Monday, July 18, 2011

Kitchen challenge

At the end of June, I resolved to not use two things in my kitchen during the month of July: sugar, and the microwave. While we try to eat as healthy as we can, these are two areas that had been hard for us/me to give up. I had predominantly been using "raw cane juice sugar" (basically, a less refined version of regular sugar) for baking. The only time I used the microwave was to reheat leftovers quickly, which was not every day, but it was almost daily. 

Then last week I blogged some pictures of Anna covered in maple syrup and blueberry pancakes. I got the following comment, and it made me laugh because it is so far removed from reality:
From what I gather from your posts, "maple" syrup is a daily, if not constant, part of your children's diet. I'm sure our good friends at the High Fructose Corn Syrup Council and in the blood glucose test meter industry salute you.

What 100% organic, grade A maple syrup from the US has anything to do with HFCS or blood glucose meters is beyond me. I did get a good chuckle, though, which is always a good thing.

How have I been doing on the "no sugar, no nuke" challenge? So far, so good. I have substituted raw, unfiltered honey in place of sugar for everything from cookies to fruit smoothies to lemonade. Unlike refined sugar, which enters the blood stream immediately, honey must be metabolized. Therefore, it does not affect blood sugar levels in the same way as sugar does. Additionally, raw honey contains many enzymes and nutrients not found in refined sugar (or refined honey, for that matter - obviously, in baked products, the honey is no longer raw by the time they are baked). Eating a spoonful of raw, unfiltered, unrefined honey every day has many health benefits (such as alleviating allergies to pollen, to name just one - a big one for us here in AZ).

There has not been a single recipe that honey did not work equally well in, including cream cheese frosting, and sweetened whipped cream for breakfast waffles. I use about half as much honey as the amount of sugar the recipe calls for. 

Cutting out all use of the microwave has been easier than I had imagined. I just pretend I don't have one, and then come up with different ways to re-heat food, such as on the stove, in the oven, on the grill, or over a double boiler. It really doesn't take much longer because I can reheat everything at once rather than on individual plates. 

More than half-way through the month, I have not used a single grain of sugar, and have not once turned the microwave on. It's not quite as convenient as what I am used to, but I am hoping over time it will become second nature.

What are your tips for cutting out unhealthy kitchen habits?

Edited to add: I failed to mention that babies under 12 months of age should never be given any honey due to the botulism risk.


  1. I've heard of the benefits of honey, and we do eat it. But I've thought about using it in cooking. How do you substitute it for sugar?


  3. You're probably already aware, but you know that baby shouldn't eat raw honey right? Good, just checking :D You would be suprised how many people I talk to who don't know about it! Though I'm pretty sure it's fine in baked goods since the worry is infant botulism, which is killed in heat, just like pressure canning etc.

    I actually dislike the taste of honey, how noticable has it been?

  4. Our familys biggest health concern of late, has been the use of store bought milk...yuck! We have just gotten hold of more raw milk...which we think is a fantastic way to better health.

    The Irish government have made it illegal, for any farmer to sell you his unpasteurized milk!!! So there is a black market for raw milk here in Ireland!!!

    Well done to you not using your microwave and sugar!...your family will reap the benefits!

  5. We haven't used a microwave in over three years! You should have heard the row it caused one Thanksgiving between my sister-in-law and I. She couldn't believe I didn't want one, ESPECIALLY during holiday times. We also didn't have a dishwasher at the time. We were practically living in the dark ages ;) Ha, ha! Keep on keepin' on. I need to take the no sugar challenge!

  6. We have been doing the same thing Zsuzsanna in our kitchen! Except we just got our honey from our bees for the first time this past weekend!

    We hardly ever use our microwave but dh doesn't want to throw it out yet.

    Jessica - use half the ratio of sugar. Also, add a little more flour until the consistency "looks right" in your mixture.

