A Candy-Free Easter

Easter is a great time of year. It is an incredibly refreshing time of year as we celebrate the resurrection of Christ and new life. There is a dark underbelly to this wonderful time of year though…. jelly beans. Before we began our lifestyle of clean eating, jelly beans were my vice. So were chocolate Easter bunnies, Cadberry eggs, Reese pieces, and pretty much any candy around the Easter season… except for Peeps, Peeps are nasty. If you set a pack of jelly beans in front of me, I would devour them really quickly.
But here is the big problem. Candy is often extremely unhealthy. With all of the “sugar” (high fructose corn syrup), food dyes, and artificial flavors. It is not good for me to eat candy, and truthfully it is not good for me to give that candy to my children. We had to figure out a way to make Easter exciting for our children without giving them candy. This really isn’t a big problem for us because our children rarely eat candy! A few Hershey kisses and a few jelly beans were pretty much the extent of their candy consumption before we made the switch to clean eating.
This year, we made an Easter basket for our children and I think that they are going to love it! I am going to allow you to peak into our Easter basket so that you can get some ideas for your own Easter.

  • Bubbles
  • A bucket and shovel
  • A kite
  • A book
  • Chalk
  • Chalkboard mat
  • Frisbee
  • Stickers
  • Glow-sticks
  • Play dough

Target has a great dollar section where I purchased some awesome Easter find. I even got some carrot and bunny hair clips! For my daughter of course….even though I could so pull them off. The stickers even have eggs that are scratch off, because who doesn’t like to do that?! Walmart had the kites, bucket, Frisbee, eggs and bubbles.

I hope that gives you a few ideas. By the way, our family may not do candy, but we still do eat something fun. This year we are going to bake a delicious dessert for the kids (we may eat a little bit ourselves). You can eat great food without sacrificing your health, and that is the whole point. Have a great (and clean) Easter!

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Home made almond milk

IMG_9367picmonkey.jpgI had a dairy sensitivity for years (which by the way cleared up when we changed to clean eating) and was always looking for a good milk substitute. Almond milk was my favorite! My family always has whole milk in the fridge now but I still love Almond milk. Its delicious in smoothies, cereal or whatever you like!

Almond milk is so surprisingly easy to make! I used to buy the premade kind for the grocery store but as we have been cutting out processed food/additives almond milk was one that had to go. Have you looked at the ingredient list of your current almond milk? I was really surprised by what I found: sugar, carrageenan and vitamin A palmitate just to name a few. Almond milk doesnt have to be so complicated! The only thing in your almond milk should be almonds, water and maybe a little sweetener like honey or maple syrup.

All you need to make almond milk is:IMG_9299picmonkey

Almonds, water, nut milk bag or flour sack towel and a good blender. Vanilla, honey or maple syrup is optional.

Its that easy!

Instructions:

1. Soak 1 cup of almonds in a bowl of water for 12-24 hours.

2. Drain water and place almonds in blender with 4 cups of water

3. Blend for several minutes and strain mixture through your nut milk bag or flour sack towel. squeeze as much milk out as you can. Don’t throw out the almonds! Make some almond flour to use in recipes later.

And that’s it! You are done. Add a little honey or maple syrup if you like it sweeter or maybe even a little vanilla. Store in the fridge for up to 7 days and just give it a shake before serving.IMG_9332picmonkey.jpg If you are like me, then you will store it in a mason jar. Do yourself a favor and get a recap! The are amazing. I always have one on my almond milk jar and my honey jar. They come in regular and wide mouth so you can fit them to any jar! Makes pouring a breeze!

Enjoy!

