Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Favorite Whole Foods Recipes and Resources

As a homeschool wife/mom and a notorious ‘researcher,' I’ve had an interest in nutrition and a healthier lifestyle for quite some time. I know that I must have adequate energy and a positive attitude in order to keep up with all my responsibilities, and I enjoy reading about the topic and experimenting in the kitchen. But I remember when I first seriously started searching for nutritional answers for my family…

About fifteen years while browsing in a Christian bookstore, I stumbled upon the book The 15 Minute Meal Planner by Emilie Barnes and Sue Gregg. I already had many of Emilie’s organizational books and loved her writing, so I bought this book…and needless to say, a whole new world was opened up for me. I eagerly soaked up all the nutritional information and practical advice about incorporating a whole foods diet, and immediately I set out to revamp all of our eating habits. I hit the health food stores, bought all kinds of “healthy” ingredients, and began churning out “healthy” dishes. Let’s just say that all went over like a LEAD BALLOON! Learn from my mistakes. If you want to change the way you eat and encourage your family to embrace a whole foods lifestyle…do it S-L-O-W-L-Y…one step at a time.

So, I was back to square one. I may have been discouraged, but I wasn’t defeated. I was still determined to incorporate more whole foods into our diet, but I had learned a valuable lesson. I kept reading and learning, but this time I took baby steps. First of all, I started serving more fruits and vegetables and substituted brown rice for white rice. That worked out great. Later, I introduced store-bought whole wheat bread and whole wheat pasta…so far, so good. Very few complaints! When you are used to white bread and white pasta and rice, the heavier texture of whole grains takes some getting used to…but it comes…eventually…or at least it did in our home. I also started using meat as a compliment to our meal instead of the main focus, and I began substituting store-bought whole wheat flour for white flour, first 1/4 to 3/4, the 1/2 to 1/2, etc. But these changes were made over several months. Patience, patience!

During this ‘transition’ time, I purchased the set of Sue Gregg cookbooks. I wanted them right after I bought The 15 Minute Meal Planner, but I had to save up my birthday and Christmas money…it was a great investment. I learned so much from these cookbooks, and they are still a permanent fixture in my kitchen. I’ll admit that I don’t always use the recipes word for word, but I did learn a lot about the concept of whole foods cooking! Below this post, you will find one of our favorite recipes using lentils that comes from her ‘Main Dishes’ cookbook.

During this time, I also purchased Hearth and Home by Karey Swan. I’ll admit I bought this book on a whim while ordering some of my homeschool books from CBD, but it turned out to be one of the best books on homemaking and the whole foods lifestyle that I’ve ever read. I refer to it all the time. And because of Karey’s information about baking homemade bread and using freshly ground whole grains, I was inspired to try new whole grains and save up for a grain mill and a Bosch kitchen machine…but that came later. I was still learning (and I still am).

Fast forward a year or two. We moved to a new town where my husband began pastoring a new church. We joined a new homeschool group, and made new friends. New, new, new! And it just so happens that one of my new friends was an expert on grinding whole wheat flour and baking whole wheat bread. She invited me over for a bread making session and allowed me to try out her Whisper Mill, Bosch, and Vita-Mix. Now I was hooked for sure. I kept saving gift money, and my friend was able to get a great deal on a Whisper Mill and Bosch through one of her good friends who also happened to be a distributor of bread making supplies in Texas. I was in business! And somewhere along the way, I also added two other great cookbooks, More With Less and Whole Foods For the Whole Family. Both are great resources filled with wonderful recipes!

Fast forward to the year 2000. We moved back to the family farm where we now live. Many healthy habits were now in place, but with this move I lost easy access to my bread baking supplies and whole grains. But after doing some internet research, I found a co-op in a nearby town that uses Bread Becker’s delivery out of the Atlanta area. Eventually, a sweet lady in our church took over that co-op, moving it even closer to home, and she does an EXCELLENT job of running it, sending out a newsletter with recipes and information, and answering questions about using whole foods. So, every three months I can order buckets of whole grains, oats, baking supplies, etc. Very convenient!

Now, let me say this. We are by no means purists! I sometimes do use white flour and white sugar. And instead of a sweet ‘tooth’…everyone in my family has sweet ‘teeth’! And although my husband will eat homemade whole wheat bread, he actually still prefers Capt. John Derst bread. But my children would honestly rather go without bread than eat anything BUT homemade. They also prefer the whole oats that I buy through the co-op, and we do eat a lot of oatmeal. I sweeten it with Sucanat or honey, and add locally grown blueberries that we buy each year by the gallons and raw sunflower seeds that I purchase through the co-op as well. I did have an electric tortilla press and baker, and we used it a lot until I wore it out–now I need to get another one. I cook black beans or pintos either in the pressure cooker or slow cooker, and we have homemade burritos for lunch.

