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Posts Tagged ‘baking’

It wasn’t a new years resolution, but it coincided with the new year. A clarity.

I’ve always known that sugar is bad for you. I’ve even known why- blood sugar spikes, crashes, obesity, blah, blah. But, sugar is REALLY bad for you! It’s E-VILLE. I recently read through Sears’ book on family nutrition, and he outlined why sugar is so bad really well. So, I’m going to repeat them.

First of all, and perhaps most seriously, sugar suppresses your immune response. I honestly don’t know exactly what that means, other than, “makes it easier for you to get sick”. A quick google search on “immune response” tells me that I need to get a biology textbook. 🙂 My guess is that it inhibits in a few ways- one, being to depress your body’s antibodies, and secondarily it leeches vitamins and minerals from your body- so that’s two ways to weaken your body’s defenses.

Second, as I mentioned, sugar causes your body’s blood sugar to spike and crash, causing irritability, the shakes, and all the other things that can happen with low blood sugar- your energy is low- personally, I’ve found my energy stays low- I don’t have periods of high energy when I consume sugar. Because of this, it also promotes cravings. I also personally believe that sugar is an addictive substance, like alcohol or nicotine, and promotes cravings in other ways than just through sugar crashes. I haven’t looked to see if this is scientifically verified, but if you’re reading my blog for scientific information, then you’re reading the wrong blog. 🙂 I go much more by intuition than science. (That could be another whole post!)

Sugar also promotes obesity, diabetes, heart disease and tooth decay. Seeing as I’m obese, insulin resistant (pre diabetic), and have had three cavities in the past year, I think it’s safe to say I’d benefit from cutting down on the sugar.

I also really don’t want Fairy Girl to have sugar problems- I read that children are born attracted to the taste of sweet, (after all, breastmilk is sweet- and so I don’t see this as a pathology) and I also felt it was really unfair for me to have sugar when Fairy Girl couldn’t, so I’d give her tiny bits of whatever I had- however, she is now a sugar seeking missile. And I know I”m responsible for that. So, I’m going to do for myself what’s best for both of us- no more added sugar.

And when I say cutting down, I mean *really* cutting down- previous to this new dietary development, I didn’t have white sugar in the house. I used Sucanat in baking, or honey, or maple syrup. But, in reality, these things are all sugar too- honey is primarily fructose, so it doesn’t produce as quick of a blood sugar spike and crash, but too much of it still affects your body like sugar does. Same for all the sweet things. Sucanat actually IS sugar cane- unrefined, with all vitamins intact, but sugar nonetheless.

So anyway, we have gotten rid of all the white sugar, and while I can’t bear to throw out the bag of sucanat (it’s expensive!), it’s not going to be used for a while. I’ve stopped adding honey to my peanut butter and apple snack. (But I kept the cinnamon, which actually helps balance your blood sugars! Yay for cinnamon!) I’ve read the labels on all our products, and the cereal, crackers, and dried fruit have no added sugar (who thinks it’s a good idea to add HFCS AND sugar to dried blueberries??? Tell me!), but my morning gluten free bagels do. Oops. Don’t worry, there’s only one left.

I AM keeping the honey and maple syrup in our house, mostly for The Boy, who isn’t so keen on avoiding all sugar. But except for lunch, he eats what I cook and shop for, so he’s cutting down too, unless he’s buying candy at work or something. I’m doing ok. I find my cravings are the worst in the evenings, after dinner- I’ve been taming them with high quality chocolate. 88% cacao, and local. Oh, yum. After reading “Real Food“, I consider chocolate a health food! 🙂

But that doesn’t mean our mouths are devoid of the sweet taste- in fact, I knew this would never work if we didn’t have something to curb our cravings with- so, in addition to eating often enough to prevent low blood sugar, and eating lots of protein and fat at each meal, I have fresh and dried fruit, a friend gave me some natural pineapple juice, which I actually find too sweet to drink straight- I need to cut it with water-, we have dates, which I intend to turn into coconut date balls, and stevia– this stevia is my lifesaver- now, there is evidence that stevia can cause temporary infertility if you use large amounts of it, so I think it’s best used within a low sugar context, but it’s intensely sweet, but doesn’t affect your blood sugar AT ALL- and it can really help with a sweet craving- I make lemonade out of it, or add it to plain yogurt with a touch of vanilla to make vanilla yogurt (a favorite of Fairy Girl). I’d like to learn to bake with the herb, but I haven’t really done much experimenting there yet- I’m still experimenting with all these new gluten free flours. These really help when you need a sweet taste, without the sugar spike.

