Tuesday, September 25, 2012

My Food Journey {and October #Unprocessed}

I love food. I love to eat. Fortunately, God gave me a good set of genes and a healthy appetite for exercise. I've always been the girl who scavenges friends' lunches for unwanted leftovers and who has helped herself to thirds at dinner. {Having a salty tooth, I often consoled myself with the fact that while I ate three helpings of dinner I usually skipped dessert. It evened out, right?}

But, over the past four or five years my views on food have slowly, but radically changed. Don't worry. I still love food. And I still love to eat. But a few years ago, I didn't know what I was eating. And I didn't care. I lived a life of moderation and balance, so I figured I was okay. And then I joined a healthy living small group at my church. It was made up of about 6 women and we talked about food, healthy lifestyles and our body image. I came in a bit skeptical, knowing that the organizer {a good friend} is a die-hard organic type of gal. I was in law school. I knew that even the term organic came with its own set of qualifiers. So I resisted. I debated. I was studying to be a lawyer, afterall. And I walked away from it thinking I hadn't really been affected. Maybe I won or maybe it just wasn't for me. Either way, I still didn't feel convinced.

But the problem was that I was now a whole new level of educated. And with education came an acute awareness in certain settings that was never there before. Now, I would walk down the aisles of the grocery store beleaguered by the devil/angel debate going on in my head.  

You should read that label. It probably isn't very healthy. High fructose corn syrup? Really? Do you know how many pesticides are just waiting to be devoured on that? You can't wash them all away. Don't do it!

Don't worry about the label. You never read labels before and look at you--you're in perfect shape. Good health. No worries. Don't you remember the recipe you are planning on making with this? A substitute just wouldn't do. You would be so disappointed. Do it!

And just like that, my perspective began shifting. And my choices reflected my new way of thinking. I began investing my time reading more about the ways in which our foods are grown and processed. And I began researching ways to make homemade whole-food substitutes for some of those terrible offenders in many of the foods I loved. As Michael Pollen suggested in The Omnivore's Dilemma, eating really had become a moral and ethical dilemma for me.

Fortunately, I wasn't alone in my dilemma. My husband joined me on this journey and we equally, separately and yet unitedly, believed that changing our way of eating was vital. Fortunately, eating a whole foods, natural, local, and/or organic diet didn't mean tasteless, boring and undesirable. {Remember my last post about those sinfully delicious chocolate chip cookies? Even they can technically be considered an unprocessed food, because I used whole-food ingredients!} And fortunately, I love to cook, invent and create in the kitchen. So instead of viewing this as the end of a delicious feast, we began to look forward to it as a challenge in which the reward would be great. Not only would we reap a personal reward of a healthier lifestyle, but by supporting our local farmers we would reap a better local economy and a better environment {because we weren't supporting all of the carbon that goes into transportation}. And by choosing sustainably raised and grown meat and produce {whether or not certified organic--because that really is just a fancy and expensive bureaucratic descriptor} we were reaping a better environment and humanely raised animals. The whole goal of sustainability, afterall, is to promote a model of growth that can support itself for years to come without destroying our precious remaining resources.

Fast forward to yesterday when I opened my email and clicked on Aimee's post about October Unprocessed over at Simple Bites. In a nutshell, it is a challenge to go one month {or whatever length of time you can realistically commit} without eating processed food. So what qualifies as unprocessed food? Well, Andrew of Eating Rules describes unprocessed food as anything meeting the "kitchen test".  

Unprocessed food is any food that could be made by a person with reasonable skill in a home kitchen with whole-food ingredients. {Andrew Wilder}

Since we already try to commit to a largely unprocessed foods diet, my husband and I immediately decided to join the challenge. For me, the challenge lies in my snack choices. If you've ever been pregnant, you know that your tastes and cravings aren't always things that are good for you. So my goal is to be more intentional in planning for the challenge of meeting these cravings with healthy, unprocessed choices. We already have a few social engagements on the calendar over which we won't have control of our food choices. So, we already know that we will have to make a few exceptions to this challenge. But otherwise, we are on board to accept and tackle this exciting challenge! Here are a few things I'm doing to prepare:

