One Recipe, Three Flavors

I was hoping to share my annual birthday planning post for the little guy, but we’ve all come down with what seems to be a summer cold. Wop, wop. So, I figure if I share the plans, that’ll pretty much guarantee that we’ll have to postpone the thing (which may happen, anyway). So, instead, I’m sharing a recipe we used last night that really worked for us. Hopefully we’ll all be felling super great by the weekend and you can hear our theme/plans after the big hurrah next week.
 
We’ve been up to our ears in lettuces thanks to the CSA, so I’ve wanted to try something, ANYTHING besides salad (which I currently have zero appetite for; maybe if I could make a dressing that appeals to my pregnant whims). Since I’m not brave enough to cook the stuff, I decided to try lettuce wraps.

I had doubts if they’d meet the “needs” of all three of our taste buds. The little guy likes salad but not chicken (weird, I know), so it would need a heavier sauce to mask the chicken – enter honey mustard. Mine was going to have an Asian style dressing. Because Dave’s not a fan of those flavors, I decided to treat him to a little buffalo sauce (made all the healthier by the fact that it was just a drizzle and the rest of the ingredients were super healthy).

And, against the usual odds, we all liked it. The most skeptical of all (Dave) loved it and requested it again…soon. When I do make it, I think I’ll do a peanut-based Asian sauce for mine, just for something a little different.

Chicken Lettuce Wraps, Three Ways
(or as Hadley calls them, “Lettuce Tacos”)
serves 3, but can be adjusted easily
2-3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Romaine lettuce leaves, washed & dried (12+ leaves)
Two carrots, julienned
A few inches of cucumber, julienned
Mushrooms, chopped (I didn’t have any, but would improve it)
Various grape tomatoes, sliced
S&P

* Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Grill on grill pan for 8-10 minutes (until cooked through) and shred/chop. Use dry lettuce leaves as a base and fill with ingredients. Drizzle with sauce of your choice. (Our lettuce was smaller than usual Romaine, so you could cut larger pieces in half to make easier to eat.)


Dressings (enough for one serving of 4 wraps):
Honey Mustard
– Equal parts local honey & yellow mustard
*Mix ingredients together. Bam.

Asian Drizzle
– 4-5 Tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce
– ~ 2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
– dash sesame oil
– drizzle honey or sprinkle of brown sugar
– dash red pepper flakes
– splash of water (optional; was too wet this way)
*Mix all ingredients together. To create thicker sauce, cook down in saucepan for 5+ minutes.

Buffalo Sauce– 2-3 Tbsp. butter
– about 3-4 Tbsp. hot sauce
– dash cayenne pepper
– sprinkle of white vinegar
* Microwave butter until melted, then add the rest of ingredients. Mix.


See? Even fit for a toddler. Honey mustard is a savior around these parts.

BTW, everything except the chicken was organic (and that was natural and humanely raised, so whatchya gonna do?). I threw some berries (strawberries & two types of raspberries from the farmers’ market) on the side to round it out; I also grabbed some cottage cheese when I was done just to fill up a little more, but the boys were fine without. Pregnancy will do that to ya.

Now, if anyone has ideas for fennel (I am NOT a fan, but am willing to try new things…gulp), chard, salad turnips, and a ton more lettuce, I’m up for suggestions.

Just know that I’ve got some pickiness going on in the house. 😉

CSA – Week #3

I swear to all that is holy, I don’t plan on doing a weekly recap of our CSA box.

Think I’m fooling? I don’t even remember everything we got this week. Broccoli…radishes…beets…lettuce…potatoes…and I know I’m forgetting something. So, there. Neener. Not recapping the whole thing because I’m a total slacker.

I AM, however, loving trying the new foods. So, when I find a recipe that works for us, I share. That’s what my mother always taught me to do, so here I am.

I really think I should start calling these Iron Chef CSA Challenges or some such thing because you seriously have no idea what you’ll be getting and at least one ingredient is usually something you’ve NEVER cooked with in your life. This week, beet will be my challenge. (I’ve only ever had Harvard beets and pickled beets, both delicious, but never from scratch.)

Week #2’s “mystery ingredient” was bok choy. I’ve heard of it…knew it was used in some Chinese dishes…and that was it. So, I didn’t get creative or reinvent the wheel. I threw some brown rice on the stove and looked up some recipes for stir-fry. Then, as per usual, I tweaked it. Hmm. Maybe that’ll be my superhero name: Recipe Tweaker. I can see the leotard now.



