Adventures in Making (Almost) Everything from Scratch

Mmmmmmmm muffins

Hey my fellow lentees! (Yeah I just made that one up)

So with the second full week behind us, it’s finally sinking in that I am really NOT eating processed foods (in the beginning I would catch myself grabbing stuff like salad dressing and mayonnaise before I’d realize we weren’t eating that and have to put it back in the fridge!).  Now I’m more cognisant of everything, even ordering a coffee from Starbucks has me asking “What kind of cream is in that?”  

We’ve even had to start making all our own wheat products from scratch, and that I can tell you would be next to impossible without the help of my wonderful husband.  Thank goodness I was smart enough to marry a man who can cook!  I knew I was going to start making my own healthy muffins and bread again, but I use the bread maker and even then it’s hit or miss as to whether it’s actually going to turn into bread or a big crumbly, hard lump of sticky flour.  But here comes Andy to the rescue!  And thankfully he’s really embraced this non processed food kick because I don’t even want to imagine how difficult this would be without him behind me all the way. 

The other day we were talking to the kids about what they’d like for dinner, and as per usual the answer was “Tacos!”  We have been making our own taco filling from scratch for a while now because we don’t like all the salt and preservatives in the packaged stuff.  We put in finely chopped garlic and onion, add tomato paste and chilli powder, cumin, cayenne, salt and pepper, cook it in with the ground meat (this time it was venison) and voila, healthy taco filling!  As it so happens, we had some leftover in the freezer, so I took it out and was about to start dinner when I realized, we can’t have tortilla shells!  Every brand I’ve looked at (like all bread products) has preservatives to extend their shelf life.  So I suggested taco salad as an alternative, not as filling but I’m sure we’d survive.  Andy decides he’s going to make corn tortillas to go with dinner.  I told him he didn’t have to go through all the trouble, I’m thinking this is going to be an all day affair and we’d be eating at 9pm that night!  But he assured me they would be ready in less than an hour.  And low and behold, an hour later, we had corn tortillas with our tacos.  And although they were a little smaller than store bought tortillas, they tasted fabulous! 

He’s also started making all our own pasta, I mentioned the cheese stuffed ravioli in my last post, this week he made tagliatelle and it was amazing!  The thing I can’t believe is now that he’s making pasta more often, how fast he is at it!  Fresh pasta now takes as long as it takes to prepare a homemade sauce, usually no more than 30 – 45 minutes.  And if you’ve never had fresh homemade pasta, I HIGHLY recommend trying it, maybe some rainy weekend with a lovely homemade sauce that you’ve simmered all day, or in a nice lasagne, mmmm!  The flavour and texture are so much better.

Our next baking experiment is my mom’s homemade English muffins which we’ve been meaning to make since she gave me the recipe at Thanksgiving but have just been too busy or lazy to try…until now!  We’ll keep you posted!  Have a great week!

P.S. Lots of bread, muffin, pasta, tortilla and pizza dough recipes to follow


My Beef with Dairy

They put WHAT in my milk?

After 6 days of the family Lent experiment, I can say that so far it’s been very eye opening and very difficult! A lot more so than I was expecting! Day one started off with a bang, I made my special Steel Cut Oats Plus recipe (yummy!), kids and husband topped with maple syrup, honey and nuts and seeds and scarfed it all down. Andy and I then made our morning coffees, he takes his with cream and one sugar (which he switched to honey) and I take milk and a dash of cream. Well, just for curiosity sake I turned the cream over to read the ingredients…why is there sodium citrate, sodium phosphate, carrageenan gum and dextrose in my cream??? Isn’t cream just what’s left over after you separate it from the milk? Why does it need anything in it but cream? I was baffled by this discovery, so I went to the grocery store that same day to see if it was just the brand I’d bought…no all the cream from 5% to 35% whipping cream all contained the same unnecessary additives!! The store I was in didn’t have any organic cream in stock, so I bought a half litre of full fat milk like my Dad had suggested I try and I came home. But of course I had to find out if I could at least buy organic cream for my husband who really didn’t want to go without if he could help it. So I looked it up online and YES! Organic has nothing in it but cream…and honestly why should it?

