Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Friday, May 24, 2013

Whole wheat cinnamon goodness

While planning for our unprocessed month, I followed a link that someone tweeted for 100% whole wheat cinnamon rolls. I meant to make them during our month, but never got around to it. Then King Arthur posted an apple-cinnamon pull-apart roll, and I knew that I could wait no longer.

My recipe was a total mishmash and a total success.

Dough: I browsed around for a 100% whole wheat sweet dough recipe, and found this one on the Fresh Loaf that looked promising (and used honey in place of processed sugar - double bonus!). I followed that recipe and method, using 100% white whole wheat, honey, and a combination of buttermilk and milk.

Filling: I made a cinnamon-sugar mixture, with about 60 g light brown sugar, 60 g white sugar, and 5 g fancy cinnamon.

Frosting: I used my usual recipe ~ about a tablespoon of milk and a tablespoon of unsalted butter, heated gently, and mixed with a pinch of salt, a teaspoon of vanilla, and enough sifted powdered sugar to make a drizzle-able frosting

When the dough was finished, I cut it into several big chunks: I made a little pan based on my normal cinnamon roll recipe (brushed with melted butter, filled with some of the cinnamon-sugar) and stuck it in the fridge for later. 

I made two little trays of apple-cinnamon pull-apart rolls - one for dessert last night; one for breakfast this morning. I mostly followed KAF's process: I cut the dough into little chunks (I started out weighing and then gave up and switched to eye-balling), rolled them in butter (not included in the KAF recipe, but why wouldn't you?!), and dipped them in the cinnamon-sugar mixture. I put three or four little chunks in a buttered muffin cup, put three or four tiny pieces of chopped apple on top, scattered a little streusel (based on this KAF recipe, but I didn't actually measure anything), and three or four more little pieces of dough. I baked one pan immediately and put one in the fridge; both turned out perfectly after 15 minutes at 350ยบ. The rolls were easy to remove from the pan, even without wrappers, and I drizzled a tiny bit of frosting on each.

These rolls were absolutely delicious - everyone in the family loved them, even the little girl who normally balks at anything with cooked fruit. The whole wheat sweet dough was perfect; there is no way you could tell that it was made with 100% whole wheat and no refined sugar, even on the little pieces that weren't coated with filling.

I stuck the last bit of dough, the bowl of cinnamon-sugar, and the cup of leftover frosting into the fridge for some more cinnamony goodness this weekend. I can't wait!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

An unprocessed month: goal assessment

  1. Completely eliminate our demon foods: candy for me, pop and chips for hubby. SUCCESS!
  2. Cut down or eliminate snacking and desserts (especially the unhealthy ones). SUCCESS! Much less snacking, many fewer desserts, and all of them have been unprocessed: popcorn, homemade crackers, 100% whole wheat cookies.
  3. Bake all of our bread products (buns, loaves, crackers, pizza crusts, etc.). Of course! :-)
  4. Switch back to lean meats; attempt to buy some from the farmer's market. (Although, I know we'll probably still use mostly grocery store meats, even with their added ingredients.) --> Sort of. A lot more chicken, no sausage or bacon.
  5. Focus more on fruits and veggies; more salads. --> Pretty much.
  6. Make all cookies, crackers, etc, from scratch with real ingredients. SUCCESS!
  7. Use more whole grains (sub brown rice for white; whole wheat flour for white flour). Super big SUCCESS! Maybe the one I'm most proud of.....
  8. Grate cheeses ourselves to avoid stablizers added to shredded cheeses. YES!
  9. Cut back on eating out (not that we do that much anyway); be more conscious and careful when we eat out. YES! I think we ate out maybe two or three times. I stuck to salads; hubby cheated a bit. Events at the kids' school were the hardest, where the only options are pizza and (very processed) popcorn.
  10. Cut back on our reliance on meat; one vegetarian dinner per week? --> Sort of. Veggie burritos, cannelloni
  1. We'd initially talked about doing only two weeks, but after reflecting, we realized that it needs to be longer to actually have a chance of changing our patterns. So we're going to do a month. --> Four weeks, Sunday to Sunday
  2. We wanted to wait until after the Easter candy was out of the house, and I know you're not supposed to start changing things on a Monday, so we agreed to start on April 7. --> Yep!
  3. I am willing to cut back, but not totally eliminate sugars. --> Yep!
  4. I am going to attempt to make all of our sauces: ketchup, mustard, salad dressings, mayo, but I'm not going to beat myself up if I don't have time. If we have to purchase, I will read the labels carefully and select the most unprocessed I can find. --> Made mayo and dressings; used purchased "simple" ketchup
  5. I will attempt to make all pasta from scratch, but if necessary, will buy the most unprocessed I can. --> BIG SUCCESS! NO store-bought pasta!
  6. I did not realize the extent of added ingredients to our canned beans and tomatoes; I will try to start using more dried beans and frozen veggies. --> Yes, dried beans and frozen veggies; still used canned tomatoes
  7. I would love to go back to making my own yogurt, but I'm not sure I'll have the time. If I don't, my usual plain yogurt already fits the kitchen test. --> Didn't have time; just used plain yogurt
  8. For the most part, our cheeses, butters, milk, cream, peanut butter, maple syrup, and honey already pass the kitchen test. --> Yep, still true
  9. We will continue to use/cook with vital wheat gluten, wine, table salt, olive oil, safflower oil, corn starch, and some seasonings (sriacha, soy sauce, etc.). --> Yep, although we did start choosing our oils more carefully, and I did manage to stay away from corn starch and bottled seasonings; I did use regular chocolate chips in one recipe

