Category Archives: Whole Foods for the Family Table

Sample 5-Day Whole Foods Meal Plan

5-Day Whole Foods Menu Plan | Faith and Composition
(If this is your first time here or you found your way here via A Storied Style, welcome! I’m so glad to have you! Please note that this post is part of a Whole Foods for the Family series. You might want to catch up on all the posts in the series here.)

You’ve been waiting with baited breath for a whole foods meal plan, haven’t you? OK, maybe not. But I have had a few of you specifically ask if I could post a sample menu plan, so today I’m sharing a 5-day whole foods menu plan complete with meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I compiled this menu plan using some of the same meals I serve my family throughout the week. With a little advance planning, they’re quick, rather inexpensive and wholly nutritious. While I do try to stay faithful to the meal plans, there are obviously days when we deviate for different reasons. But that’s the beauty of meal planning; I just pick up where we left off the next day or readjust the menu plan accordingly. Thus I’ve discovered that meal planning isn’t so much about strict adherence, but it’s more about planning and preparation for stress-free eating throughout the week.



5-Day Whole Foods Menu Plan

Weekend prep steps: On Saturday or Sunday, make whole wheat bread, a batch of granola and ranch dressing; hard boil eggs.

MONDAY
Breakfast:
Plain yogurt topped with homemade granola, fresh berries and a drizzle of honey. Try to source raw, local honey. If you can’t find local honey, be sure to buy a quality, organic, raw honey, since the majority of honey from conventional stores is a far cry from the stuff bees make.
Lunch:
Egg salad, whole wheat crackers, carrot sticks, a drizzle of homemade ranch. I bring my eggs to a boil and then let them sit, covered for about 15 minutes, since I like a hard yolk. Experiment with the cook time until you find a consistency you like.
(DInner prep step: chop the remaining carrots, chop potatoes and onion; toss with melted butter, salt and pepper, then refrigerate.)
Dinner:
Whole organic roast chicken, with roasted carrots, potatoes and onion. I like Ina Garten’s roasted chicken recipe. 100 Days of Real Food also has a great crcokpot roast chicken. If you opt for the crockpot method, just roast the veggies separately. Serve a bowl of remaining fresh berries (leftovers from breakfast) for dessert.
(Prep step: Once you’ve finished the chicken, clean the carcass and refrigerate any leftover meat, you’ll use it later in the week. Then use the carcass to make homemade chicken broth, which you’ll use for soup later. Simply place the carcass in a crockpot, top with a few carrots, an onion and a couple stalks of celery. Pour water to cover entirely, then add about a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar. Turn the crockpot to high. After a few hours, the broth should be boiling. Turn the crockpot to low and simmer overnight. In the morning, strain the broth through a sine-mesh sieve and refrigerate.) 

TUESDAY
Breakfast:
Scrambled eggs, with sautéed kale (or other sturdy leafy green), a slice of homemade whole wheat toast, topped with butter. (Want to know how to get non-stick eggs without using a non-stick skillet? Put a pat of butter in the skillet, and heat it over medium until the butter browns and smells nutty. Once the butter has browned, pour in your eggs. They will start to scramble immediately on contact. This prevents the eggs from sticking. Continue to scramble until cooked.)
Lunch:
Lettuce salad topped with leftover chicken, veggies of your choosing and homemade ranch dressing. For the kids, whip up chicken and cheese quesadillas using whole tortillas and leftover chicken. Serve with a side of the leftover roasted veggies from dinner the previous night, or apple and carrot slices.
(Dinner prep step: Cut extra veggies and toss with lettuce so your dinner salad is already prepared. Begin preparing tomato sauce.)
Dinner:
Homemade pizza (I like this recipe for the crust; sub whole wheat pastry flour for the all-purpose flour), topped with homemade tomato sauce, mozzarella and the last of the chicken (if you have any left). Add fresh basil once you remove the pizza from the oven. The crust recipe makes two pizzas. Go ahead and make both, since you’ll have leftover pizza for lunch the next day. Serve with salad topped with your homemade ranch dressing and a side of roasted beets. (Peel the beets. Toss with melted butter and a little salt and pepper. Wrap each beet in foil and roast at 425 for approximately 50 minutes.) Before retiring for bed, soak a pot of black beans for tomorrow’s dinner. Simply put about a cup (more if you like a lot of beans) into a pot and cover with water. Let soak overnight.

