The Greatest Gift…

I started this blog in the hope of educating others on clean eating. I wanted people to know that clean eating didn’t mean “flavorless food” or “dull eating”. It is actually quite the opposite. The only thing that it takes is more effort.

Today, my friend and fellow military wife Kayla Anderson said I inspired her to start her own clean eating journey, to not only help with her illness but also to get fit. You can find her blog about her own journey and her awesome crochet patterns

Words can do many things – they can hurt, heal, and invoke inspiration. I am so incredibly beside myself that I was able to help someone else, as I didn’t think I could. The things you can do when you put your mind to them are amazing.

Food is the one thing all cultures have in common. We each have our own styles of cooking, yes, but you can bring many people together with food. Whether your favorite style of food is Mexican, Indian, Italian, or Asian – you will always find you have something in common with somebody. I consider food one of the greatest gifts given to us by God to be able to share with others.

Meanwhile, I posted two new recipes in the “How to Make Your Own…” section of the Recipes link in the menu. ūüôā

Until Next Time,

Jill

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“Ewwwww! Mom, what is THAT?”

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My son, Gavin, is the most lovable, helpful, – and forthright kid I know. He speaks his mind without any type of filter. Sometimes, it’s really really funny, and others, it’s, well, irritating.

Now that we are clean eaters, he will often ask me what’s for dinner, what’s in dinner, etc. He wants to know every little detail. On the nights that he doesn’t ask, he will simply walk out of his room right as I am plating our food as if he has “foodar” (food radar). He will take one look at his plate and find SOMETHING that doesn’t look “quite right” to him. Last night, we had stuffed tricolor peppers with marinara, colby jack slices on top (because I didn’t have any mozzarella and I didn’t feel like going to the store), and an organic superfood pilaf I bought at my favorite store, Trader Joes, on the side. The pilaf contained organic quinoa, kale, red bell pepper, carrots, and sweet potatoes. Though it was actually quite good, he took one look at it, wrinkled his nose, and goes:

“Mom, that looks like someone barfed all over my plate.”

Of course I smirked, because it was a bit funny. But in order to keep our principles, I sent him to his room for complaining about dinner YET AGAIN. Some may not agree with the method, but he comes out ten minutes later much more gracious and ready to eat his food. Nine times out of ten, he will try a new item and actually like it.

Point is, I am dealing with an extremely picky eater, and I am trying to find ways to open his mind about food. I’ve done the usual “hide vegetables in casseroles and things” method and he ALWAYS seems to find and pick out what he doesn’t like. The only fruit and vegetables he will eat are carrots, broccoli, pineapples, and apples. I know this isn’t bad, but I would like him to try more. I even try things (like mushrooms) that I don’t particularly like to see if he will eat them. Doesn’t work. I have to say I am proud of his stubborn will, because that will make him much less prone to peer pressure, but to raise that kid can be difficult at times, especially when it comes to food.

From all of this, I have finally learned that he and food will always have tension, kind of like North Korea and the U.S. (although I don’t think he will threaten nukes on quinoa).¬†

Dreaded Mushrooms, We Meet Again…And I Still Don’t Like You!

As my readers know, I wrote a post some time ago about my extreme dislike of mushrooms and how I would “conquer those vile fungus.” Well, needless to say, they are still vile to me. I look at a mushroom and I want to shrivel up and die. Ok, not really. But I wish the mushroom would.

It just so happens that my first real experience in the kitchen involved mushrooms. When I was seven years old, my mother had me saut√© her mushrooms while she finished up the rest of dinner (I think we had steak that night). I remember the smell, how it was so appealing yet I just couldn’t bring myself to eat a mushroom. Some have told me that they are an “acquired” taste, like beer or fine wine. Well I love beer and fine wine (white wine, not red!) but I don’t think I will ever acquire a taste for something that feels like I’m eating a snail every time I chew. Gross. But at least I can say I tried!

I can say, though, that I have still come up with some awesome kitchen creations despite my lack of all things fungal in nature in my food. The other night I whipped up a nice Caprese pasta using whole wheat fusili, diced organic tomatoes on the vine, organic basil, shredded Parmesan, shredded mozzarella, balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil. Even my husband, who rarely eats a meal with meat, said it was “rather tasty” (that’s high praise from him when it comes to vegetarian meals, kind of like a Vulcan telling a human that they’ve “done well).

