My Real Food Journey: The New Normal


In September, I wrote two posts about reading Tina Holden’s Real Food Journey and how it changed the way I eat and cook. I realized that I never really finished the series with how things panned out in my attempts to integrate these in our daily life. Did the changes last?

We have officially converted to buying only whole milk, which I am very happy about. It is conventional milk, though sometimes I grab a half gallon of organic or grass fed dairy just to mix it up a bit.

There were two major areas of the book that I didn’t address which I’m going to talk about now: grains and sweets.


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OK, so I get this, I really do. However, I just don’t have the time or money to buy wheat kernels and grind my own flour. I have, however, significantly cut down on the amount of bread and other grains in my diet in an effort to control blood sugar. That said, I love bread. I’m a sucker for big crusty loaves of homemade bread. My favorite bread flour is the King Arthur unbleached bread flour. I do buy store bought bread for my kids, but we have been cutting back. I buy a whole wheat store brand bread that doesn’t have much added garbage in it, (no high fructose corn syrup, thanks). I’ve considered returning to making my own homemade bread, but it was a ton of work, and I never could make the whole wheat variety turn out.

But I do have a sour dough starter from a friend that I’ve been playing with, which is supposed to help make the sugars hit the body more evenly. I’ve been looking for ways to experiment with uses sour dough more, so I’m happy to add it to as many recipes as possible.

At first I thought I could never handle soaking my grains, but it’s actually become a regular part of my routine now. Not for everything, but I try to do it when I can.  I converted Trina’s soaked muffin recipe so that it meets my son’s dairy requirements. Because I’m making homemade yogurt regularly now, I always have plenty to use as an acidic medium to soak my whole grains. My kids seem to have gotten used to it and no longer complain about the taste, I’m not quite there yet. The soaked dinner rolls looked pretty and tasted fairly good. I also incorporated a sourdough starter the night before so they were very tangy. I think next time I’ll add it in the morning. We’ve also done soaked pancakes and baked oatmeal. Both were eaten without complaint, but not raved over. It’s still a process.

That being said, last night I made sour dough dinner rolls. They were puffy, crusty and amazing. I know they probably weren’t as healthy a choice as the aforementioned soaked whole wheat dinner rolls, but I think there is room for moderation.

We also tried the soaked cornbread, and it was OK, but I do miss my usual homemade corn bread, perhaps I need to use a little more money next time. Which leads me to my next topic.


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Choosing Natural Sweets and Enjoying Them Wisely

This is tough for me. I love dessert. I’ve recently cut back to having dessert only on weekends. (If I really need something on a week night I have some fruits and nuts or chocolate yogurt). Sugar isn’t heavily used in our house, but it is used. But with my kids especially I try to opt for alternatives specifically honey. We have done the local and raw honey route, but it is rather pricey. So I’ll try it again occasionally but not to the exclusion of conventional honey.

We recently made our first batch of homemade ice cream sweetened with honey. It was great. We made it with fresh peaches too, and the honey and peaches complimented each other perfectly. I’m looking forward to trying maple syrup next.

I also believe strongly in moderation. There are things that I know I will eat that aren’t good for me. But I’ve also learned which things are worth it. I learned this well when I had gestational diabetes during my last pregnancy. I decided quickly which things mattered enough to waste my carb ration on. I once actually threw away a cookie after I had one bite and determined it wasn’t worth it. So I’m not about to give up sugar laden holiday treats, but I can try to limit them the rest of the time so that I can enjoy the indulgences when they happen.

My other small victories on this real food journey are buying my first batch of farm fresh eggs last weekend and trying to incorporate fruits and veggies into almost every meal, at least for my son. (My daughter is so picky that I’m happy if she eats the veggies I serve with dinner. Much slower baby steps for her.) I’m also returning to the pattern of making more things myself. We’ve cut back on buying store bought snacks and trying new ones, like Energy Balls and Chia bars. (Though we’re currently taking a hiatus since my food processor broke). My kids are enjoying these snacks and I like knowing exactly what’s in them.

