Posted in Children, Diet and Nutrition, McDonald's, Mommyhood

Confessions

My kids don’t eat “food”. My oldest son has eaten oatmeal, with few variations, for every meal (for, not with) since he was a year old. He’s eight now. My youngest doesn’t chew; he drinks a nutrition shake for every meal. This presents all sorts of issues I will get into eventually, but that’s not what I’m actually going to post about this time, ’cause that’s just gonna get depressing.

No, what I’m confessing this time is my unabashed love of McDonald’s cheeseburgers and French fries. Apparently, I was a little picky as a toddler and went through a “crackers and French fries” phase, and I am still a very big fan of both. McDonald’s fries aren’t really all that special when compared to the flavor and cut of several other competing chains, but they’re always hot, extra-salty, and crispy — not to mention nostalgic and probably laced with crack, or something. The same goes for their cheeseburgers. They taste like childhood. And if that’s wrong, I don’t wanna be right.

Seriously, my kids don’t know what they’re missing.

So, you’d think that having two children who do not eat McDonald’s fare and cannot be bribed with food would keep me from falling into the temptation of using the Golden Arches as a reward or incentive — but you’d be wrong. 🙂 When I bribe my children with McDonald’s, it’s not because I’m going to fill them with junk food and let them act like monkeys in the Playland while I play on my phone and ignore them for half an hour. It’s because I’m going to fill me with junk food and let them act like monkeys in the Playland while I play on my phone and ignore them for half an hour.

I will have paid less per person to have access to a covered, air-conditioned play environment, compared to the age-limited, expensive indoor playgrounds we have around here. And I’ll get food I didn’t have to cook for myself. What’s not to love?

More importantly, I’m not having to buy them each a Happy Meal or something else they are not going to eat, that I would only end up eating in addition to my own meal — because one does not simply waste delicious McDonald’s food. I watch the other moms and dads in the Playland, coercing their child into eating just one more chicken McNugget, or take another bite of their cheeseburger before they can go play. (For the record, I was that kid, too. Mom would tell me I had to eat my whole burger and at least half my fries before I could go outside — there were no covered play areas when I was a kid — but I liked to eat all my fries first. And then I had no room for my whole burger.)

Now that I’m an adult with aliens for children, I’ve realized there’s not much point in begging them to just tryyyy a French fry. I simply feed them at home, then buy the Happy Meal for me. I get to satisfy my junk-food craving with very small portions of the yummy food I love there. I mean, have you seen those cute little fry boxes? It’s, like, half a small fries off the adult menu. It’s probably less than they served in Happy Meals when I was a kid. Instead of a small soda, though, I get a juice box and apple slices with it. Boy 2 gets the juice box, Boy 1 gets an order of small orange juice, and I order a medium drink for me. If the Happy Meal contains a kind of toy I might want (like My Little Pony) the toy is MINE (what? I’m a fan; don’t judge). But if it’s something they like, I’ll just buy an extra toy. I have, in the past, ordered two Happy Meals to avoid questions from the cashier, but eating two Happy Meals while my kids play seems a little too indulgent, even for me. An extra toy costs less (in money and calories) than another Happy Meal, so it just makes more sense, overall.

After that, they go play in a covered, air-conditioned (albeit ridiculously loud and germ-ridden) Playland while I eat and don’t do the things I brought with me to do…because phone.

Win-win, right? 🙂 Tell me you’re not jealous. And if you’re not, turn your thermostat up until it’s 85°F in your house and tell me how much you look forward to cooking for yourself, and how much you don’t wish you could get into your air-conditioned car and go to an air-conditioned place where your crazy children can get their energy out and you can sip iced-tea and not sweat. Because that is what summer is like in our house, and it is miserable.

Honestly — why suffer? McDonald’s has more seating than any of the playgrounds in our area, and it’s fully covered so I don’t have to bake in 85° sunshine because the postage stamp-sized covered area is packed with a bunch of moms who want to socialize. I do not go to the playground to socialize (with the exception of the few times I’m meeting a friend so our kids can play together, but none of my friends down here homeschool). Often, I’m taking my energy vampires to the playground for a break (from them — so they can feed off someone else for an hour or so). But if it’s 85° in my house and 85° outside, the playground is not a break — it is torture. I wrote an entire post that didn’t end up getting posted (I don’t know why, and it was stupid-long and I’m kind of glad it’s too out-of-date to post now) about adventures at a playground, including no seating anywhere and having to wait for the porta-potties to be washed out before Boy 2 could go pee (with help, because I have nightmares about my tiny boy falling into one of those) — and sometimes that hassle is just not worth it.

