I’ve been cooking quite a bit lately, which is new for me. There are all kinds of reasons home cooking tumbled down my priority list for so long, but it’s something I really wanted to change in 2010: less prepackaged last-minute foraging, more thoughtful planning and preparation.

It seems like I kept thinking about it but not making any actual effort to change our eating habits, and then I saw Food, Inc. Holy god, you guys. All I can say about that documentary is that it gave me the exact kick in the ass I needed to stop thinking and start acting.

I really don’t want to be an Obnoxious Food Douche on top of being a Tiresome Fitness Douche, so I won’t bore you with all the details of our newfound organic craze (although I am of course writing about it here, because if there is one thing I can’t get enough of, it’s obsessively documenting the minutiae of my thrilling day to day existence. Why, you should see my food journal!), but I will say how rewarding it’s been to put some actual effort into creating our meals. Instead of tearing open a bag or opening a can or just rooting in the fridge, I’m flitting between pots and pans and cutting boards and poking my face in the oven and doing millions of loads of dishes and jesus my feet hurt from that hard-ass tiled floor but it’s all making me so happy.

I’ve spent the last few years relying heavily on Amazon’s grocery delivery service. It’s been enormously convenient, and the fact that I can place an order in the morning and have it waiting for me when I get home from work has been awesome. But for all the time it saved me, I lost any feeling of connection with what I was buying and what we were eating. I shopped by clicking heavily branded product links, one after another, the exact same way you buy anything else on Amazon. Hell, they’ve even got user ratings on each food item, because god knows we all need to know if other buyers thought that bread was worth 3.5 or 4 stars. (Too bad they haven’t yet included reviews.)

I was falling into a rut of coming home from work and downing a bowl of cereal, the kids having already eaten PB&Js or macaroni and cheese for the thousandth time. We bought the same things week after week and rarely dirtied a pan. Things were constantly rotting in the vegetable crisper while the shelves contained an overabundance of colorfully-packaged things loaded with corn syrup and processed flour.

Planning, shopping for, and preparing our food is a big change. It requires time and effort, whether that’s actively working in the kitchen or thinking ahead to the next few meals. But you know, it’s funny, I feel so much better—not just because I believe we’re eating healthier food, but because I’m addressing a part of our family life I think was starting to fall apart. It isn’t always possible to have a nice sit-down meal with two working parents and two young kids, but we’re doing it a lot more than we were before, and cooking—really cooking—the food that we eat seems to . . . I don’t know how to describe it, exactly. It’s like some broken loop is being closed. Like something I didn’t even know was so important to me is finally being addressed.

Plus, homemade bread. God damn.

Oat bread

Granola with almonds

Fresh homemade pasta

Stuffed peppers with quinoa & ground beef

Pancakes with applesauce, flax, and almond butter

Whole wheat pizza with prosciutto and pineapple

(Click through for recipes.)

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Felicia
Felicia
13 years ago

Yum! This is one of my priorties too.

I have a question though – do your kids actually eat any/all of the stuff? I feel like we spend a lot of time and effort to cook good food, and then my (3yo) son turns his nose up at it. (Our rule is that he can eat something else, as long as we don’t cook it. So he ends up eating a lot of organic lunch meat. Which I guess is OK, but it’s not exactly the Grand Family Experience I have envisioned.)

Anne
13 years ago

YUM.

I’ve been making much the same effort you have this year, to Wife’s delight. We still use grocery delivery for the staples (canned tomatoes, beans, rice, etc), but I’ve been doing a lot more in-person shopping lately. I can’t wait until the rest of the farmers’ markets open in the summer! We really only have one good (largeish) winter farmers’ market here, which I know is more than most places, but I miss summer.

kirida
13 years ago

I’m just disappointed there isn’t more white space and BOKEH in the food pictures. Isn’t that a requirement? I keeeeed. Great job!

Belle
Belle
13 years ago

Family sit-down supper hour was a special time for us when the kids were young, all the way through high school. We both worked, kids active in sports/music/etc but we always made time, even when I cooked in a hurry after work. When else can you both marvel at your younguns, share a laugh and an occasional scolding, hear about everyone’s day? Good times, indeed.

We sit at the counter now that the kids are grown and gone, and I miss that time that we all had together. Besides the better food, you are making wonderful memories. Good luck, you are on your way!

Amanda
Amanda
13 years ago

This recipe for granola bars is FANTASTIC!

http://smittenkitchen.com/2009/09/granola-bars/

I expected just a blah taste but feeling good about controlling what goes into the bars. But I actually like them better than store-bought!