Stir-Fry with Chicken and Bok Choy

– 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
– 1 tsp. grated ginger (ours is local hydroponic; we keep it in the freezer and slice right off the frozen piece, no need to peel!)
– several tsp. olive oil (whatever oil you like; coconut would work well, too)
– 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into chunks or slices
– 2 carrots, washed & chopped
– 1/2 – 1 red pepper, sliced
– 1 head bok choy, separated: leaves chopped, white part sliced or diced

Sauce :
– 1/4-1/2 c. soy sauce (we were low)
– 1/4 c. water
– 1-2 tsp. corn starch
– 1-2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
– dash+ red pepper flakes

Mix together sauce ingredients and set aside.

Heat up oil in a large skillet over medium to medium high and add garlic and ginger, cooking about 1 minute (watch it!). Add chicken and cook until no longer pink. Add carrots, pepper, and white parts of bok choy and cook until crisp-tender. Add bok choy leaves and cook until wilted. Add sauce and cook until thickened.

Serve over rice or noodles. Add another dash of red pepper flakes or soy sauce if you wish. Peanuts over top are yumm-o, too.

*Seriously, use whatever vegetables you have on hand. ALMOST anything will work.*

The verdict? Hadley’s not a big stir-fry person, but Dave and I liked it. I might have liked it more (like, REALLY liked it), but he’s super polite. I didn’t notice a hugely overpowering flavor, especially considering how much bok choy was in the dish, but a mild flavor. Will definitely make again, now that I know what to do with the thing.

Now, on to the beets. I’m envisioning reddish purple hands.

What about you guys? Try any new foods lately? Have any suggestions for a beet recipe the little man will actually tolerate? (I have some pickled beets in the cabinet I may try on him, just to see how he feels. He loves sour stuff, usually.) 

CSA Week #2

Last week, I talked about our first CSA box. In some ways, it was a success; in other ways, we dropped the ball. It was an awesome learning experience.

Since it’s so early in the season, most of our take involved lettuces. We didn’t tend to and prep the produce quickly enough, so some of it went bad. I put the chives and lovage into some water, but the lovage turned quickly and I wasn’t able to use it. Lesson #1: Fresh produce goes rotten quicker than even the fresh grocery store produce. I kind of knew it already, but naively lost track of time.

It doesn’t mean that we didn’t use lots of the lettuce, the chives, radishes (still looking for some more recipes for those), green onions and Swiss chard.

So, I thought I’d share a recipe that came out pretty darn well. I based it on this recipe, but made slight variations.


Sauteed Swiss Chard with Parmesan and Lemon

2 Tbsp. bacon drippings
1 Tbsp. butter
1/2 small onion, diced
1 Tbsp. garlic, minced
1 bunch Swiss chard (separate ribs/stems and chop; chop leaves separately)
splash white wine
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 Tbsp. grated parmesan (or more)
salt to taste (optional)

Heat bacon drippings and butter in saute pan over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and cook about one minute. Add chard’s ribs/stems and white wine; cook about 5 minutes. Add rest of leaves and cook until wilted. Add lemon juice and sprinkle with parmesan.

Would be great with a sprinkling of red pepper flakes or crumbled bacon. 

This week’s box includes: more salad (not nearly as much), including “head lettuce”, frisee, arugula, and spinach; broccoli, broccoli raab, salad turnips, bok choi, and spearmint.

Things are getting interesting now! The ones I’m most excited about figuring out will be bok choi (I assume I’ll be making stir-fry at some point), salad turnips and spearmint.

I was lucky enough to get a list of the week’s take before heading to the grocery store tonight, so my meal plan includes a beef gyro type thing. I’m hoping the tzatziki I make will be improved by the mint. Plus, I’d like to try fresh mint tea. *fingers crossed*

I had never heard of salad turnips before, either, but have found that they can be eaten raw and are on the sweet side. So, we’ll be using them in salads, and I may finally make some homemade hummus to try dippin’.

Now, to use up these radishes… 

First CSA – “Lovage” It

As a sick little boy slumbered for his nap upstairs, I anxiously awaited Dave with the arrival of our first CSA share. What would that little box contain? The farm had sent an email stating the bounty of seedlings they had recently planted, but given the recent cold snaps in the weather, I was doubtful we’d have much to show for it this first week.

