Monthly Archives: January 2012

Community in a Columbus Coffee House

I’m always so thrilled to find other mothers who are as passionate about the same things as I am.  Motherhood can be quite a challenge without having friends around you, but when you have passions that aren’t as mainstream as everyone else’s, well, allies are hard to come by.

Photo Credit: Jenny Confer Linn

Thursday, I made another trip to Columbus to meet with the ladies of Moms Clean Air Force Ohio, a few newly interested moms and Ben Famous, the aid to Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH).  It was a great session for questions and answers.  For the second time in a month, I got to sit back and watch other mothers find their own passion.  It’s just the most gratifying thing in the world to watch someone learn a new thing.  The amazing part about being involved with a group that is on the ground is that you don’t have to wait for the page to reload to watch the changes in people’s lives.  You can see it right in front of you.

Moms Clean Air Force is a community.  Just by meeting these women, I’m making new friends, learning new things and finding other mothers who are as wild about the air we breathe as I am finding myself growing day by day.  So Thursday, I got to sit in a coffee shop with my children and listen to Ben Famous talk about Senator Brown’s position on clean air.  I got to be re-inspired and watch other mothers be inspired.  And I loved every second.

Finally…

I have a kind of love-hate relationship with snacks.  Love in the sense that I am a salty, crunchy, grab-a-bite-walk-out-of-the-room-do-something-come-back-grab-another-bite-repeat-repeat-repeat sort of person.  Hate in the sense that I am a grab-a-bite-walk-out-of-the-room-do-something-come-back-grab-another-bite-repeat-repeat-repeat sort of person.  Seriously.  I have no self control.  My biggest downfall in the world?  Cheetos.  It’s a shame really that my self control is in such short supply when it comes to those things…

Anyway.  The subject of this post.  Snacks.  Considering how often I am nursing Sylvia, I’m frequently hungry and have been looking for something that was filling and nutritious, but could be eaten with 1 hand.  And I wanted something I could toss in the basket on my nightstand and eat at 330 in the morning without feeling guilty.  Granola bars fit the bill for this request the best, but let me tell you, I’ve not had the best luck with homemade granola bars.  Either they come out with the consistency of re-bar or they crumble with the first bite.  The search for the perfect granola bar has been ongoing for over a year.

I order books from the library a few times a month and often don’t see the books before I pick them up.  I tend to order based on topic and in December, I was looking for more ideas for vegetarian meals so the book The Organic Family Cookbook caught my eye.  I’ve tried several recipes from her book and must tell you that I’ve really enjoyed it.  So much so that I put it on my Amazon list and was delightfully surprised to open it as a Christmas gift!  This granola bar recipe is adapted from the formula listed in the book and I am truly pleased with how they turned out.  I cut and wrapped the bars individually and they’ve stored quite well.

Granola Bars (adapted from The Organic Family Cookbook)

  • 2 cups whole oats
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried cranberries
  • 2 Tbsp. flax seed
  • 2 Tbsp. wheat germ
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup almond butter
  • 3/4 cup local honey
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. coconut oil
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Mix together the oats, seeds, flax seed and wheat germ.  Spread the mixture out on a lined baking sheet.  Toast for 8 minutes.  Then, pour the warm mixture into a mixing bowl and add the cranberries, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.  In a small saucepan combine the almond butter, honey, brown sugar and coconut oil.  Heat through, until the ingredients are thoroughly melded and liquid-like in consistency.  Remove from the heat and pour over the dry ingredients and mix well.  Line a 9×13 baking dish with parchment paper and grease well.  Press the granola mixture into the pan with a spoon.  Bake for 25 minutes.  Allow to cool for at least 2 hours before cutting.
(Makes18 bars about the size of Cascadian Farms granola bars.)

