Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Further signs of success!

I made another gluten-free, vegan muffin recipe from Tom and Ali's cookbook "Whole Life Nutrition". This time I seriously adapted the Quinoa Banana and Apple muffins. I didn't have quinoa flour, so I used rice flour, instead. I didn't have raisins, either. I used canola oil instead of coconut oil. Truth be told, I felt like I was taking a few too many liberties with this recipe considering my rudimentary knowledge of GF baking. But you know what? They turned out great. I baked 3 1/2 batches of mini muffins. After the first two batches I realized that I needed to turn the oven down from the 375 the recipe recommended and baked them at 350 for about 26 minutes. They were perfect!

On Monday morning I dropped a bunch off at my girls' school, mixing up the batches in to one big container. After school the director told me she served some of them to the kids and they were a big hit. This morning Eloise's teacher told me they made a chart and each kid got to vote if they thought the muffins were "good" or "bad". Here's what the chart looks like:

Her teacher told me that some of the kids even drew the smiles in the "bad" column, further driving home the point that they were well-received. Whew! I am so thrilled that I've found a couple really solid recipes. Both from the same cookbook! I am going to re-try the ones from Gluten-free Goddess, though. This time with real egg replacer. There are some pumpkin ones I've been thinking about, as well.

Saturday, July 24, 2010


I am seriously SO frustrated. Back in the Spring when I started my elimination diet I hoped it would kick start my journey back in to good health, and with that, weight loss. Over the past two years I sloooowly gained 20 lbs, ballooning back up from what I considered to be my ideal size, which I was around the time I got married.

So I did a juice fast for two days. And then spent the next four weeks eating nothing processed, little sugar, no wheat, dairy, soy, eggs, basically all I ate was lots of veggies, chicken and rice. Now that the diet is over I am still off wheat and soy and have made concerted efforts to continue to eat healthy. Then at the beginning on June I made a strong effort to start exercising. In June I logged 1000 minutes of exercise. I faltered a bit on my exercise goal through the beginning of July, but not much.

And you know what? I go to the doctor a couple of weeks ago, was weighed, and I'm still 20 freaking pounds over where I want to be! I don't understand how that could even be possible. While I have squeezed myself in to a couple of pants I haven't worn in a while, I am not exactly sure if my body is smaller or my ability to wiggle myself in to too-tight pants has increased.

My husband tells me I look thinner. He is, of course, the nicest liar on the planet.

This week I started swimming laps twice a week. As far as I can tell, it is the only piece of the puzzle missing from when I lost the weight before. In addition to eating well and not snacking at night, I swam laps once every week.

I'll see how it goes. I don't have high hopes at this point, but will still keep working at it.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Another day, another try

The weirdest thing happened this morning when I went to check on how last night's muffins had fared overnight. The rhubarb ones all turned inedible. They had gotten soggy, likely from storing them in tupperware too soon. I thought they were cool when I packed them away, but upon speaking to a friend, she suggested I leave them out for about three hours before storing. The muffins that ended up being great were the blueberry ones that I made normal (not mini) size. I pulled them out of the oven last night at 11:30, plopped them on a cooling rack, covered them with a towel and went to bed. They were the perfect level of moistness this morning.

I brought those big ones to school and the feedback I got was overall positive, just that they were a little grainy.

Today I went back to work. I adapted the rhubarb muffin recipe to use blueberries instead. I also used the Bob's Red Mill mix instead of the flours it called for. I practiced three different ways of getting the blueberries in the muffins, as well. First batch we set them on top, second batch we put in some batter, put on the blueberries, then put more batter on. The last batch I pressed them in to the tops a bit. Though time-intensive, the second way worked the best.

I baked them just right, too! It seemed 21 minutes in the oven was perfect.

They are almost perfect, but I don't think I am a fan of the Bob's all-purpose baking mix. The recipe made 36 mini muffins and I ate a few of them, so I'll bring the rest to school and see what they think there.

Getting close!

Next I'm going to try a recipe from the Whole Life Nurtition book for Quinoa Banana Apple Muffins. These call for mostly quinoa flour, a whole other new thing for me to try. They are chock-full of healthy stuff, too, so I'll cross my fingers they work!


ETA: I got word back these muffins were a big hit. Exciting! I priced them out and they came out to about $7.16 for the whole recipe with the Bob's Red Mill blend. If I had used the flours the recipe called for it would have come out to $6.29 for the batch. I subbed BRM for only two flours, so it wasn't that difficult to do. To confirm, this recipe made 36 mini muffins.

