Monday, February 29, 2016

Why I'm Giving Up on Giving Up Sugar

(Yep, it's the same cookie picture as the last blog entry. Yes, I'm that lazy, but yes, there's a method to my madness.)

So, regular readers will know that this household has a sweet tooth bar none. We love our sugar around here. But, buying cookies (our favorite sugary indulgence) is expensive, not to mention the fact that store-bought cookies typically are full of HFCS and GMOs.

So, I thought we could curb our sugar intake and clean up what we do eat by making a rule that we have to bake any desserts we want to consume. I figured we would be sure we were consuming organic ingredients when we did indulge, and we'd have the power of pure laziness on our side creating cookie-free days when no one felt like baking. We'd be skinny and rich. Win/win.

Of course, I was seduced into thinking that this would be easy because of all of those people on Facebook. You know: your friends who never really liked sugar in the first place.  The ones who post annoyingly perky little status updates like, "After three days with no sugar, my cravings have completely gone away! And if I do want a snack, I just munch on a few kale chips!"

Who the heck goes three days without sugar, I ask you?

These are the people who write diet books. You know the books I mean. These are the books that say things like, "Whenever you are tempted by a bowl of ice cream, have an apple instead!" I'm not arguing that the sentiment is wrong, but I do think that the authors of statements like that have never actually had an ice cream craving. If they had, they would realize that one could eat bushels of apples - which are crisp and tart and have a satisfying crunch - and never make a dent in a craving for ice cream, which is smooth and cold and fatty. It's two different things, people.

But, I was seduced by the siren song of people who suggested that craving sugar was some sort of biological error. Their logic holds that human beings really don't need refined sugar, so within a couple of days, we will revert to our perfect paleo-selves and begin to heal from our addiction. Come to think of it, these are the same people who post those memes that compare the effect of sugar on the body to that of cocaine. As if mankind has ever come up with any drug that rivals sugar for me! Come over here, kid, I'll set you up with a Reese's Cup.  First one's free.

So anyway, our experiment has been at least partially successful. We have succeeded in shifting our sugar consumption to desserts made with organic ingredients and pasture-raised eggs that don't break our budget. We've also managed to improve our communication skills, as we now can have a complete debate about whose turn it is to bake just by giving one another significant looks.

But the sugar cravings have not stopped. Maybe that's because we never make it to the fabled three day mark when all desire for sugar magically disappears. Within 48 hours of being without homemade cookies, we're pretty much eating the chocolate chips out of the bag. Maybe we haven't found exactly the right apple that replicates ice cream or the right kind of kale chip that subs for a brownie.

Or maybe that's just the way we're wired. It's like giving up meat. I know I hate meat; I make myself eat it once a week for the protein, but if I had my druthers, I'd never touch another piece of it. It's this dislike that makes me reticent to call myself a vegetarian; it seems that I shouldn't get points for doing something that I want to do anyway. Maybe life would be easier if I had been born hating sweet stuff and loving prime rib.

But that's a subject for another day. If you need me, I'll be over here in the corner, eating my kale instead of beef and eagerly awaiting dessert. I'll also be writing my diet book, which will tell you how to curb your pulled pork cravings with a nice bowl of ice cream.
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Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Recipe Review: Raspberry White Chocolate Chip Cookies

You know how there are just those things that you particularly like the store-bought version of?

I know, I know, as a sustainable living blogger, I should be horrified at the thought of ingesting something processed or less than organic.  But, I'll admit, there are a few things that I just like the processed version of, and I have trouble replacing them even with the purest, most love-filled homemade version.

One of these things was a particular type of boxed cookie mix that comes in festive flavors like key lime, orangeade, and the like.  I really liked the flavor, although I am not fond of the GMOs, the possible pesticide and herbicide residue, and the price.

But now I have a solution.  Let's visit another blogger who has solved my problem:  Chocolate, Chocolate and More.  Come back after you take a look.

