Wednesday, May 30, 2012

I am moving

After posting a couple times in the last day or two, I've decided that I really don't want to stay on Blogger any longer.  You can find the new location over at

No, "learnify" is not a real word.  Yes, I like making up words that should be real.  It also made me giggle.  So head on over and watch me get learnified!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

GF Snack Break

Ah, popcorn.  Glorious, low-calorie, gluten-free popcorn.  It's good to eat for just about any diet or eating plan, unless you're corn-free or trying to avoid GMO's.  But I digress.

For snack this afternoon, I am making two varieties of wonderful popcorn.

Variety 1, for my son Raspberry, is the basic popcorn-with-butter-and-salt combo.  Variety 2, for me and whichever kids are brave enough to taste it, is a little more exciting.

I got this recipe from my mother-in-law, and I love it.  I have no idea where she got it from, but I figure that the more popcorn lovers who find it, the better.  If you know who I should give credit to for one of my favourite snacks, please let me know!

Sweet and Spicy Popcorn Snack Mix

2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp liquid honey
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
pinch of each: ground cloves, cayenne, and salt
8 cups popped popcorn
1/4 cup chopped nuts (today I'm using cashews and pecans, and I put in way more than 1/4 cup)
1/4 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 300F.  Mix the butter, honey, and spices in a small bowl.  Microwave for a minute, stir, toss over the popcorn, nuts, and berries.  Spread on a lightly greased baking sheet (or two), and bake for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Allow to cool a bit before eating.  Can be stored in an airtight container for up to 5 days.  Makes 8 cups or so.

In case you were wondering, my kids aren't actually named after fruit.  I just didn't want their names to be displayed on the internet overly much, so I gave them horrible nicknames.  Someday, I bet, they'll get me in trouble for that. 

Gluten Deprivation: Life Without Bread

You may be wondering how I convinced my kids to go gluten free.  Here's a secret for you:  I didn't ask them. I told them, "I think I might have figured out why you have tummy aches so often.  I think it's the wheat that's bothering you.  How about we don't eat wheat for two weeks to see if you feel better?"

I was sneaky.  I didn't mention at first that all their favourite foods contained wheat.  (I figured that would become obvious soon enough.)  Raspberry was immediately on board.  He doesn't like stomach aches or headaches, so I think it made sense to him to try to get rid of them.

My kids have also grown up with me.  You may have read my past posts about sugar.  I can't eat sugar without becoming crazy/anxious/depressed/stressed out.  It basically causes a day of meltdowns, impatience, and yelling, following by crying and the thoughts that my life is horrible and I must escape it.  (It's almost like I forget everything good for a day.)

I talk with my kids about why I don't eat sugar; I restrict their sugar intake because I'm pretty sure that even if it doesn't make them crazy, it's bad for them in other ways.  It's bad for everyone.  I just happen to be an extreme case.

So, the idea that food affects how people feel is not a new idea around here.  When I say, "Wheat might be what's making you feel horrible all the time," the kids believe me.  And they're smart.  They don't want to feel sick.

My husband, although smart, is not convinced that life without bread can be better.  He looks to the possibly gluten-free future and sees meetings in which he can't eat donuts, fast-food that doesn't include hamburgers, and mid-day hunger that can't be satisfied by going through a drive-thru.

I look to his gluten-free future and see more energy, less pain, and more peace of mind.  I see it out of my own experience with sugar.  I know that giving up the foods I thought I loved was worth it.  Sometimes, I still look wistfully at caramel, but then I get over it.  I have found ways to make my own ice cream with stevia; I do my baking with honey or agave syrup; I can even pour a bit of maple syrup on my pancakes if I want to.  I have found that whole-food sugars can be acceptable in small quantities.  I have also developed a taste for non-sweet things.  I know that Husband's tastes will change over time.  But, I also realize that there is a grieving process involved in giving up old comfort foods.

A couple years ago, my sister (I think?) gave me a couple books for Christmas or my birthday:  Babycakes by Erin McKenna and Gluten-Free Girl by Shauna James Ahern.  Babycakes is a recipe book that is "Vegan, (Mostly) Gluten-Free, and (Mostly) Sugar-Free" (from front cover), and it has many great recipes in it, including an icing recipe that I can eat.  Through that book and those recipes, I started into the world of coconut oil, alternative flours, and eating cupcakes again.

