Monday, January 26, 2015

How to Eat Clean (No matter your situation) Part 1

There are so many little gems I wish to share with you all. Little things I've learned that have added to the joy, ease, and enjoyment of my relationship with food. It's difficult to decide what I should share first, especially because so many of them go hand in hand with others.

Still, because I keep thinking of it, and it is actually a more recent personal revelation for me, I think I will share with you what I've discovered about one of my new very favorite foods:

Cabbage.

Red or green, cooked or raw, I have come to adore it! This crisp, nutritious, amazing veggie has truly surprised me with it's versatility.

Yes, I know. It sounds strange. When I was a little girl, the first thing that used to come to mind when I heard that word, was a line from an old movie where a man comes home from work and tells his cook that he could smell that cabbage she is cooking from a block away and she responds simply with, "Cabbage has a cabbage smell."
I do not even think I really appreciated the scene or really understood why they spoke that way about the vegetable. I had never really noticed cabbage having a specific smell, but it was also very rarely on the menu in my childhood home. Still, the line stuck in my head, and still comes to me sometimes, though not as much . . . because now . . . Now cabbage and I have gotten to know each other, and I have formed my own ideas and opinions that relate to cabbage, things from my own experience and not some fictional movie characters' experiences.

Firstly, however, I believe that I ought to to give credit where credit is due, and tell you that if not for my darling husband and his family, I might never have realized how much I love cabbage. While it was never a staple in my own family, it was a regular thing for my husband. Everyone in his family loves boiled cabbage and his Dad, my awesome father-in-law, even tried a cabbage based diet a few years ago, in an effort to lose weight. (Pretty successful effort, I might add.)
Also, because of my husband's experience living in Ukraine, and loving Ukrainian Red Borsh so much, I also found that when stewed with other vegetables, cabbage becomes something altogether wonderful. It absorbs and enhances other flavors, and the texture is a very pleasing softness that melts in your mouth. So much better than even the best noodles, IMHO.

Now as to raw cabbage, while it used to be that the only way I'd ever had it was in slaw or Chinese salad, because of this awesome raw tacos recipe that I found on Pinterest, the idea of using the leaves as tortilla substitutes opened my mind up to many other possibilities.

For instance; chips.

Last month, in the midst of all the Christmas preparations, I found myself suddenly missing salsa. Costco has a very good organic, sugarless salsa right now, and it was nice in the cabbage leaf tacos and other recipes that I had been using it in, but I kept thinking how much I missed just enjoying the plain salsa by itself, like with the old chips and salsa type snacking from bygone days.
Finally, it occurred to me on Christmas Eve day, as I was busy in the kitchen making homemade clean chocolates for our stockings, that I had both cream cheese and salsa, and wouldn't it be fun to try one of those cream cheese trees that I'd seen on Pinterest. It seemed like a perfect snack to have out on the table for the family while we worked on various preparations for the following day.
I didn't have chips of course, but it somehow came to me that I still had the last of a head of cabbage left. All those crisp, tightly packed little leaves did not tear off in large pieces like a tortilla shell, but they did rather resemble the size and crispness of chips.

Of course, cabbage does not offer exactly the same experience as a salty, dry, crumbly, corn chip . . . Obviously the flavor is more mild, less contrasting, and what not . . . Still, the the fact remains that it worked, and although it was a different experience, it was still a delicious one.
So, my tip for today is, when one has a desire for some yummy, healthy dip, but no desire for GMO-corn chips, or hydrogenated potato crisps, perhaps you can indulge in the glory of your awesome homemade dip without using a vehicle that is not worthy of it.
Use cabbage chips!
Easy, affordable, awesomely good for you, not to mention . . . Tasty!

Just think of the possibilities, the internet is full of clean versions of all your favorites . . . Clam dip, Ranch, Guacamole, Bacon herb & cheese, bean dip . . .

Even if your not missing a particular dip, it's still a great way to use the leftovers of a head of cabbage. Or using cabbage chips can be a great way to make a small amount of other leftovers go a little further. Use that leftover chicken curry, Spanish rice or chili as a dip for your cabbage chips, and a small amount of leftovers with a fair amount of chips becomes a nice little meal, tasty, fun to eat, and high in iron, thanks to the 'chips.'

