FBF Blog (49)
Why I agree and disagree with the Grinch: "holiday magic can be a little bit more if it comes from a store"Written by Lindsay A Sorem
My grandmother, LaVonne, was an amazing hostess and found complete joy when working in her kitchen making homemade, from scratch recipes for her family.
Every morning she put on her well worn apron and became a short order cook for my father and his two brothers. My dad reminisces that mornings at their childhood home were like visiting his favorite diner. He could order any style of eggs: scrambled, over easy, hard boiled, omelettes, or eggs benedict. And that was just eggs. My grandmother could whip up mouth watering fluffy pancakes in minutes.
After my dad and his brothers left for school my grandmother would turn on the radio and spend hours baking homemade pies and meal prepping mouth watering dinners for her family.
As you can only imagine her holiday meals were divine!
She would spend the month of December baking cookies: krumkaka, rosettes, spritz, peanut butter chocolate kiss cookies, and Russian tea cakes. My favorite were her paper thin, mouth watering delicious sugar cookies.
Every year my brother and I were invited over to her house to help her and my grandfather decorate sugar cookies. We would arrive to a table filled with sugar cookies, homemade frosting and every color of the rainbow sprinkles.
My grandfather, Marvin, was 6’ 6”. He was like my own giant teddy bear. I loved sitting on his lap and cuddling into his enormous shoulder. Every year my grandfather focused more on eating my grandmother’s delicious cookies rather than decorating them to enjoy later. In fact as soon as my grandfather decorated a cookie he popped it into his mouth; laughing every time just like Santa Claus. His belly would even jiggle like a bowl full of jelly.
My brother and I loved competing to make the most creative cookies. When we were teenagers I developed the MOMA sugar cookie. I would take a Christmas tree cookie, frost it, sprinkle the bottom ⅓ with a few blue sprinkles, add a few orange sprinkles at the top; and then declare it a MOMA cookie-a Museum of Modern Art cookie.
Once I became a mom I chose to attempt to emulate my grandmother. I wanted my children to look back on their holiday memories and remember me in the kitchen happy and content; finding joy using my hands to create a little Christmas magic.
Every November I would dream about all of the cookies I was going to bake. On Christmas Eve my dream was to present a bountiful tray of 10 different kinds of cookies, all made from scratch in my kitchen to our family and friends.
And, each November reality strikes. Unfortunately, given our busy schedule (and a lot of hockey) I do not have time to spend the month of December baking.
When my kids were younger the fact that I could not bring my cookie dreams into reality made me feel quite guilty and sad. I felt that my children were not going to have the same holiday memories I did as a child.
But, as I looked back on my past holidays it wasn’t the homemade cookies that made them so special It was the fact that multiple generations of the same family were coming together to spend time in December decorating cookies. The magic was in the time spent together.
I have found a wonderful Minnesota company that makes pre-cut holiday cookies, made with sugar and ready to bake straight from your freezer.
We have created a new twist on my family’s holiday tradition in our house. I still make my grandmother’s homemade frosting recipe, purchase sprinkles in a rainbow of colors and set aside family time to decorate cookies. However, the cookies I bake are not homemade. And, this is ok. My children love our holiday tradition decorating cookies together, appreciating each other’s creative use of sprinkles, and eating just as many cookies as we decorate.
In fact last year I found “sugar eyes” in the decorating isle at Target. We used these “sugar eyes” to make adorable snowmen and Christmas trees with eyes.
We even took it a step farther and brought cookie decorating into the 21st century and made emoji cookies. Check out the picture of our worried, sad, winking, and happy emoji cookies.
Someday when I have more time I will make my grandmother’s original sugar cookie recipe. However, I know my grandmother isn’t anxiously waiting for that day. She is smiling down at me, so happy to see me keeping the cookie decorating tradition alive and strong, and does not care that our cookies come from a box.
21st Century Emoji Star Cookies:
Thank you Stonegate Foods for keeping my grandmother's tradition alive!
Grandmother LaVonne's Sugar Cookie Recipe:
- 3 cup flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup cold butter
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- In a medium bowl sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
- Cut butter into small pieces. Then using a pie blender combine butter and dry ingredients.
- In a large bowl beat the eggs. Gradually add the sugar and beat until thick.
- Add vanilla and combine with mixer.
- Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.
- Roll the dough out and use your favorite cookie cutters. My grandmother would roll it out so thin you thought it would break.
- Bake for 7-8 minutes.
Grandmother LaVonne's Frosting Recipe:
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 1/2 cup cold butter
- 1.5 teaspoons vanilla
- 1-2 tablespoons milk
- In a medium bowl, using a mixer at medium speed, combine the sugar and butter until it is light and fluffy, and you can not see little pieces of butter.
- Beat in the vanilla.
- Add milk if needed to make it a consistency that works well for sugar cookies.
Nine months ago I started to notice new products at our grocery store all with the same name, Wild Harvest®.
At first I incorrectly assumed they were products we couldn't eat. Products that claim to be healthy, but once you turn the product around and read the label you realize they are actually very unhealthy. Unhealthy, because the ingredient list is a mile long and contains "food" I can not even pronounce. My assumption about Wild Harvest® was completely that: a false assumption. I was totally wrong.
After reading the product's labels I jumped up and down with joy!!! I can not tell you how much time I have spent wandering the isles of multiple grocery shore chains and co-ops looking for food product companies that actually follow through with their health claims.
Wild Harvest® is not a mirage! It does exist! Finally, I discovered a food product and produce company that demands transparency just as much as I do. A food product company that is committed to sourcing food and ingredients that come from the Earth and are minimally processed.
Wild Harvest® is a collection of over 600 products, 65% of which are organic, and many are gluten free.
Even better all Wild Harvest® products are "free from" 140 undesirable ingredients. Included on this "free from" list are many things I can not pronounce so; therefore, should not eat. It includes items like acetylated ester of diglycerides, high-fructose corn syrup and hydroxypropyl guar Guam. All man-made food products I definitely do not want to find in my food!
Thank you Wild Harvest® for taking the guess work out of grocery shopping.
Thank you Wild Harvest® for your transparency.
I can totally stand behind Wild Harvest® and their pledge:
"At Wild Harvest®, we celebrate all that is free from and organic. We are committed to helping you live a life free from all that is undesirable by making some of the best tasting and most affordable free from and organic products found anywhere. We promise that you will find unbeatable value in all of our products. You'll love it. We guarantee it!"
Our favorite products are the peanut butter, frozen cranberries, frozen organic berry blend, chicken broth, organic apple cider vinegar, organic Thai jasmine rice, organic flax seed, organic wheat squares and fresh produce. Basically, I LOVE this whole product line!
You can use Wild Harvest's® store locator to find products at your local grocery store.
Families Balancing Fructose Recipes with Wild Harvest® products:
I use Wild Harvest® brown sugar when making Jack and Grace's favorite cookies.
One of our favorite quick, easy and healthy dinner is Lettuce Wraps. I can prepare and serve a nutritious meal in 30 minutes that my whole family loves.
Another one of our "go to" family dinners is Chicken and Rice Mediterranean Vegetable Rice Bowls. I use Wild Harvest® Thai Jasmine Rice.
Has this happened to you?
You walk into a new restaurant, sit down and peruse the menu? There appears to be a few safe options, but you are not in the mood to test your fructose intolerance and definitely not in the mood for a fructose volcano? So you decide to advocate for yourself. The waiter comes over to take your drink orders and tell you about the daily specials. You take this opportunity to tell him that you have Fructose Malabsorption. Here is where the blank stare begins. You can tell that the waiter is already thinking about how he needs to bus dishes at table 9 and take drink refill orders at table 11. He is definitely not cued in to you and your intolerance. But, you solider on and say something like, "Fructose Malabsorption is a food intolerance". "I am missing the enzyme to digest fructose." "When I eat foods high in fructose my entire body reacts." At the end of your lengthy description you assert your self and declare I have a fructose allergy. Let's be honest the waiter was lost in translation when you mentioned the word fructose and never heard the word allergy.
It is not the waiter's fault. Fructose Malabsorption is a hard intolerance to explain for adults, let alone for young kids. It is complicated. It is definitely not a one size fits all kind of intolerance. It is as unique as your own fingerprint.
Let's try another scenario common in our world.
