Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Wheat-Free Experiment- Week Three- Cheater, Cheater

So I admit, week three was the week of cheating.   We let the wheat get back into our systems. It's what happens when you leave church late, stop for gas, and notice that there is, conveniently, a Subway sandwich shop attached to the gas station.  The tummy is rumbly, you can smell the bread even over the gas fumes... why not?  Let's get some sandwiches for lunch.

A Subway sandwich may not be a major cheat on a typical diet, but it is, of course, if your diet doesn't include wheat.  We've discovered that there is very little eating out you can do, particularly at any place with a drive-through, when you're not eating wheat. Hamburgers, chicken nuggets, salads with croutons, even McDonald's french fries are coated in a wheat product.  This is one of the better side-effects of being on a wheat-free diet, although it's hardly convenient.  It eliminates so many junk food options right off the bat.

The other day Josh and I were talking about the popularity of almond milk and other almond products, like almond meal for baking.  He asked me about soy milk and I, with great passion, declared that soy milk is a  horrible product and ought not to be ingested by anyone.  The prevalence of soy in almost every packaged product indicates that it is a cheap filler "food"  but has hardly any nutrition... and I believe it's the polar opposite of anything nutritious.  Anything but a pure genuine soy food, like edamame, is not good for you (at least not for anyone in our house).  I went to the pantry to show him just how prevalent soy was in our food. I pulled out a package of rice cakes. Ingredients: brown rice, salt.  Nice, I thought to myself.  I pulled out a box of cereal.  No soy in this particular plain Jane product.  Hmmm.... I glance around the pantry, which is void of pretty much any convenience, pre-packaged food.

"Wow." I said out loud.  "None of this has soy in it."  Why?  Because we have basically eliminated all those easy-peasy snack and convenience foods when we eliminated wheat.  And wheat and soy seem to go hand in hand.  Surely, there are GF foods and lots of so called "health" foods that contain soy.  But I've discovered another great side-effect to this wheat free diet: because I have to make most of our foods, I control exactly what goes inside them.  They come out cleaner, and more natural, than practically anything I could buy in the store already made for me.

Back to the cheating.  Did I feel guilty?  Not really. This is just an experiment, after all.  I ate a brownie at church Sunday night. I also made some Magic Cookie bars with a pretzel crust (we had some pretzels lingering around), and ate some.  But let me tell you. Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday my legs were once again, sore.  At first I thought it was just from my workout, but by Wednesday I realized it was that other kind of sore that I would get just by doing daily life.  No wheat since Tuesday and my legs are feeling great again.  Workouts and all.  So I'm calling it.  Wheat is contributing to my sore legs.

I think the "experts" say it takes three weeks to make a new habit or break a bad one.  Well, we've been doing this for over three weeks and it is coming much more naturally.  The benefits, like the ones mentioned above, are becoming more important to me than the extra work.  I'm really thankful that we put the whole family on this diet.  It enabled us to completely empty out the pantry of wheat-full foods and eliminate temptation.  Everyone is getting used to it by now.  We've got one final week left of our thirty day experiment.  Will we continue to keep the wheat out of the house?

I don't know yet.  I think that, for me, the wheat has to go.  I'm not at the end of my own personal food journey, discovering what works best for my body. But this has been a valuable learning experiment.  Josh hasn't had any major, noticeable differences in how he feels.  He has lost five pounds, but his weight fluctuates about five pounds naturally.  If it falls below the current mark, we'll start to conclude that maybe the wheat-free diet is helping him too. However, this hasn't been just a wheat-free change, as I've already mentioned.  Lots of other icky foods and not-so-great habits are being eliminated too.  So perhaps it's not just the wheat that was affecting us.

I really love that the kids aren't eating as much pre-packaged snack food.  The extra work it makes for me is less bothersome now (new habit gained).  I love that they are trying new foods because their default foods are missing.  But this doesn't mean I'll be a Nazi when it comes to what they eat.  I'm sure we'll have goldfish crackers in the house occasionally.  But  maybe just a small bag of them for a treat instead of the giant tub.

I'm anxious to see what this week brings.  The experiment is easier and easier and as our thirty days come to an end, I hope we gain even more insight as to how we want to feed our family.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Homechool Mother's Journal for Mid March

In my life this week

It was a busy one, or so it seemed. Any week that I have to leave the house more than, oh, twice, is a busy one.  Doctor's appointment to meet the new nurse practitioner who will care for the kids, ballet class, date night, book club, and a trip home to see my mom.  Oh, and educating the kids, of course.

