The Process of Eating Less Processed

Weaning My Family Off of Processed Foods – While Sneaking in Some Hidden Fruits and Veggies


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Turkey and Veggie Tacos – My Latest Success at Tricking My Family Into Eating Veggies

In my quest for easy foods and nutritious non-processed foods that my family will actually eat, tacos are a sure win. Everyone likes them. All 3 boys eat a ton of tacos, as do my husband and I. It is also super easy to make an extra big batch of taco meat, and then freeze the leftovers which can be quickly reheated for a convenient, non-processed meal.

What makes tacos even better is how easy it is to hide healthy stuff in them. I’ve been particularly successful at hiding veggies in our taco meat, and everyone still loves it. For my latest batch, I had to actually make the boys stop eating after all 3 of them had eaten almost as many veggie tacos as my husband and I.

So here is the recipe for my Turkey Veggie Tacos…

1.5 pounds ground turkey (the turkey I buy from Costco comes in 1.5 pound packs)
1/2 small onion (rough chopped)
1/2 medium sweet potato (peeled and rough chopped)
1 stalk celery (rough chopped)
1/2 red bell pepper (seeded and rough chopped)
1/2 cup baby carrots
1 clove garlic
1 tsp olive oil
1 TB ground cumin
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp ground oregano
1 tsp salt
(If your family prefers spicier tacos, you can add more chili powder and cumin. For my family my husband and I just add hot sauce to our tacos and let the kids have a milder meat).

Brown ground turkey. While meat is browning, add veggies and olive oil to food processor and process until you get a good puree consistency. Add veggie puree and spices to browned turkey (drained if you have too much fat drippings – the brand I use doesn’t really leave much for drippings so I don’t drain it). Cook for a few minutes stirring occasionally (you don’t want raw veggies in your taco meat, even if they are pureed). Serve with your favorite taco shell or tortilla, shredded cheese, lettuce and hot sauce if desired.

You can also add zucchini or spinach to puree depending on the veggies you have on hand. Give them a try and let me know what you think.

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Zucchini Brownie Bites – Yummy

Since I started doing the less processed thing, in a very public way, I sometimes find myself in the very frustrating situation where I feel like I have to publicly be less processed. To be honest, this is almost entirely self-imposed. I doubt that any of my family and friends would really scoff if I showed up with store-bought cookies for an event, but I feel like I can’t do that. So when I recently needed to bring a dessert to a family reunion, I found myself struggling to figure out what to bring as I felt like I couldn’t just run out and get a commercial brownie mix and call it good.

What I ended up with was zucchini brownie bites. These are very yummy, despite being relatively nutritious. One note though, unlike those commercial brownie mixes, these actually do rise a fair amount. So the batch I quickly made for the family reunion ended up rising out over the muffin tins and turning into some pretty ugly (yet yummy) lumps of brownies by the time I managed to get them out of the pan. The second batch I made where I adjusted for this turned out to be much prettier.
Zucchini Brownie Bites
Zucchini Brownie Bites (makes 48 – about 75 calories each)
2 cups shredded peeled zucchini
1/2 cup olive oil
1 1/2 cup granulated sugar (I used cane sugar similar to sugar in the raw, but plain white sugar would also work)
1 cup unbleached flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup ground flax seed
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup mini semi sweet chocolate chips or chopped walnuts (optional)

Put zucchini, sugar and oil in blender or food processor and briefly process until mixed well (doesn’t take more than a few seconds in my blender). In separate bowl, mix dry ingredients. Add zucchini mixture to dry ingredients and mix well. Add chocolate chips or nuts if you’re using them. Using an olive oil sprayer or paper towel, grease two 24 spot mini muffin pans (or use mini cupcake liners). Fill each muffin cup about 2/3 full. (If you fill them more, you will end up with the blob I mention above). Bake at 350 for 8-12 minutes until toothpick comes out clean. (Mine turned out perfect at 10 minutes). Once these have cooled, you may need to use a plastic spoon to just loosen the edges prior to taking the brownie bites out of the pan.

