11.29.2011

My coworker and I were talking a bit this morning about health, and supplements, and whole foods, and eating well and cancer, and this article....

And it has left me with a deep desire to recommit to feeding our family well. I am talking home cooked, whole foods, with fresh vegetables, nutritious grains and legumes, and little additives or processing. We already eat fairly well, but I think we could do better. And what better time, now that Henry is starting to eat solids. It has been really hard lately to find time to spend in the kitchen, so I am working on a game plan to help make it happen:

1) Weekly (thoughtful!) meal planning. I think this needs to happen on Mondays, because that is when we get our CSA produce box. We need to commit to sitting down and spending a good 20/30 minutes here, otherwise we just end up listing our easy go to meals, which usually involve at least one processed food item "crutch".

2) Choosing items that we can make in bulk and eat throughout the week, or even better- freeze for later use. This one worries me. When I first went back to work I went on a major kick of preparing food for the workweek (salads, a frittata) and I ended up in the kitchen for a huge part of Sunday. No good, when that is our only day off together. How to achieve without spending *too* much time?

3) Using our crockpot. I am totally new to this. I was turned off by the complicated recipes in the book we were given. Honestly, can't I just throw a bunch of stuff in there and hope for the best? Refining as I go? I am thinking yes. My idea is to chop veggies and soak beans the night before, then toss it all in in the morning before work. This seems like a no brainer.
4) Continue with our simple 2 step meal style. Step one: roast veggies. Step two: cook grains. I lied, there are four steps. Step three: combine in a bowl. Step four: Add sheep or goat feta. The downfall here is monotony. I think I just need to break out of the box with fresh herbs and different combinations of veggies and flavorings to keep it interesting.
With a bit of extra work and a lot of thought and commitment (plus restraint, from grabbing tacos too often), I think this is achievable. It will also cut back on the amount of waste we produce. (I am sickened at how full our recycling bin always is.) And I think, done correctly, we will save on our grocery bill, no?

This plan ties into a broader goal I have been mulling through, which can be boiled down to living life with a bit more intention. I know that is pretty broad, but I am still working through the idea myself. I will share more when I figure it out.

In the mean time, I would love to hear your tricks for simple and wholesome eating!
PS- photos by Abby, who is selling all her prints at 40% off through next Friday, before she closes up shop for good! I picked up this one!

23 comments:

  1. I've had a simliar goal the past year, and finding the Zero Waste Home blog (zerowastehome.blogspot.com) has helped me especially in the area of reducing waste. I joined a CSA and now do meal planning on Saturdays. My best weapon against monotony is to keep a well-stocked bulk pantry, with many different grains and beans on hand, so that I'm not just eating the same thing all the time. Also, using the slow cooker on the weekend to cook a batch of beans for the week.

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  2. I have always cooked, but recently Josh and I have adjusted to a GAPS diet because of Josh's weekly migraines. It has been working great. I've been fermenting veggies and some fruits. Making a ton of broths. Baking my own breads, which is completely new to me. I think planning is key. It can be a little tough, but worth it in the long run.

    I've been making my own yogurt, cream cheese, sour cream. You would be surprised how little time this stuff takes and how much better it tastes. I think Nourishing Traditions Cookbook is a good place to start. Also I would suggest The Versatile Grain and the Elegant Bean lots of good things that you could make in a crockpot. Posted about it here: http://desimckinnon.blogspot.com/2011/09/baked-navy-beans-with-apples-bacon-and.html

    Disclaimer: I have been working from home, so it's been a little easier. In the past when I didn't work at home I worked close so some times I started things in the am and checked in at lunch. I know that's not always possible.

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  3. I get so confused on eating healthy. We eat fairly well (homemade, a variety of foods, not much sugar) but we could do so, so much better. I think I over-read on this topic and am left unsure which way to go. There are so many contradictory ideas: ayurveda, eat right for your blood type, the alkaline approach, weston price/nourishing traditions..... Parts of all of them appeal to me but they outrightly contradict! Right now we are drinking big glasses of green juice in the morning (mostly kale and random other veggies) but then the rest of the day are sort of haphazard. I hope you post what is working for you guys.....maybe I will get some new ideas. :-)

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  4. hi! olivia from everyday musings pointed me to your site, and i'm glad she did. i've been making the adjustment to whole, natural foods for about a year now, and my tips are very similar to yours. i love my crockpot, and usually i'll start with a recipe to get an idea of what new flavours that work well together, and then make it up as i go along depending on what's in my fridge at the moment. and i totally prep everything the night before, and then just turn it on in the morning :) i am also a big fan of lunches made with quinoa (i keep a big container in my fridge and take some out throughout the week) mixed with leftover veggies from dinner the night before and some goat or feta cheese. i find the variety is built in, because i'm always using different veggies, different spices, or different cheeses, but the basic formula makes it quick & easy. you can take a look at my post about it here: http://curlsandcoffee.blogspot.com/2011/09/mindful-living-eating-mindfully-part-2.html
    cheers! xo meg