Winston was immediately interested in the overflowing, larger-than-expected waxy box. Of course, it smelled like “outside”; his favorite smell. (He loves us when we spend the day outside doing yard work and gets upset when we shower. Strange to us, normal to him.)

The first time through this box was a little of an emotional rollercoaster for this pregnant lady. I noticed a few flower buds and grew excited, “Flowers?? Or, no…wait!” Yup, I knew what it was: chives. They were bundled with a small handful of an unfamiliar herb. It looked like parsley with huge leaves, but upon smelling I knew it couldn’t be. Celery? What herb smells like celery?

Upon further inspection, we found lettuce of all sorts, which admittedly sank my heart a bit. This pregnancy, I have had zero appetite for salads (or much of anything that’s super healthy, honestly), so I thought, “Dave’ll be having lots and lots of salads…or I’d better find an awesome new dressing or vinaigrette recipe to make them palatable.” Keeping positive, this is my plan.

Aside from the overabundance of salad greens, we got 5-6 potatoes, a bunch of radishes, some scallions, and some Swiss chard (another “never cooked with that” item). Overall, I’m super happy with the take, and was surprised at just how much we got, all things considered.

So, this week I’ll be on the lookout for a recipe that the family will actually endure for Swiss chard and a dressing that will help ME endure all the salad in our futures (I had a warm bacon one years ago that I may need to revisit).

As far as the “mystery herb” is concerned, I’ve already done my research (Mother Earth News gave the best information). Raise your hand if you’ve ever heard of “lovage”. Needless to say, I never had before. It was apparently a very popular herb, up there with parsley and dill, until just a few generations ago. Funny how an ingredient can be well-known for literally centuries only to lose popularity and become practically unknown in modernity. It definitely says something for the narrowing of our collective taste buds. Hmph.

So, anyway, the facts. Lovage has traditionally had both culinary and medicinal uses, dating back to…well, nobody knows where or when specifically it first originated, but it’s said that the Romans first brought it to England, where it was grown at medieval monasteries. (It could very well have started its life in Asia, for all we know.) It was used to treat rheumatism, and was even brought by the American colonists to consume in tea form in order to ward off the inevitable aches and pains of the New World.

Smelling strongly of celery, it can actually be used any place that celery generally is. However, it is much stronger in flavor, so should be about halved. (Note to self.)

That said, we’re keeping it, along with the chives and their pretty buds, in a bit of water until I can track down some more ingredients. If it’s not too warm over the weekend, a chicken soup would take care of it nicely, as would stuffing (in June? Really, Dellecese?). The leaves also add a bit of celery flavor to salads, so I may have to remember to use them when we’re making our inevitable salads feasts.

Grumble.

Any suggestions for making a food (salads, in general) that has seemed completely disgusting and inedible to a pregnant lady more appetizing? I’ve eaten maaaaaybe one a week. Tops. And it hasn’t been fun. (My husband, who could absolutely live on them, looks at me strangely and, I’m guessing, doesn’t get it.)

I’m thinking BLTs (I don’t eat tomatoes, but I’m down with this…maybe with avocado, yay healthy fat!), using it as a lettuce wrap (Had may be down for this…not sure it’ll help me at all), or just shoot the moon and do taco dip piled high with lettuce. Maybe. Any other ideas??

5 Reasons I’m Okay Spending $100 on a Dinner

Depending on the time of year, we go out maybe every 1-2 months and get a pizza every, eh, 2-3 weeks. Compared to the old days when pizza was weekly and going out was, well, probably also a weekly thing (plus any fast food stops, especially back when we were first dating and acting in shows), this is pretty stellar. 

So, I thought I’d talk about briefly about why it’s totally cool with me that Dave’s taking me out for my birthday for what’s undoubtedly going to cost probably $100…give or take. 

via Trip Advisor


Special Occasion – I don’t usually give into the “it’s my birthday, I deserve it” sort of thing. However, we often decide that we’d rather take advantage of a super rare date night (seriously, if we get four a year, we’re doing something) than to actually buy gifts for the other person. This year, I don’t find myself “in need” of anything, so an incredible meal it is. (We often do something similar for our anniversary or Valentine’s Day.) Plus, any time we can eat without the little one is pretty much a special occasion. 😉 Thanks to the sitters (grandparents) of the world!!!

