Sunday, February 24, 2008

Yeah, I read it too

“…A new heaven and a new earth are arising within you at this moment, and if they are not arising at this moment, they are no more than a thought in your head and therefore not arising at all…”

While it’s still fresh in my mind, I thought I would offer my two cents.
Well actually, I was thinking of offering my twenty-five cents worth of opinionated review but in an effort to keep my conscious-self
in check, I’ll stick with pennies.
Perhaps a quarter is a bit egocentric.

I’ve made it no secret that I really like Oprah. I think her heart is in the right place and she has undoubtedly left her humanitarian footprint on American soil as well as abroad. I think she’d make a fine president and an even better dinner guest.
Like many, I responded to Oprah’s call for followers just as soon as she announced her most recent book club pick, A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle (to make it easier—and because it’s befitting, I will refer to him as E.T. for the remainder of this post).
After finishing this book (which was no small feat), I must admit that I am perplexed at how passionately Ms. Winfrey speaks of its contents.

I am a voracious reader. I like to believe that I have a relatively firm grasp on the English language. Any evidence of these two facts flew from my egotistical pain-body as soon as my spectacles met chapter one. When I toted the seemingly wispy paperback home from Borders, I was sure it would be an easy read. I didn’t plan for the frequent re-reading of passages for the sake of clarification.
Even as I read the last chapter, I found myself flipping back to one particular passage that haunted me;
“…In fact, at the heart of the new consciousness lies the transcendence of thought, the newfound ability of rising above thought, of realizing a dimension within yourself that is infinitely more vast than thought. You then no longer derive your identity, your sense of who you are, from the incessant stream of thinking that in the old consciousness you take to be yourself. What a liberation to realize that the “voice in my head” is not who I am. Who am I then? The one who sees that. The awareness that is prior to thought, the space in which the thought—or the emotion or sense perception—happens.

I was haunted because that “voice in my head” is precisely who I am. That voice is the one I depend on to remind me not to sweat the small stuff. When I begin to take myself too seriously, that voice tells me to stop and smell the roses and live life for the moment whether or not the beds are made or the carpet is clean. That voice reminds me that Sunday is still the Sabbath day whether or not the Cowboys are playing. That voice suggests that another jar of peanut butter added to my grocery list will help our local food pantry more than it will hurt my budget. That voice lets me know that I am still loveable despite the double digits on my jeans tag. That voice reminds me
that even parents need to apologize to their kids once in a while.
That voice is capable of reason on occasions when I have become completely unreasonable.
And now E.T. wants me to detach myself from that voice in an effort to rise above my unconscious self. If nothing else, I am suspicious
(and I don’t doubt that E.T. would suggest that suspiciousness is as serious an infraction as unconsciousness).
You’ll have to forgive me if I seem critical and a bit small-minded. Surprisingly, I actually like this book. I believe it will perpetuate feelings of heightened awareness for its readers and will do more good than harm for the thousands who seek to uncover their life’s purpose.
I can’t argue with a book that promotes purity of self
over our standard issue, egomaniacal persona.
I want a new earth as much as the next gal, but I hold fast to that notion with as much skepticism as I do for a well-deserved reduction in my property taxes.
I want to believe that within each of us there is an honest soul, free from the influences of our corrupt culture of materialism. I have to believe that even before E.T. became a household name, some of us were trying to fight the demons of consumerism and adopt a practice of selflessness over selfishness. But the concept of living through our conscious selves instead of living through our pain-bodies is one that I find difficult to wrap my head around.
And on the subject of ego, I find it interesting that the author felt compelled to travel so far from his own country to finally free himself from his once ego-centric identity. Personally, I can’t think of a better place to lose one’s ego than on his hometown doorstep.
As young children, we had little concept of ego. We enjoyed the everyday pleasure of being and if ever we strayed from the basic tenets of love, fairness and faith, we need look no further than our own kin to set us straight. I would argue that I am never more aware of my true identity than when I see myself reflected in the eyes of my loved ones. I am never more my true self than I am in the presence of my kin. Perhaps this is why traditional methods of soul-searching often involve detailed genealogical research. By connecting with ones history, we are able to identify with another fragment of self.
We are who we are in part because of who we came from.
In fact, I recall watching a PBS documentary that detailed a genealogical investigation into the lives of prominent African Americans. Our very own Oprah sat in silent astonishment as her roots were traced back to an African community she had never considered as part of her ancestry.
An online resource summarizing the documentary states:

"In February 2006, the acclaimed PBS series
African American Lives brought to the forefront of
national consciousness the powerful process of discovering one's family history. A Roots for the 21st century, the series made a deep cultural impact through its riveting use of DNA analysis, genealogical research and family oral tradition to trace the lineages of highly accomplished African Americans down through U.S. history and back to Africa.
One year later, Oprah's Roots further crystallized and propelled America's interest in family tree research through the powerful stories of Oprah Winfrey's ancestors and their accomplishments."