The other thing that’s really a lifesaver for me, is this book I got for free several years ago, “Sweet and Sugarfree“- I got it with good intentions, but gave up on going sugarfree that time- but I kept the book, thank goodness, and I plan on making a cake for Fairy Girl’s upcoming birthday out of it. It’s a vanilla carob cake sweetened with banana. It has sugar free carob icing in the back to go with it. (Banana again-though I bet you could also make a good sugar free carrot cake with cream cheese frosting sweetened with stevia.)

This book is great, because it’s given me a way to continue to celebrate in a way that I like to without feeling deprived- now, on Christmas, we’re still going to have all the cookies, but maybe give more of them away. And ask my mother as nicely as I can to not love us so much! 🙂 (She loves by offering sweets- and you wonder why I have a sugar problem? My mother has the worst sweet tooth of anyone I know!) I believe that as long as we balance our diets with being sugar free as much as we can most of the time, then cookies at Christmas won’t be such a big deal- and the other thing is that you can get used to less sugar, and the sweeter things in our society’s palate will become cloying, and you won’t want to eat them anyway.

I will let you know how our sugar free cake is received by the people at our party.

Edit: I read the reviews of my book at Amazon, and got scared- so I made the cake today, exactly as the recipe called for- except for the carob- I used cocoa powder instead. The cake itself was fluffy, but virtually completely devoid of sweet. Which honestly, I don’t mind- it didn’t taste bad, it just wasn’t all that sweet. So I made the icing to put on top, and THEN it was sweet- really good. 🙂 I plan on tinkering with the recipe a bit though,- instead of milk, adding vanilla yogurt, and maybe toying with the icing too. I will post the recipe if it ends up being something super. And once I get it down with no sugar, I plan to make it gluten free- but one thing at a time! 🙂

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Christmas Crafts

I seem to be hitting a bit of blogger’s block. Or rather, I think it’s that I have so MUCH to say that I don’t know where to begin. It could also be that I haven’t had much time to sit and reflect about what I want to say. So please excuse the lack of much substance til after the holidays. Or heck, maybe til March- after Xmas, there’s Fairy Girl’s birthday, then The Boy’s birthday, and then I’m going to attempt to get my Etsy shop up and running. No, I’m sure I will have something to say before March!

 

But today, Christmas stuff.

 

I love Christmas- it’s my favorite holiday.  It’s somewhat of a confusing holiday for me, though. I grew up in a primarily Christian home, and Christmas was Jesus’ birthday, and a second component was the Santa Claus/ gifts part. I focused heavily on the gifts part as a kid, as most kids do, I think. But it wasn’t just getting gifts. It was the whole magic of the day. At night, the stockings are empty, and the tree is bare. In the morning, your stocking is bulging with unknown wonders, and the tree is full of presents! Magic! Add snow to the mix, especially if it falls on Christmas Eve, and even MORE magic! I try to hold onto that feeling each Christmas, and my goal to to create that now for Fairy Girl. That is why we do Santa in this house- he’s all just part of the magic- and I personally haven’t had the heart to stop believing in him yet. When I was in high school, my dad told me that we never did the “naughty/nice” bit, because his love for us, his kids, was unconditional. Santa brought gifts no matter what, because we were who we were. And I will continue in that tradition. While we will do Santa, there will be no naughty or nice manipulation.

