Sugar, sugar

Where I live, March is nutrition month in schools. We talk about the four food groups, portion sizes, basically, how to have healthy eating habits. Since my students spend three years with me, I don’t do the same activities each year.

This year, the focus is on sugar. Where it comes from, how it’s transformed, what kind of sugar your body needs, what foods contain sugar. My theory is, the more kids know about their food and what it does for their body, good or bad, the better equipped they’ll be to make healthy choices.

I wanted them to understand exactly how much sugar most people eat without even realizing it, so we read the nutritional labels from their snacks and wheighed it out. They were amazed at how much sugar is in such small snacks.

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I also included some images of high-sugar drinks and foods, like soda and chocolate, so they would understand why they’re told “you can’t eat that, it has too much sugar.”

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I did this activity for the kid’s benefit, but it got me thinking. I try to eat well. I’ve cut most gluten out of my diet, I eat a lot of fruits and vegetables (although not a huge variety), I drink plenty of water, I don’t drink coffee. But. I like sweet things. Cake, cookies, chocolate, ice cream, soda. I eat more than I should.

So I’ve decided to cut out sugar. I don’t know for how long, but for now, it needs to be done.

I did have a piece of birthday cake this weekend and that’s ok. Baby steps. However, I had an apple as a snack after school, instead of a pre-packaged caramel rice cake snack. When I went to Starbucks, I checked, and yes, my usual drink did indeed contain sugar! The barista suggested something similar, but without sugar, and it tasted delicious. I’m going to do my best, but ultimately, the goal is not necessarily to cut out sugar forever, just to reduce my intake to a healthy level.

I know some fruit contains a lot of natural sugar, but eating an orange is so much better than eating an entire bag of mini eggs (not that I do that kind of thing), so I’m not going to worry about that right now.

Does anyone have any tips? I’m open to anything that will keep me from reaching for the oreos…

Vitamin water

Last week, at work, I noticed that a lot of people were sick. I was worried that I would get sick so I’ve been trying to do everything I can to avoid it. When I was at the grocery store, I saw some vitamin water and thought maybe it would help. Then I thought of all the sugar and other crap they add to it and I decided to make my own.

Citrus has a lot of vitamin c, so I went with lemon, lime and orange.

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I covered the slices with water, let it sit in the refrigerator for a while, and voilà! Tasty, citrusy water.

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The longer it sits, the more flavour you get. I made it yesterday and it was delicious. Today, it was a little bitter, so I added some honey. Bliss.

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I’m thinking raspberry-cucumber next. Do you have any flavour suggestions?

Raspberry bites

I’ve been experimenting with gluten free baking for a while now. However, I’m not a the point where I make my own flour blend, or have different kinds of flour. I buy a pre-made blend. I have realized that not all gluten free flour blends are equals. I found one I really like, from the health food store down the street, but last time I was there, they didn’t have my flour! I went to the bulk barn and bought some there, thinking I got a great deal. Yes, it was cheaper, but I like the other one better. I guess I have expensive taste (when it comes to flour).

I wanted to make raspberry muffins, but not with pieces of raspberries. I don’t like cooked, mushy fruit, unless it’s apples. I found a recipe for vanilla zucchini muffins, and played around with it a little. I pureed frozen raspberries with some frozen, grated zucchini. They are good, but not excellent. I’ll have to keep playing with it before I share. Preferably with my favourite flour.

The batter had a nice colour, but it wasn’t as vibrant as I thought it would be.

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Once cooked, the colour wasn’t really noticible. Well, they are kind of purple. But who doesn’t love purple?

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Sorry if you came to this post looking for a recipe. I’ll share as soon as I find a way to make them taste amazing!

Superbowl Sunday without the Superbowl

I’m not a huge football fan, so Sunday was just a Sunday for me, not a event. When I woke up, I was feeling pretty lazy, so I watched an episode of Homeland. Have you seen this show? I’m still at the begining of season one, but I am hooked!

I realized soon enough that I had to get out of the house, otherwise I would lose my Sunday to the fight against terrorists. I decided to go to an afternoon yoga class, but before I left, I made dinner in the crockpot so that when I came home, it smelled heavenly.

I made orange curry chicken, and it’s so easy, it’s crazy.

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That’s it! Well, almost. When the chicken was cooked, I cut it into bite-sized pieces, then put in back into the sauce, along with some cream. I served it over jasmin rice. So good! Also, it’s gluten free.

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Simple and delicious.

My yoga class was perfect for a Sunday afternoon. It was an intro class, so there wasn’t too much flowing. It was very chill. Baby yoga. Not that it was easy, because we held poses for a little longer than we do in a regular flow class. I think it’s a good idea to do a beginner class every once in a while. It really makes you think about your alignment.

Homeland, easy chicken and yoga. Better than the Superbowl.

Orange curry chicken

– juice of 4 oranges

– tablespoon of curry powder

– 2 chicken breasts

– 1/4 cup of cream

Place juice, curry powder and chicken breast in crockpot and cook for three hours on high or six hours on low. Add cream and heat for 20 minutes. Serve over jasmin rice. Enjoy!

Ooh la la!

