Sunday, January 29, 2012

Valentine's Day and Red 40..oh my!

Do any of you avoid Red 40 dye with your children? 

We do. It makes my 7 year old bonkers. Literally, nuts. She can't control herself, gets out-of-control silly & loud, and then feels awful (physically and emotionally) later. While she doesn't always like having to say no to treats that contain Red 40 - she is now very aware of the fact that it's not good for her. She tries very hard to make good choices, and fortunately for the most part, it's not too hard to find a substitution (for example at gymnastics when they get a popsicle, she knows to choose a lemon or lime or orange - instead of red, blue or purple).

However, it's the time of year when Valentine's Day classroom parties are being planned. It's not even February yet, and we've already had tearful discussions about how everyone else will be able to eat red treats - and she will not. She's feeling left out of the festivities, isolated, and the holiday hasn't even happened yet! 

I've talked to her teacher about why we avoid red 40 dye. It's a stepping stone to making MANY more healthy choices - eventually leading up to ALL food dyes, but for now I'm focusing on red 40 just to make it more manageable. Her teacher seems to "get it" but that doesn't mean I can convince the entire classroom of parents to not bring in anything un-naturally red for this holiday event (let alone for the rest of the school year!).

So my daughter and I have been talking about how she will handle the classroom party. I've set a rule that allows her to choose, from all the red/pink goodies that are not naturally that color (this is important...we'll revisit this in a minute), ONE treat. She will be allowed to have one red or pink item. Meaning, one frosting topped puffy sugar cookie (you know the ones I mean, they show up everywhere) or one cupcake with swirls of red icing, or one whatever of her choosing. 

Alternatively, as long as it's not red or pink or some other color that clearly was made using red dye - she can go for it. Generally, we teach moderation when it comes to sweets and treats, but heck...I'm not a monster! She already is limited with her allergy to cow milk, so for this particular holiday I'm willing to let the moderation rule be a little flexible. And, for our contribution to the party, we've signed up for a "healthy snack" and will be bringing Target brand Market Pantry strawberry fruit pull-apart leather. No added sugar, no dyes, no HFCS - all natural, and it's RED! Perfect.

Alright, back to the part about naturally red. We had some confusion early on when we eliminated Red 40 from the line-up of acceptable things. I think it was hard for her to understand that some things are naturally red, and some are not. Shoot...strawberries are red, so in a 7-year old mind (even in a 40-year old mind) why would they add red dye to something that already has strawberries in it?!? I supposed that's a whole other blog post - perhaps written by someone who knows more - but I can see why she would be confused. We made a list on the way to school of some naturally red things to eat that would be safe. She came up with some great ones, and maybe you'll want to investigate more for your classroom party too! 

  • fresh strawberries
  • fresh cherries
  • fresh raspberries
  • red apples
  • dried versions of the above (or freeze dried) plus dried cranberries
  • no sugar/dye added fruit leathers in the above flavors - I love the Market Pantry versions, affordable and fun
  • Yummy Earth lollipops 
  • chocolate (dairy free in her case) even though it's not red...hey, it's CHOCOLATE!
  • ...and many organic brands of gummy candies also use natural colors from black carrot juice or beet juice to make things it and you'll find some options

If you've had any luck avoiding red dye at school and at home with great tasting alternative, please share! Happy Valentine's Day!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Soupy Success

Today I held my 5th Annual Soup Swap. Man, I love soup!!

Even more than my love of soup, is my love of having friends and family over for a casual gathering. One of the best things about soup swap is that everyone who attends not only gets to go home with 6 quarts of delicious, fresh soup - but it doesn't really cost them anything except time. I love a good home-based-business, don't get me wrong. I try to support stay-at-home moms as much as my budget allows. But honestly, my group of friends is so tired of being invited out to a jewelry party, or a purse party, or a food party - where you're just expected to buy something to be polite, even if you don't really need said item. Not so with a soup swap! Nobody had to pull out their wallet today - and that's a nice feeling.