Colorful parenting

In the car last week, the kids were asking about going out for ice cream this week (after our unprocessed month was over). That was one of the hardest things of this month for them: our favorite little corner ice cream shop opened this month, and we couldn't go get our first cones. Anyway, I asked them, "Once our unprocessed month is over, does that mean we should go back to eating whatever we want, lots of processed foods?" They both said, "No!! We'll still eat mostly green foods, but we can have red foods sometimes as special treats."

A couple of weeks ago, on 100 Days of Real Food, they posted a guide on how to talk to kids about food. They provide a great conversation starter, using the analogy of race cars needing the right kinds of fuel. The article ends with this idea of thinking of foods in terms of a traffic light: GREEN foods are those that are the best for our body, whole foods, unprocessed, make your body feel and work the best. YELLOW foods are those that are okay to eat sometimes, but you don't want to eat too much or too many. RED foods are those you want to avoid as much as possible (I like that they don't say that you can NEVER have them, since never never works). Red foods have bad ingredients like artificial food
dyes, hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup, and things you can't even pronounce.

The kids jumped on board. We grabbed a sheet of white paper and three crayons and started brainstorming foods from each category. Of course water and vegetables and fruits went into green. The little girl was thrilled that milk was a green food. Then we moved on to yellow, things that aren't the best for us, but it's okay to enjoy sometimes: mommy-made cookies and cakes, ice cream, packaged crackers. We actually pulled a few boxes out of the cupboards to check ingredient lists. Finally, we listed red foods...the kids were sad to see their favorite icee-pops, fruit snacks, gummy bears on this list, but they had fun thinking of things to add. They were more excited by how many of their favorites made the green and yellow lists.

I suggested hanging the sign in the kitchen, but my little guy grabbed it out of my hands: "No! I need to hang it in our room so we can look at it all the time and remember!"

The kids ask all the time now what color foods are. We've even made up some variations...the little girl's favorite almond crackers, for example, we called yellowish green, because they have more than five ingredients on the package, but they're all healthy. On the other side are mommy-made brownies, made with white flour...they're closer to yellowy-red (or orange). This has been such a great teaching tool for us.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Reflections on an unprocessed month

I'm sitting here, eating leftover (restaurant) pizza, reflecting on our month of unprocessed eating. We set the goal of a month: April 7 - May 7, but ended up with a month defined by four weeks (Sunday to Sunday). Hubby's sister and her family were in town this weekend, we all wanted to go out to dinner together, her kids really wanted pizza, we had settled on our favorite pizza place as our celebratory end-of-the-month hubby and I looked at each other, and decided to call it.

