supper on sunday

On the menu for tonight:  Chicken Fajita's!  healthy, colorful and yummy.

Part II: What kind of food should I eat?  From the book Food Rules by Michael Pollan

Every day I am feeling better and better about making healthier food choices for my family.  As the one who purchases and puts together most of our meals, I feel responsible to make good choices when I prepare for our meals.  I am not one who loves to sit down and plan out menus (too tedious and requires a list), however, since reading Michael's book I have found myself thinking about new foods to introduce and new recipes to put together.  It is just happening naturally and I LOVE it when a new idea just settles in to your life and nestles right in.

Here are some more tips from Food Rules that are making their way into my permanent file system.

Don't eat breakfast cereals that change the color of the milk.

Ha!  I always loved having Cocoa Pebbles for breakfast when I was a kid because of the 'magic' change from white milk to chocolate while I chomped away.  And, if you really wanted a show, Fruity Pebbles were fantastic for cool psychedelic color changes

The whiter the bread, the sooner you'll be dead.

I knew it couldn't be good for you since it tastes so darn good.  Something about the refined flour being stripped of all nutrients and acting like a spoon full of sugar once it enters the body.  Shoot.

When I purchase bread this rule isn't so hard to follow.  My family will eat wheat bread and heartier grain breads just fine, as long as it comes in a plastic wrapped bag from the grocery store.  If I make whole wheat bread, it doesn't turn out like the fluffy sandwich bread ........ maybe because I don't have a pantry full of chemicals to make it taste like store bought.  Still working on this one.

Eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself.

Want some french fries?  Make 'em.  How about a nice chocolate cream pie ...... hhhmmm.  Bake one up.  Need ice cream?  They have a machine you can buy to make your own!

But, these foods aren't healthy!  That's okay, according to Michael.  The thing is, junk food is cheap and plentiful in the marketplace so we eat it much more than we should. What if we had to make our OWN junk food when we had a craving?  Aha!  Maybe you would go to the trouble of making it, but probably not as often as you would get in your car to go buy it.  

I feel my waistline shrinking as I place this little snippet in my permanent memory file.

Finally, Be the kind of person who takes supplements - then skip the supplements.

Huh?  Yeah, I didn't get that one at first.  Further reading discovered the math-like explanation:   People who take supplements are generally healthier than the rest of us, even though supplements don't appear to be very effective. (studies show)  So, why are they healthier?  Because if they are concerned enough about their health to be taking supplements in the first place, they are also likely to be eating healthier and are better educated about nutrition.  They are more likely to be people who exercise regularly and are concerned about their overall health.  Since eating more nutrient dense food will provide all the vitamins and minerals we need, you can SKIP the supplements.  Oooooohhhhhhhh.

Next time I will close up my discussion with Part III, How should I eat.  Here is a hint:  not too much.

Happy Sunday, everyone! 


road trip

It's 'baking bread on Tuesday' here at three thirty three!  As you may recall, my friend Ceesa and I get together every other-ish Tuesday to learn together the art of making homemade bread.  Now, we are talking flour in the hair, muscles sore from kneading, proofing yeast kind of bread making.

Not that there is anything wrong with bread machines or pre-made mixes!  We just wanted to start from scratch and bake like the old days.  Learn a new-to-us skill while nourishing our families. Baking in community of a friend is a powerful thing, people.  Mistakes oven happen in double and successes are celebrated with jumping high-fives.

Ahem; back to today, Tuesday.  Ciabatta was on the menu and I had already planned to make a white chili to accompany the bread.  The bread requires an 18 hour (yes HOUR) first rise, so we had to plan ahead accordingly.  Since we wouldn't actually need to bake together, Ceesa and I decided to take a road research trip to seek out the freshest ingredients possible for our meal.

Thelma and Louise, mommy style with minivan and MapQuest, we headed north to Wheastsfield Coop.  We ooooooo'd and aaaaaaaa'd and fondled the freshest produce we'd seen since summer.  

So many colors and textures and smells and all NOTHING like Wal*Mart.  The prices surprised me, some higher than I'd expect while others much lower than I would have thought. It was good to see, though.  All a part of my baby-step plan to change how I purchase and prepare foods for my family.

I can't quite go the ToFurky route just yet, but I will say Ceesa Louise may or may not have purchased something of the like to fake out her family tonight.


HeHe.  Teese = fake cheese.  HeHe.  Neither Thelma nor Louise purchased any teese.  I promise, Honey.