So I suppose I don’t need mushrooms to eat clean. But I will never stop trying new things or revisiting old foods that never got a true chance with me. Next stop: Brussels sprouts!

Until next time, here’s a bad mushroom haiku for your entertainment:

Mushrooms
I eat you and my face is bitter
My insides shrivel
Then I throw up
In a toilet, if I’m near one.

Budget = Success!

Ladies¬†and Gents (and other literate¬†beings who choose to read my blog)! It is with great pleasure that I¬†am able to tell you that we¬†are able to continue eating clean! Why, you ask? Well, it’s simple; we spend the same amount of money on better food as we did eating a “balanced” diet (and by balanced diet I mean eating crap and more crap). Just so everyone is aware, the term “crap” is my politically incorrect way of referring to processed food, GMOs, chemicals, and other garbage¬†which is filled with, well, crap.¬†Our Trader Joe’s runs are averaging around $160-$170/week, which is what we used to spend at our local commissary on base which sells 80% of, you guessed it, crap! We buy grass fed beef, free range chicken, organic milk, cheese, eggs, tortillas, bread, and even ketchup made with five ingredients. We eat recipes that we have always eaten, just without the crap ūüôā

So folks, I believe that I have proven how affordable eating better actually is. When you see that an organic product is around $.30 – $1.00 more than it’s genetically modified or chemically¬†grown¬†counterpart, remember that if you don’t buy crap, you can afford it! Isn’t it wonderful? I mean granted, the price of grass fed beef is pretty high, but it is so tender and delicious, and it doesn’t smell like rotting flesh when you open it’s package, unlike¬†beef that’s filled with crap from a cow that’s fed it’s own mother, sister, brother, etc. Think about what that extra dollar is getting you, and how much better you will feel for it.

Until next week! Oh, and I still have yet to try mushrooms…..but I’m getting there!

To Boldly Go…Where No Mushroom Has Gone Before

A derivative collage from two other files - ca...

A derivative collage from two other files – captain Jean-Luc Picard in his quarter on the USS Enterprise-D (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This image shows a few dried mushrooms.

This image shows a few dried mushrooms. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Since I am now a clean eater, I have¬†decided to take the advice of one of my heroes – Captain Jean Luc Picard (as portrayed by the amazing Sir Patrick Stewart) of Star Trek – The Next Generation, and his predecessors before him – I would “boldly go” into it. That means, giving foods I have never previously liked another try. You see, now that I have cut out processed food from mine and my family’s diet, our choices have seemed somewhat limited, so in order to be more creative and feel more fulfillied, we need new ingredients to throw into the mix.

My first adventure will be with mushrooms. Oh, how I despise mushrooms, almost as much as I despise Swiss cheese. The thought of eating a fungus, something I can¬†most likely find between my husband’s toes (sorry honey!) makes me want to vomit the delicious dinner I just had! But I have to try. I am determined to like it. I’m determined to swallow that fungus and conquer it’s awful texture. Without vomiting. Without lurching. Without a bitter beer face. I WILL DO THIS!!!

 

If I retry mushrooms, the rest of my family will too. There may be some vomiting on their part, so no promises on their determination not to vomit. BUT! I¬†will not. I will perservere! I will conquer¬†my internal oppressors of mushrooms! I will bring them the battle of the century! Ok, maybe I’ll just shove a few in my mouth and try not to choke on my own vomit, but hey, it’s a start, right?¬†XD

Jillian Johnson, out!

Cheese Makes The World Go Round

Cheddar cheese from Bravo Farms, Traver, Calif...

Cheddar cheese from Bravo Farms, Traver, California (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

Being a clean eater doesn’t mean that I’m a “vegan” – it simply means that I only consume foods that are free of chemicals, preservatives, synthetic dyes and synthetic flavors. That being said, I could probably live without dairy if it wasn’t for my absolute¬†favorite food enhancer (and food altogether) – CHEESE. I LOVE CHEESE. I could eat cheese all day, every day, with every meal. I wouldn’t poop for a very long time, but I probably wouldn’t care. I could eat cheese with anything – including fruit. When I was a kid, I remember sharing plates of white Vermont sharp cheddar cheese and jalapenos with my mom as a snack. It was quick, easy, and the jalapenos cleared my sinuses better than any over the counter medicine I have ever taken lol! Cheese is something that I feel like I will literally die without if I weren’t allowed to consume it. I love pretty much all cheese, except one – the evil, sinister “cheese” they call Swiss.

