You suck, Jell-O.

Jell-O Ingredients

Ingredients for Jell-O Handi-Snacks

My husband, bless his heart, is a great dad. But a foodie, he is not. He went to the grocery store the other day and brought home beer, dark chocolate, and jello. I have absolutely no problem with the first two items, the third item makes me angry. They market this crap (Jell-O) to kids and it’s completely absent of any nutrition. To prove this, I’m going to quickly research all the ingredients and tell you, and myself, what each of them are. The brand of Jell-O is Jell-O Handi-Snacks.
Water – thank god for this one, it’s the only healthy thing on the menu at the Jell-O factory.

Sugar – of course that is the second ingredient. FYI, if you are eating something and the first, or second ingredient is sugar, it is most certainly not healthy.

Adipic Acid (for tartness) – Wikipedia tells us, “About 2.5 billion kilograms of this white crystalline powder are produced annually, mainly as a precursor for the production of nylon.”

Locust Bean Gum – Wikipedia says, “LBG is used as a thickening agent and gelling agent in food technology.” Farm technology makes sense to me, what is ‘food technology’?

Carrageenan – This ingredient is the gelatin, was wondering where that was. Wikipedia says, “Carrageenan is a vegetarian and vegan alternative to gelatin.”

Sodium Citrate (controls acidity) – I believe it is a form of salt.

Fumaric Acid (for tartness) – Wikipedia says, “Fumaric acid has a fruit-like taste.” Hmm, why not use real fruit? Maybe real fruit doesn’t taste enough like fruit.

Potassium Citrate – This ingredient is odorless, and apparently has a saline taste. Wikipedia says, “Medicinally, it may be used to control kidney stones derived from either uric acid or cystine.”

Sodium Benzoate – preservative

Potassium Sorbate – preservative

Salt – yep

Red 40 – Wikipedia tells us, “Red AC (another name for Red 40) was originally manufactured from coal tar, but is now mostly made from petroleum.”

Natural and Artificial Flavor – what does this mean?

Kraft touts, “only 70 calories per pack,” well isn’t that just fantastic? Wouldn’t want to give kids too many calories. Wait, why don’t we give them whole foods and stop worrying about counting calories. By the way, I’m not a horrible meany, I let my oldest eat the Jell-O, but I guarantee it will be the last time that stuff makes it in my house. Don’t feed this mess to your family. Your body needs good, whole nutrition to function at full capacity. I guarantee this ‘food’ will not make you feel good, or make your body operate at full capacity.

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Time well spent

Healthy Snack Ideas

Frozen, shelled, organic edamame

I just spent the past hour making food for the girls. I was completely exhausted since I haven’t been sleeping well and my youngest is sick, a whiny baby is really no fun for anyone. I so didn’t want to do it, make the food. I wanted to sit on the couch and watch TV in my jammies, and drink wine and just veg. But, the food wasn’t going to make it self, so off I went. It’s amazing to me how happy I am doing things like that, and how hard it is to convince myself to do it beforehand. I like making food for my family, it makes me feel tied to the earth and my ancestors, and happy. I kept thinking about how my grandma spent all her time cooking for her family, three meals a day in fact, and she never really complained about it. Well, not that I remember, I was just a kid though, and have a selective memory. Anyway, I felt tied to her standing in my kitchen chopping up fruit, and boiling water. It felt good.

My youngest is still eating a different diet than the rest of us, so I made some stone-cut oatmeal with peaches for her. She is also starting to snack on some of the same things as Sam, so I made some whole wheat pasta and edamame for them both. Which made me think it might be nice to have a list of healthy snack ideas, so here is a list of healthy snack ideas:

  • fruit – any kind is awesome, pretty sure this is obvious?
  • edamame – I buy the frozen, shelled, organic from the local grocery and it takes like 15 minutes to prepare with boiling the water
  • garbanzo beans – I buy the canned, organic from the local grocery and rinse off all the salt, voila – snack!
  • popcorn – I found a recipe on the Snack Girl blog, she has an awesome, simple way to make your own in the microwave – have yet to try it, leave comments if you decide to give it a go
  • veggies with or without hummus – cut up carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, peppers, green beans
  • string cheese
  • goldfish – they make whole wheat and they aren’t half bad, your hands aren’t greasy when you get done eating them, too – bonus
  • nuts – my kid is allergic to tree nuts, so we only do peanuts
  • whole wheat pasta
  • dried fruit like raisins, plums – seriously, my kid loves them, and I do, too, although limit yourself! dangerous stomach rumblings
  • I’ll think of more…

Go OUTSIDE!