 

 

5 Veggies That You Can Put In Almost Anything!

How many of you love eating veggie? Chances are, not many of you said yes to that question. The truth is, many people think vegetables are gross! Most children think vegetables are gross and most adults think they are gross! In the last few years I have grown to truly love eating vegetables. In fact, it is a rare dinner that vegetables are not a central, important part of the dish. The reason is because I believe that in most cases, vegetables are not meant to eat raw, they are meant to be incorporated with other things to enhance flavor. I always used to see eating vegetables as if you have to eat raw broccoli dipped in ranch, and then when I heard that ranch wasn’t necessarily good for you, I gave up on it altogether! Who wants to eat raw broccoli? Not I! A question that seems to be on parent’s minds is, “How do I get my kid (or even my spouse!) to eat their veggies?” To answer that question, I put together a list of a few veggies that you can put in pretty much anything.
Spinach

Let’s be honest about spinach. When you were a kid and watched Popeye eating his spinach and it making him strong, they really didn’t make spinach look very appetizing. The spinach that Popeye ate looked like sludge! Nobody wants to eat that. Would you believe that for years I believed that is what spinach was?! I wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer… Spinach (for those of you who still do not know) is a leaf, it is a dark green color. By the way, when it comes to leafy greens, the greener the better. A lot of people use iceberg lettuce for their salads, but really they should use spinach or some other dark green leaf. There are a ton of nutrients packed into spinach (Vitamin A, B2, B6, C, E, K, calcium, potassium, fiber, etc). But a great thing about spinach is that it is practically tasteless, it will take on the taste of whatever you pair it with. Here is what I enjoy doing with spinach: I blend up a cup of spinach until it is very fine and then incorporate it into my soups. It adds practically no calories, but tons of nutrients. When you put blended spinach in soup it makes it look like a seasoning instead of a veggie, your kids will not be able to tell a difference. I also will take a cup of spinach and put it into my smoothies that I drink as a snack. The smoothie will turn a green color, but would you believe that you really cannot taste the difference!

Zucchini

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Ok, I LOVE zucchini! I started eating zucchini about 4 years ago and I have been loving it since! In fact, I might just go ahead and say that it is my favorite vegetable. Do people normally have favorite vegetables or am I just weird? I digress. My wife and I incorporate zucchini into a lot of meals. My favorite meal (you will probably get the recipe for this pretty soon) is mostly zucchini. Zucchini, again, is mostly tasteless and requires seasonings to enhance the flavor. So really, it serves as a blank slate to test out different types of flavor. We also make noodles out of zucchini, and they are delicious. Sometimes I will even dice one up and add it into some tomato sauce whenever we have spaghetti. Zucchini chips and zucchini cakes are a real winner in our family. Also, did you know that chocolate and zucchini make a very good pairing?! Next time you make chocolate cupcakes, add a little bit of grated zucchini, it will make your cupcakes more moist, but will not change the flavor. What in the world! How can a vegetable taste so good in so many different ways?!? Try it, you will never, ever regret it.

Broccoli

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Can I be honest with you, I dislike broccoli almost as much as I love zucchini. But broccoli is so good for you! It is rich in many vitamins and other nutrients such as Vitamin D, A, and K (basically the whole alphabet!) also magnesium, zinc, calcium, iron and a bunch of others that I do not know the name of or how to pronounce. Here is a way that we incorporate broccoli into our meals: if you are eating a casserole, blend up 8 ounces of broccoli until it is very fine and put the broccoli into the casserole before stirring. I promise you will barely (if at all) be able to taste the difference. My wife’s favorite meal has 8 ounces of broccoli in it, we eat this dish every week, and it tastes the same as it would without broccoli, but it is much more nutritious.

