Archive for Reality Check

What We Eat

Wow, it’s been a long time since I posted here! I had gotten stressed about trying to keep up with blogging here and took a very long break, but lately I’ve been missing it, and wanted to start posting again, if only to keep track of my recipe adaptations.

Since it’s been so long, I wanted to give a brief update and overview on how we’ve been approaching food, especially the changes since I used to post regularly.

My basic food philosophy hasn’t really changed:

God made food good for you. He also gave us creativity and intelligence to be able to cook, combine and improve the food we eat, but as a general rule, the more processed and refined a food is, the more we risk it changing from the way it was meant to be eaten.

I also believe that there’s a range of individual nutritional needs. Some people do better with lots of meat and vegetables and very few starches. Some people have trouble digesting wheat or grains in general, but still need a good amount starches in other forms. Some people have amazing digestions and high energy needs and are able to eat a wide range of foods with little ill effect. Some people need the detoxifying effects of salads and raw vegetables. Some people have an easier time digesting the nutrients in vegetables after cooking.

I also find that my health does better overall when I eat mostly healthy food, but don’t stress about having some ‘splurge’ foods in the mix. For instance, I’m more likely to crave proteins and fats than I am to crave sugars, so if sweet things sound really good to me, I figure there’s a good reason, and I eat something sweet. If I’m having a really tired day (whether because of a flare up of my chronic health problems, or just because of being extra busy), I may feel better by taking a break from cooking and eating take-out instead of expending my energy on making a perfectly healthy meal.

So, this is how the above three points are personalized for us:

*Most weeks we eat three home cooked meals, every day. Those meals are mostly made from a variety of meats (mostly beef, chicken and pork, with some seafood thrown in), potatoes, rice, occasional other whole grains, vegetables and fruit (with an emphasis on seasonal produce) and some dairy (raw when possible), butter and other fats, such as lard, bone broth and sweeteners (turbinado sugar, honey, and maple syrup). When we eat food at other people’s houses or go out for date night, we don’t worry about the ingredients and simply enjoy what’s in front of us. (With the exception of a few ingredients noted below that cause major problems, such as tomato.)

*My husband started having intense trouble with acid reflux last spring. After a stretch on the GAPS diet his digestion improved, but he still have trouble with certain foods. Eating too much wheat seems to trigger problems, so I try to keep wheat based meals to a minimum, usually 0-2 per week. I also avoid tomatoes and spicy foods in my cooking, but sometimes replace tomato sauce with a beet based homemade ‘nomato’ sauce.

*I have an egg allergy, but am able to tolerate the small amounts of eggs in baked goods and such. So, I don’t make quiches or other egg based meals for dinner, but I am able to make quick breads and cookies and such without having to modify the recipe. I also occasionally am able to get my hands on duck eggs, and go on a big scrambled and deviled egg spree while I have the chance.

*My husband has a fairly fast burning metabolism, and seems to do best with a good balance of protein and carbs, so I try to include a starch (usually unprocessed or minimally processed, like the potatoes and brown rice mentioned above) with every meal.

*I seem to feel best with a high to moderate amount of protein and fat, and moderate to low amount of carbs. We have found very few meatless meals that satisfy our protein and fat needs, so most of our meals are meat based, with the occasional beans or lentils  meal (usually cooked in chicken stock) thrown in. I have been experimenting with switching our meats over to grass fed, but haven’t figured out if I can sustain that on our grocery budget long term. I also digest cooked vegetables better than salads, so I often sautee or roast our vegetables.

*I keep a sourdough starter going and usually have fully fermented sourdough bread or rolls in the house, as well as making sourdough pancakes once every week or two.

*I try to keep some fermented vegetables and homemade yogurt on hand, usually at least sauerkraut, but don’t always keep up with it. I’d like to also get back to regularly making kefir, water kefir, and/or kombucha, but haven’t gotten any grains or scobies since last time I killed them.

