Life has been a little hectic around here for the past few months. Juggling homeschooling and trying to keep up with the house and administrative stuff while keeping up with our 18-month old AND being very pregnant – well, some things have fallen to the wayside. Like cooking.
Obviously, I make a ton of effort to cook most of our food around here. I love cooking from scratch, and prefer to know exactly what goes into what my family is eating. But I have only so many hours in the day, and lately my hours have felt squeezed as a result of increased family demands and just being tired as a result of being in the final months of pregnancy.
I have found myself letting the kids eat graham crackers and saltines and pretzels. These are easy to pack for car rides and park days, but when we get home, I find myself still reaching for them. And near the end of my pregnancy I was really craving juice, so I went through A LOT. And when I keep juice in the fridge, Kyri drinks a lot more than she should as well.
If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you may remember I admitted to leaning a bit too heavily on Mac and Cheese as meals around here lately. This pretty much sums up the state of my kitchen over the last 6 – 8 weeks.
But I am happy to report that baby Julian has just hit 4 weeks, and I have had such an easy recovery (is that even the best word for it?) from delivery. Aside from general weariness resulting from keeping up with three kids, I’m really feeling like my old self and have lots of energy. As a result, I have begun tackling the sorry state of affairs around here.
I have so enjoyed reading about the 100 Days of Real Food challenge that I mentioned it to Dan last night. He seemed quite interested in doing a purge of our recent negative eating habits – he’s been eating out a lot with his hectic work schedule and has been feeling the effects of all that crappy food.
I don’t think we will do the official challenge but I love the idea of the mini-pledges and the 10 day challenge. The mini-pledge is great because it lets you focus on one area for the whole week and then either add the next challenge (while keeping up with the previous week’s goal) or shift your focus to the next challenge.
Our plan is to tackle as many of the food areas mentioned in the 100 Days of Real Food challenge, without the pressure of officially taking part in the challenge.
I decided to start tackling two areas this morning – 1) processed flour and 2) sugar.
I love to bake so I always keep a supply of 100 % whole wheat flour and Unbleached All Purpose Flour in the pantry. In the challenge, though, all purpose flour is out because it is too processed. I tend to bake and cook with a mixture of the two flours, since whole wheat by itself tends to be a bit heavy. But I am going to switch over only 100% whole wheat. My main foods around here that will need to be adjusted are pancakes, biscuits, bread and tortillas.
In the challenge processed sugar is out and as far as the challenge goes, honey or maple syrup are the only two allowed sweeteners. Since we don’t use honey (and agave is out because of how much processing is involved in preparing it), I will be sticking to maple syrup. Lucky for me I have a gallon of Grade B unfiltered maple syrup that I am working through. I’m not used to subbing in a liquid sweetener for a dry like sugar, so there might be a learning curve as I start using only maple syrup in recipes. I’m also not sure how maple syrup will work when a recipe calls for honey, like the whole wheat bread I will be prepping today. I think the last time I made this bread I used agave syrup.
This weekend I prepared our usual Saturday breakfast of pancakes and sausage. For the pancakes I used 100% whole wheat flour rather than a mixture of the two, and replaced the sugar with maple syrup.
Two ingredients or items this morning would have been an issue had we officially started the 100 Day challenge. One is the Gimme Lean breakfast sausage. This has more than five ingredients (another no no, and a separate mini-pledge challenge), and some sugar as an ingredient. This is one item that I want to make from scratch anyway, but wasn’t prepared this weekend for a new recipe.
The second ingredient was milk. We use almond milk around here, which isn’t a problem for the challenge, but it is store bought and with several ingredients is considered out as far as the challenge goes. One of the suggestions on the 100 Days website is to make nut milks from scratch rather than use store bought. At this point, though, I don’t see this happening. I would like to try making my own almond milk for sure, but I know it won’t happen this week. This might be something I work on it the next week or so. Also, because I give the kids almond milk, and it is fortified, I like using this. So while I plan to make my own to try, I don’t see switching completely from store bought at this point. This will have to be something I make as an exception.
For our Sunday breakfast, I cooked up the last of the Gimme Lean Sausage, and made a batch of biscuits. I used my Southern Style biscuit recipe, but with some changes. I used only 100 % whole wheat flour, and instead of cutting in Earth Balance margarine and shortening, I instead used only coconut oil.
I really liked how the biscuits came out – maybe not quite as fluffy but fluffy enough. And they were very flavorful.
So here is the one other difficulty as a vegan even considering the real food challenge. Vegans don’t have a butter option besides vegan margarine. Now for baking, like with the biscuits, this wasn’t a problem. But what about buttering a biscuit? I could either leave it plain or use a little vegan margarine. This morning at least, I justified putting a tiny amount of Earth Balance on my biscuits by telling myself I had not used any in the biscuit batter.
Two days into our purge and I think we are doing alright. I’ve got some goals for this week:
1) try a vegan breakfast sausage recipe.
2) make homemade granola (even our healthy breakfast cereal has added sugar!)
3) make homemade graham crackers
I’ll post some details as I tackle each one.