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Monday, May 30, 2011

Chocolate Syrup with no HFCS, homemade Cocoa Mix - and my thoughts on HFCS

I’m going to start out this post with yummy and healthier recipes for chocolate syrup, and for homemade hot cocoa mix.  If you are interested in why I choose to avoid High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) and make these items myself, I’ll include that below.  I thought some of you may think that two posts in a row from my soap box is too many.

Chocolate syrup
1/2 cup cocoa powder (I use organic because at least 30 pesticides are used in the growing of cocoa
1 cup of organic cane sugar
1 cup of water
1/2 tsp vanilla

There are numerous recipes out there, this is one I developed myself.  Blend together first 3 ingredients and cook over medium heat until it comes to a boil, careful to not boil over.  Boil for 1 minute, and then remove from heat to cool.  When cool add the vanilla.  This makes a syrup a little thinner than the store bought, but it tastes very good and the kids love being able to have it again. Maybe boiling it a little longer would make it thicker.

When we go camping, we love to drink hot cocoa around the campfire in the evenings.  I was able to find hot cocoa mix at the grocery store without HFCS, but I could not find any without hydrogenated oil in it.  I’m not sure why the heck hot cocoa NEEDS hydrogenated oil in it, yuck! I could have bought some at the health food store, but it is very expensive, and I didn’t want to make another trip.  So I found this recipe online Link to recipe

Hot Cocoa Mix
3 cups dry milk powder
1/2 cup organic cocoa
1 cup of organic cane sugar
Dash of salt

Mix together and store in an air tight container.  To use: Stir 3 heaping teaspoons of mix to 1/2 of hot water, or to your personal taste.  I didn’t have powdered milk, so I mixed the last 3 ingredients, and brought regular milk, heated it and stirred in the, milk free powdered mix.  The kids liked it, I felt it was a little too sweet for my taste, and think next time I would use less sugar or maybe more cocoa.

Ok, the rest of the story…
I have mentioned before that few years ago I removed high fructose corn syrup from our diet.  Well I have removed most of it, it’s nearly impossible to completely avoid if you eat out or eat anything out of a package, which we try not to do very often.  It was one of the first big changes we made to our diet, and there have been many more to come.  When one of my teenagers had borderline high cholesterol and LDL and elevated liver enzymes, our pediatrician gave us the advice to avoid HFCS.  When most people think of high cholesterol, they dont think of the sugar in their diet, they probably think of red meat and eggs, but the truth is a high sugar diet, is a high fat diet.  It is, really! Watch the video I talk about below to learn more about this.  The following year, all of the labs were within the normal range. 

The video “Sugar the Bitter Truth” is from the University of California Television and the lecture is by Robert H. Lustig, MD, UCSF Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology.  The video is offered on UCTV and YouTube, if you have a slow connection like mine, the youtube one can be paused and load before you watch it, the UCTV one is streamed live and kept stopping.  It is a wonderful video about sugar and HFCS, ok so there are a couple parts of it where your eyes will glaze over because of a chemical reaction discussion, and to be fair, I’ll let you know up front the video is 90 minutes long, but it is worth the time investment, and is really eye opening.  

Another reason to avoid HFCS is that it is made from genetically modified corn. Here is a short (2.5 minute) video, which gives us some good reasons to think about whether GMO's are safe and if we should be eating them. (Sorry no matter what I do that link doesn't work. When you get to the page not found message, type in the search box "double dipping danger" and can locate the video that way.

There is a lot of advertising out there trying to get us to believe that our bodies can’t tell the difference between HFCS and regular sugar, but  Here is a link to a Princeton study that shows that shows higher rates of obesity in rats fed HFCS in concentrations lower than soda, compared to rats fed table sugar, even with equal calorie levels.   (Thanks to my friend Madeline who posted the GMO video and Princeton study on her facebook page so I could steal them for here).

Finally, if you are as annoyed as I am by those corn syrup commercials, this Saturday Night Live spoof will give you a laugh. 