Reading Gluten-Free Girl, which is more of a memoir/food-discovery story, changed other things in my brain.  I realized then that eating without something -- be it sugar or gluten -- didn't have to feel deprived.  It could be a glorious opportunity to find new loves.  Reading that book changed the way I thought about food, and I think it was a preparation for this day, for this experiment, for success.  I can tell my family with absolute certainty that although we are trying life without gluten, we will not be deprived.  We will still eat delicious food in abundance.

On Saturday, I went to the cupboard and removed all the gluteny food.  There is nothing worse that being hungry and staring into a cupboard full of food you can't eat.  So I decided to make sure the cupboard was full of foods that we like that contain no gluten.  Actually, I was surprised by how much was left on the shelves when I was done.

I rediscovered bags of nuts and sunflower seeds, packages of dates and prunes that had been pushed to the back, and jars of home-canned fruit.  (No, I have not tried canning yet.  Maybe someday.)  I pulled out the pasta, but left brown-rice noodles, grains of all kinds, and even a couple gluten-free flours from old experimenting days.  Some of these foods may be past their best-before dates, but it still makes me happy to know they're there.  The cupboards are far from bare.

I have some plans to roast some raw cashews I have in the freezer along with some pecans from the cupboard.  Maybe I'll give them a nice, flavourful coating first.  I wonder what the kids would like best?  I'm imagining a crunchy, maple-y coating on them.

I've also made up some popsicles for the kids.  (Here you go: the easiest popsicle recipe ever:  Pour strawberry yogourt into popsicle molds.  Freeze.  Eat.

You're welcome.)

For dinner tonight, I think we'll barbecue some steaks, potatoes, and carrots.  I love barbecued carrots.  We'll have a veggie tray for the picky youngsters who don't like cooked vegetables, and we'll slather our potatoes in sour cream and butter.  Yum.

Deprived?  Never.

Going Gluten Free

I'm about to use my poor, long-neglected health blog as a daily diary during a family experiment. We are going gluten free for two weeks to see what happens.

What brought this on? Well, I was at the pharmacy the other day picking up a prescription, and while I was waiting for my drugs to be ready and shivering with fever, I decided to browse through the books. (Yes, it was one of those big box pharmacies where you can easily forget you're in a drug store.) One of them caught my eye, and on impulse, I decided to buy it. The title: What's Eating Your Child? by Kelly Dorfman, MS, LND. 

I have one kid (let's call him Strawberry) who's itchy all the time. His skin? It looks normal. Every now and then, it gets dry, but it itches him even when he feels lovely and moisturized. It drives both of us crazy. He's also pretty sensitive and has been having meltdowns way beyond what I believe his self control can do as a six-year-old. He's a smart kid.

I have another kid (whom I'll call Raspberry) who has been complaining about stomach aches a lot, at various times of day and evening. He also mentions having a head ache more than I like. He used to complain about itchy skin as well, but only at bed time; he no longer complains about itching, but he has some nights when he just can't sleep, and by 11pm, he and I are both past our patience. Thankfully, those nights are getting fewer and farther between lately.

The next child, whom I shall nickname Orange, also complains about stomach aches, although it's unclear whether they're merely clean-up-time induced. His legs also hurt quite often for no apparent reason, and I've been told "they're just growing pains. Give him some Advil." I don't really like giving him Advil every night, which is pretty much how often he seems to need it.

Last but not least comes Banana. He, like Orange, his twin, has terrible growing pains in his legs. They sometimes wake him up in the middle of the night. He also consumes way too much Advil. But even more worrisome than that, to this mother at least, is that he isn't growing properly. I'm pretty lucky to have an identical twin to compare him to to see that he's not growing to his genetic potential. He's a full two inches shorter than Orange, and even his legs are skinnier. He's also "clumsy." The poor little guy has a "gross motor delay," according to his doctors. They don't seem worried about it. But I feel bad for him sometimes. He wants to be as fast and as big as his twin, but he just isn't.