Melissa
13 years ago

Wow! I’m inspired!

Magpie
Magpie
13 years ago
Kaitlyn
13 years ago

Seriously, you’re super mom :) Blahblah CORNY but you are totally adding to the healthy family bond you already have by giving your kids homemade nutritious food *and* teaching them good eating habits that they’ll remember once they’re out of college and sick of value meals :)

Bachelor Girl
13 years ago

My GOD, you are so inspiring these days. I mean, if you can cook from scratch with two small children, a husband, etc., just what’s stopping my lazy, single ass?

Emily
Emily
13 years ago

this looks great! If you continue with the CSA box it gets easier and easier to use all of that too, with standby recipes and go-to cookbooks you find along the way…eventually you will be annoyed at having to think about what to buy at the market/amazon instead of just getting it sent to you. Try some mats/small rugs where you stand most in the kitchen, it really does help!

Miss Behavin
13 years ago

Damn, girl…you go!

I have to admit, I hadn’t been preparing as many meals from scratch the past four months or so, but I’m gettin’ my groove back in the kitchen as of late. I have made more French dishes in the last week than I have in two years. It was yummy, of course, but I think my digestive track needs a break. Maybe I’ll eat a lettuce leaf tomorrow.

6512 and growing
13 years ago

Glad you’re finding joy in wholesome food prep.

Nothing like reading Fast Food Nation and Omnivore’s Dilemma in the same decade (and surely seeing Food Inc)to make you realize shopping for food, cooking and eating is a really important act.

shriek house
13 years ago

Hey, good for you! Bonus that it actually feels rewarding. When I was diagnosed with celiac disease a couple years ago and had to get super anal about what I eat/prepare/buy I started cooking almost everything from scratch. We were already pretty dedicated to organic & sustainable (& local when possible) food, but what was hard was axeing all the convenience and prepackaged items, and cutting back about 99% on eating out. It was so extreme, and I resented it for MONTHS. I’m accustomed to it now, and despite the time suck out of every day, believe it is a good thing both for me and my family. But making peace with it wasn’t easy… I’m so glad for you that this change feels GOOD to you.

oregoncoastgirl
oregoncoastgirl
13 years ago

Food’s always better tasting when you make it yourself, in my opinion! Family dinner is one of my best memories of childhood, and it’s cool to see you working on that in your family (and liking it)! Let me know if you’re interested in the bread recipe that is *strikingly* like City Subs. All the yum without the 9 hour drive!

JCF
JCF
13 years ago

Those meals look wonderful! You’re making great changes, and because you’re doing it while your kids are so young, hopefully they will never remember eating any other way. That’s my hope for my kids, at least–that they’ll think super processed, unhealthy foods are the strange foods, not the healthy ones.

@Felicia-What works for our family as far as getting the kids to eat meals goes is that we make one meal. They don’t have to eat it, but they don’t get anything else either. In addition, I always include SOMETHING I know they’ll eat. The other night, I made baked salmon, brown rice, roasted brussels sprouts, and a green salad. I knew my son wouldn’t touch the brussels sprouts, but he ate some of everything else. I knew my daughter wouldn’t eat the salad, and only a little of the salmon, but she ate lots of brown rice and brussels sprouts. They both filled up, at healthy foods, and they each tasted a little bit of everything. I’m good with that. Dessert isn’t really offered in our house either. Don’t get me wrong, they do get treats occasionally if they’ve eaten a decent dinner, but it certainly isn’t a given, and there’s no bargaining over it at dinner.

tanya
tanya
13 years ago

I so hear you. I don’t have kids, thank the heavens, but cooking for oneself takes a discipline that I am attempting to cultivate. I realized recently that food that you cook (or that someone you know, and preferably love, makes foryou) TASTES SO MUCH BETTER. And it makes you feel better. I swear I can feel the care, the kindness, in it. It’s part of the value of food that I have been overlooking for some time. Thanks for reminding.

StyckyWycket
13 years ago

I had two working parents growing up and a tiny kitchen, but it was always a BIG DEAL for us to all sit together for dinner for a homemade meal. In high school, the only reasons we were allowed to skip dinner was because of a legitimate extra-curricular, Friday night date night, or Saturday, which was usually “graze the fridge” day.

I think it’s made me a very picky eater (I’m not prone to eating bagged crap), but also a very conscious one. I always feel lacking if I grab a frozen entree because I’m stuck at work, or eating crackers out of a sleeve because I don’t feel like cooking for myself.

