Posts Tagged ‘Real Food Challenge’

Last night I finally got to watch Food Inc.! My mother was the first to tell me about it months ago. Then Kim went temporarily insane and challenged the whole dang world to eat better by nixing all processed foods. Ha! I was the first to jump on board. You see, I also went temporarily insane (Hubby would argue) after reading Kingsolver and Pollan.

image c/o USDA and Wikipedia


I thought, “how in the world can we be paying people to eat this crud?!” I willingly exposed myself to nothing but scratched foods for a month because of books I’d read, but now, having watched the film that inspired The Real Food Challenge I feel even more disillusioned by corporate farms and industrial organics. In a nutshell here are my immediate opinions of the film, the foods, the companies, and The Real Food Challenge: 

  1. Our food situation is so much worse than I thought – even after reading An Omnivore’s Dilemma.
  2. I cannot get the imagery of the miles of mud and manure that our beef is raised in, nor the industry of chicken.
  3. I’m appalled that we humans can treat each other so, so poorly; that the dollar is more important than humans’ well-being.
  4. Joel Salatin is my hero. Not only can this man raise humane food in a self-sustainable manner, but he’s reversed ecological damage on his property by doing so. Raising food CAN be good for the environment! Happy Earth Day, Joel!
  5. Growing up an Indiana girl and having watched this film, I have learned a new disdain for corn and our country’s reliance upon it. I think I truly understand now why it was chosen as a resource for fuel.
  6. I will never look at a grocery store the same way when the same four or five companies are filling it up with different labels.
  7. We can make a difference by talking, not purchasing, teaching, learning. 
  8. My concience is having a very hard time considering ever feeding my friends and family any of this slop. If I could only afford to purchase a few humanely raised/produced foods it would include milk and all meats – or I will do without.

Those of us here at NDIN have continued on by still eating the same types of foods as we did during The Real Food Challenge. What I want to know is who of you out there are continuing to live the Real Food lifestyle, and what your opinions are of Food Inc. (Think we forgot it? Nah, we still have a few prizes to give away for those of you that are keeping up!)

If you want to make a difference in the way our communities eat you can help! Teach a child to garden. Share your bounty with someone in need. Speak to the government. Boycott CAFO products. Buy local. Go to your farmers’ market. Start a garden. 

What will you do?

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grilled pizzas

Dear Grilled Pizza,

Oh! How I love you so! You’re the perfect combination of char marks and melty cheese oozing between slices of vegetable and sometimes meat. I love to share my leftovers with you, especially if it’s barbeque. Chicken, zucchini, onions, ground meat (even salami!), they do compliment you so. You pair just as well with or without beef or pork, however those sweet dessert pizzas are but a mockery of your loveliness. Those crazy Westerners should keep their sweets to cobblers and tarts instead. Mild peppers are like the cherry on top. You are perfectly paired with the smokiness of the grill; the fast cooking technique. Most people wouldn’t care for your need of constant attention, but you’re one of the deserving few that actually require it to be the best you can be. I love to attend to you with mozzarella and feta, sometimes queso blanco. Fresh herbs as a garnish. Green tomatoes or sun-dried. And always lots of garlic with some sweet olive oil. I’d even give you a bouquet of broccoli or mushrooms if you so desired.

Our rendezvous every Friday evening only leaves me wanting more of your many flavors. So many people take advantage of one side of you; they waste your beauty with pepperoni and sausage. They adorn you with too many flavors to truly taste who you are (because deep inside we all know it’s the crust that matters). We Americans love you and leave you, to use up your convenience, to eat you with cheap swill. I for one can no longer do that to you – I see your importance. You bring our families together, you bind our leftovers into a harmonious flavor, you are eloquent and yet strong, simple or artisanal (and you pair well with wine or beer, and even sweet southern tea). You are seasonal and somehow you’ll always ring true of your homeland if we treat you gently. With all of these words and love from the deepest acre of my fickle heart, will you be mine this eve?