Besides, I don’t feel like I can be as readily judged by other McDonald’s parents. We all know we’re there for the junk food and leisure time. High-five, McDonald’s Moms! Now leave me alone.

BONUS:

I’ve been itching to blog more. (Yes, again. I know, I say it every time. I really do mean it this time! Probably.) I have more content that isn’t stupid day-to-day stuff, and a lot of crap to work through, especially where it concerns my children’s eating habits. We’re also staring Real Homeschool in the face this year, and as much as I’ve been looking forward to it, I’m terrified. McD’s might very well become my office and the boys’ recess some days.

Therefore, I’m embracing my new tagline in the banner: “I am the very model of a major modern-mother fail.” Not that I think I’m a failure, but I’m a failure at modern mothering. I love my kids and they’re great, but sometimes I love them more when I don’t have to pay attention to them. Anyone who thinks that’s bad parenting doesn’t have kids. Search your heart; you know this to be true.

Meanwhile, I’ll be at McDonald’s, ignoring my kids. 🙂

Posted in Cooking

I Rule at Pizza

Not to toot my own horn, but I make a darn good pizza. (Okay, I totally am going to toot my own horn, but I don’t do it that often, so it’s okay right?) Even if it’s a cheapo cheese pie from Costco that I put the fixin’s on, myself, pizza is a subject at which I excel.

Homemade, from-scratch pizza is a labor of love, but no one has time for that every time a pizza craving rears its ugly head. So I’ll share a few pizza-making secrets, which can probably be found on the Food Network, either as Rachel Ray shortcuts or looked upon with disdain by Emeril Legasse. But pssh. Who cares? This isn’t a food blog!

The first suggestion is find a decent base. If you’re not picky, even a Totino’s cheese pizza will do (and, despite my quarter-Italian heritage, I’m so not picky). Costco’s cheese pizzas are great, and come in a four-pack. Hey, if D’Giorno can claim to be gourmet, so can your homemade concoctions. Just sayin’. You know what you like, so go with that. I make mini pizzas with Orowheat Oatnut bread, because it’s what I’ve got.

I can make my own crust — and I’ll post a recipe — but I do it in the bread maker, because I also don’t have the patience/attention span to do it by hand. 🙂 Unfortunately, I have not managed to develop my own sauce that tastes right, so to save myself time, I’ve used Contadina’s “Pizza Squeeze” and Kroger’s “Pizza Sauce” in a jar (the latter is my favorite so far; it has the fewest additives and tastes yummy). As for cheese, fresh mozzarella is tempting to use, because it’s SO delicious, but it is also labor intensive, because you have to drain all the moisture out of it or it will “weep” all over your pizza — and no one likes soggy pizza. Alternatives are block mozzarella and pre-shredded. I’ve used both and they’re fine. However, you have not lived until you’ve tried pepperjack on a pizza. Trust me and do it. You will wonder where it’s been all your life.

ANYway, back to the base… Regardless of how you do your crust, sauce, and cheese, the toppings are the most important part. I can make gourmet out of cheapo, with just the right toppings. And you can, too! So here is a list of toppings we have used to “decorate” our pizzas, with great success:

  • Canned chicken, browned in butter or oil (make sure it’s a very chunky variety. Kirkland is my favorite, and you’d do well to avoid Hormel)
  • Bacon (sliced and browned)
  • Garlic
  • Onions (I use Mayan Sweets and sauté or caramelize them in butter. Scallions work well, too)
  • Mushrooms (sautéed in lots of butter, with herbs and maybe a little wine)
  • Hamburger (browned — in a pinch, you can slice frozen meatballs in half)
  • Herbs, like sage, rosemary, basil, savory, chives, garlic powder, thyme
  • Sauces, like Smoked Chipotle Tabasco

Honestly, the best thing to do is to use your imagination. For instance, we usually do some chicken/bacon combination that includes onions and garlic. Tonight, I made bacon, onions, garlic, and sautéed mushroom (with sage, basil, thyme, and red wine), and put them on a cheapo Costco pizza, then sprinkled it with grated Asiago. It was excellente! If I’m feeling super-lazy, but also super-hungry, I’ll just cut frozen meatballs in half and place them evenly over the top.

