Beating the Soggy Cereal Blues

In a recent post, I commented on my extreme dislike of canned peaches.  Though it is probably a breach of good writing etiquette to quote oneself, I’m going to do it anyway. (Just in case you don’t believe these are indeed my exact words, you can read it for yourself here.)

 I love a good, fresh, juicy peach. But I do not like the canned version … not even in cobblers or pies. Canned peaches are slimy and nasty, especially when compared to the way a fresh peach tastes. Actually, I don’t enjoy eating any fruit that has been canned, especially those canned in heavy syrups, but for some reason I find canned peaches to be especially unappetizing. ~Paige Hamilton

Despite my obvious disdain for canned peaches, there is actually something I find much more unappetizing.

Soggy cereal.

eatmecrunchy-cereal-bowl-3
photo credit: http://www.thegreenhead.com

Is there a more disgusting food? I can’t think of one at the moment … well, yes I can, however nothing that I would consider normal American fare.

Rumor has it that my 90 year old grandfather truly loves a bowl of soggy corn flakes.  This has nothing to do with his age. Apparently, he has just always liked his cereal soggy. Perhaps this is because he grew up during The Great Depression and ate his cornbread crumbled in his milk. I imagine cornbread and milk turns into mush rather quickly. I can only assume this to be the reason as to why he prefers his cereal soggy.

Anyway … as much as I love and admire my grandfather, when it comes to our cereal preferences we are a world apart.  In fact, I can think of very few first world breakfast problems that are more disturbing than a bowl of soggy, mushy cereal.

Unfortunately, most of my favorite cereals have a tendency to go soggy very quickly.  Take for example Frosted Flakes … one of the best tasting cereals out there and yet it does not stand up to milk for more than 3-4 minutes. If you pour a bowl of Frosted Flakes, you must be prepared to eat quickly!

In addition to the sogginess issue, there are a couple of other serious problems with eating cereal for breakfast:

1. The Health Factor

Let’s face it. Most cereals are not healthy. In fact, a pop tart might be equally as healthy as a bowl of sugar-laden cereal, though I’d definitely need to do some research before I claimed this to be a true and honest fact.

While there are many cereals on the market that are supposed to be part of healthy breakfast, the truth is that this is something of a fallacy. There’s nothing wrong with a bowl of Cheerios or granola every now and again, but these are not the breakfasts of champions that we as an American society are led to believe.

I think most of us can agree that refined foods are never our healthiest options. There are better options. Perhaps not quicker and easier options, but certainly healthier choices regarding breakfast foods.

2. Cost

Cereal is expensive.

My family of seven goes through 1 1/2 boxes of cereal each time I serve it for breakfast. With each box costing an average of $4, that’s a lot of money for just one meal! I realize I have a larger-than-average family, but still  … cereal is expensive!

I don’t know about you, but my family is on a budget. We simply cannot afford to eat cereal all that often. In fact, cereal is so rare in my home that my children get as giddy over a bowl of cereal as they do over birthday donuts.

donut
photo credit: http://www.eventsstyle.com

But even with all the con factors (sogginess, healthiness, costliness), cereal still remained one of my favorite breakfasts. I grew up eating cereal. It was quick, generally tasted great (with the exception of Grape Nuts), and left me feeling satisfied all the way until lunch. Oh, how I missed enjoying a lovely bowl of deliciousness at the start of each day!

Which is why I was thrilled and delighted when I recently discovered a healthy way to make homemade breakfast cereal that never turns soggy!

Actually, I cannot take credit for the idea or the recipe. Stephanie Eusebi, a nutritionist and wellness expert in the Paleo world, shared this recipe for Nutty Strawberry Cereal on her website. Because it is a Paleo recipe, there are no grains to get soggy in the milk. I tried it out about a month ago, and I’ve been experimenting and playing around with creating my own breakfast cereals ever since.

Y’all … I am on Breakfast Cloud Nine!

photo credit: stepheubesi.com
photo credit: stepheubesi.com

Typically, I start off with choosing a few nuts: slivered almonds, chopped walnuts, raw sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds.  Just a small amount of each is great, or choose to have more of just one type of nut. The total amount of nuts should equal about 1/4 cup.

