Times have been difficult for all of us over the last year. However, Michael & I have found a surprising blessing during the past year of restricted access to restaurants – an increased interest in home grown foods and a streamlined approach to quick and easy meals.We Love to Go Out to Eat
After working all day in the office it's easy to go out for dinner. I don't have to cook or wash dishes and I get to have someone serve me. During the slowdown in restaurant service, eating out was something I sorely missed. At first we tried take out, but that wasn't nearly a much fun as sitting down in a restaurant and relaxing.
So I Started to Cook More
I love to cook, but I'm used to cooking for crowds (I have 7 children) so it was a big change to cook for just the two of us. The recipes I've used during prior years no longer work because we've changed the way we eat in order to build and maintain our health.
Much has been learned about diet and meal preparation over the last 18 years, mostly through a good amount of trial and error.
Of course, it was easier to find restaurants that would cater to our dietary needs than to cook the food myself.
After take out failed to satisfy us (often resulting in unpleasant side effects, largely due to restaurant oils and hidden nuts or sugars), I began again to cook every day.
To make preparations easier and faster, I began to prepare larger amounts of potatoes, pinto beans, green beans, squash, veggie broth, and mushroom broth using home canning methods.
When needed for a meal it was as simple as popping the jar top and pouring the contents into the pan to warm up and combine with some raw foods, some fermented foods, and spices.
Fermented foods, like homegrown horseradish and sauerkraut, beet kvass, kraut juice, kimchi, and various fermented vegetables (like carrots, garlic, onions, cabbage, etc.) are now made in large batches and stored in the fridge.
Large amounts of rice are prepared in advance sufficient for three to four days. Diced veggies (onions, cabbage, squash, etc.) sufficient for a couple of days, are prepared when needed, with the remainder stored in the fridge. It's easy to grab a handful each time a dish is prepared.
Homegrown spices, like thyme, rosemary, dill, cilantro, tarragon, oregano are dried in a dehydrator and stored, or fresh-cut from the garden. Salads are also fresh-cut from the garden.
I experimented with spices and sauces until I finally developed some recipes that taste good and meet our strict dietary requirements. It took a while to come up with the right recipes, though, admittedly, a lot went to feed the chickens (they aren't as picky as we are).
By not spending time in restaurants and eating risky take out food, we noticed that our levels of health and energy jumped to new levels. We had more energy, were more clear-headed, and felt better. A few minor complaints disappeared.
A Trip Out of Town
Then we took a trip out of town for several days. When we returned, we noticed that we didn't feel as energetic as we used to. Nothing major. Just a bit heavier, not as energetic. We had brought some of our own food and ate what was served while there. No restaurant food was eaten.
I thought about what had changed. I realized that I have strict requirements for our food, which I always take for granted. Eating outside of those guidelines revealed just how important those guidelines really are.
Food Must Be Organic & Non-GMO
All the food we eat is either organic or grown in our own garden. Eating at restaurants is not always organic. We tried to eat at restaurants that advertised organic or locally grown food, but we knew that it was not always possible for them to acquire organically grown food at reasonable prices.
We thought we could get away with it - once in a while - which became more frequent the more we ate out. That trip out of town brought the message home even more clearly, partly due to the quality of the food (which tasted exquisite, by the way), and partly because of the different kinds of cookware used.
Pots and Pans
All my pots and pans are now Saladmaster titanium/stainless blend cookware or Xtrema ceramic pots. They do not leach heavy metals or toxins into the food.
After some extensive research into the subject of heavy metal leaching into foods cooked in aluminum, non-stick cookware, copper bottom ware, ceramic coated metal ware, iron cookware, and even stainless steel, (especially when cooking acidic foods like tomatoes), we decided the daily detriment from heavy metal leaching was not worth it. So we invested in the less toxic cookware.
Would restaurants do the same? Not likely. So there is an additional risk to restaurant food due solely to the type of cookware used in their kitchens, not to mention the quality of their food sources, and their oils, or hidden ingredients.
When we returned home from our trip and realized that we didn't feel as well as we had before the trip, we started questioning what we'd eaten or done to cause this.
That's when I realized that at home we'd been eating only organic food cooked in pots that didn't leach heavy metals or toxins into our food. When we ate food on our trip that was not organic or was cooked in non-Saladmaster or Xtrema pots our digestion, and consequently our overall health, was detrimentally affected.
Fortunately we recovered quickly and bounced back to our energetic selves again. But I learned a valuable lesson. There is nothing like a high quality meal made from mostly home grown ingredients.
Most restaurant food simply cannot compare.
Bottomline, what we eat, and how it is cooked, does have an profound effect on health!
So how can we accomplish this without slaving in the kitchen for hours everyday?
Here is a simple, quick meal example, blending both cooked and raw foods, that is filling, delicious, and easy to put together:
Rice salad bowls are one of our favorite meals. I usually make them when I don't know what else to cook. It's never the same, so we don't get bored with them.
Organic rice, any kind: black, bhutanese red, basmati, jasmine, soaked, rinsed and cooked
Veggies, cooked and raw, chopped or grated
Cultured food: horseradish, sauerkraut, kimchi, or fermented veggies (to improve digestion)
Sauce of choice
Spices of choice
Heat the rice and cooked veggies using a little (or a lot, according to taste) of veggie broth. If you're using frozen veggies, cook them first in the veggie broth before adding the rice. When the rice and cooked veggies are hot, add the raw veggies and the cultured food. Add a sauce. Season to taste, mix and enjoy!
Rice: Be sure to soak your rice overnight with a little organic raw milk whey, vinegar or lemon juice, or even plain water before cooking. Rinse thoroughly and cook. This helps the gastrointestinal tract to better absorb vitamins and minerals from the rice and reduces the arsenic which is naturally found in some rice varieties due to chemical farming practices.
Cooked veggies: Anything left over or previously prepped. I like to prep some cooked veggies and keep them in the fridge to add to recipes. Some of our favorites are broccoli, green beans, caramelized onions, mushrooms, cabbage, squash, okra, potatoes. You can also use frozen veggies. Cook them before adding the rice.
Raw veggies: Lettuce varieties, tomatoes, carrots, cilantro, dandelion greens, spinach, arugula, cabbage, parsley, avocado. I love to go to the garden and pick the veggies just before I add them to the rice bowl.
Sauce: Use your homemade salad dressing or favorite organic dressing, lemon, olive oil or veggie broth. If oil is in the dressing keep the amount to a couple of teaspoons (10ml) or less due to the rice content in the bowl, and the potential of digestive disturbance if the oil/fat content exceeds this amount.)
Spices: Use whatever spices you love: cumin, cayenne pepper, salt, pepper, nutritional yeast, harissa powder, paprika, etc.