Get Your Fruits In

lighten up your dessert choices

When I was growing up mom cooked every day. Every single day, for a family of nine. That’s a lot of time standing in the kitchen. She still made sure we got our veggies and fruits. I think a lot of it had to do with the fact that fruits and veggies were less expensive to feed a large, hungry family.

After dinner there was frequently some type of dessert. But, dessert was different then. Not always cookies or cake or some super sweet something or other. Most of the time we had fruit in one form or another. Sometimes she’d make a cake, like fruit cocktail cake, that was easy and inexpensive. I like this cake a lot. It somewhat reminiscent of upside down cake but not as sweet. And the butter, when it combines with the taste of the nuts on top of the cake, gives you a little burst of salty to go with the sweet. It’s a nice, light taste that still satisfies that taste for something sweet after dinner.

If It’s Oatmeal, It’s Healthy, Right?

I like oatmeal, for breakfast and in cake

Now that I’m working on getting healthy one of my favorite breakfasts is a bowl of oatmeal. There’s a lot of different things you can do with oatmeal, you never have to eat the same thing twice in one week. And you can make it taste sweet without adding sugars, which is why it’s starring regularly in my breakfast bowl.

Most of the time I’ve been pretty good at keeping my food in the low carb category, but sometimes I get cravings. The big problem is when those cravings are for something sweet. Generally, fruit will satisfy me. As I have gotten used to eating this way I’m finding that there are a lot of ways to get a taste of sweetness without resorting to processed sugars. I’ve also found that when I make sure to flavor my food with spices and/or herbs I get less cravings and I am more satisfied with the smaller portions I eat.

However, I’m having a problem. And that problem is my mom’s oatmeal cake. I’ve been able to resist a lot of my mom’s recipes but this one keeps calling me. This cake is moist, a little buttery, and has that almost caramel taste that comes from brown sugar. I’m going to need to make this pretty soon to keep my sanity. I have two choices to help me keep my sugar readings relatively low. Either I keep the recipe as it is and instead of cake, make it into mini muffins(pre-portioned already, easier to just have a small amount) or I need to experiment with cutting back on the sugar. I don’t want to use a sugar substitute, that never tastes right to me and ends up making me want real sugar instead. I think a lot of recipes we make can have the sugar cut back and still taste very good. I believe this is another recipe I need to experiment with.

Gardens

making and canning one of my favorite things

There’s a certain satisfaction when you can go outside to your garden and harvest some vegetables for that night’s dinner. I don’t grow a lot in my garden, but almost every year I try to grow tomatoes.

Fresh tomatoes from the garden taste so much better than what you can get in the grocery store. If I don’t grow them at home I try to get to the farmer’s market to get garden fresh tomatoes. Salads are better with fresh tomatoes, my husband loves tomato sandwiches, and my daughter and I could happily eat caprese salads for lunch every day.

When my mom would have an abundance of tomatoes she would can them. Either just tomatoes, spaghetti sauce, or, my favorite, tomato preserves. I’ve searched for her recipe with no luck, but this one comes very close.

I know, tomato preserves might sound weird, but I urge you to try them. Just one batch, then a slice of your favorite bread, toasted, with butter and just a little tomato preserves on it. It’s sooo good. I want to try it again and add just a little candies ginger to it. And I’m curious how the taste might change when using heirloom tomatoes instead of roma that I used for my last batch.

Kids in the Kitchen

when we helped mom in the kitchen

I grew up in a pretty big family. My mom had kids underfoot for quite a few years. When she needed to make something that was time consuming she got some extra pairs of hands to help. We were especially eager to help when the job included sweet ingredients that we hoped she would give us a sample of when we finished up.

That’s how I learned to make sweet rolls, bread, and butter ball coffee cake. I’ve seen a lot of versions of the coffee cake, usually called monkey bread, or pull-apart bread, but they all seem overly sweet to me. What I really like about mom’s version is that it’s sweet but not overpoweringly so. I want to try to make some new versions of this with different flavors. What do you think of candied ginger, or orange rind, or perhaps a little cocoa, sugar, and chopped almonds? And there are so many kinds of dried fruit available now, I’m sure it could be customized to any family’s tastes. By the way, it works quite well in a bundt pan if you don’t have a tube pan.

