Monday, March 1, 2010

28-Day Real Food Challenge: Week 4 Recap and Beyond

This week has been kind of crazy here. The whole thing sort of flew by me, with me thinking I was “failing” the final week of the 28-Day Real Food Challenge hosted by Jenny at Nourished Kitchen. But somehow, I actually did alright this week.

Day 22 was about choosing and preparing meat. My struggle to find grass-fed meat I can afford to buy has been a theme running through this whole challenge for me. As a result, I’ve scaled back how much meat I serve here in order to purchase meat in line with my ethics. I’ve developed the habit of always watching for a new source of grass-fed meat or a better price. And while I had never really had trouble preparing grass-fed beef, bison was a whole other matter. Last night, after much fretting and hovering with a thermometer, I prepared that much anticipated bison steak to near perfection. For me, eating meat with that much pink inside will take a little adjustment. But The Girl declared it delicious and everybody finished their serving. Progress! I tried to get a picture, but naturally, my camera told me to change the batteries and I decided to eat instead.

The animal proteins theme continued on Day 23 with a discussion of pork, poultry, and eggs from sources raised in accordance with the natural proclivities of pigs and chickens, which means access to grass, bugs, worms, etc. I’ve been buying pastured eggs and bacon for several weeks now and adore them. They’ve become my standard breakfast. I’ve struggled more than a little bit with the price of pastured poultry, but am slowly coming around. Pork is not really an issue here because, aside from my morning bacon, nobody here actually likes pork. However, if I have a chance to buy pastured-lard, I will give it a try.

Day 24 was all about preparing and using stocks and broths. This is where I really shined this week! I prepared both beef and chicken stocks, jarred them, and tucked them into the fridge for easy access. I am still learning all the ways to use them. But with one or two notable exceptions, nobody has complained about the foods I’ve prepared with them. I love the richness homemade stock adds to foods. Love it.

I was both looking forward to and dreading Day 25 and its discussion of offal. I don’t have much to report here. The Girl told me in unambiguous terms that she does not want to eat organ meats. I didn’t even have to ask The Boy. Honestly, I’m not thrilled about it either. But I have not given up hope. I need the right “entry” to this food group. I did include the miscellaneous chicken bits in the pot when I made stock. But that’s my only offal foray so far. I’ll experiment on myself when the kids visit their dad. Unless the smell drives me out of the kitchen.

Day 26 highlighted fish and seafood. I already was incorporating these into our diet, but was plagued by confusion over what is safe and what isn’t, what is sustainably/ethically harvested and what isn’t. I really, really appreciate the Seafood Watch guide to help me navigate this area.

Our assignment for Day 27 was to figure out how we can give back to the real foods movement. This assignment arrived the same day The Girl came home from a friend’s house and informed me she’d “schooled the neighbors” in real foods. Go Girl! As a Master Gardener, I already volunteer in my community helping people learn how to grow their own food. I’d like to also incorporate into my blog more resources for beginner gardeners who want to grow some of their own food. We also share resources we’ve come across, like Food Inc., with pretty much anyone. It makes a difference. For instance, after we watched that movie, I told my parents to watch it. They did, and have made a number of significant changes in their purchasing habits. They’ve also continued encouraging others to watch the movie.

Finally, Day 28 is about looking forward. I fully intend to continue buying and eating in line with all that I’ve learned during the last 28 days. I had made the commitment to change how we eat just before I stumbled, accidentally, onto the 28-Day Real Food Challenge just as it was beginning. I owe Sara at Plays Well With Butter for pointing me to this challenge. Thanks Sara! I’m so glad I joined! I have plenty to learn still and plenty of room for improvement. But I have also progressed more than I would have without this challenge to guide, support, and nudge me. Thanks Jenny!

Looking forward, things I plan to work on include planning ahead and perfecting my sourdough bread. We've cut way down on the amount of grain in our diet primarily because to do them right requires more work than I can muster. I'd like to add a little bit back. I still haven't made the sauerkraut I've been looking forward to, and I goofed with the cultured veggies I did make. After they started to discolor at the top of the jar, I decided to toss them. After spooning all but the last spoonful into the garbage disposal, I decided to have a tiny taste. It was good, and I wasted it! Note to self: patience really is a virtue. And then there's offal, which I'm working up to. Really. Check back and see.


  1. "I love the richness homemade stock adds to foods."

    Me too! Last week I had almost nothing left in the fridge but I threw together a very simple soup and it got rave reviews - I'm convinced it was due to the homemade chicken stock I used bringing all that depth of flavor to play with my other simple ingredients.

  2. i have adopted a paleo diet since january (which is basically eating anything thats not processed) but are also cutting out things like bread, dairy, sugar, salt, beans, legumes, nuts and starchy veggies. with a few cheat weekend days, and i feel pretty good. im glad you are trying something similar.

  3. I've enjoyed reading about the challenge. I'm not sure I would manage it in it's entireity being mostly vegan and time poor, but I think I could learn a lot from it.

  4. Deb, I agree. Homemade stock is currently at the top of my new list of "convenience foods." You don't really realize just how pallid the stuff from a can/box at the store is until you try homemade.

    linesarefun, I've only read a little about the paleo diet, but I think it's a little more hard-core than I will ever muster (or desire, actually). But I'm glad you are experiencing good results with it. I hope more people with start seriously re-evaluating the ways they eat instead of blindly buying the bs the food industry has been, literally, feeding us.

    Polka Dot Rabbit, The challenge that Jennifer McGruther put together is probably not the best one for a vegan. She is definitely in favor of animal origin foods. But the challenge I've just joined at Not Dabbling In Normal is much more flexible, so I would encourage you to check it out!

  5. maggie-

    the paleo diet is great, but since i am an active crossfitter ( i am very active in excersize) it didnt hold up very long for me. meaning i needed carbs in order to maintain my weight. i lost all the fat from my body the first month of paleo, afterwards i started losing muscle. i dropped from 157 pounds to 145 lbs in just a few weeks. so now i have re introduced into my eating things like quinoa, goat cheese, 12 grain bread, sweet potatoes and some nuts.