WEDNESDAY
Breakfast:
Baked oatmeal topped with whole milk plain yogurt. Add a drizzle of honey to sweeten.
Lunch:
Leftover pizza. Round out the meal with veggie crudites or a side salad. A few hours before you plan to serve dinner, drain the beans and add fresh water. Bring the beans to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Watch your water to make sure that too much doesn’t evaporate off. Taste the beans at 1 1/2 hours to test for doneness. If they’re done, season with salt and cumin.
Dinner:
Beef and bean tacos, served with corn on the cob. Simply dice an onion and brown it in butter, add 1 pound ground beef and season to your liking. I typically use salt, pepper, chili powder and copious amounts of cumin. Bake the corn on the cob (still in its husk) at 350 for 30 minutes. Let the corn cool slightly and then shuck. Serve the tacos with whole wheat tortillas, beef, beans, lettuce, cheese, salsa, sour cream, avocado and any other additions that suit your fancy. Refrigerate the leftover beans; you’ll use them for breakfast and dinner the following day.

THURSDAY
Breakfast:
Breakfast tacos with a whole wheat tortilla, scrambled eggs, leftover black beans, cheese and salsa.
Lunch:
Crustless quiche. Make two quiches, since you’ll be eating one for breakfast the next day. Serve with a side of sauteed leafy greens.
Dinner:
Use the last of your black beans to make zucchini and black bean tacos. You can also choose to serve these as nachos, using an organic corn tortilla chip.

FRIDAY
Breakfast:
Dish up that leftover quiche for a quick, satisfying first meal.
Lunch:
An easy lunch for a busy Friday. Simply slice off two pieces of whole wheat homemade bread,  toast it, and top with an all-natural, freshly ground peanut butter, organic strawberries, and a  drizzle of honey.
Dinner:
Red lentil soup with a side of sauteed onions, zucchini and squash (or roasted root veggies in the winter). You’ll use the homemade chicken broth you made earlier in the week for this soup, but be sure to add a cube of Rapunzel bouillon for flavor. Saute the zucchini and squash with a pinch of salt and a few shakes of lemon pepper. (This lentil soup recipe is one that I love to have on hand for nights that we need something quick and nutritionally dense. Lentils are a nutritional powerhouse, and this one-pot soup is super easy and only requires a few pantry staples. Keep brown rice, red lentils and some Rapunzel bouillon on hand so you can throw this together whenever you’re short on time.)

A FEW NOTES, PLUS THOUGHTS ON SNACKS AND TREATS:
Looking through the menu plan, you’ll notice that I didn’t include cereal as a breakfast option. Cereal is nutritionally inferior to so many other breakfast items, so I try not to serve it as a meal. But that being said, I have three kids aged five and younger, so we’re no stranger to the cereal box. On mornings when the older two wake up STARVING, and I’m barely stumbling out of bed thanks to a babe who woke a few times in the night, I grab some cereal, fill a little bowl and pray that it satiates their tummies until I can serve the morning meal. Even then, I do make an effort to choose an organic option with low sugar.

Also a note about mayonnaise (as used in the egg salad). The majority (if not all) of conventional mayo contains non-organic canola, as well as added preservatives, so it’s a far cry from a whole food. (Read about canola here.) If I were a whole foods purist, I’d make my own mayo, but I’m not up to that yet, and we use mayo only in very small amounts. Thus, I choose an organic mayo that contains expeller-processed canola oil. It’s a compromise, but it’s a compromise that works because we use it so infrequently. Remember that a few of the tips for making this lifestyle work are to give yourself some grace and take it step by step; that includes mayo.

Also, I’ve mentioned before that we try to limit snacks. Too much snacking and the kiddos won’t be hungry enough to fill up on the food being served at meals. But we do typically have one planned afternoon snack. I’ll share some whole-food snack ideas in a separate post, but for now, one of our favorites is stove-top popped popcorn with real butter and a sprinkle of sea salt. (Never popped popcorn on the stove? Don’t fear … I’m sharing the tricks you need to know in an upcoming post.) To satiate a sweet tooth, we like to nibble on a square of organic dark chocolate.

I hope this meal plan is helpful to you! If you use it, come back and let me know how you liked it. And if you already meal plan, please share some of your favorite whole-food menu ideas in the comments! We’d all to hear from you!

