Time is flying by, and I wanted to do an update of this unprocessed-foods challenge I’m doing for the month of October.
Overall, it’s going well. For the most part, it’s really not that hard, though it’s making me spend significantly more time in the kitchen. To compensate, I’m often eating much more simply than I normally would. Friday night I took leftover roasted broccoli and sweet potato, added some pinto beans and chopped fresh tomato from the CSA, splashed on my new favorite hot sauce (purchased at Sugarpill Apothecary), topped it with chopped avocado, and that was dinner. No multistage cooking; no custom blend of herbs and spices, freshly ground in a mortar; no multiple dishes–just a melange of stuff heated up and thrown in a bowl. And it was good!
I do miss having so many options of places to eat out–or variety of dishes I can choose from the menus of vegan restaurants–but thanks to Thrive, Chaco Canyon, Veggie Grill and Whole Foods I haven’t had to rely entirely on my own cooking and could have some very tasty food prepared by others now and then. Jud has (as usual!) been quite supportive and flexible with where we eat, and has even forgone some processed foods in my presence in solidarity. And my awesome friends brought lots of unprocessed food to eat at a potluck brunch I hosted, so there was plenty of variety then.
I’ve definitely embraced some routines for the sake of time and simplicity: breakfast is very often a rice cake topped with peanut butter or sunflower seed butter, along with an apple or banana. Could I make a rice cake in my kitchen? Absolutely not. But when the only ingredients are whole grain rice and air, I’d say that counts as unprocessed. Lunches are often brown rice + beans + broccoli + oil/vinegar/spices, if I don’t have leftovers from dinner to heat up.
In general, I’m eating far fewer grains because it’s so much less convenient to grab ready-made stuff or make pasta the center of a meal, but since I know grains and grain-like seeds have a lot of valuable nutrients, I’m making a point not to get too skimpy on them. I’m eating a ton of nuts and seeds, and lots of fruits and vegetables. Although I am “allowing” oil in this challenge, I’m being more judicious with it than I normally am, and trying to get my fats from less-processed sources. For example, instead of a standard vinaigrette, I’ve been dressing salads and vegetables with lemon-tahini dressing and sauce.
The low points
For the first two weeks I actually felt pretty lousy. I had a stomach ache almost all the time. I honestly don’t know how much of that–if any–had to do with the dietary change. I’m sure there was some adjustment to the extra fiber I was consuming, but both generally and in this particular case I’m quite skeptical of things like “detoxing,” so I don’t attribute it to that. It’s also fair to say there has been plenty of stress in my life recently, which frequently manifests itself in the form of stomach upset. So there’s that. A bummer, but it’s better now.
Also, it seems I may be more sensitive to soy in certain forms than I’d previously thought, so I’m steering clear of soy milk for now, and when I do eat soy it’s usually as tempeh. I figure that’s one of the least-processed forms of soy anyway.
Freshly made almond milk is fantastically delicious. If you’ve only had the stuff in boxes, I highly recommend trying it freshly made. I’ve been working on a couple experimental recipes to use the pulp from my current batch of milk, and I’ll post soon with the results! I also tried making hazelnut milk–and made hot chocolate with it using roasted-and-ground cacao nibs, cinnamon and vanilla. It was a little more textured than I would have liked, but quite tasty nonetheless. I’d also like to try roasting the hazelnuts first rather than using them raw.
There are some nice chocolate bars out there that arguably fit the unprocessed guidelines–and some that I really don’t like at all. Stirs the Soul makes a line that is not cheap, but in some cases is quite tasty. I particularly recommend the orange goji-berry (even though I’m not particularly fond of goji berries) and the mint. I was much less impressed with the cayenne-cinnamon and the currant-chai flavors, which seemed not sweet enough (all are lightly sweetened only with whole dates) and with poorly balanced flavors. If I’m going to splurge on expensive, raw chocolate, I want it to really satisfy that chocolate craving. Speaking of expensive chocolate, I picked up one of these at Thrive, and it was very, very tasty. This Hibiscus-Ginger chocolate, on the other hand, I didn’t like at all. I might try other flavors from that line, but the tartness of the hibiscus did not work for me in this bar.
I’ve become pretty well hooked on Heidi Ho Veganics Chipotle Cheddar (overlooking the agar, it’s remarkably unprocessed), and today I tried an herb-cashew cheese from Punk Rawk Labs, which was just as delicious as it was expensive ($10 for a 5-oz. tin–ouch!). At the same time I picked up the smoked cashew variety, which I haven’t yet tried. At that price, I can’t see those cheeses becoming a regular item in my fridge, but they sure would be nice for an occasional splurge.
Some things I’ve been eating for dinner
Tabbouli with homegrown parsley and mint, plus homemade hummus and carrots (yes, they’re supposed to be yellow rather than orange!)
A small-plate-style dinner after a late lunch: Rice cake and Triscuit-type crackers with Heidi Ho Veganics Chipotle Cheddar, pickled asparagus and pepper, and an heirloom-tomato-avocado salad with smoked salt
Mexican-inspired dinner of polenta, pinto beans cooked with zucchini and tomato, raw heirloom tomatoes, avocado, pepitas and cilantro