a peek inside the fishbowl

31 Aug, 2010

Know More Do More: more about dinners. And a sugar fast.

Posted by andrea tomkins in: - Know More Do More

Last week’s tip was:

Prepare supper together, there’s a job for everyone.

I know I’ve written about this before, and it’s true. Establishing good eating habits happens at home when the kids are small. Kids watch their parents like hawks. They will learn our good habits, and zero in on our bad ones. This is why I don’t drink juice straight out of the container, for example. If they see me do it it’s sending a message that it’s ok. And it’s really not ok. :)

It’s good to get kids in the kitchen, even if they are just setting the table and washing the lettuce. I just wish we had a bigger kitchen so they could *really* get in there.

Last night we made calzones. The girls helped with the making of the dough. We used this recipe for the dough and made two fillings for the calzones. One was pepperoni and pineapple (GUESS WHO WAS EATING THAT ONE) and the other was a terrific spinach and ricotta. The calzones turned out ok. The dough was a little too thick and crispy. Although they tasted great they weren’t exactly easy to eat. Are most calzones deep fried?

Anyway, here’s the recipe I used for the spinach filling. I’m keeping this recipe in case I ever want to make ravioli with it, because I bet it’s good eaten that way.

8 oz ricotta cheese
1 egg
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1 1/2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
most of an 8 oz bag of fresh spinach
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

  • If you’re using this recipe for calzones, make the dough earlier in the day. (Or buy some frozen bread/pizza dough and thaw it out.)
  • Steam the spinach for about 3 minutes until wilted. Chop with kitchen scissors and squeeze out as much water as you can.
  • Mix together the cheeses, seasonings, egg and the spinach in a big bowl.
  • Divide the dough into 4 pieces and roll each one into an 8″ circle. Spoon filling onto half of the circle. Fold over and seal the edges. The end product will look like the letter D.

Anyway, my spinach filling was awesome, but the baked dough wasn’t easy to eat. In fact, we had trouble with our knives and forks it was so crispy. (Suggestions are welcome!)

I’m not sure what iIm going to do for KMDM this coming week. In fact, I’m going to skip KMDM in the lead up to back-to-school week because the next KMDM activity is going to be a doozy. I’m asking for your collective support and dare I say, participation.

Mark and I have declared that the first week of school is going to be entirely sugar-free.

Yes indeed it is.

Call me crazy, but September 8 – 15 is sugar-free week here at Casa Fishbowl.

Will you join us? I double-dog dare you.

My definition of sugar-free means (a) no sweet drinks or treats (b) no adding sugar to anything and (c) banning foods with sugar added to it. i.e. Kraft Peanut Butter, ketchup, raisin bread etc. for the week. I will be reading labels religiously and avoiding anything with any sugar in it…  including sugars that end in “-ose” like fructose, glucose, etc. As well as corn syrup.

I sense lots of popcorn and vegetables in my future.

The idea comes from a blog post I read long ago in which the author, a mom, did pretty much the same thing…  but her banishment was even greater and it was for a longer term. Her family ditched all processed foods. The result: a total transformation in her young kids. They were happier. Better behaved. And if I am remembering correctly they may have even slept better. This always stuck with me. What is it about processed food that could make our little people (a.k.a canaries in a coalmine) *behave* differently? What if what we ingest affects us in ways we don’t really understand?

Whenever I’m at the grocery store I remember Michael Pollan’s advice about what kind of food to eat. It boils down to this simple rule: Eat food your grandmother would recognize. I think he’s right. So I’m sticking to it.

Anyway, yes, sugar free! I expect a few days of raging headaches. The kids are hating me a little bit right now*, but that’s the price I’m willing to pay to make my point about how much sugar we eat every day, even when we don’t know we’re eating it.

*and because this is going to be such a big deal I am giving up sugar in my morning coffee. Gah.

So who’s in? Or will I be alone this time around? :)

This post is part of the Know More Do More initiative which was spearheaded by the Champlain Cardiovascular Disease Prevention Network. KMDM is about empowering parents and inspiring them to take charge of their children’s health by taking easy steps to increase activity levels and improve eating habits. I’m one of two champion families who has been asked to take this challenge. You can join too. Check out the official website for more information. If you’re blogging about your participation, please let me know so we can cheer each other on! You can read all of my past weekly challenges here.