You are invited to a co-workers for dinner or better yet your office plans a holiday potluck. At lunch time you walk into the conference room. The 20 foot table is laden with homemade dips; crockpots of chili; store purchased bars, pies and cookies; and salads with dressings that most likely contain honey, high fructose corn syrup or some other man made sugar. To you you don't see a table of amazing comfort foods you see red fructose flags. So many fructose flags that you already feel a fructose volcano growing inside your gut. It's like your body is absorbing the fructose just by looking and smelling it. Your first instinct is to run out of the conference room. But, then you see your boss standing over her crockpot of homemade chili and you freeze, sweat starts to pour down your back and your mouth goes dry. What are you going to say? How do you not walk out of the conference room without a bowl of your boss' chili let alone the rest of your co-worker's great-grandmother's 7 layer bar recipe? Again, you launch into a lengthy description about Fructose Malabsorption. One of your co-workers immediately sizes you up and decides you are just a picky eater. Another one looks at you like your one of those people who only eats from the Earth and doesn't know how to just live a little. You try desperately to regain control of the situation. You start explaining how glucose is a safer sugar and you can eat a minimal amount of foods with sugar as long as those foods contain glucose. You even think, ok, what if I draw a kitchen scale on the conference room dry erase board and explain how glucose helps transport fructose in my body. By this time you've lost everyone. They have their backs turned to you loading up their plates with a sampling of every food on that table. And, you walk back to your desk feeling despondent and lonely.
Or how about my 11 year daughter. Here is what happened to her.
A month ago at school a friend was passing out the oh, so hard to find Carmel Apple Suckers at the lunch table. Have you ever seen these suckers? The ingredient list looks like the back of a shampoo bottle. My daughter, Grace, politely declines the poisonous sucker. But, no the kids at her table won't have it. "Why?" "Why won't you eat the sucker?" "They are amazing!" "My mom drove around to 4 Walgreens just so I could bring these to school." Grace goes for the allergy argument. "I am allergic to fructose." The kids look at her like, "say what?". She says, "yes, I can't eat the sucker because it will make me sick." And then she thinks, "oh no, why did I say sick?" "Now they are going to ask my what kind of sick and I definitely don't want to tell them what would happen to my tummy if I ate that sucker."
So how to we explain Fructose Malabsorption? How do we advocate for ourselves and our children?
Grace and I have been practicing a few new techniques this fall.
Grace was invited to to a new friend's house for dinner a few weeks ago. The mom sweetly texted me and asked me if Grace had any allergies. When I received the text I was thrilled that this new friend had such an awesome mom. Grace was not thrilled. She wanted to immediately cancel the date. Grace does not like to talk about her Fructose Malabsorption. She is getting better now that we started this website, but this is still a struggle for her. Grace wants to feel normal. I looked at Grace and simply said, "you like this girl, you need to own up to what makes you different, you can do this." To my surprise and shock Grace took the challenge. Here is the text she had me send: "Thank you for asking. Grace is allergic to some types of sugar. Grace is really good at knowing what she can and can not eat. She can read labels and understand them." Wow! You Go Girl! You rock! This worked for Grace. This new friend and mom not only empowered Grace to explain her intolerance, but it also empowered her to take action when she was at this friend's house. In the past we have relied on her friends' moms to advocate for her. This is tough, too tough. You basically have to give the mom a dissertation on fructose and labels and hidden sugars.
Earlier this year we went out to dinner at a new farm to table Asian restaurant in Uptown. I had reviewed the menu and website before we made our reservation and found a few things that appeared safe. When the waiter asked for my drink order I told him I was allergic to honey and other types of sugar and needed to know all of the ingredients in the sauce of the dish I had chosen. The waiter responded positively. He returned to the table with a list of ingredients and also mentioned another menu item I ordered. Why did this work? Because I took the word fructose out of the explanation and added the word allergy. And, I tried to keep my explanation simple.
Recently, I went out to lunch with friend I met through Pilates training at one of those new, popular, overpriced salad bars. She casually, without judgment, asked me why I made so many substitutions when I ordered my salad. I looked at her and said, "I have this food intolerance called Fructose Malabsorption." "It is a little similar to diabetes." "My body cannot process fructose sugar." "And fructose sugar is found in a lot of fresh whole foods and salad dressing ingredients." She looked at me and said, "that must be hard." I knew right away that this new friend of mine was a good one! And, to all the people living with diabetes out there including my godmother and husband's good friend I feel for you, worry about you, support you and so hope we can find a cure for your disease. I know my Fructose Malabsorption is nothing like your diabetes. But, people understand your disease and I need people to understand my intolerance because fructose really messes with my entire body.
How do you explain Fructose Malabsorption? Share with me your successes and failures. Let's learn from each other.
This recipe comes straight from an experience I had 10 plus years ago. A time when I succumbed to food product marketing rather than listening to my own gut. When I chose bright, shiny, all tied up in a bow, supposedly healthy products. A product that declared it would make everyone feel ready to tackle the day; a one size fits all type of product. Hello, where was my intuitive eating, my gut voice? Here is a direct quote from my About Me page on my website from this incident:
"My gut declared war on me when I listened to conventional marketing and purchased “healthy granola” and replaced my old-fashioned oats for breakfast. “Halt, don’t go there yelled my gut, you are going to regret this.” But, did I listen, no! I dove right into that bowl of honey soaked chewy granola with dried fruits and a sprinkling of high fructose corn syrup, agave syrup, and sorbitol on top. Wow, was I wrong not to listen to my gut!!! My gut fought back and this time I listened. How had I got caught up in food product marketing? Why wasn’t I living like my parents had taught me; and when had I let highly processed food products replace real food in my kitchen?"
This purchase, this poor decision actually was the catalyst for me to make a change in my life.
After multiple years of assuming my constant brain fog and exhaustion were due to our hectic life schedule (even though I was sleeping 8 hours every night). And presuming my joints throbbed because I had logged too many hours in the pool pursuing my dream of becoming a collegiate swimmer. And, definitely knowing why all winter long I had sinus infections, bronchitis and a constant runny nose. I thought it was because I was around little kids. I was just one of those people who got sick a lot. In fact, one of my friends called me “Leaky Lindsay”. Finally, after my granola debacle my gut was screaming at me; and I listened not knowing that my brain fog, sore joints and sinus issues were all related to my intolerable gut. I made an appointment with a gastroenterologist and found out I had Fructose Malabsorption. (Fructose Malabsorption and Chronic Inflammation)
I finally had an answer! I knew what was making me sick, and I knew how to listen to my own personal gut voice rather than the multitude of voices shouting at me to make healthy decisions based on mass produced food product marketing.
Flash forward over 10 years later. I am living and thriving with Fructose Malabsorption, not just surviving. Most days are good, some days are bad. But, I know how to eat, how to listen to my gut and how to advocate for myself.
I have tackled so many recipes over the last 10 years. I have altered 100's of recipes and found safe substitutions. Some of my substitutions have been complete failures; and others successful enough to be added permanently to my hardcover, 3 ring binder family favorite recipe book.
One recipe I have struggled with is granola. Honey and molasses are definitely a big NO in our house-both are sure to cause a Fructose Volcano. But, this causes a dilemma. How do you get the granola to stick together long enough to bake and create that wonderful granola crunch?
A few years ago a friend of mine made homemade lemon drop martinis in my kitchen. She is a really good friend. She asks questions about what I can and cannot eat, always sends me recipes to review before inviting me to her house; and most importantly supports me. I am one lucky person to have a friend like this!
Lemon drop martinis are apparently super easy to make at home. The key is simple syrup and fresh lemon juice: two things I can enjoy in small doses. Simple syrup is boiled down white sugar and water. The slower you boil it down the stickier it gets. As I was patiently waiting for my martini it occurred to me that simple syrup was the missing link to my granola recipe. Combine it with organic canola oil and Wallah!!! We, fructose malabsorption patients, can eat simple syrup in small doses. Simple syrup is much healthier choice for us.
As I am typing this it occurs to me I don't thank my friend enough for her kindness and willingness to dive into this Fructose Malabsorption adventure with me. I will do this later today: thank her!!!
Vanilla Almond Granola Recipe:
- 60 oz old fashioned oats
- 24 oz non-salt blanched almond slices
- 16 oz egg whites
- 2 cups water
- 1 3/4 cups white sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- I cup organic canola oil
- 5 tablespoons vanilla
- Preheat the oven to 275 degrees.
