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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Christina
13 years ago

Do you know what I appreciate about you? That when you decide to do something you do it ALL out, man. I am a pretty hard core dedicated person when I want to be but holy cow you blow most people out of the water with the hard core! Good job on the changes to the diet…

I have no time between the job, the kids and the house. I love the idea of home cooking everything and last year I made a concerted effort to change but then I started running and I realized something had to give. I still cook “homecooked” meals everyday but yes some of it is from pre made stuff. I figure if I use the whole wheat or organic parts of the recipes I am doing well.

I have read and watched these kinds of documentaries before and they made me crazy. OMG The Jungle? GAW. Fast Food Nation. Ummm, never eating out again. It goes on and on. I try to find a balance between freaking out and making good decisions for me and my family so that we are all happy.

AndreAnna
13 years ago

Susan,

I just started reading “In Defense of Food” and HOO BOY is it way less preachy than so many others of those books.

I want to learn, people, NOT be condescended.

Michael Pollan seems to do a great job of that.

Redbecca
Redbecca
13 years ago

Ah, you are so West Coast with your ham and pineapple pizza. It made me smile. I miss seeing that as standard on a menu.

Jen
Jen
13 years ago

About a year and a half ago I decided to stop eating meat, and it forced me to really do a huge overhaul on how I buy and prepare our meals etc, and caused me to put so much more thought into preparing menus and meals. You’re right… it feels really good! I discovered how great it felt to cut up fresh veggies, use fresh herbs, cook things from scratch. It’s hard to find the time to do this every day after work obviously, so I’ve come up with a lot of quick, but healthy staples throughout the week and try to spend more time making something different on the weekends. Your pics all look delicious!! And your right Food Inc…. omg… seriously… scares the crap out of me! lol

rd
rd
13 years ago

homemade food=wonderful

I’ll second the link to http://www.smittenkitchen.com – never a bad recipe :-)

Have fun!

Angie
Angie
13 years ago

When I watched Food, Inc. I was also reading a book called The Unhealthy Truth. Between the two… I don’t know. It’s overwhelming, but I’m thinking of the small changes we can start with. It really is important.

Maggie
Maggie
13 years ago

Allow me to introduce the wonders of cooking healthy food at home while working…do you have a crockpot? If not, run out to Target or Bed Bath & Beyond and get one for $30-40. While making dinner when you get home is rewarding and yummy, some days you still want dinner to be ready when you get home. This is where the crockpot comes in, and no, this is not the stereotypical crockpot that your grandmother and/or mother had when you were growing up. There are a lot of misconceptions with crockpots these days (trust me, until 2 years ago, I was a skeptic…but then my sister got me hooked, and since then, 2 of my close girlfriends have gotten crockpots too–one of whom doesn’t even have the gas turned on in her apt because she DOESN’T COOK. Like, I’m not sure if she really and truly knows how to boil water, and I am not exaggerating. But she & my other friend looove crockpot dinner night at my place!)…there are so many yummy healthy meals out there–google them, or pick up a copy of “Fix it & Forget it, Light”…it is truly easy & wonderful to come home to dinner ready! You can’t leave the pasta recipes all day long (save those on the weekends when you only need about 2-3 hrs to cook them), but beef (roast & beef stew), pork (omgz pulled pork, you will never go back), chicken (“Super Easy Chicken” is actually a recipe I make on a regular basis)…11 hours on low baby. You can control your ingredients (healthy/organic, etc.), and have I mentioned how easy it is?! Ok, stepping down from soapbox…

Christine
13 years ago

Yay for you! I saw these photos yesterday in your flickr stream and was very excited for you. I love cooking and have actually missed it these past two weeks while moving into our new house. A girl can only eat so much take out. (An aside on your bread, check the date of expiration on your yeast) I’m very excited to try out your pizza crust recipe.

Eating at home with my family was something I loved growing up, and something I plan to do with my someday in the future children.Go you!

Artemisia
13 years ago

YAY, YAY, YAY, YAY!!!!!

I am an Obnoxious Food Douche. There, I said it.

And HOLY HELL YES: Food is so important socially, culturally, ritually… that it really does nourish us in so many ways. I love that you are writing about how you feel a loop has been closed – YES, YES, YES!!!

And there is no better thing than homemade bread. The smell, the first warm slice with (real!) butter melting into it…Oh, my!

JesC
13 years ago

If Food Inc. got you thinking – please, (PLEASE!) read Omnivore’s Dilemma. Michael Pollan is a smart, smart man. That book single handedly made me rethink what I ate. Food Inc., Fast Food Nation and various other books/movies followed, but Omnivore’s started it.

The Urban Cowboy
13 years ago

It all looks yummy, especially the pizza!

Jenn
Jenn
13 years ago

Another good book on this topic – Master Your Metabolism by Jillian Michaels. Another reason to love Jillian.