As you can see, our research was both difficult and strenuous.  We needed to refuel at the deli counter with 'garlic lovers pasta salad' and 'blackened chicken salad'.  We sure took one for the team by trying out all of these healthy new foods on ourselves before serving them to our families.  Selfless servitude, yup.
I did find it funny that we had to be home by a certain time to prepare our ciabatta bread for it's second rise.  I mean, what would the purpose of our road research trip BE if in the process we ruined our bread.  We may be wild, but we are not crazy.  


Mmmmmmmmm.  This was mighty fine bread.  Look at all of the nooks and crannies just waiting to be filled with butter or jam or cheese or garlic or mayonnaise or ..............  you get the point.  
As Ben would say; this bread is goodness.


moooooving along monday

Part II:  What kind of foods should I eat?

According to Michael Pollan in Food Rules, Mostly Plants.

Wow. Plants. Yummo.  Can't wait until my next meal!

Treat meat as a flavoring or special occasion food.

Born and raised in the Midwest, I have been eating meat since my first set of molars barely broke through.  Our meals are built on the foundation of having meat, a starch, a vegetable and bread/butter on our plate.  We would really be a pleased bunch if we could work that formula into every meal.  

So, when I first spied rule # 23 listed above, I snorted and giggled.  Meat as a FLAVORING?  Ha!  Special occasion?  As in 'time to eat'?  Oh, my.  This one will be a challenge.  Maybe I will remove meat from 1 meal a day ...... baby steps, right?!

"Eating what stands on one leg [mushrooms and plant foods] is better than eating what stands on two legs [fowl], which is better than eating what stands on four legs [cows, pigs, and other mammals]."

Michael references this Chinese proverb as a good rule, but it leaves out the uber healthy no-legged fish.  Don't forget the fish people!  And, under no uncertain circumstances should you ever eat a millipede.

Seriously, though, this is a good one.  I think I'll stick it in my back pocket as a reminder.

Eat animals that have themselves eaten well.

You are what you eat!  

Now I can work in my emotions and apply them to all of these new food rules.  If the beef you eat only ate corn, then you are missing out on all of the nutrients of the beef from a cow who grazed on grass AND corn AND was happy while chewing their cud.  If I eat a happy cow, I will be happy.

Okay, not so literal, but I DO believe in spending more for quality meats which have been raised in kind.  Do I ONLY purchase meat from small, local farms?  No, because I have yet to make it a priority.  This book is helping me to get there, though.

Small shifts in behavior will produce dramatic results.  I really do believe that statement.  As I change the way I think about how I want my family to eat I will purchase our foods differently and prepare our foods differently.  

When Michael was on Oprah talking about his book, he said something that really struck a chord with me. And, forgive me as I try to recall and paraphrase:

Families of the 1950's spent, on average, 18% of their income on food and 9% on health care costs.  Today families spend 9% of their income on food and 19% on health care costs.    

Hhhhhhhmmmmmm.  Sure, statisticians can throw numbers together and draw lines and correlations where previously there were none, but I have a feeling this one is relational. 

We will end this lesson tonight with this pondering:  What is the worst that can happen if I increase our food budget?  We ........ eat better foods? ........ try new things? ........support our local farms? ........ get healthier?


sunday snacks

Continuing with Part I of Food Rules, here are a couple of more notes of wisdom about how to choose healthy foods:

Avoid food products with the wordoid "lite" or the terms "low-fat" or "nonfat" in their names.

Okay ...... but I thought these products were better choices than their full fat version!  Apparently when fat is removed from a food product, all flavor takes heed as well.  So in order to add taste back in, the manufacturers add healthy fat-free things like sugar.  Oh, and they say we eat more of a product labeled 'lite', ergo we eat more calories, ergo we gain weight.  Guiltily raises hand.  I say go for the good stuff, just less of it.

Eat only foods that will eventually rot. 

EeeeewwwwwwwIt is, however, a very good rule.  If it never rots then the level of chemicals and preservatives it contains are through the roof and therefor should not be ingested.  30 year old Twinkie anyone?

If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don't.

simple enough. 

It's not food if it arrived through the window of your car.

It may not be food, but it's my excuse for:  not planning ahead, giving in to the whims of my children, giving in to the whims of my inner child, having a break from cooking, heading out of town, cheaper than what I would cook at home ($1.69 Happy Meals anyone?), feeding my PMS cravings, on and on and on ....