Avocado

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I remember my first encounter with avocado. When I was in college, I worked for a sandwich shop that was not very clean and did not have very good customer service. We had several avocado’s lined up on top of the sandwich making station in order to entice people to put some on their sandwich. I tried a sandwich one day and put some of that avocado on it. Little did I know (since I had never had an avocado before) that it was not ripe. If you do not know, unripened avocado’s are not very tasty, they are hard and are very difficult to eat. My first experience with avocado was horrible. Several years later I found myself working at Panera Bread. They require at Panera Bread for each person on the team to try every food on the menu. One day, I had to eat the Turkey Avocado BLT (this may not be the healthiest thing to say, but avocado and bacon work VERY well together) and I was worried. “I hate avocado!” I told myself. But once I took a bite, I fell instantly in love. Ripe avocado is the best thing in the world (hyperbole much!) Ever since that day, I have consumed ungodly amounts of avocado, be it in the form of guacamole, incorporated in meals, or just sprinkling some salt and pepper on it and eating it as is. Sadly, some people do not have the same love for avocados as I do, and this is sad because avocados are rich in “good” fat (more on that in a different post), fiber, vitamin C, Potassium, and others. How can you get avocado into a meal? Well first, let me be honest about avocado’s tastiest offspring, guacamole. Do you know why most people say they do not like guacamole? Because they have never tried it! They look at it and think, “Ew! It’s green and chunky!” And never try it. Do yourself a flavor (see what I did there!) and try it before passing judgment on it. Chances are, you will like it. But if you do try it and don’t like it, then blend some avocado into a smoothie, it will go well in a fruit or a chocolate smoothie, and, unlike spinach, it will not greatly effect the color of your smoothie. Also, consider just putting small slithers of avocado on top of tacos, enchiladas, and inside burritos. The avocado will add a burst of creaminess, but will not greatly effect the taste. Go ahead and give it a try, and when I am proven right and you run to the grocery store to buy ALL THE AVOCADOS, let me know so I can gloat in the fact that I was right (for once).

Carrots

Now is honesty time: Nobody likes carrots. I used to watch people eat their little “baby carrots” with Ranch Dressing and see the misery on their faces get worse and worse with every bite. Nobody enjoys carrots, and if someone says that they do, then they are liars and should not be trusted…
Author’s note: I would like to make an apology to all of those people who actually do like eating carrots, including my wife. You are not liars, you can be trusted, this was an attempt at humor on my part, I have been told in the past that I am not very funny, and this may be one of those instances where I failed at joking.
But the truth is that, again, carrots are very good for you. What can you do with carrots? Our family puts carrots in just about every meal, would you believe that carrots may be our second most used veggie! It is true. We add carrots to casseroles and to soups. The carrots greatly enhances the flavor of our chicken noodle soup in particular. A word of warning though, when it comes to carrots, I like mine to be very soft in a dish. When I eat my chicken noodle soup I do not want to be chomping on a carrot. So in soups, be sure to put the chopped carrots in very quickly so that they have plenty of time to soften up in the soup (normally it takes about 45 minutes for our soup to be finished). In a casserole, I will sauté my onions and carrots in a separate skillet and put a lot of water into the skillet until the veggies are almost completely submerged, stirring it periodically. Often once the water has mostly evaporated from the skillet the carrots and onions have an incredible tenderness to them and go very well into a casserole. You can also make nice, little snacks with carrots: carrots fries and carrot chips. Or, you know, you could always just chomp on a carrot raw and do your best imitation of Bugs Bunny.

As you can see, there are plenty of creative things that you can do with vegetables. I used to hate vegetables, but I have learned that you can do great things with them. You don’t have to drink carrot juice from a food processor or eat a raw stalk of broccoli, you can do things to those veggies to make them enjoyable. How about you? What ways are you able to incorporate veggies into your meal?

Our number one weight loss tool

What if I told you that our most important weight loss tool costs under $10? Would you believe me? Well you should! We grab for this tool everyday and use it almost every meal. What is it you ask?

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A kitchen scale. That’s right, a little scale. Portion size is a huge issue in the US, and our family is able to combat that problem with a simple kitchen scale. There are plenty of people who eat good food, but they eat too much of it, and you know how the saying goes, “Too much of a good thing becomes a bad thing.” You may have good intentions by snacking on some almonds but that 1 ounce serving you guessed at could easily be 4 ounces!  That 4 ounces of almonds that you just ate are roughly 640 calories! Wow! You just blew a whole meal’s worth of calories on what you thought was a light snack. Controlling the amount of food we eat is what keeps us on track with losing weight. We measure or weigh everything we eat.

