The Great Food Revolution of 2012

We’ve come to the end of the official Great Food Revolution of 2012. This is not to say that I won’t be sharing more recipe ideas and posting about how we are overhauling our pantries and our lives through our food choices, but this is the end of the series.

So where does this leave us?

I’m not going to pretend that we are perfect.  We are FAR from it.  Things I have addressed in this series are just a handful of the changes we would like to make.  What I have learned is that it is an ever-evolving journey.  I feel good about where we’re at and the pace we have chosen.  I feel significantly better about our food choices now than I did even 6 months ago.  The most important thing I want to impress upon you is that your journey is just that, YOURS.  Do what works for your family and find out what is most important to you.

On our list of things we would like to change in the future:

  • Switching to all grass-fed or pastured meat
  • Replacing white sugar
  • Switching to all organic, grass-fed dairy products (butter, cheese, yogurt)

The things we have changed up to this point have been the things I’m most passionate about.  I found that the more research I did on a certain subject, the more passionate I felt about it.  There were even some things (like eggs) that I held off researching, because I knew I’d have to change once I did the research and I just didn’t feel ready.

How about your kids?

When it comes to our kids, we do the absolute very best we can for them at home.  Even though they aren’t school age and I don’t have to think about school lunches and snacks yet, we do send them off to Grandma and Grandpa’s every once in awhile where they eat brownies for breakfast and brownies for dinner.  I refuse to be the kind of parent that dictates what my kids eat unless it really is a problem.  As long as I know they have a solid foundation at home, I am not going to cringe at the occasional treat.

Let’s face it, Mom and Dad like to enjoy the occasional treat as well.  We aren’t perfect and don’t strive to be.  I do enjoy a piece of pizza now and then or a slice of birthday cake.  While I always feel better when I stick to a whole foods diet, a splurge every now and then is not going to kill me.  I want my kids to see that we indulge as well and it’s not forbidden.

Read more about how we feed our kids here.

Some happy surprises

While I knew that we would be making some changes to our diet and how we ate, I didn’t realize all the different perks that would come along with it.  Our grocery budget did go up and I expected it to, but it seems that my grocery planning and shopping has become a lot less stressful.  I don’t worry anymore about not getting to the store at the crack of dawn for The. Next. Best. Deal.  The majority of the items we buy are not free with coupons or even super discounted.  I have learned our stock up prices for the things we eat all the time and those items are very rarely out of stock.  This leads to far less frustrating shopping trips and I am enjoying the freedom that comes with not obsessing over coupons and planning deal scenarios.

I knew that most of the items we would be replacing had ingredients that we didn’t want and were harmful to our bodies, but what I didn’t realize was that the things we were adding to our diet actually had beneficial ingredients.  So not only were we eliminating junk, we were adding in nutrients and vitamins that benefit our bodies.  It feels like the true definition of a “superfood”.  Eating this way has helped alleviate a lot of the guilt I felt about what I was eating and what my kids were eating.

Don’t miss our full list of homemade pantry staples, basically recipes for processed or prepacked items we have replaced.

Where do I start?

Speaking from experience, I would recommend watching a few documentaries.  These may or may not be for you, but both my husband and I watched Food Inc. (you can watch it free with Amazon Prime Instant Video!) together and the shock value was enough to get us talking.  We watched a few additional documentaries after that (you can see our list here) and the changes came much easier to both of us.  If it had been just me trying to convince him that we should completely overhaul our way of eating and increase our grocery budget by a significant amount, he would have said No Way.  It definitely needed to be a 2-way street for us.

If these movies get you thinking or peak your interest, I recommend reading Real Food by Nina Planck.  There are a TON of resources out there, but this book is super comprehensive and touches on just about everything.  My husband is not a reader, so this was all me.  I just shared with him what I learned.  Most of the time I was jumping up and down and punching him in the shoulder saying “We can NEVER eat {insert food group} here again!”.  Poor guy.

It has been a lot of fun sharing our journey with you and I’m looking forward to sharing more as we learn more.  Please let me know if there is something I didn’t touch on or if you have any questions.  Obviously, I’m no expert, I have just declared myself “Head of Research & Development” in the Hansen household so I have a lot of information.

You can read more about where our food journey started and resources we have used along the way to make our decisions.  I have also started a Pinterest board called Clean Eating Resources with links and resources that have helped on our journey.

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As part of the Great Food Revolution of 2012, we will be sharing several recipes for pantry staples to help replace the more processed versions in your pantry.  You can read more about some of the simple pantry swaps we have recently made here.

Buttermilk Caramel Syrup
*Adapted from Our Best Bites

Ingredients:

3/4 c. buttermilk
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 stick real butter
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla

Directions:

Combine buttermilk, sugar, butter, and baking soda in a large pot.  It will take a big pot because it really boils up.

Bring ingredients to a boil and reduce heat to low. Cook, stirring very frequently, for 8-9 minutes. It will be a golden-brown color when it is done.

Remove from heat and add vanilla. Give it a good stir and make sure to lick the spoon.  Serve warm.