As you approach your own healthy eating journey, remember that small steps do matter. Don’t try to change your kitchen or your life over night. Find small changes you can live with. Real Food Journey by Trina Holden can be a great resource to help you on your way.

My Real Food Journey, Guided by Trina Holden

Fats, Dairy and Other Changes: My Real Food Journey


Disclaimer: I received this book for free in order to review it. But my opinions are my own. However, this post may also contain affiliate links. Thanks for your support.


Fats, Dairy and Other Changes: My Real Food Journey


I’m working my way through Trina Holden’s book and making changes and adjustments to our lifestyle accordingly. I see all of this through the lens of a child with food allergies (dairy and peanuts) and my own pursuit of a diabetes friendly lifestyle to prevent my developing diabetes in the future. I’m not going to go through every chapter of the book, but I am going to hit my favorite parts and mention how it has changed my eating. (I say my because making this a family affair is still a process).


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Getting Rid of Stuff You Can’t Pronounce.

OK, I’ve mostly done this. I guess I could substitute homemade cookies and granola bars for Kashi bars and organic animal cookies. I can work on that. I also know that the alternative milks we purchase probably have unhealthy ingredients in them. I regularly make homemade soy yogurt and my son drinks almond as well. Both are made with manufactured milk, but the yogurt is much cheaper than the store bought yogurt. Neither turned out the way I wanted so I’m going to keep doing my research and look for good solutions.

For me, getting rid of stuff I can’t pronounce means making almost everything from scratch, which is exhausting. This is something I used to do when my daughter was young, but with two little ones running around and starting homeschooling next year, I don’t know if we’d still eat if I had to make absolutely everything from scratch. But I am becoming more mindful of what we put into our bodies. My ideal is that everything we eat be as close to its natural form as possible. So fruits and veggies are better if locally grown (sometimes even backyard grown) and if not organic is preferable. But sometimes the organic cost is too much for our budget. The way my kids go through strawberries in the summer and eggs all year round we would spend our budget just on those two things. But I remind myself that a conventional strawberry is still better than potato chips and a soda.


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Having a Menu Plan That Works for You

Yeah! Menu plans are not new to me. I used to try and make a month’s worth at once, but that didn’t work. Lately I waffle between doing a week or a few days at a time. Usually I start with, what I can I make with what I have? Then what do we want to have next week, before I hit the grocery store, usually on a weekend. Grocery shopping has become a complicated affair around here. The store we buy most of our organic and specialty products from is a little further away so we only get there once a month. So there are certain items we need to buy there, or wait until next time. Then we hit the local Sam’s Club and discount grocery story Bottom Dollar almost every week. Sometimes just to pick up $.97 a lb peaches, and butter (they have the cheapest price in town) or Sam’s Club for Greek yogurt cups for my husband’s lunch.


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Embracing Good Fats

Ok, this is something that we’ve already started doing at our house. I love using butter and I would use it for everything except . . . my son has a dairy allergy. So I can bake with butter, since the heat helps break down the milk proteins but I can’t cook with it, yet. So my go to choice has always been olive oil. But now I’m wondering what I should do instead? When I emailed Trina she suggested I try refined coconut oil. I tried making eggs with extra virgin coconut oil once and it made me nauseous. I don’t mind baking with coconut oil, though I do notice a significant texture change and sometimes there is still the slightest flavor of coconut which is OK, but gets boring after a while.

I’ve always cooked with olive oil. No one in our family has ever had gall bladder problems that we know of, but I can see her point. I’m going to try refined coconut oil, but if it really doesn’t fly with my family, I’ll keep using olive oil, but I bake almost exclusively with butter. Sometimes compromises are necessary.  I have started using bacon grease for making our regular morning eggs and so far it’s very tasty.


