Our sugar-free quest

A couple of years ago we started paying attention to how much sugar was in the food we consumed. We quickly became aware that it’s challenging to find foods that don’t have a lot of added sugar. Those that don’t have added artificial sweeteners which are an issue for us. I am talking about things like tomato soup, barbecue sauce and pasta sauce.

The solution: you have to make your own. Here are a few of my favorite recipes.

  • I found this recipe for marinara sauce in the New York Times years ago. Simple, easy and so good. Sometimes I’ll add a whole bunch of sautéed mushroom slices, and my wife will love me even more.
  • I love this barbecue sauce I found at Wholesome Yum. I did not add any of the suggested sweetener they recommend, and it was delicious.
  • Tomato soup? I don’t have any favorites yet, but you can find many recipes online. I’ve learned that you can leave out any sweeteners, and still end up with a delicious bowl!
  • We make a batch of Flourless Blueberry Banana muffins weekly. The fruit provides all the sweetness you need. You have to try these. I make large muffins and bake them for 17 minutes.
  • The Gluten-free Almond flour pancakes we like the best are here. We make a double batch and freeze what we can’t eat. They microwave back to life when we want them for a quick breakfast!

I am not the best sugar-free eater on the planet. Not by a long shot. But we constantly strive to do better, and I am sure we are reaping the benefits.

One of these things just doesn't belong.

I did not stage this. I would never do that to ice cream or beer. But this sight at Publix made me think of few story nuggets…
  • With a cart chock full of food for the family for the week, there was room for one more item. The ice cream aisle is so long and looks so good. Why not? Grab a 1/2 gallon. But then you turn the corner and you think to yourself, “I may have made a mistake.” However, it’s one you correct. Abandoning the ice cream, there is just enough room in your cart for something from this beer aisle that is just as long and looks oh so good.
  • You made the mistake of bringing the kids to the store with you. The non-stop whining for this and that finally got to you. At first, you agreed to some ice cream. But the pleas for more didn’t let up. That’s it. No treats for you. But there will be a treat for me!
  • Uh-oh. Here she comes. I can’t let her see this. I thought I could slip it into the cart between the spinach and the eggs. I’ve got to ditch this somewhere. Whew, that was close.
  • I hate it when the ice cream is so hard that you can’t scoop it out of the container. I’ll just let it soften up in here for a minute.
  • “I already got some double-chocolate fudge brownie turtle swirl sundae. Put that vanilla back, and let’s go.” Yeah, like I’m walking all the way back there. This freezer is good enough.

Burger King!

I vividly remember when the Burger King came to Ridley Park. I don’t remember the year, but I it was somewhere around 6th or 7th grade, so that would put it about 1969? Not only did it come to our town, but they built the restaurant less than a quarter mile from my house. We were so excited! All we had to do was walk down the hill and down the pike (Chester Pike) and we were there.

These were the years when fast food franchises started popping up everywhere. I can’t remember if there was a McDonald’s in town. But there was a Gino’s where we would sometimes get a sack of hamburgers for supper. Wendy’s and Arby’s didn’t arrive till high school.

Now just because Burger King was a stone’s throw away doesn’t mean I went there very often. But it seemed like all the other kids on the block did. They always seemed to have money for fries or a coke. My parents only gave us money on allowance day. I might have gotten $1 a week or maybe every two weeks when my dad got paid. Even though a burger only cost about $.15 back then, I didn’t often blow an allowance on fast food. Come to think of it, I don’t think I was even allowed to go there by myself.

In retrospect, I’m amazed at how enthralled I was with fast food while growing up. It was new, convenient, exciting and delicious for young palettes. I ate plenty in college and as a young adult. Now, I hardly ever eat fast food. Chick-fil-A might be the exception, but even’t that’s getting old. Either that, or I am.

You went to Taco Bell?

As we were getting ready to begin our Thursday morning men’s bible study at Bob Evans last Thursday, a member of the class casually mentioned, “I had a taco from Taco Bell…” I and a few others did a double take. We didn’t have to say what we were thinking: “You went to Taco Bell?”

It was a surreal moment. The person who ate the aforementioned taco appreciates good Tex-Mex food. They also appreciate good, genuine Mexican food. Yet, in the moment, Taco Bell looked good, promised to satisfy and drew them in.

Reflecting on that moment, this person commented, “I couldn’t find the meat!” While affordable, these tacos contained very little beef. “And when I bit in to one, it broke apart.” Been there. Done that. Tortilla shell crumbs everywhere!

Many in the class acknowledged that this diner would be spending some significant time in a “reading room.” Easy come. Easy go!

No bacon?

While waiting for some work to be done on my car, I walked up to Panera Bread in St. Augustine to have breakfast, drink some coffee, and do a little writing. As I stepped up to order, I glance at the menu board, saw exactly what I wanted, and said, “I’ll have the bacon, egg and cheese sandwich.” Delicious.

The very young lady taking orders said, “We don’t have any bacon.” What? I said it out loud: “What?” I glanced at my watch. 9:00 am. And you are out of bacon? Wow, you’ve got some big breakfast menu problems! I settled for the ham, egg and cheese sandwich, but as we all know, it’s just not the same without bacon.

That moment brought to mind my visit to McDonalds a few years ago, when the window gal told me, “We don’t have no shakes.” Or when our home court Bob Evans restaurant who suddenly decided that raisins would no longer be a topping available for oatmeal. Or the morning they decided, “We no longer serve English muffins.” I’m sure someone at corporate, who rarely actually ate breakfast at a Bob Evans restaurant, decided there was money to be made by striking raisins and muffins from the menu.

And then I flashed back to a song my mom and dad used to sing at the piano when we were kids: “Yes, We Have No Bananas!” an old 1923 song from Louis Prima. That’s the only line I remember from the song. Back then, it was a number one hit for five straight weeks!

How in the world can you have no bacon on a Friday morning at 9 am? Come on, can’t someone make a run to Publix!

Livermush

livermushScanning the breakfast menu in the small North Carolina restaurant, I paused for a moment at an unfamiliar word in the menu. Livermush. Along with eggs and biscuits, you got to choose bacon, sausage or livermush. Interesting. At first glance it looked like the name of a Chronicles of Narnia character.

I did some quick Google research and discovered why I had never heard of livermush. It’s a southern dish, especially treasured in North Carolina. I’m a Yankee so I hadn’t ever encountered that stuff. Where I come from – not too far from the Pennsylvania Dutch — you eat scrapple. They are basically the same. When Mary Rizzo writes about the recipe in the Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia, she explains, “While parts of the pig became sausages or bacon, the rest, ‘everything but the oink,’ was collected for scrapple.” It was boiled up with sage and pepper, then thickened with cornmeal and buckwheat. Once it cooled into a loaf, you slice off a piece to fry up in a skillet. In the south, they threw in pig liver to make it a bit more palatable. In Ohio, oatmeal was used in place of corn meal, and it was called goetta.

scrappleWe didn’t eat scrapple all the time growing up, but often enough that I remember it well. My dad must have liked it. Of course, he also relished pickled pigs’ feet, sardines packaged in tins of oil and mustard that he would spread on a slice of buttered bread, and a vegetable he grew in his garden called kohlrabi. Thank goodness mom only worked as a nurse on the weekends. When my dad cooked, kohlrabi often made it to the table.

eggs and livermushYes, I ordered livermush that day with my scrambled eggs and it was almost as delicious as a fried slice of Habbersett Scrapple from the A&P (or from Friends restaurant in Flagler Beach, FL, who import some from Philadelphia each week). I offered to share, but few at my table dared to try a bite.