And for once I was SuperMom

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Sweet Potato and Collard Green Pot Pie

There it sat, dessert.  Someone had brought Monkey bread to our Seder Dinner.  I wasn't even really tempted.  I've noticed that when you know you 'cannot,' those little devils on your shoulders lose some of their grip.  I was chatting with the person next to me, I confessed my Lenten promise,
"Oh, you can eat what you've given up on Sundays," she said.
"Sundays are feast days, and saint's days..St. Patrick," she nodded.  I looked around the room, heads were nodding.  I didn't know this.  I thought it was cold turkey for 40 days.  I almost didn't eat it, that seemed like cheating, especially when I had gone into this thinking I wasn't going to eat any sugar at all.

But then I did.  My friend offered to leave it, there were jokes about eating it all in one day.  I might have, had I not been in polite company.
Scott did the grocery shopping that afternoon.  While we were putting them away he held aloft a container of Ben & Jerry's, Chubby Hubby,
"Want to feast with me tonight?"
"You bet I do," we did, there is no more ice cream in our house anymore.
I would've expected that much sugar in one day to make me sick.  It didn't.  My body devoured it, ferried it away into the parts of my physiology that seemed to be missing sugar the most.  Maybe because I hadn't had it in so long, I was clearer, there wasn't such a back log to make me feel sick.
I've been wondering what I will do after this 40 days, return to my wanton and un-tethered ways?  Or somehow try to limit myself?

Today I used sugar in a recipe.  A slippery slope I have found myself on.  I had the idea of using some leftover collard greens in a pot pie like dish.  At a Thanksgiving dinner I went to a year ago there was a kale side pot pie side dish passed around.  Being a fan of using kale in, well, everything, I took note.
I wanted to top it with sweet potato biscuits, I found this recipe. Really Paula, two heaping tablespoons of sugar.  I cut it down to one.

Don't think I went all Martha on you
the flower cookie cutter was the first one I
grabbed.  I thought it would get my
oldest to eat it...I was wrong.
Today Scott turned to me after dinner.
"I want something s-w-e-e-t," he spelled out.
"You did the grocery shopping this week, you could have bought something," I gently punched his arm.
"I didn't out of deference to you," he replied.
"Just because I made that decision doesn't mean that the rest of you have to," I reply.
A few moments go by,
"Do you mind if I take Emma out on a d-a-t-e?"
"Sure," um, I mean yes, can I help you get her coat on right now?
"I could take both of them," he says.
"You don't have to, up to you," I really meant it, but I sure helped him get out the door.

Maybe this has a way of working itself out.  Sure I would've loved ice cream this evening, but instead I got forty minutes of time.  Quiet time.  I wrote this blog in my head while I cleaned the table.  That's right, I could think while accomplishing another task...imagine.

Sausage and Collard Green Pot Pie
1 lb pork sausage
1 half onion
2 carrots
Half bunch collard greens
1-2 TB flour
1 cup water
1 cup milk
Pepper to taste
1 recipe sweet potato biscuits (see above)
Begin by sauteing the sausage in a large skillet or stock pot.  Add onions, carrots, and collards in that order as you chop them. Add flour and mix in.  Saute until sausage is cooked through and collards are tender.  remove from heat and add the water and milk.  Add pepper to taste whenever you are near where you keep the pepper and remember it.  Grease a 9x13 pan, pour sausage collard mixture into pan.  Roll out biscuit dough, cut and lay on top of mixture.  Bake according to biscuit directions.

In retrospect I could've subbed the sugar out for maple syrup.  Maple syrup tastes good with sweet potatoes, right?  Maple glazed sweet potatoes, I think I've made that before.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

More Sugary Thoughts

I'd love to tell you that I feel clean, in my Lenten fast.  That I feel smoothed out, healthy.

Mostly I want to shove my face in some cake.

You read that right, not, 'shove cake in my face.'  Shove my face in some cake.  The whole face, bam.  Frosting in my eyebrows.
I hear it's good for the skin.
It's not.  I made that up.

