Monday was the start of my ‘only real food’ week. In some ways it’s been more difficult than I envisioned it would be, and in some ways easier. Aside from making my own vegetable stock and making regular brown rice (vs. quick cooking rice), not too much has changed regarding what I’ve made for dinners this week. But it was really difficult to find some of my breakfast and lunch items. Cereal was obviously out with the no-more-than-five-ingredients rule for packaged goods, so I made my own granola. Yogurt was insanely difficult to find (well, obviously not THAT difficult since I found some at the first store I tried). I looked at six or seven brands, and it wasn’t until I got to the Icelandic style Siggi yogurt that I found one without sugar or artificial sweeteners. They use a small amount of agave, and although it is processed, I decided it would be acceptable. (Today I discovered that the Yoskos honey yogurt I left in the fridge at work last week only has milk and honey – so that’s a go, too.) I wanted to try to avoid the high-calorie dried fruit that I usually take, so I’ve been trying to substitute whole fruits like grapes or sliced mango. Instead of the protein-fortified low-calorie bagel and olive tapenade that I usually eat for lunch, I’ve been taking brown rice with heirloom beans or chicken. And I’ve eaten a lot of my homemade whole wheat potato bread and whole wheat crackers. The only item that really carried over from my usual routine is pistachios.

Yesterday night I decided that I hadn’t really bought enough acceptable food, so I went to the store to get some emergency supplies.

Week of Real Food - Midweek Emergency Purchases

Week of Real Food – Midweek Emergency Purchases

I got some tuna, some more fruit (and dried figs just in case), some kale for salads, and figured I’ve never tried coconut water, so I found one of the only kinds with nothing added. Another thing I purchased was some raw ‘cookies’ and ‘chips’ made by Go Raw. I opened up the packages of cookies and chips when I got home and thought, ‘Huh. Hamster snacks.’ I tried a couple of the carrot cake super cookies (organic coconut, sprouted sesame seeds, carrots, dates, and nutmeg – nothing else), and was just about to make the decision that they would never become a staple in my diet, but then I ate a few more, and all of a sudden it was like they were the best things I had ever eaten. I’m not completely sure if it was because this was day three of only eating real food, or if they really are that great, but I’m definitely going to buy more to figure it out.

Hmmm...An Apple, Go Raw Carrot Cake Super Cookies and Spirulina Super Chips

Hmmm…An Apple, Go Raw Carrot Cake Super Cookies and Spirulina Super Chips

Once I finish out the week, I’ll post more about how it went, including pictures of my dinners. More than halfway there – and I haven’t even needed to go for the chocolate that I added to my rule exceptions just in case!


In preparation for my week of eating only real food, I did quite a bit of cooking and baking this weekend to get a head start. I needed to make sure I had some real food items for breakfast and lunch (which I take and eat at work), since those tend to be my most questionable foods normally. But I found that I also needed to make some basics that are difficult to find at the store in a package with less than five ingredients. It seems like everything has texurizers or preservatives or something that doesn’t really seem like it should be there.

Rio Zape and Spanish Tolosna Beans - Bean Liquid to be used for Stock

Rio Zape and Spanish Tolosna Beans – Bean Liquid to be used for Stock

Whole Grain Quinoa

Whole Grain Quinoa

Long Grain Brown Rice (that's what the bulk bin label said, so hopefully it's true)

Long Grain Brown Rice (that’s what the bulk bin label said, so hopefully that’s what it is!)

Boiled Chicken Breasts (really, it's a great way to cook them - nice and moist)

Boiled Chicken Breasts (really, it’s a great way to cook them – nice and moist)

Whole Wheat Crackers (made with tomato paste, pecorino romano, basil and oregano)

Whole Wheat Crackers (made with Tomato Paste, Pecorino Romano, Basil and Oregano)

Ingredients for stock - the liquid from the heirloom beans, onions, carrots and celery

Ingredients for Stock – the Liquid from the Heirloom Beans, Onions, Carrots and Celery

Okay, this is not an attractive picture, but the bread itself is wonderful - whole wheat made with purple sweet potatoes

Okay, this is not an attractive picture, and the loaf is indeed sadly misshapen, but the bread itself is wonderful – 100% Whole Wheat made with Purple Sweet Potatoes – as light in texture as if it were made with white flour

Homemade Granola

Homemade Granola

Colorful Carrots

I recently decided that I would try a week where I eat only real food. I generally try to avoid highly refined foods, but a lot of my breakfast, lunch, and snack foods could be considered sort of borderline. Sure I eat organic cereal made with with whole wheat, but there are a few added chemicals for texture and preservation. Nuts are healthy, but do they really need the honey or maple coating that I am so fond of? And then there is my penchant for low-fat nachos. Guiltless Gourmet chips, Kraft Fat-Free Cheddar, Spicy Pico Guacamole and Salsa? The last two are acceptable, the chips would be okay once a month, but the fake chemical cheese? I am fully aware of how gross that is, and yet I still eat it. And even in the not-highly-refined category, dried fruit is hardly a horrible snack, but it generally has twice the calories per volume of fresh fruit. So I started feeling curious about what it would feel like to only eat real food.

I checked out what rules other people have established for their No Processed or Real Food diets, and here are the rules I decided I would follow:

  1. No refined grains like white flour or white rice (wheat items need to be WHOLE wheat)
  2. No refined sweeteners, which include sugar, corn syrup, cane juice, and artificial sweeteners like Splenda or Equal
  3. Nothing packaged (or bottled or canned) with more than 5 ingredients on the label
  4. Nothing with a bunch of mysterious chemicals in it (I’ll allow some preservatives I recognize on a case-by-case basis if needed)
  5. Prohibited items which pertain specifically to my weekly eating habits:
    • No nutritional bars,  granola bars or cereal bars
    • No fat-free cheese
    • No tortilla chips
    • No soda pop (sparkling water is ok)
  6. Special allowances:
    • Coffee (this I will not give up)
    • Stevia (for my coffee)
    • Dark chocolate (this is a necessity)
    • Salt (no excessive added sodium, ok for cooking)

I’m also not going to consider items such as mustard, vinegar, or other condiments as being disqualified because they’ve been processed – if it only has a few ingredients, and it’s been around for over a century, I’m going to allow it.

