Tag Archives: challenge

Homemade Creamy, Sweet, and Slightly Tart Lemon Ice Cream with Raspberry Coulis

Today’s post is part of a series called Sugar High Fridays. Sugar High Friday is an “international sweet tooth blogging extravaganza” which was created by Jennifer, The Domestic Goddess. It takes place on the last Friday of every month and always has a different theme. Since you all know that I have a huge sweet tooth, I thought this would be a fun way to get involved in the blogging community, and get some new recipes!

This month’s Sugar High Friday is hosted by Alex at Yums and Loves and the theme is no-bake treats. (Be sure to go to Alex’s page to see what other yummy no-bake treats people are posting for Sugar High Friday.) When I heard the theme was no-bake treats I immediately knew I wanted to make homemade ice cream because to me, ice cream is the perfect no-bake dessert. I love ice cream, but since I am not eating any processed sugar this summer, my ice cream options are very limited (essentially to homemade ice cream only). I have been researching ways to make ice cream using natural sweeteners, but so far had not tried any.

When I was younger, we used to make homemade ice cream a lot, especially at our lake house. My parents have one of those old fashioned hand-crank ice cream makers so it always took a long time to make the ice cream. It was so hard to wait for it to be done, but it was always well worth the wait. My parents had a motto, “no crank, no cream” so making ice cream was always a team effort. As much as I love commercial ice cream, there is nothing like eating the homemade kind!

This is just like the old-fashioned ice cream maker my parents have.

I got my own ice cream maker for Christmas two years ago (one of the best presents ever). Let me tell you, it is waaaaay easier than the old-fashioned hand-crank version and the ice cream is just as tasty: win-win!

This is the ice cream maker attachment I have for my Kitchen Aid--LOVE IT!

I have made many different kinds of ice cream at home, but I must admit that I was a little nervous about making ice cream with natural sweeteners. I frequently use honey as a substitute for white sugar, but I was hesitant to use honey in the ice cream because I know that honey has a very strong and distinct flavor. I love the flavor of honey, but I thought it might be a little overpowering in the ice cream.

Since I happen to have Ben & Jerry’s book on making homemade ice cream, I decided to turn to them for advice. To my delight they actually had a section on making ice cream using sweeteners other than sugar. They agreed that honey has a very strong flavor and also said it caused the ice cream to have a “crumbly” texture after the ice cream hardened. They said that maple syrup is a slightly better alternative, but because its water content is high, it will dilute the butterfat and “affect the final richness and texture of the finished product.” Hmmm. After reading this, I decided to go with agave nectar because it’s sweet, but not overpowering.

Next, I needed to decide on a flavor. I thought vanilla seemed too boring, but I was nervous to try chocolate because I wasn’t sure how it would taste with my natural sweetener. While trying to decide on a flavor, we got invited to a dinner party with a Greek theme. They asked me to bring dessert so I thought it would be a great place to debut my naturally sweet ice cream. I decided to go with lemon ice cream because it’s a nice light and refreshing summer flavor that I thought would pair well both with agave nectar and a Greek-themed dinner.

Homemade Lemon Ice Cream

INSERT PICTURE OF FINISHED PRODUCT

Ingredients
1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice (about 3 lemons)
zest from 1-3 lemons (I used the zest from just one lemon)
1/2 cup + 1 tbsp agave nectar*
2 eggs
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 cup whole milk
1/2 tsp xanthan gum (optional)**

Directions
Squeeze the juice from the lemons into a glass (or any other non-reactive) bowl. Add the lemon zest and agave nectar and refrigerate for about an hour to let the flavors come together.

Important: Once you’re ready to make the ice cream, you must move very quickly because if the lemon juice is left sitting in the milk too long it will curdle the milk!

Beat eggs in a mixer or by hand until light and frothy, about 1-2 minutes. Add the whipping cream, milk, and xanthan gum (if using) and mix on low speed until just combined (you don’t want to make whipped cream!). Add the lemon juice, zest, and agave mixture and mix until incorporated. Immediately pour into your ice cream maker and proceed according to the manufacturer’s directions.

*Agave is usually used in a 3:4 ratio to sugar. The recipe calls for 3/4 cup sugar (12 tbsp) so I used 9 tbsp of agave. The ice cream was not very sweet at all, which we thought was perfect, but if you like your ice cream a little sweeter, I would suggest using the entire 3/4 cup of agave. Perhaps the butterfat in the cream—and maybe the citrus too—cut some of the sweetness.

**Xanthan gum is used to help thicken things. Since agave is liquid, I thought the ice cream might be a little runny so I used a little bit of xanthan gum. I think it would probably work out fine without the xanthan gum though so don’t worry if you don’t have any.