I question what Ms. Winfrey and E.T. would make of the aforementioned term “national consciousness” in light of
their recent awakenings.
By being conscious of our roots and by taking interest in the physical form of our ancestors, are we then succumbing to the influences of our unconscious, ego-centric selves?

The fact is, with or without this book, I am a work in progress.
And to be told that the physical manifestation of self is
insignificant at best, is a bitter pill to swallow.
Not because I am self absorbed, but because I find comfort in identifying with the physical attributes of my ancestors.
I share light eyes and fair complexion with my Irish grandmother, I worry and gesticulate in identical fashion to my Italian grandmother, I share my mother’s smile and my father’s brow. Siblings and I are built differently but share the same gait. Our hair color is as varied as our personalities yet we sound alike.
In my quest to awaken to my life’s purpose, it would seem impossible to dismiss any of these.
Perhaps I am missing the point.
Am I?

I am amused by one particular passage in the book which I consider to be a disclaimer of sorts. It would seem that E.T. allows for his own acquittal should any of his teachings seem disingenuous
(or worst case scenario, should he fail to awaken a dedicated reader
to her life's purpose). I don’t know him personally, and by all accounts he seems to be an incredibly knowledgeable person of reliable ingenuity but, just in case...
He writes:

“Only the first awakening, the first glimpse of consciousness without thought, happens by grace, without any doing on your part. If you find this book incomprehensible or meaningless, it has not happened to you. If something within you responds to it, however, if you somehow recognize the truth in it, it means the process of awakening has begun. Once it has done so, it cannot be reversed, although it can be delayed by the ego. For some people, the reading of this book will initiate the awakening process. For others, the function of this book is to help them recognize that they have already begun to awaken and to intensify and accelerate the process. Another function of this book is to help people recognize the ego within them whenever it tries to regain control and obscure the arising awareness.”

Either way, I suppose he’s glad you gave it a shot
and bought the book (alternatively, you could have purchased
a CD or DVD of his teachings from his website).
Some would suggest his teachings are prophetic.
If such is the case, I would have to ask,
is he a not-for-profit prophet?

And as for Oprah’s commitment to A New Earth and its teachings,
I applaud her ambition. Only Oprah could see the vision of a worldwide classroom through to its reality. I was an early registrant for her progressive online course and I look forward to open dialogue about A New Earth.

If I am permitted to submit a question to Ms. Winfrey through the classroom chat forum, I might ask her if a time will come when she will surrender those chili-pepper soled Louboutins for the sake of
her (obviously) aching feet, and reveal her true self in a pair of sensible, comfortable shoes.
I would have to guess that her ego is responsible for choosing such fashionable (albeit torturous) footwear.

Or perhaps I might question her recent need to transform a neighborhood of “Schlumpadinkas” into fashion-forward soccer moms. Did she find them offensive as they sported their worn but honest track suits to run errands and chauffer children?
Can’t we be our true selves in elastic waist pants and well-worn velour leisure suits, or is there a dress code?

I may have failed miserably in my attempt to keep cynicism at bay.
Perhaps I am simply a poor candidate for a successful awakening.
I’m not sure I’m ready to part with that voice in my head
who, for the better part of forty years has kept me grounded. It tells me that in just a few short months after Oprah’s ten-session lecture on A New Earth, she will be filming her “Favorite Things” episode for 2008 during which she will share ‘must haves’ for a best life.
Most of the items will cost more money than her loyal viewers can afford and we will face the moral dilemma of feeling joy over jealousy for her lucky studio audience. I am curious to know however, if her ratings will be down by then.
If we follow E.T.’s advice for finding and accepting joy, we
will realize that:
“The misperception that joy comes from what you do is normal, and it is also dangerous, because it creates the belief that joy is something that can be derived from something else, such as an activity or a thing…but it cannot do that. This is why many people live in constant frustration. The world is not giving them what they think they need.”
(Or what Oprah tells them they “must have”).

