{Weight Watchers} Thinking Outside of the Grocery Store

I spend my bus ride to and from work scrolling through the Weight Watchers Connect feature. People post about their struggles, their triumphs, and mostly their relationship with food. On how they would eat their feelings and stressors. Some admit that eating brings them the pleasure that their lives are lacking. One woman said “a pint of ice cream never gave me a nasty stare.” Some ate out of boredum. In their words it dawned on me that so many Americans have a terrible relationship with food. For many it stems from their up brining and using food to cope. 

I’d like to believe that our eating habits reflect our up brining and life style. For me food was always available. My parents were eating organic before organic was a buzz word that graced grocery shelves. Every fall my parents would get a hog from Huttles in Lake city and vegetables/fruit from a meat locker in Downsville. It was a big day when the call came the our bacon and ham was ready for pick up. We had two chest freezers, you know the big ones that you can hide a body in. One was filled with pork and the other fruit,  vegetables, and ice cream. As my parents loaded the freezers I would play in the empty boxes while begging “can we have tater tots!?” 

My parents made sure that my tiny hands touched the soil. A good part of my childhood was spent tending to our small orchard and the fruit trees at our house in town. My dad taught me how to plant, trim and care for our trees. In the fall the picked apples and pears went to Ms. Dorothy. When I think of Ms. Dorothy I think of summer afternoons picking cucumbers, tomatoes, and preparing dill bundles for drying. Ms. Dorothy is the reason I have an obsession with mason jars. She taught me how to can vegetables and fruit, to make jam, apple sauce, and soup. Ms. Dorothy and my parents brought the farm to my childhood table. 

As a child the grocery store wasn’t fun, the only thing my Mama bought was milk, bread, juice, Shasta, and cereal. I would try and sneak canned ravioli and pasta into her cart, she always caught me, took it out and said “no.” I would get so mad because all of my friends were eating canned food and boxed Mac & Cheese, I wanted to eat like they did. It didn’t matter how much I whined, I never got it. Mainly this was for my own health. 

Back in the 80’s food labels held little to no valuable information.  Canned and boxed prepared foods were loaded with salt. Sodium was the enemy in our house, my kidneys couldn’t handle it and my body was still healing from bladder reconstruction surgery. At one time all I could keep down was yogurt and jello. Trust me I have eaten more jello and yogart, than one soul can handle. Fish was a staple, until an eye ball appeared in my fish sandwich. Vegetables, I have a non existent relationship with vegetables. If it’s a root vegetable I will eat it, but you will not see me sit down to a salad. Salads are for rabbits, not humans. My Mama often made two meals, one family and a separate bland meal for me. 

Even when I was given a clean bill of health, we still stuck to the low sodium no processed food regime. In college I was finally away from my parents and you guessed it I bought canned ravioli……. they were disgusting, same with boxed Mac & Cheese. I have never eaten Ramen or a Twinki, I am probably the only American who has achieved this feat. Over the years I have gained and lost weight. My weight gain was not due to my eating habits, but my lack of activity and the medications I was taking. Add in two pregnancies…. then you get the picture. 

The fore mentioned is what brought me to Weight Watchers. Over the past month I have been asking myself “do you eat for comfort? Do you eat because you are bored?” The answer to both  questions is no. For me food is nourishment and not comfort. Don’t get me wrong I love me some comfort food! Many ladies eat because they are stressed or emotional. When I am stressed food is the last thing I want. I rather take a nap or veg out on the couch. If I’m emotional, I want to nap with my dog, not food.

Food doesn’t define me, I define it. My farm to table upbringing has a huge impact on my relationship with food and choices. I stray away from microwave meals, canned goods, Tyson products, and artificial flavorings/sweeteners. Sure I look at pop tarts and granola bars longingly, but I know they are not good for me. Cupcakes and I well let’s just say I can’t have just one, so I don’t even bother to bring them home. Same goes for cookies, cookies stay on the shelf. For me it’s knowing what triggers a slippery slope down fall. Those triggers stay at the store, where they belong. 

It takes a lot of strength and will power to pass up the bakery department and center isles of the store. All of the good stuff lies on the edges. Even better the freshest food lives at your local farmers market or butcher. Don’t be defined by your grocery store, think outside of the store and buy from your local farmers. 

{Food For Thought} Blackberry Oatmeal Breakfast Bars

Blackberry oatmealIf you are like me your mornings are pretty hectic. I have to get myself ready for work, walk the dog, and some how find time for breakfast. Most mornings my breakfast consist of a cup of coffee and that’s about it. My Keurig is a blessing, if I could I would marry that thing. But since its not legal for a woman to marry a coffee maker, I’ll settle for our best friends for life relationship.

Strolling through the breakfast isle I noticed that there are over 100 different types of breakfast bars. I rarely buy processed food items, except for breakfast bars. They come in handy when you need to quell the beast in your stomach. Since my diet consist of mostly heart healthy foods I always look for the heart check label. Reading the ingredients is important to me, well except for when I have no idea what half the shit is. Intimidated by hydrogenated oils and other things I couldn’t pronounce I put the box down. I thought to myself “I can probably make breakfast bars from scratch.” So I set off on a web search to find a good breakfast bar recipe. There are a lot of different versions out there from easy to complicated. I don’t like complicated breakfast bars. After trial and error I came up with a recipe that worked for me and my time commitment. Time is precious around here.

