Auntie Em's Guide to Life

A guide to all the important things in life- marriage, family, cooking, gardening, reading, travel, Christian living… And whatever else grabs my attention!

Real Food Challenge– What Do I Eat?

As you know if you’ve been reading this week, Auntie Em has taken on The 7-Day Real Food Challenge presented by Mary’s Kitchen. As I said in my “What Do You Mean, Real Food Challenge?” post, that may mean different things to different people. A very strict Real Food diet would include ONLY fresh, whole food in its original form. That’s more restrictive than fits my lifestyle, so rather than toss it out completely, I’m doing a modified one. (You can read my guidelines on the “What Do You Mean?” post.)

(Obviously) Eat Fresh or Frozen Fruits and Veggies.

Limit your fruits if you are trying to lose weight or keep your sugar down, as they are higher in natural sugars. Real butter is a real food– flavor with that or with olive oil. Don’t use margarine or “lite” stuff. This kind of cooking/eating is time consuming, so be smart about it: Cook larger quantities and then just reheat them for subsequent meals. Here are just a few Auntie Em recipes:

Auntie Em’s Country Squash

Tropical Fruit Salad

“Complicated” Fruit Salad (It’s really effortless!)

Garden Fresh Broccoli

Broccoli Salad

Green Beans

For several months I’ve been starting my day with a packet of oatmeal. *bangs head on table* Compare the ingredients in the first picture (pre-packaged) and the canister (1-minute rolled oats).

I don't know what these are. Do you?  ingredients only rolled oats

These still wouldn’t pass muster on a strict Real Food diet, but they are a lot closer than the boxed, packaged stuff. Rule of thumb: The more steps between original food and your mouth, the less “real” it is. Mr. Quaker Oats had to do something to make those oats cook in 1 minute. (For a simple explanation of the journey from oats from the field to steel cut oats, to rolled oats, to quick oats, check here.)   I made up a “2-serving” batch (1 cup of oats, 2 cups water) and added a chipped-up apple, a tsp of cinnamon, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1 TBS maple syrup. Good! 2/3 cup was plenty. I added a TBS of vanilla almond milk for a little extra and it was quite tasty. A little more trouble up front, but now for several days I will be able to just microwave it like the little package.

From packaged oatmeal to quick oats: Progress!

I used to take 4 packets of Splenda in my large mug of coffee. (Don’t judge) Now, I pour my half and half and sip. Not terrible. Then I add ONE Splenda and it tastes quite sweet enough!

4 Splenda packets to 1: Progress!

I’ve used spaghetti squash in place of pasta– a lot of trouble but okay taste and texture. Today I julienned zucchini and sautéed it, then topped with spaghetti sauce. Just as good, and much less trouble!

Pasta to vegetable: Progress!

Main dishes

A salad is great! Add chicken or any other meat you grilled last night. Be wary of croutons and salad dressing. Those are often very processed. Make your own salad dressing- cheaper, healthier, and you get exactly what you want. Soups and stews are another great way to eat clean. Add homemade broth and fresh or frozen veggies to meat and you’ve got it.

Desserts

I made this paleo strawberry shortcake that was pretty good. I used real whipped cream, not Cool Whip.

{Guiltless} Paleo Strawberry Shortcake | Fitcupcaker

I haven’t fixed many desserts– if anything, we are mostly eating fruit — because we are trying to cut calories too. And as my wise son said, “If it’s superfluous, why eat it?”

I hope I’ve given you a bit to “chew on” in your Real Food journey!

Mary's Kitchen: Real Food Challenge day 3

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Real Food Challenge- Here’s Help

When I start something new, especially if it’s very far outside my “box,” I need a lot of information and encouragement! Fortunately for me, there are many sources available.

I mentioned Mark’s Daily Apple and Balanced Bites in my Paleo 101 post.

For Real Food/clean eating, I like Mary’s Kitchen (the 7-Day Challenge host) and Just Eat Real Food.  (I sometimes have trouble accessing her site, but I can get to her Facebook  and Pinterest pages.)

