I am a real food convert! I have had lots of family and friends who are confused about our ‘diet’ or how I am now feeding our family. For us, it has been a journey of educating ourselves, breaking old habits, and changing our priorities. (This is a long post with lots of information, so bear with me!)
A year ago, I didn’t cook. We ate highly processed foods, quick fix meals, and lots of sugar and fake foods. Jarvis ate very well. I made all of his baby food from scratch and I prepared him his own easy meals of real food while the hubs and I ate pretty horribly.
I will be the first to admit I was a very picky eater, and I just couldn’t find any joy in cooking or food prep. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVED eating, but I wanted someone to place the food in front of me RIGHT NOW.
I couldn’t seem to make the effort to eat better or learn to cook for just myself and the hubs. But children, boy, they can be a big motivator!! I knew when Jarvis started eating what we did (and not just homemade baby food and pieces) then I would change. Sure enough, I did!
I’m going to share some of my personal tips and favorite recipes as well as some resources. Know that I am NOT a nutritionalist nor do I claim to be doing it all right. This is a learning process, and though we are miles from where we started a year ago, we still have lots to learn and change. This is simply to hopefully inspire someone that learning to cook real food for your family is possible. I started with basically no knowledge of cooking or nutrition other than mainstream information, and I now cook from scratch with real foods and barely buy any processed, fake foods. And I did it with a toddler and having twins! The key is baby steps!
I seem to get most of my inspiration from the 100 days of Real Food blog. Although we did not do her challenge, I follow a lot of her rules and ideas and I love her recipes. One of my favorites is her Bell Pepper Fajitas on homemade Whole Wheat Tortillas. A year ago, a NEVER would have eaten any type of bell pepper or mushrooms. In fact I had a ‘mental allergy’ to mushrooms. I hated them so much it made me break out when I ate or touched them. yeah. Now I will eat them, although I do dice them up smaller usually because the texture is still not my favorite. I occasionally add shredded grilled chicken to these, but we usually just have them vegetarian style! More on the homemade tortilla below.
Although we have a fairly large garden, we still went in with a friend for a full share of a local organic Crop Share program. For $20 a week (paid up front), we get a HUGE bag (or two) of whatever is ready to be harvested that week! This meal was a delicious Garlic and Lemon Chicken Bake with green beans and potatoes from the Crop Share and the garlic was out of our garden! We have reduced our animal product consumption greatly, after watching several documentaries, including Food, Inc and Food Matters (keep in mind that all documentaries are one-sided and may not have all accurate information!!) Instead we try to get the majority of our nutrition and calorie needs from fruits, veggies, and whole grains. We will never be completely vegan or vegetarian most likely, but we do believe reducing our animal product consumption is best for our health.
And in case you are wondering, here’s our 2.5 year old eating the same meal pictured above (along with a banana). The majority of the time he eats exactly what we do, with a few exceptions occasionally. He doesn’t always like all of it, but he has to take at least one bite of everything and give it a fair try. It can take offering something to him 5-10 times before he eats it consistently, but we keep offering. I rarely offer another substitute but make sure he has fruits and veggies he will eat on his plate as well as the new food so that he always gets something. He is only offered more of any food or another food if he gets a ‘happy plate’ (finishes everything). I figure if he is hungry and wants more fruit, then he’s hungry enough to eat what’s on his plate! He really is an awesome eater and although reluctant to try new things most of time, I can usually win him over.
As part of our eating well, we have switched over to all WHOLE grains. Part of this is whole grain pasta. We actually don’t have pasta very often, so as soon as I finish off the whole grain we already have in the pantry, then I am using my new pasta roller
to make some fresh pasta, can’t wait! This Peanut Thai Pasta is another from the 100 Days of Real Food blog and has an amazing taste and texture. It also has cucumber from our Crop Share. We try to eat a mixture of raw and cooked veggies, as you lose/alter some nutrients when the veggies are heated. Usually I do raw veggies at lunch (our favorite raw veggies are broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, zucchini, cucumber, peas, celery and mushrooms. Jarvis will chow down on any of those!) and we usually do cooked veggies at dinner. We try to do a serving of fruit with lunch and dinner, or as a snack.
For this dinner, I did Italian Baked pork chops (1/2 of one for each of us) which are just dijon mustard, Italian seasoning, and Parmesan cheese. We also had a cold Quinoa Lime Zucchini Salad which was delicious. I used to cook only with white rice, but now we use brown rice, quinoa, and other whole grains like barley and cous-cous. Quinoa has got to be my favorite grain of all time and I love it in every recipe I have ever made! It is very high in fiber though, so be careful as you make the switch!
Here’s an example of a night that daddy was night flying and I was alone with the kiddos. I didn’t feel up to cooking and plain just didn’t have the time. So we had organic natural peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on homemade whole wheat bread. I make all of my own jelly with fresh fruits (this was strawberry and blackberry jam) and just a bit of honey in my bread machine. As you can see, we also had an assortment of fresh, raw fruits and veggies. This is Jarvis’ favorite meal and he picked out/requested every single thing on his plate and finished it all off!
We have been getting eggs from a local friend who has chickens (and we plan to have them at our next home!), so I made this Avocado Egg Salad on homemade tortillas for a quick and easy dinner one night. One of my favorite things that has come out of our switch to real food is homemade Whole Wheat Tortillas. Oh my goodness, I will never eat another store bought tortilla. Homemade ones are amazing!! A couple of months back, we bought a wheat grinder and have been grinding our own organic wheat berries. Whenever I make something I take a bag of wheat berries and a bowl out to the garage and use the wheat grinder, which we have hooked up to a drill! It usually takes me less than 15 minutes to grind up the wheat I need and the bread or tortillas or crust is always so light and delicious! I make the tortillas in triple batches and freeze them in bags of 6, because my hubby goes through those like crazy, he loves them!
This is another of my favorites, Cheesy Zucchini and Squash Bake, with zucchini from our garden! This is quick and easy and very flavorful. I also made some zucchini ‘tots’ and lime bulgar wheat. (and can you tell that strawberries are my favorite fruit yet? haha… I’m still not a huge fruit fan!)
As far as drinks go, I have completely given up sodas (before I had an addiction to Diet Coke!) and drink mostly water. The hubby is learning to make kombucha- he will post on that soon! However, I can’t give up coffee completely! I love my Keurig and I use ground organic coffee in a reuseable k-cup for hot/iced coffee, and occassionally a k-cup for iced coffee. I add a splash of organic caramel syrup (yes, it has evaporated cane sugar, but much less than creamer!) and a splash of plain almond or coconut milk. yummy, yummy!!
And of course, I can’t end this post without talking about the treats! My favorite indulgence is homemade ice cream using my ice cream maker. I use very basic recipe, but I substitute vanilla for the mint, coconut milk for the 2% milk and use about half the sugar. I then mix in whatever I am in the mood for, pecans, walnuts, cacao chunks, etc. I also make a homemade chocolate sauce using cacao powder which is delicious!
I turned around the other day and he had grabbed the zucchini we had just pulled out of the garden and was eating it like an apple! I love that he is learning where food comes from and eating real food.
This is by no means the only post I will do on our changed eating habits, but it’s a start. I hope to do a post featuring some of our favorite tools/gadgets, and one with sample meal plans and more information on snacks/breakfast!