- Line 3 jelly roll pans with parchment paper.
- In a large bowl combine the oats, almonds and egg whites.
- In a saucepan over medium-low heat combine the water and sugar. Stir frequently until the mixture becomes like a syrup. Stir in vanilla and canola oil. Allow the mixture to cool for a few minutes.
- Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir.
- Divide the mixture evenly among all 3 pans.
- Cook the granola for 135 minutes, rotating the pans every 45 minutes.
- Allow the granola to cool for at least 2 hours before transferring it to a container.
- White sugar is a "safe" sugar for people living with Fructose Malabsorption. It is made up of equal amounts of glucose and fructose. Glucose is like a spaceship transporting fructose in our body. However, you still don't want to over do it on sugar consumption. The goal each day is to keep your fructose to 15 grams. For more information on sugar digestion link to my article: Cliff Notes on Sugar Digestion.
- This recipe has 3 grams of fructose in each 1/2 cup serving based on a little fancy math and an internet side, Nutrifox.
- Gastroenterologists and other medical professionals have also found that protein, like glucose helps to transport fructose. This recipe has 7.1 grams of protein in each 1/2 cup serving. In our family we increase our proteins loads by adding Naked Whey protein powder to our yogurt and/or milk.
- Each of us has a unique gut and unique gut voice. Almonds may not work for you. They work for me in small doses. No, I do not eat almonds everyday. I enjoy this granola a few times a week. You could use walnuts or other types of nuts and/or seeds.
- About a month ago I started a science experiment; a sugar science experiment to be exact. I have been reducing the amount of sugar in all recipes by 50%. It is working. It doesn't change the recipe or the taste. For more information on this experiment check out My Sugar Experiment. I am planning on trying it with this recipe, too.
My daughter, Grace, has Fructose Malabsorption like me. For the most part Grace is successfully living with her food intolerance. In fact Grace is thriving. She is happy and healthy; and is learning to own her intolerance and listen to her gut voice. Grace's one struggle is breakfast. Grace has told me from an early age that her tummy just doesn't like eggs. Her tummy talks back to her if she eats eggs. It grumbles, sometimes roars, flags her down and says this is not working for me. And, we listen to her gut. My mom and dad taught me this lesson. At a young age they gave my gut a voice and didn't force me to eat things that were not working for me. My parents were the original intuitive eating gurus! If you want to learn more about me and my gut voice link to my story.
So why is this a big deal? Who cares if Grace doesn't like eggs? What's in an egg that is so important to Fructose Malabsorption?
The answer is: PROTEIN!.
For the last few years I have intuitively known that protein is my gut's friend. Protein makes my gut happy and allows me to eat safe fresh fruits and vegetables in abundance. I never knew scientifically why this worked, but I intuitively knew why.
Recently, one of my new Fructose Malabsorption friends shared an article from the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition that proves my theory. Amino acids, found in proteins, have been scientifically proven to aid in fructose absorption.
It is amazing how intuitive your gut can be. It sometimes knows whats best for you more than your brain.
We struggle to find protein sources for Grace at breakfast. She would prefer to carb load. Unfortunately, when you have Fructose Malabsorption you need to have more balance in your meals. Grace's tummy is happier if she eats a protein source with her chosen carbohydrate.
Grace will occasionally choose sausage or bacon for breakfast, but sometimes she wants to be a "regular kid" and indulge in a breakfast bar. Let's be honest she truly wants to eat a breakfast bar that comes in a bright, shiny package. But, that is not an option for Grace. Mass produced breakfast bars contain man-made high fructose sugars that are not safe for Grace or any Fructose Malabsorption patients. Grace is 11, knows how to manage her intolerance, knows how to advocate for herself and knows how to manipulate me into baking for her.
"Mom, all of my friends eat such and such breakfast bar and they are eating 5 grams of protein for breakfast without having to eat sausage or bacon. I want to eat a breakfast bar that has protein in it."
Grace, challenge accepted! I will make a breakfast bar that is low in sugar and contains protein.
Last Thanksgiving I became obsessed with cranberries. In fact, when I was cleaning up Thanksgiving evening and packaging up our leftovers I noticed that most of my guests do not share this cranberry obsession-there were a lot of leftover cranberries. I wondered where is the cranberry love? After all blackberries and blueberries are hot foods right now. They can be found on most top 10 healthy food lists. But, why not the cranberry? Cranberries, too, are packed with antioxidants and nutrients just like their more favored berry cousins. Cranberries even have their own advertising campaign. Have you seen the commercial of the guy water skiing in a cranberry bog? You can’t do that in a blueberry bush. I knew that evening that I needed to embrace the cranberry and turn my family into cranberry lovers. Click here to learn more about my cranberry obsession and how I turned my family into cranberry lovers.
As I was brainstorming on how to make the most delectable, package worthy breakfast bar I thought back to last Thanksgiving and my cranberry streusel muffins and knew cranberries would make a great base for for my breakfast bars. Cranberries are very low in sugar and add a HUGE nutrient punch.
But, what about the protein? I didn't want to put eggs in the bars. I wanted to honor Grace's tummy. How about protein powder? A few weeks ago my Fructose Malabsorption Facebook group started a conversation on protein powder. I was intrigued. We have never used protein powder.
After reviewing all of the Facebook opinions I embarked on a little research of my own. I found a 3rd party, the Clean Label Project. The Clean Label Project is a, "nonprofit focused on health and transparency in consumer product labeling." "In 2018 the Clean Label Project completed a study of 134 protein powder products from 52 brands. Products were screened for over 130 toxins including heavy metals, BPA, pesticides, and other contaminants with links to cancer and other health conditions." Their conclusions included many safe powders and many unsafe powders.
I chose Naked Whey because both my daughter and I can digest lactose and other protein sources don't work well for us. Pea protein can have natural fructose in it and rice protein tends to ferment in your gut. And, neither of us definitely do not need extra fermentation. Have you ever heard of a Fructose Volcano?
We are in love with Naked Whey! We are mixing it in Grace approved smoothies, glasses of whole milk and cottage cheese. Why not try it in the breakfast bar recipe?
It worked. You can't taste it and it adds about 3 grams or protein to each bar. That is a WIN for me and for Grace's tummy.
One more note on this recipe before I list the ingredients and baking directions. Lately, I have been experimenting with cutting the sugar by 1/2 in any recipe I try. For example, I only used 1/2 cup of sugar in this recipe rather than 1 cup. Why? Everyday Grace and I are trying to limit our fructose loads to 15 grams. Yes, white sugar is safe for Fructose Malabsorption because their are equal amounts of glucose and fructose. But, the more white sugar you eat the more fructose you eat. (Cliff Notes on Sugar Digestion Blog). By eliminating a half cup of sugar from this recipe I eliminated 5 or so grams of sugar per serving. That is 2.5 grams of fructose eliminated. Another WIN for Grace!
Cranberry Breakfast Bar Recipe:
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 1/4 cups old fashioned oats
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 4 tablespoons Naked Whey protein powder
- 2 tablespoons chia seeds
- 3/4 cup room temperature butter cut into small chunks
- Cranberry Filling:
- 1/3 cup white sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 6 oz fresh cranberries
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons butter, melted
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Grease a 9.5 x 13 pan.
- In a large bowl combine the flour, sugar, oats, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, protein powder, chia seeds and butter. Use a stand mixer, pastry cutter, hand mixer or food processor and pulse/beat until the batter is mostly loose crumbs.
- Save one heaping cup of this batter for later. Use the remaining batter and press it with a spoon into the prepared pan and bake for 12-15 minutes. Allow this to cool.
- In another bowl mix the remaining ingredients to make the cranberry filling.
- When the crust is slightly cooled add the cranberry filling. Sprinkle the reserved batter on top of the cranberry filling.
- Bake for 30-38 minutes.
- If your gut prefers gluten flour, use it.
- My mom likes to mostly eat gluten free. We discovered a great gluten free flour mix that tastes divine in baked products. Mix 24 oz brown rice flour, 24 ox white rice flour, 24 oz sweet rice flour, 20 oz tapioca flour and 2.5 tablespoons Xanthum Gum in a large container. When baking equally substitute this mix cup for cup if a recipe calls for regular flour.
