100 Days of Real Food Challenge: Biting into Week 2

We are starting Week 2 of the 100 Days of Real Food Challenge with a group of more than 100 friends across the U.S who are trying out more healthy eats. Over the next 13 weeks, I hope to share our journey and post a bunch of new recipes that include real food.

My personal goal is to try to experiment with less wheat and utilize more natural sweeteners. I want to make more snacks and serve up more whole fruits and veggies for my kids rather than relying on store-bought bars (even organic ones!) and fruit snacks (Sorry, Annie.)

This week I made a few discoveries. When we are trying to eat more real foods, I need to think ahead, plan out my meals (and even snacks) and prep/cook ahead of time. My biggest lesson this week is that I need to go back to my "batch cooking" like making sauces that can be frozen and big batches of granola for breakfasts. I also need to prep cook when I am not tired and not in a rush. Otherwise, it's easy to get crabby and frustrated.

I've also been working on portioning our meat so it can be used for two meals. For example, this past weekend we grilled grass-fed burgers and I reserved some meat for taco salad today.

I love to share ideas with friends. Our friends, the Benedicts, had stuffed sweet potatoes on their meal plan and I stole the idea on Friday night when I realized I didn't have enough time for my planned pizza meal and dough rising and all that.

In the spirit of sharing ideas, this week's meal plans are linked here.

This week inspired some new recipes at our house as well. After a juicing session last Sunday, I used the carrot pulp for these Carrot-Oat-Raisin Muffins. I also encouraged my sometimes-picky 3-year-old to eat red peppers this week by mixing up a batch of homemade ranch dressing to dip the peppers in.

My biggest challenge was to think outside the box on desserts. I am a chocoholic so I tend toward chocolate when I need a sweet fix. I discovered that the first ingredient on my semi-sweet chocolate chips was sugar. I don't think chocolate is bad; in fact, studies show dark chocolate is full of antioxidants but I decided to take a break from chocolate desserts this week to push myself to more creativity with real foods.

My hubby is a personal trainer/coach and one of his clients gifted us with some figs from their farm. I've never tried cooking with figs before. I surveyed our refrigerator and found some mascarpone cheese. (That's a mild Italian cream cheese.) I mixed in a teaspoon of honey and some whipping cream and made a mascarpone cream. We cut the figs in half, added a dollop of cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Voila - yummy real food dessert!

Did you eat any real foods this week? Make any great discoveries on the journey to eat more healthy? Please leave us a comment!


What to do with extra carrots: Make carrot-oat-raisin muffins {Gluten-free option}

Our friend Forest brought over his juicer on Sunday and showed us how get our juicing groove on. We made a yummilicious cantaloupe-orange juice. We had a bunch, I mean a bunch, of carrot pulp leftover afterward. I couldn't bear to just throw it out. Instead, I created this muffin recipe and served it up for my kids lunches and one of our on-the-go breakfasts this week. They were moist and the kids gobbled them down.

Carrot-oat-raisin Muffins


1 large egg
2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
1 cup raw milk or almond milk
1/2 cup plain yogurt or Greek yogurt (for creamier, thicker batter texture)
2 cups oats, uncooked
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (Bob's red mill) or 1 cup gluten-free baking mix (Pamela's)*
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon flaxseed, ground
1/2 cup honey (or coconut palm sugar)
2 cups carrots, shredded or pulp from juicing (could substitute zucchini or apples)
1/2 cup raisins (could substitute in chocolate chips and/or walnuts)

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Blend together egg, coconut oil, milk and yogurt.
3. Add dry ingredients: oats, flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and flaxseed.
4. Mix in honey/coconut palm sugar, carrots and raisins.
5. Grease muffin tins with olive oil spray. Use an ice cream scoop to scoop batter into tins. Bake 15-20 minutes or until muffins are golden brown on top and springy to the touch.

Makes 2 dozen mini-muffins or 1 dozen large muffins.

*Our family is increasingly trying out gluten-free recipes because we all have a sensitivity to wheat. I did use wheat flour in the first run of these muffins but my friend Brandy tells me you can always just sub Pamela's baking mix (basically a mix-up of non-wheat flours) when doing muffins. She tried these out and she said her 6 kiddos gobbled them down. I use Pamela's for our pizza dough now and we all love it!