Insane Food – I know you probably already assume that insanity has to come into play when it comes to spending over $100 on dinner, but it’s not our insanity; it’s the INSANELY AWESOME thought put into the cuisine at our favorite restaurant. I’ve chatted about what an incredible spot The Tailor and the Cook is in the past, but yeah. I’ll repeat it again, it’s just. That. Good. The word “delicious” doesn’t describe it well enough. Also, the fact that we eat out less than the “good ol’ days” makes us really enjoy this style of food more, even if we do it only a couple of times a year. 

Locavore’s Paradise – We obviously wouldn’t be willing to spend the big bucks at a regular, local restaurant (or chain) that serves the usual fare. But, much of the food served here is based on the local ingredients they’ve sourced. The care in the menu alone shows the thought put into the season and proper preparation of the food (hello, fiddleheads and ramps!). Plus, knowing (and often seeing at our local farmers’ markets) the farms and food producers displayed in a totally proud, transparent way? We have to get behind that. 

The Anticipation – Okay. I haven’t had a huge appetite lately, but when I found out we’d be going to T&C, I couldn’t help but check out the menu. Seriously, I can’t decide what to get, but it doesn’t matter! Just look at that menu! And the things that sound strange are what end up being your favorite, so I put my faith into the hands of the chef(s). 

It’s an Investment – People consider all sorts of things investments. Saving for college. (Okay, we do that.) Buying cars. Collecting dolls. All sorts of things. For us, food like this is an important investment. We care about the food’s treatment before it even gets to the restaurant, we care that the chef(s) give it the best possible flavor profile, and the experience of the entire evening fulfills us to no end. So, yeah. It’s an investment we’ll gladly make.   

Five Yummy Treats for Your Easter Basket

Monday, I shared with you guys what fun stuff the Easter Bunny likes to stuff H-man’s basket with. Today, I thought I’d mention the “other” goodies he sometimes gets.

Yup. The food!

As I mentioned Monday, we don’t go overboard on candy. He gets a little from other family members, so we try to maintain that whole “moderation” thing. If he’s going to be getting a buttload from either Grandma (or even aunts or uncles who like to make him up a little bag), he doesn’t need a lot at our house.

But, that bunny’s gotta bring SOMETHING, right? Here are some of our favorites to include:


YumEarth Organics Gummy Bears – The ONLY things H has mentioned the Easter Bunny bringing are “fake eggs” (the plastic that we reuse every year; he’s still a bit too messy for real coloring) and “real gummies”. That’d be these! I can attest, too. They’re delicious.


Annie’s Homegrown Bunnies Baked Snack Crackers – We’re not usual Annie’s buyers anymore. Ever since their buy-out, we’ve decided to stop eating cheesy crackers. But, since this is a special occasion (and bunnies are PERFECT for Easter!), we make an exception. I’ll buy little baggies to put these in so that he gets basket-sized treats. (Also works for Christmas stockings!)
Surf Sweets Organic Jelly Beans – Dave’s a jellybean guy, so I’ll probably grab a few bags of these for a communal bowl of yummies. We’re so lucky that these are carried at our local grocery store! (I’ve written a couple of articles for this company, so I get pretty proud seeing their products locally.)

Annie’s Homegrown Chocolate Bunny Grahams – Just like with the cheesy ones, these bunnies are perfect for celebrating the holiday. They’re whole grain and may not be organic, but have far less “junk” in them. 

Justin’s Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups – Our little man isn’t a big chocolate guy, so I’ll get these to see how he feels (if they have milk chocolate, I’ll get those). And if he doesn’t eat them? Well, you know I’ll be happy to help out. 😉

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I just read a blog post that makes me think about today’s topic, so I just thought I’d put my two cents in. The blogger pretty much thumbed her nose at people who “make” their kids eat fruits and vegetables, among other things. (We actually provide the food and if he eats it, great; if not, he won’t die.) By no means do I think that everyone needs to eat this way. We’re far from healthy (today’s list is all processed foods!) and definitely don’t go out of our way to change people’s minds. I’m not here to brag about all we’re doing or guilt-trip you for choosing traditional candies.

Heck, I look forward to grabbing one or two of the traditional snacks at my mom’s Easter shindig (but it’s just not worth it to buy an entire BAG if we’re not going to eat more than a couple).