Avoiding HFCS is only part of the story, regular table sugar is 1/2 glucose and 1/2 fructose, so it in excess can have the very same results, and here in America, we are eating a staggering amount of sugar annually.  So my kids don't often get juice and they don't get chocolate in every cup of milk.  I believe in moderation, and sometimes on special occasions we get these treats.  Ok, that ends my soap box post for the week.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Around the Farm

Its green!!!
DH is replacing the fence for the dogs yard
Our newest batch of chicks, out of the 60 eggs we started, we ended up with 37 chicks
The turkeys are getting big, and with the warm weather time to get them out of the garage and into their yard!
One of the 9 surviving chicks from our first hatch, they are getting big and have lost almost all of their baby feathers.
The weather FINALLY warmed up!  Boy did it, it's going to be 80 today!  pumpkins in the hoop house, the need extra heat to grow here so they get covered at night and when it's cool out
My root vegetables are coming up, but as you can see, I'm growing a bumper crop of chickweed!  Ugh!
My first Ancho chile, they also get covers at night
Tomatoes and cucumbers planted, lots of herbs and some flowers that need to be put into bigger pots.  The milk jugs from my failed attempt at warming the place, I think I'll move them to the floor pretty soon.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Is It Ever Too Late to Eat Healthy?

Image Credit

Do you feed your children healthy food?  As my idea of healthy has become more sharply honed, I find it hard to get my kids, who are teens, to happily go along (don’t even get me started about the husband).  Over the past couple years we have eliminated  HFCS, GMO’s, feed lot grown meat, we raise our own chickens for meat and eggs and rabbits for meat, we have a large organic garden and I buy as much organic as I can.  For my kids it’s really a constant battle.  The first battle is they want to eat what their friends eat.  They want the newest advertised cereal, white bread  and fruit drinks, and when I don’t get it, they feel deprived.  When they get some of their own money, that is what they spend it on. They are old enough now that they are out and about with friends, and I can’t be there to direct every purchase.  The second battle I face is advertising, and inflated food claims.  How many of us fall into the trap of clever advertising claims? All natural!  With antioxidants! Full day serving of vitamin C!  Are we really fooled by this?  Well, apparently a staggering number of us, in fact, are. 

Kids are getting adult onset diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, PCOS, metabolic syndrome.  Should we be putting 8 year olds on cholesterol or blood pressure medications? Something has got to change.  That change has to start with us, the parent. We have got to open our eyes, take off the blinders, and quit being lead around by advertisers who want to make a buck off our families by feeding us cleverly packaged “added fiber” foods.  Three are a million excuses we can make, a million excuses for why we “can’t”. “No money”, “no time”, “single mom”, “single dad”, “I have a job”, “but all she’ll eat is chicken tenders and french fries”, “but he won’t eat vegetables”, “the only way he’ll drink milk is if it’s chocolate” , “I never learned how to cook”. OF COURSE given the chance your 3 year old will choose cleverly engineered crap over real food.  That’s the cleverly engineered part; they are made to be irresistible, even addictive.  OF COURSE your 6 year old would choose sugary sweet drinks instead of water or plain milk.  Why do we let our children dictate what we feed them?  Who gave them that crap in the first place? Who CONTINUES to give them that crap, just because they are insanely worried that their child will starve to death if they miss a meal.  When your kid totes a Sippy cup full of  “vitamin D fortified” chocolate milk and “100% real juice with a full day of vitamin C”, 24/7 who even needs to eat real food?  They can hold out forever for their “real white meat chicken” breaded, deep fried, chicken tenders.  
I know at, at school, my kids sometimes trade their healthy food I pack for chips.  I know they make choices I’d rather they not when they are out.  I know we made big mistakes when they were younger, falling into the “no added sugar” traps.  If we only fed them only real food from the beginning, would it be so hard now?  Would they still feel deprived? I don’t know, because I really only started making huge changes to our diet a few years ago.  Maybe it’s too late for them? Maybe they will go back to eating packaged crap with false claims when they move out? Maybe, but I had a little hope this past weekend.  When my oldest, who lives on his own, raided my fridge for fresh organic vegetables and homegrown eggs when he was visiting, and when I overheard my younger two talking about what foods they were going to buy for themselves when they are adults and move out.  What was the top of my daughter’s wish list? Orange juice.  I still would prefer she eat the fruit with it’s naturally added fiber, but maybe, just maybe, “100% real juice with a full day of vitamin C”, isn’t the worst thing she could get.  Maybe, just maybe, all this hard work is not for nothing, and my kids will take these healthy eating lessons into their adult lives. 
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