I was out of town for a long weekend. So I am three days late starting the 10 Day Real Food Challenge, inspired by local blogger ChildOrganics, who initiated the challenge for other bloggers based on the website 100 Days of Real Food.
We got back home late Monday night to discover our basement flooded during a heavy rainfall earlier that evening, which made jumpstarting the real food challenge Tuesday morning even harder. But I want to do it, I really do.
Lately I have been feeling bad about how dependent we have become on convenience snacks, crackers and prepackaged foods. It’s mostly organic. But still, it comes in a box. My grain grinder has been sitting idle for too long and my yogurt maker has a layer of dust on it. In doing this challenge, I’m not looking to overhaul my ways or go cold turkey off dark chocolate. I’m looking to be inspired by new recipes, buy less crackers, dust off my yogurt maker and embrace the fresh produce that spring has to offer.
The rules for the challenge are listed at 100 Days of Real Food. They include eating only whole foods, local fruits and vegetables, whole milk, all whole-wheat and whole-grains, local meats and wild caught seafood, fresh breads and using natural sugars such as honey and maple syrup. No refined grains are allowed, no refined sweeteners, nothing with skim milk, and nothing out of a box, can, bottle or package that has more than five ingredients listed on the label. And no fast food or anything deep fried. Basically it’s how our grandmothers cooked.
The rules are not overwhelming to me. And this is why.
Generally, I don’t buy things with ingredients that I can not pronounce or understand how it could be made in my own kitchen – if I chose to do so. We get milk and butter from a local organic farm, get fresh bread twice a week from the Knoxville Bread Co-op, and next week our CSA starts back which includes fresh farm eggs. When I buy meat for the carnivores in our house (there are now three of them) I buy it from local farmers at our co-op, or at least get it from EarthFare.
We do enjoy some sweets and there is sugar in a lot of what gets eaten around here – from vanilla flavored yogurt, granola, hot chocolate and Kids Cliff Bars. But still, we’re not talking doughnuts and Dixie Crystals here (which does always make a cake taste better). However, I’d like for us to do better.
I’m enjoying watching what Erica’s family at ChildOrganics is eating, and seeing the foods she has posted on her Pinterest board for the challenge. Local blogger Gabe at Couponing in Critical Times is doing extensive daily updates on what her family is eating. And I’m looking forward to updates from Coupon Katie and Melissa at Frugalissa Finds, on how the challenge is going for them throughout the 10 days.
Erica, Gabe and Melissa are all women I have met through the Holistic Moms Network, from the days when our babies were really babies. Life was simpler then. Getting together with other moms to watch them can strawberries was something fun I did with my babies, to socialize with other moms. Now I juggle three kids, school, piano and violin lessons, play dates, board meetings, community obligations and the works. Hence making slow food a little more challenging.
Here’s a breakdown of what we ate on Tuesday
Not having been to the grocery store in nine days, and getting home Monday night at 11:00 pm to find our basement flooded, it was a good thing we had fresh bread from the Knoxville Bread Co-op to come home to. It came in handy for lunch, and breakfast.
For breakfast the girls had yogurt. One girl eats whole milk, vanilla flavored Sonnyfield organic yogurt – which we (more times than not) mix half and half with plain yogart to cut down the sugar. Ideally, I’d like to see her eating homemade yogurt sweetened with vanilla extract, or maple syrup – minus the added sugar.
The two little girls like greek yogurt with honey, and granola bought in the bulk sections of health food stores. However the granola is very sweet, almost like cookies. We also had delicious whole-wheat strawberry scones made by Erin from the Knoxville Bread Co-op. They had organic cane sugar in them which is against the challenge rules, but overall not too terrible in my book. They were after all, freshly baked in Erin’s kitchen.
For my first coffee of the day I sweetened it with honey. It was okay. But for my afternoon coffee I decided I’d rather not have any sweetener at all. For you coffee lovers struggling on this one – steaming your milk or half/half helps mask the fact that sugar is missing. To create a frothy affect without owning the fancy gadgets, simply microwave milk in a mason jar, put the lid on and shake like the dickens. Add to your coffee and you’ll barely notice the sugar is missing. If you don’t use a microwave, heating it in a tea kettle is always an option too.
For lunches on Tuesday the girls had whole-wheat bread slices, cheddar cheese, orange slices, baby carrots and dried dates. Which is pretty normal for them.
While they were at school I went to the co-op and looked for better substitutes to our usual Late July crackers and Kids Cliff Bars. For their after school snack (which I bring in the car because we straddle two school pick up times spanning a 30 minute difference) I presented them with some locally made crackers with only three ingredients. They passed muster for two out of my three girls. I also picked up three different flavors of Lara Bars, with each having only four ingredients. I organized a taste test for the girls. The peanut butter bar got two thumbs up, but the the cashew bar and the apple pie bar got three thumbs down. I completely agreed with their votes. The large tin of mixed strawberries, blueberries and grapes was the biggest hit of all.
At home in the time leading to dinner they had apples, bananas, whole raw carrots and cheddar cheese from our local Sweet Valley Farm. They LOVE that cheese.
Still trying to get back into the groove of getting back into town, we had spaghetti night for dinner. I have given up on getting my girls to eat whole-wheat pasta. Plain given up. At this point I’m just glad they are mixing the sauce, the cheese and the noodles all together.
However I was pleased to see that the Bove’s Marinara we use on our pasta, as well as the Field Day Organic traditional noodles, met the criteria for having less than five ingredients and no added sugar. The kids love the Bove’s sauce as much as they love ketchup! Last summer I did one batch of caning our own marinara sauce and decided it really wasn’t worth the work. Topped on the noodles for a boost in protein we used a block Organic Valley Raw Cheddar Cheese, shredded at home.
For sides I sautéed mushrooms and onions in soy sauce and olive oil. Then I added some lightly sautéed kale, in butter, to the mix. I toasted slices of our fresh whole-wheat bread with a homemade spread of minced garlic, salt and butter – to make garlic bread.
Aside from coffee I always drink water throughout the day. For the kids it is typically milk or water. Lemonade, hot chocolate and juice are offered as occasional treats. Thankfully, wine and beer is allowed on the challenge. Red wine and Belgian beers are staples we enjoy in moderation.
Now… it’s on to planning for Wednesday.
Will you take the challenge? Or look for some simple, manageable, ways to improve the foods you eat? Either way, I believe every little thing we do to feed our families real food counts. And sometimes just one thing can make all the difference. If our family simply cuts down on sugar and eats less boxes of Late July Crackers, I’d call this challenge a success.