Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Healthy Adventure: Diet Week 2

So, how did you all do with the first week of going without soda/carbonation? What about drinking 8 glasses of water a day? I didn't give you any links to the several thousand articles and studies that prove that soda pop is unhealthy for you. I am going to assume that we all know by now that it is unhealthy...but if you do need proof, just google "soda unhealthy" and knock yourself out! :)

Most of my friends have told me that they already eliminated soda out of their diet a while ago, so for many of you this first goal was easy to accomplish. Then there are those of you who would rather die than give up your daily dose of soda pop. This will be the hardest (and the most rewarding) step for those who are soda addicts. If you are having difficulty in going without the caffeine, perhaps green tea will help to ease you off of the carbonation and sugar, while still giving you your caffeine for a while. I was amazed when I saw this caffeine comparison chart . Wow.

Week 2 Goal: No candy/candy bars

For those of you who are now soda-free, the next step in my adventure is to go without candy and candy bars. For me, it was easy. I don't really crave "candy". I do love sugar, just not in this form. For the few of you who crave candy and struggle with it, right now should be easier than October-December. By the time October comes around, the cravings will be well out of your system.

It may seem silly to go without candy and candy bars and still be eating cookies, brownies, and etc., but for me it is easier this way. I am kind of a free spirit and hate to feel controlled (even if it is me that has put up the restrictions) and so the gradual process of elimination works much better for me. I am in the process of finding healthier recipes for my favorite baked goods and have begun going without them, even now, just to make that step that much easier.

For those of you who do find that candy is the most difficult item to resist, beginning right now, you will go through all of your cupboards and gather all of the candy you have and get rid of it. Gather up every last piece of candy and trash it. If it is difficult for you to resist eating it, you will need to get rid of the temptation in your own home and your workplace. Also, remember that you are helping to cut down on the candy your other family members are consuming. They still have the freedom to choose to eat candy or drink soda, just not in your home. If you have a spouse who is extremely stubborn (not that I would know anything about this) and insists that you not trash your candy, donate it to a homeless/women's shelter. I still have 2 bottles of soda in our garage and a shelf full of candy, only because I don't have issues with these items and I am still trying to figure out who to give them to. Any suggestions? :)

Your replacement for candy/candy bars is fresh fruit. Go to the store and buy a fridge full of fresh fruit. Oranges, apples, bananas, pears, pineapple, berries, kiwi, peaches, grapes, grapefruits, limes, lemons, cherries, plums, mangoes, papaya, or whatever fresh fruits you can find that you know you will eat. If you can't find any in the fresh produce, get some unsweetened frozen fruits. Remember that the order for getting the most nutritional value out of your foods is fresh, then frozen, then canned. If your craving is for chocolate, in general, you many want to find a replacement such as carob chips for now. Eat a fruit first, and then wait for 15 minutes or so to see if you still have a craving for the carob chips. If you do, eat them sparingly and still continue to eat them only after eating your fresh fruit. I know, this may seem so silly to those who don't suffer from true addiction to simple sugars, but for those of you who are sitting there thinking of how you could never go without chocolate, you will appreciate this experiment. ;)

One of the things I have noticed over the past few weeks of beginning to eliminate the obviously unhealthy items out of my diet, is the psychological aspect of my eating habits. I've heard that when you are first going without something that has become a daily part of your life, it is difficult on three different levels. First, there is the obvious PHYSICAL level. You will have to physically let go of the substance because it is in your system and your body craves it. Obviously, you have grown accustomed to having the flavor and smell of whatever it is you crave around on a regular basis. Secondly, there is the MENTAL habit that you need to break. Whatever makes you crave for it, whether it is a time of day or before or after a meal or etc, you will need to find something to replace that unhealthy habit. But, the most difficult part of all, I think, is the EMOTIONAL aspect. I found that the rare occasion that I did want a coke, was when I was having a rather difficult day. It was almost like having a stiff drink for me...a nice, ice cold coke to help me to feel all perky (and bloated) at the end of the day. As far as candy goes, I have found that I expect it when I am at the movies and I especially expect to enjoy some around Halloween and Christmas. Soda and candy (and any other type of processed sugars that we eat) have far more emotional ties than we are even aware of. I would urge you to look at why you want the candy bar or drink. What is it that this sugar fulfills for you? Educate yourself, through research and experimentation, to better realize the effects that processed and simple sugars have on your body. This alone, will help you to want to eat better. ;)