I used a variety of types of ingredients, as well. Organic orange for the zest, but regular OJ in a jug. Conventional frozen berries. Conventional apple sauce. Store brand canola oil. Organic agave. The price would, of course, increase if I used more organic ingredients. Probably quite substantially. I should add that this total included $.72 for mini muffin wrappers.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A gluten-free newbie attempts to take on muffins

This morning while I was swimming laps, a dull task when there is no tv to watch or music to listen to, my mind wandered every which way it could. One of the things it kept coming back to was a proposition made to me by the director of my girls' school. She suggested I could make the school allergy-friendly muffins to be served in the classrooms for snack and the school would buy them from me. Being that one of my top goals right now is to figure out a way, financially, to keep my kids at this great school for as much of the time as I can, I decided it was really foolish of me to have so hastily poo-poo'd the idea when the director mentioned it. I had balked at the idea of me, a decidedly NON-baker in the first place, attempting to make anything gluten-free that was yummy and healthy enough to serve to all of those people.

But alas, when one swims miles upon miles of laps, one convinces oneself of all manner of hair-brained ideas. Today it was that I could, indeed, bake gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free, egg-free muffins worthy of serving to the school's teachers and, hopefully, eventually, the school's children.

I started out on my journey by sending a request off to twitter for a delicious muffin recipe. Drat. No replies. No worries, off to Facebook. A few hits there. I then dove in to the great internets myself and found some recipes. I prefer to take food advice directly from other human beings, but these two internet sources that I was akready familiar with provided some recipes.

The first one was Gluten-free Goddess. I took her recipe for Vegan Blueberry Muffins because it fit all of my criteria.

The other recipe I took was from the Whole Life Nutrition site (you might remember I followed their elimination diet!). It was for Rhubarb Muffins.

I made a list of the ingredients I would need to purchase and headed off to PCC (the local food co-op for you out-of-towners). After balking at the price of the flours, I chose the ones I wanted to use. I did make a few executive decisions since I quickly ran out of the money in my budget, but I'll get in to that in a bit.

I made the Rhubard muffins first. I've never in my life used rhubarb. Holy cow that stuff tastes awful raw. But I digress. I followed the recipe exactly except for I used canola oil and pre-made OJ. When I had a choice, I used sorghum flour, potato starch and agave.

For school I would be making mini-muffins, so that's how I practiced. Such cute little things! The first batch of muffins I put in to the oven I sprinkled sugar on, but sadly did not bake quite long enough-- even though my darn toothpick came out clean! I have a knack for under-baking baked goods while always, always think I'm over-baking them. The second batch I forgot the sugar on the top, which made them taste more sour, but baked them two minutes longer which greatly improved the gumminess in the middle. My husband and I declared them a hit overall, except for the rhubarb probably isn't a safe bet for the kiddos. I was extremely pleased that my muffins looked just like the picture on the recipe, too!

The second trial was for the blueberry ones. I made many more changes to this recipe. I used all sorghum flour because I couldn't buy millet or buckwheat. I decided to use regular eggs because I couldn't buy egg replacer (rationalizing that if they were good, I would push them through to testing round two and suck it up and buy egg-replacer). I also used canola oil in these. Again, not enough moola in the budget for the suggested fats on either recipe. I also used frozen blueberries.

Off they went in to the oven. Like the first batch of the rhubarb muffins, I took them out before they were really done, while thinking they were totally, absolutely done. Once I tasted one I balked at them and declared them a failure. Many were deforming under the liquid of the blueberries, as well. I decided to speed things up and make six normal sized muffins out of the rest of the batter. I expected it to fail even worse because the berries had completely thawed in the batter by that point. I baked them for 29 minutes (the only batch I 100% for sure knew the time) and you know what? They were really yummy! I made sure to bake them longer than I thought they needed to be baked (ie I let them bake the right amount) and they weren't gummy in the middle or soggy anywhere from the berries! I was disappointed, however, that neither of my batches looked anything like the recipe picture. My tops were much higher and free-form. I didn't put sugar on them, but it wouldn't have affected the way they looked THAT much, would it? (would it???)

I've decided at this point I'm going to experiment more with the rhubarb muffins, subbing in other berries, see what happens. I hope very soon, and before we need a second mortgage on our house, I'll have something I can "sell" to the school. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Is it possible?

Is it possible to be a soy-free and wheat-free vegan? I mean, yes, I know it's possible, anything is, right?, but is it logistically possible? Will I turn in to the asshole version of myself that can't eat anything, anywhere, and have to ask eight million questions about every single menu and meal away from home?