With many tasty wishes in mind, Jennifer

grilled pizza
Jen’s Pizza Sauce: (enough to cover 3-4 10 inch pizzas)

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • ¼ cup fresh basil
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • ½ tsp (or more) crushed red pepper
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 pint crushed tomatoes
  • ¼ cup tomato paste (or one small can)

Lightly sauté garlic, basil, oregano and crushed red pepper in olive oil. Add tomato sauce and paste and simmer for about 20 minutes over medium low heat. For a smoother tomato sauce you can use an immersion blender or food processor to puree the chunks of tomatoes.

pizza sauce collage

Alteration: to create a barbeque pizza sauce add 1/2 cup molasses and 1/4 cup cider vinegar. Adjust for sweet/tartness.

The Best Pizza Dough Ever recipe found at 101 Cookbooks. I slightly alter the recipe by using 1/3 whole wheat flour. I also add a cup of sourdough starter and combine dough making with my weekly sourdough feeding. Finally, I’ll sometimes substitute some whey for water and/or add some wheat germ or garlic.


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Since we’re focusing on the Real Food Challenge this month, all of us here at Not Dabbling want to provide as many recipes as we can, ranging from simple to advanced. Each of us hopes that all of you can find something new to try that you can incorporate into your own Challenge. Also, make sure you post your progress with the Challenge here by Sunday. Everyone who comments or links on their progress will be entered for a chance to win a copy of “Food Inc” – the film that prompted this Challenge.

This makes a wonderful crumbly mild cheese that melts fabulously on top of pizzas or beans, inside burritos or pierogies. Some call it Queso Blanco, others call it Farmer’s Cheese. Either way it’s probably the simplest cheese to make at home without any fancy equipment or ingredients.

What you’ll need:

  • Large, heavy bottomed pot
  • Cheesecloth
  • Strainer
  • Thermometer that reads up to 180 F
  • Slotted spoon
  • 1 gallon raw or pasteurized milk – not ultra-pasteurized
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice or vinegar

Heat milk to 180 F, slowly so it does not scald or boil. Once the milk reaches the desired temperature, turn down heat to a low simmer.

cheese collage

Add vinegar, stirring constantly. The milk will begin to form small curds. This process will take from 5-15 minutes.

Pour milk through a strainer lined with cheesecloth and allow to drain for about 30 minutes. Conserve this liquid (whey) for making sauerkraut, soaking veggies or grains.

Tie corners of cheesecloth together and twist gently to squeeze out extra whey and help to form a ball. Allow to rest until the cheese stops draining.


Crumble cheese for immediate use, or wrap with waxed paper to store for several days in the refrigerator. You can add salt or herbs for flavoring before you tie the cheesecloth 0r keep it plain to add to multiple dishes.

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When it comes up in conversation that I make everything from scratch, including butter, bread, pasta, etc, I often hear, “Oh, well, if I had time for that I would, but I’m so busy.” I must admit, it’s not that I have more hours in the day than everyone else, I have two almost full-time jobs (that’s 2 full-time jobs not 2 jobs that equal 1 full-time job) and write for 4 blogs. I grow some food, can & freeze food in the summer, we sugar our maple trees and keep bees. We don’t have kids running around which saves us time, but I still have to make the best use of my time in order to get things done. Mr Chiots helps out a great deal as well, although since we own a business he spends between 60-80 hours a week working as well. We both work from home, which saves us time commuting and allows us to monitor certain projects during the work day.

I must admit, I love to cook, always have. I enjoy spending time in the kitchen, chopping vegetables, kneading bread, churning butter. Being in the kitchen is usually relaxing for me and it’s a great creative outlet. It’s kind of like gardening, you can let your mind wander while you’re hands do the work. That being said, I don’t have time to spend hours in the kitchen each night, I have to get my blog posts written! Over the years I’ve developed ways to make the most of my time in the kitchen, today I’ll share what works for me. After spending some time cooking you’ll start to develop your own techniques that work well for you.