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  5. This is on my mind a lot. I think that, like you, we do pretty well, but we could definitely do better. I have two little boys - one who could eat just meat and cheese and be perfectly happy and one who could live on pasta alone. They do reasonably well, probably better than a lot of their friends, but I am always trying to do better. My biggest challenge, actually, is my husband. I'd be okay eliminating meat completely, but I married a meat-loving guy. I also work full-time and struggle to find the time to eliminate all packaged foods. (Those boxes of mac 'n cheese are here to stay, I'm afraid.) I just do the best I can. As heavy on the fruits and veggies and good grains as I can. Try to do a better job of meal planning. Sneak veggies in popsicles and smoothies and breads and meatballs. I'm rambling now, but clearly it's a topic that's close to my heart.

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  6. I'm so pleased to have stumbled upon your blog. It's just lovely. And this post is so in line with things I've been thinking recently! I'm so determined to eat more healthily. Good luck to you!

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  7. I hate to add to the information overload, but meals have gotten so much simpler for me since I found out about a paleo/primal lifestyle. It basically involves eating lots of veggies, eggs, some good quality meat and no processed crap.

    I recommend checking out sites like http://everydaypaleo.com/. I also really like the minimalist (vegan, paleo, whole food, etc friendly) recipes at: http://thestonesoup.com/blog/

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  8. We're getting much better about this, and have been doing meal planning Mondays as well. Usually we make soup one night, and freeze the extra for days when we're too tired to do involved cooking. Also, slowcooker Sunday has been great. Sometimes I mix up a bunch of fajita mix (basically pinto beans, peppers, onions and spices) that we can use throughout the week. And, we eat a lot of eggs and turkey bacon. A batch of quinoa salad is another good thing.
    I've never been one for cooking with recipes, but we started trying a new recipe each week (I'm a big fan of Jamie Oliver or Moosewood or The Splendid Table), and it's so nice to eat simple, good new things. Oh- I also like to make pizza crusts (Jamie Oliver has a really easy recipe) and freeze them. And, there are so many interesting salads that basically involve throwing ingredients in a bowl- usually topped with feta and balsamic and olive oil. Basically- variety and planning ahead has cut down on our eating out money without making us bored. I'm surprised at how little time it can take- and how simple it can sometimes be. The key for me is to not wait until we're hungry to decide what we're going to have...we always end up back at the pizza joint.

    *Laura

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  9. i love the return to a more honest, whole-living lifestyle.

    i have also been thinking about this quite a bit lately and have found most success in making one small change at a time. i have carried this over to other areas of my life too - the stuff we keep, the clothes we store, etc. it all adds up.

    good luck to you! keep us posted on your progress.

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  10. What I've found works the best for us are a few things:
    1. Cook what takes the most involved effort on Sunday. For me, this is roasting veggies (between chopping and oven time it takes forever!). Grains are fairly quick to cook and can be done on week nights while you're prepping the rest of the meal.
    2. Cook beans in the crock pot on Monday during work. I have a super easy recipe I can send you in a bit (working off my phone here.) No soaking required, and my experience is that they cook in about 6 hours. When you get home from work, you can store them (I have a crock pot that will shut off after a designated time period, so they won't overcook.)
    3. Chop fresh veggies on rotation. On Sunday, while you're chopping veggies to roast, chop one or two others to have on hand. On Monday, chop a couple others. And so on, as needed. This way, you're not dedicating a huge amount of time in one sitting and you get a bit of variety throughout the week.
    4. I've found that you can chop a couple of heads of lettuce, wash them well, spin them in a salad spinner, and store it in the spinner, and it'll keep for the entire week. Great for the summer when you want salad pretty much every day.

    I hope that helps!

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  11. It has gotten a lot easier to cook as the baby has gotten older. Baby on the back, baby running around in a safe kitchen, baby in a highchair scarfing down raspberries while I cook...

    Also, veggies are just overwhelming at first. Once you familiarize yourself with the ways that you enjoy eating them, it's a cinch to pull off a cooked veggie meal without much works.

    Roasting brussel sprouts with lemon and garlic - So easy to prepare.

    Brown rice - you just need to be there to turn it down when it's boiling, then return 35 minutes later.

    Squash face down on a cookie sheet steams.

    Steam some cauliflower and broccoli, not too tender for you, a little extra tenderly for H. Eat with a simple dressing or lemon.

    Eat what's in season so it's good, cheaper, and so you don't have to consider a hundred different recipes to try at any given time.
    ...

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  12. Oh, also, always having my favorite salsa on hand makes all beans and veggies more palatable when in a recipe slump.

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  13. Cooking is always an area I want to improve. I've requested lots of cook books as xmas presents this year, my favourite is:
    http://www.bookdepository.com/Annabel-Langbein-Free-Range-Cook-Annabel-Langbein/9781845336455

    Nourishing Traditions sounds good as well, I'll be adding it to my wishlist.