So, the gist of my swap was that we only had 6 people - good on one hand, because everybody was able to take home each of the other soups, plus one quart of their own. The downside was that because we all picked our own soup last, we had a hard time deciding who was "first picked" and "last picked" (it's not just the first physical soup picked, it's the one soup in total that's gone first). But none-the-less, we still had some fun prizes to give away after the festivities - we just did it "door prize" style. 

The soups present this year included:

  • my own white bean and ham
  • minestrone
  • loaded baked potato soup
  • beef chili
  • greens with beans
  • potato bacon

We even indulged in a bit of wine mixed with orange juice! LOL, it was supposed to be mimosas but the champagne tasted like malt vinegar so we opened a bottle of wine instead. I thought maybe with the relatively low turn-out today, this may be my last soup swap (at least as the host). But the outpouring of canned and non-perishable food items that my friends brought for the local food pantry was so awesome - I may just give it another year and see what happens. Until then.... eat more soup!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Good Stuff

I donated blood today. It always makes me feel happy, knowing that someone might be saved because they needed blood and mine was available. I'm a universal red cell donor, meaning my blood can be used by any other blood type. Type O Negative, baby! On the flip side, that also means if I were to require blood, I can only have Type O negative. It's tricky. But still, it feels like a small sacrifice and that makes me feel good. I can donate again in March. March 8th to be exact. When was the last time you donated blood? Consider it.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Soup Swap 2012 - get ready!

I'm so excited that Soup Swap time is almost here! If you've read my blog before, you may recall that I am a tried and true soup swapper. The National Soup Swap is going on it's 6th year - and I'm only one year behind. I think, truth be told, one of my favorite parts about the swap is having my guests bring canned foods (soup is suggested, but it can really be anything) that I donate to our local food pantry afterwards. So much fun, and a little philanthropy thrown in for good karma. 

I have no idea how many people are going to show up this year, but I'm anticipating between 10-15 people to come out for my 5th annual soup swap. If I'm wrong, no worries...even just a few swappers is still a party. Guess what!?? It's not too late to host your own Swap. And really, you don't need as many people as you may think. Ideally, you want to have at least 7 people so that nobody gets the same soup twice. But frankly, if you've got some good soups to choose from (and a larger family) having 2 quarts of one type of soup is nothing to complain about. All you need to do is select a date and time for you swap and start inviting people. Word travels FAST, and chances are good that a friend will bring a friend...and then you've got your swappers. Last year, I had a couple newbies at the swap that I've never even met. How awesome is that?! Share the soup love!!

If you're not even sure where to start - here is the sample wording from my invite. I used to mail these out, but now I just post on facebook and email people. It's easier for them to respond, and I like it when people rsvp. Now keep in mind, National Soup Swap Day is January 21...but because that's a Saturday, and I find Saturdays to be completely insane and chaotic, I choose to hold mine on Sunday. It's all good. 

So - let's begin with the invitation:

Claudine's 5th Annual Soup Swap!

Sunday, January 22nd
1:00 pm - 3:00 pm

You're invited to participate in National Soup Swap Day!

Simply bring 6 individually frozen 1-quart containers of your favorite soup, chowder, stew or chili - and swap with us. (one quart=4 cups)  You'll leave with 6 different quarts of homemade soup.

·        2:00pm – snacks and hot cranberry-apple punch
 ·        2:30pm - "telling of the soup" (This is each chef’s opportunity to talk about what makes their soup special.)

·        3:00pm - swap begins
 ·        4:00pm - head home with 6 quarts of delicious soup

As usual, there will be prizes for first and last soup picked, most unique soup and one special prize for a surprise category. J

  ~ Please RSVP at (put your phone number here) on or before January 20th ~
We need at least 7 soup-makers to do the swap.