And so this book and I will likely continue our tumultuous relationship. Perhaps I will read it through once again.
Perhaps not.

In the meantime, when I experience those occasional feelings of hopelessness and fragmented identity, I will look to those who know me best, the ones who love me unconditionally, to offer their emotional and physical support.
I am also confident that when my ego takes center stage, that same cast of characters will lead me back to my true self, the one who is working hard to be in a state of awakened doing .

As for this blog post, I suppose it's a bit of food for thought.
I don't expect that most of you who read A New Earth
will agree with me.
But it makes no difference, because that little voice in my head
is my own. And as each of us has our own voice
(whether we acknowledge its presence or not), we are free
to accept our differences, enjoy the dialogue and
face the next book club pick with enthusiasm.
I would expect that even E.T. won't disagree with that.

And if I may offer a bit of advice for the author, who will likely
find himself in a state of shock at an unprecedented number of
books sold (in the millions), and facing the inevitable cruelties of fame and fortune (not the least of which will be the question
prophet or profit?), I would direct him towards the truest,
most genuine reflection of self, where shoulders are available unconditionally, to stand on-- or cry on,
and ego has no place beyond the doorstep;
Phone home.

Until Next Time,
Make Life Delicious
Share Your Food


Thursday, February 21, 2008

I Say Love...It is a Flour

Cake and Life:
If you love someone enough, any kind of cake they bake for you will be wonderful, as it is.
If you love God, the Universe, enough, the life you are given starts to look better, as it is.

--Laura Teresa Marquez
Source: Early Morning Conversation

Lately I’ve given a lot of thought to cake.
Well, not just cake, I’ve thought about cookies and cupcakes and donuts and danish. Partly because we crave what we can’t have.
So, in my current state of white-food deprivation, it’s pretty much all I can think about. I’m also half-finished with a fascinating book by
Dr. Christiane Northrup called The Wisdom of Menopause which is forcing me to take a mental journey back to my carefree youth.
This isn’t as easy as it sounds for a forty year old who admittedly suffers from CRS (don’t make me explain). There is irony in the fact that I’m reading this book in an effort to be well-prepared for the moment when menopause actually rears its ugly hot-head, because by that time, I will likely forget everything I read, since I can’t remember sh…, stuff.
As it turns out, I am capable of recalling the flavorful events of my past more easily than the factual ones. And apparently, cake was a more significant part of my young life than I had expected.

And while we're on the subject of cake...
In my recent efforts to recreate some of my son’s favorite
store-bought cakes and cookies with healthier ingredients, I have been admonished by a select few who tell me that changing the ingredients and not the actual face of junk food will only complicate the issue. They offer practical solutions for weaning and replacing his current cache of confections. It has been suggested that until I remove all junk food from my home and convince my family that carrots are a viable snack food, I will never solve our nutritional dilemma.
The left side of my brain is in complete agreement with this philosophy. However, the fact that I am right-brain dominant
creates a bit of a mess in my head and my kitchen.

As I force my challenged memory to recall the happiest moments of my youth, it does not surprise me that many of these involve baked goods.
At forty, I’ve seen my share of birthday cakes. Amazingly, most of my celebratory confections were made from scratch by a mother who was busy raising a brood of five. It wasn’t until I discovered Entenmann’s Banana Cake that I begged her to replace her baked variety with a boxed one (what was I thinking?). For my sixteenth birthday she created the largest chocolate chip cookie I had ever laid eyes on and somehow managed to divide it into equal wedges to feed an unruly backyard crowd. I have fond memories of sharing krullers over coffee with my grandmother, and in that same kitchen corner I learned to make Struffoli (Italian Honey Balls) which would later serve their purpose as sling-shot ammo for backyard warfare.
In my own home, my love for the baking process has turned
my own kitchen into a laboratory of sorts, where no experiment
goes un-eaten.
So, is it no wonder that I’m such a glutton for gluten?