We love, love, love hiking at Hemlock Bluffs in Cary. Say what you will about Cary, but they know how to make nature awesome. Cary has so many greenway trails, hiking spots, and bike paths to explore, that are maintained and just well thought out. Most of our weekends are packed with fun stuff to do, birthdays, traveling, etc. But some very special weekends, we are home and have no plans and we will pack up the kids and snacks and go for a hike at the Bluffs.

There are several paths to choose from at Hemlock, most are less than a mile long, so they are easy enough to hike with a 2.5 year old and up. Or, if you want to hike the entire Bluffs, its approximately 3 miles total, so a great workout whether you hike, or run. I plan on training here for a hardcore trail run I’m doing this winter. Nothing gets you ready for hills, like running lots of hills.

Stevens Nature Center is on site at Hemlock Bluffs and has lots of great information about local wildlife, and some ‘stuffed’ animals to check out, and really knowledgeable staff, who seem to enjoy their jobs. FYI, I’m always amazed at how small foxes are. I was scared of them when I was younger, but when I see them now, I’m not sure why.

When we visited this weekend, I noticed they have some new stuff to see, like a water cistern to harvest rain water, new signs to replace the brochures they used to hand out, and new ‘mushrooms’ in the kids’ garden. You should take yourself, and your family, and your dogs, it is definitely worth the trip.

Baby food is cake

Don’t let anyone fool you, making food for babies is easy, time-consuming, but easy. You basically steam everything and then puree it in a food processor, until they get old enough to try some textures. Then you cut it up really small, or mash it up with a fork. Once they are ready, then start doing finger foods, eventually they eat what you eat. Some things to try that aren’t that time-consuming, bananas and avocado. You just peel them, mush them up and voila – you made baby food! Sweet potatoes – bake until soft and mush it with a fork – baby food. Seriously, its pretty awesome what they can eat, and those are first foods even, aka your 6 month old can try them.

Wholesome Baby Food website is a fantastic ‘how to’ on introducing whole foods like fruits and vegetables, grains, etc. to your baby. I’ve used it with both kids and was really pleased. Neither of my kids would eat butternut or acorn squash and the little bit they did have made them break out in a rash. Weird how that works – it’s like babies already know their bodies.

I’m pretty sure both my kids are good eaters because they tried, or are currently trying, all kinds of delicious, healthy foods. Yes, we use the packaged stuff when we travel, or go for a pool party, etc. It works just fine, but I enjoy making their food, and I save money if I make it myself, so why not?

Interview with the Bee Lady

Beautiful Butterfly

Beautiful butterfly at “Pollinator Paradise”

Last fall I interviewed an amazing woman, Debbie Roos, an Agricultural Extension Agent with North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Pittsboro, NC. Ms. Roos started a pollinator demonstration garden in Chatham County called the Chatham Mills “Pollinator Paradise” Garden.

Ms. Roos decided to start the “Pollinator Paradise” Garden mainly because of a loss of habitat in Chatham County and the effects on wildlife, including pollinators, like honey bees. A bee’s job is to pollinate flowering plants, either by gathering nectar or by gathering pollen. Personally, I didn’t realize one-third of the food we eat relies on bees. Debbie explained to me, “There is a lack of understanding of bees’ role in our food chain. Bees get confused with other stinging insects. They are fascinating and social. People don’t get stung at the gardens because there are no hives and they are foraging instead of defending their nest.”

Development in Chatham County has caused a loss of forage and nesting habitat. Demonstration gardens are a needed resource for beekeepers, farmers and gardeners. Some bees are native to the area, including bumble bees and carpenter bees, but honey bees are not. Ms. Roos started a web resource to increase interest in the topic, but an anonymous donor made a donation that allowed her to start the demonstration garden.