18 Responses to "Know More Do More: more about dinners. And a sugar fast."

1 | Miche

August 31st, 2010 at 8:28 am


Great challenge and you’ll be surprised and amazed I’m sure!

I went through something like this when diagnosed with gestational diabetes and have kept with it (though not as religiously). I continue to be surprised at how unwell I feel when I consume a large quantity of refined sugars.

Can’t wait to hear your thoughts on the other side!

2 | Betsy Mae

August 31st, 2010 at 9:50 am


First thing I thought of was my morning coffee! I take 1/2 tsp of brown sugar in it.

I think we could do it….but I’m not committing! I know party pooper. I just need to eliminate pressure in my life right now ;)

If I did participate I wonder whether or not there are any type of bread/bread products that doesn’t have any sugar in it? Rice cakes don’t I don’t think…must check. I know my oldest won’t want soup the first week back if it’s hot like it is now. I think the rest would be easy in terms of packing a lunch. I make our salad dressing 95% of the time and it’s without sugar so I could send her with salads. Breakfast would be fine (does maple syrup count? to sweeten/flavour yogurt)? Dinner would also be fine. Hmmm maybe I will play along.

3 | DaniGirl

August 31st, 2010 at 9:53 am


I gave up sugar when I wanted to lose a bunch of weight back in 2008, and it wasn’t nearly as difficult as I imagined. Any time I feel my weight creeping back up again, the refined and chemical sugars are the first thing to go — and there go the pounds with it!

Having said that, I’m in a bit of a comfort food zone right now — but will be cheering you and your team next week! ;)

4 | kaitlin

August 31st, 2010 at 9:54 am


i’m in. it’ll do me a world of good, but it’ll require some planning.

as for calzones, calzones are baked, panzarotti are deep fried. both are incredible. and now, i’m starving.

5 | Chrissy

August 31st, 2010 at 1:14 pm


Awesome! I’m going to commit to this. I’ve already drastically cut back on my sugar intake, but there’s more I need to get rid of. Unfortunately, my sugar cravings are primarily hormonal so I often do well for a week and then suddenly I’m a monster and feel like I’ll die if I don’t have some sweets!

6 | Lynn

August 31st, 2010 at 2:08 pm


This is something we have been thinking about for a while now. I know it would be very good for us — all five of us eat way too much sugar, but especially the kids. I’m not quite ready to commit to a challenge, though — I need more time to plan meals and such. I think I will try to do it just for myself and see how it goes.

It’s not that we are eating a lot of treats and pop, or even a lot of processed foods — breakfast cereals and granola bars are our only major violators. Our biggest problem is that all three of our kids drink chocolate milk – or an allergy safe alternative – almost exclusively. When they aren’t drinking chocolate milk, it’s usually juice. What do your kids drink? Water or white milk, mostly? Do you know of other sugar free alternatives? Do they like tea or maybe mineral water?

7 | Chrissy

August 31st, 2010 at 3:00 pm


@Lynn: My kids don’t drink any juice (except the occasional homemade one). They mainly drink water and sometimes I make herbal iced tea for them, either unsweetened or lightly sweetened with stevia or honey. My kids also LOVE club soda. It’s especially tasty when I put a wedge of lime or lemon in it.

8 | andrea

September 1st, 2010 at 6:58 am


Lynn: My kids drink juice in the morning, water during the day, and white milk with meals (more or less). We decided to deem juice as a “morning only” drink. I’ve always wanted to dry diluting juice with club soda to make it fizzy.

Sarah likes chai tea sometimes, but with lots of honey added. And during this summer both have been making and drinking lemonade using sugar and concentrated lemon juice. There will be none of that during sugar-free week! *evil laugh*

A friend of mine suggested lazy iced tea. If you make it with a fruity herbal teas it’s pretty good. Just float a tea bag in a glass of cold water. Not sure if kids will go for it, I guess it depends on the tea!