We didn't call it the end of unprocessed, though. We called it the start of "our new way of life."

Hubby and I are both feeling better physically and we've both dropped a few pounds. I feel like my system is cleaner. I feel better thinking about the food we're eating; looking at our shopping cart this past weekend, I said to the kids, "There are only two processed foods in this whole cart!" The kids had fun looking through and identifying...the little girl's favorite cereal and a package of whole wheat tortillas. (I've loved making my own tortillas, and they're delicious; perfect for tacos and fajitas. But I cannot get them uniformly large and round, which makes them really hard for our favorite veggie burritos.) It makes me feel so good to make these choices for my family.

The month has made me reflect on some of our non-cooking food choices. I've finally purchased reusable produce bags, which I've been looking at for a long while (we already use reusable grocery bags). I bought a new set of cleaning cloths to help reduce our use of paper towels (not that we use many anyway; we already use cloth napkins) and chemical cleaners (again, not that we use many).

We've learned that just about everything is processed. It was impossible (at least in terms of the effort we were willing to give) for us to go totally unprocessed. But we got really used to reading ingredient lists, looking for organic (but still reading the ingredient lists since not all organic foods pass the kitchen test!). And if we picked a food that was technically processed (some of the canned tomatoes, for example), we were making a conscious choice, and the foods were as close to unprocessed as we could find, with just the addition of "natural flavors" or "citric acid" (two ingredients which sound innocuous, and which I was surprised to read weren't as good as they sound).

I've become a(n even more) compulsive label-reader, and having read as much as I have, it's impossible for me to buy an item with ingredients I've never heard of when there's a better choice right next to it. And I've gotten familiar with which brands to pick, so shopping isn't taking me quite as long. I have finally jumped on the organic bandwagon, studying the dirty dozen list and being willing to pay more for organic produce. (And feeling very grateful that we are privileged enough to be able to afford to do this!)

This lifestyle takes a lot of planning: not just the meal planning which I was doing already, but the inability to cop out and go out to eat after a long day...needing to have unprocessed meals ready in the freezer for those emergencies. We also noticed the necessity of going to more stores: Costco and Trader Joes for great prices on organic produce, Whole Foods for specialty ingredients, unrefined oils, bulk bins. Plus our normal big grocery store for reasonable prices on anything we can find there. Now that the weather's nice, we'll add the farmer's market to the mix, too.

This is getting more natural...we've gradually added more to the list of unprocessed foods we're buying. Hubby hadn't even considered the processed nature of the flavored coffees he drinks, but when he ran out, he instinctively reached for the plain, fair trade stuff.

The kids have also become good label readers - counting ingredients, asking their grandparents if certain foods are processed, making an informed decision that they want a little processed cereal. The little guy has completely bought into mommy-muffins and mommy-Popsicles again.

We are excited to be able to go out to eat's one of our favorite special treats. But I think we'll be more conscious about what we order. Last night at the pizza place, we ordered a big salad and ate that before the pizza arrived, in the hopes that we'd fill up more on green food. I'm excited to make some goodies with white flour, even though I'm very happy with how adjusted we've gotten to 100% whole wheat tortillas, pizza crusts, rolls, muffins.

Overall, this month has been great. I'm proud of how well we did, even with challenges like the stomach flu, injuries, conferences, and long days. And I'm really hopeful that we can continue to live by the lessons we've learned.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Unprocessed pizza

One of the keys to our unprocessed success this month has been planning ahead ~ knowing what's for dinner ahead of time, having all of the ingredients ready in the house, avoiding last minute scrounging. However, tonight, I had nothing on the menu and our fridge is looking pretty bare.

Suddenly I thought about one of our go-to dinners: pizza! I had a couple of crusts in the freezer, but they were from a couple of months ago and were made with half white flour. I decided to give the KAF whole wheat pizza crust another try, since it had made such delicious calzones and crackers. I had some homemade pizza sauce in the deep freeze, and some fresh mozzarella left over from our calzones. We used black olives, mushrooms, pineapple, and red onion for our toppings; the only one of our usual toppings we couldn't use was pepperoni.

The pizza was delicious, even better than our other go-to recipes. And completely unprocessed!