Welcome to My Year Without

On January 1, 2008, I made a New Year's resolution to cut out refined sugar for one year. I cut out white refined sugar and corn syrups. My quest to be sugar-free evolved into political interest, public health, and letter writing to food manufacturers. Join me in sugar sleuthing, and learn more about the psychological aspects of sugar addiction, and those who push sugar on us.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Honey Pistachio Yogurt Parfait

Do you like yogurt? Even kind of? I'm not a huge fan of yogurt, but I know that the live acidophilus in it is really healthy for our bodies. Also, ever since I found Nancy's yogurt, I have enjoyed eating it fresh and sugar free. It's delicious in smoothies, too, adding a nice twang to a fruit sweetened favorite of mine. My favorite flavor is the organic vanilla.

I have adopted a new way of eating yogurt since I ate breakfast at Besaw's Restaurant. I ordered their "Yogurt Parfait" and have been making it at home ever since-- especially mornings when I wake up with a raging sweet tooth. It's not too often that I get a case of the raging sweet tooths, but when I do, it's really easy to tell my system to shut up. I feed it honey.

The yogurt parfait looks and tastes perfect when you layer yogurt, honey and crunchy pistachios.

There is a high probability that you will not have a sweet tooth after eating this!

The yogurt parfait is also an excellent quick meal for any time of the day. I have eaten it when I needed a filling, quick dinner, or a speedy breakfast. The slowest part about it is cracking open the pistachios! If you are serving guests, it is fun to put it in clear wine glasses and layer the yogurt with honey and pistachios. It looks really pretty and tastes magnificent! Enjoy!

Monday, September 22, 2008

New Energy Efficient Process Turns Sugar into Gasoline

Check out this exciting article. I feel much better about sugar going into my car instead of my mouth.

Stock, anyone?

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Samples of a Sugar-Free Diet

Here is an example of two different days eating sugar-free. The first day is from my first month of going without sugar!

Food journal entry: January 28th, 2008

Black Coffee
Veggie tofu scramble
Whole wheat carrot raisin toast with butter

Salsa Verde

Bulgar with sun dried tomatoes

"Rice sweetened" chocolate cookies

Spaghetti with sugar-free marinara sauce
Green Salad with tomatoes and olive oil

More rice sweetened chocolate cookies

Food journal entry: March 26th, 2008


Coffee with rice milk
Barbara's whole wheat cereal with rice milk


Vegetable soup
Ezekial cinnamon raisin bread with butter

Hot herbal tea

Cheese grits
Collard greens
Sweet potato fries

Thursday, September 18, 2008

No Salad Dressing!

I'm sick of looking for sugar-free salad dressings. It takes too long to read all of those tiny ingredients, and I don't like to buy the same dressing twice because I like variety. I can do all my grocery shopping in less than 30 minutes, unless I am shopping for salad dressing. Then I can expect to be an extra 15 minutes. Also, I have not found one brand that I can count on to be sugar-free. Some of Annie's dressings are sugar-free but not all of them, some of Newman's dressings are sugar-free but not all of them, and so on. I realize that if I made my own salad dressings, I wouldn't be faced with this problem, but I have not found a way to keep my homemade dressings from going bad right away.

Yesterday I found the answer. I recently signed up with a local CSA and last weekend brought home a gigantic bag of produce and herbs. I made a huge salad with different lettuce greens, tomatillos, lemon cucumber and a bunch of fresh basil. Frustrated at my lack of salad dressing on hand, I debated pouring olive oil on my salad. Maybe a splash of balsamic vinegar. For some reason, though, that just didn't sound appetizing and my salad looked really appetizing. "I'll try the salad plain," I thought.

I took a huge forkful of lettuce, a piece of cucumber, a leaf of basil and a slice of tomatillo. My senses went berserk. I have never had such a rush of fresh flavors--and all unspoiled by dressing. I thought I might miss the added moist texture that dressing adds, but I got that sensation from the fresh and juicy cucumbers. Every bite of the salad was heaven.

What's funny is that I had never before considered eating a salad without dressing. I've always considered dressing a salad ingredient!

So, without delay, go get some fresh salad greens and vegetables. Throw them together and add fresh basil, thyme, marjoram, etc. The flavor will knock you out!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

If You Quit Eating Sugar, You Can do Anything!

It should come as no surprise that this year has had its fair share of changes and challenges. Going without sugar?! Keeping a New Year's resolution has always been an important goal of mine and I have reached that goal off and on in years past. There have been some goals that have fallen to the wayside (doing the splits, doing 100 sit-ups every morning, reading through the entire bible, etc.) but I'm proud to say that going without sugar will be a goal that I will most likely accomplish. Along with this, there have been a plethora of other unusual events in my life this year. Beginning with cutting out all white refined sugar in my diet, which led to cutting out all corn syrups, which led to cutting out white refined flour (for the most part...), which has led me towards some excellent reading material, some of which I am still chewing on. Striving to eat healthy in all possible ways has become this year's mantra. I've gravitated towards fresh over packaged, and home made over store bought.