I am by no means a gourmet cook, so don’t think I learned any of these techniques anywhere but the School of Hard Knocks. So when I say “caramelize”, I’m probably not doing it right. The onions are lightly browned and soft, and crazy delicious. Good enough for me! By the time they reach that stage, our mouths are watering and we couldn’t care less if they’re properly caramelized.

However, it has taken a bit of trial and error to get the crust just right. I have a basic recipe, which I have tweaked shamelessly until I got rid of the bitter taste and dense texture. Again, this is for a bread maker. I’m really not one to ask for tips on how to do it by hand, so that will have to be something to look up on your own, unless you already know how to do it. More power to you if you do!

BASIC 12″ Pizza Crust (with tweaks in parentheses):

* Put these ingredients in the bread pan in the order given, unless your bread maker says to do otherwise:

  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil (substitute with a dollop of yogurt)
  • 1 & 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 & 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp sugar (substitute with a dollop of honey, in a corner of the pan)
  • 1 tsp yeast (in a divot in the center of the flour)

* Set to the “pizza dough” setting and check once to make sure it’s wet or dry enough while mixing (I tend to eyeball the yogurt and honey, which add extra moisture content, so you might find you need a little more flour than just the 2 & 1/4 cups). It should take about 55 minutes, or so; about as long as it would take doing it by hand.
* When it’s done, dump it out on a floured surface (wet fingers will make this easier) and coat it in flour. Squish it a little, then ignore it for a minute (go pour a glass of wine — or another, if you’re like me 😉 ).
* I’ve discovered that rolling pins do not work well with fresh pizza dough. Lift the lump of dough and balance it on your fists, letting gravity stretch it while you kind of walk your fists around the edges (I should probably do a video on this…)

Now for the rest of the pizza!:

* Preheat the oven to 425°F
* Once the crust is the right size and even through the middle (don’t let it get too thin!), place it on your pizza pan or pizza stone, in a circle LARGER than the finished product will be.
* Brush sauce over the whole crust, and sprinkle cheese (pepperjack, I’m telling you!) over the entire circumference.
* Start rolling the outer edge of the crust inward, folding in the sauce and cheese. Gently pull the crust in the direction you are rolling (left or right), and it will stay rolled better than if you just roll it toward the center.
* Finish cooking or prepping your toppings and spread them evenly over the cheese.
* Brush the outer crust with a thin layer of sauce. Finely grate Asiago or Parmesan over it, or sprinkle with garlic powder or garlic salt.
* Depending on your oven, cook for 15 minutes or so, checking after 10, until crust is golden brown and cheese is thoroughly melted. Sometimes, I’ll start it on a low rack to make sure the crust is well done before transferring it to an upper rack to brown the rest of it.
* Take it out when it looks done and let it cool as long as you can possibly stand it.

There you have it! I hope you have success in your future pizza-making endeavors! If you have any interesting tips (especially on how to make sauce), post them in the comments! 🙂

Posted in Children, Diet and Nutrition, Mommyhood

My Son’s Oatmeal

image

(Created using Sketchbook Pro on my Google Nexus 7)

I do love that this ended up sort of in the style of The Oatmeal, and is also about oatmeal. Kinda proud of that. 🙂

I’ve mentioned before that my five-year-old is what might be called . . . particular (a.k.a. “picky”, but about a jillion on a scale from one to infinity). He likes his oatmeal a certain way: With peanut butter, honey, flax meal, and HOOOOOT. He can tell with one sniff that it is missing some element (or that’s what he’d like us to believe), especially heat.

I make it with boiling water. Like, “the kettle must be at peak whistle” boiling. It mustn’t sit cooking for more than a minute, or it will drop below 285°F, thereby becoming unfit for consumption (who knew?!). For this reason, I am continually baffled about how he could possibly not like the taste of other foods, because surely he has burned off all his taste buds by now.

