Most of the time we look forward into the new year with plans and goals and hopes. Of course, I’ve thought of a few things I’d like to try to work on (catch up on my family photos, continue working on letting go of rules and expectations I created for myself, travel with my family, etc.) but what I’ve realized too, is that I need to also reflect on the past year as well. What have I learned? How have I grown? What did I accomplish? Was I hoping to accomplish that or was it a goal I added along the way? So, in honor of reflection, I accumulated my 10 favorite meals that I cooked at home, and the important realizations about food and cooking that came along with.
Top Ten Favorite Meals and Food Realizations of 2018
Don’t Be Afraid to Serve Veggies for Breakfast
Especially if your concern for more veggies is for your kids, just remember, they don’t know any different! Adults are the ones who are accustomed to cereal, eggs, toast, pancakes – the breakfast ‘staples’. Add them in slowly if it feels weird, like with this meal – fried egg, bacon & brussel sprouts, or blend them up in a smoothie. It’s only your mind that’s keeping it from happening. Retrain your brain. It’ll thank you later.
Use Your Spices
What I have noticed in eating real food, is that my palate and taste buds have changed so much. I actually crave the natural tastes of foods. But if you’re not quite there, or just need a little change, get out those spices! Heating up that cauliflower with some cayenne, paprika, turmeric and cinnamon will keep the food interesting and taste buds satiated. Spices also come equipped with an array of health benefits – everything from added vitamins and minerals to having antibacterial properties. Can’t beat that.
Look in your fridge for ingredients. Use your intuition, former eating knowledge, and google if you must to create some kind of delicious meal. For the Ginger Carrot Soup above I had a TON of extra carrots in the fridge, and some broth in the freezer. So I heated some onions, oil and garlic (that’s always a good place to start). Then I grated some ginger, threw in some carrots, and let it simmer. I added some celery from the fridge cause it doesn’t really change the taste much, and it’s healthful. Blended it up and made my husband be the taste tester. Things have turned out first try, no problems. And things have turned out, well, pretty poorly. But that’s the moment you change your relationship with food. What is the taste I’m tasting? What is the taste I need? How do I get it? Sweeter? Saltier? Too spicy? Too bland? It might feel scary. And it might be unfortunate to eat a less than average meal, but nothing else will ever be able to teach you more about cooking at home. It kind of goes back to that saying I used in my classroom, “”Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” – Benjamin Franklin
Just Serve Real Food
I often get caught up in thinking myself or my kids need more than just real food. It’s hard because our emotions (in combination with some heavy advertising) get in the way, urging us to eat for comfort or for escape. Instead of reaching for boxes or bags that we can eat and eat and ‘disappear’ for awhile, I try to stay conscious in what I grab, as well as keep my pantry stocked accordingly. I try and keep myself nourished and full, and then deal with the real reason that I want to ‘get away’. Geneen Roth has written a really interesting book titled Women, Food, and God that digs deep into the way we use food as an escape, and that in facing our emotions we are better able to make nourishing choices.
Meat As A Side
This idea came about rather naturally. As we increased our vegetable intake something had to give, and we ended up eating less meat. Then while reading from Dr. Mark Hyman, he confirmed that viewing meat as a side might be beneficial to our health. There’s a mix of research out there on it’s benefits. I tend to lean toward this idea that it could have benefits but probably not in excess, so we tend to focus on the veggies first. We also noticed that less meat consumption saved us a few bucks, too. Win, win.
And, just because I like the crispy edges of the meatloaf (yum!), I put it in muffin tins. Turns out it makes it an easy way to create nice portion sizes, too!
Prepare for Events
Our family went on an epic camping adventure this past summer, and I did not want to give up on the goals we had attained throughout the years, even though it seemed much easier just to eat on the road. So we tried our best to prep and pack our food and it really was an amazing success. All we did was pre-cook our favorite skillet meals (this one is a sweet potato, onion, zucchini, greens and spicy chicken sausage mix), package, and freeze. Then reheated them over the camp burner and fire. It turns out that eating really good food, outside, over the campfire tastes amazing, and gives you the energy and stamina to make your travels that much better.
Listen to Your Body – Eat Seasonally
We often use the local farmers markets for fresh food in the summer. This year we decided to try out an organic farm-share, Featherstone Farm MN that provided seasonal veggies from spring through fall, and we couldn’t have been happier. It was so interesting to see how the food that showed up in our boxes was the exact food that we were craving. We began to feel what it’s like to eat seasonally. The share also challenged us to eat things we wouldn’t normally pick up at the grocery store, like the turnips used in the crock-pot roast pictured above. It added so much color and variety, which our bodies thrive from. Most importantly, to me, it taught my children about where our food comes from and opened the door to lots of questions and taste-testing. I highly recommend looking into a farm share near you.
Have Fun Meals Together
Although our meals might seem less fun to some, I think we really found that the community aspect of sharing a meal together is actually what makes a meal. We still try to have some “fun food” – taco nights, self serve sweet potato bar (pictured above), snack attack night, and even eating the rainbow. We try to just make the event of eating more important than the actual food. Weather permitting we almost always take it outside. We talk about what we are thankful for, listen to favorite songs, and even play games like Would You Rather or 20 Questions while we eat. The focus leaves the food and moves onto what’s really important about gathering together for a meal.
Make it Easy
Don’t get me wrong in any of this. Cooking takes time. Sometimes it takes SO much time. So we also have found products and ways to make delicious meals more simply. In general, eating real food does make it quite simple. Meat on the grill, roasted veggies in the oven and you can’t go wrong. Stir-fry and saute, like the one pictured above, are often made from pre-shredded packaged veggies (this one in particular is prepackaged brussel sprouts, cabbage, kale, carrots, broccoli with some bacon). It’s so much simpler to have some options to grab and go, ready in the fridge. If you have a trusted source, it’s not bad to buy the product that makes it easier.
Cooking Is A Part of Who We Are
Our society has turned cooking into this thing on our list of to-do’s that we need to just get done, and get done quick. When in actuality, cooking from home is an age old tradition. There is tremendous benefit to physical health and family emotional health when cooking and eating from home. Experimenting in the kitchen, like pictured above with my homemade beet noodle pad thai, is a part of who we are. What we eat is an indicator of our spiritual health and how we treat ourselves in every way. This year, give yourself the gift of health, connection to family and most importantly connection to you.