The point is that cooking for your family makes a HUGE difference in their lives. It’s a difference that means the world to me, and hopefully, to both Riley and Dylan.

Annabelle
13 years ago

I’m really impressed that you are doing this with two small children, a job, and a husband. I was so proud that I have been baking bread and making “real” meals, and it’s just the two of us. And I work from home about 50% of the time. But seriously? Homemade bread, mmmm….For a treat, there is a buttermilk quick bread from Cooking Light that I just tried that is seriously addictive.

Two questions:
1. What is “oat bran cereal”? Is it necessary for the oat bread? [I never eat cereal…I feel so…out of touch.]
2. Nevermind. My other “question” requires clicking on the pizza picture to see the dough recipe you are using. :)

Oh, right – a comment on the bread not rising. We keep our house at about 63, so bread *never* rose for me. The trick, for me, is to try to coordinate baking bread with other uses of the oven. That way I can put the dough on the stovetop to capture the warm air coming up from the oven. Another option – I will also put it in the (gas) oven (turned off). The pilot light makes it a little warmer than our (admittedly chilly) house. And I give it a LOT of time to rise – usually a lot more than what is listed in the recipe. Friends have also put the dough on top of the dryer while it’s on, and another friend with a close-by hot water heater swears by putting her dough near that. Anything that will make the ambient air a little warmer.

Bridget
13 years ago

Look at you with your photos and your recipes! You some kind of food blogger now? The picture of the pasta is particularly nice. I’m so glad you’re enjoying yourself with this!

Leigh
13 years ago

This post makes me tired. I mean, yay! Good for you!

I started eating less processed food (almost none) a year ago. I still buy bread for my son, though I avoid all gluten. I buy tortillas, almond butter and a few other processed things. I look for three or fewer ingredients when I do get something processed.

I can’t cook much during the week so I make things in bulk. Examples: grass fed beef taco meat with bell and poblano peppers, mexican grilled chicken thighs, Joe’s special, green chile ckicken enchiladas…We keep these things in the fridge and eat them all week. We can make tacos, quesadillas, nachos, with the meats or just eat them plain reheated. There is always a bowl of hard boiled eggs as well.

I always have a bag of ready to cook greens and spinach(I put them in a scramble with other veggies and some eggs.) We always have a lot of fruit on hand, both fresh and frozen (mmm smoothies).

For snacks I’m partial to Lara Bars and Kind fruit and nut bars, also almonds.

I can’t tell you the difference this has made in how I feel and also my athletic performance.

Heather D.
Heather D.
13 years ago

I love to cook too. If you want some really, really good bread that is crazy easy to make look for the book “Artisan bread in 5 minutes a day”. They aren’t kidding and it’s fantastic! Also, make Allrecipes.com your friend.

AndreAnna
13 years ago

Like I’ve said before, we make time for what we want to make time for.

And I’m so glad you are finding this not only rewarding but fun. My kids scoff at me and then demand pretzels and cheese, though.

Have you come across the book “Super Natural Cooking?”

It was one of the books that really made a difference in how I view food and cook.

From the website:

Written and photographed by Heidi Swanson, creator of 101 Cookbooks, Super Natural Cooking guides cooks toward a more natural (less processed) palette of ingredients and recipes. Everyone knows that whole foods are much healthier than refined ingredients, but few know how to cook with them in uncomplicated, delicious ways.

Here’s the link

Kami Lewis Levin
13 years ago

It looks terrific. All of it. I wish I had the motivation to cook, but I don’t. I’d come over for dinner, though. If you invited me!

amber
amber
13 years ago

Have you read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver? It’s super-inspiring/wake-up call-ish in the same regards that Food, Inc. is — but it’s also a personal story…super great read.

I’m reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma right now and it’s fantastic and informative but also kind of horrifying and bewildering.

Kudos to you for doing the meals-from-scratch thing. You are some kinda super woman.

jonniker
13 years ago

I’ve been an obnoxious food douche for a while now, although I keep pretty quiet about it. I focus mostly on local, rather than organic, because usually local IS organic, and because of the big food business that organics have become. See? Am douche.

You know, I meant to ask you before: have you considered going in on a (butchered) cow with a friend or two? I know that sounds nutty, but we did it, and have a ton of fresh, awesome, local beef in the freezer — all kinds of cuts, and it’s really nice to have, if you can swing it, space-wise.