- I added chia seeds to this recipe. I am always trying to find ways to amp up the Omegas in my family's diet.
- Based on my "scientific calculations" using the USDA nutrient database there is only 5.4 grams of sugar in a 2 by 2 inch serving of these cranberry bars. That is just over 2.5 grams of fructose. This is a low fructose breakfast bar!
- About a month ago I started a science experiment; a sugar science experiment to be exact. I have been reducing the amount of sugar in all recipes by 50%. It is working. It doesn't change the recipe or the taste. For more information on this experiment check out My Sugar Experiment. I am planning on trying it with this recipe, too.
Most days I eat the same thing for lunch. I am very utilitarian when it comes to my midday meal. I don't want to think about Fructose Malabsorption and the fructose content in food. When you have Fructose Malabsorption eating can become a pain in the you know what! You constantly have to research and plan and think and prepare what you are going to eat.
It is a daily grind. I can't just on a whim go out to lunch or pick something up. Yes, there are restaurants I can visit and safe options at my local market; but, I don't have the flexibility that most people do. My diet takes work and thought. And, sometimes on super busy days I don't have extra time or brain energy to give to lunch.
Over the last few years I have found that it is easiest to take the guesswork out of lunch. I want to eat something that isn't high in sugar and is nutrient dense. I have discovered my body does best when I limit my daily fructose intake to less than 15 grams a day. I choose to find 90 % of that fructose in fresh vegetables.
Occasionally, I indulge in a homemade treat. Most days, I don't. My gut and; therefore, the rest of my body is happiest when I listen to my gut and eat good, clean food.
There are benefits to this diet. It isn't all bad. My food choices are mostly whole real foods and safe products that are made by companies who are transparent and committed to making clean products made from real ingredients. I feel healthy, I have lots of energy and I am happy. I have become an intuitive eater. I know what works for me and my unique gut.
Each day my lunch consists of a protein source, fresh vegetables and a simple vinaigrette.
Eating protein sources with essential amino acids assists in the absorption of fructose. For the last few years I have intuitively known that protein is my gut's friend. I even figured out that if I want to eat vegetables or fruit that are higher in fructose eating a protein source with it helps. I never knew scientifically why this worked, but I intuitively knew why. Recently, one of my new Fructose Malabsorption friends shared an article from the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition that proves my theory. Amino acids, found in proteins, have been scientifically proven to aid in fructose absorption.
I like to vary my daily protein source. Some days I eat leftover baked chicken or salmon, and other days I add roast beef or Wild Planet Albacore Tuna to my salad. My dietitian has told me many times that it is very important for gut health to vary our food choices. We have millions of gut flora swimming around in our digestive system and we need to feed them and keep them happy.
Each of us has a unique gut, like a second set of fingerprints. What works for me may not work for you.
We do know that vegetables for the most part are low in fructose compared to fresh fruits; and also contain glucose and glucose helps fructose absorption. All vegetables are not created equally. Asparagus, peas, jalapeño peppers, and broccoli have higher amounts of fructose compared to other vegetables. Personally, I can tolerate these vegetables in small amounts and do not eat them everyday. Many people living with Fructose Malabsorption also struggle with FODMAPS. Asparagus, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, chicory leaves, globe and Jerusalem artichokes, karela, leeks, mushrooms and snow peas are high in FODMAPS. Like the high fructose vegetables, I occasionally eat asparagus, cauliflower, artichokes and mushrooms. I always partner these vegetables with a protein source and limit my intake to 1/4 cup.
If you would like to learn more about sugar digestion and the fructose content in vegetables and fruits check out my blog: Cliff Notes© on Sugar Digestion.
My favorite salad dressing is Here Lemon and Basil Vinaigrette. It is sourced from local farms, does not contain any artificial flavors nor preservatives, only uses real ingredients, and best of all the flavor is divine. It is made by "Here". Yes, "Here", meaning right here, close to home, this dressing is sourced and created. I am not the only one who has discovered this dressing. Many times when I visit my local Whole Foods Market this dressing is sold out. I am actually somewhat devastated when it is not available. This dressing is so good it makes me smile when I use it. Our family uses it on fresh salads and as a marinade on grilled chicken. My son, Jack, told me that this dressing makes, "the best chicken he has ever had". That's right, here, at my house I am making the best chicken with "Here" dressing. Check out their company's story.
I also enjoy making simple vinaigrettes with dijon mustard, apple cider vinegar, fresh lemon, olive oil and herbs. Did you know that balsamic vinegar has 7.4 grams of fructose? I didn't discover this fact until last summer and actually wrote a blog about it. How was I completely in the dark about this? With Fructose Malabsorption I learn something new everyday.
Apple cider vinegar has 0 grams of fructose, yes, 0, totally safe! My favorite vinaigrette made with apple cider vinegar and dijon mustard is:
Apple Cider Vinaigrette (serving size, 8):
I tablespoon apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon dried oregano
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
My favorite mayo is Just Mayo. I 100% agree with their mission: "sustainable, healthier food that is affordable and delicious". Why do they call it "Just"? Simply, because it is "Just" good and "Just" the perfect thing for our body. Like their label states: "What is Just-an adjective, meaning guided by reason, justice and fairness". I use it in my tuna salad recipe, greek chicken salad recipe and cranberry chicken salad recipe.
What is your favorite lunch? Share with Me, let's connect, teach each other and build a Fructose Malabsorption community.
When I was diagnosed with Fructose Malabsorption 10 + plus years ago my dietitian gave me a list of safe and unsafe real foods; another list of food products and additives (including high fructose corn syrup) that were high in man-made fructose; and an understanding of how fructose and other sugars traveled around and were digested in my body. Within weeks of changing my diet I started to feel like a new person, actually more like the person I was in my 20's when our food sources weren't so complicated.
It never occurred to me that my entire body would change, not just my gut. Finally I had an answer to why I was feeling so awful. One month into changing my diet I started to notice many changes. I wasn’t seeking out a mid-afternoon Starbucks run. I could make it all day without yawning. I could actually focus on a conversation in the late afternoon and not feel like I was living in Seattle battling the fog. When I woke up in the morning I didn’t feel like an 85 year old. In fact I started jumping out of bed ready to tackle the day. And, my first holiday season without bronchitis and too many antibiotics was a holiday miracle!
It was like my whole body had been under attack, not just my gut. Fructose Malabsorption had wreaked havoc on my entire body.
For the first 4 years after my diagnosis I was living a healthy life. I continued to follow my dietitian's advice and had learned how to balance my daily sugar intake. Yes, I still had accidental fructose overdoses. But, they didn't happen as often and they weren't as severe. I assumed that everyone living with Fructose Malabsorption felt like I did after getting diagnosed. They felt lucky, they celebrated, they had an answer for why they were feeling so lucky, and they had a diet plan. Wow, I was so wrong!
When my daughter, Grace, was diagnosed 6 years ago many of my assumptions about Fructose Malabsorption went out the window. My assumption that my diet would work for Grace was wrong! My assumption that she could eat the same foods that I could was wrong! And, the assumption that the foods I couldn't eat wouldn't be healthy for Grace was wrong! I was actually extremely frustrated. Why wasn't my diet working for Grace? Why was she still having tummy issues? I felt like a terrible mother. I couldn't take her tummy pain away.
After a lot of trial and error and some soul searching I talked to a dietitian and learned a huge lesson: everyone's gut is unique and each person has a different gut voice. What works for me, doesn't necessarily work for Grace and may not work for you either. I felt like I was back at square one. How was I going to teach a 6 year old to find her gut voice and then teach me how to care for it.
Grace and I struggled for six months. We kept a food journal and a symptoms journal and sometimes wanted to throw both journals in the trash when we couldn't determine what was working and what wasn't working. It was like Grace's gut was a giant scientific experiment that had a 6 year old temper. But, a few months into our journaling we started to see more symptom free days. Grace started to thrive not just survive. She was a happy kindergartner having playdates, playing hockey and spending time with her brother.
Flash forward 5 years later to March 2018. Grace and I decided to start a website/blog about Fructose Malabsorption. We were looking to connect with other people like us, people living on this Fructose Malabsorption roller coaster. We wanted to learn from others and I wanted to empower Grace to share what she had learned about her gut and Fructose Malabsorption.