What’s right for us may not be right for you. So, if your family loves Reese’s peanut butter eggs, regular jellybeans, and chocolate bunnies, go for it and enjoy! Just sharing what we’ll probably be including in our basket this year. 🙂

On another note, what are your plans for Easter? Staying home with the family? Having extended family over? Going to an egg hunt? Can’t wait to hear!

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. All this means is that if you make any purchase through Amazon links above, I make a tiny percentage of the sale. Thanks for supporting us!

Real Food Challenge Week #13

For 14 weeks, the family and I are undertaking a Real Food Challenge (put forth by the awesome 100 Days of Real Food blog). I’m hoping to check in about any struggles and successes along the way each week. Our ultimate goal is to cut down on our dependence on processed foods and start using some cleaner fuels to energize our bodies. And stuff.

So, here’s how it works. I’ll get an email every Thursday for the next 14 weeks (the actual eating challenge will start on Sunday or Monday for 7 days, so there are a couple of days of grocery prep built in). Each email outlines the “rules” for that particular week. It’s up to each participant as to whether or not they’d like to try each week independently or build on top of the prior week. In other words, continuing doing the prior weeks while attempting the new weeks, if that makes sense. There’s also a very active Facebook group (I’ve actually joined an offshoot that’s super supportive and far more focused) that’s there to share, answer and support.

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Review of Week #12: Fail. Complete fail. No do-over necessary; just accepting the “F”. Since Lisa wrote that she didn’t expect everyone to follow the “zero sugar, even natural” rule for the entire week, and to just become aware of how much sugar is in stuff, I suppose I could say we succeeded in becoming aware. But, seriously. I failed so hard I ate ice cream mid-week…and I don’t eat ice cream much AT ALL (like, once during the winter maybe, then kick it up a bit in the summer, but that’s it). So, yeah. I’d say if you added the random snack here or there that I made sugarless and the fact that almost every lunch and dinner had no sweetener, we did okay. But, in my heart of hearts, I know I failed.

We failed so hard that we ordered meals in. Twice. Between the illness in the family and my absolute lack of willpower, we got a pizza one day and actual “meals” another. We never do that. (At least we were supporting a local business, but it’s by no means “local” food.) Perspective-wise, though, we haven’t had McDonald’s in over three years (H has NEVER had it), so I guess I shouldn’t beat myself up too badly. Right? RIGHT?

Let’s move on, shall we?

Week #13 Challenge: This week involves eating nothing artificial or unnatural whatsoever. This includes things that were created in a science lab over the last, say, century or so. For the most part, we’re okay on this, except for the random granola bar or maybe cracker (although I might just have a brand that has all understandable, real ingredients – woohoo!) or organic gummies for Easter. I actually think Easter will be an “off limits” day, but the food will mostly be whole with the meals ‘n stuff.

Oh, and H and I are on vacation this week and Dave will be done with his show, so meals will be a little looser and less structured. Yay!

And then we’re on to week #14 and a review of the whole thing! I’m sure we’re all kinda glad to see it end, but it opened my eyes in some ways (and in others just cemented our beliefs, for better or worse).

Here’s our meal plan for the week (sorry no fancy graphic):
Breakfasts: oatmeal, toast w/pb or butter, fruit, yogurt, eggs, homemade pancakes
Lunches: Leftovers, salads, homemade soup, sandwich  
Snacks: Homemade popcorn, fruit, yogurt w/fruit, veggie sticks & hummus, cheese
Dinners: Pasta w/chicken, homemade pizza, paninis/grilled cheese; potato soup; homemade pizza; homemade chicken fingers; marinaded chicken breasts w/rice & veg    

St. Patrick’s Day Green

I’m an Irish girl. Er. Irish-American. Whatever. But, still, the vast majority of my ancestors? Irish peasants. I’m fascinated and proud of the heritage.

That said, I’ve never used the traditional “Irish” holiday as an excuse to drink. It’s an awesome holiday, of course, but the people who tend to go all out (whether Irish or not, whether they know a lick of information about St. Patrick himself) make me shake my head. I still remember going to a college class on St. Patrick’s Day only to observe heads in garbage cans and bodies of passed-out people riddling the common areas. At 9AM. I’m not a prude, but… No. Words.

But, if you’re planning on hitting the pubs this year, try a different green beverage before donning those green beads.

