scoopful – cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, flavored Greek yogurt, or hummus
Small bowlfuls – carrot ribbons, celery sticks, halved cherry tomatoes, quartered grapes, berries, orange sections, sliced black olives, capers, angel hair pasta or pasta shapes, string cheese, nuts—pretty much anything healthy you have hanging around
salad people ingredients Salad People
You don’t have to get this carried away. Three or four things would do just fine.

Step 1: Peel the pear and cut it in half. Scoop out the core with a melon baller.

Step 2: Place one of the pear halves on a plate, cut side down. That’s your Salad Person’s body. Put a scoop of cottage cheese just above it. That’s his face.

naked salad person Salad People
Naked Salad Person. I guess I should have warned you that this post is NC-17.

Step 3: Now comes the fun part. Decorate your Salad Person with all that stuff you assembled.

Know that you’re going to see some potentially disturbing flavor combinations. Look at it this way: you’re teaching your kid that pomegranate seeds are potentially gross with black olives. Although you might be surprised.

salad santa Salad People
Your Salad Person can go seasonal/slightly creepy—

salad rocker Salad People
—or rock and roll. My kid says this is Mr. S from School of Rock, shredding guitar. But I’m pretty sure it’s Jerry Garcia with a banjo.

salad santa no more Salad People
That Salad Santa didn’t have a chance. I’m so glad she ate his creepy eyes first.

pf icon small Salad PeoplePrint

Better Than Your Mother-In-Law’s Meatloaf [Easy Meals]

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Happy Holiday season! No matter what you are celebrating, traditionally this is that time of year when family descends on you (or you have to trek over to visit them). And for all the togetherness and love and happiness (ahem) let’s not fool ourselves: This is the time of year when we need comfort food like we’ve never needed comfort food before.
And if the comfort food is easy to make with your kids (even younger kids can help with the measuring and cracking the eggs!) and will taste better than what your in-laws make? Well, that’s something you can take comfort in right away!
Better Than Your Mother-In-Law’s Meatloaf
(adapted from Lipton’s recipes)
1 envelope Lipton® Recipe Secrets® Onion Soup Mix
2 lbs. ground beef
1/4 lb. each: ground pork and ground veal
1/2 c. plain dry bread crumbs (I like to substitute the same amount of plain dry oatmeal)
3 eggs
1/2 c. skim milk, with more in reserve
1/3 c. ketchup, with a few tablespoons of your favorite mustard mixed in
Step One: Preheat oven to 350.
Step Two: Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl. Mix thoroughly with your hands. If the mixture seems too dry, add more milk, a bit at a time.
meatloaf prep 600×450 Better Than Your Mother In Laws Meatloaf [Easy Meals]
Step Three: Place in oven-proof loaf pan. Smooth the top with your hands. Bake in the center rack, uncovered, for approximately an hour.
Step Four: Take out, let cool, slice and serve with mashed potatoes!

The 12 Days of Holiday Cookies, Day 6: Salted Brown Butter Rice Krispy Treats

This is not me reinventing the wheel. This is me telling you to stop what you are doing, right now and make these. Forget everything you ever knew about Rice Krispy Treats. These are 1,000,000 times better than any you ever had.

The amount of butter from the original recipe is a bit more than doubled, and it’s BROWNED, people. For those of you that might be unfamiliar with this, butter when browned takes on a wonderful almost nutty flavor. It’s great in desserts and makes for a killer pasta sauce.

I discovered this wonderful idea from the ever talented Smitten Kitchen. The brown butter and salt gives them that salty-sweet combo that so many of us crave.

Your kids will love to help with this. Ava and I made two batches over the weekend. Between the two of us, it’s halfway gone already. I don’t know a single kid that doesn’t love these treats.

Get out your butter and start browning, kids!

krispy treats2 The 12 Days of Holiday Cookies, Day 6: Salted Brown Butter Rice Krispy Treats

Salted Brown Butter Rice Krispy Treats

6 cups puffed rice cereal
1 10z bag marshmallows
1 stick of butter
1/4 teaspoon sea or kosher salt
Step One: Melt butter in large saucepan. Continue to let it cook until it foams, then takes on a light brown color.

Step Two: Immediately remove from heat and add in marshmallows, stirring until melted.

Step Three: Add in cereal and salt and mix until well combined.

Step Four: Pour into greased pan ( can use either an 8×8 or 9×13 – only difference will be the thickness). Press down with lightly buttered hands.

Step Five: Let cool and cut into bite sized pieces.

The 12 Days of Holiday Cookies, Day 8: A Two-fer – Jam Thumbprints and Faux Tag-Alongs

The 12 Days of Holiday Cookies, Day 8: A Two-fer – Jam Thumbprints and Faux Tag-Alongs
12/22/2011 By Jenna 2 Comments
Cookies The 12 Days of Holiday Cookies, Day 8: A Two fer Jam Thumbprints and Faux Tag AlongsI finished up the holiday baking this week. I made my usual thumbprints and then on a whim decided to recreate something I had made with a neighbor when I was a kid. We didn’t have a name for them back then…we also used that fake chocolate bark stuff for coating. Back before we knew any better.
These are both great kid-friendly recipes. From squishing the buttery cookies with your thumb, to spreading peanut butter on crackers, both of these things are a great way to have the whole family involved in making your holiday treats.
Lastly, this is my last post here before Christmas, so I want to take this opportunity to wish all of you a happy holiday, whatever you are celebrating. I hope your plates are never empty, your glasses are filled, and you are surrounded by the love of your family and friends.
Thanks for letting me come into your homes and share my love of food with you all. I look forward to rocking it with you all in 2012.