The garden is located at Chatham Marketplace in the Chatham Mills complex in Pittsboro. Ms. Roos choose Chatham Marketplace because there is already so much traffic for this private business, a food co-op, plus there is a local farmer’s market on site, so it’s a great way for people to see the garden and learn about it.

"Pollinator Paradise" Garden

“Pollinator Paradise” Garden

I asked Ms. Roos what positive effects she had noticed since the inception of the garden. The first thing she pointed out was that more people are planting their own gardens. But there are so many positive impacts from this simple demonstration garden. Economically, the garden is beautiful and interesting, which attracts visitors to the area, who then spend money at Chatham Marketplace and the farmer’s market. Also, the local nurseries are indirectly affected because Ms. Roos purchases her plants there, and she talks to garden guests about where to buy the plants she has on display. She holds tours frequently and has tourists from other cities and counties, bringing money into the area. She has had guests from all over the Piedmont and Sandhills region.

Socially, she is educating the public and getting people excited about plants and insects. People who may not have noticed or cared before will be inspired to create their own gardens. The garden brings people out to socialize with their neighbors, creating a strong sense of community. The garden has also created a demand for speaking engagements for Ms. Roos, which allows her to educate even more people.

Environmentally, the pollinator garden has increased the habitat for bees in Chatham County. As soon as Ms. Roos started the garden, the bees moved right in. 85% of her plants in the pollinator garden are native to Chatham County.

So, great, we have all these positive side effects of the pollinator garden, but what is the point? What are the ramifications for pollinators, like honey bees, habitat loss? This goes back to my point at the beginning, one-third of the food we eat relies on bees. If we don’t provide the habitat for bees, there will be a decline in bee populations, bee species will increasingly become endangered, or worse, extinct. Pollinators need to be protected to ensure we have the food, beverages, medicines, and other products we enjoy.

What can individuals do to promote bee habitat?

  • Plant a long season of bloom – try to always have something blooming spring through fall. Read through Debbie’s website, Growing Small Farms, for some really interesting ideas.
  • Start small, plant a garden that provides blooms in the spring to help emerging bees raise their young.
  • Plant container plants if you don’t have space for a garden, specifically perennials as well as some nonnative plants like herbs (basil, rosemary) to provide good bee forage.
  • Include plants that have a diversity of flower size, shape and color to attract a diversity of pollinators including butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds.
  • Plant native grasses, which provide nesting habitat (70% of native bees nest in the ground).
  • Leave seeds for birds so they will come back and forage.

Go see the “Pollinator Paradise” Garden for yourself, it’s worth the drive for the view, and the education. Plus you can shop for local food at the co-op, or the farmer’s market on site. For an online “tour” of the garden, visit http://bit.ly/QwkFoi.

Runner mama

Racer girl

Racing downtown Raleigh, finish line here we come!

My oldest started preschool this week, such a wonderful adventure for her, and for me. She gets a social outlet, and to paint and make a huge mess without me, and I get to run. The youngest and I went for a four mile run today after carpool drop off, and it was so wonderful. I run any chance I get, and with two kids that means you have to be ready in a second, because your chance may not come again the entire day. Running in the morning is definitely preferable during this long, hot NC summer. It’s rare that I get a chance to go in the morning, but when it works out, it’s just beautiful. Now to shower and start prepping for dinner. And yes, I know its only 11am – that is the only way we can eat healthy, start early!

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What?

I decided to write a blog about what I know – food, exercise, and living well.  I had a blog about my kids for a while, but once I started staying home with them, it wasn’t that fun to write about us. When I was working, all I could think about was being home with my girl, so writing about her seemed a way I could stay connected to her. When I finally bit the bullet and decided to stay home, I didn’t have time to write about us, I was too busy living it. Now I’m plenty connected to my kids, and need a way to connect with my former independent self. So here goes…

I’ve learned a ton about living well since I had my first child and feel the need to share. So read on, if you want, or go away – whatever suits you.