And after 20 minutes we had this!

At this point I sampled it (of course) and thought it was fabulous. I transferred it to other containers and put it in the freezer to harden.

Ready for the freezer

While it was in the freezer, all I could think about were raspberries. I really wished I had some fresh raspberries to top our ice cream, but the commissary was all out. I racked my brain to figure out what I could use instead and after about 20 minutes I had the brilliant idea to make a raspberry coulis to put on top of the ice cream. Let me tell you, the combination of the slightly sweet and slightly tart lemon ice cream with the sweetness of the raspberry coulis was ah-maz-ing.

Raspberry Coulis

INSERT PICTURE OF ICE CREAM WITH RASPBERRY COULIS

Ingredients
1 cup raspberries (I used frozen raspberries that had been thawed)
1/4 cup agave
juice from 1 lemon

Directions
Combine all ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth. Strain coulis through a fine mesh strainer to get all of the seeds out. Refrigerate until use.

Everyone at the dinner party thought that my lemon ice cream was a perfect summer dessert. It wasn’t super sweet or too tart. Even though I was a little nervous about how the ice cream would turn out with the agave nectar, it came out perfectly creamy and delicious. The raspberry coulis paired really well with the lemon ice cream making for a deliciously creamy and refreshing treat. I highly recommend you go out and try this right now :).

Question: What is your favorite no-bake treat?

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Filed under Desserts, Sugar High Friday

Friday Finds and MYBT Week in Review

Happy Friday Everyone!  I have been busy, busy, busy working on my thesis all day. Six weeks from today I’ll be defending my thesis to a panel of three professors—EEK! I’m nervous, but I’m actually really excited about my project so I’m sure I’ll be fine :). Even though I only have six weeks left of the two years I have been in grad school, it seems like so far away. Why is it that when you’re almost done with something it seems so far away?

Taken from my balcony. I'll never get over how beautiful the sunset is.

I’m going to keep this post short so I can get back to reading blogs writing my thesis, but I wanted to remind you to please be sure to keep checking Mind Your Bees in Trees because I’m going to be teaming up with some other bloggers this week! I’m really excited about it and I think you’re going to love the recipes I’m going to share :).

MYBT might also be getting a makeover soon (if I can figure out some more of this computer coding) so stay tuned—you don’t want to miss all of this excitement!

Also, don’t forget to subscribe—by email or RSS feed—so you don’t miss any of our posts :).

Here is a recap of what we posted this week on Mind Your Bees and Trees:

The Most Amazing Strawberry Pie
Pan Seared Sea Scallops with Artichoke Puree
Kaiserschmaarn (aka Giant Shredded Pancake)
Pulled Chicken Sandwiches

And now for some recipes that had me saying, YUM!!

  • The Complete Updated Guide to Grilled Pizza (from Serious Eats)  I love pizza and have been wanting to try grilling our own pizza for a long time.  This post is very thorough and starts out like this “I’ve long said that grilling pizza is by far the easiest way for a regular home cook to get pizzeria-quality, soft and airy, crisp, well-charred, smoky pies at home.”  SOLD!
  • Tuna Avocado Ceviche (from That’s so Michelle)  Ceviche makes me think of Peru and in case you didn’t know, I heart Peru.  I lived there for a year and a half so it will always hold a special place in my heart.  I was never really a fan of raw fish before, but I ate a lot of ceviche in Peru and sort of fell in love with it.  This combination of tuna and avocado sounds outstanding!  If you’ve never tried ceviche, you definitely should.
  • Tangled Noodles (from Claire Robinson on the Food Network)  I saw Claire make these noodles today and was very intrigued.  The noodles are just angel hair pasta, but instead of boiling them in water, she cooks them like risotto by adding a little bit of liquid (chicken broth) at a time and letting the pasta absorb the liquid.  No boiling and draining necessary.  Hmmm…very interesting!  I’m curious to try it.  It sort of seems like they will be really rich and salty like ramen noodles.
  • Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream (from Vittles and Bits)  I was sooooo excited to see this recipe because I immediately knew it had to be based off of Ben & Jerry’s amazing oatmeal cookie crunch ice cream.  That flavor was by far my favorite at Ben & Jerry’s and I was SO DISAPPOINTED last year when I found out they had stopped making it.  I cannot wait to try this.  It’ll probably be the first thing I make when the sugar challenge is over!
  • Peanut Butter and Jelly “Truffles” (from Healthy Mama)  I’ve seen a lot of recipes lately for different raw treats that trick your mind into thinking you’re eating dessert.  Dates are usually the main ingredient and there are lots of variations for the other ingredients.  With only 3 ingredients (that I happen to have on hand), I’m curious to try these.
  • Double Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel Bites (from Love from the Oven)  Did you notice that I always have at least one thing on this list that is loaded with sugar and chocolate?  Even though I’m not eating processed sugar right now, there is no doubt that I’m a chocolate addict and can’t wait to have some again when this challenge is over.  I have to stockpile these recipes until then J.  This super easy sweet and salty combo looks excellent.  They also look to be very addicting which means I should give most of them away when I make them!