*We often keep chocolate in the house, and occasionally other candy, but nearly all baked goods we eat are homemade, from either organic white flour, or soaked/fermented whole wheat flour, usually with turbinado sugar though occasionally with honey or maple syrup. I like to experiment with recipes for homemade candies and other ‘copy cat’ junk foods, made with real food ingredients, and sometimes they even turn out well.


Overall, the closest match to my food practices would be the Weston Price diet (following the 80/20 rule, of course), with adjustments for personal dietary needs. My first goal in cooking is to make food that tastes good, but I will use the healthiest ingredients I’m able to use to achieve that goal.

I’m not sure yet what my new posting schedule will look like, but I’m hoping to start sharing some recipes soon!

Reality Check: Christmas Food

Since I didn’t do a menu plan for the last couple of weeks, I can’t really tell you how closely I followed it. (Would it count as 100%? or 0%?) Instead I’m going to give you some of the highlights of yummy food, healthy food and meh food that we ate over our Christmas celebrations.

The Healthy:

*Shrimp: High in zinc and selenium, and one of many seafoods that I’d like to figure out how to get into my diet on more regular basis. Conveniently, shrimp also ranks high on the yummy list. (I’m sure the cocktail sauce I was eating with the shrimp was less than healthy, but it least had a healthy dose of horseradish. Kapow!)

*Grapefruit: I normally dislike grapefruit rather strongly, but deciding to add a bit of fruit to my plate was a surprisingly good desicion, as the grapefruit was some of the best I’ve ever eaten, and I even went back for seconds!

*Oranges and clementines: These were a good (frequently available) option for adding some fruit to the rich, celebratory foods on my plate.

The Meh:

*Ham sandwich: This probably doesn’t strictly belong in the meh category, but it’s worth noting that I skipped eating a sandwich at one of the Christmas celebrations. I normally enjoy sandwiches, but I decided the best strategy was to focus on eating the special foods I would enjoy the most, even if that meant skipping the official main course, and a food that’s good in its own right.

*Most Christmas cookies: There are a few exceptions, such as reindeer droppings (technically a candy, made from white chocolate and crushed candy canes), salted caramel pretzel bark, and kiflis, but in general I skip the sweet Christmas treats, as I rarely find them worth it.

The Yummy:

*Artichoke dip, salmon dip and other dips: These were some of my favorite foods I ate over the Christmas celebrations this year (and most of them would qualify as mostly healthy, though–true confessions–I was generally eating them with white flour processed crackers). I made a homemade artichoke dip with mayo, sour cream, lemon juice, salt, onion powder and a dash of cayenne that I took to two different Christmas parties. I also really enjoyed a salmon dip from Costco that my husband’s family contributed to two different Christmas parties we were both at.

*Raspberry jam with havarti cheese: There were several good (aged) cheeses that I experienced over Christmas, but the raspberry jam that was paired with havarti stole the show.

*Kringle: A Danish pastry which is a Christmas tradition handed down from my sister’s husband’s family, and is one of the few Christmas sweets worth eating. The walnut ones are my favorite, but interspersing a few pieces of fruit Kringle into the mix is also amazing. (It’s even better when you have Kringle, sausage links and coffee. One amazing Christmas brunch!)


After our Christmas celebrations were over, my husband and I were both feeling the results of having eaten a lot of amazing, but very rich, food for most of a week. Our first thought was that we needed salad, but after brief contemplation realized that what we really both wanted was fruit and tomato (specifically sandwiches with tomato and lettuce). We ate quite a few sandwiches the week after Christmas using nitrate free turkey lunchmeat, quasi whole wheat bread (the storebought bread that’s like a cross between white and whole wheat), cheddar cheese, tomato and iceberg lettuce.

Our breakfasts for the week were mostly oranges and bananas.

We also ate a few leftovers such as mashed potatoes and kielbasa (which I ate with a ton of homemade sauerkraut and some homemade ketchup) and a couple of frozen pizzas.


Pantry Challenge, Day 29: Eating Out and Grocery Shopping (Costco and Kroger)

Thursday was a very odd food day. We had leftover rice pudding for breakfast, which was on track for how food has been lately.