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A Quiche Recipe and a Book Review {French Kids Eat Everything}

A Review of French Kids Eat Everything and a Quiche Recipe | Faith and Composition
Open the first chapter of Karen LeBillon’s French Kids Eat Everything, and these words from the first paragraph jump off the page: “Ask my children what their favorite foods are, and the answer might surprise you. Seven-year-old Sophie loves beets and broccoli, leeks and lettuce, mussels and mackerel—in addition to the usual suspects, like hot dogs, pizza and ice cream. Claire, her three-year-old sister, loves olives and red peppers, although her all-time favorite is creamed spinach.”

I’d barely cracked the spine (err, fired up the Kindle) of French Kids Eat Everything before I was hooked. The book is a heartwarming manifesto-of-sorts that tells how Karen and her family moved to France and cured her children’s picky eating habits. For one, the book is honest, witty and a few times chuckle-out-loud funny. But it also provides some fantastic take-aways, ideas that can readily be implemented in any home with young, picky eaters.

The food culture in France is radically different from that of the food culture in the U.S. (obesity rates attest to this; whereas France’s rate of childhood obesity is one of the lowest in the developed world, the U.S. boasts some of the highest.), and there’s a lot to be learned from the French methods. Lucky for us, Karen gives some honest, you-can-do-this-too advice for busy moms and dads who want to get their kids to not only try their beets but to enjoy them as well.

During her year in France, Karen perceived a set of unstated, commonly understood rules that set the groundwork necessary to guide young French kids into a healthy relationship with food. These rules form the framework for the habit of eating in France, and Karen suggests that these rules can be applied to help establish healthy eating patterns in North American kids too. From the very first rule—“Parents, YOU are in charge of food education”—the book empowers parents with the confidence and the methods they need to help instill healthy eating habits in their little ones.

And perhaps the best thing about the rules? They’re not ironclad. In fact, rule number 10 (the Golden Rule, as Karen dubs it) states that “Eating is joyful, not stressful. Treat the food rules as habits or routines, rather than strict regulations; it’s fine to relax them once in a while.”

In short, the book is a witty how-to manual that gives advice for curing young, picky eaters with word pictures of the provincial French countryside dotted throughout. It’s a joy to read, and you come away from the pages thinking: I can do that. So if you need a little more help in encouraging your kids to eat and enjoy whole foods, check out French Kids Eat Everything (get the Kindle version here). You’ll be both pleasantly informed and entertained!

A Review of French Kids Eat Everything and a Quiche Recipe | Faith and Composition
The back of the book contains several simple French recipes that parents can whip up in no time. I asked Karen if I could share one with you, and she was happy to oblige. I’m choosing to share this Quick No-Pastry Quiche with you, because quiche is a meal we serve once every couple weeks, if not once a week. I especially love quiche for its versatility; we often throw in an assortment of veggies (broccoli, zucchini, greens) or a handful of herbs. It’s also great with a little ham or bacon. I sometimes double this so we can have a quick breakfast or lunch the next day. In Karen’s quiche recipe, she deliberately leaves out the pastry, which reduces the prep time and allows busy parents to have dinner on the table with less fuss and in no time flat.

Quick No-Pastry Quiche | Faith and Composition

Quick No-Pastry Quiche
Reprinted verbatim with written permission from Karen LeBillon  

Preparation: 5 to 7 minutes
Cooking: 30 to 40 minutes
Servings: 4 to 6 small adult servings

Easy and quick to make, quiche is a classic French recipe that pleases adults and children alike. Quiche is also one of the most versatile recipes in the French household, as it can be eaten hot or cold, for lunch or for dinner, and works well with any combination of vegetables that you can think of. French families often make it in advance, as it lasts well for a couple of days in the fridge (or even a few hours in the cupboard—my mother-in-law tries to avoid refrigerating her quiche, arguing that it changes the texture). In a pinch, I find that quiche freezes fairly well, although most French people don’t do this. The recipe presented here is the children’s version, which uses a higher proportion of milk and a smaller number of eggs than a quiche intended for adults. The resulting dish is fluffier, less dense, and less eggy, and so more likely to please young palates. For older children or adults, reduce the milk by a half cup, and add one more egg (or play with the ratio of eggs and milk until you find the texture that your family prefers).

Most French cooks have their personal twist on this dish. For a while, my favorite was a ratatouille-style quiche, with eggplant and tomatoes. A quick survey of our extended family turned up as many recipes as there were cooks: zucchini, broccoli, carrots—almost any vegetable you can think of. Chopped or grated finely, most vegetables don’t even need to be cooked in advance.