And just because I love blogs with pictures, I’m going to leave you with these:

Since I told you I love Peru, I thought I would leave you a picture of what it looked like near where I lived.

And this is what it looks like in Okinawa.

This is how Harold likes to relax 🙂

 

Question: What was the hardest thing you ever worked towards? What did you do to motivate yourself when you didn’t want to keep going?

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Filed under Friday Finds

Kitchen Games and Giant Shredded Pancakes

For anyone who has watched an episode of Rachael Ray’s 30 Minute Meals, you know that she likes to play this little game with herself where she tries to collect all of the ingredients she needs for the meal out of her pantry in one swoop.  Sometimes her pile gets going pretty high and it looks like she might drop everything.  When she does that, she says she can always hear her mom in her head telling her to be careful or she might drop something.

Well I like to play a little game in the kitchen too called “How many dishes can you possibly stack in the dish drainer before everything comes tumbling down…. or gets broken?”  And every time I play this game with myself I can hear my mom in my head telling me to be careful before I break or drop something.  Sometimes I actually get to hear my mom’s commentary on how I do the dishes because I often do my dishes while I’m Skyping with my parents (nothing like a little multi-tasking!).  One time she interrupted what I was saying to tell me that the cup I had just stacked at the top of my pile wasn’t going to dry properly because of the way I stacked it.  Thanks, Mom :).

Judging by the large number (lets just say it’s in the double digits!) of wine glasses I’ve broken because of the way I stack my dishes, I don’t think I’m ever going to learn.  It’s way more fun to play my game than to be cautious!

Today I think I did a pretty awesome job at this little game.  Would you like to see?  We had so many dishes that there is not one, but two piles, which means my game was extra challenging/fun.

Can you see both piles?

Stacking game #1. I'm not sure the picture does it justice. I think it'd be more impressive if you could see everything that's under here!

Stacking game #2

You might think we’re slobs judging by the amount of dishes we have here, but let me try to explain.  First of all, I think these are just three days worth of dishes—that’s a lot of dishes for just two people in three days (my husband swears I also like to play this game called, “How many dishes can I dirty in the process of cooking dinner?”).  Second of all, how can I make all of these yummy treats to post on the blog if I don’t dirty pretty much every dish we have ;)?

And last but not least, I used to be slightly OCD about cleaning the dishes immediately after we ate dinner.  I would get stressed out if they weren’t done and couldn’t relax until the kitchen was spotless.  Well, in an effort to tone down the OCD, my husband has taught me the valuable lesson that nothing will happen if I don’t do the dishes right now—or even tomorrow.  He always tells me I need to just sit down and relax because the dishes aren’t going anywhere.  It took me a long time to learn this lesson, but now I think I may have learned it a little too well because I even amaze myself sometimes at how long I can go without doing the dishes.  Three days is practically a record for me!

Oh and we don’t have a dishwasher.  Man do I miss having a dishwasher.  And a garbage disposal.

Anyway, enough rambling about the dishes and on to a recipe.  Today’s recipe is for another sweet treat.  You may be wondering why there are so many sweet treats on a blog that is supposed to be about mindful eating, and that is a great point.  To us, mindful does not mean depriving yourself or eliminating certain food groups altogether.  Mindful eating to us means to eat a balanced diet—mostly healthy stuff, but we think it’s good to eat a little bit of everything, even the sweets.  It means eating real foods, not packaged foods or foods that have ingredients that you can’t pronounce or have never heard of.  It means eating wholesome, natural, and unprocessed foods to the best of our ability.  But we also know that it’s impossible to do that all the time so we just do our best and don’t sweat the small stuff :).

With that said, since I started the no processed sugar challenge this summer, I have really tried to limit the amount of sweets I eat.  That way when I do have something sweet, I can enjoy it without feeling guilty or overdoing it.  Any sweets that I have consumed this summer have all been ‘made over’ so they only include natural sweeteners.

Today I am going to share with you the recipe for Kaiserschmaarn.  Do you remember I posted a picture of it as a teaser in Saturday’s post?  Kaiserschmaarn is one of our favorite treats to have for breakfast on the weekends.  I just found out today when Googling the meaning of “kaiserschmaarn” that 1) it literally translates to “Emperor’s Nonsense”, 2) it is actually a really popular dessert (not breakfast!) in Austria, and 3) it can be made a variety of ways with many different toppings.