An Open Letter to the 2012 Republican Candidate Hopefuls

This has been Cross-posted at Moms Clean Air Force Ohio

An Open Letter to the 2012 Republican Candidate Hopefuls:

Dear Sirs,

Every morning as I drink my coffee, I read the news updates on your preliminary campaigns and I’m so sad.  All of you are religious and conservative.  You’ve made your positions clear on issues like Abortion and National Debt and Education.  Not one of you agrees 100% with the other and that’s ok.  That’s why there’s a choice and how we decide who will be the best fit for our presidential candidate.  As time as passed and debates have been won, I feel a very limited sense of confidence in my potential Republican candidate.

I realize that since President Nixon’s tenure, Republicans haven’t placed a high priority on the environment, but now is the time for change.  NOW is the time in our  country’s history that you need to stand up and make positive choices for our natural resources.   These resources are all that we have to give our children for their future.   These children are the future of our country!

Mothers all over the US are angry.  We’re angry about the pathetic state of our air quality.  We’re angry that our children suffer from asthma in unprecedented numbers and cannot live like children should live: enjoying their days, running and playing.

As a mother in Ohio, I don’t want my state to continue to be the most toxic state in the union.  I don’t want to wake up on summer days and worry about the air quality being too poor for us to play outside.  I want to be able to let my children enjoy nature without fear of toxins and pollution.   Please hear our voices and take the time to revisit your positions on environmental issues.  Take the time to truly count the cost of the Clean Air Act and see the long-term benefits.  Consider the damage done if we  throw away all that has been worked toward in the last 2 decades.  Listen to us mothers, fighting for our children, their health and their world.  If necessary, go against the party line and take a stand with us for our environment and for Clean Air.

I implore you to think about our children, your children, and their future.   Remember as you debate over healthcare, that 1 in 5 Americans suffer from Asthma.  This Asthma eats up billions of dollars in healthcare, causes thousands of missed days at school or work and sadly claims hundreds of  lives each year.  Asthma sufferers would be some the first people who could benefit from some consideration for our environment.  Please consider the whole picture as you make your decisions and don’t write off the environmental issues as ones that won’t really be worth your time.  I promise you, that when it comes to Clean Air and our children, even the smallest issue is worth your time.

Sincerely,

Laura Burns (Mother of 2)

Pinspiration!

The Mommy and Me Fitness group in town has a blog and they have been doing monthly food spotlights.  This month, the food spotlight was Quinoa.  It’s a nifty little food that is chock full of amino acids, which combine to form proteins, so it’s kind of a super-food in my eyes.  I’m used to eating quinoa in the form of a salad called Tabbouleh, but I hadn’t ever experimented with it.  Anyway, shortly before I read Julie’s post, I had seen these little quinoa bites pinned all over people’s Pinterest boards and I was intrigued.  And intrigued enough to play with the recipe.

I added some flavor and more vegetables so that I could use these as a complete meal for my lunches.  This recipe made 3 dozen little bites, there were less than a dozen left after Matt and I “tested” them.  They were so good!  And I just couldn’t stop eating them.  I dipped them in a mixture of sour cream and Italian dressing, but you could eat them without a dip.  One tiny note though before I share the recipe, if you decide to make these in a mini muffin pan without the wrappers, make sure you grease the cups well.  I didn’t and had to ah… convince… some of them to come out of the pans.  Other than that, you may need to hide them from your husband, because shockingly, mine certainly enjoyed them!

Veggie Feta Quinoa Bites

  • 2 c. cooked quinoa (this is 1 c. dry quinoa)
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 c. finely shredded carrot
  • 1/2 c. finely shredded zuchinni
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp. dried parsley
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 Tbsp. minced sundried tomatoes
  • 4 oz. feta cheese
Saute the onions until transparent in a dash of olive oil.  Then add in the carrot, zuchinni, garlic, and sundried tomato and mix well.  Remove the pan from the heat, mix in the spices, feta and eggs.  Then, preheat your oven to 350 degrees and fill 3 dozen mini muffin cups to the top with the quinoa mixture.  Bake for 15 minutes.