Remember, you should bring:
·        One recipe card for each soup container
·        A reusable bag to carry home your soups
AND....FIVE cans of soup to donate to a local food pantry

(sorry, the formatting is all jacked up - just ignore that)

Now, take my invite, edit it to fit your own swap details and send it out into the Universe! Enjoy hosting a Soup Swap, enjoy socializing with a bunch of friends and soon-to-be friends, enjoy knowing you will have a freezer packed with soupy goodness - and really enjoy knowing that you'll be making a difference at whatever food pantry or local charitable organization you choose to support with the donations collected at the Swap.

And for those who are curious - I'll be making a slow cooked white bean with ham soup. Delicious!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Raw Food for the New Year

Happy New Year!!

It's 2012. I can't even believe it. Time really flies, no?

So, I'm right on schedule with another post. Yay me! This time, I want to talk about raw food. Last year, I got on this raw food kick and spent about a month trying to create elaborate raw food meals and snacks. I bought a fancy-pants Excalibur dehydrator (which rocks, by the way) and a couple raw "cook"books. And suddenly, I realized that I missed cooked foods - and I wasn't having very good results with my creations. So I gave up and moved on to another way of eating. 
Since that time, I've tried sugar-free, low carb, high protein, Weight Watchers, Nutrasystem and several other things to lose a few pounds here and there. They all work, and then I jump on another band-wagon and either maintain or gain more pounds. (sigh) I just can't find a happy medium because I love carbs and sugar - even though I know, first hand, that those things are the enemy for me and my body! (disclaimer: not all carbs, just the carby-carbs like white stuff, pasta, bread, processed junk, etc)
We just came back from a week in California, and while there, I was able to have lunch at a raw food restaurant. I fell in love with raw food all over again! Prepared properly, it's freaking AMAZING! So today's post isn't as much about my weight loss goals/struggles, as it is about adding in more whole, real, raw foods to your diet. Believe me, it's tricky sometimes - and I'm no expert. But I think everyone can benefit from eating more raw, vegan cuisine...and maybe these photos will inspire you, like it does for me, to try and get a little creative with your raw goodies. Here we go....
My sister, her husband, my 7 year old (with a dairy allergy), my husband and I all went to Cru in Silverlake, California.It's a small place, almost hidden, but SO worth a trip. It's not cheap, but then again, neither is good organic produce and raw nuts. So I guess I expected to pay more than I usually would for lunch. Plus, it was SO filling and delicious. Totally worth it - and I just wish there were a raw restaurant closer to me!

(another disclaimer: blogger is weird with photo placement, so forgive it they seem all random) 
We started with an appetizer for the table of the bruschetta. Remember, everything here is vegan and raw (although the chorizo on my taco salad may have been cooked, I'm not quite sure...but still vegan for sure). It was so awesome to give the menu, including the dessert menu, to my daughter and say "you can get ANYTHING on this menu - anything you want! Because there is no dairy in a vegan diet, she was able to pick and choose. I think she was kinda confused by it actually, because she kept asking before bites "are you sure I can have this??". So fun!

This is the bruschetta. OMG. Fantastic. Fresh and flavorful! It had tomato, capers, basil, cashew cheese and some kind of flatbread made of (I think) squash and sunflower seeds. To Die!
Oh, and before that, my daughter and I shared the fresh basil limeade. Yum!! 
I wasn't sure if my daughter would like the food - she claims to not like nuts of any kind, and also doesn't usually like coconut (both things are somewhat of a staple in raw food dishes). So, we shared the taco salad. Well, guess who ate most of it?!?! She did! Again, no complaints - this was by far the best taco salad ever. The "lettuce" was massaged kale, pumpkin seed chorizo (I need a recipe for this!!), guacamole, cashew sour cream and these crispy/chewy corn and flax chips. I'm drooling right now.
We finished the meal with two desserts to share - chocolate pie with raspberries and a key lime pie. Again, I remind you, NO DAIRY in any of these things. I didn't miss it at all. The big hit at the table for the 7 year old was, shockingly, the key lime pie. Again, I'm going to need a recipe for this one!

If you're ever in Los Angeles, you MUST try Cru. And if not, maybe you'll be a bit inspired to try out some raw recipes on your own. Google raw food recipes and I'm sure you'll be able to find something interesting.