The rest of Wednesday and most of Thursday went off without a hitch, had lots of delicious meals and started a food diary (which I will be posting on here soon, with recipes!). Thursday evening on my way home from work, I call home and ask my hubby what’s for dinner and what do you need me to get? After we brainstormed a bit, we came up with homemade Ravioli stuffed with leftover chicken, spinach, mushrooms, shallots, red peppers, garlic and ricotta. The only thing we didn’t have in the house was ricotta, so I get to the store, grab the cheese and head home as fast as possible since I was hungry and tired! But in the car I realized I hadn’t read the label…but how bad could it be? Ricotta is a simple cheese made from the whey by product left when making other cheeses. It’s pretty straight forward to make, we once made it ourselves, and so there couldn’t be much in the way of additives in the one I bought from the store right? Well, I got home and read the label and to my surprise, guar gum, mono and diglycerides, locast bean gum and carrageenan! Arrggg! I was starting to get a little angry, why are these even needed in diary? I used to work as a professional food taster for Nestle so I understand gums are put into foods like diary to improve the texture, but I was buying full fat diary, why does the texture need to feel creamier? And preservatives, people expect diary to have a shorter shelf life, it’s dairy for heaven’s sake! We used the ricotta and made the ravioli but I will be finding an alternative to store bought ricotta before I ever buy it again.

Then on Friday I discovered some cottage cheese that was about to expire in the back of my fridge. It was lunch time and I was starving so I pulled it out to eat it (I never waste food!). While munching away I read the side of the package…guar gum, mono and diglycerides, xanthan gum, carob bean gum…this time I wasn’t shocked or mad, just disappointed that my favorite brand of cottage cheese wasn’t as good for me as I thought. Hopefully I can find an alternative, but I am beginning to understand one of the reasons so many people are switching away from all dairy products. And I always thought I was a diligent label reader. But on the bright side, I guess the experiment is truly working, it’s definitely making us more aware of exactly what’s hidden in our food…happy label reading!

Big Wine and an “Omnivore’s Dilemma” to Expose It

Big Wine and an “Omnivore’s Dilemma” to Expose It.

So after coming home from my first long, challenging, but rewarding day at my new job, my first thought was how I couldn’t wait to relax and sit down to a delicious dinner made by my should-be chef husband and a nice glass of wine…but wait, wine is processed isn’t it? And exactly how processed is it? So after doing a little research I found this fantastic article how processed wine really is, and some ways to avoid the added chemicals. So bottoms up! (organic, biodynamic, or naturally made only!) 🙂

Lent is here!!

Say NO to porcessed foods!

Say NO to processed foods!

Hi everybody,

I’m kind of new to this whole blogging thing so bear with me. I’m realizing it’s like writing in your diary and posting it for everyone to see…yikes, what did I get myself into?!?!

I decided to start trying my hand at blogging by telling you all about my Lent experiment. For those of you who don’t know what Lent is, if you’re a Christian, Catholic especially, you probably understand about Lent. If not, it’s a time when we traditionally give up something we find difficult to live without for 40 days before Easter (maybe I can get my Mom to post something about the theology behind it for anyone who’s interested). The time works out to be 46 days, but each Sunday is considered a “mini” Easter and therefore you can enjoy what you’ve been giving up on those days. But for my purposes, I’m choosing to observe Sundays and go for the entire 46 days!

So for Lent 2012 my family and I are doing a little experiment. After the kids watched “Supersize Me” for the first time a few weeks ago, my oldest told me he didn’t understand why we had to eat fast food or processed foods at all. He said he’d like to give them up but he didn’t figure we were really eating any considering how healthy we eat as the family of a nutrition specialist! Lol It got me thinking, “How much processed foods do we eat that we don’t even think about?” So for Lent, we are giving up processed foods, as much as possible. My dear husband pointed out to me that we didn’t get a chance to do any canning this year except peaches so we will be eating some processed foods, but we will be keeping them to foods that contain very few additives or preservatives. Let’s call them minimally processed foods!

This experiment is all about learning what you may already know about processed foods, some things you didn’t, and how you can make the changes to eliminate most processed foods and maybe even make some of these foods yourself! I will be posting my daily food journal and discussing the challenges myself and my family will inevitably face trying to stick to this plan starting tomorrow, so stay tuned!!!

Yours in Good Health,