Tropical wishes Pancakes

Yesterday morning dawned cold and bright as the sun sparkled on the snow.  I like to make pancakes for the family on the weekend, but we’ve had trouble with Sylvi and dairy.  She always wants to participate in meals with us, so I played around the recipe to cut out the dairy.  In addition to these changes, I also took the opportunity to cook the pancakes in my stainless steel skillet.  I haven’t touched the teflon one in weeks, which means we haven’t had pancakes since then either.  Both changes turned out perfectly and I am pleased to tell you that these pancakes somehow turned out lighter than those I’ve made with baking mixes!  I couldn’t find the syrup when I made breakfast, so instead, we spread strawberry jam on them.  They were wonderful and I’m a little sad they’re all gone.  Oh well.  Next weekend!

Pancakes

  • 1 1/2 c. All purpose flour
  • 3 Tbsp. sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 c. coconut milk
  • 3 Tbsp. coconut oil
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
Sift together the dry ingredients and mix together the wet ingredients.  Slowly stream the wet ingredients over the flour mixture while whisking constantly until fully incorporated.  Pour batter onto a hot griddle or skillet spoonfuls at a time and cook until browned on both sides.  Serve with strawberry jam, fresh fruit and yogurt.  Then, take a bite, close your eyes and pretend you’re on a sandy beach.  Make as needed to cure the winter blues.

Clean Air for Ohio

I was a little reckless in college.  Passionate.  Opinionated.  I was in love with environmentalism.  I recycled regilously.  I sent letters to politicians advocating change and supporting their eco-friendly decisions.  The more I got involved, the more I wished I had time to change my major or even double major so I could just stay in the wonderful world of people who were as angry about pollution as I was.  I went to college in Oklahoma where there are some significant issues with pollution and poor air quality.  I truly enjoyed my weekends spent slogging around the Tulsa waterways picking up trash.  I loved the people I met through those groups and recently, when I found my t-shirt from the Environmental Club I was VP of on campus and honestly wished for those days of camaraderie.   Since then, I’ve grown up and learned a lot about how to NOT turn people off when inviting them to join you in a cause.   Also, I haven’t cornered anyone in my family with a non-reusable drinking bottle and demanded they listen to my lecture on plastics in landfills and BPA and waste and …

I’m a mother now.  I can’t engage a complete stranger in a debate about the evils of GMOs without consideration for my children.  I want to be involved, but there are limited opportunities in my town.  A few months ago, I was introduced to the group Moms Clean Air Force and started to educate myself a little bit more about the need for advocates right here in Ohio.  Were you aware that based on air pollution data Ohio is the most toxic state in the entire country?  That pollution is partly comprised of mercury.  Ohio is home to 8 of the 100 top polluting factories in the US.  I can’t say that I’m proud that the Buckeye state is number 2 in the nation for mercury pollution from power plants.  There are millions of children in the US whose lives have been devastated by asthma; asthma which can be triggered by environmental irritants.

As a parent, I don’t want this to be the future of my children, or my grandchildren.  I want them to be happy and healthy.  I want them to be able to continue to play outside daily, without fear of poisoning.  I’m not being dramatic, either.  Sadly, more cancers and illnesses are being linked to the contaminated air we breathe.  Mercury itself is a neurotoxin.  This is why they always warn pregnant and nursing women to keep their consumption of tuna (and other fishes) low.  Mercury accumulates in the fatty tissues of the body, like the brain, and slowly poisons it’s victims.  Over 400,000 newborns in the US are impacted by mercury every single year.

Tuesday night, I had the extreme pleasure of spending time with Moms Clean Air Force OHIO!  That’s right, we have our own satellite office in Columbus.   I had met with Jenny (who runs the office and it’s contacts) in December and came away from our time amped up and excited to be more involved.  When I got the invitation to the event on Tuesday night, I hunted down a sitter right away.  On Tuesday, the 3 ladies from the Columbus office and MCAF’s founder Dominique Browning hosted an event to introduce Ohio mothers to the real issue at hand regarding air pollution.  Fresh off the victory of new standards for mercury and air toxics standards by the EPA, we are all bolstered with the hope that this is the first step for a better future for our children.

