As you probably read, we joined ChildOrganics in her 10 Day Real Food Challenge based on the 100 Days of Real Food website. The 10 days is up and I want to share a little more about what worked for us in trying to eat by the rules.
During the process, I reached my goal of reaching for fewer boxes of convenience foods at snack time for the kids. And I was inspired to make some simple things at home that cut down on the amount of prepackaged items we buy.
One thing that helped was making muffins. It’s an easy snack to make healthy, sneaking in some oats and flax without much fuss happening on the receiving end. Featured in this post is our favorite banana muffin recipe. It’s versatile, yummy and a crowd pleaser with all the kids who pass through the revolving play date door at our house.
Whole-wheat Banana Muffins
- 1 3/4 cup whole-wheat flour
- 1/4 cup oats (optional)
- 2 tbsp. fresh ground flax seed (optional)
- 1/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
- 2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 egg
- 1 cup mashed bananas (about 2-3 bananas)
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/3 cup oil
- 1/3 cup honey
- Mix dry ingredients together in separate bowl.
- Put whole bananas in mixer if y0u use a stand up mixer with a paddle, like a KitchenAid. If not just mash them with a fork.
- Add wet ingredients to mashed bananas.
- For a tip, add the oil then the honey, using the same measuring cup and the honey will slip right out.
- Add dry ingredients to the wet, plus nuts if you are using them.
- Pour in greased muffin pan and bake at 400 degrees for 19-20 minutes for large muffins, and 8-10 minutes for small ones.
Another recipe that helped us out over the Easter weekend was this Agave-Sweetened Chocolate Ice Cream recipe. While agave is still a form of sugar, it was allowed in the rules of the challenge. The ice cream was the most delicious chocolate ice cream we have ever had!
It was perfect for Easter because I was trying to limit the amount of sweets the girls ate after participating in Easter Egg hunts in our neighborhood, and at our church. Offering some yummy ice cream helped lessen the disappointment of me saying no you can’t have another candy.
My children understand why we limit sweets and make healthy choices when eating. But you have to agree, it’s hard on a kid on Easter when none of the other kids are doing a 10 Day Real Food Challenge. I’m sure you get my drift.
Special occasions like holidays and trips to grandparents house are always going to be hard when it comes to striving for a diet with zero processed foods and refined sugar.
For us this was more than just a 10 day challenge. I saw it as inspiration to start cooking more, and rely less on convenience foods. Slowly, I will continue to carve out more time to try more new things. The presentation of these new things can take time for children to adapt.
For instance, I like making yogurt and it’s very easy to do. But it will take some time to find the right method to get my seven-year-old to switch from the store bought brand she prefers, to my version flavored with vanilla extract. In many regards, the 10 Day Real Food Challenge should be presented as an introduction for some families.
It takes time and experimentation to find recipes and methods that create permanent substitutes for prepackaged foods we are used to buying at the store. Making our own yogurt is one small example.
To make yogurt you need yogurt cultures or a starter. You can order yogurt cultures from Dairy Connection. I have also found freeze-dried yogurt starter at our local co-op, but it has a different flavor and consistency that is not our favorite. Now, I just use plain store bought yogurt with live cultures, or my own yogurt.
I use a Salon yogurt maker to put my 6 cup (1500 ml) mason jar of milk in, to keep it warm for the 8 hour incubation period. The Salon maker comes with various plastic parts and instructions to make yogurt. I don’t use any of the parts except the heated base. You can use anything that keeps the milk at 120 degrees for 8 hours. I have a friend who put hers in the window of her hot car in the summer! I’ve seen people use a heating pad inside a cooler. So really, you don’t have to have fancy gadgets to make plain yogurt.
- Put milk in a mason jar. Whole milk works best.
- Put a towel in the bottom of a pot, then put water in pot and place jar on the towel. This is so your jar doesn’t sit directly on the heat source and break.
- Boil the water until the temperature of the milk is 185 degrees, using a candy thermometer to check. I dip my thermometer in the boiling water to sterilize it before I put it in the jar of milk.
- Once the milk is 185 degrees take the jar out of the pot and sit it on the counter until the milk is 105 degrees.
- Add 1/8 tsp. of yogurt culture, close jar and shake. Or use 1/4 cup of plain yogurt per one quart of milk.
- Place jar in warming bowl for 8 hours.
- Refrigerate until cool and ready to eat.
- To make the yogurt thicker like Greek yogurt, drain the water out of the yogurt by putting cheesecloth on top of the jar and turn it upside down.
- To flavor yogurt use maple syrup, honey or jam.
The other thing I managed to do during the 10 day challenge was to get back in the groove of making our own pizza dough. I made some spinach pizza snacks that the kids raved about, as much as the Amy’s version they like out of the box.
We made smoothies almost daily and had success making a new version of microwave popcorn. We ate even more fruit than normal. I think my girls ate 10 pounds of apples last week!
I also started my experimentation process at making homemade macaroni and cheese that gets kid approval, and homemade chicken nuggets. For a 15 year-long vegetarian, the learning curve for cooking meat is steep. When I get that perfected I’ll let you know.
The good news is, Farmer Megan came Wednesday for the first day of our new CSA season. Soon I’ll get the kids back out to the farm for a refresher lesson of where our food comes from. They always try new veggies when they can pick them straight out of the ground. And in my book, the best way to eat veggies is raw.
Soon, we are going to be setting up a real salad bar night, using our wooden play market stand. The idea came from my friend Gabe, who did a version of this at her Wednesday night church group to feed the kids.
But more on all that later….
What is your family’s favorite snack recipe? I’d love to try them! Leave a comment or a link and let us know.