Cheers!
Jam Thumbprints
Adapted from Ina Garten

3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
Your favorite flavor of jam

Step One: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Step Two: Cream together the butter and sugar until just combined, and then add the vanilla.
Step Three: Sift together the flour and salt. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture to the creamed butter and sugar. Mix until the dough starts to come together.
Step Four: Dump on a floured board and roll together into a flat disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.
Step Five: Roll the dough into 1 1/4-inch balls. Dip each ball into the egg wash.
Step Six: Place the balls on an ungreased cookie sheet and press a light indentation into the top of each with your finger.
Step Seven: Drop 1/4 teaspoon of jam into each indentation. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the coconut is a golden brown.

Faux Tag-Alongs
1 12 oz pkg chocolate chips (can be semi sweet or milk chocolate, totally your call)
2 tablespoons vegetable shortening
1/2 cup peanut butter
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
32 Ritz Crackers
Step One: In a double boiler or a bowl set on top of a pot of boiling water, melt chocolate with shortening.
Step Two: While waiting on chocolate to melt, mix together the peanut butter and powdered sugar. Spread on to inside of one cracker and top with another, making 16 little “sandwiches”.
Step Three: Dip the cracker sandwiches into the melted chocolate, making sure to shake off any excess.
Step Four: Set on rack to harden.

Crock Pot Pot Roast [Easy Meals]

Here’s my secret: I don’t love meat.

I can live on pasta and vegetables and a fish or two.

But my family are carnivores.

So I try to strike a balance. I make meat for them, something that makes a lot of leftovers and then I feel free to make meatless dishes for myself.

This recipe (which I got from Make It And Forget It! cookbook) works perfectly because it’s so easy, uses only two ingredients and makes a lot of meat. It’s like having your own cow in the backyard, practically. Assuming you like that kind of thing.

Crock Pot Pot Roast

4-5lbs. cut of pot roast. Ask the butcher for a cut that’s not too fatty.
16 oz. of barbecue sauce (I like Stubb’s)
Step One: Pour half the barbecue sauce on the bottom of the crock pot.

Step Two: Place roast in crock pot.

Step Three: Pour the rest of the barbecue sauce over the roast.

Step Four: Cook on low for 6 hours.

Slice and enjoy with a side vegetable or mashed potatoes.

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Why I Hate Kids Menus

My son was a picky eater.

No, let me rephrase that, because “picky” is a gross understatement.

My son practically didn’t eat from the time that he was about 18 months old until he was about 5.

It sucked. Getting him to try foods was a joke and getting him to eat the five not particularly healthy things that he would eat was an epic battle most of the time. I would put his food in front of him and in an instant it would be on the floor after he would perform a dramatic swipe with his tiny arm. I suspected that perhaps he was a spoiled prince, reincarnated, and imagined him bellowing, “I SHALL HAVE NONE OF THIS!” before demanding a beheading or a court dance or something.

I figure I should just give him some splendid kona coffee or something like it.

The foods that he would (sometimes) eat were frozen waffles, ham, these packaged noodles with a powdered sauce that probably contained a lifetime’s worth of sodium and chemicals, Spaghettios, and, of course, chicken nuggets and French fries. No vegetables, no fruit, no “real” food. He was in, like, the negative 20th percentile for his weight and he had to start drinking (expensive) PediaSure to supplement his nutrition. It was maddening. It was very much this (NSFW language ahoy!):

As frustrating as it was to hear, the advice that we just needed to be patient and to keep offering new foods no matter how staunchly he refused them was correct. After many tears and many skipped meals, he eventually got over it. I’m happy (read: relieved as hell) to report that at 10 years old he is now a healthy eater with a varied and healthy palate.

All of this is to say that I get the utter exhaustion that comes with parenting a picky eater and the eventual point of just wanting a picky kid to eat SOMETHING.

However.

I hate kids menus at restaurants. Hate them.

Let me explain.

Eating out at a restaurant is (or should be) a treat, an event, a special outing for a special meal. I’m not talking about hitting up the drive-thru on the way home from a recital, but a place that has, say, flatware not made out of plastic. My son is starting to exit the kids’ menu demographic, but he still is offered one from time to time, and I’m always disappointed to see the same old tired offerings of pizza, chicken fingers, fries, and hamburgers, especially when that is not the fare of the restaurant.

I can understand that desire to just have the kid eat something so that the parents can enjoy their meal, too, but kids’ menus are such a great opportunity to introduce or reintroduce (again) foods to kids. I’d really like to see kids’ menus be smaller versions of the regular menu. That way, there’s no option of a chicken finger fall-back and kids start getting the idea that their pickiness isn’t okay.

I realize I’m being idealistic here, but there’s no way that my kid would be cool with eating sushi now if he had always been allowed to just order some fries instead.

When you take your kids to restaurants, do you let them just order from the kids’ menu? Or do you urge them to try something that the restaurant offers to regular diners?