Ingredients:
8 large eggs
1 1/2 cups milk (or 3/4 cup milk and 3/4 cup cream)
Salt and pepper, if desired
1 cup flour

Filling suggestion (These are some of our favorites, but feel free to make up your own.):
Quiche lorraine: 1 cup cubed or sliced ham and 1 cup grated cheese (Gruyère works best, but Cheddar will also do)
Quiche aux légumes: 1 small onion, finely diced, 1/2 cup thinly sliced greens (I use spinach or chard, but not kale, which is too chewy) 1/2 cup finely chopped red pepper
Quiche provençale: 1 cup ratatouille (this is a great way to use leftovers)
Optional: dried herbs such as parsley or oregano

1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. In a large bowl, beat the egg; add the milk (or milk and cream) and mix well. Add a pinch of salt and pepper, if desired. Stirring constantly with a fork or a whisk (to avoid lumps), add the flour a little bit at a time. Mix in the cheese followed by the fillings you are using.

2. Pour the mixture into a greased 9- or 12-inch pie plate and bake for 30 minutes, or until the quiche puffs and starts to brown on top. Cool 5 minutes before serving (the quiche will settle, and you’ll be able to cut it more neatly).

Tip: Changing your quiche ingredients is also a great way to introduce new vegetables: the reassuringly familiar look of the fish may entice even the wariest of eaters.

Note: Take care not to overfill your pie plate, as the quiche will puff up as it bakes. I place mine on a baking sheet in the oven, in case of spills. The quiche will deflate after you remove it from the oven: this is normal! Kids like watching this soufflé effect.

Enjoy, and au revoir, friends! I’ll see you in the next few days with a sample week-long whole foods meal plan, and next Monday I have the first F&C guest post featuring a simple, yet effective work-out you can do at home with the little ones underfoot!

How to Make a Whole Foods Lifestyle Work for Your Family

Tips for incorporating whole, unprocessed foods into your family's meals | Faith and Composition

As I sit typing this post, there’s a bowl of cookies and cream ice cream keeping me company. It’s not organic, and if I read the ingredient list aloud, some whole food purists would certainly scoff. Now why in the world am I telling you that when we’ve been deep in the middle of a series on whole foods? Well, I confess for two reasons. First, because I want to be honest and transparent about our own whole foods journey, and that means letting you know that although we eat unprocessed, organic food nearly 85% of the time, we have our own shortcomings too. We’re not perfect in all of this; we still have quite a bit of ground to gain.

And secondly, I share this confession because it provides a real example that directly corresponds to point number 1 in my list of top tips for making this lifestyle work for families. So here you go. Without further ado … my tips for making a whole foods diet both manageable and attainable for a busy family with little ones underfoot.

Tips for incorporating whole, unprocessed foods into your family's meals | Faith and Composition