I have been surprised, I crave something sweet after almost every meal.  I used to eat sugar first thing when I woke up.  Cookies taste great with coffee in the morning.  Then something after lunch.  Then something in the afternoon.  Then something after dinner.  Sometimes I could withstand the temptation.  Most of the time I could not.
After my father died my ability to say 'no' disapeared.
'I'm gonna eat this.'
'And then this.'
'And how about this.'
'Are you gonna eat that?  Because I will.'
I was eating store bought cupcakes.  Who eats those things?  I did.
Food seems to be a little flatter lately.  I desire the pendulum swing from sweet savory.

And how silly is all of this?  Sweets are not a necessary part of our diet.  I'm sure that sweet serves some evolutionary purpose, a sign that something is good to eat.  Sweet may have meant safe.  Fruit is sweet, and that is certainly good for us.  Although some die hard anti sugar fans claim that we probably shouldn't even eat fruit.  I think that's a bit silly.  But distilled sugar, from sugar cane or other 'ose' sources have become such a huge part of our diet that to go without it seems hard.  Or flat.
I have been shocked at what seems so much sweeter to me now.  Oranges.  Red wine.  A random handful of my kid's Berry Cheerios.  So I suppose in a way it has been cleansing.

And I've lost four pounds.
So, you know, that's a thing.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


"I just feel so accomplished right now," I said, looking up at Scott.  I was on the floor of the girl's room, sitting in their bean bag chair.
"I mean both girls are clean..." it was right after bath time.  One of those good baths, with no fights over toys.  I had clipped finger nails, brushed teeth, and brushed hair. They were soooooooooo well taken care of, if anyone were to walk in right now they could not argue that these children were not cared for and loved.  I usually feel like that after baths, like, 'look what I did.'

There is sort of an ethos floating around about how hard parenting is, so much focus on 'vomit on my shirt,' or 'I haven't showered in days,' or 'they won't stop screaming.'  If one were to peruse blogs you'd start to wonder, 'why do we do this?'  It's a good question.  We are so focused on individual autonomy that we don't see the big picture, that we need other people to live.

But I digress, every now and then I feel like I am winning this.  I started parenting in a state of petrified shock.  'When will she hit puberty and hate me?'  'What am I going to say that is going to send her to the therapist's couch?' 'How will my flaws as a mom shape them negatively?'  I've had to relax, or else I would've cracked.  Sometimes my oldest will do something that will floor me, like share with her sister without being asked.  Or pick up her clothes without being reminded.  Or say something kind to a stranger.

I usually take my eldest grocery shopping with me on Sundays, in the produce section she flung her arms around my neck and hugged me.  Another mom looked over me and said,
"Those are the best moments," I nodded from my hunched position, neck still held in a four year old's vice.  I agree, those are the best.  I'm not talking about those moments though, kids are smart they are going to hug the people that feed them.  They also have a serious case of Mommy and Daddy worship.  I am talking about those moments when you realize all this hard work is worth something.  When a lesson you've been working on forever has finally sunk in or the one thing that you fail at you accomplish (like getting everything clean all at once).
I want to spread that love around.  So hit 'share' and put a 'win' on it.  Tell me about a time when you feel like you're winning this parenting thing.  If you can get me to cry I will knit for you.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Sugar Sugar

"What are you thinking for dinner?" Scott asks, over my shoulder.  I am hand laying the rest of our bathroom tile.
"I don't know, I can just throw some tater tots in the oven and we can make sandwiches," I respond.
"This is something to be celebrated," he gestures at the completed bathroom, I am now washing my hands at the sink.  I begin to give myself a gentle lecture, 'he is trying to love on you, stop being cheap, and let him do it.'
"Okay, all I know is that I want french fries." In about a half hour a chicken kabob sub, some kind of philly cheese steak, and a chicken finger plate were delivered to our door.  The chicken finger plate is overflowing with french fries and onion rings.  Just what I want after finishing a long day on my knees applying mortar and cutting tile.  I devour half my chicken kabob sub and am happily shoving french fries in my mouth.  I've never been a fan ketchup, I always mix  mine half and half with mustard.  One is too sweet the other is too, well, mustardy, and blended into an orange pile on my plate they are perfect.  A sweet concoction it is not.  About mid bite into a stolen chicken finger from my daughter's plate I realized something,
"Ketchup has sugar in it," I threw down the bite and scooped the bottle of ketchup.  Sure enough, high fructose corn syrup is the third ingredient.  My Lenten sacrifice broken only four days in.