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Best Dairy for Your Family

I’ll start right now by saying I don’t believe in raw milk. Sorry. Unless I milk the cow myself, and even then there is no guarantee the cow hasn’t been colonized with listeria or e-coli. But I also understand the theory behind why homogenization destroys some of the healthy parts of milk. This is the first time I’ve ever seen a compromise mentioned.  Low temp pasturized milk or milk that is pasturized but not homogenized. However, my husband and I disagree strongly about this. He believes in getting milk like God intended, in a paper carton or plastic jug from the grocery store. (I suspect he feels similarly about his meat arriving in plastic). I decided it wasn’t worth the marriage, so I have mostly let this go. Though I still feel curious about what non-homogenized milk is really like.

My son drinks protein enriched almond milk. I recognize that this is not a great choice. But I do still worry about getting him enough calcium and protein and this makes me feel a little better. I recently started making my own yogurt again and I’m experimenting with making soy yogurt with Silk. Yes, I know, soy is evil. But for me half the point of yogurt is as a healthy protein source, which it isn’t if you use anything but soy or regular milk. But at least Silk is non-GMO and organic. When I don’t have time to make yogurt, my kids and I eat Stonyfield Farm. I’m open to other possibilities however including making yogurt with homemade almond milk. It won’t have the same protein content, but at least I’ll know exactly what is in it.

I’m reminded again how different prices are in different areas of the country. Trina says she pays $5 a gallon for store bought organic milk. Ha! I pay more than $4 a gallon for conventional milk, try almost double for organic Typically, I buy a gallon of skim milk and a gallon of whole. But I’m transitioning to only whole. Mostly because I don’t drink much milk unless it’s with a baked good, which has also become rarer. We also use it to make homemade ice cream, which I love.  But for some new challenges, I have started making my own yogurt again and I’m willing to try kefir and even separate whey from my yogurt to make other yummy things. Again, sometimes compromise is necessary to satisfy both budget and relationships with those you love. It sounds good to me.

My Real Food Journey, Guided by Trina Holden


Disclaimer: I received this book for free in order to review it. But my opinions are my own. However, this post may also contain affiliate links. Thanks for your support.

My Real Food Journey, Guided by Trina Holden


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My Food History

When my husband and I were first married, I was a full time student so our meals revolved mostly around things that were easy and affordable. We ate Pasta Roni with vegetables, and boxed cheesy potatoes and mac & cheese. We were smart enough to realize how important fruit and veggies were, so we ate lots of those too.

Over the next few year we made some adjustments to our diet. We added more whole grains, we used fewer boxed products. Then when I became a stay at home mom and keeper of the finances, I went on a quest to save us money by eliminating as many store bought products as possible. If it could be made from scratch, I tried it. Something stuck around, like homemade bread. Others were passing fads, like homemade croutons and crackers. (We eventually stopped buying both).

Things Get Stickier

Then our second child was born. Suddenly life became much more difficult. I stopped making homemade bread and started resorting to more convenience type foods, like boxed pancake mix and granola bars. When our son was underweight I spent all my time feeding him, nursing, pumping, making high fat solid foods (like avocado and sweet potato with olive oil). I needed to have healthy things like store bought yogurt and Kashi pizzas at the ready, because otherwise I didn’t eat. And if I didn’t eat, I didn’t make milk. Suffice to say if I didn’t eat, my son didn’t either. Finally last summer I started trying to find normal again. Continuing to eat healthfully (I thought) I put on 10 pounds after weaning. I have gained another five since then. I’ve lost a few here and there but always gained them back. I trained for a 5K, lost no weight and then injured myself. I currently workout 5 days a week minimum and for a long time I couldn’t lose weight or inches.

Searching For a New Path

I don’t eat many processed foods, but I figure that having a few around for weekend meals is better than fast food. I also need to find a way to have ready snacks that my kids will eat, that are healthy that don’t cause me to go crazy. My kids are hungry all the time, I’ve tried cutting out snacks and they will literally weep and hang on me until I give them something. They are very active kids and I think they just can’t eat enough at one meal to keep them going to the next one. But I also can’t be in the kitchen constantly, I’ll go crazy.