Next, I add in some hemp hearts. Hemp hearts is one of those “new” super foods you hear about in the media, like chia seeds.  (Only I never put chia seeds in my cereal as they soak up the  liquid and would give something of a mushiness quality to the cereal. Blech!  I can, however, tell you how to make a great healthy version of chocolate “pudding” using chia seeds. And, in my humble opinion, chocolate pudding is to afternoon snacks as cereal is to breakfasts!)

Anyway, back to the hemp hearts. These little nuggets are a complete protein, easy to digest, and provide essential fatty acids omega 3 and omega 6, as well as a long list of vitamins and minerals. Hemp hearts are also very filling, and add a rich, nutty flavor. I put about one-to-two tablespoons in my bowl.

Now that I have my cereal base, I begin to play around with flavors, depending on my mood and what other foods are available. Some suggestions are:  unsweetened coconut flakes, craisins or raisins or other dried fruits, fresh berries of any sort (raspberry, blueberry, strawberry, etc), banana slices, fresh peaches. The list of options goes on and on. I just continue adding until I fill my bowl.

Add a dash of cinnamon (if you like). Pour on the milk. I prefer almond milk, but whatever you like to drink will work great. Now relax and enjoy your bowl of tastiness!

No rushing to eat it before it gets soggy.

No worrying over the healthiness of your breakfast.

And while I can’t exactly prove that the cost is cheaper than the boxed cereal option (because, quite honestly, I don’t feel like exerting the mental energy required to figure it out), I do believe it is at least a comparable cost.

But the best thing  … my mornings are so much happier now that I am beating the soggy cereal blues!

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And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. ~Genesis 1:29

H is for …

 “I’m hungry.”

This is perhaps the most common phrase you’ll hear in my home. I’m completely serious. I’ve got five children, all between the ages of 10 and 15.  Each of them loves to eat. In fact, they enjoying eating so much, that this is how a typical morning in my house might go: 6:30 am Julia:  Momma … I’m awake. Can I have some breakfast? I’m hungry. 7:00 am Joel: I’m hungry, Mom. Are you planning on feeding me breakfast anytime soon? 7:10 am Nathan: Mom, can I make myself a couple of fried eggs? Please?!? I’m soooo hungry! 8:00 am Maddie: GiGi, I’m hungry. I ate a peach for breakfast, but I need something else to fill my stomach. 8:10 am Megan: GiGi, I know we already ate breakfast, but I’m still hungry. Can I eat something else? 8:30 am Joel: Mom … I checked, and, seriously, there is nothing to eat in this house. What are you going to do cause I’m hungry?!

9:13 am Julia: Hey, mom … how much longer until lunch? I’m hungry! 9:25 am Nathan: Mom, I just realized it’s over 2 hours until lunch, but I’m hungry. Can I have a little snack to hold me off? 9:47 am Maddie: I hope lunch is soon, GiGi! All this schoolwork has made me hungry! 9:58 am Joel: mom … Mom … MoM … MOM … MOMMA … I’m hungry. When’s lunch? 10:04 am Megan: GiGi… did you hear that? My stomach is growling!! 10:28 am Maddie: GiGi … I’m so hungry I think I might faint.  10:32 am

Julia: Momma, isn’t it lunch time yet? I’m hungry. Megan’s hungry. Nathan is hungry. Everyone is hungry. 10:46 am Joel: I gotta lay down. I am so hungry that all I can think about is my stomach. Seriously, Mom … I need food. You can’t expect me to go on much longer. 10:58 am Megan: GiGi, I’ve noticed it is practically lunch time. Do you need me to help you make lunch or can you handle it by yourself? 11:03 am Nathan: Yay! Mom’s in the kitchen, everyone! It’s lunchtime! Maddie: Great! I thought I was going to starve to death! Joel: I hope it’s not peanut butter sandwiches again. I’m too hungry to just eat peanut butter again. Julia: Thank you, Momma! I was beginning to think you were never going to feed me! 11:15 am Mom: Lunch is served! 12:14 pm Megan: GiGi … what’s for afternoon snack? I’m feeling a little hungry.