  1. Give yourself some grace.
    If you’ve been eating a diet that relies in part on processed foods, making the switch to unprocessed options can seem like a daunting task. Don’t expect to dive into these eating habits overnight. It’s certainly possible (and kudos to you if you can do it), but I don’t recommend it. Rather allow yourself some grace to take it slowly, and don’t get discouraged if it’s one step forward, one step back for a little while.
  2. Make one change at a time.
    This could operate as an extension of number one, but I think it’s important to make it a separate point. Choose one thing you’re going to change, get comfortable with incorporating that new food (or process) into your family, and then make another change. Our first step in this lifestyle was joining an organic produce co-op. Shortly after that I began making homemade whole wheat bread and a few pantry items. Then I slowly replaced store-bought salad dressings with homemade, and we just recently started purchasing raw milk. But had I tried to do it all at once, I would have felt so overwhelmed that I would have been defeated from the start. Little steps and small successes (like culturing yogurt at home) have made the entire lifestyle  that much more doable.
  3. Meal plan.
    This was also one of my money-saving tips, but it’s an especially important (perhaps more important) component of making a whole foods lifestyle work for busy families. Feeding your family an unprocessed diet isn’t hard, but it does require some foresight. Things like dried beans and some grains require soaking, chicken broth needs to simmer for several hours (I usually simmer mine overnight in the crockpot), pizza dough needs plenty of rise time. Thus I find that meal planning really is crucial in helping to alleviate a lot of the stress associated with mealtime prep work. If you need a little meal-planning inspiration to get you started, I’ll be sharing a week’s worth of whole-food menu ideas next week, so be sure to check back!
  4. Make double batches and freeze.
    Because a whole foods diet does include a bit more planning and a bit more work, it just makes sense to reduce your workload by making extra and freezing it for future use. My aunt’s bread recipe makes three loaves, which means two go in the freezer for the another time. And I usually double a batch of granola and freeze one. Also learn what entrees freeze well, and then double those recipes so you have an easy dinner option when you’re in a pinch. Things like browned ground beef and cooked black beans freeze well and can be easily defrosted to whip up tacos in no time.
  5. Let the kids pick a recipe.
    A great way to get the kids excited about a transition to whole foods is to let then help you with your meal planning by picking out one recipe for the week. You choose a few options and then let them make a selection. That way they have some input, and it’s perceived as a team effort, rather than you trying to force changes.
  6. Let the kids help with meal prep.
    This one is hard for me (with my type-A, desire-for-order personality and all), but I do think kids are more apt to try something when they’ve had a hand in creating it. Homemade whole wheat pizza is always a good option for little hands. They can toss on freshly shredded cheese or any other topping. And when we’re baking bread, my older two like to help with the mixing. Even a one-year-old can help with the salad spinner when washing fresh greens.
  7. Reduce (or eliminate) snacking.
    This is one of the French Food Rules that author Karen LeBillon details in her book, French Kids Eat Everything, and I think it’s crucial. Kids have a tendency to fill up on snacks when they’re offered. And if their bellies are full at mealtimes, they’re going to be a lot less likely to try that unprocessed, whole foods plate you just set in front of them. Reduce snacking, and your kids will eat more of the goodness you’re serving at breakfast, lunch and dinner because they’re legitimately hungry. We usually eat one small snack in the afternoon (fruit, a piece of whole wheat toast with nut butter, stove-top popped popcorn). It’s enough to satiate their little tummies till dinner, but they’re still hungry once the meal is on the table. (On a side note: I’m reviewing French Kids Eat Everything in the next few days, and Karen has given me permission to share a few recipes from her book, so be sure to check back then!)
  8. Find a few ‘keeper’ recipes.
    No matter how intentional you are about meal planning, you’re still going to have those moments when something unexpectedly arises and the planned meal just isn’t going to work. In those instances, you need something that you can whip up quickly without much thought. Thus, I recommend having a few tried-and-true whole foods recipes that contain ingredients you always have on hand so you’re never without an excuse. My keeper recipes include lentil soup; quiche; and sweet potato, black bean and egg mash-up.
  9. Do advance prep work.
    Prep lunch during breakfast, prep dinner during lunch. Simply put, plan ahead. If you’re going to have an egg salad for lunch, go ahead and hard boil the eggs while you’re making breakfast. If you’re having roast chicken and veggies for dinner, chop the vegetables while you’re busy preparing lunch. A little advance preparation goes a long way, especially when it’s 6 o’clock, your family is hungry, the dogs are barking and the baby is pulling on you. I’ll be honest, I’m not always able to do this (I do it a lot less than I’d like), but when I do, I’m quite thankful!

That’s it … my top tips for making a whole foods lifestyle work for your busy family. Now it’s your turn! Let me know what tricks you’ve discovered for getting unprocessed foods to your table. And put those whole-foods skills to good use with this FREE 5-day meal plan, click here

How to Save Money on Unprocessed, Whole Foods and A RECIPE

Tips for saving money on unprocessed, whole foods | Faith and Composition


Welcome! If this is your first time visiting, please note that this part 4 in a series on Whole Foods for the Family Table. If you’d like to read more, click the links to catch up on part 1, part 2 and part 3.

Greetings dear readers! I sincerely hope you’ve been enjoying this series on whole, unprocessed foods. It’s been good for me to gather my thoughts and resources into one collective place, and I hope you’re gaining something from it all too. If nothing else, I hope it’s at least piqued your curiosity.

As I’ve mentioned previously, I’ve been transitioning our family over to a whole foods diet for nearly four years now, but the road has been marked by small progressions. This wasn’t a lifestyle we dove into overnight. Instead, we’ve made little changes that over the course of the past several years have resulted in a drastic shift in our eating habits. As we’ve made this shift, I’ve learned quite a bit, including how to save money, as well as practices for making this lifestyle work with a busy family. Today we’re going to talk money-saving tips, and I’m sharing a recipe for an easy, budget-friendly whole-foods meal. Then in the next few days, I’ll share some realistic advice for making unprocessed foods work for your family without sacrificing your sanity in the process. Ready to save a little money? Let’s go!