 

I’m sure Swiss people are some of the most awesome people in the world – but their cheese sucks. It tastes like a mixture of smelly armpit, feet, and cardboard. The fact that it has holes doesn’t sit right with me either. Whoever actually invented Swiss cheese must have thought that their dirty socks were pretty tasty. I mean, do people really like eating their own dirty socks? Is that what all the fuss behind Swiss cheese is about? Seriously, to call it “cheese” puts shame to the very good name of cheese. Fuck “Swiss cheese”.

 

On a side note, cheese is used in A LOT of popular recipes. My favorite cheeses have to be parmesan, mozzarella, (I’m Italian, it comes with the heritage I suppose, since even ancient Romans had special parts of their kitchen just for making cheese – called a careale [pronounced car-a-al-e]), medium cheddar, and havarti. All of which are good on grilled cheese sandwiches – another favorite. As a topping, you can use it on virtually anything – chips, tacos, burritos, salads, burgers – and as a filler in stuffed meat recipes, sandwiches, appetizers-the list goes on and on! To me, cheese makes the world go round, and is something that most popular cultures today have in common. Even though the U.S. is the top producer of cheese in the world, I tried some of the sharpest, and most delicious cheddar I’ve ever had when I was 16, on my summer vacation in Dublin, Ireland, with my father. It was absolutely divine – and no cheese here compares. Thankfully our local commissary sells some imported cheese from Dublin, because I would hate to never eat it again. Did you know that cheese is actually over 4,000 years old? Remains of cheese were found in Egyptian tombs, dating about 4,000 years in the past. They obviously had very good taste!

Cheese is a favorite among my family as well. It’s a good snack for kids when you want to give them something healthy. My son Gavin is a very picky eater, but he loves cheese. Organic cheese sticks are his favorite snack aside from apples and carrots. If I don’t give him cheese at least once a day, the day doesn’t seem right to him. For me, it’s a favorite with spicy food or an anytime snack, and my daughter loves macaroni and cheese so far. I’m so thankful we can continue to enjoy cheese!

 

Cheese facts came from: http://www.10-facts-about.com/Cheese/id/44

 

Calories or Food Content? You Decide.

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I saw this today on my newsfeed on my personal Facebook page, and it got me thinking about all of these “diets” and the people who fall for them, thinking they will actually work. I have never once thought a frozen “diet” food tasted very good. They always tasted very bland and artificial – which is exactly what they are! For example, take a look at the ingredients in Lean Cuisine’s “Glazed Chicken” frozen dinner:

COOKED CHICKEN TENDERLOINS (CHICKEN TENDERLOINS, HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, WATER, CORN OIL, MODIFIED CORNSTARCH, LEMON JUICE CONCENTRATE, SODIUM PHOSPHATES, SALT, CARAMEL COLOR, POTASSIUM CHLORIDE, GARLIC, ONION, PAPRIKA, SPICE), WATER, BLANCHED ENRICHED LONG GRAIN PARBOILED RICE (WATER, RICE, IRON, NIACIN, THIAMIN MONONITRATE, FOLIC ACID), GREEN BEANS, WHEAT BERRIES, CASHEWS (CASHEWS, PARTIALLY HYDROGENATED SOYBEAN OIL), 2% OR LESS OF MODIFIED CORNSTARCH, SUGAR, CHICKEN BROTH, VEGETABLE BASE (SAUTEED VEGETABLES [CARROTS, ONIONS, CELERY], SUGAR, MALTODEXTRIN, CANOLA OIL, CORNSTARCH, WATER, NATURAL FLAVORS, CONCENTRATED CARROT JUICE, CARROT EXTRACT), SEA SALT, CULTURED WHEY, CHICKEN FAT, CARAMEL COLOR, PARSLEY, LEMON BLEND (LEMON PEEL, SUGAR, LEMON OIL), LEMON JUICE CONCENTRATE, SPICES, DEHYDRATED ONIONS, DEHYDRATED GARLIC