Once we are finished with eliminating the obvious naughty foods, we are going to work on creating healthier substitutes for all of the gray-area foods. This is a gradual process, that is the whole point to going an entire week without an item before moving on to the next. Sure, you can do a 3 day juice fast and probably get rid of quite a few of the toxins that have built up in your system (and if you are up to that, I would suggest doing that along with the other goals of this adventure), but the psychological aspect is what will kill you almost every time. For some, it will take a couple of weeks of going without a particular item, just because it is so stressful for them at first. I promise, it will be worth it and we will all feel better when you are past this part. If you are interested in a more intensive program that will give you a lot of information on why you need to eat specific foods and avoid others, I have heard great reviews from friends who have tried the green smoothie girl's 12 step plan. I'm not sure what it entails, as I haven't convinced myself to spend $150 for it, but I am sure it is awesome. ;)

Thanks for joining me on the adventure! I have decided to reward myself and any of my friends who are also going on this Healthy Adventure by having a dinner to celebrate our success at the end of the three months....I can promise you that the food will be won't want to miss it, my friends.

Let me know how you did with your first week's goal!
~.~the purple sprout

p.s. Almost completed my 8 week meal plan...start now on your own rotating meal plan by making a list of all of your family's favorite meals (including your favorite restaurant dishes). I'll check in later this week to go through the process I have taken to go from fast food/eating out to making meals at home and finally (still in the process) to making healthier/more whole meals at home.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Whole Wheat Bread with Gloria

First of all, I need to share with you why I love Gloria. About 2.5 years ago, I was very sick with the pregnancy of our 6th child (8th time going through it, you would have thought I was used to it, but I still cried for most of the day during about a month of it). My sweet husband took over on the laundry and cooking meat (have I ever mentioned how sensitive my nose is when I am NOT pregnant...and it only got worse when I was). Most days, I was just happy to have the kids fed, bathed, and dressed. I even ended up putting my older two boys back in a charter school for a semester because I worried about keeping up with their home education. I was miserable. There were days when I literally didn't brush through my hair and even a few when I know I may have forgotten my teeth....yeah, it was bad.

I remember one morning getting a knock at the door (I think I had brushed my teeth that day, but my hair was all over the place). I answered the door in my bathrobe and probably looked a lot like death warmed over. And that was when I saw Gloria....with a beautiful treat to cheer me up...a warm loaf of whole wheat bread. The smell of it was beyond description to me...I hoarded and savored that loaf of bread for the next 2 days, thoroughly enjoying the aroma, the texture, and the flavor of it. When it was gone, I vowed to have Gloria share with me where she had really purchased it from....there was no way anyone could ever make a whole wheat bread that delicious from there own kitchen.

A couple of months ago, she dropped by some more bread and I told her that I would love to have her teach me and my kids how to make her delicious bread. She told me that she might be able to do that sometime in between holidays. Well, with all of the holiday business and our sickness going on, it ended up getting pushed forward to now. And today was the day that we learned how to make our own bread by hand. What a treat!

This is Gloria's awesome wheat grinder...

The wheat is placed in the funnel that leads to the grinding parts and beneath the grinder is room for the 9x13 tray that Gloria uses to catch the flour (yes, I am aware the picture is extremely out of focus, what can you expect with a vibrating grinder?). She keeps it down in the basement. Anyone who has used one knows why. ;)

The boys were really interested in seeing how it worked...I could tell by the way that BlueMoon kept his hands in his pockets. This was something that we used to have him do when he was a little boy to keep him from touching and playing with EVERYTHING.

Gloria used 4 cups of red wheat and 4 cups of white wheat...we could have used a cup more of each type...the end product was superb! This was the first time that Gloria had used 100% whole wheat, she had usually only used 3/4 and 1/4 of the other stuff, for fear of it being too rough. I told her that we should throw caution to the wind and try it out with 100% whole wheat...which we did (and she asked if we wanted to take the easier route with the Bosch, in the background, but I told her that we wanted the full-experience of kneading it by hand. She was so sweet to comply).