In our homeschool this week

We began our two week "stay" in China.  Brown-Eyed-Girl has been anticipating this all year.  We're all looking forward to eating at a (not-so) authentic Chinese restaurant at the end of our trip.  I'm also reading the biography of Gladys Aylward aloud to them.

Helpful homeschooling tips or advice to share

This is more like an observance.  As parents we want to give our children the best of everything, but sometimes that's the worst thing to do for them.  Some of the best things in my life have come out of the worst circumstances.

Places we're going and people we're seeing

Yesterday, we visited my parents.  We hadn't seen them since the first of the year so it was long overdue.  Tomorrow we're going to a comedy show at church.  Next week... oh, I'm still recuperating from all the forced extroversion of last week.

My favorite thing this week

A lot of fun things, like going on a date with Josh.  Seeing my parents.  Fellowshipping with the other moms while our daughters had ballet class.  Discussing literature with the other book club members.

The kids favorite thing this week

Visiting Nanny and Pop-Pop and seeing old friends there.

Things I'm working on

Finding more and new recipes and meal plans  I am seriously always cooking.  A day without cooking (like yesterday) means the next day has no leftovers to eat for lunch, maybe no bread, maybe no snacks. Since we've started the Wheat-Free Experiment, our pantry is not stocked with snacks and the freezer doesn't hold extra loaves of bread.  I have to constantly be a step ahead of everybody else so that I have an answer to "Can I have something to eat?" And these kids are always eating! Especially Mister, growing boy that he is.  I think I'm venting right now.  I probably need to add another post to the Wheat Free Experiment series. But, anyway, I'm working on filling the refrigerator and pantry with food.

I'm cooking

Right now, our St. Patrick's day corned beef is boiling on the stove. Tomorrow will be too busy to enjoy it, so we're having it tonight. So "What's for dinner?" is solved for today.  I'm also boiling clementines in hopes of making Nigela Lawson's clementine cake, as seen here on the Smitten Kitchen site.  I'm going to modify it a bit, so hopefully it still tastes good.

I'm reading

I just finished Strong Poison by Dorothy Sayers for book club.  Right now, the group is doing a series of mysteries. This was a fun one, somewhat comedic, but wise with great style.  Sayers is quite an interesting person and this book is autobiographical in some respects.  The group is quite large and I am the youngest one, I think.  The librarian who heads up the group is about my age.  I just love talking about books.  Our next one is The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammet (great name) which I've already begun and I think it will be another fast read.  The group is decidedly liberal but I really love hearing other people's take on things. If nothing else, we have common ground in love of good books.  I feel there is respect here for ideas.

I'm thankful for

A husband that let's me think for myself.  Though I love and respect everything he thinks too.

I'm praying for

This family.  I am weeping with them as they weep right now.

Something I'm ogling or have my eye on

Paint colors for the school room/library.  I've been a Pinterest addict this past week looking for ideas.  I'm leaning toward a teal color that is more blue than green.  I'll know it when I see it.

Picture, quote, video to share

I don't know, this is just my quote, my thoughts.

Death is not the end.

I'm sure somebody else has said it, but as I think of the Kelley family, I'm so glad it's true.  They will see their little girl again.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Wheat-Free Experiment- Week 2 Wrap Up

We now have two weeks under our wheat-less belts.  And it is getting much easier.  I've discovered more tricks to going wheat-free, got into more of a routine, and I am no longer missing the bread aisle and the ease it brings to my life.

There's not much to report in the way of earth shattering changes. If you read the report from week one, nothing much has changed. Weight loss? Nope (Darn it all!).  More energy?  I don't know. Can a busy, homeschooling, constantly cooking mom of three ever have enough energy?  I will say, however, that I am really starting to believe that the relief of my leg pain is truly due to getting the wheat out of my life.  I mentioned this in my last post, but wasn't yet convinced. After another week of no wheat, I am almost 100% convinced.  At the end of some days, my legs feel slightly tired and I think "Oh, they should really be hurting and achy right now. My knees should be killing me. I should be ready to collapse and not get up." But I haven't experienced this in the three weeks that I have gone without wheat (I started this about a week ahead of the rest of the family).  If this is the only side-effect I experience, it is well worth the extra effort.

