Month: August 2018

Series: Sugar Simplified (Part 1)

Series: Sugar Simplified (Part 1)

I’m sure you’ve noticed by now that the recipes here don’t feature refined sugar, and infrequently natural sugars such as honey, molasses, or fruit. If you’ve ever wondered why, you’re about to find out!

Proper nutritional education is essential for everyone, but especially for those of us who are trying to help nurture little ones (and raise good eaters!) I was taught almost no kind of nutrition growing up–thanks coaches teaching health class–and the little bit of information was scarce. You know, eat your fruits and veggies, bread, potatoes, pasta, lean protein, and avoid fats. It also turns out that it was bad advice to begin with (Thanks, Ancel Keys!)

This week we’re going to be starting a new series addressing all of the different sweetener options out there. We’ll cover sugar, natural sugars, sugar alcohols, and artificial sweeteners–their composition, effects on the body, and potential health implications. So let’s get down to brass tacks. I hope that you enjoy learning with me!


Today we’re kicking it off with a talk about sugar.

What is it, anyway?

Sugar is a group of sweet tasting soluble carbohydrates which are (very) frequently used in food. The high use of sugar as a food additive today is astonishing–it’s used in everything from common beverages and breakfast cereals to meats and sauces. The average person in developed countries consumes roughly 73 pounds of sugar a year (and 53 pounds in undeveloped countries). Frankly, that’s just appalling. This is straight from wikipedia: “As sugar consumption grew in the latter part of the 20th century, researchers began to examine whether a diet high in sugar, especially refined sugar, was damaging to human health. Excessive consumption of sugar has been implicated in the onset of obesitydiabetescardiovascular diseasedementia, and tooth decay. Numerous studies have tried to clarify those implications, but with varying results, mainly because of the difficulty of finding populations for use as controls that consume little or no sugar.”

Many people know of glucose and fructose. Contrary to what most people believe, fructose, also known as fruit sugar, is not a healthier sugar even though “it is natural sugar.” In fact, many health experts believe fructose is the worse of the two. I’m not going to into the chemistry of it for two reasons: one, others have done it before me and written about it more eloquently than I ever could, and two, laziness.

Why is sugar such a problem? Let’s take a quick look at what we know sugar does to the body. It impairs the immune system and your ability to regulate appetite by decreasing leptin production. It increases oxidative stress in the body, promotes free radicals, and even feeds cancer cells.

Is this good? Seems like a ridiculous question when you put it like that, right? No, of course damage to the body isn’t good. As a mom, my number one priority is making sure that my babies get food that nourishes and builds their bodies strong.

There are three primary sugar based sweeteners used in food production and commonly available today: table sugar (sucrose), glucose syrup, and high fructose corn syrup. Sucrose is half glucose and half fructose. Glucose or corn syrup is primarily glucose. HFCS, as the name suggests, is more than half fructose. If you are going to use a sweetener in your foods, quite frankly, these are awful options.

Is there a better alternative energy source? Absolutely, but that’s a discussion for another day.

Mini Apple Pies

Mini Apple Pies

I never liked apple pie as a kid. Any time I tried it something about the texture of the apples was never quite right to me. They would be partially crunchy still and half gooey

Ingredients:

This apple filling 

4 oz cream cheese

1 cup mozzarella cheese

1 egg

1/4 cup granular swerve

4 tbsp coconut flour

1 1/4 cup almond flour

1 tbsp cinnamon

Dash of salt

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400°. Make apple filling.

2. In a large microwavable mixing bowl, combine mozzarella and cream cheese. Microwave for 30 seconds to a minute, until cheese begins to melt.

3. Remove from microwave and vigorously stir with fork.

4. Add egg and stir.

5. Add swerve, cinnamon, salt, coconut flour, and almond flour. Mix together until doughy. You will need to knead with your hands towards the end.

6. Using a folded piece of parchment paper and rolling pin, pull a small ball of dough out. Roll the dough into a rectangle shape about 1/4 inch thick.

7. Spoon a large spoonful of apples into the middle. Using the parchment paper, fold the sides of the dough over the apples, enveloping them in a pouch. Set aside on baking sheet with parchment paper.

8. Repeat steps 6 and 7 until dough is used up.

9. Bake for 20 minutes.

10. Enjoy.

Stamp Chart Reward System

Stamp Chart Reward System

Sometimes it can be really difficult to get kids to cooperate when you need them to. Believe me, I know. My kids can be as stubborn and ornery as their mom and dad.

One of the best ways that I’ve come up with to get the kids to help out is a stamp chart. It looks like this:

Stamps could easily be exchanged for stickers, but we use stickers elsewhere and my girls really enjoy the process of getting to ink the stamp and press it on paper, so it’s more rewarding for them.