After that, however, we ate out the rest of the day. I almost feel like this was cheating on the pantry challenge somehow, but since it would have worked out this way regardless of our pantry challenge status, I’m trying to be chill and not stress about having to tell all of you about it.

We discovered the day before that we had Seize the Deal vouchers to a local Chinese place that expired on Friday. Clearly, we should not let this happen, and we needed to use the vouchers as soon as possible, so we planned a lunch date for Thursday.

We had also already planned to go out to dinner with my husband’s parents that evening, as we were finally making use of their Christmas present last year which was a ‘coupon’ for them to take us out to dinner. We had a very nice dinner at a local restaurant called Salt, which my husband and I had not been to before, but had heard good things about. Everything we ate was very good, but possibly the most interesting thing we ordered was the fried deviled eggs. I didn’t have any (pesky egg allergy) but I’m pretty sure just knowing they exist should inspire some sort of burst of culinary creativity.

Since I didn’t have any meals to video for the pantry challenge post, I did a video of my grocery shopping haul for the day, with explanations of why I bought what I did and how it fits into the pantry challenge rules (hint: we’re not eating most of it during the pantry challenge).

I spent about $40 at Costco and got green beans, garlic and apple cider for our Thanksgiving meal, cheese for meal I’m making and giving away to friends who recently had a baby (leftover cheese will be saved for after the pantry challenge is over) and organic canned pumpkin which I only got because I didn’t want to miss the time where it was in stock at Costco, and we will also not be eating it until after the pantry challenge is over.

I spent about $15 on food at Kroger (this number is approximate because I also had some non food purchases, such as white vinegar, which I ONLY use for cleaning). There I got sour cream and ground beef, which like the cheese is destined for the  meal I’m giving away, and whatever’s left will also be saved for after the pantry challenge is over. I also picked up cabbage, which I’m using to make sauerkraut for someone else (and regardless the sauerkraut wouldn’t be ready until after the pantry challenge is over), and ice cream.

Admittedly, the ice cream does not really fit into the rules of the pantry challenge, but I needed it for a video I’m going to film with an idea for using up some of your Thanksgiving leftovers. In order to get the video posted in a timely way I’m going to have to film the video during our pantry challenge, so we will probably cheat on the pantry challenge in that one small way. I assure you, we will be very good and only eat as much of the ice cream as we have to as responsible food bloggers.

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Reality Check: Groceries, 10/2/14

You can see my original menu plan and shopping list for this week here.

Costco Trip 10/2/14

 This is what I got on my Costco trip today. I also got some socks and light bulbs, and used a $20 gift card that I got for purchasing my Costco membership through a LivingSocial deal. That means the total cost of the food pictured here was about $107, but I only spent $100 out of my grocery budget.

I try to go shopping about once every two weeks, and $100 is about 1 1/2 weeks worth of grocery money for me, so I have money left over in case I decide to do a quick Aldi run for sour cream and desk snacks for my husband to keep at the office. (I mentioned in the video thinking of going to Kroger for sour cream, but later decided that Aldi makes more sense.) I’ll probably even be able to set some money aside for my Azure Standard order later in the month.

Also, a lot of these items will last us longer than two weeks. The case of hard cider will last us a good couple of months (or more if we don’t end up sharing it at any social events), and the tomato paste, frozen broccoli and juice, along with possibly the cheese, cream cheese and carrots will last us for three to four weeks or more.

As you can see, I did not purchase any ground beef or raw chicken. The price on ground beef was up a $1 a pound from last time I bought it at Costco, and I have enough ground beef in the freezer to get us through this week’s menu plan. I may have to pick up some more at Aldi for next week, but I’ll play that by ear.

The whipping cream was splurge purchase, partially justified by the fact that I’m trying out this Creamy Garlic Pasta recipe this week, and while I could just use milk with a little extra butter, I’ll get a more accurate idea of the recipe if I use the cream as is originally called for. (You know how I hate to change recipes. *cough, cough* Ahem.)

When I made my original shopping list I’d forgotten that I would need butter before another two weeks was up, and despite the fact that price on butter was up to $3.10/lb, butter is not optional around here.

