What's For Dinner?

This whole No Sugar thing we're doing has had more impact on our lives than I anticipated it would. Once you start reading ingredient labels to look for sugar, you notice all the other crap that's jammed into most of our packaged foods too. It's kind of startling (and disturbing) how so much of our processed "foods" contain ingredients that seem better suited to a plastics factory or chemical laboratory.

After watching the documentary Food, Inc., I looked around on Netflix for similar "Big Food" related documentaries and found The Future of Food - another really eye-opening film centered mostly around the almost extinct seed culture in our country and the increasing prevalence of genetically modified food. Scary stuff. Even scarier that companies aren't required to label products containing GM ingredients here in the U.S. like they are required to in European and Asian countries.

Thus, in addition to sticking to organic and local produce, we are also purchasing far fewer processed, packaged foods from our grocery stores and looking for "No-GM" labels provided by ethical food companies on the packaged foods we do buy.

As you can imagine, eating out at restaurants has become almost non-existent for us as well - especially at chain restaurants (which we rarely patronized anyway).

As a result, we have been preparing and cooking 3 meals a day, 7 days a week for the past 5 weeks. Well, okay, there have been a couple of restaurant meals at local restaurants where we can easily assess ingredients - but really, only like 3 times since we started the No Sugar experiment.

All of this requires planning, and time, and effort. It's exhausting. But in a good way. Breakfasts are usually handled by Daniel because as much as I'd like to be, I am simply NOT a morning person by any stretch of the imagination. He makes a variety of things throughout the week like oatmeal, or eggs, or toast. Sometimes fruit or cold cereal is involved. This morning, for instance, he put egg, cheese and bacon on half a piece of toasted whole wheat pita bread. And a little almond butter on a banana. We may not be eating refined sugars but that doesn't mean we are deprived of good tasting whole foods.

I typically cover lunches and make them directly after dinner the night before. Lunches very often include dinner leftovers, or a sandwich, fruit, carrots, chips, nuts...whatever suits my fancy at the time. Daniel's lunch today consists of a roast beef sandwich (on sprouted whole grain bread, with lettuce, cheese, and horseradish), a cup of vegetable chili, a Granny Smith apple, and corn chips.

Dinners are almost always a team effort, and it's an enjoyable endeavor cooking together every night. Except for Mondays. Mondays I'm on my own because Daniel has class until 9:30 pm. In the past, I would've maybe stopped at Wendy's or Taco Bell on my way home from work so I wouldn't have to cook for just me. Or I would've gone home and had a bowl of cereal, a couple of cookies, a Lean Cuisine, or whatever.

But not lately. Lately, even when on my own, I come home and I cook dinner. Just for me. So, last night I came home, snuggled the kittehs until they demanded their daily treats, and then pulled out vegetables, beans and spices, and got to chopping.

The vegetable chili I made is a recipe I love mostly because it's highly versatile, really delicious, and easy peasy. It does, however, take time to chop everything (unless you have mad knife skills - I do not have mad knife skills). Onion, bell pepper, serrano pepper, garlic, zucchini, carrots, and mushrooms all have to be chopped. But then, it's just throwing things in a big pot and letting it cook for a total of about 35 minutes.

Here's the recipe:

Vegetarian Chili - adapted from Emeril Lagasse

2 tablespoons canola oil
1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onions
1 cup chopped bell peppers
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 to 3 serrano peppers, stemmed, seeded, and minced, depending upon taste
1 medium zucchini, stem ends trimmed and cut into small dice
3-4 carrots, chopped or sliced
2 cups fresh or canned corn kernels (about 3 ears)
1 1/2 pounds portobello mushrooms (about 5 large), stemmed, wiped clean and cubed
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespooon ground cumin
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
3 cups cooked beans, or canned beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice
1 cup vegetable stock, or water

In a large, heavy pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions, bell peppers, garlic, and serrano peppers, and cook, stirring, until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the zucchini, carrots, corn, and mushrooms, and cook, stirring, until soft and the vegetables give off their liquid and start to brown around the edges, about 6 minutes. Add the chili powder, cumin, salt and cayenne, and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and stir well. Add the beans, and vegetable stock, stir well, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes.

I put cheese on top, because...well, because I love cheese. And scooping up the chunky chili with blue corn chips is very tasty.

The corn chips we got at Whole Foods. They are Garden of Eatin' brand and claim to be organic and without any GM ingredients - there are like 3 ingredients, corn, oil and salt. They are really crunchy and salty and delicious.

I even had dessert with my dinner last night. Raisin date bread with real butter. The bread we found at a little country Amish store in Nolensville. The kind of town where if you blink while passing through, you'll completely miss it. It's a good trip from our house, but totally worth it. This bread is moist and delicious and contains no refined sugars - just dates, raisins, and apple juice. And it's made with whole wheat flour.

Planning is most definitely the key to cooking and eating well. We grocery shop once a week and buy the things we'll need to make our three meals a day for the upcoming 7 days. Yeah, it takes a little forethought, but it's really nice to come home and know what you're having for dinner. And that it will be real food.


HeyBetty!! said...

two words...Butt Chili

Jennifer said...

Everything you are doing sounds wonderful and I give you all the credit in the world. However, I cannot even imagine figuring out how I would squeeze anything else into my life like this!! I'm just happy if I make it to Erie Co Farms once in awhile for some fresh veggies!

cathryn said...

Butt Chili! ha! no, no, I too have retired that recipe :)

cathryn said...

Jennifer - Yeah, if I were working three jobs and taking care of a kid, this No Sugar deal would be nearly impossible!

At least you have a garden! I want one too, but it's not gonna happen this season...maybe next :)

Mars Girl said...

Hey, what happened to your cool layout and pictures? This blog now looks bland in comparison!

That's a lot of work you're doing. This is why I cant be a vegetarian, vegan, or anything like that--I dont need to think that much. I dont even have a husband, but I'm busy, and I just can barely find time to do the things I want to do, let alone plan my shopping and food so rigidly. Food and cooking just takes up time when I could be writing or riding my bike. My hats off to you! I cant do it. I figure I wont be able to eat ethically until they make these things easily accessible for lazy people like me!

cathryn said...

MG - It is kind of a lot of work, especially initially...but it's so interesting to me that (for now anyway) I'm willing to spend the time on it. I'm thinking that once it becomes familiar and habitual, it won't be as demanding of our time. But, we'll see! That's the fun of experiments :)

As for the blah blog - I wanted a change but then didn't know what I wanted, so until I do, I decided to go blah in the interim. :)