Recipe Cards and Memories

mom’s recipes pull me back in time

Still digging through mom’s recipes. I put them on my computer so they’re easier to post here, but as I work my way through them I’m picturing the recipe cards that she worked from for so many years. Written in her dainty, impeccable handwriting, the cards were worn, and spotted with stains from the ingredients of the recipe. I don’t know where those cards are now, but mom spent some time rewriting her recipes in a notebook. That’s where I got them, except for the ones she read me over the phone when I needed to know how to make something.

One of my most vivid memories is coming in the front door of her house (it opened up into a foyer and then you stepped into the kitchen) after a tiring day and being greeted with the smell of something freshly cooked. I think the memories I treasure most are when I was still in school. Early fall, a weekend trip to an apple orchard, and soon I would enter the kitchen to the smell of apple crisp. I’m not a big fan of apple pie because I’m not a big fan of pie crust. It’s only been in the last few years that I’ve run across pie crusts that I enjoy. But apple crisp gives you all the goodness of fresh apples with just a little sweetness and spice topped with crumbly oatmeal, almost like a soft granola.

I’m thrilled to rediscover this recipe, in particular because I’m pretty sure I can revamp it slightly and make it more friendly to my new way of eating. The right apples need less sugar, and so will the topping. I’ll be sure to post my results after I run them past my family.

I’m not on a Diet

my new way of eating and staying healthy

In my mind, a diet is a temporary thing where you restrict what you’re eating to reach a goal. Gotta look good for that big event coming up, or fit into your summer wardrobe. And when you get to your goal, what happens? For me, it has always been going back to eating the way I was before. Not a workable solution.

Now, I have to eat a certain way to stay healthy. Otherwise I will feel like roadkill. Everything hurts, I have no energy, and I can’t think straight. So, this is my new life. I can eat almost everything I want but in small portions. I have found though, that I no longer have the sweet tooth that I used to have. Candy doesn’t appeal to me, except dark chocolate. Surprisingly though, I only need a very small amount to be satisfied. Fresh fruit is sweet enough for me now. Desserts of any kind, I’m happy with just a taste.

But, cookies now… I am generally a cookie monster. I love cookies, so I’ve been avoiding them. I think part of my love for cookies includes my memories of learning to make cookies from my mom. I can remember wanting cookies and her telling me to bake them. Oatmeal, chocolate chip, everything chip(big batch with different kinds of chips in them), and peanut butter. Mostly she’d just let me do it myself, but I always knew she was right there if I had questions about how to do something. That carried over into adult life and there were many phone calls to mom with the cooking question of the week. Now, I’ve been getting those kind of phone calls from my daughter.

I’m not really craving any cookies right now, except regular peanut butter cookies. Those are my go to cookie when I really want one. And, I generally overindulge, so I’ve resisted making any. But I can tell I’m going to want them sometime in the not so distant future. I think I need to do some work on this recipe and try to make it a bit more friendly for my new lifestyle.

Adjusting To My New Normal

struggling with a new diet and how to fit a family favorite into it

So, I’m still struggling with health issues. More specifically, I’ve been diagnosed as diabetic. I guess I’m not too surprised, but I am a bit annoyed at all the accompanying issues I’m having. My energy level is lower than usual, and I’m not the most energetic person in the first place so I’m feeling somewhat like a slug. I’m struggling with my food because I like to eat but a lot of my favorites are now things I can’t eat or only in small (very small) portions. And one of the things that bugs me the most is my eyes. My glasses prescription has changed, a LOT. So, my glasses don’t work for me. I can’t see far away, I can’t see close-up, and that means I can’t even do my favorite thing, reading. Well, I can if  I try really hard, but that gives me a headache.

In this situation complaining actually led to a bit of a solution. For every day, I can’t do anything but wait until my system reaches it’s new normal with all the new meds I have. But for close work, my hubs dug out a pair of reading glasses. So, now I can read and do some detail work with my hands (like making my jewelry) and it should keep me from going crazy waiting.

The other annoyance is that the new meds bother my stomach. So I have to be careful that I eat things easy on my stomach as well as low carb. But, feeling lousy makes me want comfort food. And, one thing that settles my stomach every time is something carby, like bread. Not just plain white bread. A good, grainy, whole wheat is good, toasted with a little bit of butter. Or, my favorite because it’s sweet but not too sweet is my mom’s date nut bread. I’m sure some of the comfort comes from the fact that this was always on the dessert table at any family holiday or get-together. Any time we get together now, one of us usually makes this along with other family favorites. It’s good any time we get together but when carrot cake and date nut bread are on the table it adds that little something to the occasion.