Hope this tip was helpful . . . Even if you think you don't like cabbage, it seems to get better and better.
I confess, the first time I tried raw tacos, there was a slightly bitter aftertaste, yet haven't noticed this ever since. Maybe it was a coincidence and I just happened to have a bitter cabbage, but I'm thinking that it's more likely that my taste-buds have adapted to the flavor of cabbage so that it is only mild and pleasant to me now. I've even begun to call cabbage my daily bread. . . .

And speaking of bread, I believe my next post will be tips on how to enjoy more butter in your diet with yummy snacks that do not involve bread. Yes, that's right! Breadless Butter Snacks! Stay Tuned!

Avoiding Sugarbane . . . And Other Toxic Foods




[beyn] 
 






noun
1.
a person or thing that ruins or spoils:
Gambling was the bane of his existence.
2.
a deadly poison (often used in combination, 
as in the names of poisonous plants):
wolfsbane; henbane.
3.
death; destruction; ruin.
4.
Obsolete. that which causes death or destroys 
life:
entrapped and drowned beneath the waterybane.

I have been thinking about this for a long time, mainly because this is my life right now, and it has become my life more and more in the past five years or so . . .

Whatever your reasons for wanting to eat cleaner; whether it's because you are trying to invest in better health for your future, heal from current health issues, or if you have an allergy or other ongoing condition that prevents you from eating what most Americans would call "normal" food, I've found some pretty awesome ways to make it a little easier to avoid the bad stuff while still enjoying your relationship with food.

Let's face it, sometimes eating feels more like a chore than a pleasure. Sometimes I think that's okay, as Bejamin Franklin said, "Eat to live, and not live to eat."
I think there is something in that. Food shouldn't be the end-all of our lives, after all, it's purpose is really to sustain our lives, not to put us into a bondage of addictions and health issues.
Still, I also have found that the more you eat to live, the better the life-giving options taste, until it truly is a pleasure to eat again. The transition from junky, processed foods to whole, clean foods can be a difficult hike, but once we've made our way through all the rough parts, reaching higher and higher ground makes one realize, if we look back, that we have come pretty far, and going back is not a desirable option.

As those of you who have already conquered your addiction to cane sugar know; it really does get easier . . . to the point that those acid bright cakes in the window at the bakery no longer look enticing, but on the reverse, rather grotesque.

Of course, sometimes one still might give in---be it the look of the food or the smell of those addictive MSG chemicals wafting through the air. . .
Even if you have no real desire to eat the food offered, sometimes it's the social pressure of being the only one at the birthday party to not eat the cake, (Yes, I've done this, even when it was my own birthday. Not a fun scenario to find yourself in.)
Or maybe you fear offending someone, or you worry after you get that look from people that says, 'Oh, I feel so sorry for you!' Making you feel that maybe you really are deprived.
Or maybe if it's not a health condition, but merely by choice in order to avoid possible future health conditions, and they give you the 'Are you crazy? How can you live without it?' kind of look.

Believe me, I've been there, and felt the pressure and even given in once or twice. The first time was after my first six months of no processed foods. We were at a family potluck and, as was typical with that particular party, there were far more desserts to choose from than soups.

I looked over the slew of cookies both homemade and store bought and told myself that they didn't even look good. Truth be told, they really didn't, or at least, I knew that their looks were deceiving. I think taking the time to even look at them had more to do with habit than anything.
Then my husband's favorite cousin waltzed in with a tray of mini cheesecake parfaits. Okay, cheesecake and I are old friends . . . or perhaps enemies. (Which reminds me, I'll need to post my clean cheesecake recipe here soon.) The point is, I gave in, and I regretted it. Not because I got sick, (I didn't start having, or perhaps noticing those kind of reactions until much later) or because it wasn't good. (Though it really wasn't as good as all the anticipation had built it up to be,) but because the moment I'd put that toxic cane sugar in my body, the sugar cravings were back instantly, as if I'd made no progress in the past six months.
Well, maybe not quite that bad, but I think it took me a few months of recovery till I was back to abstaining from the "treats" again.