If these aren’t going to be eaten within a day, they are best stored in the fridge or freezer since the zucchini makes them more prone to spoiling. Also, the whole wheat flour and flax do give these a little nutty – whole grain texture (which I personally think helps make them yummy) but if you prefer a more traditional brownie texture, you can use all unbleached flour and leave out the flax.


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Busy Busy Busy…How Our Lives Lend Themselves to a Processed Diet

It’s not new news that we as a society tend to overschedule our kids. The internet abounds with blogs and articles on it. But the thing is, even with limiting the number of activities our children are involved in, our lives quickly become very very busy, which makes it very very easy to resort to drive thru or processed convenience foods.

For our family, we made a conscious decision that each kid gets one activity, but even that makes for a busy week. School starts for my six year old tomorrow, but flag football season started a couple weeks ago. At SIX he has practices twice a week with once a week games. And of course practices start at 6 PM – otherwise known as dinner time. My four year old starts peewee soccer in a week or two, with practices one evening a week and once a week games. That makes 3 nights a week with practices in the middle of dinner time. And these guys are YOUNG. The sports they’re in aren’t that serious yet. AND… only two of the three are in activities for now. Once they get just a little older, I easily anticipate a weekly schedule with multiple practices EVERY NIGHT. But wait, we hear all the time how important sit down family dinners are… Luckily, with me at home, it is possible for us to eat a ridiculously early dinner to accommodate the schedule, and since my husband travels a lot during the week, he wouldn’t be home for those dinners anyways. But even with me here, there is an intense temptation to go the easy route on those nights. I can only imagine how difficult it would be for families where both parents work.

This is part of the reason that as I’ve been trying to be less processed I’m focusing on replicating traditional convenience foods (chicken nuggets, frozen pizza, mac and cheese, etc.). Anticipating that the next few weeks are going to quickly get crazy, I now need to really focus on filling my freezer with these options, or I can very easily see myself getting sucked back into our previous processed lifestyle. Which means I need to get off this computer and get busy in the kitchen!

How do you balance nutritious meals with hectic schedules?


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So Far From Perfect – Why I Never Want My Less Processed Journey to Be a Judgement

As mothers we are constantly bombarded with examples of what we are supposed to be doing. Pinterest abounds with creative examples of moms doing very cool things with their kids’ food, crafts and parties. And for the women who excel at that sort of thing, great for them! But not every mom has the time or interest in this sort of thing, and our kids won’t grow up scarred as a result. At the same time, the internet provides a lifetime worth of articles on parenting techniques and the latest research on how we’re messing up our kids. Half of these often contradict the other half, but we’re still all left feeling judged and guilty for what we’re doing wrong. The truth is, motherhood is hard and we can make it harder on ourselves by internalizing the guilt and feeling the need to compete with and constantly compare ourselves with other mothers. Someone recently posted a link on facebook to a relatively new, yet very good blog on the Cult of Perfect Motherhood. One of the lines in one of her posts is “Why are we all so afraid of what the other moms will think of us? Why do we see them as judges, instead of as sisters?” This resonated with me as I never want anyone to see my less processed blog as a judgement on how they feed their family.

My less processed journey came about when I realized one day that my pantry (or more accurately shelf since our kitchen sucks and we don’t have enough cabinets) was filled with mostly processed foods, and personally decided to change that. As I’ve been trying to eat less processed foods and share that journey through this blog, I’ve been amazed at how many other people have taken an interest. It’s so fun to see my friends and family as well as a few random people from other parts of the world follow my blog either through WordPress or Facebook.