This is the way that my mom taught me how to make it and the way I’ve been eating it since I was a little girl.  It’s a little tricky to flip the pancake over, but it’s okay if it breaks because it’s going to get shredded anyway!  My mom always served it with applesauce and cinnamon, but my husband likes to eat it with maple syrup.

Kaiserschmaarn

*Serves 2-4 depending on how hungry you are.  I make the whole recipe for the two of us :).

Kaiserschmaarn with applesauce and cinnamon

Ingredients

4 eggs
1/4 cup honey
3/4 cup milk
1½ cups flour (also good using 1/2 whole wheat flour and 1/2 white flour)
pinch of salt
a couple of tbsp butter
raisins (optional)
applesauce
cinnamon

Directions

Beat eggs, honey, milk, and flour until well combined. (It should look like pancake batter.)

Melt butter in large pan over medium-low heat. Pour in batter and cover.

About 5-10 minutes in (once a crust has formed on the bottom, but top is still runny) add raisins.

After you add the raisins, make sure to cover them up with batter.

Let cook, covered, for approximately 30 minutes until cooked almost all the way through. Flip giant pancake and cook for another 2-3 minutes until cooked all the way through.

Ready to be flipped. You can even flip it a little earlier than this when it's still slightly runny in the middle....it's just messier.

Using two forks, shred pancake by using two spoons or forks to pull apart into small pieces.

Shredding the pancake!

Serve with applesauce and cinnamon, maple syrup, or sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Question: Do you have any kitchen games you like to play?  Do you clean the kitchen right away after eating or do you leave the dishes like I’ve learned to do?

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Filed under Breakfast, Ethnic Foods

Weekend Wrap-Up and a Little ‘House-Keeping’

First off, have you noticed I’ve done a little house-keeping on the blog?  I have to admit that I’m obsessed with working on the blog and I’m always looking for new ways to spruce it up.  I recently had coffee with a friend who taught me a lot about blogging—thanks Courtney!  She has an awesome blog about photography so go check it out here.  I’m still trying to wrap my head around everything she told me, but baby steps, right?

If you scroll down the page a bit you’ll see that I’ve added something called Social Vibe.  Social Vibe is a marketing program that raises money for charities.  I chose to support a charity called One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) because in addition to food, I’m also passionate about education—especially education for underprivileged and marginalized populations.

I’m about to finish my master’s degree in Global and International Education and sometime during my studies, I heard about One Laptop Per Child.  This non-profit mission is to “empower the world’s poorest children through education” (see more here)—they accomplish this goal by providing children in developing countries with low-cost and low-power laptops that are heavy duty and can withstand environments that are very hot/cold, dusty, sandy, etc.  Anyway I think it’s an AWESOME program and wanted to support it here on the blog.  By clicking on the link to the right, you can support OLPC for free by completing a few really easy activities.  It took me about two minutes to complete the activities.

Moving on, I wanted to provide you with a little weekend wrap-up in case you missed any of the awesome recipes that we posted this week.  I’ve also included a list of some of the recipes that I bookmarked this week from other blogs.  Enjoy!

Continue reading

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Filed under Weekend Wrap-Up

Roasted Eggplant and Feta Dip

Before I get started on tonight’s post, I want to let you all know that tomorrow we will be starting a regular series on Mind Your Bees and Trees with an awesome guest blogger so stay tuned.  I promise—you don’t want to miss it!

It’s summertime and summertime means BBQ season.  Who doesn’t love a good BBQ?  My favorite part about BBQs is, of course, all of the great food!  There are always so many great appetizers, side dishes, salads, and desserts, not to mention the meat, but honestly I’m usually much more excited about all of the other goodies.  It is a rare occasion when the meat at a BBQ wins me over.

When we go to BBQs, I almost always make a dessert (or two!).  Dessert is my specialty—a trait I inherited from my mom.  As I’ve mentioned in other posts, I love to bake and I love to share my baked goods with others.  As my mom always says, “the way to a person’s heart is through their stomach” :).

Since I’m not eating any processed sugar this summer, I can’t turn to my old favorites when I’m looking for something to make for a BBQ.  I told Amanda that I thought going to BBQs and not eating all of the yummy desserts would definitely be the hardest part of this challenge for me.  Well so far we have been to a few BBQs and parties this summer, and although it has been a little hard not to eat any dessert, it has not been as bad as I imagined it would be—especially when there are delicious savory goodies to munch on like the Roasted Eggplant Dip I made for a 4th of July party at our friend’s house.

The cake I made for our 4th of July party last year. It looks like it's waving in the wind because I dropped it on the floor before I frosted it! It landed right-side up, but I lost a big chunk from the middle. Oopsie!