  7. I would love to kick the sugar habit. We use some Stevia or Xylitol. I just don't know how we could afford to replace honey with everything. I bought a quart jar at a local farmer's market yesterday and it was $11.50.

    Our family nutritionist always talks about removing the "little box of radiation" from the house, i.e. the microwave.

    Oh, and I laughed OUT LOUD at the comment that equated HFCS to maple syrup. Is mainline America so used to food-imitating products that they have no idea what maple syrup is anymore? Harvest tree sap, boil tree sap until almost all water is evaporated, bottle syrup, done!

  8. Impressive...For our family, I'm actually much less concerned about sugar than I am about the microwave. I really don't bake all that much with sugar to begin with. But I must admit to leaning on the microwave pretty much every single day to reheat leftovers (or even just to reheat that day's meals for my husband when he comes home from work). If you warm things up again in the oven/stove top, doesn't it dry them out? What prompted you to cut out the microwave - I'm curious...(even though I probably don't want to know :-)

  9. I gave up sugar as well for a time and because I have Lupus, I felt WAY better! I can whole-heartedly say that giving up that white stuff is wonderful. I have been giving my children wheat bread recently and we already use and LOVE raw honey (my parents give it to me as they get it for free). Good stuff! :)

    As for the comment some nice person felt led to leave, they obviously have no life...otherwise they would use their time and comments more wisely. Good for a laugh though, eh? :)

  10. Hello Zsuzsanna!

    It found it tough to cut out the sugar, and applesauce has saved my baking--I've given baked goods with applesauce replacement and received more compliments than on the 'real stuff.'

    Also, I saw this article about a pregnant woman giving a thief a once over and thought of your toughness: maybe she's on the Brewer Diet? ;)

    God bless you all and do your best to stay cool out there,


  11. I never liked food cooked or reheated in the microwave so it was easy to let ours go. Pizza warmed up in a cast iron skillet tastes wonderful, the crust crisps up and the cheese warms up just right. If warming something up, I add a little liquid, a touch of water, a touch of cream, a touch of tomato sauce, depending on the dish.

    One thing I can't find how to heat without a microwave are those heat packs you make out of rice. I'm afraid of scorching the fabric by warming them in the oven. Maybe holding it over a pan of steam would work.

    Funny about the syrup comment. I bet the stores you frequent don't even carry the HFCS fake version, so you'd have to go well out of your way to buy it, lol. BTW, a lot of processed foods that have blueberries (waffles, muffins, etc). The blueberries are blueberry flavored product. They aren't even real blueberries! Same with peaches in peaches and cream oatmeal, not real peaches. Crazy what is passed on as food in this country. Even more reason to make your own meals from scratch.

  12. We haven't used the microwave in a year and half. I have just gotten used to just using the stove, and it is no big deal. Microwave only meals are not good for you, and heating up regular food in the microwave takes all the nutrients out of your food. It also cooks your food with small amounts of radiation. They say not to heat up baby formula in the microwave because it takes the nutrients out, what do you think its doing to our food lol! I had a friend who did a experiment where he water one plant with regular water, and another with microwaved water for 30 days. The plant watered with the microwaved water died, and the other plant was fine. He put them in the same amount of sun and everything. I am too freaked out by the microwave to even have one. I have to admit the sugar is harder for me to give up, I never thought about substituting with raw honey. I will try it, I always have raw honey to make tea with, especially for when I have a cold, it helps with that too.

  13. Wow. The comments you get are ridiculous. I don't agree with you on a lot of things and that is why I don't post but I do love your writing, you back up things well, cause me to think, and I really think you are a wonderful mother.
    A good portion of people who comment embrass me. I might agree with their point of view but the childness they bring is awful.
    We are all adults here and should be capable of adultlike debate without the pettiness, ignorant comments and name calling.

    So my point is that really people do give you more grief than you deserve but keep up your blog.

  14. The use of honey as opposed to sugar is a given, but I'm curious as to why you are not wanting to use your microwave. Just out of curiosity. :) Thanks.