Kids are weird . . .

Posted in Cooking, Diet and Nutrition

Waffles on Wednesday!

We had waffles for dinner, but this post is more about coconut oil, because it’s awesome. 🙂 The post is kind of disjointed, too, because I’m experimenting with pictures in a post, using the WordPress app on my phone. Also, I was cooking and eating the waffles between sections.

The waffle iron needs to be “prepped” before cooking, which means brushing oil on the plates. I used to use a sandwich baggie over my hand to spread coconut oil (which is better for cooking at high heats than veggie or olive oil) between all the little ridges. We like the non-Belgian style of waffles, so there are a LOT of little ridges!

image

I either read about this trick somewhere, or had a brain blast, and started using my silicone basting brush (which I rarely ever use for actual basting) to get between all the ridges. MUCH faster, and less mess! 🙂

image

I also like to use coconut oil in the batter, instead of butter. This recipe calls for melted butter or oil, and since coconut oil is slightly more solid than butter at room temp, I have to melt it. But I don’t like to use the microwave for healthy food, so I put the oil in a glass cup and put that in a pan of boiling water, so it melts — and it will fairly quickly, because it has a low melting point.

image

Yum!

I use Nutiva, which I get in a two-pack order every six months, or so, through Amazon.com “subscribe & save”.

image

After I get it all over my hands while measuring it out for the glass cup, I rub it into my skin and wipe the excess off with a paper towel. My skin likes that, especially if I washed dishes earlier in the day (which I did today, and got alligator hands as a result).

image

My skin is nice and smooth now, with no cracks or pain. 🙂

I didn’t take a picture of it, but when the coconut oil was done boiling, I just turned off the burner but left the pan of water there so I could put the plate of waffles on top of it to keep them warm while the others were cooking.

I spread a little cocoa powder into the batter after pouring it on the waffle iron. Turned out very nice!

image

And tasty! I love waffles for dinner. 🙂

(If you’re looking for a recipe, find one anywhere — I just used the “crispy waffles” recipe from my orange, 1970s Betty Crocker cookbook that I cannot live without, and replaced the butter with oil. I was going to use honey instead of sugar, too, but I forgot.)

Posted in Children, Diet and Nutrition, Mommyhood

Dental Dilemma

Pie had to go in for a three-month “follow-up” for his teeth today, because last time we went to the dentist, he wouldn’t lay back in the chair or let them scrape his teeth — which really needed it. The doctor had us schedule a three-month “follow-up”, which ended up being a cleaning, too. I hadn’t expected it to cost anything, but I should have, because United Concordia pays for little more than six-month cleanings. It wasn’t going to be a lot, but they may have seen a questioning look in my eyes, because the lady asked me if it had been explained to me what the difference would be, or that it would cost at all. I told them I thought it was a follow-up, but figured a cleaning was in store, because his teeth were pretty gross. It made sense that the insurance wasn’t going to pay for it, though. She decided they weren’t going to charge me for it at all, because it hadn’t been explained to me when I originally made the appointment. I only had to pay $10 for the fluoride gel. Yay for no charge, but I still hadn’t expected to pay for a fluoride treatment.

I’m not a big fan of fluoride treatments, especially ingested. It’s kind of funny to me that a topical fluoride product would warn against swallowing, and even recommend one swabs out a child’s mouth if they can’t spit it all out, but on the same sheet of instructions it advocates fluoridated water and fluoride tablets if fluoridated water is not available. What kind of sense does THAT make? One could make the argument that the concentrations are different, but how much difference is there in a slight residue on a child’s teeth that needs to be swabbed out, versus a whole tablet that must be swallowed, or water run from the tap and used in everything the child ingests?