Her cherry cookies looked like the bomb (pun intended), so I altered it a bit to make my version.  I used 2 Tbsp of raspberry Jello, omitted the pudding, and focused on using sustainably-produced ingredients, like local farm eggs, organic butter, and organic flour and sugar.  My only processed ingredients were the Jello and the white chocolate chips.

Voila!  A cookie with lots of raspberry flavor and a much better health profile.  I can't wait to try lime, lemon, and orange Jello with complementary chip flavors (like white with the orange to make creamsicle!).  And, I know I'm getting a lot more cookies of a better quality than my mix provided. I'm sold.  Thank you, Chocolate, Chocolate and More!

Raspberry White Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 cup organic butter, softened
1 cup organic sugar
2 Tbsp Raspberry Jello (just the powder)
2 pastured eggs
1/2 tsp organic vanilla
2 1/2 cup organic flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 bag white chocolate chips

Mix butter, sugar, Jello, eggs, vanilla, baking soda, and salt together and stir until creamy.  Add flour, then fold in chips.

Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto a baking sheet and bake at 350 for 12 minutes.  Let cool 5 minutes before removing from cookie sheet.  Makes about 4 dozen.

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Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Sustainable Pin: The Shower Cleaning Wand

Ick, it's a picture of the corner of my shower!

Well, it still needs cleaned, but it's getting better. And that's thanks to an idea I saw on Pinterest.

As you know, cleaning our stupid plastic shower surround is a continual job. The very best way, as I've written, is by using our shower steamer.  That gets things the cleanest while using no harmful chemicals, but it takes some time to set up.

In between, we needed a way to do touch ups without using the expensive and harmful aerosol chemicals. So, I saw this pin on Pinterest and gave it a try.

Basically, this is a cheap dish washing wand with the reservoir filled half with white vinegar and half with Dawn dishsoap.  Both of those do a great job cutting the soap scum.  I just spend about 30 seconds when I get in the shower cleaning a corner or a panel, then rinse the head off and get on with my business.  I'm making a dent in the cleaning that needs to be done in there.

What I like about this idea is that the whole family could take part.  You could ask your kids to do the same thing when they take their showers, and everyone would play a role in keeping the shower clean.

Of course, it will still need steamed from time to time, but this is a nice touch-up and pretty friendly to your lungs and skin since you never touch harmful chemicals.

The Analysis

Fast:  Quick set-up and quick to use.

Cheap:  I think the wand was less than $2, and it uses only pennies of soap and vinegar.

Good:  I love this way to sort of keep up with my cleaning without waiting for "bathroom cleaning day."
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Monday, February 1, 2016

A Sustainable Interlude: The Black Mangrove Experiment

Normally, I don't write about anything that doesn't somehow fit the "Fast, Cheap, and Good" model of sustainable living. Mostly, that's because I generally don't do things just for the pleasure of it; I like doing projects that have a definite benefit to me and my family.

When it's not gardening season, however, all bets are off, and there's a pretty good chance I will completely lose my mind at some point. This year, it is growing black mangroves.

Mangroves are a tree that grows in swampy land near the coasts in warm climates. There are a variety of species, each of which can handle a different level of salinity. The purpose of the mangrove is to create new soil (and therefore, new land) while it removes salt from the water to obtain fresh water for its own growth.  According to one expert I've spoken to, mangroves, along with detritivores like worms and sea cucumbers, are an important part of creating new land to replace the soil that erodes from the coasts. Mangrove trees can grow to be 60 feet tall and need to have relatively warm temperatures to survive, although they apparently don't require salt water to be healthy.

There is, therefore, no reason that a gardener stuck on the border of zones five and six should be trying to grow mangrove trees in the middle of February, but I am.

I don't know what I think I'm trying to do here, except entertain myself.  I think mangroves are some of the prettiest plants around, and I just love when they take root on the beach and start to grow on the sand. So, I ordered some seedlings, planted them in fine sandy soil, and am hoping they take off. If nothing else, the project will amuse me for a while.

I just hope I don't wind up with a 60 foot mangrove in my house.
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