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So, perhaps that is a bit of an exaggeration … but not all that much!

There are seven people and two dogs in our home.  It takes LARGE amounts of food to keep everyone feeling full and happy. Not only do we eat a lot of food, we spend enormous amounts of time thinking about food, talking about food and shopping for food. A significant portion of my day is spent in my kitchen cooking and creating delicious meals. Even with all of the focus on food, it seems that we are never full.  We constantly are looking for the next opportunity to fill our stomachs and ease the hunger pains. But the question racing through my mind is this:

How can we possibly be hungry? And exactly what are we hungering for?

letterH

“Ma’am? Ma’am? Hey, Ma’am … can you help me?”

I turned around from my task of carefully arranging $300 worth of groceries in the back of my minivan.  A tall, lanky boy, not much older than Joel, approached me. Blond-headed, blue-eyed, burned from the summer sun, the acne on his face told a tale … this boy was far older than his years, and I knew it wasn’t in a good way. I gave him a smile. “I don’t know if I can help you, but I’ll be glad to listen and see if I can. What’s going on?” He stuck out his hand to shake mine, and said, “Thanks. I just need some money so my sister and I can catch the bus home. Maybe if you have some change or a couple of spare dollars … just enough for two bus tickets. Can you help me?” I looked him in the eye, searching for signs of dishonesty. There was no sister to be seen. And yet, something told me that this child needed real help. I just wasn’t sure of exactly what sort of help. “Well,” I said thoughtfully,  “I don’t ever carry much cash, but I probably have some change. Let me look and see what’s in my purse. While I’m looking, why don’t you tell me where your sister is at and how it came to be that you are here without enough money for a bus ride home.”

He looked me right in the eye for several seconds, as if he were deciding how much truth to share. Finally he said, “My sister … she’s in the store trying to get us some food. We came over here today to get food for our family to eat. There’s nothing at the house. I got kicked out of the store for stealing. And about the bus money … well, I guess we didn’t think much about the getting back home part.” “Oh. I see. So you are hungry.” “Yes, ma’am, I am hungry. My whole family is hungry.” “I see. Do you have parents? Do they work?” “Yes, ma’am …  I got parents. They mostly work temp jobs. Lately, there haven’t been any temp jobs. No jobs means no money. No money, no food.” He shuffled his feet on the pavement, looking uncomfortable now that he had answered my questions. Making a display of digging around in my purse for change, I silently pleaded with God for wisdom to help me figure out what I should do in this situation. “I’m sorry,” I said.  “That’s got to be very hard on your parents. Listen, I found $1.07 in change, but that seems to be all I’ve got. However, I do have a car full of groceries and I would be happy to share some of what I have with you.” “Oh, no! No, ma’am. You can’t do that. I can see them kids in your car. You got mouths to feed.  Besides, I’ve got no way to get any groceries home … you know, without it all going bad.” “I thought you said that you came here to steal groceries. Besides, I can give you a few things that don’t have to be kept cold. Let’s see …  I’ve got some granola bars and apples, things like that.”
“No ma’am. I won’t take your food.” His chin jutted out in a proud sort of manner. “Besides,” he continued,  “I done got kicked out of the store for stealing. If they see me out here in the parking lot with a bag of food, they might call the cops, thinking I stole something from a customer. Nope. I won’t take no food. But thank you, anyway.” “Well, I wish you would, but I understand your concerns.” I handed him the change.  “By the way, do you know about the shelters in town? They serve hot meals for free to the hungry. I can get you information and maybe even a ride to one of them.” “Oh, I know about ‘em. It’s just real hard to get there for meal times cause we got to take a bus … and besides that sort of thing isn’t for my family.” “Well, you know … stealing shouldn’t be for you either. In fact, I’d rather know you were going to a shelter for a meal than stealing from a store. Today you got caught and kicked out of the store. Next time you get caught,  it could be worse.” Once again, he looked down and shuffled his feet in embarrassment. “Yes, ma’am. I’ll think about that …but you know even in a jail they feed you meals.” He paused, looking up at me. Then as he turned around to walk off, he said, “Thank you again for the money, ma’am.” I watched him walk off for several seconds before I called out one last time, “No problem … I just wish I could do something more for you today.” My young friend stopped, slowly turned back to me and then said, “Maybe there is one more thing you could do … well, if you didn’t mind, that is …. I guess, what I want is … I mean, would you just give me a hug?”