Gloria was so modest when I asked her if it was her own recipe. She told me that she had taken a recipe that she has had for around 20 years and adapted it, especially after learning more at Kitchen Kneads. I have to say, I looked through the old recipe and Gloria's recipe was quite a bit different. She still wouldn't take credit for it being her recipe,, let's just say that it is a culmination of different recipes, of which Gloria has perfected. ;)

Gloria's Whole Wheat Bread

6 c. warm water
2 TB active yeast
1/2 c. honey
1/2 c. oil (she likes to use pure canola)
2 TB salt
14-15 c. whole wheat flour (2/3 white and 1/3 red)

Makes 4 large loaves or 8 small loaves...or you can mix and match them to meet your needs. We made 6 small loaves and one large loaf today.

In a rather large bowl, pour your 6 cups of warm water. Gloria pointed out to me that if you have soft water, use cold water and boil it on the stove, then add cold water to it until it is lukewarm (otherwise you will have too much salt in the recipe). She was so sweet, taking the time to explain to the boys why it is important to use warm water and not cold or hot. She let them both feel the right temperature of water on their wrists to help them to know what it feels like, for when they make their own time? :)

Add your yeast and mix it with the water...Gloria showed the boys how to use a knife to level it in the measuring spoon.

Then she shared the secret of greasing the measuring cup, we would be using for the honey, with oil before we filled it. Nice.

 BlueMoon was mesmerized by the honey and I wondered if we would ever get past this step....Gloria was very patient with the boys, thank goodness.

It is a rather lovely shade of gold...isn't it? She was rather patient with yours truly, as well.

The honey eventually made it into the bowl with the other ingredients...and BlueMoon remarked on how easily it slid out of the cup. Voila!

Then Forest was allowed to pour the to not spill a drop....and he literally did it....very....slowly.

We threw in the salt and mixed it all around for a few minutes....talking about how oil and water don't mix.

Then it was time to begin adding the flour, one cup at a time. The boys took turns mixing and pouring...

At first it was relaxing and they worked in silence...

and the mixture began to look more and more like bread...

and the boys began to act more and more like boys...

When it was time to begin kneading with their hands, I knew we needed to talk about their ability to make a mess. Because of the HUGE bowl (I really need one of these!), we were able to comfortably knead the dough without having to make a much bigger mess on Gloria's table and floor.

 BlueMoon got a little carried away with his massaging of the dough....and created quite a mess on his hands. I began to worry. Gloria told us that she had 6 brothers and she assured us she had been around boys, but I still worried that the boys would erupt into bouts of flagellants and belching at any moment. They were beginning to warm up and enjoy themselves a little too much. They shared with Gloria their love of eating grasshoppers and worms...they even shared my secret of eating raw cookie dough. Yeah, I know it is disgusting....but I LOVE IT!

And, yes, BlueMoon ate the dough off of his fingers before washing his hands for the 20 something time during our visit with Gloria...she put some oil on her hands and it was a little less messy. The boys looked more like they were giving a deep tissue massage most of the time, instead of kneading.

The dough looked done to Gloria...

She showed us how she had learned to check it to see if it really was done being kneaded, by stretching it and holding it up to see if you could see the light through it, without it ripping.

After kneading a bit more, we covered it and put it into a warmed oven for 1/2 hour...okay, it was a little bit longer than that, but only because we got to discussing nutrition and nearly forgot that we were in the process of making bread. I sure loved hearing all that Gloria had to share with me. She has a wealth of information. She is quite the nutrition guru!

It did a good job of rising. We did a basic version of this bread. Gloria pointed out that this would be where you would add in your flax seed, nuts, etc. (before forming into the loaves).

After greasing the tins, Gloria divided the dough into them...

Then made them into the lovely shapes that they are supposed to be...

They were so very lovely...just waiting to be baked.

We set them on top of the oven and turned on the oven to warm them a bit. Gloria reminded me that the granite is extremely cold and is a horrible place to try to get anything to rise (for all of you granite lovers).

While the loaves were continuing to rise for about another 1/2 hour, Gloria fed us lots of healthy snacks...some wonderful (and healthy) banana muffins, cuties, an apple, nuts, and some snap peas. The boys used the leftover bread dough off of the bowl and the table and created some beautiful creations with flax seed and nuts...

This is BlueMoon's.

This is Forest's.