When I went to school at natural health university it seemed like everyone had their food issues. Seriously. Couldn't eat meat, dairy, soy, gluten, corn, nuts, anything artificial, it was really annoying. Every meal turned in to a conversation of food allergies, sensitivities or preferences. I was a nutrition major and still, all of this talk bored me to tears. I was a vegetarian at the time but it felt pretty insignificant compared to what most of the people around me avoided, and obsessed about, on a daily basis.

So here I am, continuing to explore the idea that I would become one of them. *shudder*

The first major worries I have are, how difficult would it be to follow this kind of diet for any length of time? Would I have to cook every single meal I ate at home, from scratch, separate from my family's meals? How about nutrition? Would I prepare nutritionally sound meals for myself leaving out so many kinds of ingredients? I am not saying you can't, rather that, when I'm lazy will I?

The secondary worry is more about letting my dietary choices turn me in to "that person". The person no one wants to ever eat around because of the fear that I'll start spouting off at the mouth about, well, what I put in to my mouth.

I do think that I could lean more towards being a conscientious meat and dairy eater. Only eating things that are at least reasonably ethically produced. This is a very slippery slope, however. When you only eat some sorts of meat, it's much easier to move in to eating any kind of meat. At least for me. I tend to be an all or nothing type of gal when it comes to this stuff.

Likely what I need to make are baby steps. Start cutting out certain kinds of meat, like beef and pork. Start cutting out certain dairy like cheese and milk. I did it once, for my elimination diet, I don't think it would be too hard to do again. It would just mean maintaining it for a much, much longer period of time and not just 28 days.

Since I currently eat no soy or wheat, that is a no-brainer. I know 100% for sure wheat and I don't work well together. I am still exploring the soy piece. Of course, having watched Food Inc last night, I am now accutely aware of how prevalent GMO soy is in our foods. According to the movie, 90% of soy is from GMO seeds. It does appear that you can buy foods made without GMO soy, so that's something to look in to. And please, don't even mention to me about GMO corn. I can't even wrap my head around that right now. Of course, NOW I'm thinking about it.

I'm getting worn out just writing this down. Most days it feels like too much to even think about.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Carnival of Natural Parenting: Food!

Welcome to the July Carnival of Natural Parenting: Let's Talk About Food

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have written about their struggles and successes with healthy eating. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


This is the food pyramid that Eloise made. She added an entire row of candy on the very bottom, under the grain group.

It is seriously apropos that the focus for submissions this month of the Carnival of Natural Parenting is on food. While I wear many hats every day and have far too many things I am interested in pursuing in my life, I actually have my degree in nutrition. Now, I throw this information out there, but don't let it fool you. I don't claim whatsoever to have any more knowledge on nutrition than someone who read a few reputable books and done a little research on the subject. While I have a fancy degree from a respected natural health university, I've never done a darn thing, professionally, with it.

My journey towards nutrition and natural health began when I was 20. I enrolled at a university to get my degree in dietetics. At that time I became active in the local natural foods co-op, sitting on the board of directors as well as working in the store part-time. I realized pretty quickly that I didn't just want to learn about nutrition, I wanted to learn about growing food. About nourishing bodies. About eating well, not just healthy.

I discovered that I needed to transfer to a different school. And not just any school-- one 2,000 miles away from everything I knew and loved. Before I left to begin the program I spent a summer working on a small, organic CSA in northwestern Wisconsin. It was there that my connection to growing food deepened.

So if you would, please, fast forward with me, to completing my degree. It was just a couple of months later that I was launched in to the completely un-planned world of becoming a mother. Any ideas I had of starting a career at that point were out the window. I decided to stay at my reliable job, albeit completely unrelated to my degree. Fast forward once again and you have me at the present day. Two kids and now a stay-at-home mama for four years. Still haven't worked a day in my field. At this point, my level of retention from the three quarters I spent in physiology and anatomy is just about zilch.

Now, though? I use my nutrition knowledge to nourish my family. It's not too difficult, though. The basics of what I learned in school are the basics of what I (try to) apply to my family's dinners. Whole foods. The closer the food is to it's whole state, the better. This isn't to say we don't eat junk, because believe me, we do, but the focus is on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, some meat, some meat alternatives. There is really no types of food we don't eat. For 12 years I was a vegetarian, then I craved meat like crazy while pregnant with my now six year old. I started eating meat then and haven't looked back, unfortunately. I wish I wasn't so dependent on meat. It was much easier to give it up when I was a head-strong 15 year old and not a lazy 32 year old. I am also not currently eating soy, which provides a bit of a challenge in being a vegetarian/vegan.

