It’s True – Truvia is the Healthy Sweetener

May 31, 2009 by  
Filed under Food, Reviews

Truvia - The Natural Sweetener

Truvia - The Natural Sweetener

Two representatives of a new natural sweetener were at my gym the other day. When they found out about my website, they gave me many samples to try. I just used one sample in a Sunday late afternoon fruit salad ~ what a pleasant addition.

As I’ve already revealed in my Shake the Sugar post, sugar is my vice. Before I discovered the benefits of clean eating, Suzy Qs and Twinkies used to be normal staples in my breakfast menus. Naturally, my interest peaked when I was tempted last week to try the Truvia lemonade at the gym. Not only did it taste sweetfully sugarful, but it didn’t waste the couple of hours I just spent upstairs working up a sweat because it contains 0 calories. What’s more, one little packet is equal to two teaspoonfuls of sugar. That means if used as a replacement in recipes, half the amount of Truvia will be needed in comparison to the original amount of sugar.

So what is in Truvia that makes it so tasty yet healthful? Grading Girl did her research and found out Truvia contains three ingredients: Erythritol, Rebiana, and natural sweeteners. Erythritol sounds like a chemical but it is actually a naturally fermented sugar alcohol found in pears and grapes. It’s made by a culture much like making yogurt from milk. It is then filtered, dried, and crystallized into a dry ingredient that is 99% pure. Rebiana is what gives Truvia its sweet taste. It comes from the best part of stevia leaves. What makes Truvia different from other sweeteners is that the other sweeteners are a mixture of components from the Stevia leaves; Truvia is made from the strongest component only, Rebiana. Finally, the natural sweeteners are used “much like salt and pepper is used to taste,” as the Truvia website tells us. This is the only part that has Grading Girl wondering – what exactly are the “natural sweeteners?” This is the smallest portioned ingredient and I’m impressed with the natural way this sweetener is produced, but it would still be satisfying to know exactly every morsel that makes up the final product.

Overall Grading Girl gives Truvia, “Nature’s Perfect Sweetness,” an A- as a quality natural sweetener to use in coffee, lemonade, baked goods, cereal, yogurt, etc. I plan on using the rest of my samples in baked goods and oatmeal, and I can’t wait to get some during my next trip to Whole Foods. Half the amount of Truvia is equal to a full amount of sugar (1/2 cup Truvia = 1 cup sugar).  This means your baked goods will have less sugar and less calories.  Extra credit to Truvia for being non-caloric and having no effect on the glycemic index! This means it’s a safe alternative for diabetics and people trying to lose weight.

Thank you, Truvia, for satisfying this girl’s strong sugar cravings!!  Double thank you for the free samples!!!  I used every last crystal with confidence!

Get Inspired to Write

May 27, 2009 by  
Filed under My Writing

Writing feels good. Writing provides a sense of accomplishment. Writing provides release. Writing is therapy. My very first piece of writing that I can remember is a story titled “My Mom Had a Turkey.” I was four years old when I composed it, it was around Thanksgiving, and my mother was very pregnant. In the story, I open with a bubbly description of my stay at Grandma and Grandpa’s house, move to the anxious depiction of the drive back home to meet my new brother or sister, and end with an ironic twist – I come home to find my mom has a turkey. Interestingly, my story proved accurate: I happily stayed with my grandparents, I was anxious on the drive back home, and my mother did give birth to a turkey – my bro!

My mother still has this story of mine, complete with its elementary scrawl and doodles; while I’m sure it wasn’t the very first piece I wrote, it’s the first piece I recall writing. I remember it probably because of the positive, fun feedback I received from my parents. They laughed, they told their friends, and they saved it.

It’s always exciting when I meet people who reignite the inspiration. Just this past week, I had the privilege of meeting three published authors at my school’s annual Writer’s Day presentations. Half the fun of writing this very blog is knowing that I’m sharing with others; with that said, I’d like to share small snippets of wisdom I received from each of these accomplished individuals. If you have a story or argument or idea, etc. “screaming to be told,” you should share it. The great stories are those that a reader thinks, “That’s me!” or “This was written for me.” If readers can connect, it is a story worth telling.