I loved this event.  I loved spending time with the other mothers and hearing them ask questions.  Listening to Dominique and Jenny speak was inspiring and empowering.  There is nothing like real mothers speaking from their hearts to stir up your own emotions and passions.  I am excited to continue to learn about the air quality in Ohio and get more involved with MCAF-Ohio.  I hope that you, as readers and especially those here in Ohio take the time to read about MCAF and what we are trying to accomplish.  Please consider signing up to be another voice to Congress asking them to stand up for our children.  They are our joy and our future, let’s make sure they get to enjoy their lives in good health.

Changes

 

Welcome to the January 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Experiments in Natural Family Living

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have reported on weeklong trials to make their lives a little greener. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

***


It started because I had an appointment with my chiropractor in early December. I hadn’t been in to see him since a few days before I had Sylvia, so I was in serious need of an adjustment. The point was brought up that I really needed to take better care of myself, because as the mom, if I fall apart, the whole family suffers. I drove home in a sort of stupor. My mother died far too young from a chronic illness that brought a lot of pain to my family. Suddenly, it seemed that although I had gotten myself back on track through the October Unprocessed Challenge, I just wasn’t where I needed to be. I’m an all or nothing sort of person, so picking one area of my life to change isn’t easy for me.

I decided to change 3 things in my life: my shampoo, my makeup and my diet. I was about out of shampoo and foundation, so I wasn’t going to be wasting anything. I hate waste. I used be a vegetarian, so this change wasn’t going to be as hard as it was going to be an exercise in flexibility. My husband and son weren’t really on board with the elimination of meat, specifically beef. In the end, I decided that for myself, I’d only eat meat at supper when the rest of the family was eating, unless I had already planned a vegetarian meal.

Shampoo was the first experiment since I got to that one right away.  I decided that as this was such a major change since our hair and scalps would need to acclimate, I would allow 2-3 weeks for the experiment.  I checked out a post on The Crunchy Chicken and in reading through the comments, discovered that Deanna suggested trying shampoo bars from a company located about an hour away from my home. Thrilled, I perused the website and was even more delighted to note that they offered samples of the bars so one can determine which formula is the best suited for them.  I ordered 2 kinds and sat back to wait.  In the meantime, I used my children’s shampoo from Burt’s Bees since I had had to stop using the shampoo my husband used because in November, I suddenly developed a rash around my hairline after my showers.   The shampoo bars arrived in the mail a few days later and I eagerly tore into them.  Honestly, I debated whether or not I should just hop in the shower again so I could wash my hair right away.  I controlled myself and waited until the next day.  When it came down to it, washing my hair with the shampoo bar was… odd.  It lathered nicely, but my hair felt so strange.  I couldn’t run my fingers through it, with the hair slipping easily through.  Instead, it felt squeaky and thick.  I let my hair air dry and couldn’t keep my hands out of it.  It felt thick and fluffy and just plain healthy.  I only tried the one type of shampoo bar, since it was working and I didn’t want to add another variable into my experiment.  My husband tried both bars willy-nilly.

For about 3 days, there was a honeymoon period.  I loved my hair.  I loved that it wasn’t stripped of all the goodness and I wasn’t piling chemicals on my head every morning.  Then, I realized that my scalp was peeling all over the place.  Not like dandruff, but like I had a bad sunburn.  It was awful.  Bits of my scalp were everywhere.  For years, I’d washed my hair with the same industrial strength dandruff shampoo my husband used, conditioned it and went on my merry way.  I had no idea the damage I was doing to my scalp and the dependence my scalp was developing on the chemicals.   I talked to a friend who also used a shampoo bar and did some research online and came up with a solution.  Mixing together sea salt, tea tree oil and apple cider vinegar I made an exfolliant for my scalp that would not only scrub the scalp, but also aid in the healing process while my skin adjusted to not being bombarded with chemicals.  Finally, I added a vinegar rinse to condition my hair.  The day I added these products, my hair was back to being the way I remember it as a child.  Thick, curly and soft.  As long as I maintain these steps, which take all of 45 seconds, I’m pleased with my hair and scalp.  By the end of week 2, I was (and still am) convinced to keep the shampoo bars in our shower.  I’ve never tried the second kind I bought.  In this case, I found something that worked and I’m happy!

