Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Unprocessed Family Updated

You can follow our unprocessed adventure here:
Part 1 - Food For Thought
Part 3 - Substitutes

A few months ago I set myself a goal of cutting down on sugar and unprocessed food in our diet. I knew it wasn't going to be easy, but I now realise that was an understatement. The time needed for research and development, trial and error, finding specialist ingredients and convincing the kids it isn't evil is immense. I'm not sure about the costings, if it works out cheaper to buy the ingredients to make stuff myself or to buy the processed versions. Maybe next time I do a big shop by myself I'll look into this. 

Cutting down on sugar hasn't been as successful, 4 kids and the Chief and I with a mean sweet tooth. I've cut down the sugar in most of the things I make from scratch, but we still eat a lot of sugary things, especially with the run up to Christmas. 

So what has worked. I enjoy making my own stuff. I sit down on Sunday with my recipe books, Pins and recipe websites to make a meal plan. I try a new recipe every week and try and keep our menu mixed up. I do categories every week to make things easier rather than repeat the same recipes over and over. So our schedule looks a bit like this

Monday - slow cooker
Tuesday - chicken dish
Wednesday - soup and sandwiches 
Thursday - fish and leftovers 
Friday - pizza
Saturday - easy kids' choice
Sunday - breakfast for dinner

Wednesday is our busy day with physio and guitar lessons so I keep it simple. I also try and keep it vegetarian. Thursday the kids and I have fish and the Chief usually has a leftover from earlier in the week as he's not a fan of fish. 

To replace processed foods I had to use up what we had. It's amazing how much I've come to rely on and how many everyday recipes use processed ingredients. Especially American recipes, they all use canned this, packet that, pre-made sauces and flavours. Thank goodness for the internet as I have been able to find homemade replacements for most things. 

My cupboards are full now of things like beans, coconut oil, milk and cream, big packs of herbs and flour, lots of flour. I haven't totally succeeded at making bread, but can now make pizza dough, pita bread and sweet dough for Finnish pullat (sweet buns). I have a bread recipe I've tried twice: once it worked well, but I didn't have a proper pan; second time the yeast didn't rise and the bread stuck to my new pan, so need to try again before moving on to a new recipe. 

The kids have adapted to the new meal plan well, but not to all the changes. They're happy to try most new foods, but I have to have veg that they like as backup as they won't always eat the new things. But replacing things they love doesn't always work. I have to offer something several times until they forget the old stuff, sometimes it works, other times it fails spectacularly. I have spent ages trying to find a granola bar they will eat. I've tried 3 different recipes and have now put a pin in that for now as I found one that was tasty, but can't keep its shape which isn't good when you have 3 kids eating them in the waiting room of the swimming hall, dropping crumbs everywhere, so will try firmer baked ones next. 

I've had a similar problem with replacing our ice lollies. I tried lots of coconut milk based recipes and while Pudding likes them all, the older kids don't. But this fudgesicle recipe seems to be a big hit. I think it tastes just like the ones I grew up with. Even Mouse, my pickiest eater, seemed impressed with it but hasn't had a chance to really have one. I can control the sugar content and make it with lactose free milk and cream, so he can eat it without having an upset tum or take his lactose pills. Score. 

There's still some things I want to replace. Tortillas are a big one. Mouse eats several a day so we're going through 2 or 3 packs a week if anyone else has one. I have several recipes, but haven't been brave enough to try making them as I have a feeling they are finicky. I also want to make Scottish potato scones, the one thing we really miss from Scottish cooking, but my previous attempts have failed I believe because I used leftover mash potatoes which have milk and butter in them, so didn't set right. I will try both of those again in the new year. 

One problem with making everything from scratch is having stuff in reserve. This week I have made stewed cinnamon apples for my eldest daughter. She loves them from her father's creamy rice dish, but doesn't like the rice or my replacement rice pudding much. She suddenly loves the stewed apples, but I've had to make them every day. There's no quick fix, I have to chop a bunch of apples and cook them down. And she eats the lot in one or two sittings, the wee gannet. So some days I feel like I am constantly cooking. 

Once we're back in our usual routine in a week I will try and make a big supply and either can it or freeze it. I also need to replace my applesauce and apple butter supplies as our apples didn't make up much, but I hate buying that much fruit out of season. I do have strawberries in the freezer from this summer, waiting to be made into jam though. 

I need to figure out how to freeze and preserve more things, though I can now freeze dough if I make extra. My canning this year has failed. One can of pumpkin and one of applesauce went off and several frozen things just didn't defrost and cook properly. I'd like to be able to cook more meals in advance and stick them in the freezer, but I can't get the proportions or the freezing right. 

So I'm happy with where we are, things to work towards, but improvements made.

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