~ I've started an October #Unprocessed pin board on Pinterest to help me with menu planning
~ I will be menu planning a week in advance {which means I'm working on my first menu plan this week! I'll post my menu plan soon!} and will be accounting for all three meals plus snacks
~ I will be making a trip to Sonnewald Natural Foods this week in order to stock up on essentials such as unbleached, unenriched flour, grains, etc.
 ~ I have already signed the pledge over at Eating Rules and have signed up to follow along

So what do you think? Will you be joining me in taking the October #Unprocessed challenge? Feel free to share some menu ideas!

Friday, September 21, 2012


My husband has a crush on chocolate chip cookies. Seriously, he has a very strong chemical attraction toward those soft, pillowy, melt-in-your-mouth kind of chocolate chip cookies. The kind of attraction that drives him to lustfully devour at least a half-dozen in one sitting while moaning Oh God! between bites. It's intense.

But he married me. The woman who can cook up tasty concoctions from scratch and make anything taste amazing {so he tells me, anyway}. Anything, that is, except cookies. Especially chocolate chip cookies. For years, I have tried every new recipe claiming to be the best chocolate chip cookie. And for years, I have met my bitter friend, Disappointment, at the buzz of the timer showing me flat, crunchy, or falling-apart cookies that usually end up in the trash. So naturally, for years I've been blaming my cookie sheets. It must be my cookie sheets because I always carefully follow each new recipe to the "T". {The things you do for love! I HATE following recipes...} I always tell myself that I will buy new cookie sheets, the kind the pros use {whatever kind that might be}, but then I always forget. Basically, I've just been boycotting cookies altogether.

 So when I recently pinned a recipe for nutella-stuffed brown butter + sea salt chocolate chip cookies I thought maybe this was the one. It sounded far too good to fail. And if it failed, well then I decided I was definitely hanging up my hat. My husband would just have to satisfy his lusts on a stranger's chocolate chip cookies. So I embarked on my potentially last cookie-making excursion and browned my butter {happily it did not burn!} and mixed up my dough. With a 15-month-old in tow, I only have so much time to devote to these endeavors, so I decided to refrigerate my dough overnight and actually make the cookies the following day. This was the only deviation I made from the recipe {her instructions were to refrigerate at least 2 hours} and I crossed my fingers and prayed that it wouldn't be fatal.

I am proud to say that my friend Disappointment got a taste of his own medicine yesterday when he was ousted by Sheer Joy at the sound of the timer. Never before have I made such amazingly chewy, delightfully tender and sinfully delicious chocolate chip cookies! And my husband has sworn to remain faithful to these cookies as he exclaimed Babe! These are your new specialty! which means that I'll be making these cookies for every occasion we ever have and any time he is overcome with a salivating lust that can only be satiated by devouring at least 6 of these cookies with a chilly glass of milk.

{Click here for the recipe}

Please tell me that you've had similar cookie-making experiences! Do you swear by a particular chocolate chip cookie recipe?

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Homemade Peanut Butter

I promised myself that once we finished our jar of commercial {though natural} peanut butter, I would take a stab at making it myself. After all, the only ingredients listed were peanuts and salt. How hard could it be? And, I thought it would be one more easy step toward replacing commercial food staples with my own homemade varieties. So, I purchased a bag of salted peanuts from the bulk room at our natural foods store {if you've never shopped in a natural foods bulk room, DO IT!} and set out to finish off our last jar of store-bought peanut butter. A few days ago, I scraped the bottom of the container and excitedly broke out my food processor.

I dumped about 3 cups of peanuts in my food processor and let it work its magic. About five minutes later, I had peanut butter.

Smooth. Creamy. Peanuty. Delicious! The perfect blend of salty and sweet.

We are hooked! My husband has a scoop or two with his granola {his typical evening snack} and raves each time over how delicious it is. Next time you're running low on peanut butter, go buy some peanuts and make your own. I bet you won't go back!

Try it! And then come back and let me know how you like it!! Do you add anything extra to your homemade peanut butter?