Many nights I will bake whole wheat sour cream cornbread using freshly ground whole wheat flour and freshly ground cornmeal. I do try to make healthier substitutions in favorite recipes (and I know some of this is debatable)…for example, whole wheat flour for white, whole wheat angel hair pasta for white spaghetti noodles, Sucanat for brown sugar, honey for white sugar, olive oil for shortening, non-fat plain yogurt for sour cream, etc. We drink a lot of water, and my children love fruit! I’ve dabbled in buying organic meat, eggs, and milk (I love organic skim milk!), but that has been a bit cost prohibitive. We eat a lot of veggies, brown rice, barley, lentils, and other whole grains and legumes.I know we are not where I would like us to be, but we are so much further along the healthy eating path than we once were! And I admit that I make progress in spurts…then I fall off the healthy lifestyle wagon. I get up, brush myself off, and start again. It’s not a diet…it’s a lifestyle…and it’s one that takes time and effort. But it is SO worth it.

Oh, I almost forgot. There are two great websites that I visit often that have wonderful recipes and information on the whole foods lifestyle…Crystal Miller’s The Family Homestead and Healthy Hillbilly Housewife. Check ‘em out!

Recipes Worth Trying:

Lentil Rice Casserole
From Sue Gregg’s ‘Main Dishes’ Cookbook

1. Blend all together in casserole dish except the cheese (wash lentils and rice, if needed).

3 cups chicken broth
3/4 cup uncooked lentils
1/2 cup uncooked brown rice
1/2 cup intstant minced onion flakes or 1 small onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon basil leaves
1/4 teaspoon oregano leaves
1/4 teaspoon thyme leaves
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
3/4 cup grated cheese, optional
*Note: sometimes I doctor this up a little more with salt and pepper or addtional spices…it’s your preference!

2. Bake covered at 300 degrees for 2 – 2 1/2 hours until tender and water is absorbed.

3. To serve, top hot casserole with the grated cheese and stir it in.
Makes 4 to 6 servings:

Many times we will put this mixture into tortillas and top with addtional cheese and sour cream, lettuce, tomatoes, etc….sort of like a burrito. Delicious and economical!

Whole Wheat Sour Cream Cornbread

3/4 cup cornmeal (I use freshly ground)
1 cup whole wheat flour (I use freshly ground)
1 tsp. soda
1 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. salt
2 1/2 tsp. sugar or substitute
1 egg, beaten
2 T. melted butter (I use olive oil)
1 cup sour cream (fat-free okay or substitute with non-fat plain yogurt)
4 T. milk (or more to make right consistency)

Sift flour and cornmeal; add soda, cream of tartar, and salt. Add beaten egg, sour cream, milk, and melted butter (or oil). Beat thoroughly. Pour into a greased 9 inch square pan. Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes.

*Note: Sometimes I double this recipe…one 9 inch pan usually isn’t enough for my hungry crowd…especially with this favorite recipe!

Baked Oatmeal

3 cups dry oatmeal
1 cup milk
1/2 cup butter (yes, but it’s good!)
1 cup brown sugar (I use Sucanat)
2 eggs
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla (I make my own)
1/2 cup to 1 cup blueberries
1/2 cup nuts (we have pecan trees, but sometimes I use almonds or sunflower seeds instead of pecans)
2 tsp. baking powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter; stir in sugar, vanilla and eggs. Add oats, nuts, and dry ingredients. Stir in milk. Fold in berries. Pour into an 8 inch greased dish. Bake 20-25 minutes or until firm in center.

*Note: This is another recipe that I always double. Also, I make mine a little soupier because my husband doesn’t really like it too dry. Chopped apple and maybe some nutmeg is also a delicious option. This is SO good!

Whatever stage of ‘nutrition re-assessment’ you are in, just learn as much as you and make the necessary baby steps to improve your diet. Take it slow, but be persistent and consistent. The dividends of a whole foods lifestyle are great!


Milly said...

I never knew this! Very inspiring!

Amy O'Quinn said...

Thanks, Milly for your comment! Yep..for me, I know WHAT to do...I just need to keep doing it! LOL I do enjoy cooking this way, and it's so much healthier!
Love ya!