Cooking from scratch doesn’t mean being a “foodie” and having sun-dried tomatoes, capers, truffles, white wine sauce and pancetta in the pantry. It’s no wonder people buy canned or pre-made items, if they feel “cooking from scratch” equals gourmet meals with all kinds of dishes. There are times when I make gourmet meals with exotic ingredients and many components. Most of the time, in day-to-day life, we focus on eating good quality simple meals consisting of a few ingredients, often all in one dish.

The best way I’ve found to save time in the kitchen is to “Keep it Simple”. Forget what you’ve learned about meal components and what makes a “healthy” meal. Cooking from scratch can be overwhelming if you feel you need to have a meat, a few veggies and a fruit for each meal. When you make meals from scratch you can focus on making nutrient dense foods so you don’t have to be cooking/eating as many different dishes. For example, when I make tomato soup I use my home canned soup (made with tomatoes, celery, onions, parsley) and I add equal parts chicken stock and some butter to the soup (bones stocks add loads of vitamins, minerals, trace elements & nutrients and butter, especially pastured milk butter, adds lots of healthful fats to your meals). I also add spices & herbs, often Italian spices, fresh basil, dried oregano, parsley (herbs also add vitamins, minerals and trace elements). Often I’ll top the soup with some grated raw milk cheese and a side of crusty sourdough bread topped with lots of butter. Because I’m getting so many vitamins & minerals from what’s in the soup (spices, herbs, bone broth, butter, vegetables), I don’t need to add anything to this meal, I’m getting tons of nutrition from one hearty bowlful.

Learning to cook good simple food is a beautiful thing. Realizing that you don’t have to have a meat, two vegetables, a fruit and bread to have a “complete” meal is liberating. It opens the door to creative casseroles, stews loaded with all kinds of goodness or meatless meals that are surprisingly filling and delicious. Learning to put your vegetables/fruits into the main dish saves tons of time. Instead of having chicken with side of rice, peas and carrots, how about making a pot of chicken and rice, with everything in one dish. You save time by cooking everything together, you can add broth and extra spices that add extra nutrients to your food. Not only do you save time by not cooking 4-5 different things and having 4 pots on the stove, you also save money and so much time washing pots! Double or triple that recipe and you’ll save even more time.

“Doubling the Recipe” is another technique I often employ to save time. It doesn’t take much longer to double a batch of soup, to make an extra pan of lasagna, or to double a batch of bread. You can freeze the extras in meal sized portions for your family and have quick meals ready to go on busy days. Spend a lazy Sunday afternoon making 2-3 pots of different kinds of soup and you’ll have a couple weeks worth of lunches or dinners out of the way. Not only will you save time by not having to cook every night, you’ll have quick meals in the freezer ready to go. I often quadruple my bread recipes (generally making 2 double batches) so I have a nice stockpile of bread in the freezer for the summer months when I don’t feel like baking.

Learning to “Creatively Turn Leftovers Into New Dishes” is another great way to save time in the kitchen. If you don’t mind leftovers you could just make up big batches of things and eat on them all week, which we often do for lunches. Dinners often call for something different though, so I try to find ways to be creative with our leftovers. For example, if I decided this week I want roasted chicken and potatoes on Sunday evening, I’ll roast an extra chicken and extra potatoes that evening. I can make a big batch caramelized onions to use with the leftover chicken all week while it’s roasting. I now have a whole chicken, extra potatoes and a big container of caramelized onions to use for future meals during the week. Monday we can have chicken quesadillas, filled with roasted chicken, onions, greens, salsa. Tuesday we can have chicken pizza, pizza topped with chicken, sun dried tomatoes, olives, peppers and onions. Wednesday we can have BBQ chicken sandwiches, topped with onions and cheese with a side of baked potato fries (made from those roasted potatoes). Thursday evening we can have we can enjoy omelets with chopped with potatoes, onions, and cheese. Friday a hearty chicken vegetable soup made from the bones and extra leftover chicken (you can make this any night of the week after you pick the chicken off the bones and freeze it).

