Friday, April 6, 2012

Day 3, 4 & 5: Knoxville's Ten Days of Real Food Challenge

I'm behind on posts, but I'm happy to report I am making progress with the Real Food Challenge! Starting April 1, local blogger Erica Keil of Child Organics encouraged several other green minded bloggers to join her in her journey to eat more "REAL FOOD." Go here to see all of the rules, and go here to read my slow start out of the gate. It wasn't as easy as I'd thought.

With a little planning and careful choices, I was finally able to give us a PASSING grade on some meals. It was made a little easier with the fact that last month I had decided to prepare at least one dinner vegetarian. Please read my post of why I believe in real food and the amazing health benefits we've seen in our family to one single food switch.

Tuesday, April 3: DAY 3
Breakfast: Most of the family had their favorite cereals of Mini Wheats, Honey Nut Cheerios, or Kashi to get everyone to school by 8:00am. When I got home, I prepared my favorite yogurt dish: I start with a few dollops of organic vanilla flavored lowfat yogurt (can't find full fat yogurt but this tastes delicious). I slightly defrost 3-4 strawberries we picked last May in Maryville and slice those thinly. I add a few tablespoons of Kashi Go Lean cereal and am good to go. Unfortunately this doesn't meet the standards to pass as real food, but it's a compromise I can live with. MODIFIED PASS.

Lunch: Normally I would have eaten the leftover stirfry from the night before as is, but for the sake of the challenge, I decided to pick out the pork making it completely vegetarian. That over brown rice gave me my first official PASS.

Dinner: Tonight's dinner addressed two plans: clear out some food that needed to be eaten and make a vegetarian meal. After looking online for inspiration, I settled on tweaking this recipe for twice baked potatoes with spinach. I added steamed asparagus from our garden as a side. As this is year three of our asparagus patch and the first time we can eat it, I'm thrilled to be eating as much asparagus as possible. The potatoes were organic russets I had bought at Earthfare a few weeks ago for $.99/lb. I used fresh spinach I had bought half price on manager's special and with a coupon. Instead of the cheeses, I substituted a Helluva Good sour cream dip I had gotten for free through couponing. The dip didn't have a list of ingredients; I'm sure it was sour cream and spices. It was probably not the lowest in calories but it was SO GOOD. And the spinach really made it more filling, satisfying, and nutritious. Two of the three kids loved it. So for this meal, I'm going to give us a PASS.

Wednesday, April 4: DAY 4
Breakfast: Brooke and I started the day with scrambled local eggs from the farmer down the street, a little sprinkling of cheddar cheese, a slice of our homemade bread and homemade blackberry jam (with blackberries from our back yard). Since jam has a LOT of sugar, this item would not pass the rules. But quite frankly, I'm not giving up making or consuming homemade jam from local produce. So if you can find a suitable sugar alternative, I'm all ears. I'm going to call this breakfast a PASS.

Lunch: Bob, Brooke and I had leftover baked potatoes and sauteed squash for lunch. The boys had their usual packed lunches with some passes, some failures. My biggest challenge has been avoiding a few chocolates after lunch. I have such a sweet tooth. I'm happy to report last week cantaloupe was on sale and it has to be some of the best cantaloupe I've ever had. Once you've had a good, sweet cantaloupe, you will be a fan forever. I find eating this subsides my craving for a dessert. PASS.

Dinner: Moving through some of the food I had bought last week on sale, I decided on this recipe for red bell peppers and zucchini stuffed with ground beef. I served it over whole wheat thin spaghetti I had gotten for free months ago. Tip: You can still get Ronzoni for $.75 a box through Saturday at Kroger. I would like to eat more whole wheat pasta but I have to pick and choose which types because of the taste; serving a red sauce over it helps a lot. The marinara sauce was Prego 50% vegetables; got that at half off too. It had more than 5 ingredients, but there was no added sugar. The beef was from our local grass-fed cow we bought last May. Because their vacuum processing is so good, the meat tastes just as good now as then. I also used homemade breadcrumbs I make from the ends of loaves. All and all, this was an inexpensive meal and it passed most of the rules. PASS.

Thursday, April 5: DAY 5
Breakfast: We tried a new recipe prepared the night before in the crock pot: steel cut oats with apples soaked overnight. I bought steel cut oats in bulk from Earthfare in December and have been meaning to make this for months. The apples were organic, and just a touch of pure maple syrup was all it needed for sweetener. A definite repeat and Brooke loved it. PASS.

Snack: two oranges. PASS.

Lunch: leftover squash, broccoli, and cantaloupe. My goal is to make most of my lunches vegetarian. PASS.

Dinner: I finally needed to use up some of the leftover chicken I had prepared on Sunday. So I settled on this recipe for quesadillas with corn, beans, and chicken. You could easily make this without the meat. I used fresh corn, dried black beans, and whole wheat tortillas--all on sale. Since I didn't have cilantro, I served it with dollops of homemade salsa containing cilantro and full-fat sour cream. Since I only used a small amount of chicken, this is one of those meals that's a good compromise. MODIFIED PASS.

All and all, I think we're doing a lot better. Even if a meal doesn't get the PASS stamp, I'm proud of being more mindful of what we put in our bodies and proving you can do it on a budget. For other bloggers participating in the challenge, make sure you check out posts from Gabrielle, Katie, and Erica.

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