For the whole fitness thing, including exercise, my IRL friend Aimee has a wonderful FB page called Aimee’s Corner. You will find tons of encouragement, along with humor and grace here.

Cover Photo

Another is Scooby’s Workshop. My son started on a healthy journey in January and has lost *80* pounds! He says he’s learned everything from Scooby.

Scooby's Workshop

I have to share before and after pictures. Handsome, huh?

Before After

He took shirtless pics too, that really show the dramatic change. You can see the before and after if you want. (I didn’t want to shock anyone with pictures of a shirtless man!) He has completely changed his eating– mostly fish, brown rice or quinoa, and a green veg; and only water to drink. He’s also become an athlete! He began by walking, then intervals of running/walking, and now is running 2 or more miles at a time, plus bicycling. He uses an app called Runtastic to track his miles.

There are a world of websites and apps to help you in your journey to good health. Just be careful that you don’t get stuck in researching them to death, trying to make the PERFECT decision, and neglect to actually DO anything! (I’m preaching to myself lol!)

7 day real food challenge Mary's healthy meals

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Real Food Challenge/Paleo 101

I’m taking the 7-Day Real Food Challenge with Mary’s Kitchen. (If you’d like to catch up, start here.) To tell the truth, I had overhauled my eating already, beginning around mid-June, and some posts had been floating around in my head; I thought the Challenge was the perfect time to pin me down! I’ve found some good resources that have helped.

PALEO DIET

A strict paleo diet doesn’t include any dairy or grains, and though I’m not quite willing to go that far, I am using a modified paleo diet. (I love my rice and beans and half-and-half in my coffee!) With my wheat allergy, their no-grain philosophy has given me some good alternatives, and I’ve learned a lot about nutrition by reading up on this diet. The resources I’ve used have talked at length about the connection between what they’ve termed the SAD diet (Standard American Diet) and many, many of the health problems that plague our country: obesity, high blood pressure and cholesterol, lupus, ADD, etc. I understood enough to see that most nutrition absorption occurs in our small intestine, and when we try to process foods that we were not designed to process, (especially all the added chemicals!) inflammation results– and that inflammation affects our immune system and wreaks havoc. Paleo also stresses blood sugar regulation and the dangers of huge spikes resulting from processed carbs and sugars.
Practical Paleo

by Diane Sanfilippo

This book was recommended by my friend who has lost a lot of weight by changing what she was eating. Like me, she does more of a Real Food diet than strict paleo. What I liked about the book was that the author took all her scientific knowledge and put it in easy-to-follow, practical applications. She has a good website, too, called Balanced Bites. In addition to teaching about how paleo diets work in your body, she has 30-day menu plans designed to address particular health needs like high blood pressure and cholesterol, autoimmune diseases, cancer recovery, and others.

Mark’s Daily Apple website Blackboard grok2

Read his “Primal Blueprint” in a nutshell on his website. To put it in an even smaller shell, it’s this:

  • Diet–Eat things that occur in nature and avoid poisons.
  • Exercise– Move around a lot at a slow pace (Think hunter-gatherer); run really fast once in a while (Think being chased by lions); and lift heavy things.
  • Lifestyle– Play, get plenty of sleep, get sunshine every day, avoid trauma, and use your mind.

After bingeing a couple of days reading everything I could find about Paleo diets, I found this TED talk on “Debunking the paleo myth!” Dr. Warinner, an archeological scientist, basically says that they are not based on science. However, she says there are a lot of good things about the diet: (If you can’t watch the whole video, please at least watch the 3-point wrap up beginning at 17:00.)

  • Dietary diversity: Vary your food types as much as possible– the SAD is headed toward fewer, not more foods: wheat, corn, and soy.
  • Fresh, natural foods: We don’t really know the effect chemical additives and preservatives on our bodies, but we are inundating them with chemicals that we were not designed to ingest.
  • Whole foods: Consume foods in as close to their natural state as possible, including “their fiber and roughage, and everything.” When we eat processed foods, we get far too many calories in a very compact form, and miss the other important parts that tell us we’re full, slow down the absorption of nutrients in our gut, and regulate our blood sugar. This contributes to obesity and other health problems.