Make sure you “Have Fun with Your Food”. Let your kids pick out a new fruit or veggie at the grocery store. Have one night a week called “smorgasboard” make it a meal of all the leftovers in the fridge that need eaten up. We have at times had meals like this made up of: baked beans, fried plantains, pizza, salad, green beans, etc. Make “leftover” pizza, topping your pizza with whatever leftovers you find in the fridge (we’ve had some surprisingly good pizzas topped with odd items). Make it a game and your family with love it.

“Learn to Make Some Quick or On The Go Meals”. When we’re out late and are hungry having a quick meal you can make within 15 minutes of getting home will save you from eating out (plus carrying a few snack whenever you leave home helps as well). Eggs make the perfect quick meal, they’re healthy and they cook up in a flash. Fried or scrambled eggs with some homemade ketchup & toast topped with preserves. How about an English muffin egg sandwiches when you need a portable meal to take with you as you run out the door. And don’t forget about the humble peanut butter & jelly, very delicious, nutritious and portable! We often have tomato soup as a quick meal, or something from the freezer.

Do you have any great time-saving tips to share? How about some creative ways to use up leftovers?

I can also be found over at Chiot’s Run where I blog about organic gardening, local eating, and other weird stuff we do like sugaring maples and keeping bees.

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I thought it would be nice to have a post listing resources for the Real Food Challenge. So I compiled a list of: links from our blogs and other blogs, websites for great shops to buy good stuff from, links to articles and websites that have tons of great info and an extensive book listing including cookbooks and more. Feel free to add any great resources in the comment section. I’ll keep adding links as I find them so keep checking back, the list will only get better!

A few Great Articles & Resources:
Drink that Milk, Eat those Peas – a great article from the Weston A Price foundation on transitioning your family to a healthier diet.
Against the Grain – great info about bread and grain
Mother Earth News Real Food Section – all kinds of good information on real food
Why Butter is Better – a wonderful article from the Weston A Price foundation about enjoying real butter.

How-To/Make Your Own Posts from Chiot’s Run.
Make Your Own: Brown Sugar
Make Your Own: Baking Powder
Make Your Own: Ghee
Make Your Own: Butter
Make Your Own: Preserved Lemons
Make Your Own: Ketchup
Make Your Own: Sauerkraut
Make Your Own: Canned Tomato Soup
Make Your Own: Sourdough Pancakes

A few links from Jennifer’s Blog:
Accepting the Challenge
Incorporating Family and the Challenge
Realities: Grains
Realities: Fruits and Veggies
Realities: Oils
Realities: Milk & Meat
Recipe: Skinless Sweet Potato Skins
Recipes: Yogurt, Cheese, and Whey

Sourdough and Wild Yeast recipes:
Wild Yeast Blog
Northwest Sourdough
Sourdough Recipes from Richard Packham
Make Your Own Sourdough Starter

Baking Artisan Bread:
Upper Crust Bread Recipe & How-To
Quick Artisan Bread
Easy No-Knead Crusty Bread from Mother Earth News
Peter Reinhart’s Whole Grain Breads: New Techniques, Extraordinary Flavor
The Bread Baker’s Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread

Cracker Recipes from Jennifer’s link file:
Spelt Everything Crackers
Poppy & Parmesan Cheese Crackers
Sesame Semolina Flatbreads
Lavash Armenian Flatbread

Cooking/Baking Blogs:
Refrigerator Soup: has recipes from many food blogs, great place to find new cooking & food blogs
Smitten Kitchen
Nourishing Days: Nourishing Traditions recipes
Cheese Slave – blog about traditional food, slow food, and food politics
The Nourishing Gourmet – blogging about nourishing food
The Chicken Coop – a great listing of nourishing traditions recipe links
101 Cookbooks – a great resource for vegetarian & vegan recipes.

Cooking with Dried Beans:
Here’s some great info about soaking beans and grains.
The Weston A Price Foundation has a great in depth article on the healthfulness of beans and soaking methods.