My husband’s hair?  I have bought that man serious dandruff shampoo for years.  I’ve tried natural shampoos, but nothing seemed to work for him.  I was so wrapped up in my own hair issues that I totally forgot to check in with him and see how things were going until almost a week after we had started.  He reported that he liked both bars of soap, except that since I tend to actually rub the bar on my head it had hair woven into the soap.  His complaint was that everywhere he turns, my hair is there.  What he didn’t complain about, though, was his scalp.  Suddenly, after years of him struggling with a flaking scalp, it was clear.  No more flaking.  No more itching.  Wow.

Next up was my makeup.  Since the foundation was gone, I ordered new from HoneyBee Gardens.  Abbie at the Farmer’s Daughter had mentioned it a while ago in a blog post about her beauty product choices.  I ordered the powdered formula and was very excited to see it arrive in the mail.  It’s the same basic concept as Clinique’s Almost Powder Makeup which I had used in the past.  I’ve tried using natural products in the past and was always put off by cost, texture or a distinct herbal smell.  With this, I smelled nothing.  The texture was one I had used in the past and paid nearly double for.  I also added in the mascara since that week my suddenly began to burn whenever I put on what I had in my makeup bag.  Now, I smell honey whenever I put my mascara on.  My attempt to change the products in my makeup bag was a simple, painless change.

The diet was a much greater challenge than I had imagined.  I was a vegetarian from the time I was 9 all the way until I got married at age 24.  Every now and then, I’d have meat in college, but for the most part, I stuck with my vegetables.  I know how to meal plan as a vegetarian, I know how to grocery shop.  This experience for me, opened my eyes to the staples I grew up with in my cupboards that no longer took up residence in my own.  For instance, I am currently craving an Indian side dish comprised mainly of Dal.  I have no idea where to purchase this in my town.  My parents belonged to a food co-op.  I don’t.  Aside from the cupboard challenges, I realized that I needed to plan a little better so lunch wasn’t goldfish crackers and apples.  And I need to expand my protein sources.  I know I used to live on beans, eggs and cheese, but it’s taking longer than 2 weeks to get my digestive system back in order.  I checked a few books out from the library and am still working my way through them.  Since I’m still nursing, I am relearning some things concerning protein intakes.  The biggest lesson I’ve learned by changing my diet is that breakfast is absolutely essential.  Since I’m not eating a turkey sandwich after Sylvi’s 330am feeding on a regular basis, I can no longer justify coffee only until lunch.  Breakfast has changed my life.  Even just a bowl of Cheerios has an impact on how my day goes.  I have decided that while I won’t be returning to a vegetarian lifestyle, I am going to keep up with the general idea of my experiment.  Since the food I’ve been eating isn’t as heavy, I need to be a little more mindful about what and when I’m eating.  I’m still working out the details, but I’m enjoying trying new recipes and tinkering in the kitchen.

