In the Bag

A Nutritional Update From the Beleaguered Kitchen

Breakfast, anyone?

Breakfast, anyone? © amomnextdoor, 2013

This year I committed to completing one nutritional cleanse per season, to reset my eating habits, live longer, look better, yada yada yada. I started with the Whole Living Detox Action plan, since they conveniently publish one every January. Instead of following the plan for just three weeks, however, I have been following it since. Loosely speaking.

The detox consists of a sudden elimination of our favorite toxins: processed food, added sugar, caffeine, dairy, wheat, meat, and alcohol. Even eggs and soy are off the list in the beginning. The idea is to add food categories back in gradually, noticing how they make you feel. During the elimination weeks, you incidentally learn a healthy, alternative way of eating.

All this is great, but I’ve got two kids under the age of six. And a Husband who’s gone more often than he’s home. Plus, I’m not one of those dark-haired, beautifully curvy women who grew up watching and learning from my Nonna in the kitchen. Sure, I can follow a recipe and burn the popcorn with the best of them, but a total transformation of the way I shop, cook and eat? That’s a lot of work!

I’ll post more later on how I got started, but here’s a little tip that’s helping me keep it going.  We did get the juicer out of the garage and dust it off and squeeze it onto the counter, because if there’s one thing Whole Living does well, it’s photograph enticing recipes for freshly juiced fruits and veggies, droplets of condensation stroking their way sensuously down the side of a tall glass and everything. I just had to try some of those juices! NO WAY did I parent on juice only for breakfast, as recommended in Week One of the cleanse. But with the simple addition of my very own Pease Porridge Hot, I was good to go until lunch–no need to snack on those horrible goldfish crackers or rubbery string cheese any longer!

Pease Porridge Hot

Serves 3-4

I make a big batch of this oatmeal a few times a week and keep it in the fridge. One recipe will last 3-4 days for one person; double the recipe if others in your family enjoy it too. When I’m ready for a quick breakfast, I slice a fresh banana over ½ cup of the oatmeal (or toss in a handful of raspberries or blueberries), add a splash of almond milk, and heat it up in the microwave. The fruit gets soft and warm and mushy—voila! Pease Porridge Hot, as my son likes to call it.

  • 2 c. almond milk or soy milk (or non-dairy milk of choice)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 c. steel-cut oats
  • 1 T. butter substitute—I like Earth Balance (optional)
  • 2 t. cinnamon (optional)
  • Salt to taste
  1. Heat almond milk and water in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.
  2. Meanwhile, in a dry skillet, toast the oats over medium heat until they smell nutty.
  3. Add butter substitute to oats and stir to melt.
  4. When almond milk comes to a boil, add oats and cinnamon if desired.
  5. Lower heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes or until oats are softened and most of the liquid is absorbed.

Juicing can feel like more work than it’s worth, so over time, I’ve come up with an easy way to make keep the juice ingredients on hand and ready to go when I need a few liquid calories.

  1. On a ziploc bag, I write the ingredients for the juice with a permanent marker.
  2. When I’m cleaning up the kitchen, or prepping food for the kids, I chop and add the ingredients to the bag and keep it in the fridge. For example, if I’m slicing celery sticks, cucumber and pear for a kiddie snack, I’ll chop a little extra and put it into the juice bag. Add some ginger, and I’m all set to make a glass of Cucumber-Pear Juice in the morning!

That’s it: four months of more-or-less vegan eating, and that’s all I’ve got. But that one glass of green juice sure does slide down good!

Motherhood: The Vacuum Cleaner Diet

or, A Diet Better Nutrition for Busy Parents

Photo by Rich Pompetti

What would you grab first? (Photo by Rich Pompetti)

Okay, I’m not about to tell you that housecleaning will get you in the best shape ever. I’m the mom whose vacuum cleaner sits stoicly in the corner of the pantry, waiting in vain to rescue our Pergo from its filmy scrud. My kitchen floor boasts layers of archaeologic proportions. I try not to sweep until everything is nice and crusty: sodden gloms of noodles and dirt gross me out, especially when I have to actually bend over to remove them by hand from the broom bristles. But inevitably, a stowaway disk of flattened food will stick to the bottom of my shoe—or worse, my bare heel—depositing smashed peas and streaks of ketchup all over the house, where they will slyly collect cat hair and dust until someone more industrious than me finally swipes them up with a rag.

The filthy underside of this mom gig I have...© 2013, amomnextdoor

The filthy underside of this mom gig I have…
© 2013, amomnextdoor

Continue reading

Scenes From Singapore

Singapore Parliament House @ the Heart of the City

Singapore Parliament House @ the Heart of the City (Photo credit: williamcho)

Singapore was a very difficult place for me to be. No doubt a huge part of that was being so far from my family. I loved the people I met and worked with, saw and tasted many beautiful and interesting things, but after about eight days away from my children, my body started to fall apart.

Last year it was my children’s bodies that deteriorated. I came home from ten days in Singapore to a daughter with a staph infection on  top of hand, foot & mouth disease, and a son with a burst eardrum. This year a bug bite attempted to attack my entire leg before the excellent medical care in Singapore intervened with a timely shot in the butt.

It was an incredible privilege to be invited across the world to teach a writing camp to young Singaporean writers. The kids were eager, adventurous and welcoming. My colleagues were industrious and intrepid about trying completely new ways of thinking about teaching kids to write.

These consummate hosts went to great pains to introduce me to the incredible sights and especially the exquisite cuisine of Singapore.  Although the relentless urbanity, devoted consumerism and polished presentation of this particular city were not to my taste overall, I did find a great many experiences to treasure during my two visits there. Continue reading

Lao-tzu Was Never a Mother


The Question:

Photo by Louise Docker

Photo by Louise Docker

Do you have the patience to wait

til your mud settles and the water is clear?

Can you remain unmoving

till the right action arises by itself?

–Tao te Ching, Lao-tzu

   trans. by Stephen Mitchell

The Answer:

No, not usually. It seems especially difficult when Five has half the contents of the spice cupboard spread all over the counter, making his sanctioned mini-mixture for an individual tuna melt (the rest of us will eat the standard version, thanks). Actually a mom-approved activity, given that we’re trying to  reconnect after he threw his pencil at me during the homework session and I’m trying to feed my family sometime in the vicinity of six p.m. All of this is fine. Mud settling, water clearing.

Then Two walks into the room, after a long, suspicious silence. Her shirt is half off, twisted around and caught on one arm. Her bottom is completely bare, because in her hands is an open diaper cradling extremely round poop that cooperatively rolls onto the kitchen floor as she holds it up for me to “sThee?” Sometimes it just gets a little muddy around here.

My Questions:

How will my mud ever settle with little feet tromping incessantly through my riverbed? Watch this! Oooh, look what I found under this rock! Do it again!

And did Lao-tzu have children? If so, did he raise them himself? Or have wives, concubines and female servants do it for him?

Photo obtained from Google images. Please notify me of any copyright infringement.