Feeding the family is getting easier, thanks especially to the Land O Lakes website, which introduced me to what I feel is the perfect gluten free baking mix.  Two cups of rice flour, one cup of potato starch, and 1 tsp of xantham gum mixed together and kept in an airtight container has been an excellent cup-for-cup replacement for wheat flour in my baked goods. I've made several types of muffins, chocolate chip cookies, pancakes, cornbread, and even a great yeast bread with this mixture.  Tonight, in honor of Pi day, I plan to use their gluten free pie crust recipe to make something yummy.  I honestly want to call the company and give them a huge hoo-rah  because this has made the experiment so much easier.  A week ago I bought three pounds of rice flour for 95 cents a pound.  I had ordered a case (4 -24-oz packages) of potato starch from amazon.  We haven't used all the flour mixture yet, but I'm estimating that for about $5 a week, we were able to have homemade baked goods and the bread we needed.  Considering that a premade gluten free baking mix can cost $5 for one loaf of bread, I'd say this is very economical.  Therefore, sticking to your budget on a special diet CAN be done. I realize the more specialized your diet, the harder it will be.  But expanding your grocery budget to insure your good health via good food is one of the best investments you can make.  Again, what is it worth to me to have legs that aren't killing me at the end of the day?  A lot.

Now that I've found a good bread recipe that tastes more like homemade white bread, I'm not getting as many comments from the kids about where our old food has gone.  One of my favorite things about this experiment, still, is the absence of food that is so easy to overindulge in.  Sure, baked goods like chocolate chip cookies and chocolate peanut butter no-bakes (Josh's favorite) can disappear in a day if we're not careful, but it's awfully hard to overeat rice cakes and peanut butter with a banana sliced on top.  Cheez-Its- that's another story.

One of my favorite recipes from this past week was from the Gluten Free Goddess. She made pizza night amazing!  Her recipe for pizza dough is wonderful. I followed it to a tee.  It was soft and very tasty and when reheated it didn't get rubbery like the usual pizza dough.  I HIGHLY recommend this recipe and would make this over traditional pizza dough every time, it was that good.  And easy, too.

I'm really starting to enjoy this experiment and all I am learning. I love being able to have people over for dinner that have a specialized diet, knowing I can cook for them.  Food allergies and special diets can be socially isolating.  Going to a restaurant with friends could be a nightmare if you are gluten and dairy free.  Taking your children to a birthday party with either or both of these allergies- forget about it.  As a girl who loves to make people feel welcome in her home, being able to cook for a  special diet  brings new meaning to "comfort food".  Food should bring people together, not tear them apart.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Wheat-Free Experiment- Week 1 Thoughts and Findings

We are nearing the end of our first week going wheat-free as a family.  I'd like to report more astounding findings than I'm going to, but we still have three weeks left.  I'm easing into the menu planning and I've found some fantastic recipes.  I still spend more time in the kitchen, cooking and washing pots and pans, but thankfully we haven't had any loser recipes so far.

Response from the kids:
"When are you going to get our regular bread?"
"Can I have some Goldfish please?"
"Is that the only kind of cereal we have?"
My children are real creatures of habit.  Most are.  My son likes to have both cereal and toast for breakfast. I made a big pan of baked oatmeal one morning and while eating it, he said "Mommy, I like this, but can I still have my cereal and toast?"  He's in a breakfast rut.  Going wheat-free is helping to get out of it.
There have been no major complaints about the missing foods.

Response from Josh:
No huge discernible differences in energy or overall physical feelings.
No drop in weight.
No negative side effects.

Response from me:
My findings are similar to Josh's.  So far I don't notice any huge changes. I still feel like I have my winter weight hanging around my belly.  The one thing that  may be associated is my knees feeling better. I am on my feet most of the day and there are some nights when I sit down to dinner and feel very sore.  My legs and knees are so tired.  I haven't noticed this in the past week and I have definitely been on my feet more.  Again, it may not be related.

I've also found that there is a lot of glorified gluten-free junk food out there, that is just as full of bad stuff as the wheat-full items. The gluten-free label doesn't make a food healthy.  I think that overall we are eating more fruit and vegetables because we don't have the variety of wheat-full carbohydrates around to snack on that we did before.  It's pretty much rice cakes and one other item I've made (see my Pinterest board for some of the recipes we've tried so far.  My comments give the details.)  Then it's homemade fruit pops, cheese sticks, fresh fruit, veggies and dip, smoothies, yogurt.  This part of the experiment is making me happy.

Those are the findings so far. Nothing big yet.  But experiments take time.  Most good things are gained, or lost, overnight.  Or in a week.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Frailty, Thy Name is Mommy

Perhaps there is no better word associated with motherhood than "guilt".  Any mom who hasn't felt guilt must be so steeped in selfishness that she'll never find her way out.  But I suspect those moms are rare.  For most of us, it is a way of life.  It is unfortunate but it is true.  The days when I feel like a rockin' mom are few and far between.

