Saturday, June 29, 2013

And the Healthy Moms Go Wild!

I've got two kids, and my friends have even more. And maybe its because I am in the wellness industry, but it seems that every time I turn around, another mom is pulling her hair out in frustration over the same thing: junk food, and how it is e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e in our kids lives. They vent to me, and I vent back to them, and we're all saying the same thing: "Stop giving my kids junk food!!!"

It may just be me, but it seems like in the past year or so I spend a lot more time playing defense for my kids. At every turn, junk food in the veil of "treats" awaits. It reminds me of this blog post I read a few months ago, which may as well be the anthem for healthy-minded parents everywhere.

Camp. Vacation Bible School. Birthday parties. Vacation. Grandparents. Free cookies at the grocery store. Road trips. "Just this once." "Don't be so controlling." "Its not a big deal." It never ends - people want my kids to eat crappy food all day long, and they think I am over-reacting when I think that's a bad idea. But here's the thing - I am right.

Sorry, Charlie. Junk food is a major reason why our country is not only overwhelmingly obese, but getting sicker every day. Here's a clue to why.

And you know, I'm okay with my kids eating sweets once in a while. That's part of life and I don't expect them to never have a piece of cake or learn first-hand (because sometimes that's the only way you can learn) what happens when you eat an entire bag of gummy worms at once. But its not controlling, high-maintenance, over-reacting, or strict to try to prevent that from happening every dang day of your kids' life, or even every weekend.

It's good parenting.

And I would be so bold as to say that the opposite - consistently providing sweets, candy, known junk food, soda, juice, and other sugary and artificial foods to your kids - is bad parenting. There. I said it!

And I am worn out over it. I am wearing thin. I'm tired, my punches aren't as fast. My resolve is wavering. Because I am just TIRED OF FIGHTING. It would be so easy to let them sit and eat cookies all day long, trust me.

But they deserve better, and we are the ones to give it to them. We aren't doing them any favors by constantly offering junk food and assuming that a) they want it, b) that is all they will eat, and c) it's okay because they aren't overweight. Heart disease can begin as early as five years old, and chicken fingers are a major contributor.

I don't expect my children to live a monk's existence, but I don't think I'm being mean or elitist when I say no to fast food, juice boxes, the kid's menu, and candy as standard kid's fare. I hope that some day, my picky eater who wants to live on Annie's Chocolate Chipper granola bars and milk, will reach for an apple instead. All I can do is provide a good example and keep our standards high.

And in the meantime, it would help if you'd quit offering him fruit chews.

Love ya! Mean it! :) Get out there and get healthy, even if I just annoyed you a little.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Birthday Watermelon

It's my birthday! I usually hate my birthday because of all the pressure to make it an amazing day to remember, when in reality it never measures up and just ends up being another day. But these days, I am so stinkin' happy with my life, truly carpeing the crap out of the diem every chance I get, that it kind of feels like every day is my birthday! That takes the pressure off and lets me relax a little!

Birthdays also used to mean a calorie coma, with all of the pressure to indulge in something sweet and sinful in the name of celebration. But you know I don't play that way. Its been over a year and a half since I gave up sugar, so birthday cake doesn't even tempt me anymore. But telling people that you're not going to have cake on your birthday results in a sonic thud of confusion and disapproval. 

I recently passed up cake at another birthday celebration, which prompted the question of how I would celebrate my birthday if I wasn't having cake. "With a party!" I replied. Silence. Apparently that was the wrong answer.

I'm already really hard to do nice things for, what with my compulsive martyrdom and chronic guilt complex whenever anyone tries to indulge me. So last year when my son asked if I really, truly wasn't going to have a cake for my birthday, he assured me that he and my husband could eat it all and I wouldn't have to eat any. Then he came up with a better idea: "I know! I'll make you a cake out of fruit!"

And that's how the birthday watermelon came to be. Sure there are plenty of adorable and impressive cakes made of fruit on Pinterest, but who has time for that? I popped a few candles into a quarter of a watermelon, listened to my favorite boys sing "Happy Birthday" (and debate mid-serenade on the proper placement of the cha-cha-chas), and made myself a secret wish. 

1. Buy a watermelon.
2. Put candles in watermelon.
3. Viola! You have yourself a birthday watermelon!

We ate together, I had a proper birthday treat, everyone felt appropriately ritualized, and I didn't have to eat cake.