I gave up 'refined sugar.'  In that I have included anything from the sugar cane plant, corn syrup, and any ingredient ending in 'ose.'  I have allowed myself to eat maple syrup and honey.
But Lara honey and maple syrup are basically, chemically sugar.
Look, I make my own rules.
Besides have you ever met any processed food that is sweetened solely with honey or maple syrup?  I'll you think about that for awhile....
I haven't either.

Later while we were doing some scant clean up I mimicked myself,
"This has sugar in it!"
"Lara said about everything," Scott replied.  It had been a oft heard phrase in the past few days.
My favorite salad dressing.  Every kind of hoagie, hot dog bun, or oblong bread product for which to make into sandwiches in the store.  Except for one local bakery, thank you Sclafani's.

I've heard that sugar has been added to much of our processed food when we started taking fat out.  I had thought that was true, but I was exempt from that phenomena because I don't eat any 'low fat' processed food.  I didn't know that my favorite salad dressing was 'low fat.'  I just liked it.
We've also added sugar to a host of health foods to make them more palatable.  Like 'whole grain' breads.  Almost every whole wheat bread out there has sugar in it, or molasses, or corn syrup, or honey.

I've  become a little tired of what I have to eat.  I made myself some 'cookies,' that are sweetened with honey.  There is a still almost a whole pan of them left...clearly I don't love them.  Because if I did, they'd be gone.  When the urge to snack strikes, I find myself coming up a little light on options.  Or is it 'lite?'

This week I had the stomach bug, a reprieve you might think.  As I lie there thinking about all the foods I might send my poor husband out to purchase for me I realized that I could not eat any of them.  Gatorade? Sugar.  Ginger ale?  Sugar.  Vitamin Water?  Sugar.  Ginger candies?  Sugar.  I ended up on tea with honey and ginger.  And least I can eat those.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Ash Wednesday

"Do you have any chocolate?" I asked a friend.  It was five days after my father's death.
"Ah, so that's what you're going to do?"  She pointed out some Girl Scout chocolates at the top of her pantry and then acted surprised when I didn't bring them with me when I sat down on the couch.  She then recounted how in the days after her father's death she started a less than healthy glass of wine a night habit.  I told my stepbrother that I thought I was going to use sugar to cope,
"Be careful, that adds up," he said, not unkindly.
"It all adds up," I responded.

With the last few months of moving, renovation, and the loss of my father my ability to say 'no' to anything sweet has gone down.  I've only gained two pounds (I workout, a lot), so it hasn't been too detrimental to my waistline.  I know that it's potentially wreaking havoc in other ways, and eventually I won't be 32 years old, staying at a healthy weight only gets harder, so they say.

Some of you may have thought, 'she's only giving up sugar to lose weight, classic, using Lent as a time to drop pounds.'
You betcha.

I have felt that discrepancy.  I have also felt a bit out of control.  No longer capable of passing up treats when I didn't really want them, or not snagging morsels off my kid's plates, or not having seconds.  Stress breaking my will to say pass up on the huge amounts of food that pass under the nose of most Americans each day.

Today wasn't that hard.  I had successfully expunged much of the sugary goodies on Fat Tuesday.  Either by me or via my husband and children.  I wanted a treat after lunch.  I wanted one in the afternoon with my cup of coffee.  I wanted another one after dinner.  Some days I happily indulge each time.  That has to be too much, right?  Sweets are a luxury food, not made for daily consumption or hourly consumption.  They don't have much by the way nutritional value...I should be able to live without them.