We recently tried out this recipe for super-simple “beginner’s luck green smoothie.” Dave hadn’t jumped on the smoothie bandwagon yet, and none of us had tried a green smoothie. Of course, Hadley LOVED the thing, and Dave enjoyed his more than I expected. Our variation of the original goes like this…


Beginner’s Luck Green Smoothie
(adapted from 100 Days of Real Food’s recipe)2 cups spinach
1 cup milk (any kind)
1 cup water
1 banana, in chunks
1 cup frozen strawberries
1 cup pineapple chunks

Blend the spinach with the liquid until smooth. Then add the rest of the ingredients and blend until you’ve reached the consistency you prefer. (Add more liquid if you like it thinner, or use all frozen fruits or ice cubes for a thicker consistency.)

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Ours was perfectly sweet with the mix of banana, strawberries (which Hadley requested) and pineapple (although the pineapple admittedly left a few random “strands” of texture here and there), but you could drizzle in agave, honey, or a sprinkle of sugar if you need it. 

Leftovers might just help alleviate a hangover. *wink, wink*

And if you wear some green in celebration (or, um, drink green beer), here’s a little trivia for you: The green (of the Irish flag) doesn’t represent the green grasses and shamrocks of Ireland so much as it does the many Irish Catholics who died at the hands of Protestant rulers. In the 1700s and 1800s, while England and Ireland clashed, Irish persons were hanged for wearing green.

So, please. Wear it proudly.

Or drink it proudly, as the case may be.

Real Food Challenge – Week #11

For 14 weeks, the family and I are undertaking a Real Food Challenge (put forth by the awesome 100 Days of Real Food blog). I’m hoping to check in about any struggles and successes along the way each week. Our ultimate goal is to cut down on our dependence on processed foods and start using some cleaner fuels to energize our bodies. And stuff.

So, here’s how it works. I’ll get an email every Thursday for the next 14 weeks (the actual eating challenge will start on Sunday or Monday for 7 days, so there are a couple of days of grocery prep built in). Each email outlines the “rules” for that particular week. It’s up to each participant as to whether or not they’d like to try each week independently or build on top of the prior week. In other words, continuing doing the prior weeks while attempting the new weeks, if that makes sense. There’s also a very active Facebook group (I’ve actually joined an offshoot that’s super supportive and far more focused) that’s there to share, answer and support.

Review of Week #10 – This past week, the only oils we used were organic, grassfed butter, extra virgin olive oil, and coconut oil. It actually entailed keeping quite an eye on labels (it’s sneaky stuff!), but we did well with it. The week wasn’t an uber challenge. Whew. 

Week #11 Challenge – Next week’s challenge is, well, a challenge. We’ll need to “Eat at least ONE locally-grown or raised food at each meal (or at least each day). This includes, but is not limited to: fruits, vegetables, eggs, grains, nuts, meats, and sweeteners like honey,

Hmm. So, I assume this will be a challenge. I’ve been sick this week, so there’s one strike against simply getting the motivation to go shopping anywhere other than my grocery store. We’ve got obligations Saturday and Sunday, so I’m not sure at what point I’ll be able to travel the 60-minute round trip to pick up our local foods. I’ll commiserate with the hubby and get back to you with how we figured it out!

Luckily, the boss lady adjusted it to say “at least each day” (so, one a day), but I’d like to try our best to try for more.

For now, our honey is quite local (and I’m drinking LOTS of tea with honey) and I’m hoping to get my hands on a couple dozen local eggs. If I can get some local ground beef or chicken, I’ll be doin’ somethin’. Lunch will actually be tougher (unless it’s leftovers), but the bread from our local bakery might count (at least the flour is NYS milled) for sandwiches.

Needless to say, in March there aren’t a lot of vegetables available locally unless we have time (and, again, energy…ugh) to hit up our farmers’ market (also 30 minutes each way) and see what root veggies and potatoes they may have.

So, this meal plan is INCREDIBLY loose:

Real Food Challenge – Week #10

For 14 weeks, the family and I are undertaking a Real Food Challenge (put forth by the awesome 100 Days of Real Food blog). I’m hoping to check in about any struggles and successes along the way each week. Our ultimate goal is to cut down on our dependence on processed foods and start using some cleaner fuels to energize our bodies. And stuff.

