Tuesday, June 29, 2010

So, what is a whole grain?

I think I assume sometimes that people know the same things I do. Often, when I am posting, I feel like I am posting a bunch of stuff that people already know. The reality is that most people don't know about the stuff I am talking about. I apologize if I lose some of you in the midst of my meanderings. It simply does NOT occur to me that I might be talking a foreign language. No matter though. Writing about eating, cooking, and being healthy is something I enjoy immensely even if some of the material seems obvious to me.
So the question I wish to answer is: "What exactly is a whole grain?"
The word "whole" means something like "containing all parts" or "all inclusive" or "lacking none of the essential parts." A grain is essentially the fruit of a grass or more specifically a monocot. A monocot is basically a plant that sprouts with one seed leaf (versus a plant that sprouts two seed leaves). Soooo, that said, grains include all kinds of seeds such as: wheat, oats, barley, buckwheat, rice, corn and less common grains such as quinoa, amaranth, millet, and sorghum. There are way more grains than just those one but it is more likely that you will run into those before the more obscure ones.
A WHOLE grain means a grain whose parts have all been retained. In the case of flour (flour is the ground up seed) a whole grain flour means that the ENTIRE grain is in the flour versus a refined flour in which part of the grain (usually the germ which is the part containing all the nutrition) has been removed.
In answer to your question CB, whole wheat IS a whole grain. Whole wheat just happens to be a type of whole grain. There are lots of different types of whole grains as I said earlier.
Grains are not to be confused with other types of edible seeds like flax, sunflower seeds, and beans which are all dicots.
Phew! How's that for a biology/herbology lesson?

Monday, June 28, 2010

Top 10 Nutritional Boosters: A Better PB&J

I don't know about you but we eat a LOT of PB&J at our house. It is one of the 10 things that Novan will actually eat and it's a quick and nutritious form of protein if you do it right. I have three rules for PB&J:

1)Use a good hearty whole grain bread. For some reason I have always remembered the "Whitewheat" commercial from when I was a kid. I tried to find it on YouTube but they didn't have it. It featured two loaves of bread, one white, one wheat, and they are supposed to be trains traveling on a track. One is chanting "white white white white" and the other is chanting "wheat wheat wheat wheat" and finally they collide and the chant says "WHITEWHEAT!" The idea of course is that whitewheat bread is supposed to be as nutritious as whole wheat bread but taste like white. I suppose I certainly fell for that one being only 8 or so but the reality is that white bread, whitewheat bread, and whole wheat bread are not, nor will they ever be equals.

This commercial makes me laugh. The truth is that food companies are still trying to pull this one over on us and they are getting better and better at disguising how bad off we are in the food department and what it's doing to the health of the human race. We've missed something essential that science has not told us about the benefits of getting our nutrition synthesized straight from the plant source versus man-made synthesized nutrition that you may find in not-so-wholegrain breads. Then there's all the processing that went in to making the whole grain supposedly more palatable. One time, try this: Take a dab of bleached enriched flour and put in on your tongue. Really try to taste it and pay attention only to the taste. Then take a dab of whole wheat flour, preferably fresh ground, and put that on your tongue. There really is a BIG difference, that is, if you still have taste buds. There is a LOT more flavor in whole grains. The texture is very different but texture is a person to person preference and is generally reinforced by whatever you are "used to" or "what you were raised on". Ok, so I am gonna leave it at that. Put your PB&J on bread worthy of your amazing body that was gifted you by Heavenly Father.

2) When it comes to PB, use the good stuff.

Get one whose ingredients are peanuts and salt. Fortunately, more and more brands now have a natural alternative. Just check the label and make sure they're not throwing something else in there they are considering "natural" that really isn't. None of that hydrogenated oil crap that runs rampant in your peanut butter jars. Yeah, there's oil on the top and you gotta stir the stuff but these are GOOD oils, not artery clogging, butt enhancing hydrogenated this and that that is ADDED in to make your PB fluffy and spreadable. They only invented that kind of PB so that it would spread on soul-less wimpy WHITE BREAD. White bread can't stand up to the real stuff. Treat your whole grain goodness to good sturdy PB full of wondrous nutritional treasures. You may not realize it but by itself, PB is NOT a complete protein because it is a legume. BUT, if you eat that legume with a grain, like say, whole wheat bread, you are getting a COMPLETE protein. This means your body is getting ALL of the necessary amino acids it needs.

3) Now that you've got superior bread and PB for your sandwich, please, don't ruin it with Smuckers grape jelly! It's like putting ketchup on your T-bone steak because you don't have proper steak sauce in the house. Please, use a jam whose main ingredient is fruit and one that is sweetened with something wholesome like, fruit. Then, you get those lovely antioxidants that are all the rage these days. Stay away from high fructose corn syrup and other refined sugars. I like Polaner All-Fruit and Trader Joes also sells some good jams that are sweetened naturally.