For me the game changer from this whole video was the information about sugar and how our bodies are designed to absorb it. To get the equivalent amount of sugar in a 32 ounce soda, can you guess how much sugar cane you’d have to eat? Anyone? EIGHT AND A HALF FEET! As Dr. Warinner says, there is no possible way you could eat that much sugar cane– even if you really, really wanted to! And now we can get the equivalent amount of sugar in about 20 minutes.

If you want to improve your diet, but all this real food/paleo diet information is overwhelming, simply make a few simple changes.

  • Begin reading labels and if there are more than 5 ingredients, don’t buy it.
  • If you don’t know what some of the ingredients are, don’t buy it. (They are probably highly processed additives to cheaply add or enhance flavor, or else preservatives.) Instead of buying frozen veggies in sauce, buy plain frozen veggies and make your own. Or eat them plain, with some natural, full-fat butter!
  • Avoid foods that are no-fat or “lite.” These usually have other things added to make up for what’s taken out, and they are worse for you than the real stuff. If you are limiting calories, just skip them altogether or limit them.

7 day real food challenge Mary's healthy meals

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What Do You Mean, Real Food Challenge?

I’ve decided to join Mary’s Kitchen’s 7-Day Real Food Challenge beginning today. In her Details and Recipes post, Mary asks the question, What IS Real Food? She explains that it might mean different things to different people.

You know me, and know I believe in the “Every little helps” philosophy. So I’m not going to set forth a long list of strict rules for myself. Here  are the guiding principles of my particular Real Food Diet:

  1. If God made it, it’s okay. If man made it, be careful.
  2. If it has more than 5 ingredients, be careful.
  3. If it has added sugar, MSG, or unpronounceable chemicals, be careful.
  4. Get organic or the closest to organic possible.
  5. Avoid or at least limit food allergens.

“Be careful” means knowing that it might not be best for me but I might eat it anyway. For example, I have seriously reduced the Splenda in my coffee– from 4 packets to 1. But I just can’t quite lose that last one!

Fortunately, Mr X has always liked what he calls “farm food” — plain vegetables and meat without sauces or being mixed together, and they are the perfect Real Food, especially if you can get organic.

My diet is further complicated by food allergies. I’m mildly allergic to milk, corn, yeast, and eggs. I’m ALMOST allergic to wheat, soy, and coconut. Have you ever tried to plan meals without using wheat, milk, corn, or eggs? Complicated! These allergies affect my sinuses, mostly in my ear area, and are cumulative, so a little doesn’t really hurt, but the more I eat the worse it gets. If it’s spring or fall, when my grass/tree/mold/dust allergies are on overload, I have to be especially careful!

And a further complication is that besides getting healthy nutrition, I’m striving to reach a healthy weight. I’m using the “Lose It” app and when I say I’d like to lose 1 1/2 pounds a week, it says I should eat 1,055 calories, then screams a warning that nobody should eat less than 1200. So I have to choose foods that will give me the most nutrition for the calories I eat.

Real Food Diet Goals:

  1. Overall good health via nutrition
  2. Avoidance of added chemicals
  3. Weight loss
  4. Lowered cholesterol

What changes do you need to make in your diet? What are some EASY baby steps you can start with today? Join me the rest of the week and let’s figure this out together!

Mary's Kitchen

8 Comments »

7-Day Real Food Challenge

Events have been conspiring to make me more and more aware of my health, including my diet, weight, and exercise. I need to lose at least 20 lbs and have been “trying” to lose 5 for about 5 years.

I saw a good friend for the first time in several months and she had lost a significant amount of weight– she looked great! Of course I asked what she had changed, and she said she was eating a combination of paleo and real food. Was she exercising? Not really. She said as she eliminated bad food and allergens from her diet, she felt better and just naturally moved more, but she had not been doing a cardio routine or anything like that. She recommended a book called Practical Paleo.

