I like to bake a lot, which anyone who reads this blog on a semi-regular basis will not argue. But cooking? Overall, we have a good relationship, but we also have our more difficult moments of avoidance and food waste. What usually happens is that I feel a little bit inspired, I meal plan and research new recipes, buy groceries, and make a few successful meals. And then I lose steam and pick up a frozen gluten free pizza on the way home from work.
There are worse things to eat than frozen pizza, I know, but there are also better things we could be eating. Aside from not containing gluten, that pizza is not very nutritious. And overall, we know that we feel much better when we eat more produce and protein and fewer grain-y carbs and sugary treats.
But lately, we've been excited about real, healthy foods, not just because they're "good for us" (even though they are) but because we are craving them! We don't subscribe to any particular diet, but I'm increasingly aware of what foods tend to have an inflammatory effect, and our goal is to prioritize nutrient-dense food.
Here are our favorites and how I prepare them:
I roast these veggies at 400-425 degrees with coconut/olive oil + salt and pepper for 20-40 minutes (longer for potatoes), or until crispy:
- sweet potatoes
- squash (baked flesh side down in a rimmed pan with 1/2" water)
- brussels sprouts (I grate some fresh parm and add some garlic powder before baking)
- regular potatoes
I sauté these veggies on the stovetop in coconut oil, with a little bit of salt:
- collard greens!! We love them. Maybe it's because we're not from the south, but we had never tried these before. But they're so good for you, part of the cruciferous vegetable family (like cabbage, brussels sprouts, kale, broccoli, etc.) and they are packed with Vit A, vit C, calcium, iron and vitamin K. I sauté several handfuls in a large skillet for 3 minutes, then add 1/2 cup water and cover to allow them to steam and soften. Then uncover and allow to crisp up to desired texture before serving.
- mushrooms, just sliced and sautéed, a favorite in my grain bowls and on my half of pizza
We don't have convenient access to a grill, so I bake/roast most meat in the oven. Plus, I like that it's less mess and doesn't make the whole apartment smell like whatever we're having for dinner.
- chicken (usually boneless, skinless) : Coat with coconut or olive oil and s+p, roast for 25 minutes at 400 degrees, or until thermometer reaches 165 in the thickest part of the meat.
- pork chops (again, I like boneless) : I love this recipe
- grass-fed steak : we loved this recipe
- beef: we still love ground beef for tacos, but for stew meat, this Mexican beef is so good
- chicken "nuggets": these are sooo good. They really do taste like chicken nuggets.
- eggs: fried, scrambled, or in an omelet. We love them any-which-way. Oh, and I like my scrambled eggs with sauerkraut, ever since Summer Harms mentioned it
Try as we might, we are not big salad or raw veggies eaters, and so we get the largest amount of veggies in our diet when they're cooked. Our (healthiest) meals usually consist of a veggie + protein. I also like to make grain bowls for us, with quinoa or whatever grains we have + leftover roasted veggies + sliced baked chicken or other protein + topped with a fried egg and sriracha. We do have meals that are more grain-heavy, but I'm trying to gradually replace those with better alternatives. If we're not that hungry at a meal time, we often have smoothies for lunch or dinner. And breakfast is either eggs or our beloved baked PB oatmeal.
We have to have our warm beverages, you know:
- coffee, made at home. We limit it to one cup per day, in the morning, except for special occasions.
- tea. Our favorite right now is peppermint rooibus, but I also like black teas on days when I'm not having coffee. Nicholas prefers herbal teas, so we have several selections on hand.
- golden milk. Today, I made it with macadamia nut milk. It's full of good-for-you fat, so I treat it more like a snack than just a beverage.
For cold beverages, we usually just drink water throughout the day, but sometimes we have kombucha or some fizzy water variation, like Topo Chico or La Croix.
Desserts & treats
I'll always love to bake, and I do believe in moderation, so dessert is a part of our life for good. I mostly try to make recipes that don't use refined sugars and flours, and ones that are gluten-free. Lately, we're really enjoying this Simple Gluten-Free Apple Crisp. (I made ours with maple syrup)
Actually doing it
I'm learning a lot about "actually doing it," that is, wanting to eat well and actually following though. Here's what seems to be working:
Talk to your spouse or family about what food they're excited about. Nicholas kept mentioning "meat and greens" and when we had steak and collard greens the other night he was so happy. When we're both excited, it's more sustainable.
Visit the farmer's market (and the farmers!) who raise high quality animals and produce. We buy pastured, grass-fed, and local whenever we can. I can find really good steak at our grocery store, so I will get that there, but going forward, I'd like to buy all our pork and chicken from the farmers market, from a trusted source. The difference in quality is significant.
Batch roast veggies and chicken. The last time I went grocery shopping, I got home, put away the groceries, and then preheated the oven and started roasted veggies (cauliflower, sweet potatoes, carrots) in batches. Cooked veggies are infinitely more versatile and more visible in our fridge. At the very least, we can eat them as sides for lunches, and they can be reheated on days I work and I'm too tired to cook.
Find inspiration from a few people online. More exposure to fresh preparations of healthy food helps to keep me engaged and excited to be in the kitchen:
- @frolicandflow — local to Austin, has great thoughts about anti-inflammatory foods and finding what works for you
- @nourishpodcast — a registered dietitian who also hosts a food-based podcast
- @freshexchange — eating by the seasons
- @acouplecooks — lots of vegetarian recipes
- @amymoffat_ntp — good info about gut health and healthy living
P.S.— I know most of these photos are grainy iPhone pictures, but those are the real life I made dinner at 7pm photos. ;)
As a home cook, I spend a lot of my time in the kitchen everyday, and lately, I've been finding so much joy in trying lots of new things in the kitchen with items from our garden, ingredients purchased locally, or new recipes made with my sourdough starter.
Every January, I assemble a blog post of sorts that catalogs our year. Largely organized in list-form, I touch on the big and little things, events and thoughts and experiences that shaped our life over the last year. I do find this incredibly helpful as a sort of reflection, a glance back on the Lord's faithfulness, to show me, time and time again, that He is a good God. And with that mindset, I feel less encumbered as we continue on into the new year, more ready to face a full year of new, fresh days, with the heart attitude that regardless of what the days will hold, mundane or exciting, difficult or good, I can walk into the future with hope and trust in Him. Plus, I do enjoy looking back on a lot of the little details of our life, the ones that make me smile or think, Oh, yes! We loved that! What a little joy in our life.
There's a lot of heaviness in the world right now.