All in all, I’m glad there was the challenge to experiment since that challenge helped me to have a reason to try the shampoo bars and makeup.  And once I got to thinking about how I was changing these things on the outside of my body, it wouldn’t hurt to make a greater effort with what I was putting in my body.  I’ve made a decision that I need to take better care of myself and in order to do that, little steps needed to happen.  The reason why I rarely change course from the normal is because I hate the experimentation.  I don’t like to set up an experiment and then not have a successful outcome.  I was a little anxious starting these experiments.  To tell the truth, I didn’t leave my house for the first 3 days of the shampoo and makeup.  I already am a mother of small children and look like it.  I didn’t want my hair to add any more fodder to the thought that I don’t take care of myself as well as I should.  As a final result of this experiment, I’ve decided to keep the shampoo and makeup, be flexible with my diet and add in regular sessions of yoga to help strengthen my back.  I’m anxious to continue these changes in the new year and make even more as I seek to eliminate the toxins in our home, plant our first garden at this home and expand my culinary skills!

***

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be live and updated by afternoon January 10 with all the carnival links.)

 

Monday, Monday

I just finished cooking Quinoa for my supper tonight, the diapers are in the wash and my sweet babies are napping.  While the Quinoa cools, I thought I’d stop by and give a quick update for our 15 minutes outside challenge from last week!  I didn’t bring my camera outside with me except for Monday when it snowed, but I think I’m going to have to make a greater effort to capture the fun this week!

We were fortunate enough to have snow until Wednesday, so playing outside was fun!  Everyday, I bundled up both kids and we went out to either sled or just traipse through the snow.  In the afternoons, I do some structured activities with Liam and I theme our library books on a monthly basis.  This month’s theme is snow.   I had gotten a few snow themed books out, but at the last minute also chose Ezra Jack Keet’s The Snowy Day.  I didn’t have high hopes for Liam paying attention to this book because it isnt’ really geared for his age group, but I read it anyway.  To my surprise and complete thrill, Liam was completely transfixed by the story and asked me to read it again and again until we got snow last Monday.

Every day since then, he’s talked about how to walk in the snow.  In the story, Peter walks with his feet pointing out like a duck and then turned in.  Then, he shuffles in the snow.  And finally, he drags a stick alongside him while he shuffles.  My little 2 year old has imitated those pages over and over until there were tracks all over our yard.  As a side note, making snow angels was NOT an experience he enjoyed.

Suddenly, Wednesday brought warmer temperature and rain.  Seriously?  It’s January in Ohio.  North Central Ohio, no less!  I was pretty bummed that the snow was gone and sad that I had to explain every 30 minutes or so that the snow was melting so we wouldn’t see it anymore to a 2 year old.  Namely one who doesn’t have a firm grasp on climate change.  Anyway, I traded in snow boots for the stroller and we took a walk every other day.  Yesterday, we talked about making a second trip outside to walk to a park, but went to the children’s museum instead.  The warm weather is going to be here for a few more days, so I’ll try to squeeze that little trip in later.

What I learned this past week is that 15 minutes is not nearly enough time.  Honestly, if I’m going to the trouble to bundle of 2 children, plus myself in snow gear to go outside for 15 minutes, it’s just not worth it.  So our outside time was between 30 and 45 minutes.  On the colder days, I gauged the length of our stay outside by how Sylvia was going.  For the most part, she’s been content to hang out in our little sled and go for rides around the yard while Liam was making his tracks.   This week has started out with a walk, but I’m hoping it will end with a snowman.  I’ve always been a bit of a compulsive weather channel checker, but now, I’m planning our day’s activities around it!

Changes in the kitchen

My last major goal for this year is to get rid of the plastic in the kitchen.  I’ve been purchasing more and more staples in bulk and didn’t like seeing all those bags cluttering up the cabinets.  Little by little, I had already been putting things in glass canning jars and was really liking the way that worked for me.  I bought a few decorative jars to keep my salad dressings and sauces in and again was pleased.  So far I’ve gone through my cabinets and put all the bulk foods into glass jars.  Some were jars I already had and some were jars I found in thrift stores and still others were jars from my Grandmother’s home.

