Hello July!

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Typical summer meal–homegrown and/or local– total cost per meal- $1.22, two good-sized adult meals, or food for three! We eat three or four vegetables with every meal. This meal also included baked chicken and fish. I’ve started making homemade tartar sauce by cutting up a dill pickle in tiny pieces and adding it to our vegan mayo with a pinch of salt and a pinch of sugar-Yum!

Have a happy and safe Fourth of July!

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Eating Whole Foods

Hello friends and welcome to my blog. In my last post I defined the term whole foods. In this post I am going to blog about how I started my family on the road to a healthier whole foods diet. Our first conversion was drinking organic milk after either not drinking milk or drinking non-organic milk very little life long. The first part of the change in our diet came from switching what we could that was non-organic in our diet to organic (milk, eggs, butter and produce). When we couldn’t find organic (way back in 2004) then we purchased things like produce from friends that hadn’t been sprayed, but that also hadn’t been through the certification process of being able to be called organic. From there I began to make foods we ate from scratch rather than buy boxed or canned or frozen.

The first thing I began to make homemade from scratch was applesauce. The reason why I chose applesauce was because it is part of the packed lunch I made/make for my husband every week. Our goal here was to remove as much high fructose syrup from our lives as possible, thus helping to pave the way to consuming more whole foods. The applesauce recipe posted above, in the applesauce link, has eight ingredients, but I make it without using salt, lemon juice or cinnamon. The second product that we use a lot is spaghetti sauce. We eat something every week, sometimes two dishes, with sauce.  The third ingredient in store bought pasta sauce is high fructose syrup. My husband and I were so over high fructose syrup by this time. Virtually everything we were eating had high fructose syrup in it. Here we were riding our bikes all over Wisconsin trying to get and stay in shape and our diet, high in fructose syrups, was sabotaging us. Here is the recipe I use for homemade pasta sauce (roma tomatoes work best for homemade pasta sauce).

Before long I was making homemade applesauce and pasta sauce like a pro. Each time we were going to have a dish that required pasta I would pull out the roma tomatoes I’d frozen for just such an occasion and use them to make the sauce. Prep time for sauce is about 5 minutes and cook time is 30 before your sauce is ready to eat. Double the batch if you are going to be having a pasta dish later in the week. This sauce will keep for 5 days in your refrigerator.

So let’s do a run down of the things changed so far in my family’s diet at this time. First off non-organic milk to organic milk and other organic dairy products, second- produce from farmer’s markets, our own gardens or other people’s gardens vs. canned store bought fruits and vegetables and last but never least the elimination of foods heavily preserved, or containing high fructose syrup.

I would be lying to you if I told you the transition doesn’t take time. It does. You will meet resistance from your family and there will be a lot of times that you’ll want to do what you perceive everyone around you is doing and that’s buy everything pre-made or frozen pre-made or microwaveable and throw in the towel. Time constraints will cause you to cheat, it happens. There have been a few times I didn’t have enough tomatoes or I had something else to do after dinner and I just went out and bought a jar of Ragu. But the good news is as time goes on and you grow more confident in your ability to provide good, safe, nutritious food for your family -you will feel empowered. If the grocery stores ran out of food (temporarily) tomorrow, I’ve got enough tomatoes and frozen vegetables put by to feed my family for at least 2  possibly three weeks. I’ve also got enough flour to make homemade bread, homemade pasta noodles and pie crusts galore. As long as power isn’t lost. Because we buy a lot of produce every week, even in the winter, we’ve always got fresh food on hand no power required. But a generator is definitely on our wish list.

Every time you go to a farmer’s market buy a couple ears of sweet corn, or 2-3 roma tomatoes or 2 or more squash and take them home and process them. I have a new blog post almost ready on freezing roma tomatoes. As far as corn- just cut it off the cob, toss in a freezer bag and freeze. I use the corn for soups and stews all winter. With squash I line a cookie sheet with halved squash brushed with butter and bake until tender. I let cool once out of the oven, then scoop out the shells, and put 2 halves worth of squash in each freezer bag and tuck them away in the freezer. I roast peppers for homemade pizza, which both my husband and I love, and love having a taste of summer on a pizza mid-January. Don’t let the process of the transition to whole food living overwhelm you, take it a day at a time and you will be there in no time.