The reason I’ll try it, though, is because Pie’s already developing some little cavities behind his front teeth. The hope of the dentist is that this product will mitigate the need for major fillings in six months. She also recommends (much to Pie’s delight) that he chew Trident (the only gum with xylitol) three or four times a day, especially after meals. This is not a problem — Pie loves gum almost as much as he loves apple juice. Unfortunately, the apple juice has been verboten by the dentist at any time but meal time, and we aren’t allowed to water it down(!) at those times. This dentist is of the school of “volume vs. frequency”, and would rather a child drink a small cup a couple times a day than have it watered down and sipped all day. Apple juice is probably the worst juice, too, she said, because of the acidity. Even Coca-Cola has a pH buffer to keep the acids from eating your teeth (though it can degrease an engine and dissolve a nail in record time!).

*Sigh* Pie doesn’t drink water. He will not drink water! I suppose we’re just going to have to enforce apple juice only at meal time, and then get him used to the idea of water or nothing the rest of the day, but, dang it, we’re trying to potty train here! It’s frustrating enough that he doesn’t eat and that dairy does a number on his stomach. At least he likes almond milk, sort of.

I did have a bit of a brain blast, though: You can buy xylitol at a health foods store (or a health foods section, like in Fred Meyer), so it might be worth it to get some and add it to plain water or watered-down apple juice to create that buffer against the acidity, or give water a flavor. I don’t want to buy “water flavoring” (like Mio), because there are other chemical sugar alternatives in those, and he’ll be getting enough of those in gum.

I know this is doable, but . . . dang it. I can already see the meltdowns over no juice. And I have, like, five cans of frozen apple juice in the freezer.

Oh well. Poor Beanie is currently screaming his sad-baby head off, and has been for almost an hour, because he flat-out refuses to nap. I think we missed the nap window. :\ Too bad my nap window has been wide open for the past two hours, because the same child also did not sleep through the night last night . . .

Posted in Children, Diet and Nutrition, Mommyhood

It Feels SO GOOD!

I weighed myself this morning.

The first time I did so, I was at about 164 (and some change). I hadn’t eaten breakfast, but neither had Beanie, and I was still in PJs. Later, just before my shower (and still before breakfast, but after a cup of decaf coffee), I weighed myself again. 163!! To be fair, it was, like 163.6, but that’s close enough!

At my first pregnancy appointment with Pie in 2007, I weighed 169 (according to their scale, anyway). Granted, a lot of it was muscle and water, because I’d been working out pretty hard learning a kata in my Kempo classes up to then, and then bloating like crazy after conceiving. They still labeled me “obese”, but whatever. :p

I didn’t own a scale for a long time between having Pie and conceiving Beanie, so I don’t really know if my weight dipped below the 165 mark. After buying a scale, I know I had trouble getting below 170.

When I bought these jeans, they fit just fine, so I suspect that even if I didn’t weigh less than 170, I might have been in okay shape and probably had more muscle, at least in my legs. I was working out more then — or at least still taking martial arts lessons once a week.

However, I also have discovered that bras for which I needed expanders before now can be hooked at the tightest fit, and I think these jeans have shrunk since I bought them (if length is any indication). But I barely work out now! Unless I consider that I do a LOT more carrying, because Beanie (who is about 20 pounds) likes to be held more than Pie did, and I can dead-lift Pie (who is just over 30 pounds) with ease onto his changing table.

I think the biggest difference now is food choice and attempts at portion control. I barely consume dairy anymore (I used to have cheese almost every day with breakfast), and we’ve kind of cut back on red meat a bit. It might also help that I have no false hormones running through my system, and am not on anti-depressants. Beanie is still nursing, too, and more often than Pie did (Pie was weaned when he was 14 months, and Beanie just turned 16 months).

So, I’m thinking that if I add working out on a semi-regular basis to this hodge-podge of possible weight-loss stimulators, I could be below 160 before I know it! 🙂

In the meantime, I enjoy being able to zip AND snap my jeans the first time I put them on! 🙂 It’s the small victories. 😉

Posted in Diet and Nutrition

Drop, Drop, Fizz, Fizz

Two whole blogs ago (like, blog URLs; probably back before blogging was “blogging”), I was suffering from chronic heartburn (aka “reflux”) and sick of it. I was also significantly underwhelmed by my doctor’s response when I tried to have a G.I. done before our insurance ran out after my husband lost his job. He said we would only discover I had G.E.R.D. and would treat it the same as he was planning to, anyway: With two months’-worth of Nexium and a promise to find a cheaper prescription when those ran out. (My response should have been to feign shock that my doctor was hiding such superhero powers like X-ray vision from his patients, but that might not have been productive. Not that his solution was, either, but I digress.)