Oh, and I suppose I should mention Apple, even though she's little and not showing any signs of troubles yet. I don't want her to feel left out. ;)

Those little people are the reason I picked up that book. I want them to be healthy and happy, and I knew I was feeding them too many bagels and english muffins and toast and wraps... But I wasn't sure if they were causing Raspberry's stomach troubles, or if I was imagining things.

Anyway, it turned out to be an absolutely fascinating read. Kelly (I hope she doesn't mind if I call her Kelly) has so many years of experience, and it's obvious to me that she's great with people as well as with nutrition. She even gives suggestions on getting picky eaters to expand their menus, and the method is so gentle that I wonder why no one else has told me something similar. As I read, I became more and more curious to see what would happen if we, as a family, removed gluten from our diets. Would Raspberry's stomach aches and headaches disappear? Would Banana be able to grow? Would Strawberry's itching go away?

You see, my husband's mom eats gluten free for many health reasons, and my husband is exhibiting symptoms of gluten intolerance, too. (Stomach pains, headaches, fatigue, mood swings, skin rashes that won't clear up no matter what chemical-free cream I try, joint pain, muscle aches.)  He'll deny it up and down, though, because he loves his bread. Good man that he is, he's going along with me for the next two weeks. Although his first reaction may or may not have been, "I will not eat cardboard!"

Our Plan

Starting Friday past, we have been eating gluten free. So that makes this day five today. I'd been meaning to document/diary everyone's reactions so we can measure how well this is helping each person. In a family this big, as you can imagine, it's hard for me to keep track of who had a tummy ache when, and it's especially hard for me to stay on top of who ate what when. For instance, I have a niggling suspicion that Banana isn't eating enough, but I can't directly remember any of his meal consumptions. It's time to start writing things down.

My goal is simply to remove everything wheaty and gluteny that we've been eating. No more bagels, English muffins, wraps, wheat pasta, bread, toast, or buns. I won't be looking too closely at hidden ingredients, but I will be reading labels and avoiding what I can.

We won't be adding in any new foods. We'll merely eat more of the other stuff we already know and like. My fridge is fully stocked with all their favourite fruits and vegetables, I have lots of meat in the freezer for dinners, and we have a couple dozen eggs for breakfasts and omelets and whatever else we fancy. I also bought rice cakes, which my kids love, and Tostitos. (I know they're full of bad fats, but I didn't want my husband to think he was dying of deprivation. Also, let's face it: our eating habits have been abysmal lately, and chips are normal around here.) We also have cheese, cheese strings, yogourt, apple juice, and even gluten-free crackers (but only because they're tasty and they've been a family staple for a while now. Not everyone likes them, though).

If, after the two week trial is up and we decide we (or some of us) feel better eating gluten free, then I'll think about introducing new foods to the kids' snacks. Raspberry is a very picky eater, though, so I know the process might be slow. In all of this planning, I have been following Kelly's recommendations for doing a trial, and I will be trying out her E.A.T. program when I start adding new foods, if necessary.

We have also added a kids' multivitamin and strawberry-flavoured cod liver oil for essential fatty acids. For Banana, I have been intrigued by the idea that some kids who are deficient in zinc do not grow to their genetic potential, do not eat as much, and sometimes are even repulsed by normal foods... so I'm giving him 15 mg of zinc, stirred up in his yogourt.

I'm not hiding any of these vitamins, etc, in any of their food. Banana knows he's eating zinc to help him grow, and all of them have been taking supplements for a while now, mostly to maintain good immune function. (A couple years ago, I had been so tired of winter colds and the wheezing that accompanied them for the twins, that I had seen a homeopathic doctor about what to do. She recommended lots of sleep, lots of water, Vitamins C & D, and cod liver oil.) I have found a brand that has good ingredients, no added colours or sugar, and whose taste they like. The little vitamins are even shaped like stars. They get excited to eat them, as if they're candies.