Tips for saving money on unprocessed, whole foods | Faith and Composition

My Top Money-Saving Tips for a Whole Foods Diet

  1. Meal plan.
    This is (in my opinion) the single most important component to saving money on a whole foods lifestyle. Having a meal plan has been both my budget saver and my sanity saver. A meal plan not only prevents you from purchasing food items you don’t need, but it also allows you to plan meals around sale items and to stretch certain ingredients across several different meals. Not to mention the fact that it eliminates that blank-staring-into-the-pantry-and-wondering-what’s-for-dinner moment that often precedes take out.
  2. Eat at home.
    The majority of foods served at restaurants are processed (at least to some degree), and unless you specifically seek a venue that serves organic fare, those foods are also likely to be conventionally grown. Then consider the fact that it costs approximately $40 to feed a family of four, and it only makes sense to reduce your dining out. If you simply cut out one restaurant meal a week, you could save $40. Put half of that toward an at-home dinner splurge (a filet of wild-caught Alaskan or Pacific Salmon, for example) and pocket the other $20.
  3. Shop the bulk section.
    I’m sure you’ve heard it before, but shopping the bulk section really does help minimize grocery costs. Dry goods like grains, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, flours and more are all often less expensive when sourced from the bulk bins. Store your purchases in glass canisters or canning jars; it makes for easy accessibility in the pantry.
  4. Replace canned beans with dry beans.
    This is an extension of number 3, but resist the urge to buy canned beans. Buy dried beans, and soak and cook them yourself. Just do it! It’s easy, really! You’ll get a lot more bang for your buck, and you can freeze left-over cooked beans for use in a future recipe.
  5. Eat seasonally.
    This is simply a matter of supply and demand. Don’t eat strawberries in December or pumpkin in July unless you plan to pay a premium. Instead, eat the foods that follow the rhythms of nature. Your budget and your body will thank you.
  6. Buy whole chickens.
    I’m not going to lie, whole chickens used to scare.me.to.death. What exactly was I supposed to do with it? And the thought of rubbing seasoning into the skin or stuffing the cavity with lemons or herbs freaked me out a bit. I finally got over my fear, and I’m glad I did. Pound for pound, whole organic chickens cost less than organic chicken breasts, and they can be stretched across two or three meals. If you’ve never cooked with a whole chicken, 100 Days of Real Food has a great recipe for whole chicken in a crockpot.
  7. Make your own chicken broth.
    Once you’re done with the meat from the whole chicken, throw the carcass into the crockpot with onion, celery and carrots. Set the crockpot to simmer all day, then strain out the broth and freeze it for future use. Not only do you save money with homemade broth, but the nutrient profile of slow-simmered homemade broth is much richer than store-bought.
  8. Make your own pantry staples.
    Things like crackers, granola and whole wheat bread are rather easy to make with just a little practice and some foresight. I usually make extra bread and granola to freeze, so I don’t have to make new batches all the time.
  9. Buy direct from local suppliers.
    Meat, honey, eggs, wheat … if you can source whole foods from local suppliers, you’ll likely pay less than you would in a grocery store, and you’ll get a better quality product. I share some great resources for finding local suppliers in the previous posts, so feel free to start there.
  10. Pay attention to the Dirty Dozen and the Clean 15.
    If you have to choose between organic and non-organic for cost reasons, those items listed on the dirty dozen should be organic, whereas those on the clean 15 can be conventionally grown.
  11. Eat meatless meals a few times a week.
    We frequently eat meatless meals, which obviously reduces my meat expenditure and allows me to spend a bit more money on quality meats.

You’ll notice that I didn’t mention coupons here. I don’t use them often; mainly because the majority of coupons are for pre-packaged processed foods. On occasion though, I do find a few for organic options here.

SONY DSC

As I mentioned above, meatless meals offer a great way to stretch your whole foods budget. We eat meatless three, sometimes four times a week. When we do, we typically rely on legumes or eggs for our protein, and this dish is one of our favorites.