Contains: CASHEW, MILK, WHEAT INGREDIENTS

Seems harmless, right? But what exactly is “modified foodstarch” or “caramel color”? According to Bob’s Red Mill blog, modified food starch is “made by physically, enzymatically or chemically altering starch to change its inherent properties.” ¬†Bob’s Red Mill blog also states that modified food starch could contain gluten, which is unsafe for those with Celiac disease. It is most commonly used as a thickening agent in “instant” meals. To me, this sounds like a genetically modified ingredient – anything chemically altered cannot be good for you! Although science has yet to prove anything without a doubt when it comes to chemicals in food, why risk it?

Caramel color is a coloring agent made from High Dextrose Corn Syrup, invert sugar, and sucrose. While certain studies have found them to a be a negative for cancer, it is still a coloring agent that wasn’t present before being added to promote a “better” looking meal. Once again, why risk it?

“Natural flavors”? I thought that chicken had it’s own flavor? This ingredient seems to mystify everyone – but rest assured, it’s most likely a combination of chemical additives that are supposed to “enhance” the flavor of your food. Isn’t that what salt is for? What about the rest of the ingredients? They don’t do this?

 

For me, cutting out most processed food was the best thing I have ever done for myself and for my family. I have lost 3 lbs doing just that! I wasn’t trying, but it’s nice to be weighed and be told you are now 126 lbs instead of 129 ūüėČ I eat whatever I feel like – sandwiches, steak, uncured bacon, salad with homemade ranch (or anything with homemade ranch really!) and even cheeseburgers! Yep, grass fed cheeseburgers with organic ketchup and homemade fries! I don’t think it’s so much about the calories as what’s actually IN our food. I still have pretty much the same diet as I did before – minus the chemicals and crap. Everyone will do what is best for them – I am not going to sit here on my high horse and tell you that what you are doing is wrong for you, because hey, if it works for you, then it does. I am simply giving you my opinion based on personal and by association experience. I can tell you that I feel safer eating how I do now than I ever did before.

Sources:

Ingredients: http://www.leancuisine.com/products/NutritionInformation.aspx?ProductID=24

Modified Food Starch: http://www.bobsredmill.com/blog/featured-articles/modified-food-starch-demystified/

Caramel Color: http://www.sethness.com/caramel_color_facts/faqs.php?#what

 

Temptation

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I have to admit, although I feel better living the lifestyle that I do, I can’t help but think about things I used to eat before. I miss cheese puffs, chips, hostess cakes, things I know aren’t good for me but¬†taste SOOOOO good. My favorite snack was Herrs Buffalo Blue Cheese puffs. I know that they sound weird but they are one of the best things I have ever tasted, EVER. So when I think about them, I grab a piece of fruit and remember how good I feel after eating something that is really good for me. I feel “cleaner”. It’s hard to explain, but I feel lighter, not as heavy as I do when I eat junk. I have more energy, stamina, and my mood is even better when I eat healthy.

People have asked me if I am on some sort of “health kick” or diet, but the truth is, because I nurse my daughter I have been almost five pounds under my pre-pregnancy weight for a few months now. I have been eating better for maybe a few weeks because I want to avoid the risk factors that are present in my genetics (diabetes and heart problems are among the top concerns for me, cancer and hypertension for my husband). Food is the best prescription for any affliction and the best way to avoid afflictions. My husband and I made this decision together, and so far he has lost eight pounds, has been doing better in his workouts and has more energy throughout the day. Our son makes healthier choices and is setting the best example for his little sister when it comes to food.

