Last month our writers shared some of their holiday traditions and plans for the upcoming season. In November, we continue our conversation about holidays. How do we juggle visitors, travel with small children, eat well amidst all that delicious food and most importantly, take time to just BREATHE? This time of year can very quickly become stressful, so we hope our writers' words this month will give you a few moments to slow down, think about how you're spending your energy and encourage you during this busy, but wonderful time of year. ~TMC Staying healthy over the holidays can be tricky...especially if you’re not the one doing the cooking! While I don’t want to be a party pooper, I have found that I have to be a little more hands-on when it comes to holiday meals. This has meant a lot of thinking ahead, preparing for possible awkward conversations, learning to "let go" and practicing graciousness. While you may only have control over one or two dishes, there are a few things you can do to limit the chemicals and carbs in your holiday diet.
Please keep in mind that most packaged yeast includes MSG. It is very easy to buy yeast, in bulk, from a health food store. For those of you who do not know how to recognize MSG, it’s listed, typically near the bottom of the list, as monosodium glutamate.
2) Make what you can from scratch. My father-in-law makes delicious pot pies with leftover turkey meat, but he uses canned soup. While I am thankful that he’s leaving me with 3 plus dinners in the freezer I'm not thrilled with the thought of all the MSG we, and especially my 1-year-old son, would be consuming. I kindly asked if I could make the soup for him to use, and he didn’t mind. Here is the recipe I used. It was really simple to make, obviously, not as simple as popping the lid off the can but definitely worth the minimal extra effort. http://www.grouprecipes.com/70195/make-it-yourself--condensed-cream-of-soups.html
3) Halve the sugar! *According to the American Heart Association, the average American consumes 150 pounds of sugar a year! It sounds crazy, but start checking the ingredients list. Four grams of sugar equals one teaspoon. If you eat a bowl of cereal for breakfast, you’ve most likely already hit the recommended consumption of sugar for the day (six teaspoons) and it’s not even 9am. So, when it comes to baking that yummy pie, consider halving the sugar and even using a healthier substitute rather than white sugar. Honey, raw sugar, agave nectar, maple syrup or stevia are all great substitutes and there are many more.
4) Choose wisely and use common sense. If you’re given the option, a homemade dessert is going to be “healthier” for you than a store bought dessert. Also, remember you don’t have to eat everything. I am a people-pleaser so choosing one aunt’s dessert or dish over the other can be tough for me. I have to remind myself that others will eat it and no one will get their feelings hurt. You have the right to choose your calories. If you don’t care for mashed potatoes, don’t have any and eat more dessert! I’m not a huge fan of pie so I double up on the sweet potato casserole. To each his own!
5) Pick your battles and practice flexibility. I mentioned the canned soup above. I know my father-in-law. That was a situation where I knew I wouldn’t be stepping on any toes. Now, if I had tried to suggest I make the piecrust, from scratch, for his famous Thanksgiving pies, my husband probably wouldn’t have spoken to me until January. Some things just are not worth it. Though the holidays seem to revolve around food, it’s really about being with your family and the people you love, among other things. If you can keep that as your focus and take a deep breath, those few extra chemicals, carbs or calories won’t seem to matter as much.
My favorite part of Thanksgiving is the Sweet Potato Casserole. Those of you who attended the Café a few weeks ago know why. It’s sweet yet salty, creamy yet crunchy. I eat the leftovers for breakfast, lunch and dinner all weekend long if I’m lucky enough to have any leftovers. This year I’ll probably get smart and do what I did for the Café – double the recipe and prepare my own little bowl just in case! Sweet Potato Casserole 3 cups sweet potato, drained ½ cup sugar ½ tsp salt 2 eggs 1 stick of butter ½ cup milk 1 tsp vanilla ¼ tsp cinnamon
Topping ½ cup sugar 1/3 cup flour 1 stick butter Optional – pecans and/or walnuts
Mix all together. Put in casserole dish. Cover with topping. Bake at 350 for 35-45 minutes uncovered.
**The most important thing to remember about this recipe is that you can (and should) cut the butter and sugar in half and you will not taste a difference. I’ve also used raw sugar instead of cane and I always use whole wheat (white) flour. Enjoy!
With the changing leaves and falling temperatures, there's no doubt that fall is here! As mothers, we always try to stay a step ahead of the chaos and this month we're taking some time to share our thoughts on holiday celebrations, family traditions and maybe some new ideas about how to enjoy the upcoming season. So grab that cup of cinnamon-spiced coffee, prop your feet up on a pumpkin and enjoy what our writers have to say this month. ~TMC Can I share a secret with you? As self-centered as it sounds, I never really gave much thought to how my children would experience the holidays. I just assumed they would celebrate the same way I did. Yet as Halloween ushers in the holiday season, I am aware of just how different Miss E's experiences are going to be than mine. One of the reasons is: I didn't take into account my husband and his traditions.
Of course I started thinking about holiday traditions while we were dating. His family does Christmas differently than mine, not to mention Thanksgiving.
Yet it really wasn't until Halloween last year that I realized just how different our experiences were. Growing up, my family was very religious; church on Sunday, as well as, Tuesday, Thursday and any other day special services were held. Our church was very strict compared to some of the churches I've visited today. Women didn't wear pants. Jewelry, make-up, dancing and movie theater-attendance weren’t allowed. And Halloween, well Halloween was definitely a holiday we did not celebrate. I remember last year, I was pregnant and in between trick-or-treaters, my husband talked about what his family did. He talked about carving pumpkins with Miss E and what we would do for her first trick-or-treating. I usually have a plan, but in this I had no clue. I explained to J-man we didn't do Halloween in my house. I explained I only went trick-or-treating once as a child. Most of my childhood Halloweens were spent in church.
At first I was a little saddened by the thought that Miss wouldn’t get to celebrate her first holidays the same way I did. I remember Thanksgivings spent at the homes of family filled with lots of noise and even more food. Our big Christmas celebrations were held on Christmas Eve, with carols being sung and filled with family fun. Christmas mornings were filled with visits from my Abuelo and my cousins who lived upstairs, and the evenings spent at church watching, or participating in, the Christmas play. I think even though there are many things from my childhood I want to share with Miss E, I know that they aren’t all possible. Things like getting together with family for the holidays is not going to be as easy as it was for me growing up. Both our families live out of state. As I get a melancholy feeling at the holiday celebrations Miss E will not know, I remember that as my cousins, sister and I grew up, my family’s traditions changed. Their holidays are no longer spent the same way they were when I was young.
As I typed that last sentence I realized the important thing is that we, J-man, Miss E and I, are starting our own holiday traditions as a family. So this year, with Halloween quickly approaching, I can’t help but think how Miss E’s Halloweens will be filled with jack o’lanterns and costumes, and you know what I’m quite okay with the difference. I was even excited when my husband and I bought her first pumpkin carving set, since I'm sure pumpkin carving will become one of our family traditions. Are there traditions you followed as a child that you haven't carried on with your own children? Do you miss those traditions or are you happier with your new ones?