These days, I do a lot of experimenting with flour. In an effort to incorporate whole grains into our meals and snacks, I’ve substituted whole grain flours for our standard all purpose variety (AP flour). For each success, I’ve had more than a few failures. In this whole tedious process however, I’ve fallen in love. My current affair is with whole grain pastry flour. In my experience, most whole grain flours, when used as a substiture for a portion of AP flour, will result in a dense, dry baked good. Whole grain pastry flour however, is a flour that affords the benefits of whole grain goodness while still allowing for a moist, tender crumb.
I have yet to discover a formula that is one-size fits all for baked goods but for most of my recipes, I’ve fared well substituting one third to one half whole grain pastry flour for the AP flour (so, if the recipe calls for one cup of AP flour, I will instead measure one half cup of whole grain pastry flour and one half cup of AP flour).
My biggest complaint about whole grain pastry flour is that it isn’t readily available at local supermarkets. Most stores that carry whole foods or health foods carry it, and I have had great success with online resources like Bob’s Red Mill and Hodgson Mills. Believe me, it’s worth the effort to buy in bulk and store a few bags in the freezer. I have used the flour straight from the freezer with good results.
On the few occasions that I’ve found myself without whole grain pastry flour, I have substituted white whole wheat flour instead. Because it is lighter in color than traditional whole wheat flour, it remains undetectable to the white-food loyalists in my house. It slightly compromises the texture of some baked goods but the health benefits certainly outweigh the difference.
I’ve also become quite good at sneaking oats into almost all of my baked goods. While my son is not a fan of anything lumpy, he can hardly detect the ground oats I have added to his cookies. Ground oats don’t offer the rise-ability that flours do, so I have to be careful when adding oats to cakes and cupcakes. To grind the oats I simply place them in my mini food processor and pulse until they resemble coarse flour. I reduce the amount of flour called for in a cookie recipe by the amount of ground oats that I am adding (usually no more than one third of the total flour measurement).

And so for those who accuse me of deceit, I suppose I am guilty as charged. By changing the formula for less-than-healthy snacks to accommodate the likes of whole grains, and by not omitting these snacks completely from our diet, I may be doing a disservice to my family.
But I would argue that love often takes the shape of a cookie or a cake. And for the sake of love, I can handle a bit of criticism.

Not long ago, I was fortunate to join a portion of my sizeable,
cake-loving family for a restaurant dinner in honor of my mother’s seventieth birthday. After a delightful meal at a local steakhouse, my Massachusetts sister and two lovely nieces presented my mother with a home-baked, devilishly chocolate cake for all of us to share. Perched atop the cake-dome was a smaller, more humble layer cake made lovingly by the birthday girl herself, for my nephew who suffers from a seemingly unfair allergy to gluten.
As holidays often present meal challenges for my nephew
(while the rest of us struggle with feelings of guilt and helplessness), my mother works tirelessly to perfect recipes using wheat-free and dairy-free substitutes. For baked goods she depends almost exclusively on the use of sweet rice flour. For those of you who are familiar with the sweet variety of rice flour, you know it can be difficult to find and even more challenging to bake with.
Mother remains undaunted by the possibility of failure however, because as she raised her own brood of five to appreciate all that is homemade, so too will she offer the fruits of her labor to her beloved grandchildren.

And again, I would offer that sometimes love takes the shape of a cookie, or sometimes a cake. And in this particular case,
I say love, it is a flour.

Happy Birthday Mom.

Until Next Time,
Make Life Delicious
Share Your Food


And Just Remember
With a Mixer
Far Beneath the Batter Bowl
Lies the Wheat (or rice flour)
That with a Mom's Love
In the Oven
Becomes the Loaf
(or the cookie, or the cake, or the cupcake...)

Sorry, I just couldn't resist.

I'm happy to share with you a recipe for a cookie that happened by accident.
In an effort to modify a recipe for Bev's Chocolate Chip Cookies from Eating Well Magazine, I discovered that I was out of chocolate chips. So, I improvised with a bag of dried blueberries (from Target) and the rest is happy history.
Make this recipe your own by adding or substituting your favorite dried fruits, nuts or chips.

Michelle's Oatmeal Blueberry Almond Cookies

3/4 Cup rolled oats ***See note below about oats
3/4 Cup finely ground almonds (I used slivered almonds)
2 Cups white whole wheat flour (or a combination of whole grain and AP flour)
1 tsp. baking soda
1 scant tsp. salt
1/2 Cup (1 stick) Butter, softened
1/2 Cup Canola oil
3/4 Cup granulated sugar
1 Cup Light Brown Sugar
2 Large Eggs
1 tsp. Pure vanilla extract
1 Cup Dried Blueberries