In a way, my decision keeps me grounded. The reasons that I have for choosing this lifestyle are all I need to avoid temptation. Since it is present, we allow ourselves one day a week to eat whatever we want; although I am noticing that we eat junk less and less even on those days! As my cooking skills increase and I learn how to make more and more of what we would normally “order out”, we may just cut out all junk food completely. Baby steps….:)

 

 

 

The “Purge”

The day I decided to live a healthier lifestyle was the day I started purging my house of chemical-filled cleaners, detergents, and food. I took one look in my pantry (which was filled to the point where something would fall out every time I opened it) and for a second, I became incredibly overwhelmed by the amount of junk that was in it. I couldn’t believe I had been feeding my family most of the garbage that I had found. So I grabbed a box and started with the top shelf – canned foods, name brand peanut butters, seasoning packets, and old candy were the first to go. On the next shelf was chips (my husband was a Dorito addict so there were tons of old bags!), more candy, old boxed crackers, old cookies, and things I couldn’t even recognize. It was unreal the amount of old processed food alone (mostly open!) that I ended up throwing away. My pantry, on the other hand, is incredibly neat and organized, and I can see most of what’s in it now compared to before, when I had to dig to look for what I needed. If I had to put a pricetag on the amount of food I threw away from my pantry alone, I would estimate I threw out about $350 worth of junk food (/puke).

My fridge was also a nightmare. Everything was out of place, and to top it off, most of the condiments that I had (aside from mayo and ketchup, which I had already switched by this time) were full of artificial garbage. I threw away jelly, barbeque sauce, old jarred jalapenos, mustard, dressings, even old artificially flavored yogurts and processed american cheese. What I was left with were some juices, my Izze sparkling juices (I’m a huge Izze addict!), my Trader Joes ketchup, Trader Joes mayonnaise, and a few leftover food items I had made for dinner the previous night. Not a lot, but I threw out maybe $100 worth of junk.

Here is what my fridge and pantry look like now, after cleaning and organizing:

Life 028 Life 029

Next were my cleaners and detergents. This wasn’t so hard since I had been using mostly Seventh Generation products since I found out about my pregnancy with my daughter. I’ve only really had to switch my dish soap, dishwashing detergent, floor cleaner, bathroom cleaner, and laundry detergent. ¬†That doesn’t seem like a lot when you think about it, and the entire process cost me around $40, which isn’t too harsh on my wallet. Websites like http://www.eco-me.com/ and http://www.honest.com/ make the switch both affordable and incredibly easy.

Since I have a baby, I was looking for an alternative to my daughter’s Pampers diapers. My husband and I didn’t agree on cloth diapering (I was for and he was against), so I looked for a way to diaper my daughter in safe, nontoxic materials that were also disposable. I stumbled upon the Honest comapny (see link in above paragraph) and saw that they had a diaper bundle that automatically shipped once a month to your home, included wipes, and allowed me to pick cute little designs for them. They’re website advertises that this bundle costs around $75/month; I end up paying around $92/month with shipping and tax for 216 diapers and 280 wipes, which isn’t bad compared to the around $150/month that I was spending!

Finally, beauty products. When I was a teenager, I remember thinking that I had to own every single product – fresh-scented lotions, perfumes, makeup, hair products, deoderant, you name it – and no one ever told you about all of the harsh, unsafe chemicals that were in them! I compare it to back when cigarettes were first introduced to the general public, how no one knew that they were horrible for you until years later when smokers ended up with cancer of the lungs, throat, and many other health complications. I really believe there should be warning labels on beauty products that contain chemicals and preservatives such as parabens, phlatates, sulfates, synthetic fragrances and dyes. Anyway, through the Honest Company (see link above once again) I switched mine and my husband’s shampoo, body wash, and lotion. My son uses a brand of all natural shampoo called Jason Kids, and my daughter uses Natures Baby Shampoo and Wash and Earth Mama Angel Baby Mandarin Vanilla Lotion (makes her smell like an orange creamsicle ^_^). I stumbled upon and became an independent consultant for a company called Verefina (details on that later!) for the rest of my products (lotion, deoderant, lip balm, first aid, etc.).

We are still well on the way to living healthier; it will take time to adjust and we have to remember that we cannot allow ourselves to feel deprived. We have designated one day a week (Thursdays) to be our “junk night” – we can choose to eat whatever we want for one day without feeling guilty and without the feeling that we are depriving ourselves. My own weakness is Oreos, or anything chocolate for that matter. In the long haul, this is supposed to do us good, not make us suffer, and our goal is to live a balanced, healthy life. This is going to be one hell of a journey!