The kids can earn a stamp in a few different ways:

1. Picking up their own messes/cleaning up toys

2. Eating like a civilized person and not throwing stuff

3. Not whining or hitting, aka trying to express emotions with words

4. A day without TV

5. Filling a row on the potty sticker chart

The rewards on the chart are usually a fun trip or activity that the kids enjoy. We try to keep the cheap, easy rewards towards the top and more expensive rewards for the end of the chart. This requires quite a bit of help from the girls to actually get to go do something like go out to eat or go to the riverwalk. The chart ends on the last day of the month, so it’s possible to reach the end without acquiring every reward–and that’s okay, too. It’s okay to not get everything. I want them to see that sometimes you don’t win, and working harder improves your odds. Right now when one of them earns a stamp they both get it, but that will change soon.

This is intended as an active, exciting way to engage them in the process of learning how to help out and pick up after themselves. It’s also a precursor to earning an allowance, or “salary.”

Having said all of this, sometimes it doesn’t work. One kid is almost 3 and the other is going on 2, so they often know better than mom and dad or just want to be bratty (as indicated by the accompanying smirk they give), but it’s alright. Some kind of system is better and more successful than no system at all.

Keto Mocha Chip Frappuccino

Keto Mocha Chip Frappuccino

It’s been so long since I’ve been to Starbucks that I don’t even know if these are available anymore, but 10 years ago this was my favorite. I have finally found an amazing, healthy recipe to replace the insanely high sugar original.

Ingredients:

1/4 cup ice

1/4 almond milk

1-2 tbsp heavy whipping cream

15-20 drops stevia

1/2 tbsp moringa greens powder

1 scoop chocolate ketone powder OR 1 tbsp cocoa powder

1/2-1 tbsp instant coffee or 1/4 cup strongly brewed coffee

Water to top

1 tbsp stevia chocolate chips, crushed (optional topping)

Directions:

1. Dissolve instant coffee in a small amount of hot water. You can also use brewed coffee.

2. Put ice in bottom of blender/bullet cup.

3. Pour cream over ice.

4. Add remaining ingredients to cup.

5. Blend until smooth. Garnish with chocolate crumbles.

SA Outdoor Adventures for Kids

SA Outdoor Adventures for Kids

Hey, hey, hey! Today, as with many August days here in San Antonio, it’s nice and sweltering. Sure, it may get down to 90, but you’d never know it with the humidity. Of course, the heat keeps us indoors in an attempt to avoid it a lot of the time, but it’s still important to get out and go somewhere. I’m a serious believer in the importance of exposure to nature for so many reasons, so we always try to go out and explore outside a couple of times a week.

Here’s my personal list of what makes something a great day (morning or afternoon) destination:

$$$–is it cheap, or even better, free?

Will my small children be happy there?

Safety, weather, and you know, preparedness things

We moved back in February, so I have certainly not scoped out the hottest mom spots in San Antonio by any means, but here’s our favorite spots to kill some time outside with the kid monsters!

1. Guadalupe River State Park

Okay, so not in the city, I know. But hear me out! This beautiful state park is easy to get to, just a drive up Blanco Road to 46. In addition it’s extremely family friendly: they have camping, hiking, a playground (currently closed, boo), a children’s discovery center, a ton of picnic tables, and of course, swimming. There’s deeper water for parents and older kids, but for smaller children there’s also a wonderful section of shallow water. My water-timid 3 year old gets to play and splash around without being worried here. We like to take a big mat and lounge in the shade. Hands down my favorite spot to cool off.

$$$–We have a state parks pass so it’s worth it for us to go. If you don’t, you will have to pay a day use fee.

Happy kids? Very. Always have a hard time leaving.

Preparation–sunscreen (please use a non-toxic kind!), swimsuits, shade, water, snacks, water shoes (don’t underestimate how painful river rocks can be on bare feet), and whatever water safety devices you feel appropriate.

2. Phil Hardberger Park

If you’ve never been to Hardberger Park with your kids it’s definitely worth a trip. This place is huge and even has two entrances, one on Blanco Rd and one on Military. There are dog parks and playgrounds on each side near the parking lots. In addition, the hiking trails just can’t be beat. There’s a large picnic area on each side, benches on some of the trails, and even a large overlook. We go hiking here a couple of times a week and always have a great time. Sometimes we do nature scavenger hunts here while hiking to engage the kids.

$$$–free

Happy kids? Usually. Sometimes a kid gets mad that she has to walk or ride in the stroller instead of being carried.

Preparation–sunscreen (or sun hat and sleeves), water

3. San Antonio Zoo + Brackenridge Park

We purchased zoo memberships as soon as we moved. It was a no brainer for us, we went to the LA Zoo all the time in California, and it wasn’t even particularly close! The girls absolutely love it. And with all the fun enclosures (sorry, animals) and features I can’t blame them. Plus, summer animatronic dinosaurs! You can take a (very short) ride on the carousel, see the pigs and goats at the petting zoo or ride the train. You could spend hours in the splashpad area. There’s all sorts of outdoor things over in the kid’s area, including adorable mini benches. There’s even a small discovery center for the kiddos. If that’s not enough (and let’s be real, you might be beat, but the munchkins have some magical reserve of energy just for moments like this) Brackenridge park is right outside!

$$$–just buy a membership. If you go twice it’s worth it.

Happiness factor? Kids always enjoy it. Even Matt and I are usually glad we went. Exhausted, but glad.