Blackberry Oatmeal Breakfast Bars

Servings: 8 – 10
Prep Time: 20 minutes (that’s fast folks!)
Bake Time: 25 minutes

1 cup flour
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 cups black berry jam, or any type of jam you prefer 

1. Preheat the oven to 375 F.
2. In a large bowl mix everything together, but the jam.
3. Take 2 cups of the mixture and press it into the bottom of an 8 inch square pan, coated with cooking spray.
4. Spread the jam evenly over the top of the firmly pressed mixture.
5. Take remaining mixture and spread it over the jam, press down lightly.
6. Bake for 25 minutes
7. let the bars cool for 15 minutes and cut into squares.

{Love Thy Farmer, Not Thy Brand} Historic PickWick Grist Mill

Follow the Great River Road from Minneapolis to Southern Minnesota and beyond. Along the road you will find many hidden gems and tid bits of our states history. Hwy 61 is lined with dozens of brown historical marker signs. Most signs will lead you to historical markers that tell you about days gone by. Take the turn off to Pickwick, I promise you will not be disappointed. Nestled along the river sits a 6 story limestone brick grist mill.

The Pickwick Mill was built from 1856 to 1858 by Thomas Grant and Wilson Davis. It is one of the oldest water powered grist mills in southeast Minnesota. Pickwick is Constructed as a gristmill and sawmill on the banks of Big Trout Creek. The mill ran 24 hours a day during the Civil War and produced 100 barrels daily for the Union Army. After the war, the mill became a flour-milling center for most of southern Minnesota and portions of Iowa and Wisconsin.

Pickwick mill was built from locally quarried limestone, with a timber frame that was so closely fit, that nails were not used except to nail the floorboards down to the joists. The six-story building was severely damaged in 1907 when a tornado took off the roof and top storage room. The mill was then retrofitted with a flat plank roof. The mill’s roof has been restored to reflect the originl design.

$3.00 gets you in the door. Pickwick is a self guided tour and the mill is filled with fantastic artifacts of our nations milling past. The elevator only carries grain, so you will have to walk all six fleights of stairs yourself. The friendly staff are happy to turn on the educational video (yes I said video) and answer any questions that you may have.

So travel the river road, let the brown signs be your guide, and pull off in Pickwick for a glimps of days gone bye.

PickWick Historic Mill Tourist Iformation
Location Address:
24813 County Rd. 7,
Winona, Minnesota 55987

Days and Hours of Operation
The Pickwick Mill will be open
* Weekends during May, September, and October
* Tuesday through Sunday during June, July, and August
Hours of operation:
10AM – 5PM Tuesday through Saturday
11AM – 5PM Sunday
Tours at other times available by appointment. Call 507-457-0499,
507-457-3296, 507-457-9658

Ticket Purchase
Tickets cost $3 adults, $2 teenagers over age 12, $1 children age 12 or under. Group tour prices available.

For more informtion visit: http://www.pickwickmill.org

{For the Love of Cheese} Bass Lake Cheese Factory

If you have found yourself without weekend plans I have a suggestion. Minnesota is right next to the dairy state and let me tell you “there is nothing like handcrafted Wisconsin Cheese!” The state of Wisconsin is littered with small family owned cheese factories and dairies. Lucky for us Minneapolis is pretty darn close to the Bass Lake Cheese Factory. I actually found Bass Lake a few years ago by accident. I got lost on my way to Somerset and stopped in for directions, now I go there on purpose.

Bass Lake Cheese factory has been a Wisconsin staple since 1918. Today the state of Wisconsin has less than 200 cheese factories, many of them are automated and no longer make cheese by hand. The old-fashioned traditions of cheese making are a live and well at Bass Lake. The Cheese Master continues to use traditional recipes and techniques to create an amazing variety. Hastings creamery supplies Bass Lake with the milk that is needed to create the different types of cheese. You can’t get more local than that, Bass Lake is truly a gem in the dairy state’s crown.

Have you ever wondered how long it takes to make a good quality cheese? I know I have. During my visit I chatted with the very friendly counter staff and they gave me a brief lesson in the art of cheese making. I learned that it typically takes about 8 hours to make cheese and that all cheese is actually white. Yellow was used if the cheese was of the cheddar variety and white signaled that the cheese was a jack. Today the same coloring system is still used to identify the different types of cheeses. No worries, the dye is vegetable based and is chemical free. “I like the sound of chemical free cheese, I want cheese in my cheese, not chemicals with my cheese.”

The staff at Bass Lake are very helpful and love to answer questions. If you have a question about a certain cheese or need help pairing it with wine just ask. Bass Lake is known for their Butter Jack, no butter is not in the cheese. Butter Jack is similar to Monterey Jack however it has a richer creamier flavor. They even have CHEESE CURDS! What, you’ve never heard of the curd before. Well then you’ve come to the right blog. Curds are cheese that has yet to be pressed into a solid block. You can eat cheese curds straight out of the bag or you can dip them in beer batter (Yes beer batter) and deep fry them. Trust me once you sink your teeth into a curd, you’ll never look at cheese the same way again. At Bass Lake curds come in plain or flavored. Plain curds make me a happy girl, however when I am feeling a bit daring I will go for the Cajun flavored curds.

In addition to fresh cheese Bass Lake offers made to order sandwiches, pizzas, soft serve ice cream and cool drinks. They have a good selection of beer and wine to go along with the cheese you bought. The factory also sells an array of jams, jellies, and syrups from local Wisconsin companies. The best part of the factory is the viewing window that looks into the factory. Yes, you can watch them make cheese and stroll through their collection of antique cheese making equipment. Bass Lake has a large deck outside and welcomes bikers. So why not get lost and find your way to the Bass Lake Cheese Factory.

If you don’t want to get lost, here is the address:
Bass Lake Cheese Factory
598 Valley View Trail
Somerset WI 54025

or visit them on the web: http://www.blcheese.com