So Far
Well, I'm kicking myself for not having written down my observations every day, but here goes:

Day 1 (Friday): Raspberry & Strawberry had a class in which they made hard tack as part of the history lesson. Hard tack is made out of flour and water, and they both loved it. Oops. I guess this day might not count. Raspberry complained of stomach ache, and so did Orange. Husband complained about dreading not having much of anything to eat, and I decided to prove him wrong by making amazing, easy food that I already knew he liked. Take that! Orange and Banana both had growing pains.

Day 2 (Saturday): Raspberry complained of stomach ache again. *sigh* I reminded myself that the first week would be more about withdrawal from gluten, not about healing. A friend of ours brought "barbecue-able food" over for dinner, and showed up with hot dogs, hamburgers, and buns. He very graciously hid the buns away after I apologized that we couldn't eat wheat, and Husband just about cried when he realized he couldn't eat the buns. But we also made oven-baked potatoes, salad with bacon & apples, and a veggie tray so he wouldn't feel hungry. Orange and Banana had growing pains, and Banana woke up in the middle of the night needing Advil.

Day 3 (Sunday): We had to hurry home from church so the kids and Husband wouldn't gobble up any the cookies after the service. I amazingly had the presence of mind to bring rice cakes for snack in the van instead, but poor Husband is apparently NOT a fan of rice cakes. The kids, although they complained and whined, "No cookies!" were just fine. We came home and had a big lunch, then I went out to our local farmers' market to see what kinds of things I could expect to find this summer. I came home with some local free-roaming pork that had been fed only grasses and clover (which tastes amazing!), some fresh spinach, and some other really cool things like old-fashioned, homemade ginger ale concentrate. How cool is that? I believe there were still stomach complaints from Raspberry that day.

Day 4 (Monday): I can't remember Strawberry asking me to scratch his back at all that day. Hm. No stomach complaints from Raspberry. No growing pains from Orange and Banana. Miss Apple, however, is feeling miserable. She's had a fever since the Sunday afternoon and is being very cranky. She had a big immunization on Thursday and has been out of sorts since then. She's also cutting molars. I'm very hopeful that those are the only things bothering her.

Also of note:  Poor Raspberry was starting to feel deprived.  His main diet had consisted of bagels and English muffins and wraps with cheese, so being told to "eat an apple if you're hungry" just wasn't cutting it.  Although he loves eggs for breakfast, by afternoon snack time, he wanted something familiar.  Unfortunately, I recently bought pogos (before deciding to try gluten-free eating), which he loves.  He asked for one.  I said, "Er, uh.... I'll check the label."  (Maybe they'd be made with just corn flour, right?)  Sure enough, the first ingredient was wheat flour.  The poor guy had a bit of a meltdown, but I don't blame him.  And, to his credit, it didn't last long.  Not to my credit, I gave him the chips I had refused to give him ten minutes earlier. (I guess I figured that most of the meltdown was hunger induced, and that any food was better than none.)

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Poop on Cloth Diapers: Why You Should Use Them and How to Pick the Right Ones for Your Family

Let's make this a quick tutorial, designed to eradicate the confusion of delving into the cloth-diapering world. It's taken me a couple weeks of researching different kinds to finally decide on what I, personally, am going to use, and I thought maybe I could help you by sharing what I've learned.

First, why cloth diapers? There are a couple of reasons:
1) They're cheaper than disposables. Way cheaper. Think two hundred dollars instead of two thousand.
2) They're easy. Seriously. No, I'm not kidding.
3) They're planet-friendly. They're not made with 2/3 cup of oil, and they don't live in landfills for hundreds of years.
4) They're baby-friendly. No weird perfumes or chemicals or petroleum products. Some women swear that their baby's diaper rashes only cleared up once they switched to cloth.
5) They are frickin' cute. Have you seen those lame denim disposable diapers ads? (Seriously. Who came up with that?) Cloth ones are so much cuter than those could ever be. They come in bright colours and happy prints; you can even match them to your kid's outfits if you want.

Now, let's do a brief overview of what's out there.