One thing I worry about from time to time though is that some of these same family and friends will take my journey to mean that I am judging them. I never want to be at a playgroup and have another mom feel the need to explain or apologize for their kids’ fruit snacks. I am so far from the perfect mom that unless someone is actively abusing their child, I would have no room to judge. I yell. My kids watch entirely too much tv. I don’t always remember to read to them every day. Most days I can’t wait for their bedtime so I can unwind with a glass of wine or some non-kid tv or my own. The less processed thing is something I’m trying to be better at, but am far from militant about. There is a very inspirational blog called 100 Days of Real Food about a woman who takes a pledge to completely eliminate processed food from her family’s diet. I completely applaud her for her dedication, while simultaneously knowing I couldn’t realistically be that dedicated. So I do the best I can. And I know that most moms do the best we can.

If you find something useful for your family in my blog, awesome! I’m glad I can share something useful. If not, that’s cool too. Every mom has her own journey. This is just a blog about sharing mine.

Homemade Chicken Nuggets


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Finally Nailed It! Chicken Nuggets All Three Kids Will Eat

It is very clear that despite their shared genetics, my children do not share the same taste for food. This has become very frustrating as I’ve tried multiple times to create a healthy version of chicken nuggets. Ideally, I would just cut up little chicken strips, bread them in some whole grain bread crumbs and bake them. I would like these and they’d be healthy. But no… the youngest one doesn’t like the texture of real chicken (or real meat of any type – it all has to be the mushed up or ground variety). The middle boy is super picky about not having too much “cook” (my boys’ word for brown food or carmelization) and is also super neurotic about the shape of foods. The oldest one is my easiest one to please, but he doesn’t like baked and breaded foods. To him, the baked breading isn’t crunchy enough compared to the fried variety.

After several attempts, I am happy to report that I have managed to satisfy all three of them though! For these chicken nuggets, I used boneless skinless chicken breasts that I pulsed in the food processor until they were just shy of mush (still a little texture, but a bit like ground chicken). To overcome the shape obstacle, I used a cookie cutter so they’re all exactly the same shape. For the breading, I compromised and fried them. These don’t fit into my diet as well, but as active kids, they can use the fat.

So here they are… my chicken nuggets that mimic the processed ones you buy in the store…
Homemade Chicken Nuggets

3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 1/2 cup bread crumbs (I made breadcrumbs in the food processor with left over heals)
salt
pepper
oil for frying

Pulse chicken in food processor until it resembles ground meat. Should have a little texture left, but be pretty mushy. Add between 1/4 and 1/2 cup breadcrumbs until you get a mixture that holds together enough to be able to make very loose balls.

Place a 2″ round cookie cutter on a baking sheet and fill the cutter with about 1/2″ chicken mixture. Press chicken down to shape into little disk. Remove cutter. Place the cutter next to this little disk and repeat until your chicken is gone (will probably require at least 2 baking sheets).
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Once you have the chicken all formed into nice little circles, place the sheets into the freezer for 15-20 minutes. You want them to be just cold enough so they will hold their shape, but they should still be sticky so the breadcrumbs will stick.
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Mix remaining breadcrumbs with a little salt and pepper. You can also use other spices at this point depending on your family’s tastes. Some cayenne, onion salt and poultry seasoning would be very tasty if your family doesn’t require bland food.

Heat 1/2 inch oil in large pan to between 325 and 375. I use a cast iron dutch oven as it keeps the oil at a nice even temperature. Dip each of your little chicken disks into the seasoned bread crumbs and fry for about 3 minutes per side or until they are a nice golden brown. You can use a meat thermometer to check the internal temp reaches at least 160. If they are getting brown too soon, turn your oil down. You can also place on a rack in the oven after frying to make sure they get cooked all the way through.

This recipe makes a lot of chicken nuggets. I freeze the leftovers to easily reheat later. Before placing them in a plastic bag, place the cooked nuggets on a clean baking sheet in the freezer for about an hour. This keeps them from sticking together. When you want to reheat them, bake at 400 degrees for 12-15 minutes. You can also microwave them, but they are a lot tastier heated up in the oven.