The last time I "cheated" was at a Christmas party, and my Mother, whom I love dearly, said, "Well, I only used organic sugar, so it's non-GMO and the flour is gluten free." How could I possibly repay all that obvious effort at striving to accommodate my needs by snubbing those same efforts? Luckily, one small serving only kept me up for an hour that night instead of three. Yet, the fact remains that now, even organic cane is something that my body does not want. Even the slightest trace of it sets off all kinds of alarm bells in my body as if to say, "No, no please not this stuff again!"
Whether you want to avoid the two day indigestion, the screaming leg cramps that wake you in the middle of the night, or the 24 hour headaches that make death seem like a merciful alternative, or if you have other reasons for avoiding the common food toxins, the point is: No amount of flavor or texture in your few moments of experiencing that food is worth it. Period.

Of course, progress still carries me forward and I've found, with immense relief that these situations, no longer stress me out, or depress me the way they used to. I've somehow reached a plateau where I have found peace of mind. No matter where I am, no matter what others around me are consuming, even if it's not at all what I would wish for myself or others whom I love to be putting into their bodies. I am at peace.

But I digress.

As I before stated, I have found some useful, tools, tips and tricks that have made clean eating not only entirely doable, (even on a limited budget with hardly any outside support) but entirely enjoyable as well.

I'm not sure I can promise you the same peaceful place that I have managed to come to; that may only be achieved with time, or perhaps simply letting the worry and stress go, and getting out of the habit of negative thoughts about foods, even toxic ones. Still, I'm going to try to commit myself to posting new tips every few days here so as to build up a nice list of ideas that will hopefully be helpful and practical for you all.

Since this post is already rather long, I will leave my first tip to the next post. Stay tuned for: How to Eat Clean (No matter your situation).

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Julie Surprise: Vintage Meets Modern

When my sweet Grandma Krantz passed away a few years ago, I was blessed to inherit many of her lovely things. Books mostly; her house had been quite literally filled with hundreds of books. More books than most of her posterity could handle, though I know that everyone did their best. Even with most of us taking home a stack of books, however, I know that some had to be donated because there just wasn't enough room for most of us to contain them all.

I'm one of her youngest granddaughters and I wasn't as close to her as some of the other family, so I felt happy with whatever of her possessions I was allowed to have. I also acquired lots of fabric, vintage patterns and some pretty vintage clothes that no one else would claim. My mother even let me take a small cross stitch that had my grandmother's anniversary stitched into it. I share an anniversary with my grandma so I thought it was kind of cool.

Even though we will always miss my grandma, it was really kind of an exciting adventure for me to help clean out her home and look through all of her treasures. The kid in me was just giddy to be allowed to look into storage rooms and closets that had been understandably off limits when I was a child. I have always had sort of a romanticized view of such places. Were I live no one really keeps things in their attics, but I had read books about young characters finding treasures in the attics of old houses and I always dreamed that someday I could move to an old house that had an attic for of mysterious chests full of all sorts of forgotten treasures. So yes, as you can see, the romantical little girl inside me was quite giddy to go through grandma's downstairs closets.

But I digress. Just before we left that day, my mother and I went upstairs and were preparing some final boxes and things to take out to our respective vehicles when I looked at the front room bay window and noticed that the lace curtains were still hanging there. I asked my mother if she had plans for those curtains because the wheels in my head were immediately whizzing with the possibilities. She said that they were slightly ripped and stained in some places and would need to be washed because they were dusty, but she told me that if I wanted them I was welcome to them and she would give them to me once she'd had a chance to take them down and clean them. I was thrilled!

Lace is expensive, and vintage lace in such a quantity seemed to me to be a real find! Of course once I got the curtains they sat in my sewing closet for a few years. I would pull them our periodically and stew over the possibilities again. The main thing I wanted to try was to make a lace skirt. Like this one I pinned two years ago.
Although, I think the first real concrete plan I considered for this lace was a year ago when I pinned the image below. I thought it would be a great plan to try making something like this using the lace combined with some old jeans. I'm always messing around with ways to mend/reinvent my old jeans so I figured this would be another fun way to reuse some of that denim. 
The tricky part about this idea was that I wanted the bottom edge to be scalloped but wasn't quite sure if I could pull that off with the shape of this skirt. I looks like this one is actually crocheted into a nice flared, hourglass shape, whereas my grandma's curtains were, of course, just straight. I simply wasn't sure whether the curtains would look as well if I tried to pull off something like this. I guess it was me figuring that out that postponed my use of the lace for yet another year or so.