I saw this recipe on Courtney’s blog and immediately knew I had to try it.  Giff and I pretty much love anything with eggplant in it (and I love anything with feta) so I figured it would be pretty awesome.  If you think you don’t like eggplant, then you probably haven’t had it cooked very well because eggplant is excellent when it’s cooked well.  I promise to post some more of our favorite recipes using eggplant in the future, but for now, let’s focus on this dip.

Last summer I made Ina Garten’s eggplant dip for a party and it was a huge hit.  I loved that dip so much that I was slightly worried that this new eggplant dip might not live up to the other one, but it definitely did.  Ina’s dip is pureed and although it has an excellent flavor, you can’t specifically taste the eggplant since everything is mixed together.  The eggplant and feta dip is not pureed so it’s more salsa-like.  I loved the chunky texture of the dip and it was excellent with either fresh veggies or crackers (side note: I was excited to find some crackers at the store that don’t contain sugar!).  Although I pride myself on always bringing awesome desserts to parties, I think I could get used to the savory thing too.  My dip was one of the first savory items to go so I’m going to go ahead and say that it was a hit :).

Roasted Eggplant and Feta Dip

*Recipe adapted from Sweet Tooth Sweet Life

Ingredients

▪       1 medium eggplant, (about 1 pound)

▪       2 tbsp lemon juice

▪       3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

▪       1/2 cup reduced fat feta cheese, crumbled

▪       1/2 cup finely chopped red onion

▪       1 small red bell pepper, finely chopped

▪       2 tbsp chopped fresh basil

▪       1/2 tbsp dried parsley

▪       1/4 tsp chili powder

▪       1/4 tsp cumin

▪       1/4 tsp smoked paprika

▪       1/4 tsp garlic powder

▪       1/4 tsp salt

▪       Drizzle of honey (optional)

Directions

  1. Position oven rack about 6 inches from the heat source; preheat broiler.
  2. Line a baking pan with foil. Place eggplant in the pan and poke a few holes all over it to vent steam. Broil the eggplant, turning with tongs every 5 minutes, until the skin is charred and a knife inserted into the dense flesh near the stem goes in easily, 14 to 18 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board until cool enough to handle.
  3. Put lemon juice in a medium bowl. Cut the eggplant in half lengthwise and scrape the flesh into the bowl, tossing with the lemon juice to help prevent discoloring. Add oil and stir with a fork until the oil is absorbed. (It should be a little chunky.) Stir in feta, onion, bell pepper, basil, parsley, spices and salt. Taste and add honey if needed.

Question: What is your favorite thing to bring to a BBQ?  What is your favorite thing to eat at a BBQ?

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Filed under Appetizers, Vegetarian

One Month Down

June 30th marked one month that we’ve been doing this challenge and I didn’t even realize it until it had already passed!  I’m going to take that as a good sign because it means I’m not counting down the days until I can eat sugar again (as I thought I would be).

If you’ve been reading this blog since the beginning, you know that when we first started this challenge I was curious to see how not eating sugar would affect my sugar cravings and energy levels.  I am happy to report after one month that I think both have definitely improved.

It seems like I have only noticed these changes in the past couple of weeks.  Maybe it was going to China and breaking away from my normal routine, or maybe it is just that it takes that long for results to start showing, but I’m finally starting to feel a difference in my body.  Honestly, in the beginning I felt terrible.  For the first couple of weeks I was actually feeling worse than I had been feeling before I cut processed sugar out of my diet and was wondering if it was really worth it to continue.  Perhaps I was eating more of something that I hadn’t been eating much of before (such as soy or more grains), but whatever it was, it has gone away now and I’m feeling much better.

I’m actually feeling really good about myself right now.  There were only a handful of times that I craved sugar in the past month and those times are becoming fewer and further between.  I have also noticed that certain foods that did not taste that sweet to me before, now taste much sweeter.  I first noticed it in China when I bought what I thought was unsweetened tea and it turned out to be sweetened.  I thought it was disgustingly sweet, but my husband said it tasted normal.  I noticed it again when I got home and ate a handful of Kashi Go Lean cereal.  I used to think Go Lean tasted pretty much like cardboard when I ate it dry, but the other day I could actually taste some sweetness in it.  Each of these little improvements give me motivation to keep going….we’ll see how I feel in another month :).

I know I have already said it many times before, but it’s worth repeating for any of you who are thinking about giving up processed sugars—it is liberating to pass up sweets and desserts altogether rather than battle with myself not to eat too much.