***The original recipe calls for 1 1/2 Cups rolled oats (when original recipe is doubled). Because I wanted to incorporate ground almonds and because I wanted a less-lumpy cookie, I decided to combine three items. So, to reach a total of 1 1/2 Cups, I used a generous 1/2 cup of ground almonds (place slivered almonds in food processor and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal), 1/2 cup of whole, organic oats (I used Bob's Red Mill brand) and 1/2 Cup of ground oats (I put the whole oats in the food processor and pulsed until finely ground--almost powdery). Hence, my total measurement which included all three ingredients is 1 1/2 cups.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Grind oats and almonds in food processor seperately.
In medium bowl, place oats, ground oats, ground almonds, whole wheat flour, baking soda and salt.
In another bowl, beat butter until fluffy. Add oil, sugars, eggs and vanilla. Beat until smooth and creamy. Add sugar mixture to flour mixture and blend until combined. Add dried blueberries and mix by hand.
On parchment lined baking sheets, drop dough by heaping teaspoon full at least one inch apart (I used a small cookie scoop). Bake for about 14 minutes until lightly golden on edges. Transfer pan to wire rack. Allow cookies to cool on pan for chewy cookies. For a crisper cookie, remove cookies to wire rack and cool completely. Store in airtight container for up to three days.

**My Notes:
This cookie is deliciously sweet. Feel free to reduce the amount of sugar to suit your taste. I was surprised at how much we liked the addition of dried blueberries. Perhaps next time I will add more for a stronger flavor component.


Thursday, February 7, 2008

On War and Peas

I am an enabler of criminal proportions.
I live with a challenged eater.
I knew early on that my son was headed down a dark, mal-nutritious path but I thought simply by sharing my love of good food, it would all be okay.
And so, for years I negotiated with him (and myself) believing that he would outgrow his distaste for healthful foods and we would all live happily ever after, without the threat of expanding waistlines and high cholesterol.
We are fortunate that currently, he does not have a weight issue. He is physically active and regularly meets and exceeds the demands of organized sports. These two simple facts provided me with a false sense of security and I allowed myself to be consumed by what I believed was only a temporary battle between healthful foods and conveniently packaged crap (pardon my French).
But I was wrong.
And I hate when I’m wrong.

At the tender age of four, I had him believing that yogurt, like ice cream, was a special dessert rewarded by mommies, to be savored by well-behaved little boys.
By age seven, he wanted to trade his yogurt for Doritos and refused to eat anything green (unless it appeared pre-packaged and labeled as “Gushers”).
By age nine, I developed my “eye for an eye” policy and for every snack he requested, he was required to eat something (remotely) healthy. My plan backfired as I so foolishly exhausted his appreciation for yogurt, bananas, broccoli and the occasional
glass of orange juice.
When he expressed distaste for apples (who doesn’t like apples?),
I sprinkled them with cinnamon and sugar. When he sat tight-lipped at the dinner table, refusing to eat the family meal, I forced him to eat it, received most of it back and consequently, prepared him a different meal all together; one I knew wasn’t as nutritionally sound but nonetheless a meal I was sure he would eat.
For years I have prepared daily dinners with a knot in my gut and a backup plan in my brain. More often than not, I am forced to call upon the consolation recipe for the sake of restoring order in the kitchen.
What was once my own dirty little secret has now become my very public battle against weak-minded parents (me) and commercially packaged (albeit tasty) goods that manufacturers are somehow privileged to call convenience foods. These include (but are not limited to) fast food, frozen meals, school cafeteria food, and even the occasional lower-calorie “healthy option” convenience meal from your local supermarket.
And the aforementioned doesn’t even include the snack aisle.

While I am finally ready to face my own demons, and the loveable
yet nutritionally deprived monster I have created, I proceed with caution.
Because now, at the complicated age of thirteen, my tall, brooding, belligerent boy is too strong for me to wrestle, and too clever for me to hide peas in his pot-pie (and for that matter, he would never eat pot-pie—even if I stuffed it with Doritos).
But I am tired of the daily battle.
And I am even more fearful of the long-term, ill-effects his current eating habits may have on his health. I am ashamed to have allowed it to go on for so long, but foolishly, I find myself intimidated by a junk food warship that on most days, seems unsinkable.