The biggest grin broke out on my face. “That is one thing I’d be happy to do.” A second later, I felt him sort of melt into my arms the way my own boys do.  Deep down, I knew that this young man was hungry for something far greater than food. A meal would certainly appease his growling stomach, but the longing for love was much deeper and more intense than the hunger pains he felt. “God bless you!” I whispered in his ear. With those words, he quickly turned and jogged off, leaving me standing there to watch him depart. As I turned back to my minivan with its backend filled with bags and bags of groceries, my eyes filled up with tears and my heart overflowed with prayers.

As I started the car, the child sitting in the front seat turned to look at me and said,

“Mom, I’m hungry.”

H is for a world Hungry for more than food. 

For He satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness.  ~Psalm 107:9

A Little Soul Food

Rather than just state the obvious and say that I am overweight, I’m going to be bold and spell it out as I never have before:

Personal issues with food, as well as a faulty perception of what makes a woman truly beautiful, have for years waged a fierce war on my soul. The heart-aching truth about this lifelong battle is it prevents me from finding full freedom in Christ. It  inhibits me from fulfilling my God-given callings to the degree for which I daily pray, hope and long to see come to fruition. And it holds me captive, keeping me from knowing all God has planned for my life.

I am tired of it. Tired of my weak and flimsy excuses. Tired of the yo-yo effects of my eating habits. Tired of feeling like a failure. Tired of comparing myself to everyone else. Tired of fighting the same battle … again and again and again.

Weak & Flimsy Excuses

It can’t be all genetics. Sure, there are a lot of overweight people in my family, but so far not a single one of them has ever stuffed a chocolate chip cookie into my mouth. Nor have any of them prevented me from choosing to eat a healthy diet. And not once has a relative ever blocked me from participating in daily exercise. Although my genetic make-up has perhaps given me a predisposition to weight struggles, it is still plain to see neither my genetics nor my family are the source of my weight problem.

It’s not PCOS either. It is true … I do have PCOS. And it is a fact many women with PCOS struggle with weight issues due to unruly hormones. However, I’ve long known the medical community not only recommends women with PCOS follow a specific diet, but that many PCOS sufferers find weight management to be relatively easy as long as they rigidly follow that diet. I’ve just never wanted to commit to making such drastic changes to the way I eat. Again … PCOS may be a factor, but it is not the root cause of my unhealthy weight.

I don’t have time to cook healthy.  Besides, it is too expensive to feed our family of seven healthy meals. Bologna! I have time to cook myriads of dishes that I want to cook, and money to buy generally whatever foods we desire to indulge in eating.

I don’t have time or energy to workout on a regular basis.  Ahem … considering I have an elliptical gathering dust in my bedroom, this excuse is so flimsy it just might fall apart by my merely mentioning it.

My excuses are just that … excuses.  They make me nothing more than a whiny bystander in my own life, content to repeat the same feeble justifications over and over to anyone who will listen. If I continue to excuse myself from doing the right thing, I will never find a solution to my problem.

The Yo-Yo Foodie

Weight Watchers. Medi-Fast. Atkins. Sugar Busters. Even the notorious Grapefruit Diet. I’ve done them all. Some with moderate success. Others with no success at all.

I’m a professional yo-yo dieter, eating healthy one week and not-so-healthy the next. The one thing I’ve never been is a truly committed dieter. The truth is I only wanted a short-term fix, rather than a lifestyle change.

Feeling like a Failure

I cannot think of a single time in my entire life I’ve felt successful in regards to my weight.

If success is measured in numbers, then not only is the number on the scale too high, but also my BMI.  And while my blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol levels all still fall within normal ranges, I’m always worried that the next doctor’s visit will tell a different tale.