Eating healthy has lent me to thinking about other areas of my life, as well. I started to re-think all aspects of my life. I mean, since I've been able to give up sugar, I feel like I can do anything. It almost feels like a quiet superpower.

So far this year I've:
  • Quit sugar
  • Sold my adorable little bungalow in the city
  • Quit my established career
  • Supported my husband as he quit his established career in the television business for the last 10 years
  • Traveled to Mexico to build houses
  • Explored the country, taking several road trips
  • Temporarily relocated out in the country, and
  • Joined a CSA.
There is something very exciting psychologically that happens when you accomplish something that you never dreamed was possible. I can't believe I let little white granules have so much power over me and my discipline. Looking back it will seem easy, but it has not been! I had to work at it and think about it every day, and still do.

Recently, I was faced with my fear of heights standing over a 80 foot cliff edge. My husband and I were traveling through Montana and Idaho and stopped at a gas station to talk to some locals. They encouraged us to go on a hike that leads into the woods with a waterfall at the end. That sounded like so much fun, so after driving several hours, we saw the sign for the falls and pulled over. The first challenge was to climb a metal, see-through staircase 4 stories high above and over the train tracks that ran through the forest. I didn't think much about it until I heard someone above coming down the stairs say to us,

"Hope you're not afraid of heights, this is really high and you can see through the stairs to the ground below!"

The next moment an elderly couple passed us and as the woman passed by me, I saw large beads of sweat across her forehead and caught her nervous scent.

(To back up briefly, I am not only afraid of heights, I am terrified. At malls I only go on the first flight of escalators and even then my knees always feel shaky. If I need to go up any higher I find the elevator.)

We crossed the tracks and I made it up that steep, see-through staircase uneventfully. Next, we hiked on a little path through the woods until my husband yells, "Look at that!" Up ahead we could see a narrow swing bridge dangling over the river. "Well, I hope J enjoys crossing that bridge....I'll be taking pictures," I thought to myself. However, while I was thinking about the see-through staircase that I had just climbed, I had a moment of inspiration. I decided to evaluate the situation and ignore my fear of heights for the moment. I knew I wouldn't be pressured into crossing the bridge, so I fanticized about crossing and not feeling afraid of it. The swing bridge hung about 70-80 feet above a violent, roaring river. The bright blue color of the river was beautiful, especially in contrast to the gray, rocky cliffs on either side. The swing bridge immediately became my sugar. Was I going to let it be bigger than my willpower? While my husband free-jumped from rock to rock down below, I stood staring ahead at the swing bridge. It looked strong. People were crossing it. It was only about 150 feet long. Here was my chance to prove something else to myself. I had already overcome some gigantic challenges this year, why not add this to the list?

I climbed up a little wooden staircase to the entrance of the bridge. I felt nervous but excited. I knew I was going to give this my best shot. Suddenly, before I knew what I was doing, both hands reached out and grabbed the thick, metal railing. I put one foot onto the wooden floor of the bridge, followed by my other foot. I slowly stepped forward, sliding my hands along the bouncy railing. I had the bridge to myself. After a total of about 8 steps, I stopped and evaluated the length of the bridge before me. My heart was pounding but I had already done more than I ever thought possible. I gripped the railing tight until my hands hurt and steadily proceeded forward. I moved carefully so as to keep the swing bridge from swinging. Then I heard my husband shout from below and give me the thumbs up. He was taking pictures and I knew he knew just what I was going through. I hesitated on the bridge once more and all of a sudden a wash of panic went through me. Huge rock lay directly beneath me. With a few more steps I would be standing over the mighty river. Instantly my legs felt like jell-o and I started to shake.

"What better moment to move forward, than right in the middle of a full-blown panic attack?" I thought to myself. If I knew there were not other people around, I would have yelled out loud, "Go! Go! Go!" I heard and felt my brain and my heart synchronize these simple words. If I was to ever get over my fear of heights, here was my chance to begin. I looked down at the rocks and river below and then looked up. I stared straight ahead as if my Fear was an entity standing before me. All of a sudden, it felt like Fear was outside of me, taunting me, but not inside me anymore. I adjusted my grip again on the railing, straightened my back, and moved forward with a confidence that I have never experienced before in my life. I knew I could walk all the way across the bridge, but I stopped when I got to the middle. I was going to consider this baby steps and confidently return to the edge.