Not only is this recipe easy, filling and liked by all, but it’s also a nutrient powerhouse. Black beans provide support for digestive health and are a good source of flavonoids. Sweet potatoes contain anti-inflammatory properties and are a good source of vitamin A, vitamin C and manganese. And kale—a fantastic source of vitamin A, vitamin K and vitamin C—contains anti-oxidant nutrients, anti-inflammatory nutrients and anti-cancer nutrients. Topped with a fried egg, which provides protein and fat for the fat-soluble vitamins A and K, this is a filling, well-rounded meal. We also love this sweet potato, black bean, leafy green combo as a filling for meatless tacos with a little sour cream. It’s a versatile food pairing, which makes it such a great recipe for nights you need an easy dinner. So have some fun and play around. Enjoy!

Sweet Potato, Black Bean and Egg Mash-Up
Serves 4

4 sweet potatoes
1 cup dry black beans
1 bunch kale (or other sturdy leafy green)
4 pastured eggs
Cumin
Sea salt
Pepper
Olive oil
Feta or other cheese as a topping (optional)
Chopped cilantro to garnish (optional)

Place the beans in a pot or bowl. Cover with water. Allow to soak overnight or at least four hours. Drain beans. Cover with fresh water and bring to a boil. (You can also add chopped garlic and onion to the pot if you would like.) Reduce heat. Simmer for approximately 2 hours. The beans vary in cooking time, so taste them periodically to check for doneness. When the beans are done, add 1/2 tablespoon cumin, and salt and pepper to taste.

Sweet Potato, Black Bean and Egg Mash-up | Faith and Composition
Meanwhile, heat the oven to 425. Peel the sweet potatoes and dice them into approximate 1-inch pieces. Lay the diced sweet potato onto a foil-lined baking sheet. Top the sweet potatoes with a drizzle of olive oil, two teaspoons cumin and a sprinkle of salt. Toss to coat. Roast the sweet potatoes for approximately 45 minutes, checking for doneness during the last 15 minutes.

Sweet Potato, Black Bean and Egg Mash-up | Faith and Composition

Dice the kale into small pieces. Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a saute pan, then toss in the kale. Sprinkle with salt. Saute until the kale turns bright green, then remove it from the heat. Remove the kale to a separate plate. Use the same pan to heat a dab of butter, then gently pour the eggs (two at a time) into the pan. Let the eggs cook until the whites are almost firm, then flip (taking care to not break the yolks). Cook until the yolks are done to your liking. Then simply assemble the plates with the kale, black beans and sweet potato. Top with the egg. Finish the plates with optional fresh diced cilantro and feta cheese (a cotija cheese might be good as well). Enjoy!

Now it’s your turn! How do you save money on an unprocessed, whole foods diet? Share your tips with us in the comments.

CLICK HERE TO READ PART 5. For a FREE whole foods, 5-day meal plan, click here

 

Whole Foods for the Family Table, Part 3 {Sourcing Animal Proteins}

If this is your first time here, welcome! We’re currently in the middle of a series titled Whole Foods for the Family Table. You can catch parts 1 and 2 here and here.

Whole Foods for the Family Table, Part 3 | Faith and Composition
It’s been more than four years since I started serving our family organic fruits and veggies from an organic produce co-op, but making the switch to organic, free-range animal products (including pastured eggs and raw cow’s milk) took us a bit longer. Why? Because there’s less availability for the consumer, which makes it more difficult to find reputable sources. Now, however, when my kids reach for a glass of milk, they drink raw, non-homogenized, full-fat milk from a nearby local farm. When they eat meat, it’s the beef from a pastured cow who spent his life grazing grass in my uncle’s pasture. Eggs? They’re from a flock of hens tended by personal friends of ours. Our honey comes from a local beekeeper, and our wheat came straight from my aunt and uncle’s farm.

As I re-read that paragraph, I realize that it sounds like we’re living on a homestead in some rural area. But the truth is, we live smack dab in the middle of a major metropolitan area, and our little yard boasts less than a quarter acre. So how do we do it, and why go to the trouble?

Let’s start with the “why,” because there’s no need for the “how” if conventional options are   comparable. First of all, let me start by saying that we’re not on the low-fat bandwagon. We certainly used to be, and my poor hubby despised skim milk, but now he gets whole milk, full-fat yogurt, real butter and more (within moderation, of course). Why did we make the switch? Because more research is beginning to show that maybe fat isn’t the villain we once thought it was, and all those so-called healthy vegetable oils (high in omega 6) may actually be causing harm. For more reading on the subject, click here to read thoughts from a heart surgeon, and check out some of the links listed in this informative post by Deliciously Organic.