 

If you have a smartphone, a great way to keep track of this is with an app called My Fitness Pal. It requires you to log in everything that you eat throughout the day. Just by using our kitchen scale, my fitness pal and clean eating, together we have lost over 80 pounds! When we track what we eat we are able to enjoy 3 meals and 3 snacks a day. No skipping meals or meal replacement drinks, ever! We are all about eating real foods. While we still have some more weight to lose, we continue to follow our routine and hope in a few months we will be at our final goal. We have seen great results so far!  It amazed us that by simply being aware of our portion sizes we started losing pounds! So next time you throw a handful of cheese into your meal weigh it out first; you will be happy when you do!

 

Somethings to consider

1 oz of almonds is 160 calories

1 oz of cheddar cheese is 110 calories

1 oz of whole wheat pretzels is 110 calories

1 oz of raisins is 85 calories

1 oz of banana chips is 147 calories

 

These are great, healthy snacks but only when eaten in moderation! Don’t eat all your calories in just a few snacks.

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Honey Wheat Bread

Do any of you have picky toddlers? Raise your hand! In our case, we can raise both of our hands! Some of us (toddler and adults included) can be very picky about our bread. I used to tell my wife, “You can get any bread you want as long as it doesn’t have seeds or tastes too grainy!” So when we first started looking into changing our eating habits one of the first and obvious changes was in our bread. We have all gotten accustomed to white bread, and some refuse to eat wheat bread of any kind. I know that some of us have children who are picky and will not eat bread unless it is white. When we first started making our own bread, we wanted to make it so that it was an “in-between” bread; meaning that it can serve as a bridge to getting into eating whole wheat bread. Your kid will eat it, because it is whiter than normal wheat bread, but they will also get the health benefits because it has whole wheat. Plus, it is easy to make, it is delicious, and it is cheaper than buying bread at the grocery store.

All right! Now it my turn (Megan). Time to break out the aprons and get to work . First we have the line up of our ingredients. Water, milk, honey or syrup, butter, whole wheat flour, bread flour, salt and yeast. I love King Arthur flours (if you can’t already tell!). Try to use organic where you can. If you are using honey (my favorite), I recommend a local honey. If you choose to use syrup, make sure it is real maple syrup! You’d be surprised what is really in so many bottles of so-called syrup. Can anyone guess?? High fructose corn syrup and sugar. yup. So make sure to read the labels of all your ingredients. Okay, moving on!

I take all of my wonderful ingredients and put them into my bread machine in the order I have listed. If you don’t have a bread machine, well get one! I went grocery shopping today while my bread was in the machine. See how much free time it gave me?! Okay, you don’t have to get one but its so nice to have one! This dough can be made by hand or with a mixer that has a dough attachment. Just takes a little more elbow grease!

Once everthing is in the bread machine I turn on the dough setting and let it do its thing. It takes 1 hr and 20 minutes to mix it all up and let it rise. I check the dough during the first 10 minutes of starting, to see if it is pulling away nicely from the sides of the machine. If it is too sticky, I will add flour one Tablespoon at a time.

Now it time to roll the dough on a floured surface! Get out your handy dandy rolling pin and get to work. I roll mine into a rectangle….errrr, well close enough. The kids needed something so I gave up once it looked acceptable. Roll it up, pinch the seam closed and toss in your pan with the ends tucked under. Cover with a lightweight towel and let rise for no more than an hour. Sometimes I take the towel off at 30 minutes and let it rise 10 more while the oven heats up (If I remember too, HA!) 40 minutes is perfect for me. Don’t let it rise to long! I repeat, don’t let it rise to long. For a month I could not figure out why, when I baked my bread, there was a giant crater in the middle. I was letting it rise way to long. So learn from my mistake. You’re welcome.

All that’s left is the baking. You want it to be a nice, golden color. Be warned, the smell is amazing and will make you want to eat every carb in the house. Bake at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes.

Take it out of the bread pan and devour the whole thing let cool for 20 minutes. My family will just eat plain, warm bread. It is even better with butter and a sprinkle of salt. Enjoy!

This bread also comes with the official toddler seal of approval. If a loaf of bread is out then a toddler is begging for some!

Side note, doesn’t my toddler make a great hand model?!