9 | andrea

September 1st, 2010 at 6:59 am


Betsy Mae: You can do it! :)

10 | meanie

September 1st, 2010 at 7:37 am


Hmmm, you keep upping the ante on me. Thanks to you I have successfully managed to remove anything with -ose on the end of it from our lives. It’s actually been pretty fun, the girls and I pick a cookie recipe every Sunday to make for the coming week so we don’t have to rely on store bought cookies for lunches etc. Of course these cookies include sugar (and I’ll add that more often than not I can cut the sugar by 1/2 in most recipes and it tastes just as good).
I’m not sure about going sugar free. Of course it would be good for everyone, but there is certain ritual in eating your sandwich, veggies, fruit and then enjoying a cookie.
If you have any suggestions of recipes I can motivate everyone with let me know!

11 | meanie

September 1st, 2010 at 8:11 am


oh, i meant to add that the filling for the calzones would likely be yummy stuffed in cannelloni shells :)

12 | andrea

September 1st, 2010 at 8:24 am


meanie: I’m not sure if there’s such a thing as a sugar-free cookie. :)

I’ve been thinking a lot about the rituals of eating, and the truth is sometimes my rituals haven’t been that great. For example, for a long time Mark and I had a ritual that included a starch with every meal (mostly potatoes) and a banana split every night afterwards.

This is why I was more than 20lbs heavier in my wedding photos. :)

At one point I asked myself why I feel the need to have a starch with every meal – and couldn’t come up with a better reason than that’s how I’ve always been eating.

Someone’s ritual might be – I don’t know – eating cake for breakfast every morning.

I’m not saying that your cookie ritual is a bad one (because it sounds great to me – I think it’s a wonderful thing to do) only that it might be a good idea for some of us to take a closer look at our rituals and ask ourselves if they’re worth keeping or if they can be changed to be just as fun, but with a healthier edge. You know what I mean?

Keep baking your cookies!

13 | kaitlin

September 1st, 2010 at 2:27 pm


just a note about sugarless cookies: i don’t imagine these are *quite* as good, but they might be a decent replacement once in a while:


14 | andrea

September 1st, 2010 at 2:46 pm


Hmm. That recipe could either be very good or very bad. It’s hard to tell! Can you try it and let us know? ;)

You reminded me of a recipe I have for sugarless icecream. It’s actually pretty good: http://www.quietfish.com/notebook/?p=5022

I think I will have to revive it during sugar-free week!


15 | Oh September >> a peek inside the fishbowl

September 4th, 2010 at 7:04 am


[…] September 8 – 15 is sugar-free week here at the Fishbowl. Any more joiners? You can read about that here. I’ll post about it again on the 8th and if you’re following – or participating – you […]

16 | Laura

September 6th, 2010 at 6:26 pm


Count me in – for various reasons. I figure if I write it here – I will have to DO IT.

17 | Know More Do More: the Fishbowl sugar fast >> a peek inside the fishbowl

September 7th, 2010 at 5:46 am


[…] The day has arrived! The first day of school AND the first day of our sugar-free week. (I mentioned that in last week’s KMDM post.) […]

18 | kaitlin

September 7th, 2010 at 8:19 am


Andrea: I love the banana ‘ice cream’! I may give them a whirl this week, and let you know!

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  • MaryAnn: Bravo and good for you to get out. It is very weird and fun going to places. I get and like your observation that we should just treat going out like
  • andrea tomkins: That's a great idea! I do that too sometimes, but it takes awhile to come back to room temperature so I have to factor in a few hours for that... :)
  • Elizabeth Peters: I make it a day ahead and refrigerate. This way I can pull it out after work and let it come to room temperature.
  • Elizabeth Peters: This has been my go to recipe since I discovered it back in 2013! Sometimes if I'm feeling fancy, I'll add seasoning to the dough!
  • Wanda: Thank you for sharing your inner dialogue. I must admit that I have become nervous about social interaction. It is an awful realization because I alwa
  • Alison in Ottawa: Also - The Corner Peach sourdough bread was maybe the best I have ever had. And the make your own Eton Mess was a fun purchase too
  • andrea tomkins: This has happened to me as well. :( People should try to be a bit more aware! And thanks for the reminder about Corner Peach. I've been meaning to che

The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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