Thank Goodness for Gout

“What’s vegan?” Sam asked after he found out he had just devoured a large helping of vegan lasagna.  Lasagna consisting of whole wheat noodles, pasta sauce, cashews, tofu, and a ton of vegetables.

It’s a plant-based diet.  No meat.  No dairy.  No eggs.  A strict vegetarian if you will.

Seriously?  Why the sudden interest in preparing vegan food you ask.

Well, Jim discovered he had a (non-life threatening) diet related disease.  And he was fed up.  He decided to make a change, and this was it.  A vegan diet.

We know it’s serious because he’s the original “it’s not a meal unless there’s meat” man.  He bought a juicer.  He’s making green drinks.  He’s shaking ground flax-seed on just about everything he eats.

So, as the primary architect of dinner (and loving, supportive spouse), I’m pulling out all the stops to prepare surprisingly delicious plant-based meals–like that lasagna among other things.

Polenta pie with cashew cheese and maple glazed brussel sprouts.

Polenta pie with cashew cheese and maple glazed brussel sprouts.

Honestly, Jim is looking good. While he’s rid himself of the instigating medical issue, he’s still determined to lose those last ten pounds.  The troublesome ones that cling on for dear life. But it’s more than his weight.

His eyes and skin look fresher and brighter.  With his doctor’s supervision, he’s hoping to get his blood pressure under control without medication when he reaches his desired weight.

But let’s be perfectly frank here.  Sam and I are not vegans.  Jim is only adopting this as a temporary measure.  Disclaimer: I am not promoting veganism.  It’s been a useful tool for him to learn to live without all that meat he used to consume.  In the process we’re learning about other healthy food choices and exploring a myriad of new vegetable dishes and other protein sources.

It’s not a forever change–completely.  But we believe food is medicine.  The best kind. And the side effects are all good ones.  It’s a wake up call.  A little less meat and dairy and a lot fewer processed foods.  And (tah dah….) a lot more fruits and vegetables.

Good-bye gout.

For a more comprehensive look at all the many types of vegetarian and vegan diets, check out this noteworthy article at

And here’s to Jim!

Ole Sparkle Eyes


4 Ways to Get Your Kids Into College

I remember hearing that the one thing all national merit scholars had in common was sitting down to dinner with their families.  I couldn’t find any hard data on this so perhaps it’s an urban legend.  But there are lots of studies out there that do indicate that children of families that dine together have all kinds of advantages–from better social skills and higher grades to being less likely to become obese or experiment with drugs.

Sound good?

Of course, this isn’t the 1950’s.  Our lives are vastly different from those of June and Ward Cleaver.  In household’s where often both parents work, time is a big factor.  And if you’re a family with busy teenagers, scheduling can be a problem.

At our house, dinnertime is an important ritual.  No television.  No radio playing.   Cell phones are outlawed at the table.  In fact, we don’t answer the phone while we’re eating, period.  That’s why we have an answering machine. 

We begin each meal with a short blessing.  We all share what we’re grateful for–which usually includes the delicious food we’re about to eat.  It’s a relaxed time–an opportunity  for Jim to describe that funny thing that happened at work, for Sam to talk about his day at school.  I usually share some  interesting fact or outrageous story I heard on a news program that I’m sure will get us all conversing. 

If eating as a family is something that seems about as realistic as getting all of your Christmas shopping done by Thanksgiving  then consider these four suggestions. 

  1. Make it a priority.  Most mealtimes last only about 20 minutes.  Less than an episode of American Idol.  Set a realistic goal.  If every night is asking too much, then decide what’s reasonable, even if it’s only a couple of nights a week. 
  2. Keep it simple.  Gourmet french cuisine is not required.  Dinner can be as easy as a quick pasta dish or rotisserie chicken from the market paired with a green salad.  We’ve resorted to stretching out leftovers on plenty of occasions.
  3. Share the work.  Everybody chips in. Prep and clean-up can be a family affair.  Many hands make light work.   
  4. Practice makes almost perfect.  Because, if we’re completely honest here, who’s perfect?  Sometimes it’s catch-as-catch-can.  The more routine it becomes, however, the easier and more enjoyable dinnertime will be when you can sit down together. 

I’m not promising that eating dinner as a family will get your child into Harvard, but spending time together, learning from one another and keeping the lines of communication open means you’re not only connecting with your kids but helping them maintain a healthy body weight and eat a healthy diet.

How often do you eat dinner together?  What works for your family?