I took two months’-worth of Nexium, but did not change my diet. I think I attempted to do some things differently, but we were living with friends, had little money to spend on specialty foods, and our friends had opinions of their own on what was going on in my gut.

So, I did the only thing I could: I went to the library and read books on reflux and gastrointestinal health. I learned about the evils of antacids (Tums, Mylanta, etc), H2 blockers (Zantac, Tagamet, Pepcid, etc.), and proton pump inhibitors (Nexium, Prilosec, etc.). I learned about candidiasis and sugar sensitivity. I think the first book I read was at my brother- and sister-in-law’s house while I was a daytime nanny for my first niece: “Potatoes Not Prozac”, by Dr. Kathleen DesMaisons (her website is here). It was my first venture into understanding the gut-brain connection, and it was FASCINATING! I read three or four other books from the library (and one of my own, about sinus health, which mentioned candidiasis (yeast overgrowth) and covered dietary suggestions not given by the Potatoes Not Prozac book).

From what I read about the causes and treatment of G.E.R.D., I deduced that it was not at all a disease, as most health practitioners would lead you to believe (the name alone–“Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease”–suggests it, as well), but a symptom of a greater cause. That cause can vary from person to person, but generally it’s the body’s reaction to poor diet and digestion (oversimplification, but I’m not going to go off on it now).

I was successful for about a year after going cold turkey off sugar, sugar substitutes (with the exception of stevia), caffeine, refined flours, and white rice. I could only drink water–not because of my new diet, but because even herbal tea set off the pain–and I tried to drink at least three 32oz jugs of it a day. I was limited to leafy green veggies (limited on the hard-to-digest ones, like broccoli and cabbage), non-starchy veggies (except for potatoes), brown rice, brown breads (as whole-grained as possible), peanut butter, oatmeal, light proteins (fish, chicken, eggs), hard cheese, and a few other things I could find that weren’t irritating.

Then, I ran across information about probiotics, and was jazzed! After a long period of eating very few dessert-like foods, I got some yogurt (REAL yogurt–I’ll save the diatribe about Yoplait and other large consumer brands for another time) and was in heaven!

Once I determined my digestion was doing better, I started adding more foods in, and quickly regressed to low-willpower-land. Though my food choices are still much better for my experiences, they’re often less than ideal. And I definitely do not drink enough water anymore.

I’ve begun to notice my reflux creeping back. I know my triggers, but I ignore them. Like an addict, I can’t avoid the siren call of bread or pasta or desserts. I’ve also been in a lot of pain lately, and very tired all the time. I recognize those symptoms can be a result of little exercise, but I seriously could sleep all day long given the chance. I’ve also noticed poor Beanie seeming to show some symptoms of baby reflux, and I know much of the blame lies in my choice of food and drink.

So I need to make a change. I just recently bought three books: “The Body Ecology Diet”, by Donna Gates; “Wild Fermentation”, by Sandor Ellix Katz; and “Nourishing Traditions”, by Sandy Fallon. I’m looking forward to playing with more fermentation and preparing and eating more healthy foods.

My step-mother-in-law was in town with my husband’s dad this past week, and she’s big into good gut maintenance, including fermentation, probiotics, and raw foods. We made kefir (well, we revived the grains that were languishing in my fridge), cheese, and kraut. She also left me with some viili (pronounced “villi”) yogurt, which I might have actually killed, but I’ll find that out soon. 🙂 She reminded me about the Body Ecology Diet, which I’d looked into years ago, and Wild Fermentation, which was on my Amazon.com wishlist. The three books were marked way down, so I jumped on them.

I’ll try to take pictures of my adventures in fermentation and probiotics (and healthy foods) and post them here, along with reviews of the books. So far, I like what I’m reading in the Body Ecology.

But now I’m falling asleep, and it’s past midnight, so I’m going to wrap up. Maybe I’ll post tomorrow night! Hopefully it doesn’t trigger the breaking of an apocryphal seal, but we’ll see. 🙂