Try to do better.

On that note, we have made our way through Part I: What should I eat.  Or, at least the parts I found particularly fabulous. 

Comments anyone?



munch on this

Today I will share a couple of food rules from Food Rules.  And, add my commentary, of course!

From Part I:  What Should I Eat?

Don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food.

Ha!  This rule is so good for me.  I am a sucker for product packaging and am always drawn to the newest and greatest fad.  If it says "New and Improved!" it is in my basket.  Until now.

Why do we need to try and improve on what is already available?  Would a banana ever have a sticker saying "on-the-go packaging!"? or "Now with more potassium!"? 

Avoid food products containing ingredients that no ordinary human would keep in their pantry.

Wow.  This one really hit home.  If the product I am feeding my children contains ingredients I couldn't or wouldn't purchase at my neighborhood grocers, then get rid of it.  I know it may be convenient and tasty, but when I look at it from the statement above, it doesn't feel so good anymore.

Scratch Mono- and Di-glyceridesc off my list.

Avoid food products that make health claims.

At first I was like, duh, but then I was like, I totally do that!  I fall hook, line and sinker for the cereals that claim "Made with Whole Grains" and get all excited about feeding my kids the healthy fruit loopies.  

If the food processor has to go out of their way to make a health claim about their product, it isn't healthy or good for you to begin with.

Avoid foods you see advertised on TV.

Enjoy the commercial for the entertainment value, but skip buying the product.  Other than beef and pork commercials, I have never seen a farmer advertising his new and improved crop of sweet corn.

As simple headed as this all seems, it is going to take some major shifts in my household to follow these food rules.  The bad habit of filling up my pantry with highly processed food has got to change.  Not going to be easy and my kids will not like me for awhile, but this has to be done.



Winter has not been kind to us this year.  The old man has brought us 58 inches snow, whipping winds, sub zero temperatures and icy rain.  He laid down a white blanket over our landscape that has not moved since December.  A record setting season on many levels; so say our trusty dependable smart sleep-deprived weather persons.

All of this I can take.  In fact, give me more!  Living in the middle of the United States is exciting, weather wise, so we are used to quickly changing weather patterns.  What I simply can not do without, however, is Mr. Sun.

Dear Mr. Sun,

I know you have been here all winter.  I can tell by the subtle difference in light every 10-12 hours.  I even understand you wanting to hide a little bit, what with all of the cold and snow covered land.  But would it be so hard to part the clouds and shine your rays down once a day?  I need you!  Your warming light breathes life and hope into my soul.  Allows me to 'see the light' at the end of this wintry tunnel.  Your presence casts shadows across cold walls and floors, beckoning the dust fairies to come out and play.

I miss you, Mr. Sun.  Won't you say you'll come out and stay awhile?



back that turnip truck up

I must call to attention how I simply leaped onto the FOOD RULES bandwagon without so much as an introduction.  If you know me well, you were not surprised.  As for everyone else, please accept my apologies and allow me to back it up a little.

As I get older I become wiser.  Not in an academic sense, but in a 'smarter human being' sense.  I find myself reacting less and reflecting more.  Asking myself those existential questions.  Questioning my purpose.  Mapping out how to fulfill my passions.  One single theme is prominent in my findings ........ simplicity.

For me, simplicity is:

slowing down, paring back, paying attention, questioning processes, praying, giving thanks, doing something for no personal gain, earning by working, staying in the moment, pointing out the fantastic, taking photos of spontaneity, bartering, making a connection, hanging clothes to dry, making what I could easily purchase, teaching my children how to laugh at themselves, asking why, saying no, accepting a compliment, giving my time, days with no schedule, carrying cash, sharing my ways, listening to the quiet, observing without an opinion, reading body language, laughing out loud ..........

These are just a few of my favorite simple things.  So, back to the turnip truck.  Why am I reading about food?  Where does food fit into the equation? Why has eating and making healthy food choices become complicated? And, because I have a twisted relationship with food, how can I straighten it all out by applying my mantra of simplicity?

The US Government makes it simple here  I think ..... maybe ....... kind of sorta

Further research brings us this:

 Looks complicated to me

Michael Pollan has a simple answer.  A simple book about simple food rules you can follow.  He even summed up the book in seven simple words I would like to share for today's lesson:

Eat food.  Not too much.  Mostly plants.

simply genius.


food for thought

I am embarking on a new topic here on 333.  For as long as it takes to get through the subject matter, I am going to be sharing the words and wisdoms of Michael Pollan, author of the recently released book:  FOOD RULES:  An Eater's Manual.