  15. castiron:

    just an interesting tidbit-the industry term for fake fruit like you mentioned is "bits" so it would be "blueberry bits." Sound yummy?

    I can't cut the sugar. We've switched to whole grains and almost everything organic but I just can't give up my one can of soda in the morning.

    Does anyone know a brand of soda that still sweets with cane sugar?

  16. Kat - if you can find the Coke made in Mexico (Walmart carries it) it has real sugar in it.

    I had to laugh at the HFCS remark about the maple syrup too. I don't buy real maple syrup because I don't like it (I know, I'm weird), but I do buy the fake stuff made without HFCS. It is much easier to find stuff made without HFCS than it used to be, all you have to do is read the label.

  17. Kat, find Pepsi throwback made with real sugar!

    Zsuzsanna, glad to hear that you have quit using your microwave for the month. Maybe you can continue to do so after the month is over. Mine died about 7 months ago, I finally threw it out about 6 months ago, don't miss it at all!

  18. kat--yeah, bits sound so yummy. Bits of chemicals, yum. My neighbor bought my kids some ice cream treats and I noticed the label said, Frozen Dairy Product. It's not even ice cream anymore.

  19. Dear Zsuzsanna,
    I have enjoyed reading your blog ever since I was refered to it by someone who doesn't like you very much. While our lives and ideas are very different, I respect your values and believe you are doing what I am doing: trying to be the best mom you can be and doing what you know is right for your family. I find your writing very interesting and always well done. I was glad to see your year long menu planner today; one thing we do have in common is a need to feed mouths every single night! It is very petty when those who might disagree with you point out a stray typo in an effort to dismiss your thoughts and ideas. Please don't close your blog! I think you are a smart gal with much to share. Kudos on the no honey for infants disclaimer. I am a pediatric nurse and once knew a seven month old baby (exclusively nursed) who died from the botulinum toxin after he got honey on his hands from a tea cup and spoon. No one suspected an ingested cause of his acute illness due to him being breastfed only and it was not discovered until it was too late. Have a nice day!
    P.S. I think your kiddos are just precious!
    Shelby from VA

  20. I kissed my microwave goodbye about nine months ago, and I don't miss it. It really isn't hard to do without it. (I thought it would be really challenging!) We did use it once when we were on vacation to heat up burrito wraps, but that was it. Now...the sugar part is my challenge. I love that stuff. Today, I have been trying to drink green smoothies whenever I get a craving for something sweet. So far, so good, but then again, those chocolate chips in the fridge have been calling out to me. Good for you for giving yourself some health challenges, and following through!

  21. About 8 months ago my husband researched about raw, unfiltered honey and we added to our diets immediatly. He was having a hard time sleeping at night and with a tsp of honey before bed he was sleeping AWESOME!!!! Not to mention all of the other health benefits! I always make bread and bagels with honey instead of sugar, but I havent tried it with anything else. What a great idea! Thanks for sharing, I will HAVE to try! funny! I JUST LAST NIGHT asked my husband if he would budge and give in and get us another microwave. He Said, "NO WAY". He originally wanted to get rid of it. I thought it was a great idea. I still do, but the two of us were up together and I wanted to heat something so little, but had to go through putting it in the oven, waiting for the oven to warm up, dirtying an extra dish, etc. I was just looking for a quick warm up.

    Well, go you!!!! I love the sugar idea, so I am going to have to try it. Thanks :)

  22. Good for you giving up your microwave. I have not owned a microwave in years and don't miss it at all. Life is so much better without one.

    We don't use a lot of sugar--not even enough to call it a problem in our diet. I use it to bake with at holidays and a birthday cake, but other than that I don't even have sugar in the house. It's not a hard thing to get rid of if either.

    You are doing great and don't let the pretentious negative comments cause you to lose sleep, which I am sure they don't.