My best friend Suzanne is going to have a baby. We’ve been friends since the first grade, and now she’s going to be someone’s mom. It’s strange, wonderful and perfect, all at the same time. She’ll be an awesome mom. I can already picture her with her daughter. Of course, in my mind it’s all Hallmark moments, but I’m sure real life will be different! Either way, I hope the next two months go by really fast, because I can’t wait to meet baby Stella.

Suzanne’s mom and sisters hosted a Paris themed baby shower yesterday. I don’t know where they came up with that idea, but it was perfect! They really went all out with the decorations too, with paintbrushes hanging from the ceiling and impressionist-ish paintings done by Suzanne’s two year old nephew. It all felt very artistic and Parisian.

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We all had to wear hats, which was fabulous, because how often do I get to wear a hat that’s not a woolly toque these days? I wore my fascinator and it made me quite happy. I didn’t think I would get the chance to wear it again! Especially not in the winter. I didn’t get a picture though, as I was busy being the photographer with my awesome new camera. I did get Suzanne’s sister to take a picture of the two of us, but I had removed my feathers by then!

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I was asked to make the cake. I wanted to stay with the Paris theme, but not be too tacky. I decided “chic” would be my theme. I bought some edible paper, which I had never worked with before. I liked the design, but I couldn’t cut out shapes like I wanted, it kept cracking. I decided to go with strips instead and this is what I came up with.

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I wanted to take step-by-step photos as I was decorating the cake, but I am way too messy for that to be possible. Making fondant is not difficult, but it requires a very hight tolerance for extreme messiness. Powdered sugar everywhere. And I’m not exaggerating!

I hope baby Stella liked it!

Rabbit food

I like carrots, but only when they’re raw. Cooked carrots are just not my thing. However, I’ve noticed that if I add grated carrots to cooked food, like spaghetti sauce or soup, I’ll eat them. It’s kind of like hiding them from myself, because they’re so small and I can’t taste them.

In November, I decided to try going gluten-free. It was going really well for a while, until Christmas. Cookies, pie, quiche…there was no controlling myself. I don’t have an issue with gluten, so it wasn’t so bad. Going gluten-free was more of an “everything in moderation” thing. I still have Christmas cookies in my freezer, but other than that, I’m trying to cut out gluten as much as possible.

So, where am I going with gluten-free carrots? Simple. Gluten-free carrot macaroni and cheese. That’s right. Sooo good!

I bought this corn pasta to replace regular pasta, and it tastes the same. It’s a little yellow, but once cooked, it’s not so neon.

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Not the best company name, if you ask me. It’s too close to leper.

Grate a couple of carrots. If you’re super into carrots, feel free to add more.

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Two minutes before the pasta is done, add the carrots to the boiling water.

Drain the carrot/pasta mix and set aside.

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Mix your sauce any way you like. I used flour for my roux, since it was only a small amout, but you can thicken your sauce with cornstarch. I used 2 or 3 cups of milk. I like mild cheese, so I used mozzarella and cheddar, but you can use whatever you have. I used 2 or 3 cups, I think. I really have no idea. This is not a precise recipe, it’s more of an idea. I also added cream cheese.

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Mix everything together, then pour into a baking dish. Add more cheese, of course. I used rice cereal for the crispy topping.

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Put in the oven at 350 for about 30 minutes, or the time it takes to clean the kitchen and check your e-mails. When it smells so delicious you can’t stand it, it’s ready.

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Enjoy!

What does a gingerbread man put on his bed?

I once answered this question with “a gingerbread woman?” but the correct answer is… cookie sheets! Ah, cookie jokes.

To add to the four kinds of Christmas cookies I already made, I decided to make gingerbread cookies today. This recipe is easy and makes a lot of cookies. Also, it’s low fat. Not something I usually look for in a cookie recipe, but hey, bonus!

First, I had to go to 3 different stores to find molasses. I’m not sure if the stores are the problem, or if I just couldn’t find it. It might be me.

I mixed all the wet ingredients together, and at this point, I admit it does not look very appetizing. But this soupy mess will become delicious cookies, I promise.

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What I like about this recipe is that it only uses one bowl. I’m a messy baker, so the less dishes to wash, the better! Dump in all the dry ingredients.

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Mix until it looks like graham cracker crumbs.

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Take big handfuls and squeeze into weird, flat, squished ball shapes. Refrigerate while you have a snack of corn chips and guacamole. Well, that’s what I did, but whatever makes you happy.

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Roll out the dough and cut out whatever shapes you like. Keep adding flour so it doesn’t stick.

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I used stars, trees and of course, gingerbread men!

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I made baby gingerbread with the dough I had left and stuck them in with the stars, hoping they wouldn’t burn.

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Bake and decorate! I iced the cookies with a simple frosting of icing sugar and water, to wich I added some meringue powder. I added it so the frosting would set and the cookies wouldn’t all stick together. I tried to keep all the cookies on the trays, but they ran away from me and took over the table!

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Gingerbread Cookies

1 cup packed brown sugar

1/3 cup shortening or butter

1 1/2 cups dark molasses

2/3 cup cold water

7 cups flour

2 tsp baking powder

2 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp ground allspice

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground cloves

1/2 tsp salt

Mix wet ingredients with sugar. Add dry ingredients. Cover and refrigerate for 20-30 minutes. Roll dough 1/4 inch thick and cut out shapes. Bake at 350 for 6 to 7 minutes.

Enjoy!