I also picked up some more tomato paste, since I might be shopping at Kroger/Aldi for my next shopping trip, and my Costco organic tomato paste is also an essential pantry item, because that’s what I use to make my homemade ketchup. (Not only is this the only tomato paste I can find that only has one ingredient, but it’s also cheaper per can than I can usually find any tomato paste in other stores.)

I picked up the juice, not because we normally make a habit of drinking juice, but because it’s really nice to have some on hand in case of sickness or unexpected guests or needing it to make mixed drinks.

Reality Check: Vacation Food

Making Sausage Gravy on Our Camping Trip

My husband making ‘stone soup’ sausage gravy for breakfast while we were RV camping.

I’ve been thinking about beginning to do regular ‘reality check’ posts where I tell about how real food meets real life in my kitchen for the week, and give you some highlights and lowlights of our food. After packing food for a week of vacation last week, this seemed like a great time to start.

To give you a little context, our vacation was a family reunion at a place my husband describes as a time share for hillbillies. We were RV camping (which is not real camping in my mind, but that’s another topic) with a full fridge and freezer, small stove and oven and a microwave (which my husband used once or twice to reheat leftovers and I never used at all).

The Healthy:

*Grapes: The organic grapes at Kroger were more expensive than I expected and looked like they were about to go bad, so I went with the conventional grapes, which were on sale, and it was worth it. Grapes made a great quick and healthy snack, especially for times when we needed a little burst of energy anyway.

*Baby carrots: We only ate these for a couple of meals, but I did also snack on them a few times between meals, and as with the grapes, the convenience of eating baby carrots was key to the fact that we ate as many vegetables as we did on this trip.

*Alfalfa Sprouts: We had these on our sandwiches for lunch, which we ate about the half the days we were gone. Simple and yummy, and a little easier to transport around than lettuce.

*Odwalla smoothies/juice: I don’t normally buy such things, but for this trip I made an exception. I really enjoyed the smoothie flavors I got (green superfood and mango tango), to the point that I almost put them in the ‘yummy’ category instead of the ‘healthy’ category, and they were another very easy way to get a dose of fruits into a meal. (Especially toward the end of the trip when the rounds of hot dogs started making me crave a salad, the green smoothie was really nice to have in the fridge.)

The Meh

*Fudge Striped Shortbread smores: This seems like such a good idea, using the chocolate coated cookies instead of chocolate and graham crackers, but it really wasn’t quite a smore. Maybe I’m just a traditionalist, but if I’m going to eat a gooey marshmallow I’d much rather make a real smore with it.

*Dawt Mill sandwiches: This is the place we went canoeing one day, and went back for lunch a different day to try their sourdough bread… which turned out to not be available. Their fries were okay, and I did enjoy my Rueben sandwich, but overall it was very ordinary food, and my husband said his burger wasn’t as good as he would get at his favorite burger place near our house. The highlight of that meal was the onion rings we got for an appetizer.

The Yummy:

*Sausage gravy: One day for breakfast we made what I started calling ‘stone soup sausage gravy’. My husband’s aunt had some sausage and canned biscuits, his grandmother had flour and we had milk and hot sauce. The gravy was quite good, but it was really the whole experience of pulling together to make it that made it one of the highlights of the trip.

*Hot dogs: We didn’t take any hot dogs on the trip, but as hot dogs were freely flowing and being offered around we did eat them several times. Once we made them into chili cheese dogs, and another time it was all beef hot dogs with a really good sweet pepper relish. I rarely buy hot dogs, so I consider them a very special treat and quite enjoyed them every time we ate them.

*Potato salad: I was originally planning to take fried potatoes to the big family meal on Friday evening, and at the last minute, instead I threw together a potato salad with the ingredients I had brought with me. I did have mustard and a little mayonnaise (but not enough for the amount of potato salad I was making), but no onion or garlic powder or olives or pickles or things like that. I added a good dollop of my homemade french onion dip and some capers that I happened to have brought with me, and it all made a surprisingly good potato salad.


Chime in below in the comments and let us know something especially healthy or surprisingly yummy, or unexpectedly meh that you ate this week.