It was the best idea ever, and I yesterday I bought my birthday watermelon for this year.

So what's the big deal about one measly piece of cake? Why don't I get over myself and live a little? Is one piece of cake really going to ruin my life? Am I so perfect that I'm not even going to eat cake on my birthday? No, it's actually the opposite. I can't handle cake on my birthday. I am not a one-piece-of-cake, one taste of ice cream, one square of chocolate a day kind of girl. I want a lot of it. I am a volume eater! Having just one piece is torture, and it might not ruin my life but it would screw up my weekend. I choose not to eat sugar because of how crummy it makes me feel. The sugar cravings that follow are just not worth it to me. Someday that might change but for now, my birthday watermelon was the sweetest treat I could ask for.

I didn't have a huge pile of chocolate for my birthday, which means I skipped the stomachache, the regret the next morning, and the "OMG why did I do that?" part of so many birthdays past. But, I still celebrated! I just celebrated my awesome life, not food. You can do it too. So get out there and get healthy, even if no one understands you!

And Happy Birthday. :)

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Bread Snob Bakery: Homemade Pre-baked Pizza Crust

Yes I eat green beans with my homemade pizza. You don't?
I'm going on a family vacation, and when we travel to the beach, each member of the family takes responsibility for one night of dinner. My night is Pizza Night! We love to each have our own little crust so we can put on what we like. Having your own little pizza is also great for portion control because you can't really go back for more. 

Easy peasy lemon squeezy. 

Except that I'm a bread snob, and I knew that I would want to make the crust myself. But, I also knew I wouldn't have time to do that on vacation. So I resigned myself to buying store crust. I went to the grocery store, found some "healthy" crust, and put it in my buggy. Then I took it out. Then I took it back off the shelf, looked at the list of ingredients, and sighed. I knew I needed to do this. I needed to get over it, suck it up, and go for convenience. Dang it. I put it in my buggy and walked on. But I couldn't do it. I went back, put the crust back on the shelf, and decided I would find a way.

I just cannot buy that crap.

Luckily, making my own crust and pre-baking it a little made it just like store-bought crust but without all the cancer and stuff. Now we can still have Pizza Night and I can still have vacation, and I can feel 100% awesome about the food my children and precious little nieces are gobbling up after a day playing at the beach.

Here's how I did it.

1. Start with the basic pizza dough recipe. Mix the ingredients, knead for three minutes, allow to rise in a warm place for about two hours or until double in size, and then roll it out onto a lightly floured surface.
  • 2 cups bread flour 
  • 1 cup warm water (140 degrees)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 1/4 tsp (or one packet) dry active yeast
  • garlic, italian seasoning, etc.
2. Separate your dough into five equal pieces. Because I am a portion freak, I got out my digital scale and weighed 100 grams each. This is going to be a 200-calorie crust.
All rolled out and ready for the oven!

3. Roll each piece into a circle, the size of which depending on the thickness of crust you like. I am a volume eater, so I roll mine pretty thin so I can fit lots of veggies on top.

4. Place each little crust onto a greased baking sheet or baking stone and put back into a warm oven to rise for another 30 minutes or so. If you're feeling all fancy and stuff, sprinkle each one with garlic and dried basil.

5. After they have risen, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and bake them for about 10 minutes.
Out of the oven, ready for storage.

6. After removing from the oven, lightly brush with olive oil. Lightly. Olive oil is good for you, but it has a lot of calories!

7. Allow them to cool, and then store in an air-tight container in the fridge until ready to use.

In my case, I kept them in the fridge for about three days and then took them out for a test dinner. I added sauce, toppings, and cheese just like I would for store-bought crust, and put them in the oven for 10 minutes at 450. The result was absolutely perfect. I was so pleased with myself! I asked my family members about 15 times how they liked it until they shouted, YES, THE PIZZA CRUST IS GOOD CAN WE TALK ABOUT MINECRAFT NOW?

Yum! Can you tell which of these is mine?

I'll be baking up another batch this week for our beach trip, and I expect another great result. You don't have to buy store crust if you don't want to. Sure, baking these crusts takes some time and effort, but it is well worth it to have the convenience later in the week without giving in to junky processed food. Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Get out there and get healthy today, even if you have to plan Pizza Night.