In the last 7 months we have connected with 1000's of people living with Fructose Malabsorption and have learned many lessons. The biggest lesson is the same as the one I learned when Grace was diagnosed: everyone's gut is unique and each person has a different gut voice. We all have to find what works best for our gut and learn to listen our gut voice.
Through this journey I have also learned that we, Fructose Malabsorption patients, also have things in common.
1. We know that high levels of fructose sugar cause a Fructose Volcano in our gut: a volcano waiting to erupt causing gas that makes you feel bloated, producing bowel wind, and changing your bowel output. A volcano that causes chronic inflammation and can affect all aspects of our health. But, we have an answer! We know what the culprit is!
2. We know that glucose is like a spaceship transporting fructose across the gut barrier into our bloodstream thus preventing the fructose volcano. By paying attention to the fructose and glucose loads in food you can alleviate your symptoms, stop feeling like a volcano is about to erupt from your gut, and start living a healthy lifestyle again.
3. Eating protein sources with essential amino acids also aids in the digestion of fructose. For the last few years I have intuitively known that protein is my gut's friend. I have even figured out that if I want to eat vegetables or fruit that are higher in fructose eating a protein source with it helps. I never knew scientifically why this worked, but I intuitively knew why. Recently one of my new Fructose Malabsorption friends shared an article from the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition that proves my theory. Amino acids, found in proteins, have been scientifically proven to aid in fructose absorption.
4. Yes, we all have a unique gut voice and need to find this voice and listen to it. Because of our malabsorption we become intuitive eaters. We learn what works and what doesn't work. We know how to feed our guts, how to make healthy choices and how to find joy in safe eating habits. It's as if each of our guts has it's own one of a kind fingerprint.
5. Fructose Malabsorption is a roller coaster. Sometimes you feel like you are on top of the world feeling 100% healthy, and sometimes you are plummeting to the ground towards a Fructose Volcano. We are not alone. We have Fructose Malabsorption in common. We can be in community together, support each other and teach each other. "Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much." (Helen Keller). Thank you for teaching me, supporting me and supporting my daughter. We are healthier because of you!
More Blog Articles By Families Balancing Fructose:
Dear Parents...why don't all teachers do this? And, why didn't I think of this idea when Grace was little?Written by Lindsay A Sorem
I belong to 3 Fructose Malabsorption groups on Facebook. I truly have enjoyed connecting with so many people like me. My new Facebook friends have taught me new things about my food intolerance and asked questions that have pushed me to research current nutritional topics and clinical data. They have shared with me their struggles as a parent of a child who has Fructose Malabsorption and their successes. I honestly don't think Grace and I would be living a healthy life if we hadn't connected with 1000's of people on Facebook.
Recently, a mom named Angela posted a letter her child's teacher had sent home regarding an apple taste testing project at school. I love this letter!!! I wish my daughter's teachers would have sent home similar letters. I can not tell you how many times I was caught off guard as mother when Grace was in elementary and preschool.
Each school day I looked forward to walking to the school bus stop and watching Grace get off the bus. Within seconds I could tell if she had a good day or a bad day at school. And, my mother's instinct could also pick up if she had an upset tummy. When Grace's gut voice yells at her it screams and let's her know it it isn't happy.
90% of the time Grace got off the bus with a huge grin on her face and would run straight into my arms for a huge hug. Wow, do I miss those elementary school days. Currently, I don't get a lot of after school hugs with 2 teenagers living in my house. Our after school routine is focused more on feeding them and helping them with their homework. It truly is shocking how much they can eat and how much homework is assigned each day. I will save those lessons for a later blog article.
Back to elementary school....If Grace exited the bus in a bad mood or with a frown rather than a smile it typically meant something I had packed for lunch or something her teacher had served her wasn't working for her gut. During preschool and Grace's first few years of elementary school we did a lot of experimenting to determine what works for Grace and what doesn't. Each of us has a unique gut voice. Grace and I have similar gut voices, but also differences. It has taken us years to discover what works for us and establish safe eating habits. And, when Grace was little she struggled to communicate with her teachers and classmates about her food intolerance.
Even though I was a room parent for Grace's class and at back to school conferences highlighted Grace's Fructose Malabsorption; inadvertently Grace suffered from accidental fructose ingestions each school year. Yes, she was forced to eat apples. Yes, as a newbie in elementary school she was rewarded with a sucker loaded with high fructose corn syrup. Why? Why did this happen? We were already struggling so much to figure out what Grace could and couldn't eat and then something like this would happen at school and send us down a dark path for 3 days. Not only would Grace's tummy hurt, but she would be sad. Sad because she couldn't participate in all of the activities at school and inconsolable that she couldn't enjoy the candy reward.
Trust me, I tried to fix this problem at school. As Grace's room parent I took into consideration each child's food restrictions and would serve a 100% safe snack, or sometimes I even simply eliminated the snack and we played a fun game or did a craft.
Even though I educated Grace's teachers we still had mishaps. As a former teacher myself I get it. It is impossible to understand and keep straight all food intolerances in each classroom. There are so many other concerns and needs regarding learning how to read and write, social issues, emotional issues and just getting through the day with 25+ little kids needing 100% of your attention.
But, here is my question. I actually ask it of myself. Why didn't I create a letter like this for Grace's teachers? If I had we would have avoided so many accidents. If I had I wouldn't have been putting so much pressure on her teachers to understand all of the nuisances of Fructose Malabsorption. If I had I could have helped Grace learn to communicate her food intolerance at an earlier age.
I can't take Grace back to elementary school. Sometimes I wish I could just for all of the hugs. But, I can share our lessons with you.
Rather than expecting our teachers to be perfect give them the tools to be successful. I think this letter is a great first step.
FBF Articles About School and Apples:
Before we found out our daughter had Fructose Malabsorption Halloween was not an issue at our house. Prior to my own diagnosis I already preferred dark chocolate and homemade cookies and brownies, and did not seek out candy. I think my gut intuitively knew what worked and what didn't work.
On Halloween I enjoyed visiting with all of the princesses, pirates and pre-teen ghouls who came to our door; and figured every piece of candy I handed out meant less fructose I had to get rid of on November 1st.
Halloween changed for our family and became a GIANT issue in our house when Grace was old enough to go trick-or-treating.
The first time Grace ran around with all the neighbors she collected an entire pillowcase full of candy. To be honest I was not prepared for the tantrum that ensued when she came home. It had never occurred to me to warn her that she would only be able to keep a handful of “safe” candy.
I thought my little girl would enjoy the sport of collecting a ton of candy and then trading it with her brother and his friends in our basement. Wow, was I wrong! Grace was truly devastated. She felt deflated watching all of the other kids gorge themselves on candy. And, I felt like a terrible mother. How had I not been more prepared?
We learned a lot that October 31st. Grace wants to feel normal. And, it’s our job to make her feel normal.
We still hand out candy each Halloween, but only "safe" candy that Grace can eat.
Grace continues to run around with her brother and the neighbors and trade candy in the basement. The difference now is that we keep “safe” candy for her at home; and when she is ready to "binge*" on candy we trade her pillowcase of “unsafe” candy for “safe” candy.
Grace now adores Halloween. In fact last year she went as a Hip-Hop Panda Bear including a pillowcase that looks like a 1980’s boombox.
Grace’s favorite candies include:
-Justin’s Peanut Butter Cups
-Australia’s Darrell Lea’s liquorice
-Ocho Candy Bars
*When I say "binge" on candy it looks a little different at our house. Grace will pick 2 or 3 pieces of candy and we make sure she has had other healthy low sugar foods on that same day. In our house, it is all about balance, not elimination. We know what works best for Grace's gut. Each of us has our own unique gut voice. What works for Grace may or may not work for your child.
Whether you are living with Fructose Malabsorption or not sugar is a hot topic right now. We see stories on the news and in print about safe and unsafe sugars. In social media platforms we are bombarded with countless marketing campaigns for low sugar, no sugar, and healthy sugar products. Walk into your local bookstore and you will find a multitude of cookbooks all dedicated to sugar: from decadent desserts to no sugar diets.
As a 42 year old who loves to cook, bake, and go out to eat with girlfriends how am I supposed to live?
How much sugar should I eat each week and what type of sugar should I use when I am baking and cooking for my family?