There is just always something to worry about. I worry about my children eating healthy food.  I worry about  taking good care of their teeth.  I worry about if I'm giving them a good education here at home. I worry that they don't get out enough or have enough friends.  I worry that they don't do enough chores. That they aren't content with what they have.  That their clothes don't always match. That I can't braid my girls' hair.  That I don't read them all the right books.  That they hate me.  That they won't go to college.  That  kids will be cruel to them. That adults will be cruel to them.

But mostly, I worry that I will destroy them.  And that is the root of the guilt.  The cavities- my fault.  The math struggles- my fault.  The strong will- my fault.  The bad attitude- my fault.

My daily helping of guilt and worry is enough to feed the whole neighborhood.  There are some nights I sink into bed and can think of nothing good to say about the day.  Tomorrow looks bleak and full of more of the same messing up on my part.

Thankfully, I know the truth. God handpicked me to be the mother of my children. I've got a  Father in heaven and an encouraging husband to help remind me of that.  And my children are extremely forgiving.  When the day seems like a failure, it really isn't.  The next morning, mercies are new.

The guilt I feel definitely doesn't come down from heaven.  It's my own insecurities, and an icky sense of pride that thinks I should strive for being the perfect mom, something I could never even possibly come close to no matter what.  Especially compared to all the other moms.

Yes, a lot of the guilt I feel gets heaped on me by other  moms.  It is usually not on purpose.  Sometimes it's just the difference between an extroverted, social, soccer mom and... me, the introverted homebody.  I see the mom who does so much so well and feel bad that taking my children to the library for an hour exhausts me.  Sometimes the guilt comes from thoughtlessness, however.  Maybe a not very nice look at me and my child who is struggling to calm down.  Maybe a comment about homeschoolers.  Maybe it's something said about how good moms don't.... (fill in the blank).

As frail as we all are as moms, we still seem to have very strong opinions about how children should be raised.  I think it is good to be convinced in our own minds about how we want our children raised and to have a mission for our family.  But why does that make it so much easier to convince ourselves that everyone should do the same things we do and make the same choices we make?  When we are sure of ourselves, we tend to be sure others need to follow our example.  From the way we feed our children to how we treat them medically to how we educate them to how we discipline them.  Why do we feel the need to get everyone to do what we do?

Sometimes we are simply passionate.  We've read the facts, the research, the book.  Sometimes we've had great success with the diet, the discipline, the treatment.  Our intention is not to belittle, but to help.  But there can be a point when we step over the line of love.  We are being  influenced more by judgement and condemnation towards others than we are by being helpful and loving.  I deeply appreciate advice that is coming from a mom who has a heart full of love and compassion for other moms.  Who gets that I am weak and frail and that I genuinely want to do what is best for my children, but sometimes I just don't know the way.  But they also trust that I will seek God and HIS way for raising the ones that have been entrusted to me.

As moms, we question ourselves all the time.  Is my child this way because of that glass of wine I drank?  Because I let them get that shot? Because I didn't let them sleep in our bed? Because I stopped nursing at five months?  Because I sent them to public school?  Because of me?

I have found that the Lord is so much bigger than my "mistakes".  He has stood in the way of me and the dangers of far greater things than popping an ibuprofen when I was pregnant. Thankfully he does the same for my children.  He is powerful enough to stand between them and the dangers of all the things I worry about as a mom.  Even the things that came to them by me.  My decisions are not sovereign, HE IS.

It's time to rest in the Lord.  It's time to stop beating ourselves up and also to stop beating other moms up.  I often recall a favorite line from the book Crazy Love by Francis Chan.  "God is a creator, not a duplicator."  He did not intend for every family to look the same.  There is no detailed formula for being the best mom.  Only this: love, sacrifice, pray, trust, rest.  If we exhort and encourage other moms to do just these things, we will not be in error.

Monday, March 4, 2013

The Wheat-Free Experiment- Day 1

The kitchen amid the prep for Day 1 of the Wheat-Free Experiment. It's  work I tell you, work!  The blender, the food processor, the laptop,  popsicle molds, every bowl in the house, all employed to help me get ready.  

Day one of our Wheat-Free Experiment is under our formerly wheat-bellied belt.  Whew.  Let me wipe away the sweat I built up in the kitchen.  Going wheat-free requires a lot of cooking and making from scratch.  By the end of this I will never want to see another bag of Bob's Red Mill anything.  It will be the greatest of treats to buy a loaf of premade bread.