Plus, my son has food allergies and part of his desensitization protocol for dairy is certain baked dairy foods. I’ve tried making him muffins according to the requirements, but he won’t eat them. So I usually give him whole grain Goldfish crackers, which also satisfy the requirement. I’d use other options if I could think of any. Because of his food allergies, other easy real food snacks like cheese sticks (whether homemade or store bought) or apples and peanut butter (he also has a peanut butter allergy) aren’t an option.

I thought I’d found a way of eating that worked for us. But, I’m not able to maintain a healthy weight and I feel like my children don’t have very well balanced diets either. So I have to find something new that works for us.

Enter A New Voice

When I began reading Trina’s book I immediately sensed her gentle heart. Her desire is clearly to educate not convert. I could be wrong, but I can’t imagine this sweet woman condemning me occasionally getting Chick-Fila or giving my kids Kashi bars. The spirit of this whole book has felt like kind friend trying to help me along my food journey. We may not all make the journey in the same way or have the exact same destination in mind, but our goals are the same. Healthy family and healthy life.

Do I agree with everything Trina says in this book? No, and you probably don’t either. If you did you probably wouldn’t need to read it. But there is a great deal of logical good food wisdom in this book that almost anyone can benefit from.

So for the next couple of weeks I’ll be talking about Trina’s amazing book and how it’s helped me along my real food journey.

 Fats, Dairy and Other Changes: My Real Food Journey Part II


Disclaimer: I received this book for free in order to review it. But my opinions are my own. However, this post may also contain affiliate links. Thanks for your support.


My First CSA Part II


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We’re approaching the end of month two and I’m still very pleased with the CSA. Beet chips are a new favorite at our house. Zucchini and carrots are regular favorites already, so they fit right in. We had our first small share of wine berries two weeks ago. Wow! Absolutely delicious. One week there was a cooler of extras so I got double the usual selection of green beans and some large zucchini. Those kinds of foods are big hits around here. The beans were gone within the week, and the zucchini shortly after.

I’ve been getting creative with fresh garlic as well. This is never something I would have considered eating.  I made garlic mashed potatoes, and used roasted garlic as a savory base for a vegetable soup.

It is interested to see what I’m learning about seasonality. In this area, it is almost impossible to have lettuce and tomato ripe at the same time. I really wonder how recent the advent of those two items in salad is. So I’ll find myself tempted to buy lettuce at the store to supplement the tomatoes coming from the CSA. But instead I’ve been forgoing salad all together and instead using the tomatoes in omelets or just sliced up raw for my son. He loves his “matos.”

I think I’d like to do a full share next year. For two reasons. First, wider variety. There are a number of yummy things that we didn’t get very much of because we only had half shares. We also did a half share because we were afraid we wouldn’t eat it all. But we haven’t had too much trouble, except maybe the braising greens, which I can always freeze for smoothies over the winter. So now I have to figure out how to save the full amount needed for next year’s full share.

This has really changed my feelings about eating locally and seasonally. I’ll still be buying imported produce (whether nationally or internationally) in winter because in the north east there isn’t much you can grow from about November-May. But I’m learning to modify what I cook and eat around what we get each week. It’s been rather fun. I wish we could more easily and affordably get other things locally, such as fruit, meat and eggs.

I’m looking forward to what the next few months bring as winter squash, apples and potatoes come into season and we see a second crop of greens and peas.

Whether you buy your foods locally or now, what have been some of your summer favorites?


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My First CSA

My First CSA

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Today ends my first month of CSA pickups. If you’re not familiar with it, CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. Basically you pay a fee to a farm at the beginning of the growing season and then you get a selection of produce each week for the entire growing season.

We’ve been discussing doing this for two years and this is the first year we are finally doing it. We’re participating with Hunter Hill Farm CSA which is run by Daniel Hunter and Bethany Towne. One of the things I love about this CSA is that they have a drop site located within 5 or 10 minutes of my house, here in the city. You can pick up at the farm in rural Easton or at the home of the owners of the farm (Daniel Hunter’s parents) in Bethlehem. I’ve met Gene Hunter, the owner, twice and he has been friendly and helpful. The communications from Bethany Towne have been very informative and she’s also been accommodating and helpful with information about what is in each share and pointing us in the direction of new recipes, for which I have been quite grateful.

