I have noticed, lately, a rather disturbing trend in my happy food world--the uber health conscious. It's like the Word of Wisdom on steroids. At first I bought into it because I am fairly health conscious (I thought!) and I try so hard to feed my children only healthy foods. But then, as I started to feel guilty for not sprouting my wheat and soaking my beans and switching out all white sugar for applesauce and honey, I realized something: if eating healthy consumes so much of my time that I no longer spend time or money on other things, then something is out of balance.
I took a deep breath and evaluated how I fed my family. Home-made bread, nothing out of a box, very little pasta, mostly fruits and veggies, very few treats, no soda or chips or other processed foods, brown rice, 9 grain cereal almost every morning. I was doing fine! In fact, I was doing great! On top of that, I'm obsessed with hiking and take my children out constantly for good exercise and dirt-and-dog-enhanced immune building.
So why was I feeling guilty? Because that is what we always do as women when we start to compare ourselves with others. I do not feed my family perfectly. I know there is always room for improvement. However, there is no room for guilt in my life. I simply cannot add guilt to my load--it makes the load impossible to carry.
Wherever you are on the healthy living spectrum, you're doing just fine. Yes, even you who looked at how I feed my family and thought, "I could never do that!" You don't have to. What matters is that we are all trying to follow the Word of Wisdom and that we make changes when the Spirit nudges us to do so.
In that spirit of optimism and love and acceptance for ourselves, here are a few tips.
1) Add veggies to your day by incorporating them at breakfast. For example, saute peppers and onions and mushrooms and then add eggs to them and scramble. Easier than an omelet and tasty, tasty. I also like to saute zucchini slices with Citrus Grill seasoning (you can buy it online; it will change your world), put those on your plate, add a tomato slice or two with some salt and pepper, and then add a fried egg on top. Delicious!
2) Making your own yogurt is ridiculously easy and makes smoothies much cheaper. I feed my kids a hearty breakfast, a light lunch--usually a smoothie and carrot sticks (beware mini carrots--they are often bleached) or celery with peanut butter, an apple for a 3:00 pm snack, and then a hearty supper like a veggie and chicken stir-fry with brown rice or lemon-cayenne chicken and a baked potato.
3) Variety is the spice of life. Google a veggie you haven't tried much and find the top-ranked recipe you can find and try it! It will be fun!
4) The very best recipe books that I've found for healthy living are the American Heart Association cookbooks. They also have recipes online. Yummy recipes. Check them out from your library and try one or two; I think you'll be surprised by how good they are. Also, check out some vegetarian cookbooks--they have the best salads!
Warm up a gallon of whole milk in a large pot on the stove. You don't want it super hot or it will kill the bacteria, and you don't want it too cool or the bacteria won't grow. A nice warmish to really warmish should do it. Once the milk is pretty warm scoop out two or three ladle-fulls into a bowl. Add about half of a 32 oz container of a plain, non-fat or low-fat, yogurt (I like Mountain Dairy because it makes the thickest yogurt, or Greek Zoi brand because it tastes the best) to your bowl of milk and stir until combined and smooth. Dump that back into your pot, stir it around for a minute or so to blend completely. Put a lid on the pot, wrap it in a towel, and put it in your oven. TURN YOUR OVEN LIGHT ON. That will keep the yogurt warm enough. Leave the yogurt to do its thing overnight (I always make yogurt at night--roughly 8-12 hours ought to do it).
In the morning, remove the towel and stir your yogurt. I usually don't strain the yogurt because I like runny smoothies (my kids make the biggest mess using spoons to eat smoothies). However, it is usually advised to strain the yogurt through a cheesecloth or something similar (I use the flour sacks I use to dry my dishes) and voila, a huge pot of yogurt for a fraction of the cost. Put in a container and store in the fridge. Plus if you save the liquid you removed (whey), you can add it to your bread, if you make it, and give your bread a nutrient boost.
A favorite from the American Heart Association: Lemon-cayenne chicken. I add a lot more cayenne then the recipe calls for, but I'm crazy like that. My children and husband love this recipe and it is super healthy. Using lemon for your major taste kick is usually a very healthy choice. PS: you can cheat, like the lady I just linked you to, and use bottled lemon juice, but since lemons are cheap and super healthy, when you remember, go for the real thing.
Here's a little more complicated recipe that will knock your socks off called Spicy Firecracker Beef on Rice Noodle Salad. I don't know if it is healthy and quite frankly, I don't care.
And lastly, one of the best recipes on the planet: Barley and Shrimp Salad. If you take nothing else of value from this post, make this salad tonight for supper and serve it with warm pita bread (we like honey wheat) and finish with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream with some berries. Life is beautiful.
3 strips bacon
2/3 c. pearl barley (I use 1 cup because the math is easier)
1 lb shrimp, coarsely chopped
1/3 c. lime juice (there's that fabulous citrus again, you health nut, you)
2 c. cherry tomatoes (I just dice up whatever I have on hand)
1/2 c. finely diced red onion (I add way more--it's my favorite part, and I dice them a little bigger so my kids can pick them out :))
1/2 c. chopped fresh cilantro
2 TBLS extra virgin olive oil
freshly ground pepper to taste
1 avocado, peeled and diced (I use two if they are small)
1) cook shrimp, then in same pan cook bacon. Drain fat from pan, add water and salt to pan, bring to a boil and add barley. Reduce heat, cover and cook until all liquid is absorbed. Just follow the directions on the back of your pearl barley to get the right amount of liquid and cooking time. I use 2 cups water to 1 cup pearl barley and it usually takes about 30 minutes to cook. Maybe a little longer. I also omit the salt because the residual bacon grease adds plenty.
2) When barley is done combine shrimp and lime juice in a large bowl, add barley and toss to coat. Let stand 10 minutes, stirring occasionally so the barley soaks up that lime flavor. Add tomatoes, onion, cilantro, and the bacon. Toss to coat. Add oil and pepper--toss again. Give it a good taste test to make sure you have enough pepper. Stir in the avocado gently and serve.
3) Ooh and aah and send many grateful thoughts my way that you no longer have to live your life without this salad.
4) You're welcome.
If you have any must-make recipes I would love to hear them! Or other things you do with yogurt. I love all things food, as you already know, and I always love to learn more.