Neal Shusterman

Neal Shusterman

Simone Elkeles: author of Leaving Paradise, Perfect Chemistry, and three other young adult novels:

Writers should write about what they know. Simone never liked analyzing literature as a high school student. She, therefore, writes from a teenager’s point of view at all times, including authentic, colloquial use of dialogue. Simone advises people to write a little bit every day, no matter how they are feeling. Mechanics, spelling, and order are not important initially. Writers can always go back and proof later.

Simone Elkeles

Simone Elkeles

Mary Fons: freelance writer, poet, performer:

Having a brain freeze? Write a letter to your grandmother. Telling the story or view with grandma as the audience member adds more authenticity to the piece. If Grandma is still alive to read the piece herself, all the better! GG looooves this idea. In fact, the printer is printing copies of my past posts as I type this. I’m sending them to Gram!

Mary Fons

Mary Fons

What else inspires you to write?  Is it the perfect environment . . . soft music in the background, comfy chair, scented candle burning, gentle breeze blowing from the open window . . . ?  Is it the memorable quotation or passage from your favorite book?  Is it the endorphins earned from exercise?  Is it love?  Is it the lyric from a favorite song?  Grading Girl has been inspired by all of these things and more.  But sometimes, all it takes is a pen, paper (or computer) and a quiet moment.  Whatever and whenever you write, know that you are pouring out a piece of you.  It is never a waste of time.  It is always worthwhile.

TTFN!!  Grading Girl is off to read some of my students’ writing to see what is inspiring them.

And remember . . . write it down, write it down.

Happy Healthful Snack

May 22, 2009 by  
Filed under Recipes, School's Out

Two A+ Energizing Snacks

As I illustrate in my post on healthful eating shortcuts, I make as many meals and snacks from scratch as I can to avoid unneccesary additives and preservatives. But who has time to spend hours in the kitchen?  Working all day, devoting a couple of hours in the evening to a workout, and spending quality time with my daughter leaves little time for much else.  I’m forever looking for easy, quick recipes that don’t require a lot of labor.  Here are two of my new favorites that I happened upon in one of my favorite fitness magazines, Oxygen.  I made these last week, they satisfied my appetite between meals, and they helped to fuel my workouts.  These are “repeaters,” as my daughter would say.

TLC’s Trail Mix

1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup banana chips
1/2 cup apple chips
1/2 cup almonds
1/4 cup cashews
1/4 cup walnuts
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup carob chips (optional . . . I didn’t have these last time I made this, and it was just as yummy)

Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and divide into 1/4 cup servings.

Makes 12 servings

Energy Bars

1 cup natural peanut butter (I used reduced fat)
1 cup honey
1 cup old-fashioned oatmeal
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup almonds
1 cup dried apricots, chopped

1. Combine peanut butter and honey in a large nonstick pot and heat on low until runny. Mix in the oatmeal, apricots and nuts, stirring until all ingredients are well coated.

2. Line a 9 x 9 inch pan with waxed paper. Press the mixture into the pan. Let cool, then cut into 16 bars.

Makes 16 servings

Both of these snacks taste more sinful than they are!!!

Is it “I” or is it “Me?”

May 12, 2009 by  
Filed under Grammar, Mini-Lessons

A friend of mine was reading my blog over the weekend when he discovered a discrepancy.  In the blog about my mother, he correctly noted that I said, “Her caring doesn’t stop with my brother or I” when I should have stated “. . . doesn’t stop with my brother or me.”  The incorrect usage of “I” and “me” is a common occurrence and Grading Girl apparently bears no exception!  Luckily for us all, this is very simple to correct.

“I” versus “Me”

“I” is a pronoun that must be the subject of a verb. “Me” is a pronoun that must be the object of the verb. The easiest way to remember the two is to remove the other noun from the sentence and see if it still makes sense.

Examples of the Correct Use of “I”

Natalie and I went to the beach this weekend.

[I went to the beach this weekend. (Me went to the beach this weekend doesn’t make sense.)]

 She and I have to make a cake!