Not that I don't appreciate those lovely summer homemade jams and jellies but I wish someone would really figure out a better way to sweeten them. When I am forced to use jam sweetened with corn syrup I try to use it VERY sparingly. Yuck. Anyway, it is more expensive but you'll feel much better with your high quality PB&J and you won't feel like a bad mom feeding it to your kids so much.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Share Bear

If Beya were a care bear, this is the one she would be. She may be even better at sharing than share bear herself and she's certainly better than me. She is absolutely AMAZING when it comes to sharing. When it comes to Novan and Iyov she will share everything from her toys to her treats. One treat in particular that she gets is a twizzler when she does number 2 on the toilet. (She doesn't really need it and would go anyway but I want to drive the message home and never have an accident again) She will undoubtedly share a good half or more of her twizzler with Novan and Iyov if he is around.

Even if Novan already has some of the same thing she's got and he finishes his first she will give him some of hers. A few days ago I gave them little individually wrapped packages of cheese cubes. Novan wolfed his down in like 2 seconds and Beya was still daintily picking hers out of the package. I watched and she must have shared half her bag with him. Let me tell you, Beya loves cheese just as much as he does.
When we are with other kids she will always share as well. If she has a toy that another kid wants she will almost always give up her toy and find another one. At the Children's museum she was playing outside where they have water bins with paintbrushes, funnels, and a watering can. She was enamored with the watering can. One little girl tried to take it from her and Beya prevailed (she does NOT approve of kids trying to snatch things from her) but all it took was for me to tell her she could play with it just a little bit longer but then another little girl wanted a turn with it. If someone asks her for something nicely you can see the little wheels turning in her head. She will undoubtedly give them what they ask for. I didn't even have to remind her. Not 2 minutes later I saw her find the little girl and hand it over. I honestly think Beya just likes to give people things. She likes to help me take food up to Brad and she likes to "distribute" like when I give the kids vitamins. She always reminds me to get one for Novan and one for Iyov. Then she finds them and gives them their vitamin.
She is so sweet and thoughtful. Brad says she's the "glue" that holds our three together. She loves Novan incessantly even though he's a jerk to her on a regular basis and she plays with Iyov and loves to make him laugh. 
With all the sharing and caring she does, nothing bugs her more than when people don't accept what she's giving them. Sometimes she will offer something to Novan, like a peice of cheese she's already taken a bite of and he refuses it because he's all hoity toity and can't eat things after other people have had their mouths on them. Sometimes she offers him a toy she thinks he might want and if he's not interested he says "No Beya!" to which Beya starts crying. It breaks my heart that she tries to be so thoughtful and he couldn't care less. It makes me want to shove whatever it is down his ungrateful throat. Buuuuut, anyway, Beya has learned to say "Novan's being a jerk!" when stuff like that happens and I say "Don't worry about it Beya, he still loves you." Then of course I have to try to explain AGAIN to Novan how sad he's going to be when Beya stops sharing with him one day, when she doesn't want to hang out with him anymore and stops trying to give him hugs all the time. I think though, he's catching on a bit to her example and getting him to share with her in return is getting easier bit by bit. It's wonderful to have such a good little example in our house. I love my little share bear!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

That's Just the Kind of Mom I Am

He did this to himself, I swear, no siblings were involved. I'm sure it's all unsanitary and stuff. There's probably all kinds of grossness in the dirt but honestly, no more than probably my bathroom or kitchen floor. I think people think a lot of untruths that are not really justified when it comes to sanitation. While I am sure my kid is coming in contact with any number of bacteria I have more confidence in a superb immune system not to mention the strengthening of said immune system during such activities as playing in the mud.
Playing in mud is a childhood right! Just look at the joy on that sweet face! Could you take that joy away? I can't because that's just the kind of mom I am.
 What inevitably happens to Beya's shoes no matter where she is. I don't mind. It seems kind of silly to have kids wear shoes in situations that they are clearly not necessary. I lived the majority of my childhood shoeless I think. I still prefer the open shoe-less feel of flip-flops these days. Brad is always trying to get shoes on my kids. He thinks they're going to step on something. Like what? A bug? A tree twig? A thorn? A nail sticking up from the ground? Right. When you go barefoot your feet get tough and a few rocks and thorns aren't going to slow you down. Besides, that's just the kind of mom I am.

Like most kids, mine love water. I don't have a pool but I do have this big muck bucket that I fill up with water. It is much easier to clean and my kids prefer water experiments to actually playing in the water in a swim suit and swimming around. They like to see how much dirt it takes to make the water turn opaque. They like to see what happens when you throw rocks in. They also like to see what kinds of leaves and twigs float. It's messy and dirty but that's just the kind of mom I am.