I’ve become famous for this recipe, it’s that good.  I’m just kidding, I’m not famous, but people do love it.  Mainly me, I love it.  It’s so yummy it makes me dream of pancakes.  And I’m an eggs and bacon kind of girl.  We use it on pancakes, waffles and ice cream.

It keeps in the fridge for at least a week.   Ours has never lasted that long so I don’t really know, but if it did, I think it would be easy to freeze and heat up later.

Please share with us if you have tried something similar or have a favorite recipe!

Don’t miss out on all of our Homemade Pantry Staples recipes.

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As part of the Great Food Revolution of 2012, we will be sharing several recipes for pantry staples to help replace the more processed versions in your pantry.  You can read more about some of the simple pantry swaps we have recently made here.

“Love” Sauce (homemade salsa)

Ingredients:

27 oz. tomato sauce
4 oz. diced jalapenos
1 t salt
1/2 c. cilantro
3 cloves garlic
3-4 dried tepin or pequin or chile de arbol peppers
(usually found in clear, plastic bags in the hispanic food aisle)
10 oz. water

Directions:

Fry the dried chilis in a small amount of oil over medium heat until browned slightly (~5 min).  Add all ingredients to blender and puree.

Please share with us if you have tried something similar or have a favorite recipe!

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Honey Mustard Dressing or Dip

As part of the Great Food Revolution of 2012, we will be sharing several recipes for pantry staples to help replace the more processed versions in your pantry.  You can read more about some of the simple pantry swaps we have recently made here.

Honey Mustard Dressing or Dip
*Original recipe from Allrecipes.com

Ingredients:

1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup dijon mustard
1/4 cup honey
2 T. lemon juice

Directions:

Whisk together all ingredients and immediately refrigerate.  Use as a dressing or dip for vegetables or crackers.

Smoky Chipotle-Balsamic Dressing

Smoky Chipotle-Balsamic Dressing

Ingredients:

3/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1-2 canned chipotle chiles in Adobo sauce
1 t. sauce from chipotle chiles
1 t. dried oregano
Salt to taste

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in the blender or food processor and process until smooth.  Taste and season with additional salt as desired.  Pour into a jar and store in fridge, shake well before serving.

You can pick up quite a few of these ingredients through Vitacost.  If you sign up for a free account, you will receive a $10 credit via email that can be used towards your first purchase of $30 or more.

Please share with us if you have tried something similar or have a favorite recipe!  You can also follow my Salad Dressings Pinterest board for more ideas.

Don’t miss out on all of our Homemade Pantry Staples recipes.

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Homemade Pantry Staples: Applesauce

by Jessie on August 1, 2012

As part of the Great Food Revolution of 2012, we will be sharing several recipes for pantry staples to help replace the more processed versions in your pantry.  You can read more about some of the simple pantry swaps we have recently made here.

Homemade Applesauce

Ingredients:

8 apples – peeled, cored and chopped (I used Granny Smith)
1-1/2 cups water
1/2 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions:

In a saucepan, combine apples, water, sugar, and cinnamon. Cover, and cook over medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes, or until apples are soft. Allow to cool, then mash with a fork or potato masher.

Please share with us if you have tried something similar or have a favorite recipe!

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Homemade Pantry Staples: Chicken Stock

by Melody on August 1, 2012

 

 

 

 

As part of the Great Food Revolution of 2012, we will be sharing several recipes for pantry staples to help replace the more processed versions in your pantry.  You can read more about some of the simple pantry swaps we have recently made here.

A few years ago, I finally tackled roasting my own chicken.  You can pick up whole fryer chickens for around $.88/lb on a good sale and for that price, I knew I needed to figure this out.  Not only can you get a few delicious meals from the chicken, but you can use the entire leftover carcass to make a super easy chicken stock.

Homemade Chicken Stock
*
Adapted from this recipe by Ina Garten

Ingredients:

Carcass and fat from full roasted chicken
6 carrots, unpeeled and halved or quartered
6 celery stalks, halved or quartered
1 large onion, unpeeled and quartered
1 full head garlic, unpeeled and cut in half
Dried or fresh parsley, thyme and dill
Salt and pepper

Directions:

In a large stock pot, add all ingredients and cover with water.  Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and let simmer for 4 hours.  Remove solids and refrigerate overnight.  Skim fat off the top.  Use immediately or freeze for later use.

I use the small Ziploc containers (Amazon) to freeze.  That way I can pull out as little or as much as I need and they defrost quickly.

Please share with us if you have tried something similar or have a favorite recipe!

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For the past few years, our family has been working hard to eliminate all processed foods from our diet.  I drink coffee creamer every day, so I knew this was a big one to address.  My coffee is my refuge and I want to enjoy it, I don’t want to feel like I’m sacrificing in the name of health.  So I got to work. Apparently, homemade coffee creamer is pretty easy and economical.  I’m not convinced that it’s even easier to go to the store and buy it pre-made.  That requires driving.  And hauling my children through the store.