Our local farm CSA is up my ass to get me to buy GOAT MEAT and boy howdy, let me tell you, I may be a hippie localvore, but I AIN’T READY FOR THAT SHIT.

Incidentally, the other day I came up with this genius idea to blend almonds, dried cranberries and dark chocolate chips together for a snack. I was SO PROUD of this achievement, and delightful new taste treat. And then I realized I just “invented” trail mix.

statia
13 years ago

We eat pretty organically to begin with. At the very least all natural, and GMO’s are a big sin in our house. But I’ll tell you, man, Food Inc. Holy mother of GOD. That just made me want to run off and buy a farm somewhere, and never leave my little bubble. And now even the processed organic stuff I eye suspiciously.

Maria
13 years ago

This is a major missing link in our household. We’re in the opening cans and turning the TV on rut and I hate it.

I have to get me in a better place before I can get on top of that place.

At any rate, I find this inspiring, not annoying.

Andrea
13 years ago

Um, YUM. Can I please come over for dinner? Food, Inc. changed our lives too. I’m a vegetarian, my husband is not, but it finally woke him up to my cause. He’s not converting, but he has finally decided to purchase local meats and happier eggs. It makes me crazy happy that a movie can affect positive changes among families like ours.

willikat
13 years ago

Ooooh, I would love to hear about your food douchery.

I read Fast Food Nation, etc., and Food Inc is on my Netflix to watch.

I can’t always buy organic, but I try. And I am a big believer in staying out of hte middle of the grocery store and shopping around the outsides. You are what you eat, that axiom is STILL true.

Also, have you read The Chemistry of Joy? It’s a great book about how different foods can affect your moods. Obviously, not all or much will apply if you’re not struggling with depression, etc. (and I’m not, not that there’s anything wrong with that a la Seinfeld), but I still found it fascinating on an intellectual, scientific, and yes, even a sort of self-helpy level.

Kate
13 years ago

If you’re an Obnoxious Food Douche, then so am I! And I’ve loving hearing about ALL the journeys you’re on…especially the Food and Fitness ones. SO inspiring. I love that you’re doing more cooking at home too. I try to do that as much as possible, which is hard considering I work 3-11:30pm. But it’s so much more satisfying to do it yourself.

Food, Inc. has been added to the Netflix. Can’t wait to watch it. I have a feeling it’ll kick MY Food Douchery into high gear. :)

MommyMagic
MommyMagic
13 years ago

I think that family dinner time is important regardless of what is being eaten.

Try a pair of Crocs for your cooking comfort. It’s very Mario Batalli-esk, but I bought the hubs a pair on clearance and tried them on…COMFY!!! Looking to aquire some for myself. They make great house shoes and come in fun colors & styles.

You rock and are very inspirational to everyone, not just women, on striving to be your best everyday. Thank you.

Sarah
Sarah
13 years ago

Welcome to my world! (and I mean that in the best possible way) :D

Probably the single biggest appliance that has saved my hide with cooking for the family is my new (used and found for $50 on craigslist) chest freezer. I find a recipe I like that freezes well (your bread, pasta, pizza crusts and stuffed peppers would all be great freezer items!) and then I pick a day when I have no one in the kitchen and I cook, like, 6 of the same recipe and freeze them in foil catering containers that I get from Cash & Carry.

It’s a great way to have healthy, organic, home-cooked meals even on the nights that I don’t want to cook.

Sarah
Sarah
13 years ago

Oh! And I was going to add that getting a CSA box always feels like an Iron Chef challenge. What can you make with this weird root vegetable (once you identify it and stop laughing at its grotesque phallic shape, of course)? Fun!!

Marie Green
13 years ago

Animal Vegetable Miracle has links and resources that were helpful to me when we became food douches too.

I also like Amanda Soule’s WHO bread (found here:

http://www.soulemama.com/soulemama/2008/02/who-bread.html

And, if you aren’t reading Catherine Newman’s recipe blog, you’re missing out. It’s here:

http://family.go.com/blog/catherinewman/

Finally, my bread machine is a lifesaver, especially after I started to get worn out from all the WORK of making food. Mine is 2nd hand, takes up too much space (and lives on my dining room floor- ugg). But I love pouring in a few ingredients, hitting a few buttons, and having bread in a couple of hours. We also make all of our pizza dough this way.

Elizabeth
13 years ago

With a 45 minute commute, I started partially cooking dinner in the morning and would finish it when we got home. Then I got into a rut of “quick” recipes. I missed cooking and playing in the kitchen so started hunting again. A few months ago, I stumbled upon Once a Month Cooking. I don’t have time to do a whole month at a time but on the weekends, I usually do have time to do at least a week, sometimes two, at a time.