Week 1 was mostly greens of various kinds, plus some radishes. The herbs I honestly didn’t know what to do with. I ended up drying the oregano, and I don’t know what to do with the cilantro, though I have a recipe for cilantro pesto that I might be gutsy enough to try. I really enjoyed the roast radishes. The wilted arugula wasn’t a hit with anyone but me, but I didn’t mind much.

Week 2 was more greens, plus turnips, and some onions. Which led to baked onion rings, caramelized turnips and kale chips all of which were amazing. I wasn’t sure what to do with the collard greens yet so I froze them for future use in smoothies.

We missed Week 3 while we were on vacation so Week 4 was an extra large portion, plus there was a cooler of extras for anyone who wanted them. I grabbed a large bag of peas. Wow! I spent over an hour shelling peas and my kids finished them in one sitting. The strawberries were a surprise and very tasty. More turnips, radishes and onions, led to repeat of the above recipes. I could eat those all summer. Broccoli and carrots were tasty too.

So one month in, I’m enjoying this so far. I’m not sure whether we’re breaking even yet. I’ll probably have to figure that out at the end of the summer, though I’m not even sure how I would know. Looking forward to the midsummer produce coming soon.

30 Day Green Smoothie Challenge: Week 4 & Final Thoughts


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This is the final week, that technically represents a week and a half.  I enjoyed this experiment. I don’t know if I’d do this daily in the future, but I might consider it, especially the recipes with cherries and berries. I got breakfast everyday for the first time in a long time.


2 cups spinach

2 cups water

1 orange

1 cup strawberries

½ cup blueberries

1 banana

I liked this one a lot too. It was a very tasty combo. I used kale instead of spinach, and extra strawberries and blueberries to replace the banana. I also added chia seeds and Greek yogurt, though I thought it tasted fine without the Greek yogurt too.


2 cups spinach

2 cups water

2 cups cherries

1 banana

Used kale and a cherry berry mix and it was another delicious combination. Definitely add this one to my favorites list.



2 cups spinach

2 cups coconut water

1 orange

1 cup mango

1 banana

I didn’t have quite enough mango so I used two oranges and subbed pineapple for banana, kale instead of spinach and 1 cup coconut milk and 1 cup water instead of coconut water chia seeds and greek yogurt for protein. It worked. I didn’t love it, I didn’t hate it. But it was drinkable (which is more than I can say for a few other recipes that I tried.



2 cups spinach

2 cups almond milk

2 bananas

3 tablespoons cacao

2 tablespoons almond butter

I used some very crunchy homemade almond butter, strawberries instead of bananas and baking coco instead of cacao. So it was practically it’s own recipe. It was interesting. I would drink it again, but I might try a different combination. I think cherries or blueberries might be good too. Maybe with milk and a little Greek yogurt instead of almond milk. But the concept was tasty.



2 cups spinach

2 cups water

1 cup pineapple

1 cup cherries

1 banana

So this was really more of a berry tart, since I used a cherry berry mix, but I tried to make it heavy on the cherries. I also used a little more of both the berry mix and the pineapple, since I don’t use banana. I mixed Greek yogurt into my portion. It was a little more bitter but not bad.

I haven’t decided whether I’ll be continuing with the Greek smoothies. I’m just trying to get a feel of whether this is really healthy for me. I like that it’s an easy breakfast and that it gets me a veggies at breakfast, a time when I normally wouldn’t get any kind of vegetables. I don’t even eat fruit in the morning anymore, after getting used to cutting it out on my diabetes diet. While I’ve read plenty of studies that say that green smoothies are helpful in balancing blood sugar, but part of me just quite can’t believe it. I suppose I could test my current blood sugar before and after, but I don’t relish sticking myself again unnecessarily. (It was quite a miserable few months when I did it four or five times a day).

So I think I’ll keep the smoothies in, using my favorite recipes, and maybe just a few times a weeks. So how did the smoothie challenge work out for you?