I used a little bit of store-bought coffee creamer at my parents recently and it was too sweet.  After I drank it, I could almost feel it settling in my stomach.  It’s crazy how your body adapts to what you put in it!  I will never go back.

Chocolate Almond Coffee Creamer
*Adapted from Deliciously Organic

Ingredients:

4 cups half and half
4 T. maple syrup
4 T. cacao powder
1 T. honey (I use organic raw honey from Tropical Traditions)
2 T. almond extract

Directions:

Combine first 4 ingredients in a medium sauce pan.  Bring to a low simmer over medium-low heat (usually takes 5-7 minutes).  As soon as it starts to simmer, remove from heat and add almond extract.

Pour through a fine mesh sieve into container of your choice and immediately refrigerate.

You can mix and match ingredients to your heart’s content.  I generally keep the maple syrup or replace with an equal amount of honey for sweetness. I have swapped out vanilla extract for the almond or used peppermint to make a Peppermint Mocha-type creamer (be very judicious with peppermint, it can be super strong).

I generally pick up my half and half at Costco for about $2.75/half gallon.  They also have great prices on maple syrup and honey, if you’re looking to buy in a larger amount.  You can find cacao powder through Amazon or check your local health food store.

Don’t miss my Homemade Date Caramel and Vanilla Coffee Creamer recipe if you are looking for something a little sweeter.

Please share with us if you have tried something similar or have a favorite recipe!

Don’t miss out on all of our Homemade Pantry Staples recipes.

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Homemade Pantry Staples: Taco Seasoning

by Emilie on July 31, 2012

As part of the Great Food Revolution of 2012, we will be sharing several recipes for pantry staples to help replace the more processed versions in your pantry.  You can read more about some of the simple pantry swaps we have recently made here.

We got this recipe from our friend Amber who blogs over at Love at Home and it’s a good one! I’ve been taking her advice and making a big batch.  It’s delicious and my favorite part is that I can make it without salt and it’s just as yummy!

Lont Family Taco Seasoning

Ingredients:

4 Tablespoons Chili Powder
1 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
1 Teaspoon Onion Powder
1 Teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
1 Teaspoon Dried Oregano
2 Teaspoons Paprika
2 Tablespoons Ground Cumin
4 Teaspoons Sea Salt
4 Teaspoons Black Pepper

Directions:

In a small bowl, mix together the above ingredients. Store in an airtight container.

Please share with us if you have tried something similar or have a favorite recipe!

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Homemade Pantry Staples: Croutons

by Emilie on July 31, 2012

As part of the Great Food Revolution of 2012, we will be sharing several recipes for pantry staples to help replace the more processed versions in your pantry.  You can read more about some of the simple pantry swaps we have recently made here.

Ingredients:

4 Cups cut up bagels or stale bread
2 tsp Garlic Salt
2 Tbsp Herbs de Provence
1/3 Cup Olive Oil

Directions:

Toss all ingredients in a ziplock bag or bowl and place on a cookie sheet.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until just brown, stirring halfway through baking.  Remove from baking sheet after removing from oven.

This recipe came from my aunt and she ALWAYS makes them with Everything Bagels.  And, they ALWAYS taste way better than mine.  I do it the frugal way and use it with whatever leftover bread I can scrape up.  They are still yummy but when made with bagels, they pretty much melt in your mouth.

I keep a ziplock in the freezer and whenever we have crusts or part of a baguette we aren’t going to get to, I just throw it in.  When the bag is full, I make a batch of croutons.

Please share with us if you have tried something similar or have a favorite recipe!

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Welcome to the Great Food Revolution of 2012.  You can read more about where our food journey started and resources we have used along the way to make our decisions.  I have also started a Pinterest board called Clean Eating Resources with links and resources that have helped on our journey.

We’ve talked all about our switch to organic, grass-fed milk and cage-free eggs from pastured chickens, but the bulk of the changes we made came with our decision to eliminate all hydrogenated oils.  Once we really started reading the labels on our food and learning about the different types of oils and all the hidden sugars, we had to start a complete overhaul of our pantry.

There were some things that we just decided weren’t worth keeping in the house and we donated those right away.  These were things that we didn’t eat on a daily basis and could honestly do without, like cream of mushroom/chicken soup.  There were a lot of other things that we used on a daily basis however.  It would have been a huge budget buster and not very efficient to get rid of everything in the pantry, so we chose one or two things at a time.

For example, we use salad dressing and coffee creamer everyday.  These were things that I would have to replace with a homemade version and I didn’t want to totally overwhelm myself right off the bat, so I chose to eat through what we had before learning to make my own.  Your decisions may be different than mine, but I just want you to know that we didn’t do it all at once.