If you don't want to scare your husband and you don't care how much you spend:
Then pocket diapers or all-in-one's (AIO's) are your best choice. They are just like disposables in many ways; you use them once, then throw them in the diaper pail to wait for wash day. They have a moisture-wicking layer next to baby's skin, a liner stuffed in the middle, and a cute and brightly-coloured outer layer with snaps or velcro. (The only difference between them is that the AIO's liners are attached at one end to the diaper so they don't get separated in the wash, and the pocket diaper's liners are not attached at all.) The only drawback, which you might not care about, is that you can only use them once. So you need lots, and they cost between $20-25 CAD each.

If you really want to save money and don't mind one extra, teeny-tiny step:
"Pre-folds" are the way to go. Don't be scared by their name. They are not the miserable squares that must be folded just so and then safety-pinned together that made our parents switch to disposables. They have two parts: a liner and a cover. The covers are super-cute, shaped to fit your baby just like a disposable (and possibly even better), and come with either velcro or snap closures. They're also coated on the inside with a baby-friendly substance to you can wipe them off and use them again. The liners are what you need to change with every wet or dirty bum. They come in either long rectangles or large squares. The rectangles go right in the covers as is, and the squares get folded in thirds, then placed in the cover. The liners are made of highly-absorbent layers of fabric, usually organic cotton, hemp, or bamboo. There are also microfiber and polyester liners. The beauty is that because they're all so absorbent, they're actually fairly thin, not bulky. (Seriously, I wondered if my thin little hemp liners would actually do their job. Then they absorbed more water and took longer to dry than the fluffy polyester liners, even after I'd squeezed them all out.)

If you're afraid of clean-up:
No matter what system you choose, you basically just rinse them off if they're super-poopy, drop them in the diaper pail, and forget about them until wash day. Some people buy little spray nozzles to attach to the base of their toilets, then just rinse them right off into the bowl. Some forget the sprayer and just swoosh them around in there. Me, I think I'll dump the poop in the toilet, rinse in my nearby sink, then toss them in the nearby hamper.

I was scared of icky diaper pails, but now you can buy diaper-pail liners that are coated to make them waterproof and are machine washable. How brilliant is that? So basically, every two days, I dump my diapers into the washer, drop the liner in after them, and wash 'em all together. No bleaching of the pail necessary. I can even, apparently, get little deodorizing disks to put in the bottom of the hamper, if necessary.

And when we're on the go, I'm still going to use the cloth. I bought myself a ridiculously stylish "wet bag," which is basically a beautiful square bag with a zipper that's fully lined to make it waterproof. It works the same way as the pail liner: drop it in the wash and re-use it once it's clean. Hm... maybe I should get two. :)

If you're wondering how many diapers you'd need:
The answer is (if you want to wash every two days), 24 liners and 6 covers for pre-folds, and 12 to 24 pocket diapers or AIO's. This is the amount for newborns, who need their bums changed every 2 to 3 hours, the little rascals. For older kids, the amount gets to be much less. If you don't mind washing once a day, you can get away with less, as well.

Things to keep in mind:
Babies start out small. Then they grow. We all know that. So, if you don't want to keep buying bigger diapers to fit your growing baby, you need to think about getting the kind that will grow with his or her lovely little behind. Thankfully, the nice diaper people thought of that. Some models come with several rows of snaps, so you can adjust the length of the diaper to fit anywhere between 8 and 35 pounds. Not every diaper has such a large range, though; some are 6 to 18 pounds, then 18 to 40 pounds. Still, buying two sizes is better than buying four.

If you're wondering whether to get hemp, bamboo, cotton, or microfiber:
Don't worry about it. They all work. Go with what you can afford. The hemp and bamboo are more absorbent and have anti-microbial properties (isn't nature amazing?), but are a bit more expensive. You can start off with a basic cotton system and add a hemp or bamboo "booster" if your baby really pees a lot. Try a bit of everything, and see what you like best. You might find your needs change as your baby grows.

