In my constant quest for fabulous food, I have made some encouraging changes this year that I wanted to share. I feel like many of these may be "duh" ideas that you have been taking advantage of for years, but hey, I'm not usually ahead of the curve when it comes to basic life skills. PLEASE leave even more suggestions for me in the comments, below - I love being inspired to eat well!
1. If I can make something myself, then don't let someone else make it for me. This is a simple rule that radically changes what I eat. Partnered with my challenge to live locally this year, preparing my own food, rather than relying on processed products, is increasing my LOVE for all things fresh and homemade. I've always experimented with delicious home-cooked dinners, but I haven't been as diligent about breakfast and snack foods in the past. And I've had a minor fear of baking, especially since my (picked-up for free) oven doesn't always maintain a steady temperature for the intended cook time. However, I have bravely pushed forward this year, successfully baking from-scratch banana bread, coconut-zucchini bread, sweet potato muffins, and my first not-from-a-bread-machine loaf of honey whole wheat bread (which my husband promptly devoured while I was out of town this weekend). This week, I am attempting homemade granola, and as soon as I can acquire the proper equipment, I'll try my hand at homemade cheese (mozzarella is supposed to be easy...compared to __?).
I'll make batches of pumpkin-raisin Belgian waffles and animal-shaped whole grain pancakes, then store the extras in the freezer, ready for any morning breakfast. Tortillas and vegetables make great homemade chips (my 2-year-old eats an entire bunch of oven-toasted kale), and I've discovered I like sweet potato fries. It is incredibly liberating (not to mention aromatic-home-filling) to prepare most of one's own food, and it gives me a new found respect for the housewives of old. A woman who can cook her food from scratch and feed her family from the work of her own hands - all while maintaining a beautiful, hospitable space and raising responsible children - is truly a woman worthy of praise.
2. Eat seasonally. The best food is what's in season, and while it's difficult to start living this motto in the thick of a Minnesota winter, I am doing my best to avoid foods that could not possibly grow here in this season of cold. I've organized my stacks of food magazines according to month so that I can quickly reach for an appropriate seasonal recipe, and I've started a 3-ring binder in which I am collecting successful meals.
3. Eat simply. Meals really don't have to be complicated or contain alot of ingredients to be enjoyed. For the last few weeks, I have used only recipes from the More with Less Mennonite cookbook - and 95% of the meals have been enjoyed by my whole family! This has cut down on my grocery bills and opened my eyes to how much I have available in my seemingly-empty kitchen. I am learning how to stock my pantry with basic staples that can create a whole variety of tasty, inexpensive meals. Who knew cheesy lentils could be such a hit?
I love sharing food with my daughter and watching her delight in kneading dough, stirring sauces, and dumping ingredients into a fresh batch of something yummy. I am excited when I consider that she may grow up valuing a homemade meal, understanding the cost of good food, and enjoying the benefits of kitchen fellowship. What a wise woman she would be!
*for other inspiring ideas about food, check out Michael Pollan's excellent - and quick read - Food Rules