Home > Food, Thoughts > 3 Keys to the 28 Day Whole Foods Challenge

3 Keys to the 28 Day Whole Foods Challenge

The local grocer, a true artifact, was replaced by corporate economies of size.  Box stores with crowded aisles upon aisles, brimming with primary yellow and red prepackaged goods, added sugar products, and bumping, sloppy strangers, play barely audible white noise, pick-a-decade pop.  Under irritating white light reflecting off school cafeteria tile, barely recognizable foods now sold in pretty, pretty well-preserved packs are mocked by the memory of barely recognizable school lunches, both claiming to be real food. Long since, the simple peace of the local grocer was disrupted by profit drilling.  The breathing, open spaces of small shapely markets that perfectly displayed individual goods, ranging from soft brown hues of bulk sacks of grains and beans to vivid rainbows of fruits and vegetables, are no longer.  People milled and moseyed about lightly socializing or discussing a planned recipe with a neighbor, creatively brainstorming how to use a new ingredient.  The grocer set the stage for happy eaters and healthy choices.  Perhaps, this is why all NEW Whole Foods stores opened this year and in the future will feature an in-store bar.  If you think about the evolution of the grocery store, the way it became what it is now and how it has changed in your mothers’ lifetime, you can breakdown the thoughts and habits that maintain the status quo of quick-cooking choices over happy body choices.  A little re-thinking will go a long way when you realize you can have both.

Are you ready to assemble? It’s the first day of the Health Starts Here 28 Day Whole Foods Challenge.  The challenge consists of eating whole foods, plant-strong, nutrient dense, and healthy fats for 28 days.  THAT means a whole hell of a lot of at home cooking and assembling since the idea is to limit the amount of nutrient damage caused by extended processing and cooking methods.  If the biggest excuse for eating like crap is the convenience of fast food, cooking with oils, and pre-packaged, added sugared corporate products of economy size, then all that’s needed are alternatives.  Here are the three critical changes I made effortlessly that forever changed my body happiness:

1) Purée! Purée! Purée! 

Redefine everything you know about cooking.  Cooking is NOT hard, it is NOT hot. It IS artful. Forget the recipes, the complicatedness, the traditions of boiling ingredients down to make a sauce, meanwhile destroying beautiful flavors and complex vitamins.  Instead, enhance beautiful flavors with complements the way you can make an orange dress pop with a contrasting teal stone necklace. Maintain complexity of vitamins, nutrients, and taste by ‘cooking’ briefly and simply; by puréeing, your palate and your body will benefit from pure and clean splashes of natural zing.  In the morning, purée spinach and cubes of watermelon into a smoothie for a fresh taste that cannot be replicated by anything other than fresh greens and melon.  Your morning smoothie will have all the spunk of fresh lemonade after a summer afternoon cutting the grass.  For lunch, purée a multitude of vegetables or only mushrooms with vinegar and spices so you can slather a salad with dressing, free from concern for calories and oil.  At dinner, purée nuts, beans, veggies with stock to make a broth or with tomato paste to make a hearty Italian sauce.  Puréeing can create the texture of long hours slow cooking in a matter of minutes without any degradation of all those happy proteins and minerals.  Experiment.  Purée anything and everything and taste it so you get to know the absolute flavor of each item without regard to texture.  Then you can begin to deconstruct, reconstruct, and get creative with substitutions.   To the right are piquillo peppers–try it with hatch peppers, just in time for the annual hatch pepper festival–stuffed with white bean puree laid gently in an olive tapenade.

2) Sauté Artfullé

A mysterious character in a tall, billowing, white hat and starched, collared jacket emphatically throws miscellaneous secrets into a pan.  A staccato slapping of the pan and the crisp lightning sizzle accompanies a flash of fire.  Every time I dump vegetables into my pan I imagine myself in busy short kitchen off a cobblestone alley in France.  I can afford to be brash and negligent because I am not using any oils when I sauté.  It’s just another opportunity to redefine the cooking method—sauté with water or stock instead of oil.  There is no reason to use oil ever.  In fact, sautéing with vegetable stock can actually begin to caramelize the vegetables and speed up the cooking time altogether, making it more delicious and faster than the traditional way. Heat your pan over medium to high heat and then drop two tablespoons of stock into your hot pan. Throw your room temperature (allows the veggies to brown in the pan quicker), chopped vegetables in with all the elegance of an angry ballerina.  As the stock evaporates off, repeat adding 2 tablespoons of stock as necessary (too much and you will end up boiling the veggies, too little and they will end up sticking to the pan).  Cook anywhere from 1 minute to 10 minutes and serve.  Snap!

3) Batch Cook like a Mother!

Yeah!  Yeah! Batch cook the HELL out of your weekly meals !  One evening or on an off day, go hard and spend a couple of intense hours slaving like a mother would.  Well, it’s not not exactly slaving being that it is only a couple hours combined with the luxurious invention of reasonably priced food processors, blenders, hand-held mixers, etc., but you get the idea.  Consume yourself with the joy of cooking for a couple of hours and you will thank yourself later.  This is a case where doing it all at once is better than doing it a bit everyday.  I am cooking for more than one so I make 2 -3 cups of uncooked brown rice and  2-3 cups of uncooked lentils and black beans that I can use throughout the week as a base for veggie burgers, hearty sauces, soups, cold rice and beans salads, and stir ‘frys’.  I also make an obscene amount of marinated cabbage or other vegetables that I can then throw into anything, raw or for a quick sauté.  Without having to flavor or chop, I never have an excuse not to get my veggies for the day.  The great thing  about marinated vegetables is the flavor gets yummier every day and adds dimension to anything  being plated.

Good luck!

If you need more tips, I am happy to treat my comment section like an antique local grocer and discuss the possibilities.

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