Here are the types of things I envision eating during the week:

  1. Boiled or roasted chicken
  2. Fish or seafood (wild caught if possible)
  3. Eggs
  4. Beans (home-cooked, not canned)
  5. Yogurt
  6. Cheese
  7. Milk
  8. Nuts (roasted is okay, coated with sugary stuff is not)
  9. Brown rice
  10. Quinoa
  11. 100% whole wheat bread
  12. Fresh fruit
  13. Fresh vegetables
  14. Homemade soup, sauces, salad dressing (from whole ingredients)
  15. Homemade bread or crackers with whole wheat flour and other whole ingredients
  16. Homemade granola (we’ll see if I have the energy to make this)

So I start on Monday – I can’t wait to see how it goes!

Heirloom and Cherry Tomatoes

Coffee Date Bread

January 18, 2013

I’ve been on kind of a baking spree lately, and decided that maybe a baked item would be a good way to get rid of the surplus of dates I seem to have in my pantry of late. I did a bit of searching, and turned up an intriguing recipe for coffee date bread on I’m a coffee fiend, so bread with coffee sounded too good to pass up! The coffee taste was rather subtle in the end product, but it’s a really great tasting bread. I actually made this the same time that I made the oatmeal stout bread in one of my previous posts, and between the two, I couldn’t decide which one I preferred – it was always whichever one I had last.

The original recipe called for 2 Tablespoons of butter and a cup of pecans, so I lightened it up quite a bit. By using applesauce instead of butter and leaving out the cup of pecans I saved about 80 calories and 8 grams of fat per slice of bread, making it low fat, but still delicious!

Coffee Date Bread
adapted from a recipe on
makes 1 loaf

1 cup pitted dates, chopped
1 cup strong brewed coffee
3 Tbsp applesauce *
1 cup erythritol (or 1+1/4 cup sugar)
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
2+1/4 cup white flour**

* This bread started to dry out after about 5 days, so if you aren’t going to eat it within that time, swap out 1 Tbsp of applesauce for butter or oil (it’s still good at that point though, it just looks a little dry)
** I used 1+1/4 cup King Arthur white whole wheat and 1 cup white

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix ingredients from dates through salt. Add baking soda and baking powder, then add flour in several batches, mixing until all flour is incorporated. Pour into a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan sprayed with cooking spray (or greased). Bake for about 1 hour until a toothpick placed in the center comes out clean. Cool on a cooling rack.

Coffee Date Bread

Coffee Date Bread

As I passed the potato section on a recent grocery shopping trip, I saw one lone purple sweet potato, and it reminded me of the purple sweet potato rolls that we’ve had on our vacations in Hawaii. Although it was the last of its kind (in the store – that wasn’t supposed to sound like it was an endangered species of vegetation or something), it looked like it was in good shape, so I added it to our cart.

Unpeeled Purple Sweet Potato

Unpeeled Purple Sweet Potato

Since my plan was to make rolls with it, I did a bit of research online for potato bread recipes, and they pretty much all either used mashed potatoes or potato flakes. (Potato flakes? Really? That just sounds so industrial food service!) So I set about peeling, cutting up and boiling the potato so I could mash it. I was pretty amazed at how purple-red it was on the inside.

Peeled and Cut Purple Sweet Potato

Peeled and Cut Purple Sweet Potato

But that was nothing compared to after it was cooked and mashed. It was so purple it pretty much looked like Play-Doh! (Oh, how I love purple food!)

Mashed Purple Sweet Potatoes

Mashed Purple Sweet Potato

I decided to go all out and do the whole kneading and two-rise bread making routine, as well as using some white flour in addition to the King Arthur white whole wheat I normally bake with. And the results were definitely very pleasing. The texture of the rolls was really light and soft (pretty reminiscent of how they were in Hawaii, actually). They weren’t really that sweet, despite the mashed potato (which was fairly sweet), but the color and the light texture that resulted was definitely worth its inclusion. You could easily substitute white or yellow sweet potatoes for the purple.

Purple Sweet Potato Rolls
makes 18 rolls

1/2 cup warm water
1 pkg active dry yeast
2/3 cup mashed sweet potatoes (purple if you can find it, white or yellow otherwise)
2+1/2 Tbsp butter, melted
1 egg
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 cups white flour*

* I used 1 cup King Arthur white whole wheat and 1 cup white

Combine water and yeast and let stand 5 minutes, until bubbly. In a large bowl, combine water and yeast with mashed sweet potatoes, butter, egg, sugar and salt, and mix well. Add flour in three batches, mixing until all flour is incorporated. Knead on a floured surface for about 10 minutes. Place in a bowl sprayed with cooking spray (or greased), turn to coat dough, and cover with a slightly damp towel. Let rise in a warm place for about 1 hour or until doubled in size.

Punch dough down, and knead briefly to release gas bubbles. Divide into 18 even pieces. Form ball shapes by pulling dough from the top around to the bottom on all sizes, pinching together at the bottom. Place on a sprayed (or greased) baking sheet, and cover with a slightly damp towel. Let rise in a warm place for about 1 hour, until doubled in size.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes until lightly browned. (I cut one open at that point to make sure it was sufficiently baked). Remove and place on a cooling rack.

Purple Sweet Potato Rolls

Purple Sweet Potato Rolls

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