Then my son began losing weight. He’s always been big– he weighed 9 lbs when he was born; always wore 2-3 sizes larger than his age; was a head taller than most kids in his class. But his weight had gotten way too high and he was having high blood pressure issues at a very young age. (He’s 27.) High blood pressure runs in Mr X’s side of the family, but not beginning that early.

So he just decided it was time to do something about it. I’m a terrible mother and really didn’t notice until he had lost between 30-40 lbs. (In my defense, he lives a couple of hours away and we see him only every month or 2, and he would always wear baggy clothes, so it was hard to tell.)

What was his secret? Cardio and “if man made it, don’t eat it.”

And in May I’d gone for an annual checkup and my cholesterol was a bit high. The doctor said it needed to come down, so try diet and exercise, have it tested again in the summer, and if it didn’t lower I would need to take medicine. I’m determined NOT to do that!

So the past month I’ve been working toward a real food/paleo/no allergen diet, and “moving” (I like that term better than “exercising”) more than I have been before. Then, in that funny way God has of working things together for our good, I found Mary’s Kitchen’s 7 Day Real Food Challenge. I don’t even remember how I found her! But I thought participating would be good incentive for me to stick with it and also help me do it better. It officially kicks off tomorrow. I’ll be doing posts this week about what I’ve learned.

Wanna join me?

Mary's Kitchen

Here are links to some good info on Mary’s blog:

Eating Real Food is Easy

Details and Recipes: 7-Day Real Food Challenge

What About Liquids? Our 7-Day Real Food Challenge

14 Comments »

Auntie Em’s Tropical Fruit Salad

tropical fruit saladFor a girlie salad luncheon there is nothing more fitting than a fruit salad– it’s sweet (yay sweets!) but relatively healthy, with no added sugar, gluten, or processed foods. (Yay for those of us who are “trying to avoid cookies!”)

I just cut up lots of fresh fruits: watermelon, honeydew, cantaloupe, strawberries, kiwi, and pineapple. Try to cut them all in similar size chunks. Mix together and you have a beautiful, sweet, healthy dish!

Shake it up with a dressing of some kind, or whipped cream– or add nuts or coconut. We like it plain, though!

5 Comments »

I Saw it on Pinterest! Zucchini Fries

oven fried zucchini fries

oven fried zucchini fries

I love zucchini, and it’s supposedly one of the most prolific producers in home gardens.. Of the 3 years I’ve planted it, that’s been true only 1 year. I harvested exactly *two* small ones this year before the vine borers got my plants. I’ve planted more since then but they aren’t yet mature enough to produce.
I tried these “fries” and they were a big hit! I repined it from my “food” board to my “I DID IT!” board.

Start by slicing the zucchini in strips about 1/2 x 1/2 and 4 inches long.

The recipe called for dipping in an egg wash but I used buttermilk. (like I do for my fried chicken) I like lots of pepper too! Here is where you season them, though you can add seasons in your bread crumbs too.

oven fried zucchini friesThen dip in some kind of breading. I used Italian style Panko. I got some rice-flour “Gourmet Fish Fry” that I want to try, too. Cornmeal would also be good.

Line a pan with parchment paper, then lay the strips on a wire rack and bake at 450 for about 15 minutes. Lots of variables can change the cooking time– the thickness of the zucchini, how much water it has– so check often. Cook it to the degree of brownness you like. Delish!

oven fried zucchini fries oven fried zucchini fries

8 Comments »

Auntie Em’s Special Chicken Salad

I love to make and eat chicken salad, and people usually tell me they love mine… so you know me– I’m spilling all my secrets! (See The Holy Bird for some more chicken ideas and details.)

I normally roast or steam chicken breasts. (In my opinion, boiling them takes away too much flavor.) Steaming makes them really soft and tender to chew. Cut or shred them as coarsely or finely as you like.

This time I was pressed for time and used canned chicken. I didn’t hear any complaints!

Auntie Em's Chicken Salad

1. Prepare chicken- steam or roast chicken breasts then chop or shred, or drain canned chicken. Use 1 1/2 or 2 cups to make 4-6 servings.