Jen
Jen
13 years ago

I made this same switch over last year and I’m proud to say we’re still going strong. Changing over to organic health foods is one of the best things you could possibly do for your family! My switch inspired me to become a Holistic Nutritionist (my certification is completed this summer!) It’s been an amazing eye-opening experience that has changed how I look at food (and farming/gardening/etc.) forever!

nancy
nancy
13 years ago

I’m the stay-at-home parent and cook everything from scratch. Seriously, I am in that fucking kitchen for _hours_ every day, chopping, stirring, scrubbing… I do it because I like to eat good food, and I want my kids to like real food, too. But damn it is a lot of work. If you can manage this while also working outside the home – you rock! Have fun with it!

Lindsay
Lindsay
13 years ago

I second the recommendation for Heidi Swanson’s wonderful website 101cookbooks.com. Her book is also great. Her site has totally changed the way I’ve been cooking. I love to cook, but my husband and I are huge junk/fast food lovers and the past year we’ve been really overdoing it, hence the 20 lbs I’ve gained. Egads. So a few weeks ago I went back to Heidi’s site not just to drool over her beautiful photography, but to GET STARTED on making a change. Her recipes have introduced us to grains and spices I’ve never heard of but that are actually available even in my small NC town. Her combination of flavors are complex and unique, yet her techniques simple and to the point. Every recipe is an adventure.

Beth in SF
13 years ago

Wow! For someone who doesn’t cook much, you’re sure making some tasty looking cookbook cover worthy fare there!

We also just saw Food, Inc. and while I do most of my cooking from scratch, I was not buying organic and such. That movie made me so scared about the meat we’ve been eating. Seriously.

Casey
Casey
13 years ago

Someone above touched on the ritual of food prep – everything pre-made in the store, even the organic stuff, has been made by machines. No heart, no love, no RITUAL of making food for your family. The giving and the eating of a meal prepared from the heart, with love, for your family – well, corny maybe but the connections of life are formed during food prep and meals.

Oh, stop me.

Eilis
13 years ago

I haven’t seen Food, Inc. yet, but I am reading “The Unhealthy Truth” by Robyn O’Brien (saw it mentioned on amalah.com). This book has changed me in a BIG way. I’m not even done with the book and we are buying almost totally organic now. I’m packing my son’s lunches for daycare instead of letting him eat there…sure, it’s more work, but now that I know what I know I can’t believe we’ve been eating this crap for so long. And why isn’t anyone DOING anything about it? Why are corporations taking the crap out of their food in other countries but not the US? I’m pissed, and I’m going organic. My husband and I are even talking about getting chickens. Heck yeah.

joaaanna
joaaanna
13 years ago

The movie that motivated my husband and me was “Processed People”. We’re not as die-hard as most of the people on there regarding meat and dairy – but we have changed our food and it has changed our lives. Michael Pollan’s book “In Defense of Food” is a great book and I heard it runs along the lines of “Food, Inc.” which I’m excited to watch. I agree – cooking and food seems fun again.

Tina
Tina
13 years ago

It’s hysterical that Obnoxious Food Douche’s like you think you’ve invented the concept of cooking for your family. Oh wow! So revolutionary.
This is what people have been doing for centuries.

Kim
Kim
13 years ago

Plural, not possessive. Snarf! :)

Beth in SF
13 years ago

Tina: what the heck about this is obnoxious and/or douchey?

diane
diane
13 years ago

I can’t wait to try the Stuffed Pepper recipe. You continue to be incredibly motivating Linda….and seriously funny.

Ang
Ang
13 years ago

It’s cool, Tina. We are all aware that people have been cooking from scratch for quite some time now. This is Sundry’s personal blog detailing her life, LE DUH.

Sundry, the pictures look awesome! I’m sure it was yummy!!

Jen_Ann_W
13 years ago

Tina: The point is that there are people in the world that think cooking real food IS douchey and obnoxious. It’s those people that keep the Big Food Companies in business after all. If Linda can convert one of those people, and convince them to think about what they’re eating, then she IS revolutionary. And your holier-than-thou attitude about it is what turns those same people away.

On that note, VIVA LA REVOLUCION! I’ve found some great recipes on http://www.organicvalley.coop/recipes, and organictobe.org. Where I live it’s been really hard to find good organics – there isn’t a Trader Joes or Whole Foods in good ol’ Toledo, but Fresh Market is okay for some things – so I’m looking forward to moving back to “granola country” soon.

HollyLynne
13 years ago

This is how I cook now and I’m realllllyyyyy hoping that I don’t have to let it go entirely once our baby boy is born in April.

Wendi
13 years ago

Isn’t cooking fun?? My husband and I both enjoy cooking and we’re getting our 15 year old daughter involved too. It’s more fun as the kids get older and their tastes get more adventurous, lol.

After watching Food Inc. we’re also trying to choose more carefully, buy organic when we can, etc. It really does make a difference, both in how things taste and how we all feel.

I could just totally relate to everything you said in this entry, and the photos are fantastic! :)

Reagan
13 years ago

I cried at the end of Food, Inc. Is this normal? :-p It just touched me so much!!!!

Mel
Mel
13 years ago

I cried a little at that movie, too. It has CHANGED my life and the way I eat!