Preparation–sun protection, water

4. Eisenhower Park

I really enjoy this place. There are more difficult hiking trails if that’s what you’re looking for, easy paved trails if you need something simpler. There are nice, wooded trails, too. I like taking the double stroller here. There’s a nice little playground and a large climbing wall for older kids.

$$$–free

Fun level–decent. My kids are always happy if they get to play on a playground.

Preparation–sun protection, water

5. Orsinger Park

Now you should have a very good idea of where I live! This is our basic time-killing place. It’s got a large pavillion for events, bathrooms, a sandbox, and a very large, nice playground. Karissa is obsessed with the sandbox, but Madilyn always has to be coaxed into playing in the sand. There’s lots of lovely cedar elms and picnic tables scattered throughout the grove behind the play equipment. We always go for a little walk through the trails, too.

$$$–free (ca-ching!)

Happy? Oh, so very happy.

Preparation–a diligent parent might bring hydration? I usually don’t…eek. It’s okay, though, because water fountains.

Big Kid Bonus: Tom Slick Park

I’ve only been here once, but the playground was awesome. It was definitely better for older kids, but the play equipment was shaded and I was impressed. There’s a lake with a nice, easy trail to walk, exercise equipment, and what I’m pretty sure was a baseball diamond. This one is on the west side but was a really fun adventure.

$$$–free

Happiness–thumbs up

Preparation–sun protection, water

 

Crockpot Pizza Stuff

Crockpot Pizza Stuff

I love pizza. But you know, gluten and carbs and stuff. Fathead pizza is a great substitute and it’s not like it’s super time consuming, but sometimes I want the comfort food with minimal work.

Queue the Crockpot! What a wonderful invention.

Ingredients:

1 onion

2 orange bell peppers

1 poblano pepper

2 cans diced tomatoes

1 can tomato paste

Garlic

Basil

Oregano

3 chopped yellow squash

1 pound Italian sausage

Mozzarella

Parsley

Red pepper flakes

Directions:

1. Cook sausage and set aside. Chop and dice all the vegetables and combine onion, peppers, tomatoes and tomato paste, and squash in crockpot. Cook on high for about 2 hours.

2. Add garlic, oregano, basil and parsley. Stir in cooked sausage. Sprinkle with mozzarella and stir in. Top with more mozzarella. Crack the lid to vent steam and cook 1-2 more hours.

3. Serve with red pepper flakes and parmesan.

Luxurious Body Oil

Luxurious Body Oil

Okay, so I don’t really do makeup much. I’m not well-versed in the cosmetics and beauty scene. However, I do like herbs and I like making my own stuff, so sometimes I make my own skincare products.

This can be used as a general facial cleanser with cotton pads. It can also be used as a natural makeup remover.

When I wipe my face with cotton pads after applying, it’s amazing to see how mich comes off on the pad. I don’t know how everyone else’s skin works, but if I have something like a pimple on my face and use this stuff for a day or two it clears right up.

Ingredients:

A carrier oil (olive oil or coconut oil are great)–I really prefer coconut oil because I like the solid set at the end for easy application.

Dry herbs or essential oils: I like calendula, rose petals, chamomile, lavender, and jasmine flowers. Some other great additions include clove, thyme, sage, rosemary, and peppermint.

A way to slow-heat your oil. I use a  double boil technique with a glass bowl on the stove.

Cheesecloth

A small mason jar

Directions:

1. Select your oil and dry herbs. I like using ingredients that are well known for their anti-inflammatory properties, as well as cleansing and nourishing.

2. In a glass bowl, combine oil and dry herbs. Place inside a small pot or pan with about an inch of water. The water should not be touching the bowl.

3. Heat until water boils. Allow herbs to infuse for as long as you can possibly wait (mine is usually 1-2 hours, simply because I’m not patient). Make sure the pot always has water.

4. Remove glass bowl from pot. Remove from heat. Using your cheesecloth, strain the herbs out of the oil into your mason jar.

5. Add some essential oils if you like. Make sure to do this after the oil is off the heat, since essential oils are volatile.

6. Enjoy your new, luxurious oil!

 

Quick Keto Avocado Dip

Quick Keto Avocado Dip

If you’re looking for snack ideas for a low carb diet sometimes it can feel like quick and easy options are limited. One of the go-to snacks in our house is pork rinds, but let’s be honest, that gets so incredibly boring. I always get burnt out on pork skins pretty quickly.

That’s where the dip comes in: having a wonderful, creamy dip really ups the ante. This flavorful concoction contains both avocado and sour cream, packing quite the punch in terms of fat content. This amount is for 2-4 people, but can easily be multiplied for larger groups.

Ingredients:

1 avocado

1 tbsp lime juice

1/2 cup sour cream

Spices: I used 1 tbsp onion powder, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1/4 tsp chili powder or cayenne , 1/4 tsp oregano, a pinch of salt, a dash of black pepper, and a dash of cumin.

Directions:

1. In a small bowl mash avocado and lime juice with a fork.

2. Add spices and mix.

3. Add sour cream and mix until well combined.

 

See? Quick and easy!