How to Make You Own Milk Alternatives:
Making Rice Milk at Home
How to Make Almond Milk at Home

Organic Spices, Teas, Essential Oils, Bulk Ingredients and Non-Toxic Toiletries:
Mountain Rose Herbs

Bulk Nuts, Dried Fruits and other Staples both Organic and Conventional:
Nuts Online (contact me (Susy) and I can get you a 10% off coupon)

Finding Local and Non-Local Sources for Food from Small Growers/Producers including Farmer’s Markets:
Local Harvest
Eat Wild
find local sources of grass-fed meats
Eat Well Guide – type in your zip code to find local sources for healthy food

Places to find information on food, food safety, food legislation, etc:
Weston A Price Foundation – a wealth of information on healthy food.
Organic Consumers Association – information on processed foods, companies, and food legislation
Union of Concerned Scientists – great article on CAFO meats
Real Milk Campaign

Great Cookbooks:

For the More Adventurous/Advanced Cooks:

For More Reading about Food:

Other Great Reading:

Do you have any great resources to add?

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Are you joining the Real Food Challenge? Want to add the button to your blog sidebar, or use the badge a blog post about the challenge? We’ve had several requests so here it is, in two sizes. You can right click on the images and “save image as” then upload it to your blog to use in blog posts. If you want a button in your sidebar that links back to the Real Food Challenge here at Not Dabbling, simply copy and paste the code below the button. You can adjust the size of the button to fit your sidebar by changing the “width” to the width allowed in your sidebar.

<a href="https://notdabblinginnormal.wordpress.com/2010/03/01/lets-get-real-food-challenge-starts-today/"><img src="https://notdabblinginnormal.files.wordpress.com/2010/02/real_food_challenge_small1.png" alt="" title="real_food_challenge_small" width="252" class="alignnone size-full wp-image-4992" /></a>

<a href="https://notdabblinginnormal.wordpress.com/2010/03/01/lets-get-real-food-challenge-starts-today/"><img src="https://notdabblinginnormal.files.wordpress.com/2010/02/real_food_challenge_large1.png" alt="" title="real_food_challenge_large" width="499" class="alignnone size-full wp-image-4881" /></a>

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Well here it is already…March 1!  Today is the day that we are going to make month long changes towards more ‘real food’ in our diets.

When I first posted about this personal challenge after watching ‘Food Inc.’ I never could have imagined the interest and enthusiasm that you all would come here with!  I must say you have blown me away…seriously you guys rock!

So now its time to begin our little adventure…

We want to emphasize that everyone can get involved. We’re welcoming everyone into the challenge from fast food junkies to hard core granolas. Set your goals low or set them high, just set a goal. Your goal can be to give up soda for a healthier alternative like tea, or perhaps you want to make one meal from scratch each week. Maybe you’ve always thought about eating oatmeal every morning instead of cereal, or maybe you just want to learn to make a killer loaf of homemade bread.  There are no hard and fast rules here, it is up to you to determine for yourself and your family what changes you want to make.

And we don’t just want to hear about your successes (which we certainly do) but we also want to hear what doesn’t work.  Share what things are the hardest along with those that have proved easy.  We want the food to be real but we also want the dialog to be just as real. Join us, it should be an interesting month!

So here are a few things we have in store for you…

Giveaways, we will have them weekly throughout the month.  So make sure you link up and comment often!

Link Parties,  each Monday we will put a way for you to link your blog posts here so we can all go and check in on each others experiences with the challenge

Recipes, we will have lots of those for you to try and would love to hear yours too.

Blog Roll, on our sidebar we will list all those that have decided to join us this month!

Let’s get this challenge rolling!

Here is our first Real Food Link Party…please join us!

Link to any posts you have that deal specifically with the food challenge.

This will remain open until Thursday morning March 4th

Click here to enter your link and view the entire list of entered links…

Join us, it should be an interesting month!

We would love to know…What are your goals for the Real Food Challenge?

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