None of this is meant to indicate that Day One was a bad day. It really wasn't, it was great.  Most of my kitchen time was actually spent the day before we started our experiment. I made a loaf of bread using the best recipe I have found so far, this Delicious Gluten Free Bread  from the Gluten-Free Goddess.  She knows her stuff on this topic.  I have made this bread several times, often substituting the sorgham flour for garbanzo bean flour, which I prefer.  While that mixed in the bread maker, I got the bright idea to pull together the dry ingredients for several other recipes since all the special supplies were out.  I now have the dry mixes for another loaf of bread, pizza dough, and banana muffins ready to go.  I also made a batch of granola bars from Smitten Kitchen.  I ground up a  cup of walnuts and used coconut oil in place of butter, and maple syrup. I added dried cranberries and pepitas.

The morning of Day One arrived and the pantry had been mysteriously swept clean of any remaining wheat-full foods.  Mostly some sandwich crackers, breadcrumbs, and graham crackers.  There were two boxes of cereal in the kids' cupboard, rice Chex and corn Chex.  Mister is a cereal addict.  He must have cereal for breakfast. Oh,and then toast about an hour later.  No complaints on my homemade bread from anyone, all day.

There were no leftovers to send with Josh to work for his lunch, but I quickly pulled together a giant Chef salad. I thanked my lucky stars that I had some hard boiled eggs and homemade dressing.  I was feeling a little frazzled already.

Petite had an apple with peanut butter for breakfast, after her usual cup of warm milk.  For mid-morning snack, I brought out the granola bars. They were absolutely delicious, in my opinion, but the dried fruit and pumpkin seeds made the oldest two turn up their noses.  Sigh.  But Petite and I enjoyed them immensely.

I had a leftover baked sweet potato for lunch.  I made the kids open faced grilled ham and cheese sandwiches.  Mid-afternoon snack was homemade juice and fruit popsicles (frozen strawberries and Concord grape juice.)

I was going out to dinner with a friend, but I still had to make everyone else supper.  For them, I made Salisbury steak patties with mushroom gravy, mashed potato and steamed pea pods. Okay, I admit, the only part of this the kids would eat is the potato. For them, nitrate free hot dogs and the usual baby carrots.  They would later have popcorn with their movie night.

My girlfriend and I went to a Mexican restaurant, which is a very easy place to be wheat-free because of the corn tortillas. Not to mention the corn chips on the table while you figure out what you want to eat. And the huge mound of guacamole we ordered to go with it.  Later we hit Target and I just can barely help going into Target without visiting that little coffee shop so often attached.  Yeah, Starbucks.  Buckies, as I fondly call it. At the checkout (where I was purchasing NutCrisp crackers and Archer Farms fruit bars) I got a printed coupon for a free bakery item with an grande or venti drink.  Ooooo, I thought. Free bakery item!  But wait. That's right.  All those bakery items have wheat in them.  So I just ordered my raspberry non-fat mocha and was happy with that. And frankly, I was still overly stuffed from all the tortilla chips and guacamole.

But it's been eye-opening just how prevalent wheat is. And how cheap it is (compared to many other grains).  And how very difficult it must be for those who must be truly gluten-free. Add on top of that dairy free.  Corn free.  Soy free.  Wow, there would be so little one could eat!  Even as I made some homemade mac n cheese (using rice past shells), I realized I couldn't thicken the sauce with the usual flour.  It's in there too.  Rice flour worked just fine, but again, eye opening.

What I have learned so far as the mastermind behind this whole experiment:

It is work. Mental and physical. It takes a thought of thought and planning to prepare meals and snacks that don't contain wheat.  It requires more time in the kitchen as I make my own bread from scratch instead of stocking up from the bread aisle.  I have to be thinking ahead and anticipating not just the food needs of today, but also tomorrow. Case in point, there was no bread this morning for Josh to have his usual toast and peanut butter. So he had oatmeal.

Lunch is the trickiest meal of the day.  Sandwiches can't be the go-to food when bread isn't cheap and as soft and fluffy as the wheat-full stuff.  It's not as challenging for Josh and I, as we eat a much wider variety of foods, but it is a challenge when it comes to feeding the kids.  I have wanted to cheat already by buying regular bread, just to make my life easier. But the research factor makes me want to keep on.

I do really like the fact that better, more wholesome foods are replacing the usual snacks around here.  Fresh fruit, cheese sticks, homemade fruit pops and granola.  And it is much harder to mindlessly east these foods than it is a box of Cheez-Its (my all time favorite cracker).

We currently have three days under our belt.  We've had homemade baked beans, mac n cheese, and made one of the many gluten-free Chex Mix recipes from their website (fun and easy snack to make with kiddos). This morning I made muffins with one of the dry mixes I made, and chili will be going in the crockpot for dinner.  Maybe I'll search out a gluten free cornbread recipe.

I'm already annoyed that life revolves around gluten.  My GF friends, you have my sympathies.