I do not have all of the answers. Each of us is different and we each have a unique gut voice. What works for me may not work for you. What my family likes to have for dinner and dessert may not be your family's first choice.
But, I do think we all have a lot in common. We like to celebrate birthdays, retirements and even Fridays. We enjoy dinners out with friends, dinners in with friends; and ice cream on a hot summer night or fresh hot cookies straight from the oven on a cold winter night.
I think we all crave balance. We want to live a healthy life, but we don't want that life to be so restricted. We want to celebrate with our friends and family; and also know that we are making choices that will keep us around for a long time to enjoy these celebrations.
How can we find this balance?
We need to understand how our body processes sugar, how sugar is hidden in convenience foods and how all types of sugar are not created equally.
At our house we LOVE to bake! I think baking a treat from scratch adds to the celebration. When my daughter and I bake we make a big mess in our kitchen, laugh a lot, and experiment with flavors and textures. When the timer dings and we remove our creation from the oven we celebrate our accomplishment or our baking failure.
Families Balancing Fructose Blog Articles All About Sugar:
Cliff Notes on Sugar Digestion: a brief summary of how sugar is digested in our gut and tips on how to avoid the a Fructose Volcano
What Millennials Can Teach Us About Sugar: My 26 year old cousin, a millennial, has taught me the importance of advocating for my gut and my overall health through food choices and intentional living. It is all about balance.
How To Read a Label: tips on how to read a label including 3 questions you should ask yourself every time you look at a food label and what man-made sugars are not safe choices
C Encyclopedia, Coconut Sugar: my research results and an "encyclopedia entry" regarding the pros and cons of coconut sugar
Sugar and Chronic Inflammation: why excess sugar intake can cause chronic inflammation in your entire body, not just your gut
Grace's Favorite Products and Recipes: My daughter, Grace, has Fructose Malabsorption. She is a healthy, thriving, 11 year old. Grace enjoys baking, eats real sugar and balances her sugar intake each day. Grace has learned that glucose is like a spaceship helping transport fructose in her body.
Are you like me?
Do you feel like the words "COCONUT SUGAR" are everywhere?
In your Facebook and Instragram feeds? At your favorite restaurants and bakeries?
What's the deal with coconut sugar?
Can we believe all of the health claims about coconut sugar? Is it a healthier option compared to table sugar?
I wish we were back in the 1980's when I was in elementary school and the internet did not exist. A time when we couldn't get instant access to information that hadn't been vetted by reputable sources. A simpler time when researching was easier and I knew everything I read had been verified, well-documented and fact-checked.
When I was in 5th grade, let's be honest, when I was in high school; and I wanted to learn about something I would visit my local library and the collections of Encyclopedia Brittanica. By the way, who is Brittanica?
Anyway, if there was a topic I was interested in like coconut sugar I would open up the "C" encyclopedia and all of the information listed would be facts, not opinions or mass marketed health claims.
Today, when anyone wants to learn about a topic they most likely visit Google. Within milliseconds we have access to lots of information and we can get this information sitting on our couches in our pj's. Yes, there is something beautiful in this. I love that I don't have to get in my car or even change out of my pj's.
But, there is a downside to this accessibility. If you search coconut sugar on Google there are 227,000,000 entries. Yes, millions of entries. And, these entries are not all facts. It includes opinions, marketing health claims and yes, fake news about coconut sugar. How are we supposed to fact check millions of entries? Where is the truth? Where is Brittanica when we need them?
I spent countless hours over the last few weeks researching coconut sugar attempting to sort out truth from fiction; healthy vs health claim; and authentic scientific research vs fraudulent investigations.
If I was Brittanica and could develop a "C" encyclopedia with a coconut sugar entry this is what it would look like:
Families Balancing Fructose "C" Encyclopedia, Coconut Sugar:
What is coconut sugar?:
Coconut sugar comes from the sap of a coconut tree similar to sap from a maple tree, the sap is boiled down to eliminate the water and it becomes a crystalline substance like what we know as table sugar. (a) (b)
Is there anything else in coconut sugar besides sugar?:
Yes, according to the Food and Nutrition Research Institute of the Philippines coconut sugar contains trace amounts of zinc, iron, calcium, phytonutrients and antioxidants. (d) (e) When I first read this I thought score one point for coconut sugar. If I am going to eat a treat, why not also get the benefits of healthy nutrients. But, the more I dug into this research the more I discovered that this health claim is just a claim. It can not be 100% verified and hasn't been vetted by multiple research institutes. In addition, multiple companies from multiple countries make coconut sugar and there is a complete lack of regulations. We can not fact check every bag of coconut sugar. We honestly don't know what is in it. We are back to square one: coconut sugar and table sugar are tied.
What's the deal with glycemic index and why is this important when choosing sugar?:
According to the American Diabetes Association, "the glycemic index measures how a carbohydrate containing food raises blood glucose levels." (f) Glucose is the main source of energy for our bodies. If you are living with Diabetes foods that have a low glycemic index prevent blood sugar spikes, spikes in blood sugar are not good for diabetics. Coconut sugar has a lower glycemic index compared to table sugar. So, yes coconut sugar is better for you if you have Diabetes. A food's glycemic index does not correlate to whether a food is safe or unsafe for people living with Fructose Malabsorption.
What is inulin that is in coconut sugar?:
"Inulin is a type of soluble fiber that slows the absorption of food in the gut" and is found in coconut sugar, but not in table sugar. (a). At first you might think this is a win for coconut sugar. It has fiber in it, and fiber is good for us, right? Unfortunately, inulin is a high FODMAP food that can also be found in onions, garlic, leeks, asparagus and bananas. Many people with Fructose Malabsorption discover after using the FODMAP challenge program that inulin causes gut unrest. (c) Why then would I substitute my regular table sugar for coconut sugar that has inulin in it? I am constantly trying to balance my fructose and other FODMAP food intake and do I really want to introduce another FODMAP source in a dessert?
Encyclopedia Coconut Sugar Conclusion:
Coconut sugar is not a healthier option for me. Coconut sugar contains inulin.
Table sugar does not contain inulin.
Table sugar is sucrose. Sucrose is 50% glucose and 50% fructose. This is a fact. And, glucose is like a spaceship transporting fructose across the gut barrier. Glucose is FM's friend. (g)
When eating a treat I am eating it because it is a treat, it is special, and I have spent the rest of the day or week making healthy choices.
Sugar is sugar. Coconut sugar and table sugar have very similar calorie amounts. Let's get rid of the myth that some sugars are healthier than other sugars. Sugar is sugar.
Michael Pollan sums it up in his book In Defense of Food: “If you’re concerned about your health, you should probably avoid products that make health claims. Why? Because a health claim on a food product is a strong indication it’s not really food, and food is what you want to eat” Table sugar companies do not market their product with a health claim.
Go ahead, enjoy an occasional treat made with real sugar if that works for your body. I know my gut enjoys an occasional square of dark chocolate or a piece of my daughter's homemade cake.
(b) Wikipedia article on coconut sugar
When did family dinners become so complicated?
When did we start losing the opportunity to sit down at our kitchen table for 20 minutes at the end of a long day and share a meal together?
And, when did we start feeling so much pressure to make the most perfect, photogenic, social media worthy family dinner?
How can we get back to simple: simple meals and simply spending time with our families?
In March of 2018 I started this blog adventure. I started it for many reasons. I wanted to connect with other families who are living with Fructose Malabsorption. I wanted to give my daughter a voice and have her discover why she shouldn't be scared to tell her friends about her food intolerance. I dreamt about creating a space where all families could share recipe ideas, spotlight food products that are minimally processed, discuss the highs and lows of living with FM, and build an online community of families who support each other.
Yes, many of these dreams have come to fruition. However, I have encountered a few obstacles along the way. First and foremost I didn't know a single thing about how to build a website, let alone how to import pictures or even create an embedded link. Needless to say I have learned a lot in the last 14 months. It has been incredibly challenging, but also very rewarding. I am proud of my accomplishments.
One struggle that did not occur to me when starting this blog was the concept of perfectionism. I have never strived to be a perfect cook, a perfect mom and definitely not a perfect food photographer. Somehow though, since starting this blog perfectionism has creeped it's way into my daily life and altered my family connections and how I value myself. What truly brings me joy is having dinner with my family. My goal never included a perfect Bon Appetit 3 course family meal. Yes, I love to cook and spending time in my kitchen is my happy place. But, prior to this blog adventure I never agonized about creating a flawless family meal that was worthy of being featured in a glossy cookbook.