Unfortunately, I have a habit of dismissing small victories and thereby thwarting my chances of success.  In the end, I discover once again I’ve missed out on the big victory altogether, whereas if I had acknowledged and celebrated smaller successes I might have enjoyed a different outcome.

The Comparison of Apple and Oranges

Oddly enough, I’ve never felt much like an apple or an orange. I’m more of a blueberry kind of gal, myself.

Still, even comparing blueberries to strawberries is pretty much pointless.  After all, comparison is the death of contentment.

While I don’t exactly need to look for contentment in regards to my health and weight, I do need to be content with my physical appearance. I have blue eyes, not brown. Light skin instead of a tanned tone. My frame is never going to be petite in any sense of the word. Wishing to have a figure like someone else is only a waste of my time and energy.

American society values slim, trim and fit. Being in shape and tiny is an expectation placed on females of every age. Pudgy even in the best seasons of this life, I don’t think I’ve ever once been thought of as slim and trim, and certainly not fit.  I’ve known that my weight and my appearance often causes others to “judge” me … at least until they get to know me. Yet, the worst of it is, even in my own eyes, I often feel “less than” as a woman because of my weight. It’s as if I think just by dropping 60 lbs I would instantly become a more valuable person to myself, my husband and family, my friend and to the whole of society. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Tired of the Battle

I’m not just tired of the battle. I am weary and worn of it. I’m standing here with the end of the rope in my hands, no longer confused or uncertain or complacent about the situation. And I am unwilling to keep fighting this battle in the same way.

What may have started as a way to help my food-sensitive husband feel better has turned into much more. My eyes are opened to how my love/hate relationship with food is standing in the way of my love relationship with God. Craving and indulging in food has not just been my habit.  It has been my god.

Now that it has been recognized and acknowledged, there is nothing else I can do but either choose to continue doing that which I know in the depths of my soul is wrong,  or ask for forgiveness and turn to walk the other way.  At the very essence of repentance is a heart-felt change. Saying “I’m sorry. Forgiven me.” and yet continuing to wallow in my same old habits is not repenting at all.

A Light Bulb Moment

Today I was reading and came across these words:

Struggling with my weight isn’t God’s mean curse on me, but an outside indication that internal changes are needed for me to function and feel well. (pg 216, Made To Crave, Lysa TerKeurst)

And right below those words, I saw this Bible verse:

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. ~Isaiah 43: 18-19

Today marks 2 weeks since Jon and I began eating healthier, following The Daniel Plan (by Pastor Rick Warren), hoping it would relieve many of his food sensitivity symptoms.  Thankfully, this clean way of eating whole foods, with it’s focus on more fresh veggies and low-glycemic fruits, lean sources of proteins, and  has done tremendous things in a short time for healing Jon’s gut problems.  Trust me … this is a huge praise, as we are continue to pray for his digestive health to improve.

While I’ve experienced some measured success myself in these last two weeks, dropping around 10 lbs and noticing an increase in my energy levels, I have never felt like this was something I was doing for me.  My only goal was to help my husband.

It was never once about my weight.

It was never once about my health.

It was never once about my PCOS-ravaged body.

Yet today, all that has begun to change. It’s as if I took my eyes off myself for just a bit, stepped back from my own issue to encourage and support someone I love, and ended up gaining a new perspective about my own situation.  And somehow, in the middle of it all, I feel as though God is indeed beginning to do a new thing in me … as though He is making a beautiful stream in my vast wasteland.

This one truth I know full well:

No matter what I battle in this life, there is no fear or condemnation in Christ. Rather, the battle is the Lord’s and all I have to do is follow hard after Him.

(Okay, so I know there is more to it than that.  Trust me!  At 41 years of age, I’ve been around the block enough times to expect there will be many hard days, many moments of struggles, and maybe even quite a few flat-out failures. But my focus will be on Christ and the new thing He is doing in me. And somehow, in this very moment, right here where I sit at the corner of my kitchen bar,  I’m feeling blessed to know I will no longer fight this battle on my own.)