As far as my energy goes, I mentioned in my last post that while I was in China I noticed a significant improvement in my energy levels.  Even though I was walking around for hours and hours each day, I still felt like I had a lot of energy.  Despite the fact that I am a pretty active person and get plenty of sleep, I normally get really tired during the day and often feel like I could fall asleep at any point.  I only felt like that once or twice in China and I think those feelings were justified from all of the sightseeing.  Hopefully this trend continues :).

I think it’s important to put a little disclaimer here.  By sharing with you my journey, I am not trying to say that cutting out processed sugars are the answer to everyone’s dietary woes.  Every body handles foods differently—some people can eat diets very high in fat while others can eat a lot of sugar without seeing any noticeable difference in their weight, energy levels, or overall health (more on this later).  Just because I have noticed a difference in how I feel does not mean I think cutting out processed sugars will ‘fix’ everyone’s problems.  However, I would encourage you to play around with what you eat to find out what works best for your body.

On that note, I’ll leave you with some more pictures from our trip :).  These were all taken in Beijing.  I’ll share some from the other cities in the next couple of days.

This adorable lady invited us into her home. I wish I could have taken her home with us!

Spinning the prayer wheels at one of the local temples.

A little shrine at one of the gardens I visited.

I loved the architecture and the vibrant colors everywhere.

Such a relaxing place amongst the hustle and bustle of the city.

Hmmm not sure I trust the food in this clean "environment"

What a happy guy!

One of the watchtowers at the Forbidden City

Houses along the moat at the edge of the Forbidden City

Some Chinese delicacies I did not try.....

Archway to the Great Wall

This was at the bottom of the Great Wall! Globalization at its finest.

Nighttime view of Houhai Lake

Question: Have you ever cut anything out of your diet?  What was it and for how long did you do it?  Did you notice any improvements?

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Filed under Milestones, Travels

Mindful Eating in China

We’re back from China!  Before I get into what I ate while we were in China, I have to tell you that we had a fabulous time.  After living in Japan for the past three years, I thought I had an idea of what to expect from the Chinese people, but boy was I wrong.  The Chinese people are very different from the Japanese.  Don’t get me wrong, we loved it there, but it was definitely crazy and reminded me of being back in Peru in a lot of ways.  Once I got my elbows out and remembered how to fight the crowds, touring around was much more enjoyable :).

Our first week was spent in Beijing where my husband had a class.  Since he was busy all day, I spent the time getting to know the city on my own.  I went on a group tour one day, but the other days I was on my own.  I’m happy to admit that I only got lost once!  I thought touring on my own would be boring, but I actually had a lot of fun.  I really wish Giff could have come with me because I saw a lot of really cool things that I know he would have loved, but c’est la vie, right?

At a Chinese garden.

One of the many streets I walked in Beijing.

Some peanut noodles that were out of this world!

With the Forbidden City in the background.

At the "Bird's Nest" (one of the stadiums from the Olympics)!

After his class was over, we got to visit The Great Wall together with many of his classmates.  The Great Wall exceeded my expectations.  It was awesome—totally worth a trip to China!

At The Great Wall!

So many steep stairs....

The next day we left for a mountain town called Yangshuo.  We took a two-hour boat ride down the Li River to get to Yangshuo.  It was really beautiful and another place we would highly recommend to anyone planning a trip to China.  Yangshuo was touristy, but we still really enjoyed it.  It was very different from both Beijing and Shanghai so we’re glad we got to see it.

Our bamboo boat

Cruising down the Li River

Hanging out in Yangshuo

Shanghai was the last stop on our trip.  It is a really cool city—very modern with a Western feel.  Shanghai has an awesome skyline!

Shanghai Skyline

At the Vue Bar

I wasn’t really sure what to expect from China, but I have to admit that the trip was even better than I imagined it would be.  With that said though, it’s always nice to come back home.

Anyway, on to my food adventures in China.  Before Amanda and I started our naturally sweet summer, I told her that I wasn’t going to worry about what I ate while we were on vacation in China for two weeks.  Since I don’t speak Chinese or really know much about what goes into Chinese cooking (i.e. sugar), I decided it wasn’t worth worrying about it while on vacation.  Vacation is usually a time when we allow ourselves to splurge a little anyway, right :)?!?

Even though I said I wasn’t going to worry, I still didn’t want to go over the top because I really want to reach my goal of not eating sugar until August 20th.  For the most part, I steered clear of sugar (as best I could) with a few exceptions:

  • I ate bread.  Bread is almost always made with sugar (though not very much).  I didn’t eat bread that often, but sometimes it was my only option (like on our flights when I thought the main entree wasn’t very good).  I know I could have passed it up altogether, but I get pretty crabby when I’m hungry and for Giff’s sake, I thought it was better to eat the bread than be crabby :).  Other times we ate bread because we wanted it….
  • Shanghai Steamed Pork Buns...Delicious!