Here are some of the items we did replace and what we replaced them with:

  • Coffee creamer - Homemade (recipe to come)
  • White rice -Brown rice or quinoa
  • Quaker Oats -Steel cut oats or organic rolled oats
  • Canned vegetables -Frozen organic veggies from Costco
  • All-purpose flour -Whole wheat or whole wheat pastry flour
  • Canola/vegetable oil – Coconut oil or olive oil
  • Granola bars -Homemade protein bars
  • Peanut butter -Organic no-salt added peanut butter
  • Snacks or tortilla chips -Raw unroasted almonds
  • Jarred pasta sauce – Homemade spaghetti sauce or crockpot marinara sauce
  • Salad dressingHomemade
  • Popsicles – Homemade all-fruit bars w/ seasonal fruit

Don’t miss out on all of our Homemade Pantry Staples recipes.

As you can tell from the pictures above, our pantry looks quite different.  The picture on the left was taken about a year ago and the picture on the right was taken this week.  We have almost completely eliminated all cereals and regard those as a very last-minute breakfast or a special treat.  We don’t keep fruit snacks, boxed crackers or tortilla chips in the house, mainly because we don’t like the ingredients but also because we have no will power.  For condiments like mayonnaise, mustard and ketchup, I am currently looking into making them myself.  For now though, I just look for the products with the absolute least amount of ingredients.

I do have to admit, our pantry looked a lot more full when I was a busy coupon shopper, but we have learned to appreciate the limited choices we have.  We make better food decisions because we have learned what is best for our bodies, but also because we just don’t have the junky stuff in the house.  We still have a long way to go, but these are the changes that have made the most sense for us to start off.

If you’re curious where we buy some of our products, we do get steel cut oats, quinoa, rice and organic whole wheat flour at Costco.  You can also buy some of these items in bulk if you wanted to pick up a smaller amount to try first.  We also use Amazon and Vitacost quite a bit.

I’m excited to share our journey with you!  In the next series of posts, Emilie, Jessie and I will be sharing our favorite recipes so you can make your own homemade pantry staples.

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Welcome to the Great Food Revolution of 2012.  You can read more about where our food journey started and resources we have used along the way to make our decisions.  I have also started a Pinterest board called Clean Eating Resources with links and resources that have helped on our journey.

There are two ways I could spin this post.  First off, we could focus on industrial animal farms and why they are inhumane, how grain-fed beef is inferior to grass-fed and what these farms are doing to the environment.  On the other hand, we could focus solely on the nutritional and ecological benefits of grass-fed beef or pastured poultry and pork.  However, I feel that these are so intertwined that I will touch on both sides of the coin.

So what’s wrong with the meat I buy at the grocery store?

Cows are biologically born to graze and eat grass.  To save money (I imagine) and to get things done quicker and cheaper, cows in industrial farms are fed grain.  Grain-fed cattle fatten up faster, which helps the bottom line and is available all year round, as opposed to grass.  Being raised in such close quarters, they are prone to infection.  This means they are given antibiotics to prevent rampant spread of disease, which in turn leads to antibiotic resistance.  They are also given growth hormones to speed weight gain, which can link to a hormonal imbalance in humans.  Cows, pigs and chickens raised on industrial farms are severely crowded, prone to infection and aggressive, not to mention a host of other problems.

I love the idea of a traditional ecological farm, where animals provide the “labor” by converting indigestible grass into high-quality fat and protein, fertilizing the land, increasing plant diversity by grazing, eating insects and grubs as a form of pest control, keeping weeds down.

Until reading Real Food, I honestly didn’t realize the damage these types of industrial farms are doing to the environment, with the use of nitrogen and pesticides, not to mention the huge amount of fossil fuels they are using.  I will definitely be doing more research on this aspect.

But is grass-fed or pastured really better for ME?

For beef farmers, raising cattle on grass does not fatten them up as quickly as grain.  This means the turn-around is not as quick, which is going to drive the cost of beef up a bit.  However, grass-fed beef contains more vitamins, more antioxidants, more omega-3 fats (and the right balance of fats) and is one of the only natural sources of CLA.  CLA is an omega-6 fat that helps aid weight loss and increase lean muscle, along with a host of other benefits.

On the other hand, grass-fed beef is generally not raised with any types of chemicals or pesticides in their food.  They are also in open air and can move away from their manure, which means they are not as prone to infection.  The same goes for poultry and pork, when they are raised in an environment that is conducive to foraging and they get some exercise, they are less prone to disease and the meat is tastier and more nutritious.

So what do we do?

In the interest of full transparency, we aren’t anywhere near perfect in this area.  While I’m writing this post, I’m trying to do more research so we can determine what we want to do.  This is a big budget-buster if you let it, so it’s important to get all the facts.

We get a significant amount of meat from my parents, who have raised cows off and on for the last several years.  Both of my younger brothers were involved in FFA and showed both cows and pigs.  The animals are raised on a local farm and the cattle are almost 100% grass-fed.  My parents know the butcher and have raised the calf from near-birth.  My youngest brother graduates next year, so we will have to look into some different options.

I haven’t made the switch in poultry yet.  We’ve been getting the majority of our chicken from Zaycon Foods, which is made without hormones, additives or artificial ingredients, but I would like to look more closely into a local farm.