Addicted to Ranch: A healthier homemade ranch dressing recipe

I'm a sucker for sauces. Salad dressing, dipping sauce, tapenades, you name it. I have been known to lick the masala sauce off the plate at Indian restaurants. That said, all these extra condiments can cost a lot of money. Store-bought sauces and dressings also contain a bunch of junk. Have you ever read the label of your favorite ranch dressing? Have you counted the number of ingredients in your barbeque sauce? I did, and I got discouraged. That's when my hubby urged me to start making my own. We discovered this recipe delectable Cilantro-Lime Dressing, which I make weekly. We use this one on tacos, salads, poured generously over steaks. I also started working on my own "healthier" version of ranch without all the MSG and other yucky additives. If you want to cut down the fat content, use yogurt in place of the mayo. We just loved the extra creaminess it adds. My Giada ate half a zucchini by herself yesterday because she was so excited about dippin'. She's her mother's daughter.

Healthified Ranch Dressing


-1 cup plain or Greek yogurt
-1 cup mayonnaise (Love Trader Joe's brand)
-1/2 teaspoon crushed fresh garlic
-1 teaspoon dried oregano
-1 teaspoon dried basil
-1/2 teaspoon dill
-1/2 teaspoon paprika
-1/2 cup almond milk or raw milk

1. Combine all ingredients in a mason jar.
2. Shake and then stir until smooth.
3. Serve with your fave salad, veggie sticks or with pizza.


Always ready for a challenge: 100 Days of Real Food

We are embarking on a new food journey.

For the next 100 days we will be joining a community of 100-some friends across the nation who are committed to making changes in the way they eat to embrace more real foods.

Blogger Lisa Leake of 100 Days of Real Food inspired this community challenge. Our friend Forest dreamed up the idea of uniting on a Facebook group and sharing our journey together. We've been sending out messages to friends for the last week to encourage them to be a part of the conversation and accountability.

Although our family pretty much eats according to the 100 Days "rules" already, we were excited to jump in, tweak some things (We are definitely not perfect!) and encourage others. This is also a great excuse to get back to my food blogging and cooking up some new recipes too.

We hosted a potluck at our house on Sunday for the 100 Days of Real Food friends. We had a yummy spread of summer-inspired food, including grilled corn with cilantro-butter, grilled garlic chicken, pita and hummus, tabbouleh salad.

 We served up a salad topped with sweet potatoes sauteed in coconut oil, honey walnuts and feta cheese. (It's one of our faves for parties.)

Our friend brought this "Sweet Potato Pie" topped with fresh pineapple wedges to go with our Flourless Chocolate Truffle Torte (recipe coming soon) to serve for dessert. The group shared different reasons why they were taking on the challenge and ways we could support each other. We perused cookbooks, web sites and swapped ideas for meal plans.

The group also inspired me to actually type out my meal plans this week. (I normally write out my plans in an old-fashioned calendar and do lots of erasing and scratching out through the week.) Hope this will be helpful to some of you as you plan as well. I know I love gleaning ideas from others and customizing them for our family.

Meal Plans - August 20-26, 2012

The good news: we all survived Day 1. The biggest challenge for me is to get the fruits & veggies & healthy snacks prepared before the kids and I need them. When it comes to dealing with a ravenous 6-year-old and a whiny 3-year-old and a mama who just worked out, I know I have to be able to "grab and go." This means doing some cooking the night before or prep work cutting up fruits and veggies in the morning.

My "yay moment" was when Meilani came home from her first day of first grade and asked for "the same lunch tomorrow" because she loved what we packed today! Big thanks to Heather Fenton for the tabbouleh, which I mixed with tuna then packed a container of carrots, broccoli and hummus and a separate bag of grapes and honey walnuts. Of course, mama forgot to pack a spoon and my girl was too shy to ask for one on her first day so she ate all this with her hands. Messy tuna salad. Sigh.

We are very interested to hear your tricks and tips for adding healthy foods to your kids lunches. Leave a comment.

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