Sometimes my dinners are total flops and I end up pulling out cereal for dinner. And, sometimes my dinners taste amazing but they are not pretty. One year ago I would have never imagined that I would feel pressure to take a food picture so beautiful that your mouth would water just looking at it!
Somehow this blog adventure of mine has created a dilemma I wasn't expecting. I want to continue to cook for my family and share some of our favorite recipes on my website. But, I don't want this blog to take away from our treasured family meals. I need to find balance. I need to find "Present Over Perfect."
How am I going to do this? I am going to start sharing some of our family's most simple meals. I am going to remember that what matters most is spending time together at our kitchen table sharing our daily high's and low's. Yes, a good dinner beckons our loved ones to the table. But, the meal doesn't always have to be complicated or fancy or picture worthy to make it memorable.
After all, "we build deep and loving family relationships by doing simple things together, like family dinner...and just by having fun together. " -Dieter F. Uchtdorf
So here goes.....
Why can't I share with you many of our family's favorite dinners that include sandwiches? We love sandwiches! They are simple, take little time to prepare and most importantly make my kids happy. One of our favorites is chicken parmesan on fresh ciabatta. And, here is where I am working on my new mantra, "Present Over Perfect". I honestly can not take a good picture of my chicken parmesan sandwich. I have tried multiple times and have decided it's ok if the recipe is simply included in my "Mom's Oven Chicken" recipe and it is not photographed. You will have to trust me on this one it is delicious, but it is not photogenic or camera-ready.
Grace's current favorite sandwich is Ellie Krieger's quick French Dip. You can make "homemade Au Jus" in 10 minutes while you assemble the sandwiches with bakery fresh bread and deli roast beef. Steam a little broccoli in your microwave at the same time and you will have a fantastic family meal on your table in less time than it takes to go pick up dinner at a local restaurant.
One of my favorite ways to serve dinner I have aptly named "uncooking". Yes, "uncooking". "Uncooking" is when you purchase safe minimally processed products and assemble them into a delicious family meal, like a sandwich. Recently I purchased fresh focaccia from our local bakery, Breadsmith; and a variety of deli meats, spreads and fresh vegetables from the grocery store. My children love when they get to choose what's for dinner. I love it, too! And, when I decide to "uncook" and serve make your own focaccia sandwiches for dinner everyone wins. Jack and Grace get to make their sandwich the way they like it and I don't have to spend hours in the kitchen potentially preparing a recipe that could be a total failure. Try "uncooking" one night. You might discover how truly magical it is.
Lastly, I would like to share with you where I found my new mantra, "Present Over Perfect". A good friend of mine called me last spring and told me I had to read her new favorite book, "Present Over Perfect" by Shauna Niequist. She informed me it was life changing and necessary reading for all moms. How could I refuse such a glowing review? In all honesty I did not read the book, I listened to it. I have become obsessed with audiobooks. I can listen and do other things at the same time like clean the house, go for a walk or cook dinner. My friend's suggestion has truly changed my life and my daily mantra. My family doesn't need me to be perfect. They want me to be present, available and always ready to listen, to share and to love.
Is It Worth It? Should You Buy Organic Flour? What Are The Benefits? And, How Does This Relate To Gluten Sensitivity?Written by Lindsay A Sorem
Why are so many Americans discovering they have a gluten sensitivity?
Why are European countries not seeing a similar trend?
Is a baguette purchased on the streets of Italy different than one purchased in an American supermarket?
Is it worth it to purchase organic flour?
Should we choose to only purchase bread from local bakeries that are committed to using organic and non GMO products?
Should we be concerned with the recent news headlines about RoundUp, specifically glyphosate?
For the last few months I have been asking myself these questions. I wonder why so many of my friends have been diagnosed with a Non Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS)? We are all in our 40's and 50's. Why now? We ate gluten and bread and pasta as children, but why do these products upset us now? What has changed?
These questions have been tormenting me lately. Every time I look at a baguette or purchase flour or bread it is like a little badger is poking me in the backside and prodding me to do a little research. Rather than ignore this trend and these nagging questions it is time to find an answer.
I spent the last weekend doing a lot of research online and in print and asked my dietitian a lot of questions.
Here is what I have discovered:
1. Yes, it is not just my friends. Non Celiac Gluten Sensitivity is on the rise in America. (a) Nutritionists, dietitians, naturopath doctors and gastroenterologists have been inundated with new patients who react negatively to gluten containing products.
2. Italy and London are not seeing similar trends. Anecdotal and scientific evidence has shown that Americans with NCGS are able to visit Italy and England and eat fresh baguettes and pasta without gastro distress. (b)
3. Yes, an Italian baguette is very different than a baguette found at your local grocery store that has been mass produced. Dr Lauren Deville in her article "Is Bread Different in Europe?" simply explains the difference. There are 5 types of wheat. In America 60% of wheat planted and harvested is of the hard red winter or hard red spring variety. These two varieties of wheat are predominately planted because they have a higher gluten content. Why is a higher gluten content favored by American farmers? " A higher gluten means better bread, because gluten is “sticky” and therefore rises better, making a fluffier loaf." (b) Like most everything in America it is all about sacrificing taste and safety for a better, faster product. Europeans and organic American farmers tend to use the softer versions of wheat that have less gluten.
4. I also discovered that American bread manufacturers have altered their recipes and added extra gluten. Wait a minute, yes, extra gluten has been added to the flour! This extra gluten is added to create a texture like that of fresh baguettes found at Italian bakeries. Why are we doing this? We could have the same Italian bread texture if we just went back to basics and made bread from scratch in small batches. (a)
5. There is a prevalence of chemicals found in American mass produced breads that are not found in local small batch bakeries one can find in Europe and America. This is where my research became alarming to me. This is why my intuition caused me to only purchase bread from our local bakery, Breadsmith, and write a blog last year entitled, "It's Ok To Give Your Child White Bread". I knew there was something up with when I couldn't pronounce all of the chemicals listed on mass produced grocery store bread when I wrote this article, but I didn't know why they were dangerous. Now I do and it honestly scares me. Here are a few of the chemicals that can be found in mass produced breads and why they are dangerous:
a. microbial transglutaminase: This is an added enzyme that activates gluten and can cause an immune response, basically it is added to make the gluten more "sticky" (a)
b. amylase-trypsin inhibitors (ATIs): These proteins are added to wheat to prevent parasite infestations. Added ATI's also can cause an immune response in our bodies (a)
c. Glyphosate: Glyphosate is found in RoundUp. Glyphosate has been directly correlated to gut infections, obesity, diabetes, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Autism. (c) (d) (a)
Why would we want to eat bread tainted with these chemicals? No wonder Americans are getting sicker each and every year.
6. Dr. Lauren Deville describes one other important factor in her article. Traditional breads made in small batch local bakeries, especially in Europe, use buttermilk in their recipes. Why buttermilk? Before commercial yeast was invented in 1879 local bakers used sourdough starters to create their confections. Sourdough starters contain bacteria that release carbon dioxide and lactic acid. The carbon dioxide makes the bread rise. The lactic acid breaks down the gluten and makes it easier to digest. Buttermilk plays a similar role. It contains lactic acid which I now know helps to breakdown gluten. (b). Mass produced American breads are not made with buttermilk, but made with commercially available yeasts that do not cause this same effect; hence, they contain more gluten that is hard to digest.
So, what do we do if we don't live in Europe?
What type of flour should we purchase?
I think the first rule is to shop local. Use the internet, find a local bakery near you and start asking questions about their ingredients. Our local bakery, Breadsmith, is a Kosher bakery and uses safe flour. Flour that is organically grown and processed. Flour that is free of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Let me know where you purchase safe bread. I have created a "Share With Me" page on my website. You can share your bakery with me and I will add to my map of the USA that includes a spotlight of safe restaurants.
I prefer to use Hodgson Mill Organic Flours.
All of my research makes me wonder.....
What would happen if we purchased or made bread that:
contained soft wheat organic flour;
bread that didn't contain any scary chemicals;
and bread that included buttermilk or a sourdough starter?
