not recommended

I have pretty much grown up with a sweet tooth. I’ve always loved sweets, and frankly, I tolerate them really well. I was never one of those kids who ate too much Halloween candy and got a horrible stomachache or something. (Actually, I was never one of those kids who trick-or-treated, but that’s another story.) So it’s fair to say that I enjoy sugar. But I’ve been taking steps to avoid consuming so much of it.

I was reading a post by another blogger, Katie, in which she was semi-reviewing Michael Pollan’s newest book, Food Rules. In this book, he keeps it short and apparently gives simple rules of eating which are supposed to be practical guidelines for people who are trying to make better choices in their diet. One of these “rules” really bothered Katie, though, and it bothers me too:

#39 Eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself. [Katie says:] When I read this, I had homemade pumpkin ice cream, coconut pie, homemade potato chips and leftover rock candy from Christmas tempting me to wander through the kitchen and “graze”. As an at-home mom who loves to cook, I could keep us too well-stocked with hazardous foods!
“Cooking yourself” needs the caveat of “from healthy recipes” or “without white flour or sugar”.  You know how bad white sugar is for people, right?  However, this rule would work well for most people and might encourage healthy cooking from scratch.

I think that just encouraging people to cook at home doesn’t mean they’re going to cook using great ingredients. I use recipe websites all the time, and frankly, it’s just as tough to find semi-healthy recipes in those places as it is finding them in restaurants.

I was reminded of all this because I was surfing the King Arthur Flour recipe website today (http://www.kingarthurflour.com/). I cannot deny that many, many of these recipes sound delicious. I was actually searching for a cinnamon-related recipe, because I have a Costco-sized container of yummy cinnamon that I really want to bake something with. One of the most popular recipes that came up was a Cinnamon Streusel Coffeecake recipe that sounded amazing. Except… once I started looking at the ingredient list, it started looking not-so-amazing. The cons: 1) Plenty of All-Purpose aka WHITE flour. I’m guessing that you can’t necessarily swap it out for a healthier flour, but you could probably at least add in some white whole wheat flour (which King Arthur sells) or a whole-grain flour. 2) This was the real kicker for me: there is a buttload of sugar. Wanna know how much? Combining the amounts in the streusel topping, filling, and cake: a little over 4 cups of brown and white sugar. Um, that’s a lot. The King Arthur sites lists the sugar amount in one piece as 36 grams. For comparison’s sake, that’s about 1/2 of a 20 oz. bottle of Mountain Dew. And really… how many people are going to stop at one piece? (There are 24 servings in one pan.)

I’m not saying you can’t ever eat things like this. What I am saying is that I hope people don’t take what Michael Pollan says at face value. You cannot eat “all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself” unless you want to suffer the chronic illnesses that everyone else in the country is experiencing: heart disease, diabetes, obesity, etc. Treats like this cake should be saved for a special time… a really, really special time, in fact… sheesh. Have you ever actually made a cake with that much sugar before?! I don’t THINK I have…

Anyway, I am trying to be a lot more conscious of what kind of desserts I make, because I’m starting to understand that yummy dessert does not have to mean sugar overload. It’s a really good idea – especially if you enjoy making/baking desserts fairly often – to try to use healthier ingredients in your cooking. For sugar, I have stopped using refined sugar and am not trying to use only cane sugar, maple syrup, agave nectar, or honey. Even some of these are not necessarily healthful… but they’re definitely better quality than refined sugar and flour.

I am slowly gathering healthy dessert recipes; if you have any that you love, shoot em my way! Maybe sometime soon I will share my recipe for peanut butter and honey cookies… mmm… oh, and if you have a moderately healthy cinnamon-y recipe, will you let me know? That jar is still so full!

de-sugaring time

I have something to admit: I eat way too much sugar. I will even go so far as to say that I have been gluttonous this holiday season. And the rest of the winter so far. And this past fall, too.

