Thursday, August 1, 2013

Nourishing Bytes: Real Food for Survival

It has been a while since I wrote a "Nourishing Bytes" post.  So, what better time to write one than after enjoying a delicious nutritious meal as a family.  I mentioned in the past that when I was stricken with cancer, one of the first questions I asked myself is "what, if anything, could I have done to prevent this?"  Honestly, I am not sure the answer to this question.  But, I do not that I can only control some things in my life.  And, what goes into my mouth, and the mouths of my family is within my control.  I believe not only is it something that is within my control, but that I should even glorify God with my body.  For me, this means making sure I fuel it with healthy substances, rather than consume foods and beverages that could harm it.  (1 Corinthians 6: 19-20 (ESV) states, "Or do you not know that you body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?  You are not your own, for you were bought with a price.  So glorify God in your body.")

With that said, I understand that in the country in which we live, it is probably the most difficult to consume "real food".  Convenience, packaged foods are readily available and often seem cheaper than real, whole foods.  But, since undergoing our 10-day real food pledge challenge, we have really figured out how to live on real, whole, mostly organic and local foods. and do so very inexpensively.  We pretty much eat from scratch and consume VERY little packaged foods.  The packaged foods that we do eat do not contain ingredients that are hard to pronounce or don't occur in nature.  If you were to tell me a year ago that that is how we would be eating, I would be surprised.  It sounds like it takes a LOT of work and expensive.  However, now that we went through the challenge and I have had a lot of practice since, it is actually easier and significantly cheaper than eating packaged foods or going out.  Plus, I know every single ingredient that is going into our bodies.  It makes me feel good in so many ways!

Michael Pollan, in his newest book, "Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation," writes in the introduction that at a certain point in the late middle of his life, he made a discovery that the answer to several of the questions that most occupied him was in fact one and the same:  cook.  The questions, some of which were personal included, "what was the single most important thing we could do as a family to improve our health and general well-being?" Also, "what would be a good way to better connect to my teenage son?"  Then, there were the more political questions, "What is the most important thing an ordinary person can do to help reform the American food system, to make it healthier and more sustainable?"  Even though "cooking from scratch" is an answer to each of these questions, survey research confirms we're cooking less and buying more prepared meals every year.  In fact, time spent preparing meals in American households has fallen by half since the mid-sixties, to a measly 27 minutes a day.   However, we're talking about cooking more.  Cooking magazines and television shows continue to gain in popularity.  We like to read about it and watch it being done on television, but spend more time being spectatators, as a culture, than actually participating.

After spending some quality time cooking a simple, easy, nutritious and delicious meal with my family the other night, I decided it was time to write a post about this.  If I ever begin to deviate from this way of living, I want to re-read this and remember just how easy and awesome it is to live this way.  The kids LOVE participating in the meals.  We never make separate meals for different members of the family.  We all eat the same foods as a family at meal time each evening.  It is a wonderful time of bonding and enjoying the food that GOD (not man--as in man-made chemicals, preservatives) has given us.   Also, as a result, our kids have some pretty diverse palates and are willing to try pretty much anything.  In my opinion, teaching them to enjoy food is a critical part of their development as little human beings.  I want them to learn that we should glorify God in all things--even in the foods we consume.

We have saved a significant amount of money by consuming more veggies (even though organic) than meats.   If we have a meat protein with our meal, it is never the highlight, but rather acts like more of a "side."  If you look at all of the longest living cultures, this is how they live.  And, contrary to what you might think, we never have a problem with not feeling full.  We feel happy, healthy and satisfied!

Here is an example of a super-cheap, nutrient-packed meal, which we consumed a couple of nights ago.

Egg and veggie frittata, with an arugula, berry and watermelon salad, and garlic cheese whole wheat drop biscuits!

In my opinion, the "any veggie" frittata is one of the most nutritious, simplest and cheapest meals you can prepare and eat.     Oh---and it is pretty delicious too!   It is a great way to use up veggies that may be nearing the end of their prime.  I adapted the recipe using Michael Pollan's "guidelines" (rather than recipe) from his website.   Here are the instructions or guidelines:

  • One onion or leek
  • Olive oil or butter
  • Eight eggs
  • A splash of milk
  • Any or all vegetables you have around or like, including: spinach, kale or chard, asparagus, summer squash, peppers, peas, green beans, potatoes, mushrooms. Frozen vegetables are also fine. In spring, summer, and fall the elements in a frittata can reflect whatever is going on in your garden.
  • Cheese—optional
  • Fresh herbs (or dried)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400
Dice the onion or slice the leek.
In a cast iron pan, saute in butter or oil (or a combination) for 5-10 minutes, until soft—about ten minutes.
While the onions or leek are sautéing, slice or tear vegetables into small, bite-size pieces. Add to pan with onions or leeks. Saute for a few minutes, until tender. Season. (Potatoes should be parboiled or otherwise cooked in advance.)
Mix the eggs in a bowl with a splash of milk. Pour mixture over vegetables. Grate and add some cheese; sprinkle some fresh herbs. Let cook for a two or three minutes to let a crust form, then put in the oven for ten minutes, or until set.
You can flip the pan over to release the whole frittata onto a serving plate, or cut slices from the pan like a pie and serve slices. Good served with a salad and crusty bread.
We used mushrooms, garlic, onion, bell peppers, as well as tomatoes, basil and rosemary from our little patio garden.  We topped it with a mix of freshly shredded cheese.  It was delicious!   We have been eating watermelon all day, every day lately.  So, of course we had to add it, along with some raspberries, to a spinach and arugula salad.  Yum!  But, the most surprising (and surprisingly easy) addition to the meal was the recipe for whole-wheat garlic cheddar drop biscuits from the "100 days of real food" blog.  Oh. My. Goodness.  These reminded me of the Red Lobster biscuits, yet I actually felt good about eating them.  (I am a little afraid to know what is in the red lobster cheese biscuits.)  They took NO time to make either.   I imagine you could substitute another flour for the whole -wheat flour if you have a wheat allergy or intolerance.  
The way these appear does not do their taste justice.  Seriously--you have to try these things!
Does this little girl look happy to be eating this meal or what?
I know THIS one was!  I may have had seconds!
If I ever begin going back to making foods from boxes or packages, I want Drew to remind me of this post and the way we are living right now.  This has become our way of living, and I am loving it.  Thank you, Lord, for providing for us, and reminding us of all of your wonderful creations of yours that are out there for us to enjoy (and even glorify you with)--even FOOD (real food, that is)!

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