Then Halloween rolled around this year, and I was determined not to go overboard with the costuming because when I do that, I tend to get burned out and can't seem to get into sewing for another six to nine months and then Halloween is back on the front burner again. So, instead of spending hours on a costume that in the end was going to make me look fat and I would never want anyone to see pictures of (AKA Halloween costume 2013) Instead I used a sailor hat that I'd used four years previous for a different costume and decided to throw together a simple sailor costume from some thrift store finds. 
Cardigan from Savers, White Slacks from D.I. Tank, already owned. Boom.
There. Easy-peasy.

Of course, I had other costumes to make for my family, such as the Flamingo for baby and Barn Owl for my oldest girl. Luckily they were not too complex.
(You might even say they were for the birds. Lol.) 

I was glad when my middle daughter agreed to use a hand-me-down costume from one of her older cousins.
(Which costume, I might add, has a special place in my heart because the main dress was originally my niece's flower girl dress that she wore to my wedding before it became a princess costume.)

Also, I taught my husband to sew buttons so he ended up helping out with a lot of the time consuming part of his own costume. Yes, he does look well, does he not? I think it is at least partly due to the satisfaction of helping to make it himself, but he is so happy with this costume, he says I'll never have to make him another one again. Apparently, he will forever after be Horatio Hornblower for the rest of his Halloween history.

Anyway, so this was probably the least stressful Halloween I've experienced since before I had kids. It was so nice and the best part is that after it was over I was totally still in the mood to sew. 
In fact, since working on costumes required me to tidy up and clean out the (Harry Potter) sewing closet, I found all sorts of old projects and things that have been needing a mend, and because I wasn't burned out on sewing, I have really felt motivated to get things done in there! Since Halloween, I have mended two pairs of my daughters jeans, four pairs of my husbands jeans and one pair of my own. I have also added lace to a shirt of mine that had permanent stains so now it is not only wearable again but much cuter than it was before. (I'll need to post pictures soon.) Anyway, last night I was feeling in the mood to mend a little something before bed and I went into my closet and pulled out this skirt. 
I've had this skirt for so many years, I'm not even positive where I got if from or when. Yet I've always liked the way it fit and the style, though I've sometimes wished it where a bit more interesting as far as color or detail goes. It's a very neutral color. A bit too gray for beige and a big to beige for gray. Anyway, it had been in my sewing closet for at least a year because of some popped seams on the flounce. As I examined what needed to be done with it, it suddenly occurred to me that I had recently found grandma's lace when I had been reorganizing my sewing space and somehow it suddenly clicked in my head that perhaps instead of sewing an entirely new skirt from the lace, perhaps I could simply up the interest on this existing skirt by adding some lace over it. I pulled the lace out and laid it over the skirt to see how it would look and to my utter surprise and amazement the color of the lace which I would have described as off-white or cream blended perfectly with the color of the skirt. I mean, technically the skirt was still a tone or so darker but they appear to be quite well matched in their temperature---Neither one being too warm or too cool for the other. Thus, in my joy at the idea of this new discovery/project, I put it all back into my sewing room and went to bed, knowing that this was going to be a bit more time consuming than a a quick mending of a seam. I could hardly wait to wake up in the morning and get started!

Because this is already such a long post, I thought I'd try making a visual tutorial of a series of images all combined into one long strip, since I actually remembered to document this project. Let me know if you need something more clear. I know it turned out very tiny. I have no idea why it won't show it bigger, but I suppose this has something to do with how tall an image can be  on blogger, and this image is rather tall. Once day I will probably need to go back and just put in each image individually. But as I doubt more that three people will even care, I will wait until I get a request.
Other than the slight flare at the bottom, I think it turned out rather a lot like the skirt pictured below, which I pinned to my wish list a year or so ago. Now I need no longer lust after this lacy loveliness. I have me own!

Tada!

There you have it! Vintage marries so well with modern, don't you think?