[I have to make a cake. She has to make a cake. (Her has to make a cake and me has to make a cake do not make sense.)]

Examples of the Correct Use of “Me”

Please come with Jessica and me to the concert.

[Please come with me to the concert. (Please come with I to the concert doesn’t make sense.)]

My Mom, Still the Coolest Mom Around

May 9, 2009 by  
Filed under My Writing

Mom and Me then

Mom and Me

4th Grade International Cooking Days at school (most creative room mom ever!), watching me roll – and roll – down the hill at Lorado Taft, Crimes of the Heart in college when I cried on stage and could hear her sniffling in the audience almost as loud as me, the birth of my daughter, annual American Girl Place visits when Arianna was little . . . These only comprise a taste of special experiences I have shared with my mother – the one person in my life who is always there when I need a shoulder to cry on, an ear for listening, or a hand of support. I know of no one as selfless as she. My mother helps others before she helps herself, she makes life fun for those near her, and she is someone I want to be like when I grow up.

My mother puts the happiness of those she is close to before the happiness of herself. Throughout my life and my brother’s life, my mother has spent maybe one eighth of the time on herself. The rest is devoted to her family. She is either driving back and forth to my home to pick up my daughter when I have a schedule conflict or on the phone to offer an ear to Dave or taking my grandmother out shopping. When we were little, all of her decisions revolved around our well-being: she chose a job as a waitress so that she could be home with us during the day; she chose to maintain our home after our father died so that our lives would remain nearly the same; she chose to work more hours to fortify the lifestyle she thought we needed to be happy. Her caring doesn’t stop with my brother or me. She was the one who opened up our home to her mother and father when her mother became ill with cancer. (Of course, I was excited that grandma and grandpa were living with us; I didn’t understand the extra stress it placed on my mother’s life.) She was the one who looked after my grandfather who moved a few blocks away after my grandmother passed away. When her sister was dieing of breast cancer, she was the one who took her to and from her doctor appointments. In other words, she was – and is – the one who is there whenever family or friend is in need.

While striving to help others in any way that she can, my mother still manages to make life fun. Our home was always filled with fun toys, loving pets, happy music, and sweet smells. We were the only house on the block to hold a Fun Fair for the neighborhood complete with games and prizes, arts and crafts, and movies. Summers were filled with swimming in the backyard and Mom bringing out lunch on a tray with LHDRUs (ask me what that stands for later!). Christmas was a magical time, transforming our home from a suburban dwelling to Santa’s dreamhouse. Little elves abounded everywhere as everything from the welcome mat to the mantle centerpiece to the pictures on the wall evolved to Christmas décor. To this day, my daughter still finds Christmas Eve at “Gum’s” house as her favorite night of the year. Whenever my brother and I were sick, she would bring us food in bed, move a T.V into our room, and buy us magazines. I take pride in knowing I have a great role model for creating a happy home for my daughter.

For these reasons and more, I want to be like Natalie Theresa when I grow up. As I smooth the cream on my face at night, I can only hope that my skin displays as few wrinkles as hers. As I exercise daily, I can only wish that her washboard abs stay with me. As I force myself to think positive thoughts in tough situations, I can only aspire to be as optimistic as her. Natalie is a woman to admire. She transitioned to a completely new and successful real estate career at age fifty. She bought a new home and took on a new lifestyle at age sixty. She maintains numerous friendships that are thirty years old or older including high school buddies. She is privy to the latest fashions and could easily pass for someone fifteen to twenty years younger. She maintained the reputation among my and my brother’s friends as “the coolest mom around;” or, as some high school friends still remembered at my 20-year reunion – she’s a “hot mom.”

The last time I wrote a letter commemorating how significant my mother is in my life was for her fiftieth birthday. Well did we know then where we would be today. Teaching was only a distant dream, my daughter was barely three, and I had yet to endure the pain of divorce. She helped make that teaching dream turn into a reality by her constant support and care. Right now I can only imagine where I will be ten years from now. But I do know this – whatever current dreams I have, they will be more likely to happen with her constant love and positive encouragement to guide me along the way.


Mom and Me

Mom and Me