Your Test Kitchen

kitchen shelves

My house is my sanctuary.  It is a safe place for my family.  I can let my guard down and allow myself to relax here more than any other place.  There are no fears of allergic reactions.  Nothing in our house has come near a peanut; nothing has been contaminated by gluten.  Bean and Sweet Pea are free to eat whatever they want.

I’m constantly cooking and looking for new recipes for my foodies.  I have three; four if I count myself.  We have tons of go-to recipes that we love: almost 500 stored in Evernote plus many dogeared cookbooks.  Each week I try to incorporate at least one new recipe.  I don’t always meet that goal but everyone is pumped when I do!

Think of my house as your test kitchen.  I’ll post my own recipes that I’ve developed over the years.  However, most of my recipes are from cooks and bloggers across the web.  You can expect to see round ups of the best crock pot recipes, easy weeknight dinners, and favorite snacks.  I promise to share only tried and true recipes that we love, adding in my own spin and shortcuts.  If my kids eat it, maybe yours will too!

I truly believe that food is love.  My grandmothers would be proud.  The way I cook and think about food goes back to their time, when everyone ate real, whole food and there was no junk food.  Cooking for yourself and your family will make everyone healthier and happier.  It’s made all the difference in the world for us.

kitchen

This is our kitchen.  Someday I hope to show you these photos as “before” shots.  Don and I have visions of making our kitchen almost commercial with no plans of starting a business.  I’m in the kitchen so much that I’m always coming up with ideas to improve efficiency.  We are constantly adding to our idea books on houzz.com.  Until then, here’s your test kitchen.

Cutting Out Processed Foods

Under the Monkey Bars

There’s a lot of talk about eating clean, cutting out processed foods, whole foods diets, eating organic and non-GMO.  We do all of this and more at our house.  When I decided to clean up our diets, I cut out processed foods first.  Why?  It’s the easiest place to start, and will help you feel healthier faster.  Where to start?

First teach.  Take the time to educate your family about the chemicals in processed food.  Read blogs like 100 Days of Real Food and Food Babe; watch documentaries like Food, Inc. and Fat Sick & Nearly Dead.  Involve the whole family.  It will be a smoother transition if you have support.

Then make changes.  You must clean out your pantry!  Download the app Fooducate and let the kids scan everything with a barcode.  It’s a great way to find out what’s really in your food.  Bean loved this app!  We learned that Thomas’ English Muffins have ingredients linked to asthma and most almond milks contain carrageenan, which causes cancer.  Read each and every label and remove all foods with more than 5 ingredients on the package.  Take out anything that has words you can’t pronounce.  If the package is unopened, you can donate it to your local food pantry.

Under the Monkey Bars

Drinks are the hardest part if you love sugary flavored waters, soda, juice, and flavor shots in your coffee.  Removing these processed drinks from your diet will lower your sugar consumption drastically.  In our house, we drink tap water, freshly brewed tea, milk, and home made juice from our juicer.  That’s it.  We don’t buy any drinks in bottles (wait – except for wine!).

Under the Monkey Bars

Snacks are tough as you transition off processed foods.  Most people think of snacks as something that comes in a box or a bag so it’s a big change in your mindset.  At our house, we call these kind of snacks “pantry snacks.”  My girls know they can have only one per day, but typically it’s far less than that.

Don’t fall victim to fancy packages and claims of “natural” because most are not true.  It’s just marketing.  Think of it this way: the company who makes the food wants you to buy it.  They spend a small fortune researching which color packaging would make you more likely to buy it, or what words to include on the box.  “Natural” is not measured by the same guidelines as organic.

Then there’s the breakfast dilemma.  There is no nutrition in cereal.  I won’t buy cereal.  It does not fill you up or sustain you.  Please stop buying cereal.  Just because other people eat cereal for breakfast doesn’t mean that you should.  Great breakfasts include stovetop oatmeal, eggs, meats, fruits, vegetables, chia seed pudding, yogurt with berries and granola, home made muffins or breads.

Find new recipes.  While you are cutting out processed foods, you’ll need to start eating more whole foods by default.  You cannot truly be healthy unless you cook.  Make extra food whenever you have time to cook.  Try carving out 2 hours once or twice a week to cook.  Make muffins (without sugar!), hummus, black bean dip, granola bars, baked potatoes and sweet potatoes, grilled chicken, and whole meals to freeze.

All of the junk in your food is weighing you down.  It’s fighting against you.  It’s making you irritable, giving you headaches, and making you sick.  Maybe it’s why your kids whine or act out.  Maybe it’s why you need that extra cup of caffeine to make it through the day.

Now is the time.  Your family might be angry with you for a few months, but by then they will start to feel healthier and thank you.  It’s the only way to turn those tastebuds around on your picky eaters.  Be strong.  If you don’t buy the food, they can’t eat it.  You are the enabler.

Do it for yourself, your family, your sanity, your health.  Make it the New Year’s Resolution that you actually keep.  Let me know how you feel this Spring.  If you commit to cutting out processed foods, chances are you will be happier and healthier.  Take the chance.  What have you got to lose?

Variety is the Spice of Life

Under the Monkey Bars

Under the Monkey Bars

You’ve probably heard the saying, “Variety is the Spice of Life.”  It’s one of my favorites.  If I was the type of person to hang a sign in my kitchen, that would be it.  But I’m not that type of person.

For me, this saying translates to eat a varied diet.  Varying your diet will give your body all of the different vitamins and minerals to use for energy, growth, and stability.  Hear me out.

Eat as many different kinds of fruits and vegetables as you can.  Eat them raw, roasted, sautéed, cooked, blended, and juiced.  Not canned.  Don’t eat them out of a can.  Eat TONS of veggies.  I eat about eight servings of vegetables a day so that I don’t need to take a multivitamin.

Under the Monkey Bars

Eat lots of different grains and starches.  I’ll give you another saying to remember, “Everything in Moderation.”  If you must eat wheat, cut down the amount you’re eating drastically.  Wheat is not processed correctly in the States and therefore, it’s not good for anyone…but that’s another post for another day.

I’m going to go with moderation on dairy.  My chiropractor recently mentioned that dairy should be eaten as a condiment.  Interesting point.  The food pyramid is all kinds of messed up.  Don’t follow it.

If you eat meat, you might as well eat all kinds.  Seriously, if you’re going to eat a chicken, then why not a cow or a pig?  I grew up eating only chicken and pork, hockey puck pork actually.  Yum.  You can imagine my face the first time I ate a steak at The Capital Grille.  Don’t get me started on duck.  Definitely add fish in there too.  Mix it up every day, and every week.

Change up your fats too.  Cook with EVOO, coconut oil, butter, and ghee.  If you are not allergic, buy every kind of nut under the sun.  Except peanuts.  Those guys make me all kinds of nervous, and they are not nearly as good for you as almonds!

Here’s the thing: I don’t care if you don’t like a certain food.  You have to try it at least ten times before you can even say you don’t like it.  I’m serious.  If you change your diet and eat a wide variety of foods, your palette will change too.  Promise.  And be a good example.  You can’t expect the monkeys to eat it if you won’t!

Vary what you eat each day.  Yes, oatmeal is a great choice for breakfast— but not every day.  Vary each and every meal: your breakfasts, snacks, lunches and dinners.  Throw your stomach a curveball; it makes it work harder.

Variety is the Spice of Life.  Everything in Moderation.  You can expect to see more details on these topics in future posts.