This has been a tough switch for me, as there are so many facts and information to wade through.  We’re lucky in that we have the option to buy from my parents, which takes a lot of thought out of the equation.  We honestly don’t eat a lot of meat (mainly ground beef, if at all), so it hasn’t been super high on my list yet.  I will share with you the links and resources I have found to help make your decision.

Please note that labels on beef can be misleading, just like with all foods these days.  Grass-fed does not necessarily mean that organic practices were used, although I would imagine it’s more likely.  Organic does not necessarily mean that the animals were raised on pasture, it could just mean that the cows were fed organic grain.  The best you can do for your family is learn where your food comes from.  Talk to the farmers if you can, check out their website.  Find out what is most important to you and do your research.

Where do I find what I want?

Ask your friends.  No better resource to find a trusted, reputable farm than from people you trust.

Ask around at your local farmer’s market.  I have seen a few grass-fed beef vendors at our local markets, but you could also just talk to some of the farmers and see if they have any insight.

Talk to a local butcher, I can almost guarantee they know of several local farms willing to sell.

Check out some of the resources I’ve listed below.  Google “Grass-fed beef” and the name of your city or county.

Links and Resources

  • Eat Wild – Search for meat, poultry, pork and more in your local area

A quick note about fish

There is a chapter in Real Food about fish and I was pretty shocked at what I read.  We don’t eat a ton of fish (although we should!), so I didn’t know much about fish farms.  It turns out that they create the same problems as an industrial dairy or poultry farm.  The fish are fed antibiotics, get far less exercise than a wild fish so are greasier and flabbier and some salmon are even dyed to look more like wild fish.  There is also ecological problems, with pesticide runoff and excess feces that can’t be contained.

We’d like to incorporate more fish into our diet, as there are a host of nutritional benefits, so we are on the look out for wild fish.  If you can’t get super fresh, I believe the best choice is to find fish that has been frozen immediately on the boat to capture as many nutrients as possible.

Please, please share your knowledge and experience with us.  This is a whole new animal for me (pun totally intended) and I’m learning as I go.

I’m excited to share our journey with you!  In the next post of this series, I will be going through all the simple pantry swaps we have made along our journey.

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Welcome to the Great Food Revolution of 2012.  You can read more about where our food journey started and resources we have used along the way to make our decisions.

I’m not here to insist that you cut grains completely out of your diet or make the switch TODAY to whole grains, but changing over to whole wheat items and trying to cut out most white flour/sugar was high on our list of priorities so I’m going to share with you our reasons.

To get mildly scientific

Whole wheat is a complex carbohydrate.  This means they naturally contain Vitamin B, Vitamin E and fiber.  According to Real Food, the digestion of carbohydrates requires B vitamins, which occur naturally in complex carbohydrates.  When you eat refined products (white flour, white rice), your body is depleted of the B stores just in digestion.  Basically speaking, these refined products are just “empty calories” with no real nutritional gain.

Complex carbohydrates also have to be broken down in your body, which takes longer than a simple carbohydrate.  This means that your blood sugar and insulin levels rise slowly, as opposed to spiking and crashing quickly.  The fiber can help you feel full for a longer period of time, further preventing spikes.

As we have progressed in our food journey, we have cut out a LOT of carbohydrates.  We have tried to cut way back on the amount of pasta, bread and other whole grains that we eat.  Not that we cut them out all together, but we have found that we feel much better when we eat larger quantities of vegetables, with lean meats and grains as a side instead of the main dish.

However, as I mentioned, we haven’t cut them out entirely.  I do love to bake treats and desserts, the kids will eat grilled cheese or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and I’m a sucker for just about every muffin recipe out there.  We needed to find some alternatives that worked for our family, so here’s what we have come up with.

  • Whole Wheat Flour - We have swapped out all white flour with organic whole wheat flour.  Traditional whole wheat flour is pretty dense and can definitely change the consistency and texture of recipes.  When I bake muffins, cakes, breads and other items that would benefit from a less dense flour, I use whole wheat pastry flour.  This type acts more like a white flour and is significantly lighter.  When we first made the switch, I started swapping out half the white flour for whole wheat to get my family used to the idea.  We generally don’t notice the difference now. (I currently get my whole wheat pastry flour from Vitacost.)
  • 100% Whole Wheat Breads – We don’t eat bread every day, but we do keep it in the house for quick sandwiches or sometimes toast in the morning.  The majority of brands sold in grocery stores have some form of canola oil or high fructose corn syrup in them, so we avoid them for the most part.  When I can’t find a bread that we really like, I go for the bread with the least amount of ingredients.  Whole wheat (or some form thereof) absolutely must be the first ingredient.  Remember, labels can be misleadingDave’s Killer Bread is one of our absolute favorites, with no yucky ingredients and the most amazing taste.  On my list of “Things to Do When I Have More Time” is to make my own bread.  I’ll probably start with Jessie’s No-Knead Bread, seems easy enough for an amateur.
  • Brown Rice - We have been eating brown rice exclusively for quite some time now and have never missed white rice.  We pick up the giant bags of Lundberg Farms Organic Brown Rice from Costco and it is AMAZING.  We eat it without any additional butter or fats because it tastes so good by itself.  If you are a white rice family, I recommend switching to a wild rice blend or half white and half brown to start off.  Just as with whole wheat flour, it is a different taste and texture.  I throw ours in the rice cooker just about every other night and use it for Mexican dishes, throw in a cup or two with salad for lunch or use it as a base for chicken.
  • Other Grains Worth Mentioning – There are so many different types of grains out there, most of them untapped by our family.  Millet, barley, amaranth, buckwheat, just to name a few.  I would love to hear if you have had experience with any of these or any others.  We are always looking to try something new!