    I do have a question about the use of honey, in regard to your infant and the consumption of honey. Infants should not have honey, are you following this guideline or have your read otherwise?

  23. It's fine to cut out sugar (though honey is only a tiny bit better in terms of blood glucose levels). However, it's more important to cut out all the cookies, cakes, sugary fruit pizzas and other treats that are full of fat and sweeteners (whatever kind).

    While your kids may be able to eat this stuff now, this may not be true once they stop growing. Unfortunately, they are developing a taste for it, and will want it when they are older, if they are used to it now. How about serving fresh fruit for dessert?

    In terms of being Christian, I think Jesus would spend time helping the poor and abused in His neighborhood, instead of obsessing over the number of days he has not used sugar.

  24. Nicole, toaster ovens work great for warming up small servings :)

  25. I stopped using our microwave to , wish that I could throw it out but my husband keeps storing his junk food in it :) we use organic sugar but I need to start using more honey .

  26. Your Anon comments give be a good laugh! People are so stupid. Usually I just scroll right past them, especially the long ones (eye roll) but that last one was just so stupid. I have seen them take stuff you do totally out of context and find any thing they can wrong with it but seriously. You must not care about anyone because you posted you wanted to use less sugar and not use your microwave lol! These people must be desperate, after all that seems to be their whole life, picking apart what you say and making it mean something bad!

  27. I don't use any white sugar anymore,either. I get a tub of Stevia every 3 months or so (maybe longer). We use it for our morning coffee. L
    That stuff lasts so long and you only need 1/8 teaspoon.

    Now in the winter when I start doing more baking, I'll have to figure out how to substitute something else for the white sugar!

  28. Castiron, I agree about the toaster oven. I've always used it more than my microwave. In fact, my son has recently asked for a toaster over for his place; he is so used to having used one. Ours is fairly big and, I think, would even work for large famiies for quick warm ups of rolls, leftovers, etc. It has two racks. In this heat wave, it's wonderful in keeping the heat down in the kitchen. Take my microwave if you want; but don't touch my toaster oven.

  29. Thanks for the idea, I don't know why I hadn't thought of that yet :) Maybe we will get one soon!
    Thanks again!

  30. Anonymous said...
    It's fine to cut out sugar (though honey is only a tiny bit better in terms of blood glucose levels). However, it's more important to cut out all the cookies, cakes, sugary fruit pizzas and other treats that are full of fat and sweeteners (whatever kind).

    While your kids may be able to eat this stuff now, this may not be true once they stop growing. Unfortunately, they are developing a taste for it, and will want it when they are older, if they are used to it now. How about serving fresh fruit for dessert?

    In terms of being Christian, I think Jesus would spend time helping the poor and abused in His neighborhood, instead of obsessing over the number of days he has not used sugar.

    - by far one of the stupidest comments I have seen you get lol!

  31. I was thinking the same thing June, but that's the mentality of that free jinger crowd.

  32. Have you researched or used Agave nectar at all? I use it in some of my cooking (switching between agave and raw honey( and I love Blue Agave in my daily cup of tea.

  33. Abba12, thank you for the reminder about babies and honey. I was meaning to put a note of warning in the original post, but forgot. The difference in taste has been minimal because the batch of honey we got this time is very mild.

    Sarah, I know about the black market for dairy!! In AZ, the sale of raw milk is legal, but only with a warning sign that it may be hazardous to one's health.

    missusmechanic, that is so awesome about having your own bees! My Dad kept bees when I was a young child. I miss it!!!

    Elizabeth, there may be other beekeepers in your area. Have you tried craigslist? We get a gallon (12 lbs) of the raw, unfiltered, crystallized honey for just under $30.

    Renee, I have for years made a point to avoid any information exposing the dangers of microwave ovens, because I didn't want to give it up. Silly, huh? In fact, to this day, I have not read anything on the subject because I don't want to feel guilty in retrospect. It just seems obvious that it cannot be good. Ever since we first got one, i would get a headache when I was in the same room as a running microwave. I should have kicked the habit LOOOOONG ago!

