Wednesday, March 23, 2016

K.I.S.S.- Keep It Simple, Silly!

   One of the most common questions I get asked is how I learned to cook the way I do in order to feed my family the way we do. Here's my secret: I am not a professional cook. I've learned the basics by trial and error. That's IT. I promise. Over the years I have burned so much, destroyed so much, and served my family so many meals I ate while apologizing for the awfulness. You don't need any special skills to cook well. You just need to try. I get inspiration from places like Pinterest, Food Network, cook books, and magazines like Vegetarian Times, but in general those recipes are all way more complicated than I have time for in my life.

   We purposefully eat a cleaner diet mainly for the purposes of health and dealing food allergies, and people ask how I manage. Believe it or not, it's not hard. At all. I think we as society over-complicate meals. We put each meal in a box of what we think it should look like, and struggle to find our way out of that box. What's breakfast to you? Cereal and milk, eggs and toast, smoothies? What's lunch to you? A sandwich and chips, salad, a fast food or cafeteria lunch like a burger and fries? What if we stopped thinking about what a meal is supposed to look like and thought solely about nutrients? How do I do it? I just think of every meal needing a protein and two vegetables(or one veg and one fruit), and no more than 2 servings of bready/starchy carbs per day. When you look at meals that way, it's really, really not complicated. Breakfast around here can be homemade granola(oats, seeds, and nuts sweetened with honey) and a side of dried fruit, eggs and toast, or a cucumber-tomato salad and a side of cashews for protein. Lunch can be a sandwich with a protein filling and sides of carrot sticks and and apple, hummus with various veggies and organic tortilla chips for dipping, or cheese cubes or sunflower seeds for protein with a clementine and snow peas as sides. What's for lunch today? Well, Friday is grocery day which means the fridge is getting low so it's odds and ends. For protein  we're having hard-boiled eggs(but the egg-allergic guy will get to pick cashews or sunflower seeds instead) and a veggie "salad" I threw together of random fresh veg we had small amounts of:

-1/2 English cucumber, quartered then sliced
-1/2 yellow pepper, diced small
-1/2 red onion, quartered then sliced thin
- a big handful snow peas, chopped(don't have snow peas? frozen peas work well, too!)
- a big handful grape tomatoes, quartered.
- juice of 1 lemon
- generous splash of EVOO
- sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Dump it all in a bowl, stir. There you have it. Nothing fancy, but it made a delicious, really  nutritious, good size bowl of a veggie salad that is the all-important "rainbow" for multiple nutrients, and more than enough to feed myself and my four kids for lunch, and likely leftovers to be packed in my husband's lunch tomorrow. It took me less than five minutes, cost literal cents to make, was from scraps in the produce drawer, and with a simple protein side makes a great lunch.
   That's one of the major ways I make clean, allergy-friendly eating on a budget work for our family. No wasting food, no garbage ingredients, and a really nutrient-dense, fast and easy meal with simple ingredients.
   I dare you to change the way you look at meals for one week. Or one day! Think nutrients- Protein, multiple veggies, every meal, with a grain and a fruit at one of the meals.

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