If you’re curious where we buy some of our products, we do get steel cut oats, quinoa, rice, some bread and organic whole wheat flour at Costco.  You can also buy some of these items in bulk if you wanted to pick up a smaller amount to try first.  We also use Amazon and Vitacost quite a bit.

I’m excited to share our journey with you!  In the next post of this series, I will be tackling The Big Meat Question.  I know several of you have questions about grass-fed beef and pork, so I’m going to do my best to address everything that comes along with making the switch.

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Welcome to the Great Food Revolution of 2012.  You can read more about where our food journey started and resources we have used along the way to make our decisions.

This journey has been a slow one for us.  We raided our pantry of hydrogenated oils, switched to 100% grass-fed organic milk and tried to go as organic as possible with our produce, but there were (and still are) some things we haven’t changed yet.  I knew for the longest time that we needed to find a different method of buying eggs, but I hadn’t done the research yet.  I believe, in my head, that since I didn’t know the specifics of why we should switch, I didn’t feel super passionate about it yet.  I was convincing myself that we didn’t need to change until I had learned more.

Why?

Eggs are CHEAP.  Everywhere.  $.99 for a dozen eggs is really hard to pass up.  We eat eggs every day, so I knew we would take a hit on our budget.

I waited a REALLY long time to do the research on eggs, mainly because I knew once I did, there was no turning back.  I was right.  I took the book Real Food with me on our flight to Vegas a few months ago and when I finally got to the chapter on eggs, threw my hands up in disgust and told my husband we were not allowed to eat regular eggs anymore.  His response?  “Why did you bring that book on a vacation to LAS VEGAS?”.  My poor husband.

While the idea of an industrial poultry farm grosses me out and I knew without doing any research that a pastured-raised egg was going to be better for us, I was shocked at how much better.

What made our decision was not necessarily that conventional eggs are BAD for us, but that pasture-raised eggs are so amazingly GOOD for us.  Eggs from pasture-raised poultry contain more vitamins A and E, folic acid and lutein, among other things, and are richer in omega-3 fats.

Chickens are meant to roam and forage for food and grubs.  I just really like envisioning our chickens rooting around a hen house, fertilizing the environment, rather than a packed, crowded industrial poultry farm.

So what eggs should I be buying?

Here’s where it gets tricky.

From what I understand, there isn’t a lot of regulation around the verbage that can be used on an egg carton.  “Free Range” could just mean that someone left a door open in the containment house.  “Cage Free” does not necessarily mean that the hens were allowed to roam outside, but could just mean they were raised indoors without cages.  For a brief guide to the different terms used regarding eggs, click here.

I was checking out the eggs at the grocery store the other day and noticed that a lot of them say “Vegetarian Diet”.  While this may sound good, chickens were meant to eat insects, grubs and worms.  If they are fed a strictly vegetarian diet, I’m going to assume they are on a diet of strictly grain.  On the other hand, if it says “Vegetarian Feed”, I’m going to assume this just means they aren’t fed any animal by-products.

We are always in the market for organic eggs from pasture-raised chickens.  What I understand an organic egg to be is that the chicken was raised on organic feed, allowed to roam in a pesticide-free environment and not given antibiotics or hormones.  What is most important to me is that I know where the eggs come from.  Regardless of what the egg carton says, I’d like to know exactly how the hens were raised.  As always, a farm may not be certified organic, but use organic practices.  It’s always best to be an educated consumer, do your own research to find out what works best for your family.

So where do I find these eggs?

Ask your friends and family.  Ask on Facebook.  We are SO lucky to have a friend of a friend who raises chickens in her yard.  She sells us eggs by the truck load for $2/dozen.  As I mentioned, so lucky.  You’ll never know if you know someone who has chickens unless you ask.

Your local farmer’s market.  All three of our local Tri-Cities markets have a few vendors that sell fresh eggs.  Bonus: You can talk directly to the farmer or someone who works for the farm and get to know their farming practices.  Maybe they read bedtime stories to their chickens at night. Who knows?

Craigslist.  I did a quick search for “eggs” in our area and it came up with several listings, anywhere between $3 and $5 per dozen.

Raise your own! Emilie has been telling me for a long time that she wanted to raise chickens and I secretly thought she was nuts.  Now that I have made the choice for our family to switch from conventional eggs, I’m trying to convince my husband to let me raise them.