    Mindy, what a terrifying story!!! The poor lady must be shook up. The exact moment that your comment popped up on my phone, I happened to be reading through the package you sent us, again!

    castiron, good point about the rice packs... hm. Tips, anyone???

    Andrea B, please see my answer to Renee.

    Shelby from VA, what a sad, sad story! :( Oh, that would just break my heart to have to witness.

    CareGiving Daughter, yes, I am following this recommendation. No honey at all for Anna, not even in things I bake like bread or muffins.

    Anon on July 19 at 8:51 pm, you said:

    "In terms of being Christian, I think Jesus would spend time helping the poor and abused in His neighborhood, instead of obsessing over the number of days he has not used sugar."

    Well, I think it is definitely better to worry about MY OWN sugar consumption, than to leave comments on someone else's blog worrying about THEIR sugar consumption. By the way, God DOES care what we eat, or else why has he made dietary restrictions all the way back since the Garden of Eden (Gen. 2:16)? 1Co 10:31 "Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God."

  34. Zsuzsanna,
    Let's say you did a post about how you'd spent hours and hours helping the poor and abused in your neighborhood. Let's say you showed us all the checks you'd written for charity. Well then you'd be disparaged for doing your alms before men and bragging about your charitable heart. You'd be accused of a lack of humility.

    There are some of your posts that stir people up, perhaps rightfully so; perhaps not. But I cannot believe that this is one of them. You have really stirred up the "Pro-Microwave Sisters" (PMS) now....

    I know you do not have television so I will be happy to keep an eye on the news and let you know of their growth and latest movements. *wink*

  35. Actually, at the time the Bible was written, no one was limiting their sugar intake.

  36. Self-control is a Biblical topic.

    How many whales or baby sea lions died when anonymous was otherwise engaged writing snarky posts on a blog.

  37. "Self-control is a Biblical topic."

    Exactly, That's why cutting out all the fatty sweets would be beneficial to the entire family.

    Substituting one forn of sugar for another really doesn't involve much self-control. As Zsuzsu said, most recipes tasted the same either way.

  38. anon,

    you are being ridiculous, which I am sure you are aware of, hence your anonymous comments. 6 members of our family of 8 are UNDERweight based on growth charts/BMI, and they eat like horses. I make dessert once a week on average, which I think is very reasonable given that we never eat out or drink sodas or even juice.

    I will not waste my time trying to explain to you the difference between good and bad fats. As with everything, the Bible has all the answers:

    Nehemiah 8:10 "Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the FAT, and drink the SWEET, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the LORD is your strength." (emphasis mine)

  39. Your kids are super skinny! I wouldn't worry one bit about the amount of sugar they are getting, because it's actual real sugar, in actual real food that you are actually making! I've been out of honey for months because I got hooked on our local honey and I've gotten too lazy to drive all the way across town to get more. I should do that.

    The natural sunscreen I'm using is called Tropical Sands.

    There is no way that the four of mine will use this half gallon by the end of summer. I am kicking myself for not going in on it with someone else and I'm hoping it will still be good next year.

  40. Xylitol-mentioned in a previous comment-upsets our stomachs. Our family tried it when my daughter(21) was diagnosed with Type I diabetes(not caused by diet) at 5 years old(We think an uncle had it also-type I not type II). We don't keep white sugar in the house since before my daughter was born. I don't put any sweetener or milk in my tea. I hope to give up my morning tea someday and don't drink cola(caffeine). If it was up to me we would not have a microwave. We don't have one over the stove-I never wanted one there. If my daughter gets low blood glucose she drinks milk not juice. I noticed that MOST microwave popcorn has TBHQ(?) in it. I read somewhere that it's not good for you. Our 18-year-old son refuses to heat up food in the microwave.


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