So, here’s how it works. I’ll get an email every Thursday for the next 14 weeks (the actual eating challenge will start on Sunday or Monday for 7 days, so there are a couple of days of grocery prep built in). Each email outlines the “rules” for that particular week. It’s up to each participant as to whether or not they’d like to try each week independently or build on top of the prior week. In other words, continuing doing the prior weeks while attempting the new weeks, if that makes sense. There’s also a very active Facebook group (I’ve actually joined an offshoot that’s super supportive and far more focused) that’s there to share, answer and support.

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Review of Week #9: This week has been the week of “no refined sugars, only maple syrup and honey.” (Some people on our message board were getting scared about the lactose in milk, but as I see it, it’s naturally occurring…just like the fructose in fruit. We’ll let those rest.) For the most part, we’ve done well. But, I won’t lie: We inadvertently cheated a couple of times. Hadley baked some goodies with his grandma the other day, which were loaded with traditional sugar (she sent some home, but I put it in the freezer to enjoy at a later date). Dave ate some crackers that had some sneaky sugar in them. Our croutons had hidden sugar…dang it. But, mine was probably the worst. I had a kid bring me a cupcake after a very long, stressful day, and I gulped it down without even thinking about the challenge. Oops!!!

Plus, I’ve got plans this weekend that pretty much demand that I eat “out”. Pretty sure even a wrap or sandwich of some sort will include some hidden sugar (wrap your head around THAT one!); and dessert will be a must, so there goes that. I suck.

Otherwise, our meals and snacks have been either devoid of any sweeteners or made with maple syrup. I baked some of Lisa’s carrot applesauce muffins with maple syrup and learned FAST to freeze a majority and store the ones I hoped to eat within a day in the fridge. Seriously. I felt awful when I had baked them, tossed them in bags, and sat down to enjoy mine Monday afternoon for a snack…only to find bits of green forming all over the top. INSANE. So, there’s my tip of the day: all-natural = refrigerate the darn things. That said, they were super moist and I might have packaged them too soon before cooling, so it’s probably part user error.

My other trick of the week involved my coffee. I’m trying to cut back, but my energy has been low (trying to kickstart my at-home yoga sessions again!). So, when I do drink the stuff, I found that the syrup was too heavy tasting and had a definite depth from the maple. So, I tried raw honey, which I usually loathe, but it gave the perfect light sweetened taste without that “bee puke” aftertaste. Plus, it’s FULL of antioxidants (the coffee was far from boiling, so they were left intact). Win-win!!


Week #10 Challenge: Next week seems suspiciously easy, so I know it’ll be a greater challenge than I expect: No refined oils. So, the only oils we’re allowed for the week are: butter, olive oil, and coconut oil. (To be specific, the butter should be at the very least organic from pastured cows, the olive oil should be extra virgin, cold-pressed and unfiltered, and the coconut oil should be organic, unrefined and centrifuged if possible.)

Now, this isn’t very different from our norm, except that I have been buying just plain ol’ store-brand (or Cabot; VT, woot!) butter. Our CO & EVOO are fine, though. The Dorky Daddy has been teasing me for awhile about the “GMO butter” I’ve been buying, but the other stuff that our store offers is a) super expensive, b) salted and c) from an organic brand that we don’t support. I’ve swallowed my pride, looked away at the checkout line, and hooked the family up with some Horizon (ugh) butter as well as a package of Kerrygold, just in time for St. Patrick’s Day. 😉

There are sneaky issues here, though. Firstly, we won’t be able to eat out AT ALL. (We haven’t in awhile, but still. Knowing that you can’t sucks.) Secondly, much like with the sugar last week, things are hidden. Our favorite organic cereal bars undoubtedly have some sort of organic vegetable oil in them. Crackers? The same. Pretty much anything we might like to munch one, it’s there.

So, my strategy for the week is to once again be proactive. I hope to make some more muffins or a homemade granola bar of some sort, maybe a french toast bake that can stretch a couple of breakfasts, and hopefully some tortillas if I have the time. Plus, even though he’s busy with rehearsals (which tosses an extra challenge into dinners), the hubby will probably be called into his stellar popcorn-making service a couple times (he’ll make a HUGE batch during the weekend that lasts us about half the week). He usually douses it with a scant amount of butter and a teensy bit of salt, which will suffice. (Side note: Totally impossible to walk by that bowl and not grab a handful here and there. I dare you. Impossible.)

It’s looking like a lot of cooking for me this week, though. Eep!

Here are my meal ideas for the week…fingers crossed!