I think the problem is my hankering for sweets. I have made more cookies in my married life than I ever did before; but you know what’s funny? Willy doesn’t even like sweets that much. I think I mostly make them for me. But it needs to stop. Because frankly, my pants don’t fit as well anymore, and I’m pretty sure I’m addicted to sugar.
A day or two before New Year’s Eve, I decided that I needed to try not to eat sugar for the whole month of January. And I have to confess… well, I’ve already slipped up and eaten some sugar. But I have been good about a couple things, and I’m going to try to stick with these and work on eliminating even more sugar things: I haven’t had any soda, candy or baked goods. Frankly, the holidays facilitate the consumption of all three, but being at home means that I won’t buy them (at least not the soda or candy) and that I have more control of what I’m eating.
I think the hardest thing for me is not wanting to snack, and mostly I like snacking on sweet things. But I’m realizing I just need to snack on healthier things (and also try not to munch if I’m not actually hungry). Today’s snacks: fruit and popcorn. We got a great popcorn popper from Willy’s parents for Christmas (thanks Stacy and Marlon!) which I think will be very helpful. Anyway, I could use some good snack ideas, if anybody has any. I am used to snacks like nuts, fruit, veggies and such, but I’m think some kind of homemade snack bar would be yummy.
I hope you and yours are doing well, and not suffering from post-holiday waistline enlargement as I am. 🙂

Christmas cookies, newlywed-style

One of the best things about being married, besides getting to be married, has been my discovery of my love of cooking. While initially intimidating (and really, it still is at times), I have really grown to love making meals for my husband, friends, and family, when there’s a chance; and I must say, it is a good feeling to make good food. I love using whole foods, real ingredients, and taking the time to make things myself from scratch instead of buying food “products” sold in grocery stores.

As the Christmas season started kicking in this year, the thought of showering my friends and family with delicious homemade gifts and treats just thrilled me. Visions of handcrafted vanilla extract, herb-infused olive oil and stovetop butterscotch danced in my head… but then life got away from me… actually, the month of December hit, too. Have you ever noticed how quickly the month can go by? And admittedly, I am the type of person who shops during the week preceding Christmas and never has everything organized the way I’d like it. So basically… I didn’t do anything that I imagined I could do to make other people’s Christmases special.
But I’ve decided that it’s better late than never. So yesterday I made Christmas cookies for the second time this season, here at Willy’s parents’ house in Twin Falls. I like to try recipes that are either new to me or fairly original, so in this case I went with a butter cookie recipe. I’m pretty sure that butter cookies have been around for awhile, but I had them for the first time this fall at the Moscow Food Co-Op and loved them. They’re pretty similar to rolled-out sugar cookies, but with less overall sugar and definitely more butter. (1 lb, I believe!) I found a quick recipe for icing that worked really well, and I had a fun time decorating cookies with Willy’s sister Emily and nephew Brock. (I probably should’ve taken pictures…) The other cookies that I made a week ago were a cookie version of peppermint bark. I thought they were really good, but Willy and I only ate about two each before we gave them away for a cookie exchange at his office Christmas party. It seems almost unfair since we spent all of an afternoon making nearly eight dozen of these cookies. Oh well though; we’ll just have to make them next Christmas! I wanted to share the recipes here in case anybody had a cookie urge. In my opinion, post-Christmas cookies are just as good as the ones made on time.
I hope you all have had a great and relaxing holiday! I have missed being with family and being home in Illinois too, but I love my in-laws and feel very blessed to be so thoroughly included in their family and blessed to have my husband as well. Stay warm out there, wherever you are! 🙂
Butter Cookies, adapted from Karly Campbell via tastykitchen.com
Ingredients:
  • 1 pound butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 whole egg yolks (save the whites if you want icing)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 4 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks and vanilla; mix well. Beat in the flour and salt. Chill for 30 minutes to 1 hour in the refrigerator. After taking dough from fridge, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll out dough between 1/4 and 1/2 inch and cut into shapes. Bake cookies on ungreased cookie sheet for 10-13 minutes or until very lightly browned on the bottom and/or cooked through on top. Keep a close eye on these, because they are not nearly as tasty when they get too brown.
to make icing: use (four) leftover eggwhites; beat until foamy. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla. Gradually add approximately four cups confectioners sugar until desired consistency is achieved. Add food coloring and wa-la! Icing!
Chocolate Peppermint Bark Cookies, via epicurious.com
As I am running short on time, below is the link for this recipe. My only changes were to make the shortbread base in a larger pan than 9×13 – according to the reviews, this made it easier to cook through all the way.