2. Add 2 chopped Perfect Boiled Eggs.

3. Add a finely chopped medium apple.

4. Add 1/4-1/2 cup finely chopped onion.

5. Add 2-4 tbs sweet relish

6. Season with salt and pepper to taste. (Start with 1/2 tsp pepper and 1 tsp salt.)

7. Mix and stir in 1/2 cup Miracle Whip. Add more if you like.

This is a great dish to specialize. I like fruit in my chicken salad- you can also use sliced grapes, craisins, or orange slices.

You can add nuts– I usually add pecans, sometimes toasted by cooking over low heat in a pan about 5 minutes. (till you begin to smell them)

You can add celery for more crunch and fiber, and fewer calories.

You can replace the Miracle whip with mayonnaise or Greek yogurt.

You can replace the chicken with tuna, chopped ham, or chopped roast.

Serve it with crackers or on bread. It’s quick and easy, and a good 2nd generation meal!

9 Comments »

Auntie Em’s Savory Deviled Eggs

Deviled eggs are a great thing to take to a dinner or serve at home as an appetizer. I had a request from Rejoycin, so Denise, this is for you!

Start with Perfect Boiled Eggs. You’ll cut them in half, so do the math lol! (I always cook 1 or 2 more than I’ll actually need in case one falls apart, and I like to use the extra yolks for more filling.)

20130613-181632.jpg

Cut them in half longways and remove the yolks.

Auntie Em's Savory Deviled Eggs

Mash the yolks coarsely with a fork,

Auntie Em's Savory Deviled Eggsthen add what you want to get the flavor you want. Your options are limitless! Today I used 2 eggs, 2 tablespoons of Auntie Ems Honey Mustard dressing,  1/2 tsp salt and about 1/4 tsp pepper, a dash of onion and garlic powders, and 1 tablespoon of sweet relish.

Mix it all up and spoon it into your egg half.

Auntie Em's Savory Deviled Eggs

Auntie Em’s Savory Deviled Eggs

1. Cook and peel eggs.

2. Cut in half longways and remove yolks.

3. Mash yolks coarsely and add a binder, crunchies if you like, and seasoning.

Binders: mayonnaise, Miracle Whip, Greek yogurt, any flavor salad dressing, sour cream, etc.

Crunchies: sweet or dill pickle relish, onion, celery, apple, etc.

Seasoning: salt and pepper, onion or garlic powder, taco seasoning, Ranch or Italian dressing mix, etc.

This is truly a recipe where you can experiment and see what fits your mood! (Just be sure to write down what you do so you will remember!)

4 Comments »

Perfect Boiled Eggs

It’s easy to go wrong when cooking eggs– mostly the culprit is over cooking! But even if you cook them right, peeling them can be a problem, and nothing is worse than trying to make deviled eggs and your whites have big gaping holes in them! Try Auntie Em’s simple tips and see if they help. They will be great to eat plain or to use in Auntie Em’s Savory Deviled Eggs, Special Chicken Salad, or Cornbread Dressing!

In a small saucepan, cover eggs with water and put the lid on the pan.

perfect boiled eggs

When it gets ALMOST to the boiling point, reduce the heat. There’s about a quart of water in here and I had the fire on high for about 7 minutes. There should be bubbles on the bottom of the pan, just beginning to come up.

perfect boiled eggs

Reduce heat to low; keep the lid on, and let simmer 10 minutes. Immediately pour off the water and cover your eggs with lots of ice-cold water. This is a good time to use up the old ice from a drippy ice maker, or that has stuck together at the bottom of the ice container! Leave them for at least 5 minutes.

perfect boiled eggs

To shell the egg, tap it gently on the side of the sink, then roll it against it. You want a fine web of cracks all round. The ice water usually makes the shell separate from the egg and slip right off. (If you’re making deviled eggs, it’s still a good idea to make a couple of extras just in case.)

To use in salads, I use this handy dandy little egg slicer:

perfect boiled eggs
For chicken salad, I rotate the sliced egg and slice again.

perfect boiled eggs

perfect boiled eggs

perfect boiled eggs

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