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  14. I think that's a great goal! The crockpot will definitely be your best friend here. Yes, throw in whatever (beans, veggies, etc) and then let it simmer. The key is to add lots of delicious spices :)
    www.saysskippy.blogspot.com

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  15. Here's the recipe I mentioned above: http://kismetandhappenstance.blogspot.com/2011/11/beans-beans-magical-fruit.html?m=1

    (totally NOT a shameless self promotion, just couldn't grab the original link for some reason. see above re: working from phone.)

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  16. i, too, endeavor to eat HEALTHFULLY, but the whole idea of a crockpot really bums me out.

    i recommend Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything. really great, simple recipes with tons of variations.

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  17. These photos are all so magical they hurt. What also stings a bit is having to admit the level to which we frequently end up eating processed foods. it's like our dirty little secret. I admit it—I really hate cooking. How does one resolve an imbalance like that?!

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  18. The thing that helps me most is only ever having good food around. That way I don't have the option of eating crap food. I keep easy fillers like carrots, cottage cheese, berries, and other fruits around to munch on. I try to have a salad as a meal once per day, and make sure I have a little plant based protein in every meal. What is also key for me is still eating food that I *like* so that I never feel that I'm depriving myself or that it is to much work.

    I've also been reading some Michael T Murray books that were suggested to me by a friend who is writing a nutrition cookbook. Whenever I slip and start eating poorly his books tend to scare some sense into me.

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  19. christine9:19 PM

    I love Heidi Swanson's cookbooks, Super Natural Cooking and Super Natural Everyday. I just got the second one but have tried and love a ton of the recipes in Super Natural Cooking.

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  20. i'm loving this post, and all the suggestions in the comments! i consider myself a pretty healthy eater... but when i'm really hungry or out and about i definitely eat my fair share of processed foods. once i've moved to SD (whoohoo!), i want to sign up for a CSA box... and i really like the idea of making a few meals for the week over the weekend. for me, it's all about having healthy, whole foods readily available. AND allowing myself treats sometimes too. otherwise, i'd go cray cray.

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  21. everyone made some really great points here. what i agree with the most is:

    1. keeping a well stocked pantry. invest in stocking up on a variety of grains (different types of rices, polenta, quinoa, etc.), legumes (there are so many amazing an unique types of beans and lentils), dried fruits and nuts, and spices. a salad that you typically make with quinoa can be made with let's say, wild rice, and feel like a completely different dish. make and freeze super large batches of pestos and tapenades that can be great flavor components for salads, and lovely spreads for sandwiches. don't be afraid to switch it up either. i like to sometimes add arugula or pistachios instead of pine nuts to my pesto for an interesting spin. freeze your spreads in small batches so that you won't have to worry about them spoiling.

    2. eat seasonally. i often forget that this isn't exactly an easy task for everyone, because where we live, people rarely *don't* eat seasonally. the appeal for me, is that you are buying and eating produce at it's absolute peak. bottom line: an apple in july will never taste as good as an apple in october. why would i want to eat a shitty apple? i apply this philosophy when feeding cheech too. i want her to LIKE a variety of foods, and i think the easiest way to do that is to give her produce at its very best. eating seasonally also helps with monotony. right now, i am obsessed with persimmons and eat them CONSTANTLY. in a month, though, i'll probably be pretty over them, but that will be just in time for oranges, clementines, and tangerines. on that note: i made a point to always have tons of fruit on hand, and now when i'm in the mood for a snack, i head straight for the fruit bowl and eat as much as i want. i honestly think that's what helped me shed the last of my baby weight.

    3. soups. seriously, soups are awesome. soup club has provided an average three lunches or dinners per week for both joe and i. if you don't want to eat soup every day, you can also freeze in small batches.

    and my final two cents (i promise): try to think outside the box. take one of your grain mixtures and stuff it inside acorn squash halves, drizzle with olive oil and roast for stuffed squash. it's essentially the same dish with one, very simple added step. if you don't feel like cooking, prepare a cheese plate, or cut up some raw veggies and use hummus as a dip. the protein in the garbanzo beans is so good for you and will keep you full. :)

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  22. @eastsidebride's suggestion is great - I love that cookbook. I received it as a Christmas gift as a college freshman (which, of course I thought was LAME), but it's been the best help. It has everything from how to brew tea to how to bone a chicken (not that I've done that. ew.).

    and @celia's frozen pestos & tapenades idea is something I do as well. In the summer, when my herbs are exploding, I harvest a shit ton, blend them with EVOO, and store them in pint-sized ziplocks. You just break off what you need and zip it back up. Worked wonders with the Indian Dahl Soup (from soup club. ahem.). The only herb I didn't have great luck with was sage, but then again, that doesn't exactly process easily. Everything else was great, though.

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  23. love, love. the photos are gorgeous, and your thoughts are honest and true.

    my advice?
    crockpot everything. throw it in there and turn it on, and forget it for ten hours. it works like magic.

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