Confessions of a Busy Mom

The truth is that sometimes you just order take out for a meal.

To balance out all my posts on healthy eating I want to write this confession saying that sometime you are just too sick or tired or both to cook anything. So, you go out or order in.

It is a rule, by which people try to live: “pay it forward,” and it applies brilliantly to a healthy diet. Meaning, there is no need to be a 100% vegan or vegetarian. The research shows that as long as you keep a ratio of 95%-to-5% (with the animal product of 5%), your diet is super-healthy. So, on my bad days I like to tap into my allotted 5% of unhealthy reserves.

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Europe

 

What worries me most is the frequency with which I experience respiratory-related problems that are directly caused by the low air quality here. Being a teacher, my throat is my weakest spot: if I get slight cold symptoms, I lose my voice easily. To prevent it from happening I run to a doctor who is happy to prescribe me 5-6 different pills. IMG_20140611_121615Taking that many meds often makes me feel uncomfortable. So, to strengthen my throat I have gone to some lengths, including taking voice lessons and completely changing the diet. In other words, I took control of any controllable factors. However, the result is negligible. I get sick almost monthly in Korea. However, it is not the case in any other parts of the world that I happen to be, which inevitably brings me to the only conclusion – air pollution.

Asia

Asia

There are only a few places that monitor air quality

There are only a few places that monitor air quality in North America

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World data

People in the US are still debating if Global Warming is real. They have that luxury of fact-denial because so far they have never needed to wear masks outside. But this is the reality for the entire Asian continent. Of course, even in China there are those who think air pollution is a good thing because it “brings a nation together,” but being sick is a lonely and terrible business. Wearing a mask feels like a punishment in winter, and a torture in summer. IMG_20140417_114821Besides, I really wonder how effective a mask can be at keeping micro-sized dirty particles at bay… Soon enough the pollution will spread (no country has a glass dome over it), and a few places with clean air will become unaffordable for the majority. Still, if you choose to ignore the facts, data, real examples from around the world about the imminent danger of air pollution (aka Global Warming), on which side is it safer to err: (a) make some adjustments in daily habits to clean up air just in case or (b) leave the shit up in the air and hope for the best?

Healthy Eating Tips for Busy Moms

This is my 1 million dollar invention, and I am happy to share it with you! But not without a story…

As the story goes, anytime my mom, who learned to cook pasta in the South of Italy, would visit me in the US and after tasting any brand of a store-bought tomato sauce, she would lovingly call it “ketchup.” I thought my mom turned into an unnecessarily picky Italian housewife, but then I visited Italy and tasted Italian pasta with tomato sauce…

 

The secret of amazing Italian pasta sauce – is to use only tomato juice, olive oil and salt. In August-September families in the south buy about 50-100kg of tomatoes, put them through an industrial-size grinder and then boil the crushed tomatoes with added olive oil and salt. The result is almost sweet and watery sauce “sugo” that they bottle and share between the family members. Even store-bought sugo will be of a clear red color without any spices! Why? Wait for it……because depending on the pasta type, the person who cooks will add the “correct” spices to customize sugo to the pasta shape. Plain boiled sugo made from ripe tomatoes has a very neutral taste. IMG_0191

So, I recreated the sugo process at home. As a result, I have not used a store-bought tomato pasta sauce from a jar for over a year now, which means I control sugars, additives, food coloring, and preserving agents. There can be a dozen of variations, but this will start you off. Total prep time is 10 minutes.

1. Add pasta in a boiling water (100 gr per person). Let it boil for 10 minutes.

IMG_01922. While it is boiling cut 2-3 tomatoes with some onions and fresh herbs.

3. Blend it all together with a teaspoon of salt. IMG_0194

4. Drain water from pasta, return the pasta to the pot and add fresh sauce to the pot.

 

IMG_01955. Variations by season. In winter I boil sauce; in summer I don’t.

6. Variation by taste. Try adding either red or yellow bell pepper. The color change is terrific! Or experiment with herbs. Have fun!

7. Variations to make it healthier: add blended Flax seeds or other seeds.

 

Healthy Eating for Busy Moms: Breakfast

Kids healthy breakfast idea is….pancakes! If only I could reasonably take credit for inventing pancakes 🙂 No, I can not. However, I can share my “busy mom”  version of homemade pancakes. Yes. Homemade. I simply do not trust hydrogenated and dehydrated ingredients in store-bought pancake mixes, especially when there is another way to make pancakes super-fast every morning.

IMG_0219Are you worried that homemade pancakes may be not healthy enough? Well, let’s compare them to pop-tarts, morning cereals, yogurt and other store-bought-and-factory-made breakfast options. Carbs are present in all, but in homemade pancakes you can control sugar levels, and you can use organic dairy ingredients. Besides, this is kids breakfast, not a supermodel’s meal.

Bad news: the recipe that I paste below is difficult, and you must follow it exactly. Good news: this batch lasts 3 days in the fridge. So, you can feed the kid for 3 mornings. My husband is making a batch the night before while I do the bed-time routine. Often he doubles the recipe, and it lasts 5 days. We do not keep batter longer than that. Even though it does not spoil (we have tested it daily during the past year), pancakes become less fluffy with each passing day. So, take your pick: you can just make fresh batter every 3 days.IMG_0218

Here is the pancake recipe, exactly as I make it:

First, place 2 tablespoons of butter in a pan on the stove and turn it to halfway between “Lo” and “2.”

Second, take two eggs and separate them with your hands into two bowls (yolks in one, whites in the other).  Add a heaping tablespoon of sugar and some salt (no more than 1/4 teaspoon) to the yolks and mix them well with a fork.  Then beat the whites until they stiffen a bit.

Then take 1 cup of flour and put it into a large bowl.  Add 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of Baking Powder and 1/2 teaspoon of Baking Soda.

Put the egg yolks and 1 cup of milk into the bowl with the flour and use the whisk to mix it together.  Keep an eye on the butter, it should be melted by now and you can turn it off.

Then add about 1/3 cup of sour cream (or plain yogurt) and mix.

IMG_0217Then pour in the melted butter and mix while you pour… or just pour it in and be sure to mix well.

Then dump in the egg whites and mix well.

Put the pan on the stove and turn it on to about 4… let it heat up first before you start making the pancakes.  This way the pancake will not stick as much, although the first one will stick a little bit no matter what.  There is no need to add oil or butter to the pan…

 

 

Healthy Eating for Busy Moms: Breakfast

A healthy breakfast option for adults is a smoothie. IMG_0206No, not from a store or a cafe, but homemade. Why? You will cut on unnecessary sugars and add foods high in energy, which will help you to last until lunch. Obviously, no one has time in the morning to peel fresh fruit, so consider my prep tricks.

IMG_01971. I buy 4-5 pounds (2 kg) of fresh strawberries at a farmer’s marker on Friday. I wash all berries, clean the leaves, and divide between 5 plates. First plate we eat same evening fresh 🙂 Second plate I leave in the fridge for breakfast. The remaining plates of berries I freeze. Depending on how much berries you buy and how many people are going to have a smoothie – you will have to divide berries into your portion sizes. IMG_0198

2. First thing in the morning – take 1 plate of berries out of the freezer, leave it to thaw for 10-15 before blending it.

 

3. Add flax seeds. Find your portion. Mine is a modest teaspoon.

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4. Add bananas. I use 2-3 for 2 people. Bananas make smoothie sweeter.

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5. Add oats. I use about a cup for 2 people. Oats will give you energy. Do not use any Kellogg’s sugary invention, but just grain. If a smoothie gets too thick, add water.

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6. For variations try adding other types of berries.