I’ve included some pictures of what I’ve been cooking- fried zucchini, kale and red potatoes in olive oil and real butter ; homemade pumpkin bread made from all freshly grown/produced ingredients; small farmer’s market haul-mid week ; everything put away- yes I refrigerate potatoes ; much requested picture of my refrigerator (notice not everything I use is homemade or organic-it all takes time), kale and homemade chili tucked away ; roasted peppers and roma for sauce.  Later this week I will post about freezing roma tomatoes for sauce and also talk about using a real pumpkin for pumpkin bread vs. canned pumpkin along with a whole foods menu and cooking times. Until next time always remember to eat good food!

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What Are Whole Foods?

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In the simplest of terms, whole foods are foods without additives and preservatives. It’s food as close to its natural state as possible.  I first heard the term whole food in 2004 right before my family began transitioning to a diet that would contain more whole foods. Our diet previous to a diet of whole foods looked like most people’s diets. Our vegetables were canned store-bought vegetables, bought by the case, and 100% of what we ate was processed including our meat and dairy.

I don’t think I’d ever heard the word organic before 2004 either, but soon learned what it meant after traveling to a bigger city and spotting organic milk in the dairy department.  That milk, which we have now drunk for some sixteen years, was Organic Valley milk. At this time in my life, I’d also just quit smoking. One of the things I learned about smoking, that helped my cessation go a little bit smoother, was that cigarettes had over 600 ingredients in them. It’s a real eye-opener when you learn, for the first time in your life (thanks to the computer era), that cigarettes contain formaldehyde, lead, and arsenic to name just three of a very long list of scary things. Once I quit smoking I felt I owed it to my body, after having abused it to the point of death for so long, to eat food without chemicals. How to start? That was a good question considering I’d never made anything from scratch before and I wasn’t sure how we would afford to transition our kitchen supplies and lifestyle into exactly how kitchen supplies were during my grandparent’s life.

The first thing we made a change to was dairy. We stopped buying conventional milk and began buying Organic Valley milk. Within a year our milk consumption went up 80%. None of our local grocery stores, including Wal-Mart, stocked Organic Valley milk so we had to make a two-hour commute to buy it. That may sound extreme to some people, but for us, it was only the beginning of the long journeys we would have to make to transition to a whole foods diet.  Nowadays organic products, whole food products are available in almost every store. There are also many sites that one can order whole foods from in bulk. Eventually, we were able to buy Organic Valley eggs, milk and butter when we made our two-hour commute.

Our next challenge was to go from canned vegetables and fruit to locally grown vegetables and fruit. Unfortunately, the farmers’ markets around the area we lived in were nil, so again we had to make a two-hour commute to purchase fruits and vegetables grown by local farmers.  Twice a month we would make the drive on Saturday mornings, at the crack of dawn, to get to the Dane County Farmers’ Market in Madison, WI. There we would walk around the Capitol Square with hundreds of other foodies and buy fresh produce.

Transitioning to a whole food diet means in the long-term not eating any food that is processed. Processed food is almost all the food in the supermarket except the produce. And as far as the produce goes, the produce in most grocery stores that we shop in, in this part of the country, are not local and most of the produce sold is not even grown in the U.S.A. Eating local means eating food within 100 miles of its production. Because we were having to travel so far to purchase whole food we began to really look at what eating locally would look like to us. What if we couldn’t drive to purchase our whole foods? We weren’t in the position to garden and grow it ourselves and we definitely did not have a farm close by where we could buy organic milk.

Without our car and our $ability to drive to purchase whole foods we would not have been able to change our diet, unless we moved, until closer to 2010.

By 2010 a couple of farms in our community began having CSA’s and our local grocery store began selling Organic Valley dairy products.

One of the first steps we took in our transition, once we made decisions about produce and dairy, was the elimination processed boxed, canned and frozen food. That means no mixes, no boxed dinners, no frozen pizzas, no tv dinners. Anything in jars or bottles had to have less than five ingredients in them. No more Kool-aid, soda, juices or fountain drinks. Cookies are homemade, snacks are popcorn bought at a farmer’s market, sauces, cakes, crusts, and bread all homemade. If we wanted applesauce we had to go buy a 10# bag of apples and make homemade applesauce.

To give you a good idea of what a whole food diet looks like this: you go grocery shopping and when you get home all the food you bought is stored either in the refrigerator, freezer or pantry shelf (bulk baking stuff for making things from scratch). You won’t have anything but baking products in cans or jars and they will either be organic or will have less than 5 ingredients in them. Soups and stews are homemade; no more Campbell’s soup. Produce will line your counters and you’ll invest in at least two crock pots.

It sounds like a lot of work, and a lot of sacrifices, but I promise you the rewards are priceless and long lasting and you will never ever want to go back to eating processed food again. In my next post, I will explain the time involved in the transition along with how to set your pantry up and what to buy to get you started.