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Here at Our Small Hours, we believe that everyone has stories to tell and that those stories should be told in order to educate and inspire others.  It is with great excitement that I introduce our first story-telling series, Time For Real Food.  The purpose of the Time for Real Food series is to gather your stories about how you make real food happen for you and/or your family despite the realities of a busy life.  Real foodies commit to a diet that does not include microwave-ready, processed, fast-food items.  Our traditional, slow-food philosophy is sometimes difficult to work into a busy lifestyle, yet somehow we do it and are healthier for it.  Your story will educate and inspire others to make time for real food in their own lives!

 

Meet Jennifer S.
Name: Jennifer S.

Location: Kreis Bergstraße, Germany

Blog: Yeshua, Hineni!

How long have you been eating a real food diet?

I’ve been eating a real food diet since going gluten free in 2004. I had a period in the last couple of years where we ate a lot of prepared gluten free items and went back this year to whole foods. I had more energy after an extended illness and was able to return to making most everything from scratch again.

My husband has been eating a real food diet for the last 5 years – so this has been a real adjustment for him.

Our children have always had a real food diet.

How many adults and children are you responsible for feeding? 
I’m responsible for us two parents and two children.

Are they able to help with your real food preparation?
Right now, only my husband is able to help with most things, though JD is learning how to do simple things like adding ingredients or mixing. He really enjoys helping out while standing on a step stool.

What is your occupation?  What other activities (school, volunteering, home schooling, farming, care giving, etc) fill your days?
I’m a stay at home mother, though I also am back and forth to kindergarten with my two and trying to find out where I can help there.
I’ve recently joined a gym, and I’ve started going to yoga classes, and I’m hoping to work up to some other coursework and using the machines. I’ve been housebound for four years with toddlers, I’m ready to meet people and get healthy again.

Which real food convenience items do you use? 
I’m really enjoying our fair trade, organic breakfast bars. They’re gluten free, and have real fruit, grain, nuts and veggies in them. They’re an awesome breakfast bento filler for the kids, and not so bad when you’re on the run and have no time to grab something off a store shelf.  A couple of them remind me of Larabars.

Frozen foods are a life saver. I’m finding they’re often more nutritious than the fresh items available in our local grocery stores, so unless something’s truly in season, I’m mostly purchasing frozen.

My main real food convenience item would be tomato sauce and diced tomatoes. We go through so many containers of that, that I’m sure people think we’re feeding more people than just us.
I love tomato based food items, as it’s a hit with the kids and I can hide other vegetables in with it without much fuss.

Which real food items do you insist on making from scratch even when you have access to a pre-made or convenient form of that food?
There’s a couple actually. Gnocci, Spätzle and Maultaschen come readily to mind. I can’t find any that either don’t have pork, or defrost and actually taste like the home made variety.

Gnocci are a neat little potato pasta that is easily made by hand using mashed potatoes and around a cup of flour. I am really not sure why I never made them before.

Spätzle are a bit more labor intensive to make gluten free, but with a potato ricer, easy as pie to get pressed out into a boiling pot of water and back out to make a casserole.

Maultaschen are a bit more intensive, as you have to make a pasta dough (finicky like gluten free pie dough) and cook your meat ahead. As far as boiling and prepping the soup goes, that part is easy. So as I’m less patient with dough that falls apart repeatedly, the pasta making is up to my husband, and I do the rest.

We make rather large batches of the gnocci and Maultaschen ahead, freeze them on metal cookie sheets and then pop them off into ziplocs. They usually last us 2-3 months, and then we start all over again.

Broth is my other main “must make at home”. It’s just so much easier to dish out in a silicon muffin form, over a cookie sheet and put in the freezer to freeze prior to rebagging in a couple ziplocs. So many recipes require broth, and I’d prefer to make a couple batches of broth for what it costs to buy two small 8oz glasses of organic chicken, beef or lamb broth simply because it’s there.

Hamburgers. While I love the frozen ones we get, it’s just so much better to make and press them at home.