Recently I completed an elimination diet, a feat which I am fairly proud of. It was an incredible challenge but definitely re-connected me to my roots of whole foods. The other thing I discovered when I did the elimination diet was that I am sensitive to gluten and soy, so I have been trying to avoid those two things as much as possible.I began documenting the 28 day journey HERE, so please feel free to read through those posts if you want an in-depth look at how the elimination diet looks in real life!

My trusty blendtec, guiding me through the rocky waters of my elimination diet.

On and off over the past several years I have waxed and waned on my fervor towards cooking and eating. I won't lie, eating a whole foods based diet is a lot of work. You don't just open a box and plop your meal on to a plate and call it good. No, there is lots of shopping, spending money, preparing and cooking that goes in to it. So depending on how hectic life is on any given day our dinner may look more like a jazzed up box of Annies' mac-n-cheese than a fancy salad or a plate of brown rice, chicken and vegetables with sauce.

I talk with my kids quite a bit about healthy food choices. They know the benefits of eating fruits and vegetables. I have started talking to my girls about balanced diets and the food pyramid. They know that the reason they don't get candy and junk food all of the time is because it can make them sick. It's really quite fun to pass on my love of food and nutrition to them. One of my favorite ways to serve them food is to use a tray with four small compartments. I try to add a protein, grain, fruit and vegetable to it each time I serve it to them. I don't necessarily sit down and walk them through everything on their tray, but I hope that seeing food in this way time and time again will make it a regular way of eating for them. And when they're bigger and off making their own food choices, they will gravitate towards the food choices I made for them when they were young. By and large, that's exactly what I have done myself. My parents never shoved the ideas of nutrition down my throat (pun maybe sorta intended) but they always chose foods like wheat bread over white bread. Whole grain cereals over sugary cereals. Soda was a special treat, not an every day thing. Those are the ideas that I always carried with me in the back of my mind, even when I went through my teenage years feeding off of skittles for lunch.

My kids often ask to help me out in the kitchen and this is the one area I struggle with. I hate wasting food. I hate messes in a small kitchen. I want to teach them how to cook, but my perfectionist nature, at least in that area, always seems to rear its ugly head. I'm working on it. Eloise wants to stir and dump and do everything she can. Hopefully I'm not dampening her spirit too much every time I curse through my teeth at her three year old skills. I would love any advice anyone has to offer on care-free cooking with kids!

This is what happened last time Eloise tried helping me crack eggs. Off of the counter, down the dishwasher, on to the tiled floor.

The only thing that's been lacking, so far, with teaching my kids about food is the real connection to the earth. How food grows. As kids they can start with planting seeds and watching them grow. As they get older the talk will turn more towards the effects our food choices have on the planet as a whole. Now that we finally (finally!) live in a house with space to grow food, we're sloooowly getting our feet wet. Unfortunately, our busy summers leave little time for adequately tending to a garden. When the kids are older we'll be able to do more of it together.


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo 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 updated July 13 with all the carnival links.)

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Remember that novel?

Well, my novel definitely took a back seat to the rest of my life for the last couple of months. I haven't written a page on it or looked at it in a while. Tonight I decided to print off some of the pages to start reading, just to see where I was at.

I have given myself permission to not worry about working on it over the summer if I didn't have the head space to do so. It feels better to work on it when I am inspired to rather than force myself to write just so I am. I know some people think you should write at least a little every day, but I guess I don't really feel that way about it. I do think about the story every day. I think about the scene where I left off-- literally I stopped writing in the middle of a scene. The characters just hang in that spot in my head, waiting for me to return and finish writing their fate.

This summer I wanted to rest more. To read more. To work outside more. I am sort of doing those things, but mostly I'm just parenting more. Which is good, too. Parenting without shoving my children aside in order to accomplish anything else. It's pretty nice to do that once in a while!

The one thing that is constantly on my mind, however, is what to title my novel. I though the perfect idea would randomly jump out at me. Now, roughly five months after beginning it, I have no idea. Not even ONE. I'm imagining myself sitting on a completed manuscript, ready to pitch it to agents, just waiting on a title to appear out of thin air!

June's exercise log

In this space I'll be keeping track of my exercise progress throughout the month of June and in to the rest of the summer.

GOAL: 1000 minutes

Total for week one: 225 minutes
Total adding week two: 405 minutes
Total adding week three: 650 minutes
Total adding week four: 980 minutes
Total for the whole month: 1070!!!!!