I try not to lecture on this site, rather to lure you in by showing how great it can be to cook with all natural ingredients and products. But I will attempt in this section to tell you why I’ve done my best over the past year to shift from a fairly typical all-American way of eating, to one that is focused on minimally-processed, natural foods.
Generally speaking, there is a lot of room for improvement when it comes to the basics of your home cooking. It doesn’t have to happen overnight, but I encourage you to start (or continue) the journey away from commercially raised fruits, vegetables and animals of various origin, industrially produced cooking oils, highly refined sugars, and nutritionally barren flours. Before these products made their way into your home, many were sprayed with agricultural chemicals, treated with chemical solvents, and stripped of most of their vitamins, minerals, fiber, and flavor. Bad for you, bad for your family, bad for the environment. The good news is that the “processed-pantry” can be replaced by delicious, nutritious alternatives.
The term natural is pretty subjective, but here is what it means to me: Natural ingredients are whole–straight from the plant or animal–or they are made from whole ingredients, with a little processing and as few added flavorings, stabilizers, and preservatives as possible, thereby keeping nutrients and original flavors intact. This to me is the center of a conscious kitchen. Focusing on natural ingredients also means avoiding genetically modified and chemically fertilized crops, as well as dairy/meat products that come from cows treated with growth hormones. Take these natural foods with their super nutritional profiles, their unique and complex flavors, and their lighter impact on the environment and you have an expansive and exciting realm to explore.
First steps – One of the first steps for me was discarding all the white flour and white sugar from my pantry. It forced me to simply cut them out of my cooking palette. More than anything, getting rid of the white stuff cleared space on my shelves for new exciting flavors and nutritionally rich ingredients – new flours, pastas, grains, and beans. It’s been great, and I’ve never felt compelled to go back. Once you have the swing of it, shopping for and cooking with these ingredients isn’t any harder and doesn’t have to take more time than what you are already used to. I promise, it’s getting easier each day to find sources for whole foods, and for me, part of the fun and excitement is in the discovery.
A few steps in the right direction:
1. Cook at home as much as possible using fresh, local, seasonal, and sustainably grown ingredients.
2. Try out a new ingredient every other week or so.
3. Get to know the “bins” at your grocery store – they are packed with nutritional (and affordable!) whole grains, pulses, etc.
4. Drink water or sparkling water in place of soda.
5. Get rid of your “all-white” staples, start exploring new “whole” foods and ingredients.
6. Rethink your plate – is it balanced nutritionally? Lots of color, veggies, protein, whole grains? Good.
7. Shop at a local farmers market, seek out local conscious farmers and buy right from the source, or sign-up for a local C.S.A.
I’ve found that I can typically figure out what fits into my definition of a natural ingredient by asking myself two questions: If pressed, could I make this in my own kitchen? And can I explain how this is made to my children? I’m looking for two yes answers here.
Over the years I’ve had to make many dietary changes, from dairy-free to vegan to a diabetic diet during pregnancy. On this site you will find recipes from all ranges of dietary needs and I hope that you find meals that inspire you to get into your own kitchen and make something fantastic!