They were so silly...and so proud of their creations. Forest keeps telling me how he wants to be a chef someday. I think I might be moving in with him when I am old and gray....just sayin. And, yes, I did let them eat the well-loved mini mini loaves of nutty bread (at least that is what I think they called them). I can't tell you how much I love these two crazy boys. They are such a joy to have in my life. :)

After the loaves had risen a bit more, they were ready to bake. We put them in the preheated oven at 350 degrees (25 minutes for the small and 30 for the large).

Then we took out the small loaves...aren't they blissful? You can't smell the aroma or feel the warmth and moisture of them, but hopefully you can, at least, see just how wonderful they turned out. I am going to have to go and cut myself a slice right now...the temptation is just too much for me to resist. :P

My all-time favorite food....warm bread. I think I may even be able to give up raw cookie dough and all of the other yucky habits I need to get rid of, if I can reward myself with some of this yummy bread every once in a while.

BlueMoon enjoyed the honey...again.

And Forest was careful not to make too much of a mess with the homemade raspberry spread that Gloria made from the raspberries out of their own backyard.

We spent nearly 4 hours at Gloria's home. She put up with me constantly taking photographs and the boys acting silly. She let us in on her secret of how to make her absolutely delicious bread. She even let me play on her piano for a while. She shared so many great ideas for being healthier and gave us some of the greatest gifts she has to give, her time and her energy. When all was done, we left with all of the bread we had made together, she refused to keep any for herself. She told me that she still had some from the last time she baked and will be baking more later on....what an amazing woman!

If you would like for me to send you a printable copy of the recipe (it would be easier to follow), let me know in the comments and I will e-mail one to you.

Until tomorrow...
~.~the purple sprout

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Cream of Mushroom Pasta

Maybe it is just here in Utah, but it seems every mom I ever met knew how to make the universal Cream of Mushroom (or broccoli/chicken) Casserole that involved rice, a few chicken breasts, some condensed soup, cheddar cheese, and milk. My casseroles have never turned out well. I would follow the directions, to a tee, but they always ended up undercooked or dried out...and pretty bland. So, I created a dish that involved cooking diced chicken, then adding seasonal veggies, and adding rice or pasta (I cooked in a separate pot at the same time as the chicken) and the cream of mushroom, sour cream, cheese, and milk.

When I set out to find more vegetarian meals this past year, I started playing with a few of my own recipes to see how they would fare without meat in them. This one has held it's weight. So, here is the recipe I came up with last night. You can make it with pasta or rice, but I am making rice tonight, so I chose pasta this time around. I am sure there are more areas that will need hammering and polishing before I will be completely happy with it (especially as I learn more about healthy foods and preparation), but for now I am just happy to have everyone at our dinner table asking for seconds (and that is quite the feat for a family of 8).

The Purple Sprout: Vegetarian Cream of Mushroom Pasta
2 yellow zucchini
12 mushrooms
24 green beans
2 c. skim milk
2 c. sour cream
26 oz (family size) Cream of Mushroom soup
16 oz whole wheat fusilli (you could use rotini, as well)
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp season salt
1/4 c butter
2 c. grated cheddar cheese

Bring water to a boil in a stockpot. Dice the green beans, zucchini, and mushrooms and put them into a metal colander/steamer that can rest on top of the stockpot. When the water is ready, throw the pasta in the stockpot and put your veggies on top to steam with the lid over them. Stir both the veggies and the pasta occasionally. Boil/steam for approximately 10 minutes or until the pasta is softened and the veggies are moderately steamed. Then empty the veggies into your serving bowl and use the colander/steamer to drain the pasta water. Put 1/4 c of butter into the stockpot. When it is melted, add the herbs and put the veggies back in the stockpot for a couple of minutes to heat through. Add the milk, soup, sour cream, and finally the pasta back into the stockpot. Heating it up with each step. Stir in the cheese right before serving. Salt and pepper to taste.

(This recipe fed our family of eight, with enough for lunch leftovers for 6 of us the next day. We did have some butternut squash with it, and I limited everyone to one bowlful, just to prove to them the theory that you have to wait a few minutes to allow your tummy to register with your brain you are full. I am not sure how many servings there were...12?)