The Google.  Or just the Internet in general.  I swear, this is one of your absolute best resources to at least kick off your search.  Here are a few sites that let you search by state or zip code to find pasture-raised poultry, beef or pork.

Eatwild.com – You can easily search by state and then narrow by zip code

Eatwellguide.com – Search by zip code for local farms, markets and stores

Localharvest.org – Search by zip code for everything under the sun to help you in your journey (beef, poultry, milk, you  name it)

Please share your thoughts.  I definitely don’t know everything there is to know about eggs, this is just what I have gathered from research and talking to people.

I’m excited to share our journey with you!  In the next post of this series, I will be talking about our switch to whole grains.

In case you missed it:

Sources:

Image Credit: Wilcox Farms

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Welcome to the Great Food Revolution of 2012.  You can read more about where our food journey started and resources we have used along the way to make our decisions.

I am not here to argue whether milk is good or bad for you, this is just to tell you why we have made the decisions we have made.  I would gather that a lot of you are milk drinkers and/or have milk drinkers in your family, so this information will at least get you thinking.

There are a lot of milk/dairy critics out there.  I knew about veganism, but honestly never knew why people didn’t eat or drink dairy products.  It has always been a huge part of our life and I never thought to question it.  If you are interested in learning about the non-dairy opinion, check out the documentary Forks Over Knives (now available to rent for free through Amazon Prime!).  There is some information that will really get you thinking at least.

Where did we start?

We drank whatever milk was the cheapest.  We started with whole milk for our kids when they hit age 1 and then based on the recommendation from our pediatrician, switched to 2%.  My husband and I don’t drink a ton of milk, so it was mostly for the kids.

When we first started our food journey about a year and a half ago, we decided to switch to organic.  There was really no good reason behind it, I just knew we were making some changes and that seemed logical to me.  Organic is better, right?

Then I started really diving into the logistics of our milk decision.  I devoured as much information as I could and tried to wade through what we thought was important.  In the end, I chose to make the switch to organic, minimally pasteurized, non-homogenized whole milk from 100% grass-fed cows from a local dairy out of Othello called Pure Eire.

Why whole milk?

We have honestly made the choice to switch to all full-fat products, no low-calorie or fat-free for us anymore.  From what I have read, these products tend to be more processed and/or they switch out the fat for more sugar.  Plus, I never thought those products tasted very good anyway.

According to Real Food, the fats in milk are what help the body digest the protein and our bones require it to lay down calcium.  The fat also contains a lot of the essential vitamins.

The worst part for me is that to make skim or low-fat milk, some companies remove the fat and add powdered milk to give it that “milk-like taste”.  Powdered milk contains oxidized cholesterol and unfortunately can be found in quite a few industrial dairy products, although I don’t think it would be listed straight up as “powdered milk”.

Why grass-fed?

Cows are meant to eat grass, not a diet high in grain or corn.  Milk from grass-fed cows contain more antioxidants, more vitamins and more omega-3 fats.  They are raised without powerful growth hormones to stimulate milk production.

We started with organic milk, but realized that “organic” in the commercial sense just means they have to have access to pasture and are often-times fed a diet of organic grain.  Cows raised on a grain/corn diet can develop stomach ulcers, leading to the need for antibiotics.  I love the idea that farmers who raise grass-fed cows consider themselves “grass farmers”.  As in, all they do is raise grass for the cows to graze on and the cows do the rest of the work.

If you want to go the organic route over 100% grass-fed for a slightly less expensive option, check out the farm’s website, ask questions.  How are the cows raised?  Some may be more grass-fed than grain, you just need to dive in to find out.  Make sure you feel comfortable with your choice.

Why unhomogenized?

With unhomogenized milk, the cream, which is lighter, rises to the top.  Apparently, when large amounts of milk are transferred from the dairy, all the cream would rise to the top, allowing for uneven distribution of the fat between customers.  Homogenization forcibly blends the cream and the milk, so the fat does not separate.  While this may make it look more appealing and is better for the bottom line, homogenization breaks up the delicate fats and causes the milk to sour more quickly.

What about raw milk?

Pasteurization came about for health reasons, to prevent the spread of diseases from poor-quality milk.  However, it does destroy some of the essential vitamins and beneficial bacteria. Pasteurization leads to a longer shelf life, which is better for commercial sales, which is also why unpasteurized is far more expensive.

Unpasteurized, unhomogenized milk is what is considered “raw milk”.  Basically, unaltered, traditional milk straight from the cow.  As it does not go through any sort of heat processing, all the vitamins, antioxidants, beneficial bacteria and enzymes stay intact.  Raw milk does not have a long shelf life, but what you lose in longevity, you gain in vital nutrients.

Laws vary state to state, but it is legal to purchase in Washington.  You can purchase raw milk supplied by Pure Eire Dairy in Othello from Yoke’s and the NW Regional Food Hub in Richland.  To find out what the laws and statutes are in your state, click here.  If you are going to go the raw milk route, make sure you know the source.  Find a dairy that is clean and transparent about their practices.