  • We found authentic Neapolitan pizza.....I was in heaven!

  • I had Chinese Bubble Tea…twice.  I LOVE Chinese bubble tea and I can’t get it that often.  The first time I tried it was in college and I loved it.   Almost every time I see it, I treat myself to it so I thought I had to try it in China.  I tried it twice just to be on the safe side J.  I’m sure it has sugar in it, but it was worth every sip!
  • Proof of my Bubble Tea

  • I tried one bite of Giff’s dessert.  This was the only bite of dessert I had in the two weeks we were there.  This is definitely a vacation record for me.  I always treat myself to dessert on vacation, but I passed it up every time except this once.  It was actually at a German pub and looked too good to pass up (fried apple rings….yum!).
  • The one and only dessert I tried.....and some delicious German beer.

  • I drank beer and had some cocktails that may or may not have had sugar.  I have been drinking wine since we started this challenge.  I’m not sure if wine has added sugar or if it’s just sweet from the grapes, but I decided it was something I would allow myself to have since I only treat myself to it on the weekends.  I had not been drinking beer though because I thought it had added sugar, or any cocktails.  I’m not sure if beer does have sugar or not, but I had some on vacation and I had some fancy cocktails at some of the fancy bars we went to in Shanghai.
  • Chinese food.  I’m guessing that some of the foods I ate had sauces that were made with sugar.  They were all savory dishes, but some of them tasted slightly sweet.
  • I ate “plain” yogurt that I’m pretty sure had sugar in it.

Other than that, I think I did a pretty good job of not eating sugar.  Believe it or not, I actually lost 3 pounds on vacation!  That is definitely a first for me.  I worked out three times and walked A LOT.  Despite all the walking, I actually felt like I had more energy than I’ve had in a long time.  Perhaps not eating sugar is a good thing for me.

Lessons Learned

  • Despite the fact that I ate sugar, I was conscious of it every time—more so than I ever have been before.  This challenge has taught me how often I eat sugar during the day without even realizing it.  Although the sugar I consume throughout the day might be consumed in small quantities, it adds up over the course of a day/week/month.
  • It is possible to watch someone eat dessert without having to try it.  (You can ask any of my friends…I am notorious for asking for bites of people’s food so it’s quite a feat for me to not ask for a bite.)
  • Is it really worth it?  There were many times when I wanted to try a bite or sip of something Giff was eating or drinking, but I would ask myself, is it really worth it?  The only time I decided it was worth it was for the German dessert.  I ate my one bite, without any remorse, and didn’t feel like I needed any more.
  • My motto is not “all or nothing”.  I have said before that I do not plan on giving up processed sugar for the rest of my life, but I’m doing this challenge to see how giving it up makes me feel.  Just because I ate sugar a few times on vacation, I don’t feel like a quitter or that I should give up the challenge altogether.  It was good for me to see that I can have it here and there without overdoing it.
  • Cravings will go away.  There were some nights when I was really craving something sweet—especially chocolate.  If I were home, I would go to the kitchen to try to make something or eat something to satisfy my craving.  Since we were on vacation though, I didn’t have that option.  The cravings went away every time.  This is something I need to remind myself now that I’m home again.

I’ll wrap it up here since I have already written a novel.  If you made it to the end, thanks for sticking with me J.

Questions: Do you usually ‘splurge’ on vacation?  What are your tips for staying healthy while traveling?

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Confession

I ate sugar…..not once, not twice, but three times! Oopsie.  Each time it was an accident so hopefully I’m forgiven :).  Rather than stress about it, I’m just using these times as a reminder to myself that I really need to think about what I’m eating and what it might have in it.  It’s amazing how many products are made with sugar!  It makes me grateful that I don’t have a food allergy because I realize how easy it is to forget—or not think about it—and eat something I’m not ‘supposed’ to eat.  I guess if I had an allergy I would me more cautious, but you get the point.

On to my slip-ups.  The first time happened on day two when I made some delicious homemade veggie burgers for lunch.  I have been wanting to try the Temes Family Carrot Burgers for a long time after my friend Lindsay as been ranting and raving about them for so long.  The burgers called for breadcrumbs and without thinking, I dumped a handful of breadcrumbs from my pantry into the bowl.  As soon as I mixed them in I realized they probably had sugar and sure enough, I was right.  Despite my goal of not eating sugar, I am not willing to waste perfectly good food, so I cooked them and ate them anyway.  In addition to the breadcrumbs in the burgers, the recipe also says to coat the burgers in breadcrumbs before they are cooked so that time around I remembered to use panko breadcrumbs that don’t have any sugar.