The next step in my kitchen is going to be replacing the kids’ dishes with either stainless steel or some small glass plates.   As fun as it is to see Liam get all excited over Perry the Platypus on his plate, I’m fairly certain that a dish that can’t be put in the microwave or it will melt isn’t the best thing to serve my child from.  We have a few melamine plates that I’m also trying to phase out due to concerns over there being formaldehyde in it’s composition.   For the most part, I have smaller dinner plates that I give Liam from time to time, but they go with our dishes and I’m fairly certain we can no longer replace them should they get broken.  When I give him or Sylvi small portions of food, I’ve always put them in glass or ceramic ramekins.  Cups are an issue, though since almost all sippy cups are plastic.  I taught Liam how to drink from a regular cup at an early age, but he likes to wander with his drinks and glass cups are out of the question unless he’s supervised.  I’ve found some good options in Sigg and Foogo for him, but I want him to have a cup as well.

Since I’m reading the book The Non-Toxic Avenger, I’ve become more aware of the hidden things in my kitchen I hadn’t previously been concerned about.  I don’t have a lot of teflon in my kitchen because I do honestly prefer stainless steel and wooden spoons for cooking, but I do have 3 pans that are non-stick and 2 bread pans that are also non-stick.  This week when I made bread, I dug out my mother’s glass bread pans and baked the loaves in them instead.  There was no difference in the cooking time, but the bread rose in an odd manner while baking.  2 of the saute pans actually have scratches in the finish and while I only use them for scrambled eggs, I’m thinking that now is as good a time as any to re-learn how to cook in stainless. I grew up cooking like that, I can do it again.  I got an Olive Oil mister for Christmas and I’m loving that I no longer have those odd spray bottles in my kitchen that are nearly impossible to recycle and are filled with propellants and chemicals.

In a conversation with a friend this week while I discussed the changes I want to make, she asked me if I had a happy childhood.  I thought it an odd question, but considering that I had just finished telling her that my mother wouldn’t allow any plasticware in our kitchen for years because she was concerned about leaching chemicals and how many people equate brightly colored plastics with childhood dinnerware, I can see where she was coming from.  Quite frankly, I’d rather my children not eat with Disney characters plastered on every surface if I can help it.  Anyway, I am aware that this is going to be an interesting journey and there will be some adjustments as I relearn how to cook certain food items, but I think it will be worth it.  And if nothing else, we’ll just have a kitchen with lasting items instead of dishes that come and go with the favored character of the month.

A good start

I know it will sound odd, but my most important personal change this year is to start eating breakfast.  It’s shameful that I really don’t eat well until the weekend when my husband is home and I can actually finish chewing a bite before I swallow.  However, I also don’t really care for breakfast foods.  Except for scrambled eggs, but those get boring after a week or so straight.  I’d been looking through several vegetarian and vegan cookbooks for ideas for our Meatless Mondays when it occurred to me that I could just use some of the whole grain side dishes ideas, add in the seeds or nuts I like and have a healthy, protein packed meal without having to eat cereal from a box.

This isn’t a recipe so much as it’s a guideline.  I bring to boiling 1 1/4 cup water and 1/4 tsp. salt and then add in 1 cup of couscous.  Cover the pan, and remove from the heat.  Allow to set for 5 minutes.  Remove the lid and using a fork, fluff up the couscous.  At this point, I add in 1 Tbsp real butter, flax or coconut oil, 1/2 cup each of dried cranberries and pumpkin seeds.  Then a generous 2 Tbsp. of local honey, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. nutmeg, and stir to combine.  These are the flavors I like, but you could easily change out the cranberries for raisins and the pumpkin seeds for slivered almonds.  Don’t like couscous?  Try this with brown rice or Quinoa.

I make a large batch and then reheat in the mornings.  I rediscovered grapefruit and often will have  one  with a scoop of the couscous.  The point is that by eating a whole grain first thing in the morning, I’m getting a number of nutritional benefits not the least of which is fiber which helps to break down starches into glucose and lower cholesterol.   Nutritional benefits aside, I feel like a new person eating a real breakfast.  I’m not pounding cups of coffee all morning, no matter how sleepless my night was and I feel better focused.