If you're wondering by now what I picked:
Well, I'm really cheap, so I picked a pre-fold system. I spent a couple hours deciding on whether to get adjustable covers or not, then picking my favourite colours and prints... Oh! The choices! Anyway, in the end, I ended up buying two boxes of Flip diapers. (They're made by BumGenius, if anyone cares.) Each box contains two covers and six liners. The covers are covered in snaps, and fit from 8 to 35 pounds. Since my babies tend to be small, I also bought two Thirsties covers, sized 6 to 18 pounds, just in case. If all else fails, the little baby girl will just have to wear disposables *gasp!* for her first couple weeks until she grows into the cloth diapers. To be honest, I'm not sure if I bought enough, but I'll cross that bridge when I get to it. I might go back and buy a six-pack of Bummis organic cotton liners to try as well. The bonus? Those Flips also fit my three-year-old, and since he's not so keen on the potty training, I'm using him as my test kid to get me used to cloth before a newborn shows up. So far, I'm loving the cloth! It's much easier than even my optimism hoped for.

If, after reading this, you're still not too sure on what to get, I highly recommend going to your local baby store and asking the staff. They are a wealth of knowledge! Some stores even offer a little class to get you started. If you're not lucky enough to have a specialty baby shop in your area, I know of at least one online store that can help you: There must be others, as well. Those helpful shop people taught me most of what I know about cloth diapers, and I'm sure I'll have more questions for them as I go.

Happy diapering, everyone! (If there is such a thing...)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Homemade Chocolate Pudding

My good friend gave me this recipe, and since I had a craving for it tonight, I figured I'd go ahead and share it. It's a super-easy recipe for chocolate pudding, and the best part is that because you're making it, you can sweeten it in whichever way you choose, and you don't have to worry about weird thickeners and additives. I made some up while I unloaded the dishwasher after supper tonight.

Chocolate Pudding:

2 cups milk
1/3 cup cocoa
1/2 cup sugar (or 1/4 cup honey or agave syrup or maple syrup, or 1/4 tsp stevia powder) *note: you can adjust these amounts a little bit to taste. Feel free to make it a little sweeter if you're in the mood.
3 tbsp cornstarch
2 tsp vanilla (optional)

You can either microwave this recipe or cook it on the stovetop. It's up to you. If you're going for health, then use the stovetop. :)

Whisk together the milk, cocoa, sweetener, and cornstarch in either a microwavable glass container or a saucepan. If microwaving, put it in for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes, stir, and repeat until it thickens to your satisfaction. If you're using the stovetop, stir it periodically, making sure it doesn't burn or stick, until it's nicely thickened. Stir in the vanilla once the mixture is thickened.

Pour it into little glass or ceramic bowls, and eat it either warm or cold. Refrigerate any leftovers. Yum!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Sugar-Free Fruit Crisp Goodness

I love fruit crisps. They are the easiest thing in the world to make, they're a delicious dessert, and they're nutritious enough to even eat them for breakfast (or so I tell myself).

Maybe you think I'm weird to be writing about crisp in the summertime. Maybe I am a little crazy. But my goodness, so many summer fruits have made my crisps practically magical lately! I just can't keep it to myself any longer.

So, in honour of this year-round favourite of mine, I present to you my "recipe," which is really more like a whim-driven cooking experiment each time. It's always free of refined sugars, though, so if you're sensitive like me, or just want to eat a little healthier, dig in!

Sugar-Free Fruit Crisp Official Creative Guidelines:

1) Cut up lots of fruit, enough to fill your favourite baking dish to within an inch of the top. Some favourite combinations of mine this summer are apples & blueberries, strawberry & rhubarb, and apples & peaches & blueberries. (I tend to stay way from raspberries because I don't like picking them out of my teeth. If you love them more than you hate their seeds, more power to you.)

2) Sweeten your fruit in any of the following ways:

a) for a small pan (about 8x8 or 9x9), use either 9-12 drops of liquid stevia or a nice criss-cross drizzle (about 1 inch-ish between lines, to give you a rough idea) of agave nectar, maple syrup, or honey. Sometimes, I do a smaller drizzle of maple syrup and 9 drops of stevia. Then, mix the fruit and sweetener together so everything's nicely blended.

b) for a large rectangular pan, use twice as many stevia drops (about 18-24) or just drizzle your honey/agave/maple syrup all over the pan.

