Just LOOK how well we are doing on the 'no sugar' front! You can take the baking away from The Girl, but you can't take the baker out of The Girl. Banning the baking has been hard on the poor pet, but a holiday sleepover with her 'girls' saw her spending half a blissful day in the kitchen in preparation. I came home to find the kitchen table covered with chocolate butterflies 'curing' on baking paper resting in the centre of a number of large open books, to give the butterflies that 'just about to fly away' effect. There was icing and chocolate on every surface, piping bags full of chocolate and icing, and mixing bowls full of batter, all being 'cleaned' efficiently by a certain small sister.
I have been contemplating the effects of our new 'not so much' sugar lifestyle. First, it is very, very difficult not to give in to the whining. I don't think I have ever realised how much we equate sugar with love, comfort and happiness. And how much certain children will attempt to capitalise on that. And what a very easy touch I am for emotional manipulation. I swear I will never take Posy to the supermarket EVER AGAIN. If from this you deduce that the sugar sometimes still jumps from the shelf into the trolley, you would be absolutely correct.
Second, how much sugar there is everywhere, everyday, available for consumption at every turn. One day last week there was an article in our local paper quoting a WHO researcher who was becoming concerned at the 'normalisation' of sugar in children's diets. What was once maybe a once-a-week treat is now becoming an everyday snack - chocolate, lollies, cakes, biscuits. Interestingly, this was also something touched on in the comments in the last post. When did sugary treats become a lunchbox staple?
Third, I have discovered how awful all that sugar really makes me feel. After a week of eating well, the weekend treats (no, of course I haven't been eating them in moderation. Lemon slice for breakfast covers all the major food groups, surely) make me feel positively unwell. This could be because I am getting quite old and my once cast-iron digestion is beginning to let me down. The children appear to be able to eat cake for breakfast with complete impunity.
Fourth, keeping sugar for a weekend treat makes it just that - a wonderful, precious moment of sweetness, much anticipated and savoured. OK, more savoured if possibly I could resist eating cake for breakfast, but, well, it was there, you know..
Which brings us to point number five - if it is there, we eat it. During the last couple of weeks the dear wee petals have been wandering from fridge to pantry like unquiet shades. 'There is nothing to eeeeeat,' they moan, clanking jars of condiments around in the fridge like Marley's Ghost, hoping against hope that there is something tasty behind the chutney. There is of course - cheese and fruit and vegies and dip and nuts and the odd bit of dried fruit. Mostly they sigh and choose an orange or nibble on a date, or decide they are not really hungry, because they're not, of course. Most of us are never really actually hungry, because we don't go long enough between meals to let our tummies get to growling stage. But there must be something so addictive about sugar. Because I can look at an array of oranges, dates, cheese and capsicum slices and decide I am not hungry, but put a plate of chocolate cake in front of me, and suddenly my appetite returns. I believe this may also account for that mysterious manifestation, the extra 'dessert stomach', where no matter how full you are, there is always room for a little sweet something.. So taking away all the sweet somethings has somehow recalibrated our appetites.
I have been watching (actually listening to, whilst doing something tedious, like cleaning the bathroom) The Men Who Made Us FatThis series of documentaries on the food industry is extraordinarily intriguing. I think the most disturbing thing about it for me is the glimpse into the workings of the corporations who make a great deal of money from processing our food. It made me absolutely determined that the food my family eat will be prepared by me, or the local butcher and baker who I can talk to, and who are passionate about their craft, not by a giant corporation whose passion is for shaving a few cents off the product and the process wherever they can. Even though I find cooking dreadfully tedious, I am motivated by a great deal of concern about my children's health and well being. The convenience of food-in-a-box is far outweighed by the knowledge that the people who put the food in the box have absolutely no interest in my children's health and well being.
Well, I promised my latest, and most successful to date, muesli bar recipe. It is actually a cookie, and based on this recipe which Jessie sent to me several weeks ago. True to form, I couldn't stick to the recipe as given, but experimented and tweaked. The original recipe only has two ingredients, coconut and medjool dates. I only ever have the dry dates, so needed to add dried fruit to give the mixture the moisture it needed to clump together. Now I am excited about the potential of using our own dried fruit this summer to make it more of a local production. I also added the sunflower seeds for extra protein. This is a very nutrient and calorie dense cookie - I have been sending them along to school on the days the girls go straight from school to afternoon sport. This is not food for the couch potato (ie me). It is also a very loosely interpreted recipe, and ripe for further experimentation. If you try it, let me know what further tweaks are successful..
Muesli Bar Cookies
Whiz up a couple of handfuls of sunflower seeds in the food processor.
Add a cup of dessicated coconut, a cup of dates, and at least a cup of assorted dried fruit.
Other optional extras may include a couple of tablespoons of cocoa powder, sesame seeds, soaked chia seeds, or other tasty tidbits from the pantry.
Whiz it all up until it all clumps together in a dough. If it doesn't clump, add more dried fruit.
Try not to eat all the dough.
Roll into balls, squash down with a fork, bake in a 150C oven for 10-15 mins until they begin to be hard to the touch.
When they are cooled on the tray they will be crispy on the outside and delightfully chewy and moist in the middle.
Tired, but determinedly cheerful mother of four. One grown up son (The Boy), one grown up daughter (The Girl), two girls at home, Rosy (16) and Posy (11). Trying to buy a little less, make a little more, live a little lighter, not mess up the children too much..