October Unprocessed: Eating Whole Foods

How much processed food does your family consume? If you’re like most Americans, probably more than you think!

Today I came across Eating Rules, a great blog about healthy food and lifestyle habits. Eating Rules is encouraging people to try and go the entire month of October without eating processed foods. As a mom and someone who tries to eat healthfully (but doesn’t always succeed), I love this challenge! G and I get a lot of fresh fruits and veggies, but we get a lot of junk too.

So, how do you know whether a food with multiple ingredients is unprocessed? Eating Rules defines an unprocessed food as any food that could be made by a person with reasonable skill in a home kitchen with readily available, whole-food ingredients.” Of course, it goes without saying that anything in its whole-food form is also an unprocessed food.

Will you be taking the October Unprocessed food challenge?

What’s a birthday without a cake?

Last year, the Ex made G his birthday cake. Here’s what his looked like:

A 100% edible train cake

This year, I tried my hand at the birthday cake. Here’s what mine looked like:

What you can't see is how the icing superglues the cake crumbles together

(We made an emergency stop at the store en route to the birthday party today.)

Easy and healthy veggie quesadillas

I discovered this delicious idea for an easy and healthy dinner during one of my regular visits to the Ballard Sunday Market in Seattle. I knew these veggie quesadillas had to be good — the line for them was outrageous. And they were good. Shockingly good for how simple they are. You know what they say, though… start with high quality, fresh ingredients and its hard to go wrong.

This veggie quesadilla recipe is perfect for those nights where you don’t know what you want to make, and you just want something easy and quick (but still healthy!) It’s also really flexible. You can use whatever veggies you have on hand. I prefer the mix below, but feel free to experiment based on your own tastes.

Easy and Healthy Veggie Quesadillas

  • 1/2 cup chopped onions
  • 1/2 cup carrots, thinly sliced into spheres
  • 1/3 cup sliced chioggia beets
  • 1 cup kale (stems removed)
  • 1 quarter-inch slice sharp cheddar
  • 1 flour tortilla
  • Tabasco sauce
  • Salt, to taste

1. Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a large pan on medium heat. Saute onions, carrots, and beets until lightly browned and just starting to caramelize. Add kale and cook until kale begins to wilt, approximately 2 – 3 minutes.

2. Remove veggies from heat and place aside.

3. Layer half of the tortilla with sharp cheddar. Pile veggies on top of cheddar and sprinkle with salt and Tabasco (to taste).

4. Fold tortilla in half and return to pan. Toast for 2 min (until crispy), then flip and toast other side. Remove from pan and serve.

I Want REAL Food – Not Cheap Food

This week, the New York Times ran an article highlighting the hypocrisy of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA): While warning about the dangers of saturated fat, the USDA is actually working to encourage Americans to eat more cheese. Cheese is extremely high in saturated fat and there very are few people in this country that ought to be consuming more of it. I’m sure the UDSA’s promotion of cheese would surprise many, as it is a common misconception that the USDA is tasked with overseeing the nutritional health and well-being of the populace. In fact, the USDA’s mission is to promote the interests of US agriculture – in other words, the beef industry, the chicken industry, and of course, the dairy industry.

In the past few years, I have become something of a food vigilante. I’m not a religious person, but I imagine if I were, Michael Pollan would be my prophet.  My diet consists primarily of produce shipped to my house each week by a local farm, unrefined grains (such as quinoa), and some meat. My grocery bill is surely higher than the average American’s, but I’m okay with that. As a percent of income, my food spend is still standard deviations below that of my grandparents (thanks, of course, to farming subsidies and the explosion of Big Food). In fact, not only am I okay with paying more for my food, I actually want to pay more. I don’t want to eat “food” that is cheaper to purchase than it is to produce; I don’t want to support a system that is incented toward cheaper and faster. I want food that is just that – food, natural and pure. Call me a self-important elitist (you wouldn’t be the first), but every time I see a coupon site dedicated to helping people save money on already dirt-cheap processed “food,” my soul dies a little. In 1950, the average American spent 20.6% of their income on food. In 2004, that number was 9.5%. Most of us can afford real food if we make it a priority.

I work full time, but I try to cook dinner most nights. It is important that my son see me cook, that he sees ingredients in their whole form. He knows that food comes from the ground, from animals, and not from a supermarket or a factory. I want him to know what he is consuming simply by looking at it, not by reading a label. I want him to eat what his body tells him it needs, not what a commercial suggests. As I mentioned before, we get our fruits and vegetables delivered from a local farm. We augment our produce with regular trips to the farmers’ market, where we purchase wild salmon right from the fishermen.

Processed food has its place. Advances in agriculture have given us a calorie surplus; while we may not be eating as healthily as a nation, hunger and starvation are no longer problems for us. Processed foods should be consumed sparingly, however. They should not be used as an excuse for not cooking or as a way to save a few dollars. Sadly, though, I don’t think this situation will change for most Americans unless there is strong government action to reduce corn subsidies and to turn the USDA into an advocate for us, not for Big Food.

Making Dried Apples!

Yes, I know. I have broken the cardinal rule of blogging: write about a single topic. In the past few posts, I have focused on: John Edwards, saving money on vacation, abortion, talking about death with your kids, and now, I am on to dried apples. What can I say? My mind is always going a mile a minute and there are so many different topics I want to address. And, right now, it’s apples. Dried apples, to be precise.

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I love fall. I love the foliage, the crisp breeze, the sweaters, the foreshadowing of stuffing my face at Thanksgiving, but especially I love the feeling of renewal fall brings. For Jews (like moi), fall marks the new year and apples symbolize a sweet beginning to it. And while I won’t turn down some apples dipped in honey, I think having them dried is even better. So does G. After I made one batch today, he requested another. And another. And then two more after that. Yes, my four year old has now eaten four apples today. And yes, I expect a bodily function-related debacle sometime later this evening.

Seriously, though. Make dried apples! It is so dead simple and such a great HEALTHY treat (especially for kids!). All you need to do is heat the oven to 200 degrees, slice up some apples really thin, and then let them dehydrate in the oven for an hour or so (until they are a chewy-crunchy mix).

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