Tuesday, April 24, 2012

100 Days of Real Food Mini Pledge and weekday breakfasts

Okay, so that's a hopelessly long title, but indulge me a minute.

Have you ever heard of 100 Days of Real Food? I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE that blog. Lisa Leake is so inspiring. She and her husband were raising two small girls when she read In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan. That was her wake up call. She wasn't even a mom who only fed her kids McDonald's Happy Meals and let them drink all the pop they wanted either. I'd say she was pretty normal about the diet her family ate, but she started to think... just what was in that neon pink Go-Gurt?

So, her, her husband and her two little girls didn't eat any processed food for 100 days. Nada. Can you imagine how difficult that would be? And while she was doing it, she decided to write a blog to chonicle the project. And give the rest of us tips and tricks she used to achieve her goal.

And, she encourages all her readers to try it themselves for 100 days. Or if that seems too daunting, a week--"mini pledges." I've been wanting to do one of her mini pledges for a while, but, to be honest, I just didn't think I could do it.

But a few weeks ago, I read on her blog about this one that I'm doing now: no low-fat, lite or fat-free food for one week. This one sounded pretty easy, so I took the plunge. When companies make products that are lite, low-fat or fat-free, they almost always replace the fat with sodium, sugar, or God-knows-what-else. Just like Lisa, at one time, I thought Snack Wells and fat-free ice-cream were the keys to the universe. That's been a few years ago, and I've come a long way since then. For about the past year and half, I've tried to avoid artificial sweeteners, both non-calorie and high fructose corn syrup. Foods that are marketed and labeled as low-fat, lite or fat-free are processed. That's how they got that way. No matter how "good" you think you're being by having that big bowl of fat-free ice cream, it's definitely not better for you (or better tasting for that matter) than they small scoop you could have of homemade ice cream made from real cream, eggs and natural sugar.

All this mini pledging and such happened about the time that I really started taking a hard look at what Jeremy and I eat for breakfast and lunch. I feature a lot of what we eat for dinner on this blog, but rarely do I mention breakfast or lunch, except occassionally when I talk about a breakfast I made on the weekend at home. Like pretty much everyone, we eat 10 meals a week--two meals a day on weekdays either at work, on the way to work, or on the way out the door to work.

Since I started cooking and eating more sustainably, seasonally and locally, this has been the one hurdle I just haven't been able to overcome. Because I needed something that could be eaten away from home, sometimes quickly and prepared easily, packaged food was just too easy. A few months ago, I finally stopped buying cereal for breakfast. Jeremy doesn't like cereal, but I am perfectly happy with 1 cup of cheerios with milk and a hard boiled egg. Everyday. I like oatmeal, but cereal is way quicker. Since Jeremy's kinda picky about breakfast (give him homemade biscuits and gravy everyday and he's happy). He doesn't really like cereal. Doesn't like oatmeal. Really likes biscuits, eggs, bacon, fried potatoes and the works, but I don't have time to make that every day. I used to buy him Hot Pockets or Eggo waffles or something like that from the freezer aisle. Bad, bad, bad for you and it got really expensive.

So the past few months, I've been making something on Sunday night to eat for breakfast all week. Something like apple cinnamon or berry muffins, zucchini bread, scones, a fritata, or some filling for some breakfast burritos ready to put in a tortilla. Although I started doing this for him, thinking I could eat an english muffin or oatmeal, I've been eating a lot of these breakfasts, too. I've gotten pretty good at making these breakfasts with an eye on the calorie count. I've looked for recipes that call for less sugar, substituting applesauce for the oil and using a mix of my stone-ground local flour and buckwheat flour. Here are a couple of the examples of our breakfasts from last week and this week: breakfast casserole and oatmeal with blackberries, demurra sugar and whole milk. Last summer I canned three pints of whole blackberries as an experiment to see if that would be just as good as freezing them. It's turned out even better. They kept their shape and sweetness wonderfully. I'll definitely be canning more like that this summer.

The casserole is super easy and delicious. It had some diced ham (frozen and leftover from the holidays), fresh spinach, crumbled goat cheese, and a sauteed onion in it with five eggs and a couple pinches of baking powder. You can put whatever you have on hand in it vegetable-wise. And you could leave the meat out of it if you wanted.

So back to the mini-pledge. No fat free coffee creamer in my coffee for breakfast this week. I've tried whole milk and heavy cream in my coffee this week. I like my regular half and half better, but I don't have any on had. If I'm out of half and half, I use the fat free vanilla I buy for Jeremy. But not this week.

I've had to make a few other minor adjustments, too, for lunch, but I'll write more about those on my next post, which will be about lunch.

Easy Breakfast Casserole (exactly as I made it in the picture)
Makes 6 servings
2 cups of diced ham
2-3 big handfuls of fresh spinach
1/2 large red onion, chopped
olive oil
5 large eggs
2 tsp of baking powder
1/4 cup of milk

Pre-heat oven to 350. Heat the olive oil in a skillet. Add the chopped onion, and saute until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the spinach to the skillet and maybe a tsp of water (optional, if needed). Put a lid on the skillet tight and let the spinach steam and wilt for about  a minute. Stir and replace the lid for another minute until spinach has wilted down. Beat 5 eggs in a large bowl. Add the milk and stir to completely combine. Add baking powder and stir well (it tends to clump up, so you might have to stir it quite a bit or break it up a bit with the wisk). Grease a 9x9 pan with butter, bacon grease or coconut oil (or use cooking spray). Add onions and spinach to egg mixture and ham. Pour into greased pan. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes until eggs are set and golden brown on top.

The variations on this dish are endless, and that is the beauty of it. Depending on what's in season, you could just use up some vegetables you have leftover from dinner. You could substitute the spinach with any kind of greens, such as kale or swiss chard. Also, other types of vegetables could be used such as zucchini, green peppers, corn, peas, hot peppers. I think a combination of smoked turkey, monterey jack cheese,  hot peppers, onions and a dash of chili powder would be interresting. You could make it a southwest casserole. Or kale, onions and diced boiled potatoes with goat cheese.

At the beginning of trying to come up with something healthy for breakfast Jeremy would like, I was kinda worried that I would run out of things to make and just have to rotate the same few meals all the time. This hasn't been the case at all. Mostly because you can always change up a muffin recipe based on what's in season, and the breakfast casserole is certainly adaptable. Also, sometimes I make a batch of waffles from scratch and just freeze them in a gallon zip-lock bag. You just toast them in the morning the same way you would an Eggo waffle. Jeremy hasn't complained yet, and now it seems like the sky's the limit once I really thought about it. I won't always have time to make something on Sunday night, so having waffles in the freezer, or toast with homemade jam is still an option. But this has been easy so far, and has actually benefited both of us--I thought a bowl of cereal was super fast, but actually grabbing a muffin on the way out the door is even faster and has gotten me to work early a few times.


  1. Honestly, I don't think I've eating anything low fat in years. I make oatmeal in the microwave (I know, evil, but quick) I use quick rolled oats with milk and in a few minutes I have breakfast. I also eat eggs a lot because we always have them around.

  2. I'm a big fan of oatmeal, but Jeremy isn't. I make mine in the microwave, too. I also love eggs--one of my favorite foods. Jeremy won't eat them unless they are scrambled or fried. For some reason, he doesn't like them hard boiled. Such a picky eater!