Friday, January 28, 2011

Sugar Challenge

I was a sugar addict.  It started innocently enough as a small child.  A chocolate donut from the local bakery on Saturday morning, a swig of cherry Kool-Aid on a hot summer afternoon, a bowl of colorful Trix cereal washed down with cold milk before school.

Sugar was just as common as salt and pepper.  It sweetened up those apple pies my mom baked in the fall.  It decorated the tops of snickerdoodle cookies.  It had its own rightful place in the sugar bowl, where adding an extra spoonful of sugar certainly did help the medicine go down!

Little did I know sugar was like a slow drip of arsenic, poisoning my body and creating an addiction that could rival anyone at the Betty Ford Center.  (Want to know about the damage sugar does to your body?  Read my notes on Facebook.)

I have vivid memories of my first job at Safeway.  I was completely unaware that I had a sugar problem, though each day on my break a jelly donut and a 3 Musketeers Bar found its way into my stomach.

More vivid memories of being a 6th grade school teacher.  Still unaware of my sugar addiction, I spent each night lying in bed reading a book while scarfing down half a bag of cookies and sipping nighty night tea wondering why I had insomnia.

And still more memories of homeschooling my children.  Heaping spoonful after spoonful of sugar into cups of coffee, then frantically drinking the elixir down as a heroin addict frantically finds a fix.

Making the decision to eliminate sugar from my diet was one of the most difficult challenges I've ever faced in my life.  Sugar, once it knows you are ready to sever ties, goes into overdrive and creates uncontrollable cravings that even Super Woman couldn't conquer.  I battled with sugar for years!  At times having conquered the invader and at other times caving in like Whole Foods acquiescing to Monsanto.

It wasn't until I started school at Institute for Integrative Nutrition that I finally got a handle on the sugar.  Through patience, determination, better food choices, deconstructing the cravings and lots of support from my fellow students, I found the sugar cravings slowly diminishing while my mood and energy improved and my belly didn't hurt anymore!

But now even with my arsenal of natural and alternative sweeteners, I am dismayed and disgruntled by the sugar content found in the most basic of foods.  Ketchup, mayonnaise, salad dressings, BBQ sauce.  You name it, it probably has sugar in it.  Even the organic products at the health food store are loaded with sugar!  Though I may not want sugar in my life, the food industry seems to think it should be!

So my Sugar Challenge has begun.  I am on a mission to continue eliminating sugar from my life and my pantry.  By finding products made without sugar or just learning to make them on my own, my goal is to be truly sugar free. 

Will you to join me?

How has sugar affected your life?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Homemade Granola

Every once in a while I'll get a craving for some granola.  Crunchy, a little sweet and full of my favorite nuts and dried fruits.  But unfortunately most granolas in the store are full of sugar.  Drat that sugar!  So I decided to just make my own.  I mean how hard could it be?  Here's the recipe:

Homemade Granola
  • 2 cups old fashioned rolled oats, organic please!
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds, go ahead throw in some other favorite nuts too, like chopped pecans
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 cup dried cranberries or your favorite dried fruit or even a combo!
  1. Preheat oven to 350*  On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss oats, coconut and almonds.
  2. In a small saucepan, melt coconut oil.  Remove from heat and stir in honey.
  3. Pour over oat mixture and toss.
  4. Bake, stirring occasionally, until lightly toasted, 20-30 minutes
  5. Place mixture in a large storage bowl and stir in cranberries.  Make sure to let the granola cool completely before storing. 

Fresh from the oven granola

My favorite way to eat this granola is just like a bowl of cereal with some fresh raw milk.  It also tastes divine sprinkled in yogurt or cottage cheese.  For a snack, cut an apple or banana in half and spread with peanut butter, then add granola on top for a fun treat.  Granola can also go with ice cream or frozen yogurt and is really good stirred into a fruit salad.

Storing the granola

It looks so pretty, I couldn't stop taking pics!

How do you eat granola?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


Back in oh about the year 2006, a friend handed me a book called Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon.  Upon reading that book, my entire view of food was radically altered and a new direction in my kitchen was laid open before me.

My passion for food and science were fueled by new concepts I had never heard of before:  sprouting?  fermenting?  What is that all about?  I embodied the mad scientist as jars of kefir and kombucha, beet kvass and sauerkraut, sprouting seeds and soaking legumes filled my counter tops.  My friends and family eyed me suspiciously as they lovingly yet apprehensively drank or ate my many concoctions.

Once such concoction which made many squint with disgust and curiosity was my kombucha.  What on Goddess's Green Earth is growing in that jar!  Oh yes, the SCOBY, the mother of the kombucha.  Yes, my friends it looks like a wicked jelly fish or something from a late night horror movie, but that scoby makes the most delicious and nutritious beverage. 

Kombucha Scoby

SCOBY stands for symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast.  It is also called a mushroom.  The bacteria and yeast feed on the sugar and tea to create acetic, lactic and glucuronic acid and a host of antioxidants, vitamins, and probiotics.  All of which boost the immune system, aid the body's natural cleansing processes, and have said to help in cancer prevention. 

Makes about 2 quarts

  • 3 quarts filtered water
  • 1 cup organic white sugar
  • 4 tea bags of organic black tea
  • 1/2 cup kombucha from a previous culture
  • 1 kombucha SCOBY
  • a large glass jar
  1. Bring 3 quarts filtered water to a boil.  Add sugar and simmer until dissolved. 
  2. Remove from the heat, add the tea bags and allow tea to steep until water has completely cooled. 
  3. Remove tea bags.  Pour cooled kombucha into a large glass jar.  Add previous kombucha culture.  Place scoby on top of the liquid.  Cover loosely with a cloth towel or cheesecloth. 
  4. Transfer kombucha to a warm place, usually the kitchen counter is just fine.  In about 7 to 10 days the kombucha will be ready, depending upon the temperature of the room.  The warmer the temperature the quicker the kombucha will ferment.  The kombucha should be sour and somewhat fizzy, with no taste of tea remaining.  In the winter my kombucha takes closer to 14 or 16 days.
  5. Transfer your kombucha to storage jars/bottles and refrigerate.

Your kombucha will grow a second scoby.  This can be used to make more batches of kombucha or given away to friends.  Store extra scobys in the refrigerator in glass jars when not using.  A kombucha scoby can be used dozens of times.  If your scoby becomes black or your kombucha doesn't sour properly, it is contaminated.  Throw it out and get a new scoby.

2  jars of Kombucha fermenting

So where in the world do you get a scoby?  It's not like your local grocery store has then hanging out with the lettuce in the produce section!  You have to find someone living near you that is making kombucha and can give you one.  There are online businesses that sell scobys.  Or you can go to the Weston A. Price Foundation.  Click on "Find a Local Chapter."  Find your state and look for a group in your area.  Call that person up and they can tell you where to get a scoby.  For me, part of the fun of kombucha is passing the baby scobys along to a new home.  So if you live near me, you can bet I'll have a scoby for ya.  Free of charge!

Bottling the Kombucha

And kombucha is very versatile.  In fact it is quite fun to experiment with different teas.  Though black tea creates the highest amount of glucuronic acid, other teas will create their own unique flavors.  Though I caution to always use organic tea.  Non-organic tea is high in flouride, something we don't want in our kombucha.

Adding fruits and whole spices mixes up the fun too.  After you've bottled your ready to drink kombucha, add some fruit for some variety.  My current favorite is lemon and mixed berry.

Bottled Lemon and Mixed Berry Kombucha

Our love of kombucha continues to grow and so do the jars on my counter!

So cheers to kombucha, your good health and inspiration in the kitchen!