Anyway, these burgers were a nice break from any other veggie burger I’ve had before.  Other than the fact that the burgers are shaped into patties, they aren’t trying to be a burger in any other way.  Some veggie burgers I’ve had in the past try too hard (in my opinion) to resemble a regular burger, and usually don’t taste that great.  These burgers were totally different—savory with a hint of sweetness.  I ate them topped with a sprinkle of cinnamon and topped with applesauce.  I also dipped each bite into some balsamic vinegar—ala Amanda—yum!

My other slip-ups happened on days three and four.  While substitute teaching the other day, a teacher offered me a Ritz cracker at snack time.  I was pretty hungry so I ate it, but afterward I realized that it probably had sugar in it.  I came home and checked the box of Ritz that has been sitting in my pantry for months on end (I think I bought them for a project with my English students) and saw that they certainly do have sugar in them.  Busted again.  At least I stopped after the one, right?!

Last, but not least, my husband and I went out to eat at a Turkish restaurant last night.  We love their hummus and without thinking I dove right in to the warm, homemade pita bread and slathered some hummus on it.  For dinner I had a chicken kebab wrap.  Honestly, it wasn’t until this morning that I realized the pita and wrap probably both have sugar in them.  I have already decided that I’m not going to worry too much about not eating sugar when I go out to eat, but I still plan to be conscious about what I order and try to avoid ordering things that I know are made with sugar.  Last night’s slip-ups could have easily been avoided had I thought about it.  I’m going to blame the fact that I have two big finals due this week for grad school and was focused much more on them than whether or not my pita was made with sugar!

And now for the delicious carrot burger recipe thanks to the Temes family:

1 cup cottage cheese

1 cup shredded carrots

1 slightly beaten egg

1 cup bread crumbs (plus ¼ – ½ cup additional crumbs to roll patties in)

2 tbsp finely chopped onions (or a handful of dried onion flakes)

1 tsp salt

1 tbsp worcester sauce

½ cup sunflower seeds (optional)—I used walnuts because that’s what I had on hand.

Combine all ingredients (including the 1 cup bread crumbs, but reserve extra). Form mixture into four balls and shape into patties. Coat patties with additional bread crumbs. Fry/cook in butter in a saute pan, until browned (they often burn a little, or get kind of black, but thats ok).

Serve on buns and/or topped with cinnamon and applesauce.

*Also delicious dipped in balsamic vinegar.

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One Day Down!

So far things are going really well.  It’s amazing how much more mindful of my eating I’ve become in just the past two days.  I consider myself to be pretty conscious about what I eat, but at the same time, I have what some might call a slight sugar addiction :).  I love love love to bake and almost always crave something sweet after I eat.  I usually have some sort of homemade baked good on my counter so most of my friends are shocked to hear I’m giving up all processed sugar for the summer.  Most of them ask, “what are you going to do if you can’t bake?”  I know it’s shocking, but it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time and I’m actually looking forward to experimenting with my baking and finding ways to make delicious baked goods without processed sugars.

However, I’m also looking forward to knowing what it’s like not to constantly be craving sugar.  In the past two days, I haven’t really felt like I’ve wanted sugar too much, but that might have something to do with the fact that Amanda and I baked up a storm in the past month and my body needs to detox :).  One thing that I have noticed is that it almost feels liberating to not eat sugar.  I thought it would feel restrictive, but I don’t feel that way at all.  Before we started this challenge, if I saw a baked good then I would almost certainly want to eat it and would have to battle with myself not to eat it–or at least not to eat too much.  Now that I’m not eating sugar, it’s much easier to just say no.

One of the goals of this challenge is also to be more mindful of what we’re eating.  I always add protein powder to my smoothies, but found out yesterday that my protein powder has sugar in it.  Who knew?  I guess it’s not that surprising since it does taste kind of sweet, but honestly I had never thought about that before.  Then last night, my husband and I went out to dinner and he grabbed some hard candies by the cash register on our way out.  I normally would do the same thing and when I saw him reach for the candies, I realized  that I almost always reach for those candies too without even thinking about it.

The other thing that I’m really looking forward to with this challenge is to see how my energy levels change.  Even though I exercise regularly, I still often feel lethargic and I’m interested to see if I my energy level increases as my sugar intake decreases.

And because I think blogs are way more exciting if they have pictures, I’ll leave you with a couple of pictures of us from Amanda’s last day in Okinawa.  They don’t relate to food, but they’re fun!

Close at 25:00?? Hmmmmm....

We blew our own glass. It was pretty tricky! Check out the sweet protective gear we got to wear!

The sun finally came out for Amanda's last day!

Have you ever given up sugar before?  If so, did you notice any changes in your body, energy levels, overall health?  We’re curious to hear about your experience eating more naturally so please leave your comments below!

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