Monday, June 14, 2010

My 4th Child

No, I'm not pregnant. I'm referring to my garden which I love like it's my child. I get an enormous amount of satisfaction out of it. I love getting my hands into the dirt out there and helping something grow. I am super happy that this year I have been able to give my garden the proper amount of attention. Last year it kind of ran wild while we were living 8 miles down the road while the house was getting fixed. Brad was pretty worried about the size of it when we first moved in here. I extended the size of what was obviously the previous owner's/renter's garden and now my garden takes up a large portion of the back yard. I don't really care what he thinks though. It's not like he likes to be outside anyway. We have discovered that he is very much an indoorsy person and I am very much an outdoorsy person. I love to do the chores outside, mowing, weed-eating, weeding, gardening. I don't mind getting dirty and there is something very satisfying about coming into my cool air-conditioned house covered in sweat, dirt, and lawn clippings feeling exhausted yet accomplished. And I do sweat. A. LOT. Got that one from my mom. Thanks Mom.
Well here is my beautiful child number 4. Actually this was taken a week an a half ago and now the plants are even bigger.
That giant stalky monstrosity in the middle is kale. It's kind of my experiment. It has been there since February of last year and i am just curious if it will stay alive indefinitely. Most garden plants don't stay alive more than a season but this one pretty much thrived all through summer, then winter, then spring again. It just gets taller and taller. I had to actually stake it to keep it upright.  Hmmm, I should really reset the date on my camera.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Destruction Part II

Sometimes I wonder if I should write a book about my life. It's like a freaking circus at times and I can't help but be both entertained and horrified by it at the same time. Less than a year after our great house catastrophe we got a clog in our plumbing. No biggie right? We called our trusty plumber up so he can come fix it. Not real sure why our brand new plumbing would have a clog but hey, who knows.

So this is our driveway. I suppose the plus side is that we won't have to hire a bobcat to come and break up the old driveway when we finally get around laying a new one. The downside is $3200 worth of a giant trench and new water and sewer main piping. I would not have thought that roots could actually grow into a galvanized pipe but apparently roots really can infiltrate anything. Ok, so the water main was still working fine but if I am gonna dig up my entire driveway, it's best to make it worth it and replace everything that might need replacing at some point in the nearer future.
Ok so here's the fun part. We are putting our kids to bed at 8pm or so and hear what sounds like a loud hissing sound comming from outside where work is still commencing with the bobcat. We peek out the window and I think that he must have nicked the water main connected to our meter. But as we go back to putting the kids down Jeremy our plumber comes inside and tells us to get out of the house because he just hit the main natural gas line. We tow all our kids out to our neighbor's house while Jeremy and his other help try to block off our section of street covering about 50 yards on either side of our house to keep cars and their combustion engines out of range of gas spewing  out of the line. I would have gotten a picture of the fiasco but I was a little concerned about being that close to that much gas. I'm sure you can understand. But I can tell you that it looked like how water misters look like that they have all over the place in Southern CA. It disipated quickly some 5 feet from the actual leak and the only place you could really smell it was in front of our house. Nevertheless an entire crew of firemen came out to quarantine the area with caution tape and advise our neighbors to abandon their residences for a time. We ended up going to another neighbor's house even farther down the street.
It must have taken Piedmont Natural Gas 45 minutes or more to actually get to the site and another 45 minutes for them to figure out how to turn it off. Seriously? They take 45 minutes to turn it off? That had to have been a lot of gas spewing out and I heard our plumber ask the gas guy how much this was going to cost him, because obviously someone has to pay for that gas. It sure as heck wasn't going to be us. The gas guy had no answer. So it was at least an hour and a half of free flowing gas out of this hole in the pipe.

That's the peice of gas piping they replaced and the damage that was inflicted by said bobcat.
It is difficult when one has seen as many misfortunes as I have to not wonder if we are somehow doomed and that doom spreads over to other innocents with whom we become involved with. I don't actually think that but it certainly feels that way sometimes. Poor Jeremy, I hate that he will probably not make any money off this job when it's all said and done.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Fearless One

Girls are supposed to be full of sugar and spice and boys of puppydog tails and stuff. Well I don't know about that but I might have assumed that Novan's need for wrestling and physical violence coupled with his love of machinery, computers, and fight scenes would have instilled in him a little more fearlessness but in reality he is the least adventurous of my children. Beya, my little girl made of sugar, spice, princesses, mermaids, fairies, and the color pink has more daring than I thought possible. Our day started with me pulling weeds in the garden and finding a little snake.