 

About the time dad was explaining his philosophy on Santa to me, I was beginning to hang out with Pagan herbal types online, and discovering the roots of the Christian holidays. Christmas is a thinly veiled Yule celebration. Which is great, if you have no qualms about Paganism, but I had to, as a Christian, decide how to embrace that and keep my magical holiday, or decide to stop celebrating Christmas at all. Add to that, that about the time I was 8, my family started attending a Messianic synagogue. Messianic Jews are Jews who believe that Jesus is the Messiah. I’m not Jewish, so the Messianic movement means something slightly different to me- I mean, we still believe Jesus is the Messiah, but when a Gentile believes that, they usually call themselves Christian. The Messianic part comes in when the Gentile believes that the Old Testament laws- the Torah still apply to them, and so they keep the Jewish Holy days, and some other traditions- or not- I’ve met some who believe that all tradition should be done away with, and only the Biblical commands adhered to. I fall somewhere in the middle, but that’s a post for a different day. Anyway, when you add a Jewish component to the winter Holy Days, then it becomes “To celebrate or not to celebrate Christmas at all?” And “To celebrate or not to celebrate Channukah?” And “Can we do both?” And “How do we do both without spending all our money on gifts, and making our children materialistic, and losing sight of the whole reason we’re celebrating anyway?”

 

 

Sigh. I guess I did have something to say today.

 

I can’t say I’ve found all the answers yet. So far, we do still celebrate Christmas, and will continue to. I decided last year that it wasn’t so much a religious holiday as a cultural one for me. But truly, it IS spiritual for me. But I’ve barely begun to scratch the surface on that one, and I can’t write about it yet.  We don’t celebrate Channukah. Yet. But we make latkes and kugel at our Christmas dinner.

 

A new tradition I decided to do for this year, is on Christmas Eve, read “A Visit From St. Nick”. And on Christmas morning, read the story of the nativity from Luke.  We’ll see how that goes.

 

Even though there are lots of complicated things about Christmas, there are very simple reasons we celebrate. I love the day. I love the lights, the warmth, the magic. I love the anticipation. To me, that’s the best part. I’m looking forward to reliving the magic through Fairy Girl. She’s nearly two, just old enough to start figuring out what it’s all about.  I read “Unplug the Christmas Machine” last year(our third Christmas as a family, our first one with Fairy Girl), and really was able to take stock  of what I want the day to be for our family. With that in mind, I pared down our traditions to the ones that mean the most to us.

 

LOTS of baking. I make recipes written in my grandmothers’ and mother’s hand. And I added some of my own favorites. I make the same ones every year, and it is the ONLY time of year I make them. They taste like Christmas to me!

 

My baking list:

Cherry Winks

Secret Kiss Cookies

Cut out cookies (the kind you roll out, decorate, and consume entirely too much sugar on)

Filled Cookies

Rum Balls

Potato Candy (naturally gluten free)

Cheddar-Sesame Crackers

and Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies (this year, gluten free!)

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 I also have a tradition of decorating outside for the birds (and the squirrels. Like Dawn, I love the squirrels as much as I love the birds.) This year, we did popcorn and cranberry garlands, and pinecone bird feeders. No pictures of that; it wasn’t very picture worthy, and it was dark when we did it anyway. The squirrels had decimated everything by morning. I’m glad they appreciated it.

 

This year, we also did some homemade ornaments.

 

We did cinnamon dough boys

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And sparkly pine cones

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Still no ribbon candy ornaments. I decided to do those during one of Fairy Girl’s naps, but today I’m blogging instead. So, another day (soon, though!).

 

When the Fairy Girl wakes from her nap, we’ll do a handprint ornament too. I wanted to do one every year, but I didn’t get to it last year. I can’t express how sad that still makes me. I will never again be able to capture my daughter’s handprint at one year old and hang it on the tree. So, in a brave attempt to Get Over It, I’m starting a tradition of “Baby’s Second Christmas” handprint ornaments. I’ll take a pic, because who can resist a tiny handprint?

 

And now, I’ll leave you with some wintery pictures.

 

The snow coming down. That isn’t our front door, it’s our neighbor’s. But I liked their lights and garland.

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 Our garden gate:

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 Like I said, who can resist a tiny handprint? But you can’t see how tiny it really is. I wish I’d been able to capture that.

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Leaves in snow. Just something I thought was pretty.

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