Despite what you may be thinking, my son is not my first or my
only child.
I have a daughter (five years his senior) who, like me, loves to eat everything; the good, the bad and the ugly.
As a preschooler, she would have been just as excited had I proclaimed Fridays as falafel Fridays, as she was about
mac-and-cheese Mondays. By age six she had turned her nose up at the idea of a kid’s menu because she couldn’t find crudités or bisque among entrees of child-friendly fare. She is my greatest contender when sushi or shellfish enter my home and her detailed reviews of my freshly concocted recipes hit the mark every time.
During a not-so-long-ago summertime gathering, I was a proud mama when she returned a huge, empty platter devoid of its snap-peas and low-fat buttermilk dip, hankering for seconds. The chip basket was still full and the well-meaning hostess gift of boxed donuts remained unopened (needless to say, dear son didn’t arrive home until much later, at which point both the donuts and chips met their fate). Now a young woman, my daughter continues to make healthy food choices and lives adventurously as I do, when choosing gastronomical fare.
So, imagine my surprise on that feted day in late July, when my baby bundle of all-boy arrived and immediately protested his provisions. It has been a thirteen year, uphill climb to convince him to eat anything that isn’t fried or frosted. And if you think I haven’t tried the hide-the-vegetables method of mealtime deception, think again. I took one tiny step forward and two huge steps back when I subscribed to the just-hide-some-spinach-puree-in-the-brownies-and-he’ll-never-know method of baking. Not only did he know,
he no longer trusted the flavor or appearance of any foods—even the unadulterated ones he was accustomed to eating, for fear that spinach would deceptively lurk beneath a familiar exterior.

In good conscience, it would be unfair for me to place blame on anyone but myself. Yet as I look back and review my long list of mistakes, I am painfully aware of the evil forces that aided and abetted my poor decision making for the sake of convenience.
I would guess that I am not alone in this mess.
Admittedly, I am comforted by the company who shares my misery.

Some time ago, while my son attended elementary school, I was employed as a first grade teacher assistant. My contract required that I fulfill one hour of “lunch duty” each day. I was expected to monitor an overcrowded cafeteria as I meandered through a maze of tables, making sure that lunches were eaten, tables were cleared and mealtime mishaps were kept to a minimum.
Having been no stranger to a crowded dinner table and the occasional antics of bored children, I managed my position efficiently and with little external conflict.
Internally however, I was deeply conflicted. I challenged a school district that offered one “jumbo pretzel” as the main course of a hot school lunch (and no, it wasn’t stuffed with meat, cheese, or fruit. And let me add that the first child I witnessed carrying this entree on her lunch tray, also selected sides of packaged saltines and a slice of white bread. I would guess that she was one of the students who notoriously fell asleep in class after recess, thanks to a
carb-induced crash
). Yet I continued to fill my own son’s
lunchbox with the good, the bad and the ugly. I subscribed to the don’t ask, don’t tell method of lunch review and conveniently, never had to know which items he ate and which ones were traded
(or more likely, tossed).
And for those of you, who believe that your children might balance their own meals by eating the fresh fruit first and the snacks last, let me enlighten you. The school cafeteria is like Vegas. What happens there stays there, and even the most honorable, God-fearing children have been known to toss the grapes and eat the Gushers
(and then lie about it).
I have often thought that if our local school district would finally replace their foam lunch trays with a biodegradable version, the entire contents of the cafeteria waste pail could be wheeled directly to the compost heap. Quite frankly, the only things hidden in those standard-issue paper napkins are the fruits, vegetables and bread crusts we all want to believe our children are actually eating.
I learned from spying on my own son that if I provide him with any snacks, inevitably they will be eaten first, leaving little appetite or appreciation for the more sensible contents of his lunch box.
And I use the term “sensible” very loosely. Surely by now you are aware that most kid-friendly products have been compromised to appeal to a young audience—and I’m not only referring to packaging but to the contents as well. If you don’t believe me, take a gander at the nutritional information on those colorful dairy products we so mindlessly reach for each time we shop. Nutritionally, they pale in comparison to the less kid-friendly varieties. The no-trans-fats trend in labeling has momentarily taken the pressure and spotlight off
co-offenders like high fructose corn syrup and that lengthy list of additives most of us can neither pronounce nor define. Alarmingly, these regularly invade the ingredients list of convenience foods and are cause for great concern.
Chances are, if you can’t pronounce it or identify it; your kids probably shouldn’t be eating it.
And as for the supermarket variety of convenience lunch foods, I find it quite amusing that the companies who market these items flaunt the fact that their packaging is recycled, biodegradable and environment-friendly.
I commend their efforts, but I question whether or not our kids would be better served to eat the packaging rather than its chemically processed contents?