Ingredients

1/2 cup water
1/2 cup whole milk
1/4 cup honey
1 1/2 TBSP butter
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 to 1 1/2 cups bread flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp fast acting yeast

Steps

  • Place all ingredients in bread machine in the order they are listed and turn on the dough setting. Once dough ball is formed it should pull away from sides easily. If too sticky, add 1-2 Tbsp of flour.
  • When risen, move to a floured surface and roll into a rectangle. The short side shouldn’t be wider than your pan. Roll up and pinch the seam to seal.
  • Place in a greased bread pan, cover with a light towel and let rise 30 minutes to 1 hour. Bread should rise about an inch over the edge of pan. Don’t let it over rise or go past an hour. Over rising can make your bread sink in while it is baking
  • Bake at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes. It should be a nice golden brown color.

 

Side Note: I have searched the internet to find where I got this recipe from, but I cannot seem to find it. If this is your recipe, thank you for giving us such wonderful bread and please let us know so that we can add a link to your page and give you credit.

Introduction

 

IMG_8706picmonkey.jpgOur world has convinced itself that faster is always better. We live in a fast paced society. We have strict deadlines at work, our television shows are quick paced to keep our ever fleeting attention, and our food comes prepackaged so that you can put it in the microwave for a few seconds, or you can pull up at the drive through of a fast food restaurant and order a meal in seconds. Sometimes the people with that notion look at people who eat “clean” food, organic food, non-processed foods with some scorn, they may say to themselves that clean eating or organic eating is just another fad diet that will eventually go away, “Clean eating is not normal and it will die out at some point,” is what some people say. They look at the up and coming restaurants who are switching to non-processed foods with no food dyes and they laugh because of these businesses that are “jumping on the band-wagon” for the sake of attracting customers and making money. I know this, because that is where I was. When my wife got started on clean eating and focusing on organic foods rather than processed foods, I was skeptical. I thought it was just a fad. But after following along just because I wanted to be a good, supportive husband, I found that this is not a fad, it is a lifestyle. Not just any lifestyle, mind you, but a lifestyle that was the normal for hundreds of years. That is what Back to the Bread Box is all about: it is rediscovering the simplicity of eating, exercise, and life. You don’t have to go on crash diets, you don’t have to drink shakes, you don’t have to wear wraps to feel healthy, all you have to do is live as people lived for hundreds of years before McDonalds and prepackaged food came along. It is our goal to help you see that making a meal is not difficult, buying organic produce is not expensive, you can exercise and feel good, and you can make some foods instead of buy them. Back to the Bread Box emphasizes a simpler life, it is not difficult. You CAN do it! Let us help.

Why the Name?

IMG_8711picmonkeyYou may be confused with the name Back to the Bread Box. Why would we choose a name like that? The answer is simple. We see the bread box as a symbol of clean eating and a simpler lifestyle. One of the things that you would see as soon as you walk into our kitchen is our big, teal bread box. It always has something delicious in it, whether it is a homemade loaf of bread, homemade cookies or graham crackers, or even homemade cupcakes. It, to us, reminds us of our “made from scratch”, “nothing artificial” lifestyle.

Meet the Team

Megan- Megan is the one that started it all. She is my wife and a stay at home mother of two who saw the way that we were eating and living and decided that it was time to try something better. Since starting her journey of clean eating, she has lost 50 pounds and feels healthier than ever before. On Back to the Bread Box, she will be writing on Weight Loss, Recipes, Pregnancy and Labor, Cloth Diapering,Crocheting, Baby Wearing, and many other things.

James- I am the pastor of a church in Georgia. At first, I was skeptical of my wife’s change in our eating habits, but I followed along to be a good husband. Now, I too, feel happier and healthier. I had gone trough bouts of stress and depression when I was not eating well and I always felt tired, but now I have lost 30 pounds and feel better than ever. I will be writing about Weight Loss, Recipes, Trying to Become a 5k runner, Raising Chickens, and many other things.

We do not claim to be experts on any of these areas that we will be writing on, we are still figuring out things and working at becoming healthier. This is our way to share our experiences and what we have learned with people, in hopes that we can make a difference in your life. Join us as we make our journey Back to the Bread Box: Back to the Basics.IMG_8717picmonkey