I caught it for the kids and Beya was immediately concerned for its welfare. Novan thought it was very cool but told me "Mom! Don't let Beya touch it, it will bite her!" Beya, ever the daring one, or maybe just ignorant, pet it, picked it up and carried it around in her bucket like it was her best friend.
Eventually though, she wanted to let it go which I was very proud of her for.

Later that day, our plumber showed up to get to work on replacing our sewer and water line. Who knew roots could grow into galvanized pipe to cause problems? Well, that's just the story of my life I guess, it's one thing after another. I suppose though I am grateful for things that are really small compared to things that could really present a problem like one of us having some sort of health issue. I would think though that my money would eventually run out and the financial surprises would stop when I was tapped out. Ok so anyway, back to what I was saying. Beya took one look at the bobcat Jeremy our plumber was using and said "I wanna drive the excavator!" She repeated asking at regular intervals for an hour or so and so we went outside and Jeremy let her sit with him and put her hands on the controls. It's nice to have a plumber you have a decent relationship with that will do things like that.

Novan saw Beya on the excavator and wouldn't have anything to do with it.

Finally, after an exhausting day of snake wrangling and excavator driving, a girl has to rejuvenate with her favorite snack, blueberries. Seriously, the girl has a love for all things berry.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Tomato, Tomahto

A couple weeks ago I went strawberry picking and while I was paying for my berries I noticed they had two greenhouses full of tomato plants. I asked the guy working if they sell the tomatoes out of their stand or if they sell them to grocery stores. He said they sell them out of their stand and I started asking about their growing methods and such. He offered to let me tour the greenhouse and I thought it was really interesting how they grew them. They are grown in 5 gallon bucket sized plastic bags and their branches are trained/wound up a string that is connected to bars that run above the plants. Anyway he was telling me the biggest problem with growing tomatoes is managing the splitting problem. If you have ever grown your own tomatoes then you are familiar with how the tops of the tomato can split as it ripens. The splits heal over with brown scale like skin that isn't too pretty.

Anyway, so then he was telling me how he can't sell split tomatoes and I was amazed. He doesn't even try to sell them, even at a discount. People just won't buy them, he said. I then learned something I had always wondered about. Every time I have bought tomatoes in the store I have wondered how it is they have managed to A. Get the tomato so perfect looking, perfect coloring, perfect shape and B. Why do store bought tomatoes have to be so tasteless, surely they can produce tomatoes that actually taste like tomatoes, right? It can't be that hard.
I never realized the problem was that they are sacrificing taste to cosmetic appeal snd "shippability". You rarely see a green tomato on the vine that's split and that's exactly when they pick them. I should have figured this out sooner but I just never imagined that a tomato that's as green as a green bean would ever actually ripen in any amount of time. The answer is ethylene gas which is what commercial growers use to turn green tomatoes red, or rather pinkish red in my opinion. You get next to no damage when shipping green tomatoes whereas ripe ones simply won't make the trip.
Huh. So that's how they do it. So in reality we are eating unripe tomatoes when we buy them from the store. I told the strawberry stand guy "I would rather eat a split tomato that tastes good than a perfect tomato that tastes like crap though." He replied, "Yeah, people just don't have any common sense." He then proceeded to give me as many split tomatoes as I wanted for free. Hey, at least I got something out of the deal. What a shame though, I can't believe how much people are willing to miss out on for the sake of cosmetic appeal. I suppose it shouldn't surprise me though considered the other things people do for cosmetic appeal. Well anyway, here's to a split tomato that is worthy of two slices of toast and some mayo!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Some interesting conversations:

So I am riding in the car with all the kids in their carseats.
Beya: Mom, I wanna sit up there and drive the car.
Mom: Beya, you don't know how to drive a car.
Beya: When I get bigger I'm gonna drive a car.
Mom: Where are you gonna get a car from?
Beya: I'm gonna have my own car.
Mom: What kind?
Beya: A PINK one!
Novan: I'm gonna have a car too!
Beya: Novan's gonna have a Bumblebee car! (that's the car from Transformers for you pop culture flunkies)
Mom: Novan what kind of car will it be?
Novan: It's gonna be a yellow Camaro!

At home one day while I am playing with Iyov.
Beya: I want my own baby Iyov!
Mom: You want your own baby?
Beya: When I'm bigger I'm gonna be a mommy!
Mom: And you're going to name your baby Iyov?
Beya: Yes!

Today I was putting Iyov down for a nap and as I exit Iyov's room I hear shouting from Novan and Beya. Novan is trying to open the door to the back yard but it's locked.
Beya: Help Novan Mom!
Novan: I need to go outside!
Mom: Not right now.
Novan: You know the rules! No doors locked in my house!
Yeah, um, that's a line from the Transformers movie you guys. Does Novan pick up dialogue or what?