I giggle and laugh as I read through the pages because it is all so simple and really just boils down to good old fashioned common sense.  So, why do I feel the need to spend money on information I already know? Because, as a parent, I know all too well you need to 'say it once .... say it twice ..... say it three times', and then be prepared to start all over again.  In order for a habit to form and take hold the behavior must be repeated over and over.  

Join me as I tell myself, once again, to eat good foods.  Oh, and feel free to jump in and add any words of wisdom along the way.

I will direct quote (always in bold) when referencing the book and make it crystal clear when I am offering up my opinion.

Part I  "What should I eat?"

Eat Food

(my definition) As in real food and not the processed crap filling up most of the grocer's shelves.  I grew up in the era of TV dinners, meals in a box and snack foods with a shelf life longer than my own life expectancy.  I remember begging to tag along to the grocery store so I could walk down the cereal aisle and be the one to choose the cereal of the week.  The artificial colors and shapes drew me in and I found myself explaining to my mother that eating marshmallows for breakfast was acceptable as long as it came in a cereal box.  

My mind tells me all of the process foods I grew up on was bad for my health and I shouldn't feed those things to MY family, but my sense of habit and desire for ease direct my shopping cart to the middle aisles every time. 

Taking your children on a shopping trip only supports the theory that holding up a bunch of kale will yield a frown, but wander down the potato chip aisle and the kids are jumping up and down with glee. 

Yes, this will be a battle of habits.  Both mine as an adult raised on all of the fake food as well as re-wiring my children to recognize a beet from a radish.



I strongly dislike the 1993 movie Groundhog's Day.  Not only do I wince at the sound of Andy McDowell's voice, the entire plot of the movie is a nightmare.  MY personal nightmare.  As in the thought of having to repeat the same day over and over again makes me want to scream and pull my hair out.  Kind of like the weather being the same day after day after day.  Similar, in fact, to the weather pattern we are experiencing this winter; mostly cloudy and gray with a 2-inch snow shower 2-3 times a week.  Eeeeeeeeck!  I am living my nightmare!  As long as Andi doesn't show up to narrate my day I think I can hang in until Spring.  As for my hair?  Bald is in, right?

Paying five dollars to get a Star Wars Lego costume made out of leather is totally worth it ........ according to my pal Ceesa.  The deal was cinched the moment the product advertised FREE SHIPPING.  ::ahem::   from South Korea!!!!!  The cracker box traveled far and wide to bring a little joy to a bright eyed boy in Iowa (Lego figurine not included).  Oh what a bigger world opens up to us through Ebay.

And now, an interactive quiz:  What is wrong with this photo:

Last, but certainly not least, I have proof positive you do not need to spend an arm and a leg for holiday decorations and gifts. 

Example:  I purchased some Valentine-themed napkins for $1.50 and 3 chocolate covered marshmallow hearts.  After the children went to bed, I laid out the candy on the kitchen table and went to work on the decorations:

Napkins cut into heart shapes and taped on the fridge

Proof:  Ben and Ellie came running into our bedroom this morning with huge smiles on their faces and said:  "Mom!  Dad!  Cupid IS real!!!"

I swear they were as excited today as they were on Christmas morning.  A reminder to me that it is all about the effort and thought and not so much about the money spent.

I hope you all had a moment to tell your Valentine how much you love and appreciate him or her.  Happy Valentine's Day!


conversations with the cat

This just may be the last time I am able to take photos of my baby in the bathtub.  But really, how could I miss this opportunity????



just the facts

Ice skating is fun

I can not believe I didn't know we had an outdoor skating rink!  We will be repeating this activity often.



father daughter dance

Tonight is the annual Father/Daughter dance hosted by our community.  The dance is for girls K-5th, but this is the first year Ellie has attended.  Maddi and Dave went when Maddi was younger, so tonight was the official passing of the baton corsage.  I hope they dance like no one watching.

 loving her corsage

 look at that gorgeous hair


And, for comparison, Maddi with Dave in 2008.


I am loving


Hearty and sweet.  Excellent with a wedge of Laughing Cow Cheese

This Pair:

The scent is divine and the price is right

Pinch bowls (think tiny) for cooking.