Pickles!

How can you not smile, at the very least, at the word “pickles?” Seriously. (It also brings me back to the early days of Nick Toons…) Say it three times. Feel good?
Awesome.

And who doesn’t love the taste? My husband. That’s who.

Regardless, he was enamored with the pickle-making process. I threw these together the day before our mini-vacation (is three days a mini-vacation, including driving? Or is it a full-blown vacation?) to use up a bunch of the cucumbers we’d been hoarding from our weekly CSA boxes. Of course, we still have more, but I figured 6 pints would do us just fine and help with the glut of cukes.

You can make these refrigerator pickles and make this quick as well as easy. But, nope, in the midst of cleaning, doing laundry, packing, and the usual toddler-watching rigmarole, I undertook the delight of washing and sterilizing mason jars, rings and lids. Silly girl.

It really wasn’t that bad. I’d call it “easy” if you follow the steps. Just not quick. And, of course, I went rogue, so we’ll see how they turn out in the end!

I used the recipe blogged about on Elephant Journal, but made some adjustments. I left out the green onions (more room for cukes! Shove ’em in until you can’t shoves no more, folks!) and tried one with more garlic, another with some habanero pepper. But, when it was time to process the jars in hot water, I’m afraid I might’ve ruined the texture of ’em — one site I read said to process for 5 minutes after reaching a boil, which meant that NONE of the jars sealed. Attempt #2, they all sealed. However, that means that the final pickles will probably be a little limp. If they taste good, though, I’m happy. 😉

I’m thinking about giving the green and yellow beans I’ve got a “dilly bean” treatment. Can you believe I’ve never tried ’em? I know. Bad, BAD natural mama.

Oh, and if you’re wondering: Hadman loves pickles. He’s been picky about a lot of veggies lately (fruits, however, he could survive on, so thank goodness for small victories), but I think if I continue to preserve and save – and I totally mean in a “zucchini muffins” way – them in ways like these, he won’t know what hit him.

Mwahaha.

So, here’s my version of the recipe…

Homemade Dill Pickles (for 6, 1-pint containers)  

– 6-8 cucumbers, washed and sliced (however you like them, but the bigger they are the better texture they’ll have)
– dill seed (NOT weed), about 1 tsp. per jar
– lots of garlic, smashed, 3+ per jar
– red pepper flakes, pinch per jar (or more)
– ground pepper or peppercorns, 1/2 tsp. or so per jar
– thinly sliced jalapeno or habanero pepper, optional

Put spices in the bottom of each jar. Tightly fill with cucumbers (and pepper, if using). Pour following brine to cover cucumbers, cover with lids, and seal.

Brine – Simmer the following until dissolved: 3/4 c. apple cider vinegar, scant 1/4 c. white vinegar, scant 1/2 c. water, and 3/4 T. salt PER JAR {for me, this came to about 4 1/2 c. ACV, between 1 1/4 & 1 1/2 c. white, about 2 c. water, and 4 1/2 T. salt total}. Slowly pour into each jar before processing.

So, who else attempts pickling? What’s YOUR favorite recipe? I’d love to try different ones out.

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.   

Final Thoughts on the Real Food Challenge

Whew! No posts all week? Geez, Meg, what’s up with that?! Things have been weird getting back into the post-vacation routine, plus the hubs came down with another nasty illness. So, just, craziness. I’m hoping to get back on a schedule of at least twice weekly posting next week!

Anyhoo, this is our LAST POST about the “14-Week Real Food Challenge”!!! Let’s all breathe a huge sigh of relief, ‘kay? 

In all honesty, our last week wasn’t quite a failure…but we didn’t adhere 100%. It was all about eating items with 5 ingredients or less, so half the battle came in finding a locally-produced, 5-ingredient Italian bread (which you can honestly use for just about anything). We did, admittedly, go out to eat once, and I haven’t felt much like making huge meals if Dave’s stomach can’t handle it, so one night involved store-bought (organic) chicken soup. And crackers. None of which had less than 5 ingredients. Far from it. *sigh*

But, in general and for the most part, we actually did pretty well considering our lack of focus. I’d say that at least two meals a day were within the limit, some days more. So, yeah. Not a horrible week.

So, now that we’re done, I thought I’d share some of the things I’ve learned as well as the things we’ll definitely take away into our future eating habits. Ready?


– Without planning, you WILL spend your child’s college fund in food. You just will. And I have. Gotta get back to this a bit more, but planning a general idea of what you want to eat for the entire week (breakfast and lunch included) was tremendously helpful to me (and my wallet). I always left room for adjustment – like when I had chicken down on my grocery list but natural pork tenderloin or organic ground beef was on sale, I’d switch the plan – and would sometimes shift the day we’d eat a particular meal, so we weren’t sticklers. But, this is definitely a big help in not using up your savings. 😉

– We’re not whole wheat people. I made whole wheat pancakes, whole wheat muffins, whole wheat cookies, whole wheat bread…everything. But, I discovered that Dave wasn’t a huge fan and, sometimes, neither was Hadley…OR me. So, while I love a good whole wheat bread (and found the perfect one! – yes, store-bought), this part of the challenge won’t be coming along for the ride in the future. The fact that I cook with an organic flour helps, and I may still find a “white whole wheat” flour to try out.   