I am by no means advocating raw milk, mainly because we haven’t made the switch yet.  We made the decision to switch to organic whole milk from purely grass-fed cows that comes from Pure Eire Dairy in Othello.  They sell the milk at Albertsons and Yoke’s in our area, as well as the NW Regional Food Hub in Richland.  While it is definitely more expensive (around $6.99/gallon), we feel comfortable with our choice.  It is tough once you have read and heard all the information about industrial dairy practices and the severe lack of nutrients in industrial milk to just ignore it.  To combat the price increase a little, we have cut back on the amount of dairy we consume.  I have also started swapping almond milk for traditional milk in some recipes to make it last a little longer.

To help get you started in your milk quest, check out Localharvest.org for local dairy information and other sources in your area.

Lactose intolerant?

Recently, I have had a hard time digesting dairy products.  I noticed after eating ice cream or some cheeses that I really suffered from indigestion.  I would never classify myself as being lactose intolerant, but I definitely struggle with it, enough that I choose not to eat much of either food.  Something I found interesting from reading Real Food is that our bodies require the enzyme lactase to digest the lactose in milk.  Pasteurization damages the enzyme lactase therefore my body would have a harder time digesting the lactose, which could be the reason behind my indigestion.  Food for thought.

Final thoughts

I completely understand the overwhelming nature of this post and the absolutely ridiculous number of choices facing you in the dairy aisle.  In order for me to be comfortable spending $6.99/gallon, I had to be comfortable with the information.  I needed to feel like I had done my fair share of research and understand what was behind our choice.  I suggest the same for all of you.  Please don’t take my word for it.  Making these changes definitely shows in your grocery budget bottom line and it’s important that you 100% believe in your decisions.

I’m excited to share our journey with you!  In the next post of this series, I will be talking about the plethora of egg choices out there and why we are so lucky with our egg source.

In case you missed it:

Sources:

Image Credit – Pure Eire Dairy

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Welcome to the Great Food Revolution of 2012.  You can read more about where our food journey started and resources we have used along the way to make our decisions.

One of the biggest decisions we have had to make so far is in regards to the produce we buy.  There’s no way to get around the fact that a mainly whole foods diet will include a LOT of fresh fruit and vegetables.  Deciding what and where to buy and how much to spend on these items is a hard choice.  I can tell you with 100% honesty that there is just no way we could make our grocery budget stretch enough to include an all-organic budget.

Here’s the best part about produce: There is some flexibility and leeway, it’s not completely black and white.  While there are some items we insist on buying organic, there are others we have chosen not to.  Here’s why.

The Dirty Dozen/Clean 15 List

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has established the top 12 most pesticide-contaminated fruits and vegetables list (the Dirty Dozen), which is what we use as a guide when purchasing produce.  For example, we watch for the best prices on organic apples, strawberries and potatoes, otherwise we choose not to buy them.  Based on the list, we chose to grow spinach, lettuce, sweet peppers and kale in our garden this year as they are high on the contaminants list as well.

On the other hand, they have also established the Clean 15 list, which are the lowest in contaminant rankings.  If I buy any of these items, I feel comfortable saving money in our grocery budget by buying conventional over organic.

There is a lot of information out there about pesticides in produce, but if you are just getting started, this is a simple way to help make your produce decisions.  You can also download the Dirty Dozen app for your iPhone or iPad to help look up produce while you’re at the store.

Growing our own “organic” produce

Last year was the first year I really attempted a backyard garden.  My husband and I had been talking about diversifying our diet and starting to head more towards a whole foods diet and we both knew it would totally blow our current budget to smithereens.  Starting a garden seemed like a fairly inexpensive way to help with our produce intake.

One year and several mistakes later, we seem to be on the right track.  I kept a journal last year of all the things that did (and didn’t) go well, so was able to adjust for this year.  My husband built me three glorious raised beds and we have filled those to the brim.  I started adding herbs and other greens in pots to supplement my beds.  While we’re definitely not at the point that we can truly live off our garden, it has been a wonderful addition to our other produce sources. We have harvested lettuce, kale, spinach, some radishes and strawberries so far this year.  If nothing else, it is teaching our kids about where our food comes from and a little on how to be patient.

Plant some seeds, friends.  It’s a little challenging and extremely rewarding.  We started using Sunset.com’s gardening lists and tips and just branched out from there.  You can check out our last gardening update here.

For more fantastic gardening updates (including hilarious accounts of all her bug problems), check out Angela over at The Coupon Project.  She is who initially got me motivated to garden!

Buying Local

Once we committed to this food journey, I started doing some research on buying more local produce.  We really love the farmer’s markets, but I wanted a more long-term approach.  I started at the fabulous website Localharvest.org. You can enter your location and search for farms in your area, markets, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs and much more.  This will give you a great idea of where to start in your area.

Emilie also just introduced me to a site called Farmigo.  You just enter your zip code and you will see tons of local farms, CSA programs, farmer’s markets and much more in your area.

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