Would we see a decrease in NCGS? Could we reverse our body's immune response to gluten? Would we be able to enjoy a fresh baguette?
It is hard to believe summer is almost over. We had great weather in Minnesota this summer. My highlights include time spent on the lake, long walks, picnic lunches on the screened-in porch, and a more relaxed schedule. My children, Jack and Grace, spent their summer playing tennis and golf, getting ready for hockey tryouts, fishing, hanging with friends, and attending summer camp.
To be totally honest I am anxious about the start of school. Both Jack and Grace will be attending new schools, and our schedule becomes very busy. A sense of dread comes over me when I look at our September schedule. I wonder how are we going to fit in homework, hockey, tennis, choir and flag football along with all day school? Will there be anytime for family dinners or weekend lunches on the porch?
Every fall I go through a re-adjustment period. I miss my kids and I miss having lunch with them. I treasure our summer lunch time: 30 minutes of bonus Jack and Grace time. We do our best connecting when we share a meal. During lunch, just like family dinners, the kids are somewhat held captive by our kitchen table. We laugh, share our highs and lows of the day, and talk about current events in the world and in our lives.
This September my goal is to plan more family lunches on the weekend. I will let you know how it goes. I realize my goal is pretty lofty. Have I not just told you that our calendar is packed? Oh well! I might need to readjust this goal. My new goal is to plan at least one family lunch a month on the weekend.
My daughter, Grace, was diagnosed with Fructose Malabsorption 6 years ago when she was in preschool. Over the last six years I have had a lot of opportunities to practice making healthy, low fructose and kid friendly school lunches. For fun I just Googled how many days a year kids attend school. According to Google, the average is 180. Multiply that by 6 you get 1080. Times that by two (because my son, Jack, eats low fructose too) and that is 2160 lunches. Holy moly! I have had a lot of practice!
Grace and I took pictures of six of our favorite school lunches from last year. As you can see my kids do like sandwiches, but they also love leftovers, salads and "hodgepodge" lunches. What is a "hodgepodge" lunch? It's my fancy name for cleaning out the fridge and pantry, and making ordinary foods seem fun because it has a special name.
Disclaimer: I did my best to accurately calculate the amount of fructose in each lunch. However, I am not a food scientist.
My highest level of math was calculus. Which in all honesty was completely over my head. My parents paid a lot of money to my math tutor.
In addition, Grace and I have determined what foods work for us and what foods don't work for us.
Some of these foods may not work for you.
My six lunch suggestions are listed in clockwise order according to the above picture, and starting in the upper right hand corner.
Lunch # 1: Traditional Peanut Butter Sandwich, Turkey Roll-up and Sliced Cucumbers
Total Fructose: 4.23 grams
- We purchase our sandwich bread from Breadsmith Bakery. Breadsmith bakes all of their products from scratch and uses fresh, real, whole food ingredients.
- Yes, it is definitely ok to give your child white bread. Wheat bread tends to be higher in fructans and contain unsafe sugars like honey. I explored this topic on my blog: "It's Ok To Give Your Child White Bread".
- At your local grocery store look for peanut butter that is made without sugar and without any added man-made sweeteners. This will help lower your daily fructose load.
- I purchase deli turkey that does not contain any added sugars. We prefer Boar's Head Simplicity. Boar's Head Simplicity products do not contain any artificial ingredients and are minimally processed.
- Cucumbers are very low in fructose. 1/4 cup of cucumber slices contains only .225 grams of fructose.
Lunch #2: Leftover Burrito Bowl, Sliced Carrots, Double Take Verde Good Green Chile Salsa, and Shredded Mexican Cheese
Total Fructose: 1.67 grams
- If you have a dinner recipe your kids love, double it. I do this at least twice a week and then use the leftovers for lunch the next few days. Everyone is happy. My kids are happy because they get one of their favorite meals for lunch. And, I am happy because leftovers definitely cut down on school lunch prep time.
- My kids love Cilantro Lime Rice Bowls with Southwestern Chicken. It is a "go to" dinner at our house and makes great leftovers.
- I am currently obsessed with Double Take Verde Good Green Chile Salsa. Typically, I do not indulge in a lot of salsa because tomatoes have close to 4 grams of fructose/serving. What I love about this salsa verde is that it is made with tomatillos and tomatillos have only 1.3 grams of fructose/serving. Each day I balance my fructose loads like my own personal kitchen scale. Salsa verde makes this balancing act a lot easier and gives me room to eat additional fruits and vegetables.
Lunch #3: Caesar Salad
Total Fructose: < 1 gram
- I prefer to make Caesar salad from scratch. It is super easy and uses real ingredients.
- At our house we call Caesar salad, The Gateway Salad. Why is it the Gateway Salad? Caesar salad has a cult like following among Jack and Grace’s friends. You would think ranch dressing would be more idolized. After all, Caesar salad is made with anchovies. Gross! I love Caesar salad, but would never eat an anchovy and highly doubt my kids would either. I think the Caesar loves comes from the Romano cheese. It gives it that tangy, nutty sweetness. Once I discovered the magic of the Caesar salad I started taking advantage of it. I would micro-chope cucumbers and radishes into tiny matchsticks, and dice broccoli into minute pieces and hide it among the creamy Caesar dressing. Fork by fork Jack and Grace would eat all of the hidden vegetables. It undoubtedly is magic!
- I prefer to purchase croutons at our local bakery, Breadsmith. They are minimally processed and contain no artificial ingredients.
- In this lunch I added 1/4 cup of fresh pineapple which only has .88 grams of fructose. It is all about daily balance. Yes, you can eat pineapple, but limit your amounts.
Lunch #4: "Hodgepodge" Lunch: Leftover Grilled Chicken, Clementine, 365 Pita Chips, Hummus, Frozen Broccoli and Peas
Total Fructose: 3.36 grams
- We purchase Whole Foods 365 Pita Chips. They have only 1 gram of added sugars and it is real sugar, not man-made sugar. They are the cleanest pita chips we can find.
- Hummus is very low in fructose. For those of you who are using the FODMAP elimination program hummus would be one of your test foods.
- I included in this "hodgepodge" lunch leftover grilled chicken and frozen broccoli and peas. By the time your child eats his or her lunch the frozen vegetables will thaw.
Lunch #5: Leftover Homemade Cream Cheese Puffs, Sliced Cucumbers, Clementine, Applegate Farms Turkey Pepperoni, Glutino Pretzels
Total Fructose: 2.68 grams
- I like Organic Valley Cream Cheese because it doesn't contain added sugars.
- Applegate Farms Turkey Pepperoni contains less than 2% of added sugars and is gluten free.
- Glutino pretzels only have .5 grams of fructose per serving of 24 pretzels.
Lunch #6: Wholly Guacamole, Organic Valley String Cheese, 1/4 cup Blackberries, 3 Mini Bell Peppers, 1/2 Turkey Sandwich on Breadsmith Bread
Total Fructose: 4.06 grams
- Sucrose, or table sugar, has equal amounts of fructose and glucose. For example, one piece of Breadsmith white bread has 3 grams of sugar. Therefore, it contains 1.5 grams of fructose and 1.5 grams of glucose. Glucose is like a spaceship that helps transport fructose throughout our body. For more information on the Glucose Spaceship refer to my article on Sugar Digestion.
- Wholly Guacamole has 0 grams of added sugars.
Everyone with Fructose Malabsorption tolerates different levels of fructose. It is best to make a list of what feels good and what doesn’t and remember it is all about the daily balance. For example, a 1/4 cup of pear slices can be ok if during that same day you focus on eating all other foods that are low in fructose and eat foods that are high in glucose. Everyday my goal is to have my personal fructose and glucose science scale heavier on the glucose side or in balance. I limit my daily fructose load to less than 15grams, and eat safe fruits and vegetables each day. I still choose to eat fruits and vegetables with higher levels of fructose occasionally. For me and my daughter it's not about elimination, it's about balance.
My Favorite Leftover Lunches:
I, too, like to eat leftovers for lunch. Leftovers prevent me from spending money at the many over priced salad restaurants in town. But wait, I do sneak away occasionally and indulge in the most delicious, lick the bowl $12.00 salad. We all have to treat ourselves once in a while. After all, I have packed over 2000 lunches in my life.
Here are my favorite leftover lunches (in clockwise order starting in the upper left corner):