So where does that leave parents who have neither the time
nor the inclination to prepare homemade sandwiches crafted from lean, grass-fed, organic proteins, nestled between artisan whole grain breads and accompanied by pro-biotic beverage and pesticide-free fruit?
I would argue that the answer is not one-size-fits-all.
For starters, some of us would have to sell a kidney to afford an
all-organic lifestyle.
It’s sad really, because my elder relatives (and probably yours) were farming organic produce long before it was in vogue. And I’m not talking about Farmer Fred and his hundred acres, I’m talking about Grandpa Pete’s potted vegetable plants on the back deck, into which he threw the likes of coffee grinds, egg shells and carrot peels (and where pesticides were concerned, he and others relied on the use of cheap, natural remedies like vinegar or pantry spices to ward of pesky insects). It’s been a while since I’ve tasted tomatoes as sweet or as flavorful as those of my summertime youth (and I may never again, given the high price of environmentally conscious produce).
And even if cost wasn’t an obstacle, I’m inclined to believe that like my son, most kids would prefer the happier meal over the healthier one.

I believe my son’s obsession with processed provisions is not only fueled by media madness but is also supported by a culture of indifference at work and at play.
My battle had only just begun when I rid my own pantry of its most offensive contents. Had my son not been able to satisfy his crispy/crunchy cravings in his high-school cafeteria, he likely would have found solace in a mall food court or dare I suggest a friend’s kitchen.
I should know, because for the past decade, he has been that friend, and that has been my kitchen.

So where does that leave us?
It would be foolish of me (and completely unfair) to expect my son to live a life without snacks or the occasional grab-n-go meal.
In a culture of chaos we depend heavily on the ease and availability of faster food.
Simply stated, bad food tastes good (add to that the evils of availability and youth-appeal and ironically, we might as well be talking about street drugs).
But I would argue that our current food choices need an extensive evaluation. I have to believe that Betty Crocker herself fashioned a few delightful treats without chemicals, additives or preservatives. Perhaps it is time for manufacturers and parents alike to consider
the body over the bottom dollar.
In my opinion, shelf-stability and profit margin, while both shrewd factors in business, leave the door open for a great many liability issues.
I recall a time when no one believed you could sue a tobacco company and actually win.
As a nation, we are too smart for all of this.
We are fortunate to live in the greatest country on earth but sadly, greatest is now a term equated with the size and girth of our citizens.
Our fight should not be limited to banning trans-fats
(or the culprit-du-jour), but should focus on the reinstitution of
real food in our homes and across our highways.
I would suggest that this is one war actually worth fighting.

As parents, the responsibility falls heavily upon our shoulders
to live by example.
For me, as a food-enthusiast and avid baker, I know the road ahead will be a bumpy one. And for the first time since I started this blog,
I find myself conclusionless.
I wish I could tie this one up in a neat little bow of word play
but I am afraid there is no happy ending to report or predict.

I can only offer my support to those of you who fight the same battle.
And as I experiment with newer, more healthful recipes and I make the effort to engage in positive dialogue with my son about the benefits of proper nutrition, I can only hope that the tide
will turn in my favor, both at home and abroad.
Perhaps it is a pipe dream to wish that a well balanced,
nutritionally packed meal should be as accessible and as affordable as a double-decker heart-wrecker from establishments that should consider spending more time thinking about what’s inside the body, than what’s outside the bun.
But regardless, it is my responsibility to make changes at home.
And so, the battle rages on.
Here on the front lines, I stand armed with cookbooks and
kitchen gadgetry.
As I ration whole grains, lean proteins, and chemical-free produce and distribute them to opposing forces, I long for the day when a white napkin is raised and we might reach an agreement to
end the war and share the peas.

And until then,
Make Life Delicious
Share Your Healthy Food


I’m happy to share with you my recommendations for a variety of health-conscious cookbooks. I’ve spent a great deal of time testing recipes and thus far, these are my favorite resources for nutritionally sound recipes.

The King Arthur Whole Grain Baking Book from King Arthur Flour

The Earth Bound Farm Organic Cook Book by Myra Goodman

The Food You Crave by Ellie Krieger

The All New Complete Cooking Light Cookbook
from Cooking Light Magazine

If you’re in the mood for a good read
(and you’re ready for a wake-up call), check out
Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal Vegetable Miracle.

For an all-around great food resource book, check out
Jonny Bowden’s The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth
(you will be amazed and inspired).