Once I was standing on solid ground again, I looked out at the swing bridge and felt elated. I was shivering and taking giant breaths. My adrenaline was pumping and I was sweating despite the cool breeze. I saw J jumping from rock to rock in my direction, clutching his camera in one hand. "You did it!" he shouted and I teared up. My biggest fear no longer had quite a hold on me.

"Next time we are out here, I will cross the bridge all the way," I said.

"I know you will," J said.

I had no idea that cutting sugar out of my diet would give me this kind of confidence. But if I can truly go the rest of the year without eating it, then I know that I can do anything.

Lemon Poppy Seed Cake

I recently toyed around with some ingredients and came up with this recipe. It was exactly what I was craving. I have not had lemon cake in a long time, nor poppy seed anything, so I decided to combine the two with natural sweeteners to see what happened. The result is a spongy, rich, very moist cake and quite heavy. It really hits the spot if you are craving something really sweet and chewy. It is very moist on its own, thanks to the sweetener I used, agave nectar, so it does not need frosting. Also, I have been abstaining from white refined flour, but I decided to go ahead and use it this once since I was experimenting with a new recipe. I am really excited to start baking with some of the new flours that I have bought but I need better recipes than the few listed on the packaging. Luckily, I live fairly close to Bob's Red Mill where anything and everything can be and is turned into flour. Here are some types of flours I've seen, to name a few: garbonzo bean flour, millet flour, teff flour, buckwheat flour, potato flour, almond meal flour, black bean flour, white rice and brown rice flours, corn flour, green pea flour, etc. I have teff flour and millet flour here at home, but I decided to use white flour. I should have photographed the cake for you, but now that it's half eaten, it wouldn't be pretty. Feel free to toy around with the ingredients here. You could use honey instead of agave nectar, which is sometimes hard to find at the grocery store. Let me know what you think!

Lemon Poppy Seed Cake

1 C. flour
1/3 C. poppy seeds
1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/2 C. agave nectar
1/4 C. melted butter
2 eggs
1/2 C. fat-free milk
3 Tblsp. fresh lemon juice
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 tsp. pure lemon extract

350 degrees. Cover a 9" square pan with non-stick spray. Combine dry ingredients and then add wet ingredients. Mix only until everything is moistened. Bake for 25-30 minutes and then cool on wire rack. Enjoy!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Red Robin Restaurant and a Little Known Sugar Fact

I love gardenburgers. My husband loves Red Robin. It's a treat for him to go, so I found something that I like there, too. In highschool and college I used to go with friends to eat their gigantic mud pie. It has peanut butter and chocolate and an oreo cookie crust. It has been years since I have eaten one of those, and it was years that I had eaten at a Red Robin at all until I met my meat-eating husband. Since, I have found a healthy, sugar-free menu item and I order it every time. I get the gardenburger in a lettuce wrap with tomato, instead of a bun. Who ever enjoys the bun? It is simply a handy delivery system, but is made with white flours and sugars. My husband and I agreed that if people got the "burger" wrapped in lettuce, or just plain, no one would miss the bun or ask for it afterward. It is simply a "refined" (pun intended) way to eat the burger.

Recently, we were eating at a Red Robin in Coeur D'Alene and we ordered our bunless burgers. They of course always come with big fat french fries. I don't care for their fries because they are too big, not greasy enough, and for some reason hard to swallow. If I do eat some, I usually choke a little. This particular afternoon I felt like eating a couple of fries, and so I grabbed the famous Red Robin shaker of spicy salt. I completely covered my fries with it and my husband sat across the table staring at me.

"I need more salt in my diet," I said.

"Have you checked the ingredients?" he said with major emphasis on the word ingredients.

"Why should I? It's salt!" I said, feeling my palms starting to sweat.

"But you check the ingredients of everything!" he said, looking at me surprised.

"Okay, I'll check. It just didn't cross my mind to check this. It's salt..." My palms were sweating and I was fearing the very worst. What if I was eating sugar? How could they add sugar to the spicy salt?

"Please, oh please, oh please..." I said to myself as I grabbed the salt shaker and began reading ingredients.

"Whaaaaat?! No way!!" My palms stopped sweating but I felt my insides sinking. "I can't believe this. Why would they do this?!"

There it was, in black, bold letters, "dextrose", another word for sugar. It is very similar to table sugar, and is absorbed into the bloodstream at the same dangerous speed as table sugar. It is an ingredient on my No-No list, because it is basically the same thing as sugar.

"Bummer...." was all I could say. It's not like I really wanted to eat those chokingly thick fries anyway. They were just sitting there and I was still a little hungry. "Well, now I know," I told myself.