Heather D.
Heather D.
13 years ago

Ooh, I’ll second ‘Animal, Vegetable, Miracle’ by Barbara Kingsolver? Great book.
On another note, I hope that’s an organic stick Tina has shoved up her ass.

Erin
Erin
13 years ago

Oh, I watched that documentary the other night after my sister in law recommended it to me and honestly, I had the same reaction as you! I’m not usually one to really get involved in things like this – I don’t have a major cause I stand up for (except breast cancer) nor have I ever really given it any thought. But my husband heard the movie in the background and actually got interested in it while I was watching it. Now there are certain brands we’re trying to avoid, if possible – and we’ve never been people to ‘shun’ products or companies before – this really opens your eyes! (wow, I sound a bit crazed here!)
I’ve started taking a closer look at organic selections, seeing what I can make at home rather than buy pre-made, etc.
I’ve always loved to cook but I had fallen into a rut – my husband and I are each gone twice a night, leaving only three nights I had to worry about meals and those became so boring, quick, even a lot of fast food.
After seeing the documentary, it has kind of renewed my desire to start cooking at home more (as cheesy as that seems!).
I’m so glad somebody else had the same reaction to the movie I did. I’ve been passing on the name of it to several of my friends, but they all are refusing to watch it, thinking that I’m trying to turn them into vegetarians or to boycott national compaies, which is simply not the case, just trying to make them aware of what goes on behind the scenes of the manufacturers of products they are buying.
I work for a major national grocery chain so my efforts with my work friends may not take off, but I’m hoping that my non-work friends take note.
Thanks for posting the mention of that video on your site!
I hope you keep us posted on the recipes you’re trying out!

Lesley
Lesley
13 years ago

I must confess I do very little home cooking and buy a lot of take out, albeit healthy take out, like roasted free range chicken, sauces, bagged granola, and steamed veggies from the deli (shame on me for not even mustering up the few minutes to steam veggies! Now there’s something I could easily change).

I do excel at, and take pride in salad making, however, which is strange because making salads is time consuming (all the cleaning and chopping).

I admire all your home cooked meals up there and realize I am such a relentless hog when it comes to carbs, I could probably never make my own 10″ pizza without eating it all in one sitting. And I am hopeless with bread. And what usually goes on bread. So I keep my pantry largely carbless, with the exception of the odd binge now and then.

Funnily, years ago when I knew nothing about pasta (except that it tasted good), I believed it grew on trees. Now there’s an embarrassing admission.

lisa-marie
13 years ago

Wow, those all look delicious! I’m particularly impressed with the homemade pasta – that always looked so difficult to me.

Jenny
Jenny
13 years ago

I really like the Cook’s Illustrated 30-minute cookbook. Unlike some other 30-minute cookbooks, all the recipes are delicious and fresh (and not prepackaged or “semi-homemade”) and 30 minutes is often all I have to give on a weeknight. But cooking for the family is fun and satisfying. I hope we hear more about this!

Andrea (@shutterbitch)
13 years ago

I’m in this boat too, becoming an Obnoxious Food Douche (singular). My biggest obstacle right now is convincing my husband. I still have Food, Inc from Netflix & the first chance I get, I’m going to have him watch it with me.

Karen
Karen
13 years ago

The homemade pasta recipe looks super easy! Do you know if that would translate into ravioli? I make delicious chicken and dried cranberry meatballs that I think would be a great ravioli filling: Dice your chicken breasts and dried cranberry, toss together with some thyme, chives, salt and pepper. I usually bake them and then smother them in an alfredo sauce (which you could easily lighten up by having a light hand with the butter and only using milk).

telegirl
telegirl
13 years ago

OK, so I’m a bit late on this but I had to comment. I am *so* renting Food, Inc. when I get the chance. My husband was laid off recently so he’s been doing the cooking for us. I had to recommend that you subscribe to Everyday Food Magazine because each month is chock-full of incredible & healthy recipes.

Karen
Karen
13 years ago

both of these books by Sandi Richard have been lifesavers for our family…. very very simple recipes, but the encouragement to organize has meant a lot less junk and takeout.

http://www.amazon.com/Sandi-Richard/e/B001JS1998/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

Anna
Anna
13 years ago

I’ve been an Obnoxious Food Douche for a couple years now, becoming more so. For me, it started with Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. We’re lucky enough to have a great farmer’s market here in Halifax, and I do most of my grocery shopping there now. I recently read Unhealthy Truth and found that eye-opening in some ways, as well.

Perhaps you can start a Food Douche’s site?

Jen
Jen
13 years ago

new blog for you: Food Douche. I would totally read.

I’ve been planning meals & shopping for a few years now and it works SO well. It takes time to plan, but it sure beats the last minute ‘foraging’ as you called it. It’s tough with both parents working and trying to find something everyone will eat, AND something generally healthy, AND something relatively easy. But sitting down as a family for a meal is something we try to do, at least a few nights a week.

shelly
shelly
13 years ago

Linda, these looks awesome and you have inspired me to start cooking again. You should check out Amanda Hesser’s(former NY times food critic) new website. She left the paper and started this with a friend. It is wonderful and right up your alley.
http://www.food52.com/cooks

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