What tools do you use to get it all done in the kitchen?  (Menu planning, delegating, once-a-month-cooking, must-have appliances, etc)

Must have appliances:
An immersion hand mixer. I’ve used it so many times for so many things. I thought I’d never use it, until I had to start making dairy free items for my youngest. It’s awesome for making small batches of whipped coconut cream, or things like honey mustard or bbq sauce.

Our Rice cooker comes in handy. I don’t know how we lived without it after having JD. I finally buckled and ordered one last year as we were on the go so much and I wanted to ensure we were able to fix steamed vegetables and rice at the same time while making several other items on all the eyes of our stove.

Our Waffle Iron is also very handy, as we are making waffles once a month.

Kitchenaid Stand Mixer (artisan) – I could not make it without this handy appliance! Almost every made by hand recipe for bread, pasta or even mashed potatoes gets made with my handy-dandy kitchenaid!

Bread maker – perfect for those days where you’ve been thrown from the pan into the fire and you absolutely need something in a hurry. It’s a life saver!

Potato ricer – It is technically not an appliance, but it technically is.
I actually used it this month for it’s intended purpose. I have one that we use it mostly for making cheese spätzle. This month, I needed mashed potatoes in a jiffy, so I boiled some potatoes, popped them in and that’s the easiest job of potatoes I ever had. Made me wonder why I’d not used it more than once a month.

I could not live without our hand crank meat grinder. I use it once a month to make our own chicken/turkey or beef sausage. I’ve taken to using it to make chicken fingers as well.
I got a Weston #10 heavy duty manual tinned meat grinder, as that was the smaller version of what my grandparents used for years and years. (I think they had a countertop version of the #32)  I knew it would be a great workhorse and would last a long time if I kept up with it. My husband thought it was a waste of money until he saw how frequently I use it, and all the items I use it for.

For our kindergarten (ages 3-6), I use menu planning. I’m also doing a bit of once a month cooking for items that freeze well. However, some items are either fresh produce or dairy items that have to be purchased or made ahead.

I try to keep a well stocked pantry so that we can bake or cook with any of our usual items throughout the year, and this also helps.  With the personality mix we have in our house, menu planning doesn’t go very well for the entire family. We never can stick to it as both my husband and I tend to go more for spontaneous dinner decisions.

There is some delegating – DH and I work together on certain meals, and sometimes I have to delegate tasks to him, or him to me. 🙂  Having some prepared items waiting in the freezer makes cooking from scratch run a whole lot faster.

I really like to get things ahead of time, like garlic, onion, celery, peppers, celeriac and such and get them prepped in the freezer so we can get a quick run of soup going, or when bananas are going bad and I don’t have time – pop them in the freezer so we can make banana bread later on.

What advice do you have for those who are just beginning a real food diet and feel overwhelmed by the amount of time that real food preparation can take?
Baby steps. Take a deep breath and get your cookbooks ready and learn how to use them. Do not stress yourself out.

SLOWLY dive into real food. This way you don’t get burnt out, but you learn what you like and what you don’t like. Learn all your kitchen utensils and find out what works the best with your style of cooking.

Learn to read labels, and shop around the perimeter of the store where the fresh and frozen items are. Ignore that great big inner part of the store with convenience items. It will take time.

Breathe.  Don’t panic.

If you don’t know, ask. If you need help, ask for it.
There are lots of lovely people out there cooking with real food these days, and they know how hard the transition is and can help ease you into this.

Get a couple 3×5 cards and write “I CAN DO THIS” and “Baby steps!” on it. Put it somewhere prominent… like on your bathroom mirror right at eye level,  in the kitchen on each of your cabinets and your fridge, until you have internalized that message. You really can do it one day at a time, one step at a time, one meal at a time!

Start slow with easy dishes. Soup, bone broth, stuffed potatoes and that sort of thing.  Wait until you’ve done that for a while before you do things like learn how to do the heavier things like corn your own beef and make pastrami.

Before you know it, you’ve got it all under your belt!

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