Real {Fast} Food

A couple of years ago I started picking up food items and reading their nutritional labels;  then, I started researching some of the ingredients that were in the foods we were eating, especially the quick and easy snacks. I quickly discovered the long list of seemingly needless and unhealthy ingredients that were in the foods that I purchased on weekly basis. These were just a couple of the reasons that really motivated me to focus on eating all-natural, real foods.

To make healthy eating more affordable I learned to replace our convenience foods with things we would all eat.  I also started stocking up on more locally grown meats, fresh produce (starting with bananas and green beans then adding more ingredients as time went on), whole grains, and dairy.  I learned that when we eat real foods we aren’t as hungry throughout the day.  The most difficult thing for me was learning how to cook with these ingredients, some of which were completely new to me.  I had to learn that the kitchen was nothing to fear, and that a little bit of trial and error goes a long way. After that, I began to relax – to just chill out and eat!  Below are a list of the some of the tips and ideas I’ve learned along the way that help keep me on track when all I am craving is “junk food.”

5 Tips for Eating More Fruits & Vegetables

1.     Sautéed vegetables are one of the easiest ways to stop your cravings for traditional comfort food while also getting in several veggies at the same time.  My favorite combination is carrots, Brussels sprouts, kale, garlic, and onion cooked in olive oil.  I always keep some of this made in the fridge and just reheat in the microwave or on the stovetop.

2.     Who doesn’t like a lovely salad topped with all of your favorite fixings?  Salads are so versatile and can be sweet, salty, or a combination of both.

3.     I’ve written about green smoothies in the past, and they are still my go-to drink for getting several fruits and veggies in my system as fast and easily as possible. Juicing is another way to get the good stuff fast!

4.     Vegetable soup, with or without meat, is a great way to have a filling, one-pot meal.  Try making a soup with bits and pieces of the vegetables you save from meals earlier in the week.  You can also make a vegetable stock by simply boiling “day old” vegetables in purified water.  Freeze the stock to add to soups later.

5.     Raw Veggies will become your new favorite snack once you try this delicious ranch dressing that my friend Dana is famous for!

Dana’s homemade ranch dressing:

1 cup mayonnaise

½ cup sour cream or buttermilk

1/2 teaspoon each chopped chives, parsley, granulated garlic and onion powder

1/4 teaspoon chopped dill weed

1/8 teaspoon each salt and pepper

Mix everything together in a bowl. Serve immediately or refrigerate for a couple of hours to allow the flavors to meld.

5 Tips for an Easier Breakfast

1.     Granola, whether bought at the farmers’ market, made yourself, or purchased at the store, can be an excellent way to start your day.  Add fruit, nuts, milk, or anything else that sounds good to make it a more complete meal.

2.     Soaked oatmeal using rolled or steel cut oats is a more nutritious and a heartier way to start your day.  Soaking it in milk, cream, or coconut milk helps prepare the oatmeal for digestion.  Simply prepare it and put it in the fridge the night before and then its ready to heat up for breakfast.  A couple tablespoons of yogurt will make it even better!

3.     Add whey to your smoothie for a quick and easy meal in a mug.  Combine 1 scoop 100% whey powder, ½ cup almond or coconut milk, frozen berries, and as many ice cubes as you desire.  This is also great after a workout!

4.     Soaked Chia is both a nutritious and interesting way to start your morning.  Remember the “Cha-cha-cha Chia” commercials selling the oddly shaped molds of turtles, lambs and other hilarious figures?  Well, it turns out that these seeds are super nutritious!  Simply add 1 to 2 tablespoons of chia seeds to ½ cup water or coconut milk and allow it to congeal on the counter for 15-20 minutes or in your fridge overnight.  In the morning you can add honey and/or fruit for a breakfast packed with Omega fatty acids, B vitamins, protein, and calcium.

5.     There’s nothing like over-easy, fresh, farm-raised brown eggs in the morning.  When we are in a hurry I’ll put a piece of thick cut toast in the bottom of a mason jar and top it with an over easy egg for an on-the-go breakfast meal!  You can also throw in some cooked spinach, mushrooms, browned sausage, Parmesan cheese or anything else leftover in your fridge.

5 Tips for Quick & Health Lunches That Can Be Frozen in Small Quantities

1.     Combine cooked rice (made with vegetable bouillon or stock) with your favorite vegetables and spread out onto a long pan and freeze.  Once it is frozen you can cut it into 4 x 4 inch squares and freeze individually for a quick lunch or snack.   I learned this tip from my midwife Tracey!

2.     Baked fish or chicken can be a healthy, fast way to get some lean protein in minutes.  Place on top of a huge bed of greens for a more complete lunch.

3.     Keep some romaine in your fridge for some quick and easy lettuce wraps.  This is another way to use up any meat, cheeses, and vegetables in your fridge.  Use mayo or your favorite dressing for a more satisfying meal.

4.     Combine 1 can tomato sauce with 1 cup water or chicken broth and 2-4 TBS Heavy Cream for a soup as good as Campbell’s!

5.     Start with chicken broth (homemade or store bought) and onion, garlic and then any vegetables and meat pieces you have on hand.  This is a frugal way to make sure you use up all of the good stuff in your fridge.

A Quick Lunch Tip from Jordan’s Local Kitchen

“For this quick and simple meal, do two things. First, put a few pieces of bacon in the oven to bake, and toss some cooked beans in a pot. If you’re feeling really fancy, you can sauté some onions and/or garlic. Heat the beans, adding in a little olive oil to keep them from being dry, until good and hot. You could just eat that as is with a little sea salt and call it quits. But really, some greens added in won’t hurt. So, second, go ahead and toss in a good handful. I stir mine around just enough to barely wilt them, using the heat from the beans. It keeps them a little chewy and retains more of the nutrients. Last time I made this, I had some cooked pumpkin in the fridge that I stirred in at the last minute. I know it sounds a little odd, but it added a nice extra flavor and is so good for you. Remember that bacon? It’s probably done by now and just begging to be crumbled up on top of your beans. To top it all off, drizzle with a little more olive oil and some sea salt. Enjoy.”  Jordan Douglas

Combine the following:

4 cup (cooked) beans
4-6 stripes of bacon, cooked
Two large handfuls of greens (spinach or kale)
Olive oil

Real {Fast} Food & LOCAL
for those in the Southern Kentucky area

And for those weeks when I just don’t have that much time to cook I’m thankful I can grab a handful of Bespoke granola, pull some Tamales by Amanda out of the freezer, top an Esters Farm Baked Goods pizza crust with some homemade sauce and veggies, or heat up some Hillbilly Grillers BBQ when we are busy and on the go! And when the kids want a treat, they are willing to wait until Saturday for a Meltdown {simply delectable iced cream}.   All of these items are conveniently available at the Community Farmers’ Market on Saturdays, and I’ve learned to stock up for the week.  Real food doesn’t have to mean hours and hours in the kitchen!

For more tips and ideas visit our Get Inspired page with links to our favorite local recipes.