*note* If you're using tart apples, like Granny Smith, use the larger amount of sweetener. If you're using sweet apples, like MacIntosh, use less.

3) Sometimes, it's nice to add a good sprinkle of cinnamon to the fruit. It's delicious with any apple combination, but, as it turns out, not so good with strawberry-rhubarb. I'd recommend leaving the strawberry-rhubarb combo alone to do its own thing; it's happier that way. (You can also use a pinch of nutmeg, or use a yummy spice blend that's meant for dessert. Experiment and find a new favourite.)

4) Now, the crumble topping. (I'm afraid it's yet another adventure in getting around measuring. Less dishes to clean that way!)

First, you need butter. You can, if you must, use oil of some kind, like plain old canola or coconut oil, but butter has such a great taste. (Hmmm... I wonder what extra-virgin coconut oil would taste like in a crisp. If anyone's brave enough to try it, let me know how it goes.) If you want the flavour of butter and the health of oil, try using half of each. I melt about 1/4 cup of butter for a small pan, and obviously twice as much for a large one. Melt it in a large glass measuring cup, then you can add the rest of the ingredients without having to dirty another dish.

Mix in 1 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats and a heaping tablespoon of flour (double these amounts for a large crisp). Drizzle on your sweetener of choice (maple syrup is my favourite for flavour, and stevia is my favourite for healthiness; sometimes, I use a combination of both) in the same way you drizzled it on your fruit. (As you keep making your crisp, you'll know just how much to drizzle each time. This is an exercise in getting to know your cooking well.) Add one egg white for a small pan, and two for a large pan. Don't use the yokes. I've tried it, and the texture just wasn't as nice.

If the mixture looks too dry, add a little more oil or syrup. You want it to be clumpy and damp, not wet and gooey or clumpy and dry.

You can also add some cinnamon to the topping, but it's really not necessary. Oooh, and pecans are also a nice touch. Yum!

5) Spread the topping on the fruit and press it down just a little so it's not too bumpy. You'll want it nice and even or else the top bits will brown faster than any valleys. If you're using pecans, make sure they're squished in for the same reason. (I had sprinkled them on top one time, and discovered that perfectly cooked crisp is not so good with over-cooked pecans on top.)

6) Bake it at 350 F for 35 to 45 minutes, depending on the size of the crisp and the temperature of your oven. I always check mine ten minutes early, just to make sure it doesn't over cook. (It never does. I should really stop checking.)

You'll know it's done by sticking a fork in it to see if the fruit is tender of not. The topping will brown if you've used honey, but it won't really brown much with stevia, so that's not always a good indication. I know it's almost done when my kitchen starts to smell divine.

7) Eat it right away, or cover it and eat it later. It's really up to you. It's your crisp. I like mine re-heated if I've left some 'til the next day, which I always aim for because, like I said, it makes awesome breakfast. I do find the pecans are best freshly toasted, although still decently good once they've softened in the leftovers. If you hate slightly soft pecans, eat it all up right away.

You can keep it in the fridge if you want, especially if you're in the throes of a summer heat wave (and fruit-fly season -- ick), but in the winter and fall, I just leave it covered on the counter.

Okay, to recap, and to give you a coherent ingredient list:

cinnamon (optional)
sweetener (liquid stevia, agave syrup, honey, maple syrup, or date sugar)
*If you're using really juicy fruit, like peaches, you might want to throw in a tablespoon of flour or cornstarch or arrowroot starch to thicken it up a bit. You don't have to.

1/4 to 1/2 cup butter, melted, or oil
1 1/2 cups to 3 or 4 cups rolled oats
1 to 2 heaping tablespoons (I mean huge) flour
ample drizzle of sweetener (see above)
1 to 2 egg whites
pinch of salt (optional)
cinnamon (optional)

Now go, and have as much fun as I do making up new flavour combinations. And, for goodness' sake, tell me if you discover something great I haven't mentioned!

p.s. My mother-in-law recently picked up an apple corer/peeler/slicer thingamabob at a yard sale and gave it to me. It is the best thing EVER for churning out apple crisp in no time at all. Even my three-year-old can turn the handle while I mix the topping. How cool is that?