– Something that works for someone else won’t always work for you and your family. Take, for example, Larabars. I. Hated. Them. Everyone involved in the challenge LOVED these. So, yeah. It is what it is.

– We’re an 80/20 family. At least, I’m an 80/20 person, and I know Dave only followed along with this thing (like a trooper, I might add) to try it out. I think that I’m, in general, this type of person; I can’t give something up 100%, but if you give me a bit of leeway to “cheat” or not be hard on myself, I succeed very well. So, while I’d say that we usually lean more to the 80-90% range, the 80/20 rule of “80% organic/natural/non-processed foods to 20% of less healthy foods” is okay. (When I say “less healthy” I actually mean non-organic {like the nuts we buy}, processed {like organic granola bars or traditional croutons}, and the rare-but-okay meal out at a restaurant or family’s house.)    

Aaaaaand, my biggest takeaway of the whole shebang is simple but one we all can do…

– More fruits and veggies. Again, I haven’t been counting my servings like in the beginning of the challenge (I should do that again, hmm), but they tend to be cheaper in organic form and definitely had me feeling healthier when I adhered to upping their intake. This is by far the one thing I hope to maintain for some time to come.


So, am I glad we did it? Definitely. Were we perfect? Nope. But, I am proud of some of the sacrifices we undertook and, as a whole, the experience was very cool.

Real Food Challenge – Week #14

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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Last week this week, yay!!!

Review of Week #13: This week was all about eating zero artificial ingredients. While we went out once or twice, all other meals and snacks were completely on-track. This is something we try to live up to, in general, but not 100%. Kind of like how we hit up Uno’s for a treat with the little guy this week. Not complete, but perfectly acceptable to me. 🙂

Week #14 Challenge: Our final week will be an interesting one, entailing eating nothing with more than FIVE ingredients (although a meal doesn’t count, as I see it). In other words, when you read the packaging, no matter the ingredients, there can’t be six or more.

However, we’re taking it a little more seriously. Clearly, we’re hoping the ingredients are all real. So, it’s kind of a combination from last week, but more challenging. At least we found a delicious 5-ingredient local bread!

Next week, I’ll check in about how we did and some of our take-aways from the past 14 weeks (holy crap). For now, here’s our meal plan:

Breakfasts: oatmeal w/berries; rice cereal; toast w/ peanut butter; yogurt parfait; eggs and toast; homemade pancakes

Lunches: PBJ; homemade soup; leftovers!

Snacks: yogurt w/fruit; fruit; carrot sticks; homemade banana muffins; home-popped popcorn

Dinners: Pasta w/homemade sauce; homemade chicken fingers w/veggies; grilled chicken on salad; grilled steak sandwich; homemade soup and sandwich; breakfast for dinner


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    

Real Food Challenge – Week #12

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 #11: This past week has all about “going local.” I totally love the idea of it. While the suggestion was originally to eat one local thing per meal, it was far too challenging for many of us still dealing with cold temps and snow flurries (our CSAs and full-time farmers’ markets don’t start until May, and even them tend to have slim pickings). So, “at least once a day” it was. We hit up an indoor FM Saturday morning, which saved our bums. Local, grassfed beef made a stew that lasted us Sunday and Monday, locally milled and baked bread (sourdough, mmm) helped with breakfasts, eggs fit the bill several ways, and some local spinach and onions helped localize our salads.

I’d love to try this throughout the summer months! A fun challenge to eat as much local food as possible. 😉

Week #12 Challenge: Well, we only have a few weeks left and, of course, the challenges are mounting. Next week is all about eliminating ALL SUGARS, whether naturally occurring or not (even maple syrup and honey, which have been my saving grace). I’ve decided to opt Hadman out of this one since he doesn’t eat “sugary” foods on the average (zero candy, maybe a little in his organic cereal bars yogurt unless I’m packing it with maple syrup). I don’t need to put him through the misery.

While we were actually told that we didn’t HAVE to do the whole week (suggesting that we try a couple of days and just recognize how challenging it can be to find ANYTHING without sugar), we’re going to try our best to see how much we can do. This will be relatively easy for my husband, but darn near horrible for me. I’m pretty sure I have a “sweetener addiction” (not necessarily straight sugar since honey and maple syrup have worked fine for me), and I don’t quite feel ready to say “goodbye” forever. I’m sure I’ll feel healthier…but I may feel hungrier, which definitely never helps the situation.

I’ll be trying naked herbal teas, toast for breakfast…but my favorite snack of the day (whole plain yogurt which I usually add berries and maple syrup to) will sacrifice and, dare I say, probably won’t be eaten at all. Which sucks. Also, bought some Larabars, which aren’t organic but…I’ll try them. I’ve got my doubts. I’ve stocked up on fruits, veggies, local breads (not made with sugar), nuts, and Dave will make some homemade popcorn…any other suggestions are terribly welcome!!!! Breakfast will be carb-laden, as you can see…