Whole Foods for the Family Table, Part 3 | Faith and Composition

Once I decided to switch from processed, low-fat proteins to their unprocessed, full-fat counterparts, I wanted to get the healthiest animal sources available. And study after study is showing that organic, pastured animals yield a more nutritious food product. Take eggs for example, a study done by Mother Earth News showed that pastured eggs contain four to six times more vitamin D, one-third less cholesterol, one-fourth less saturated fat, two-thirds more vitamin A, two times more omega-3 fatty acids, three times more vitamin E, and seven times more beta carotene than conventionally farmed eggs. Regarding beef, this article suggests grass-fed beef and dairy products are leaner, lower in omega-6 fats, and higher in beneficial omega-3 fats and conjugated linoleic acids.

As for raw milk, A Campaign for Raw Milk indicates that studies have shown that children who consume raw milk have greater resistance to disease, better growth and stronger teeth than children consuming pasteurized milk. Animal studies indicate that raw milk confers better bone structure, better organ development, better nutrient assimilation, better fertility and even better behavior than pasteurized milk. And when it comes to the safety of raw milk, evidence has shown that illness attributed to raw milk over an 11-year period was only less than .0001%. To put that into perspective, a 2003 government study suggested that deli meats are ten times more likely to cause food-borne illness than raw milk. Kind of makes you question your turkey sandwich, doesn’t it?

Apart from these studies though, our family has personally experienced some great results since switching to raw milk. My son has a grass allergy, and his legs break out in bright, red, irritated spots if he’s spent too much time in the grass. Since switching to raw milk, the rash on his legs has almost completely cleared. I don’t know if he had an unknown allergy or sensitivity to milk that was worsening the rash, or if the beneficial enzymes in raw milk have strengthened his immune system so that he can fight the grass allergy, but whatever the case, we’re believers. My niece has also experienced a respite from eczema since switching to raw milk. The poor girl would have a pretty bad eczema flare-up whenever she drank pasteurized milk, but she’s symptom free when drinking raw milk. When it comes to your own family though, don’t take my word for it. Read the studies and enter into a decision that’s best for you with thought and research. If you’re considering raw milk, I highly recommend browsing A Campaign for Real Milk.

Whole Foods for the Family Table, Part 3 | Faith and Composition
Now that you understand the why, let’s move to the how. As I mentioned in the beginning, sourcing organic, free-range animal products is a bit more difficult than sourcing organic produce, but it’s certainly doable. Depending on your state’s laws, many of these products are available at local farmer’s markets. This option is great, because it allows you to ask questions directly of the supplier. You may even be able to find out about the existence of an egg/beef/raw milk co-op just by asking the right questions. And speaking of asking, sometimes a conversation with a like-minded friend can be the best source of information. Talk to others who eat a whole-foods, unprocessed diet to see where they source their animal proteins. And if you see that a restaurant serves food from local growers, ask about their suppliers. The supplier likely sells direct to the consumer, in addition to the restaurant. Before finding my source for raw milk and pastured eggs (which I discovered via word of mouth), I considered sourcing low-temp pasteurized milk from a dairy that supplies the milk needs of one of my favorite local coffee houses.

If these products aren’t available at your farmer’s markets, or conversations with friends don’t yield any results, check out the following site for extensive state-by-state lists of local, unprocessed, whole-foods suppliers:

A Campaign for Real Milk, milk finder
American Grassfed
Eat Wild
LocalHarvest
When considering a raw milk supplier, Mother Earth News has a great checklist of things to look for in a reputable dairy.

If you happen to live in or near the Dallas/Fort Worth area, check out these local famers and their products:

Burgundy Pasture Beef
Dominion Farms
Dry Valley Dairy
Homestead Farms
Hudspeth Farms
Lucky Layla
Rosey Ridge Farm
TexSax Ranch (they sell their own products, as well as operate a raw milk co-op with milk they pick up from Nors Dairy Farm)

Since local, organic, whole foods usually carry a higher price tag, I’m going to tackle the issue of cost in the next couple of days. We’ll discuss ways to stay on budget, as well as some more applicable tips for getting into the habit of preparing and serving whole, unprocessed foods at your family’s table without losing your mind in the process.

What about you? Do you source local, organic animal proteins? If so, what are your favorite local sources? If not, what is hindering you? 

CLICK HERE TO READ PART 4. For a FREE whole foods, 5-day meal plan, click here