Join the 30 Day Green Smoothie Challenge

30 Day Green Smoothie Challenge: Week 1 Recap

30 Day Green Smoothie Challenge: Week 2 Recap

30 Day Green Smoothie Challenge: Week 3 Recap

Disclaimer: All recipes are the creations of the ladies at Simple Green Smoothies. I am reproducing them here only for the sake of reviewing them and noting my own variations. I am in no way taking credit for their hard work. I provide links back to their site whenever possible.

30 Day Green Smoothie Challenge: Week 3 Recap


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I’m finally used to the habit of making a smoothie almost everyday. I’m beginning to question the health of it however. Somehow, while drinking my breakfast everyday certainly seems efficient, I wonder if it’s really healthy. Next week I’m going to try adding egg casserole back in again to make sure I’m getting some extra protein at breakfast, plus I’m sure the extra veggies won’t hurt either.


2 cups spinach, fresh

2 cups almond milk

2 cups strawberries, frozen

1 banana

I didn’t have enough strawberries to pull this off and you already know how I feel about banana, but what I did have in the back of my fridge was a container of kiwi that needed to be finished up, so I substituted a kiwi for banana.

I think I liked this, however, I learned two important lessons. I really don’t like almond milk that much. I think if I have the chance to make this in the future I’d use water as a base and then add milk and Greek yogurt to my portion of it, keeping the rest of it dairy free for my son. I also think I should have peeled the kiwi. I guess I thought it would be a healthy interesting experiment, but I my blender just couldn’t handle it. In addition to strawberry leaves (yes, I put them in whole too), and small chunks of kale (I ran out of spinach) I could feel the texture of kiwi skin. So the flavor of this smoothie wasn’t bad, but the texture was a little mealy for me. I also added hemp seeds for additional protein.


1 ½ cups spinach, fresh

½ cup cucumber, peeled

1 cup water 1 orange, peeled

1 cup pineapple

1 cup strawberries, frozen

I modified this somewhat, using kale rather than spinach, and two cups strawberries and adding some Greek yogurt for protein. I actually liked it. For some reason the combination of flavors worked for me. It might have been the help of the extra strawberries, and the creaminess of the Greek yogurt. I didn’t notice the cucumber at all and the orange and pineapple wasn’t too pulpy this time.


2 cups kale, fresh

1 cup almond milk

2 oranges, peeled

1 cup blueberries

2 bananas

Really enjoyed this one. I used a mixed berry blend instead of just blueberries since I don’t use bananas either and it turned out great. The amount of liquid was too little in my opinion so I added some extra water. I think perhaps my oranges weren’t juicy enough.


2 cups kale, fresh

1 cup almond milk

2 oranges, peeled

1 cup pineapple

1 banana

¼ avocado

The idea of using avocado really freaked me out, and then, as it turned out, my avocado had gone bad. As usual, I didn’t use any banana. I used extra pineapple and a little bit of frozen mango. In the past I’ve found that almond milk and citrus is slightly nauseating so I decided to use coconut milk. I used ¾ cup of coconut milk and one cup water. I then actually had to add more water because the blender wasn’t spinning properly. I think I may have used closer to 3 cups kale. Overall the flavor wasn’t bad though.

So I’ve pretty much gotten used to the daily routine of using the blender, and I’m getting used to cleaning it as well. I wish I had a better one, but I’m OK with using the one I have. My husband and daughter still think the whole green smoothie thing is rather gross, but my two year old son is loving it.  I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve avoided, modified or deferred recipes that I found too weird (Cilantro Mango Detox anyone?) but overall I’m trying to stick to the recommended ingredients and see if I discover something new that I like. Three weeks down, one or two more to go.

Join the 30 Day Green Smoothie Challenge

30 Day Green Smoothie Challenge: Week 1 Recap

30 Day Green Smoothie Challenge: Week 2 Recap

Disclaimer: All recipes are the creations of the ladies at Simple Green Smoothies. I am reproducing them here only for the sake of reviewing them and noting my own variations. I am in no way taking credit for their hard work. I provide links back to their site whenever possible.