I’ve also started cooking some of my own stuff and checking ingredients lists more carefully – looking for few ingredients, no high-fructose corn syrup (good luck!) and no words I can’t begin to pronounce.

Good luck to you on your quest as well!

Marie Green
13 years ago

Oh, oh, oh, I forgot our FAVORITE- pita bread. (I sub in lots of whole wheat flour, flax seed, wheat germ etc). This recipe is great, adaptable, and my kids LOVE seeing the pitas puff up. It’s here:

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/recipes/pitabread

(We eat this with chicken, lettuce, any other veggies on hand, and Catherine Newmans’ “hummus among us”. (Actually, the kids just eat the bread. With MAYBE some cheese). Delish!

AndrewENZ
13 years ago

Oh that all looks so good! Never tried buying my groceries online before – will have to give it a go.

Hilary
13 years ago

Wow, and you have been making AMBITIOUS meals. I make dinner every night, but during the week it’s usually something very simple. A book that helped me figure out how to make fast, healthy, delicious dinners is the Monday to Friday Cookbook by Michele Urvater. http://www.amazon.com/Monday-Friday-Cookbook-Michele-Urvater/dp/1563057484

Once a week (usually every Tuesday, a day I’m home with the kids), I make a list of the dinners for the week, write down the ingredients, and go to Trader Joe’s & our local market, Henry’s. The awesome thing about Trader Joe’s is that even their prepared foods have nothing scary in them. Every now and then I scan through the ingredients of the few prepared foods I get from them and I’m impressed, again. Oh, Trader Joe’s, I love you and your cute, friendly employees.

Anyway, great work. Glad you’re having fun feeding your family.

angelynn
13 years ago

Truly inspiring. I am amazed by what you’re able to accomplish on any given day. And you’re right. When you take the time to cook real food it’s better for everyone. You and your husband are setting such a great example for your sons. I’m happy to see so many comments touching on the importance of local and organic foods. Every decision we make (even the tiny ones) make a big difference.

Angella
13 years ago

1. You’re making me hungry, and

2. I better not watch Food Inc. because I already cook pretty much everything from scratch but I’m pretty sure making homemade pasta would kill me. Or cause me to throw it angrily at the wall. Just because.

Erin (Snarke)
13 years ago

I’m about to start doing more of our cooking again too and can I say? Your pictures are making me DROOL. Seriously.

Sharla
Sharla
13 years ago

You are NOT an Obnoxious Food and Fitness Douche. You motivate me in ways that I have never been motivated before. You have no problem taking a hard look at your life and changing what you don’t like and I find that inspirational! Keep writing about what YOU are passionate about and if other people don’t like it, they don’t have to read!
Much love!

kim
kim
13 years ago

Did I just read you MAKE bread in top of everything else?!? How do you DO it? Weep.

Belle
Belle
13 years ago

Uh, yeah. I want to BE YOU.

hanna
hanna
13 years ago
squandra
squandra
13 years ago

SO happy for you! :) I was lucky to be raised on “real food” and man, what a gift you’re giving your kiddos — not just now, but when the time comes for them to make their own menus. I don’t follow the good example set for me as often as I should, but it still makes a world of difference.

JMH
JMH
13 years ago

Looks great. I havemade friends with my slow cooker again. Our lives are crazy busy right now (working parents, kids in basketball, ballet and other clubs) Using the slow cooker really helps us stay away from the processed food for dinner, yet it makes the cooking process so much easier. I made this last night and it was a HUGE hit (and only took 15 minutes since I “baked” the potatoes in my crock pot!
http://www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/browse-all-recipes/baked-potato-eggs-10000000659302/

Susan
Susan
13 years ago

Don’t know if somebody already mentioned this, but read: “In Defense of Food” by Michael Pollan and “Food Matters” by Mark Bittman.

Kim S.
Kim S.
13 years ago

Our family really started cooking EVERYTHING from scratch when I found out my twins had very serious food allergies (911-type allergies). The enjoyment we’ve gotten out of really learning to cook and eating actual real food has been the silver lining to their allergies. I realized I became a food douche over xmas when my sister-in-law hosted. She served a Stouffer’s lasagna! With out-of-the-package garlic bread! Oy. I was mightily unimpressed. But then I saw that she had almost no dishes to wash….those were the days. Now we get our rocks off watching America’s Test Kitchen on PBS. How life changes.

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