Then I stood before my pineapple fried rice, dinner sizzling away.  The ingredients list had called for sugar, I ignored that.  I didn't need sugar in fried rice.  Then I tasted it.  The pineapple required some sweet.  Should I sprinkle some brown sugar on top?  I decided to add honey.  It's not refined, and the challenge I set before myself is refined sugar.  I wondered if it would spread or be enough.  Two teaspoons was plenty and it disseminated throughout just perfectly.

The two hardest spots were afternoon, when I am hungry for a snack and after dinner when I am hungry before bedtime.  This is when it is very easy to justify any food.  I ended up with popcorn and then crackers and brie.

I didn't do much spiritually.  Didn't need prayer...yet.  Didn't need the spirit to intercede for my lack of self control.  The need for God will come I am sure.  I am hoping that this time will bring to light places in my life where I've gotten sloppy.  Where I've allowed stress to take it's dangerous toll.  Where mindlessness has taken the place of mindfulness.  

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Fat Tuesday

I woke up this morning not wanting to do it.  Not wanting to deal with the cold.  Not wanting to deal with a child who rips off her mittens and then screams because her hands are cold.  Not wanting to do the same thing that we do every Tuesday.

Truth be told, I chose to give up sweets because I knew I needed a reset button, and I told myself I pig out for the next few days.

This morning my languid attitude spilled into all my regular breakfast options.  The english muffin with peanut butter did not sound tastey.  The yogurt with a banana did not sound delightful.  I ate a bagel.  With cream cheese, something I haven't had in a long time.  The thought occurred to me that maybe every now and again we need a day where we just eat whatever we want.  All those foods, whether under sound nutritional advice or superstition, that you have decided are forbidden you allow yourself to eat all day long.  I don't know what the purpose would serve, maybe you just indulge and then you won't just eat all over the place.

I had grand plans to go to a nearby coffee shop and buy one of their uber lovely cupcakes and eat it all....probably with the help of my youngest daughter.  I went to the gym instead.  The rest of the morning was to busy to eat at all.

For the rest of the afternoon and evening there was Lemon Bundt Cake.  There is only one piece left.  I had help.
Sure you did Lara.
No, really, I did.

There is a big poster in the gym advertising a Mardi Gras celebration at a nearby restaurant.  Emma was mesmerized with it.  I started thinking over how I would answer any questions.  'Ummmm, it's when I bunch of people do stuff they think they really shouldn't, because for the next forty days they won't...?'  Then there are the girls with the boobs and the necklaces and I just don't think we're ready for that...her or me.

Made me think about how a few years ago I might have been tempted by a New Orleans Mardi Gras celebration.  Now I just think it would make me tired.  Inside and out.  I thought more about my own version, was it really okay to eat that much cake in one day, just because I know I can't for the next few weeks.
Probably not.  But I did it anyway.
I kept thinking about what other people were doing on this Tuesday, most of us are just Tuesday-ing  it up.  Work, school, kids...
I made Apple Chutney.

Our little grocery store sells half price fruit and vegetables at the back of the produce section.  Every now and then you can grab something for a good deal.  You have to be discerning, because they are old.  I snagged 4 lb. bag of granny smith apples for $2.27.  And I made them into chutney.

We eat quite a bit of chutney in our house.  I haven't found any here that I like or that isn't exorbitantly expensive.  We had all the other ingredients on hand, so I think I saved us some money.

Here's the recipe:

12 cups apples (peeled, cored, chopped)
2 cups cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups onion
4 cloves garlic
1 cup raisins (or other dried fruit)
1 inches ginger root (peeled and minced)
4 cups brown sugar
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp each ground cloves, ground mustard, and salt
1 tsp red chile flakes
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 ground cardamom
Combine in a large saucepan.  Bring to a boil.  Lower heat to medium and cook until mixture thickens.  Ladle into hot sterilized jars.  Seal with sterilized lids and process full jars in boiling water bath for 15 minutes.

I was having a hard time telling if mine was going to gel properly, chutney is not as thick as jam, but it should be jam like. I think it was because I used brown sugar.  Anyone want to try it with white sugar and tell me if they have luck?