Obviously, you don't have to have exactly 12 mushrooms or 24 green beans, but I have found that I can remember recipes easier when they involve a container of this or that and equal parts or 1 to 2 ratios, etc. So, there are 2 zucchini, 12 mushrooms, and 24 green beans...2x12=24...easy for me to remember. And easy for you to divide in half, just in case you don't have a family of 8 to feed. LOL. Let me know what is missing or what you did to make it healthier...thanks!

We were bummed that we weren't able to get to my sweet friend's home this past week to make bread, on account of being sick, so I will have to post about our whole wheat bread experience next week. I did, however, stumble upon an easy recipe for some absolutely delicious rosemary bread....not as healthy as whole wheat, but made from scratch, and did I mention that it is divine? :)

The kids enjoyed helping me knead the dough...which was a good thing as my hands were getting pretty sore towards the end. They did an awesome job, too! I was very impressed.

I doubled the recipe and then rubbed the top with EVOO instead of eggs before adding a little bit of my extra (fresh) rosemary. Super yummy! You will definitely have to try out this Delicious Rosemary Bread for yourself.

Hope you are all enjoying your week and for those of you who are joining me on my Healthy Adventure, I am excited to share what I have been going without this past week!

~.~ the purple sprout

Friday, January 7, 2011

Winter Wonderland

Today, I was in need of starting up Liahona. She has been plugged in for the past 3-4 weeks, but between Christmas and being sick (and the fact that I loathe being's been between 11-20 degrees for a while here), I hadn't mustered up the will to venture the 20 steps outside to take care of her needs. I think it was the seduction of the thin layer of frost, that snuck in sometime this morning, which actually caused me to break down and head outside. I just had to explore my Winter Wonderland...

These are the sunflowers that inhabited most of our square foot garden this year. I couldn't bear to pull them out, once they had begun to grow. So, I ended up with several different shades and sizes of sunflowers, all the offspring of the collection which had lined my wooden fence last year.

I grow my sunflowers for my oldest daughter, because they remind me of her. I also grow them to feed the 50 or so birds that frequent our backyard (mostly finches). I usually cut them down in the late fall and lay their heads on the gardening shelf, but I didn't want the neighbor's kitties snacking on our birds (the shelf makes for an easier target), so I left all of the sunflowers standing....and I was so glad I did. Aren't they gorgeous? Even after they have been admired, utilized, loved, and left to die as all annuals must...never to return, they are still absolutely beautiful.

These are my ladies in waiting...see how the one in front has her right hand on her hip and her head tilted a little?

Her crown is all sparkly, bejewelled in tiny crystals....

Her sister is holding her left hand across her chest and has her head lowered...she's a bit bashful.

I noticed the sunflower leaves that were left behind...great texture and I love the colors...a palette of rust and shades of sage green.

I know that it is probably sick and wrong that I love dead and crinkly leaves, but I do.

This was an icicle hanging off of my gardening shed...

...and this is our cherry tree behind it, all freshly frosted in snow.

This hydrangea was once light green, then pink, and finally a light rust....covered in a sprinkling of winter dust.

I love the pastel bokeh behind this well-preserved pinky.

And the devotion that my wisteria and this rogue vine have developed over the past 3 years just melts my heart.

I love the smell of our Russian Olive in June....and their berries are magnificent in January!

Yeah. I thought it was some poor, unlucky animal at first, too....but, it isn't.

It's really just a gardening glove that got tossed into the bushes sometime before the cold set in a few months ago...poor fellow.
Wonder if his mate has missed him these past months?

This watering can is patiently hibernating out with my herb boxes.

I was too wrapped up in taking care of Liahona to get my annuals moved inside before the first frost, so it will be interesting to see which ones survived.

Isn't this absolutely beautiful?

I am a lover of rust, especially if it is contrasted with an interesting pattern snow....

Obviously, I wasn't kidding when I said that I am a lover...I took a few of my garden shovel (as you can see).

(IMPORTANT SIDENOTE: I just have to say that the only reason the flat shovel isn't properly stored right now, is because I have been using it to remove some of the ice off of our drive....I would hate for anyone to report me to DTPS ~Department of Tool Protection Services.)

Have you checked out YOUR Winter Wonderland lately?
Hope you are all having a lovely winter, planning for all of the splendid wonders you will be beginning in a few months. :)

~.~the purple sprout