So here I am, on this Catholic day of partying going all Mennonite on myself and canning things.  I just can't do anything the proper way.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Decision Time

“I’m trying to cut refined sugar out of my diet,” I say, to a friend, as I frost cookies we have just made with our children.
“Are you?” she asks.  I think about all the times in the last months that I have said that to her and realize that she’s right.  There’s been an awful lot of talk from me, but almost absolutely no follow through.
I like the idea of cutting refined sugar out of my diet.  I like the thought of running a clean body, free of pollutants.  I know what I feel like if I eat too much.  Junky.  Sticky.  Icky.  A little gobbed up.
The season Lent is upon us again.  It always seems to sneak up on me; all of a sudden I am supposed to have thought through something that is holding me back.  Keeping me from God.  Stunting my progress as a human being.  In like a day.  This time I had more warning.  This time I have been feeling a bit more out of control.  There are few more things on my mind that shouldn’t be there. 
I am kind of obsessed with desserts.  I eat dessert at least twice a day. 
I mean that’s kinda bad, right?
I’m not really overweight, so it’s not that big of a deal, right? 
There’s always that last five pounds.  But isn’t there always that last five pounds?
I mean, I’ve never broken out in a cold sweat because I didn’t have dessert…I’ve never driven across town to get pastries that I just needed.  I’ve never withdrawn five hundred dollars at one in the morning  to purchase chocolate. 
But I have eaten myself to a good stomachache.  I have eaten past where I wanted because I couldn’t stop.  I have not been able to say no. I’ve been under a lot of stress lately and saying ‘no’ has gotten downright near impossible.  That sounds like an excuse.  It is…but let’s face it I have been through a lot in the past year.  Like, a lot.
So I’ve decided to use Lent as a time to show myself that I don’t need desserts.  I can make healthier choices.  I can say no when my belly aches.  I don’t need to know what every dessert on the table tastes like.  I used to be able to say ‘no.’  I don’t need sugar to de-stress.  Or to treat myself.  I am giving up refined sugar for Lent.

But here’s how sick I am, once I made that decision I was like, ‘Oh crap, I have to eat as much as possible in the next few days!”  Here’s how sick I am; I have all this frosting left in my fridge:
The brown stuff?  Orange Chocolate.  Left over from our Open House.  That was in January.
The colored stuff?  Left over from a friend's birthday party.  I made cookies, the theme was 'Art.'  That's supposed to be red, yellow, and blue.  Didn't quite get to red.  I tried adding a little cocoa powder, you know like you do in Red Velvet Cake, to make it not so pink.  I think I ended up with burgundy.
The white?  Cream cheese frosting from cinnamon rolls that I made for Bible Study.
Because you can't just throw away frosting..can  you?   
Yes, you can, Lara, you can.
Well, I can't.  
So I have all this frosting left, and I'm gonna give up sugar for Lent.  And I can't just throw it away.
So I made this cake:
It's Lemon Bundt Cake.

It's a family trick.  My mother in law gave me the recipe, it is one of the few cakes that always turns out amazing.

But  you can't put chocolate icing on lemon cake.
That's weird.

If I mix the colored icings all together I will end up with a weird poo brown color.  And who wants to eat that?
Besides, we have a guest for dinner, and I can't serve a guest poo brown frosting.
There is not enough cream cheese frosting to cover it.

What is a girl to do?

I mixed the yellow frosting and the cream cheese.

Now I have this:

I did not eat all that cake myself.

Sure you didn't.

No, really, we had a guest for dinner.

I'm serious.

Anyway, tomorrow is Mardi Gras.

I fully intend on taking Fat Tuesday seriously.  Very seriously.  

Here's the recipe for the bundt cake, in case you were wondering.  And in case you're not giving sugar up anytime soon.
1 box lemon cake mix
1 package vanilla pudding
1 cup sour cream or yogurt (I used greek vanilla yogurt)
1/2. cup oil
1/2 cup water
4 eggs

Beat it up.
Pour it in a greased bundt pan.
Bake it at 350 for 45 min to an hour.
Feel free to throw in lemon zest as well.  Or to frost with lemon frosting.  (The juice of one lemon mixed with about two cups powdered sugar.)