A sweet picture of my mom & my two older brothers, circa 1976, at her baby shower pregnant with me.
by Patty Joy
My mom was the quintessential homemaker. She kept a clean house, managed four children’s schedules, helped my dad with his business, always managed to look beautifully put together (not the era of fashionable sweatpants, more like two piece suits and snakeskin heels), and would always top off a busy day by making a delicious, nutritious homemade meal. Sheesh, no pressure!
While I would love to believe that I am following in my mom’s footsteps, it is clear that I am not even close! On occasion I will wear some sexy high heels and get all fancy pants, but I’ve got to be honest, I am a mom who wears workout gear (working out or not) tennis shoes and my hair pulled up in a ponytail or a messy bun, pretty much everyday!
I do keep a clean house, with the help of my darling housekeeper, and I probably eat out way more than we ever did when I was a child! Sigh… the pressure to be like my mama sometimes gets the best of me. But just as I begin to throw myself a pity party for one, my mom reminds me to cut myself some slack. She (with no bias at all 🙂 points out that I am a strong woman, who wants to be the BEST mom, wife, friend, daughter, sister, well, you get the picture. She typically will go into an entire discussion about how my generation of moms are so in tune with our children, our marriages, and professions. Basically she gives me a gigantic ego boost, and while it totally helps and gets me out of my funk, I know my mom was literally the best mother on the planet. It was her generation which set the path for all of us to succeed and be strong women.
And so, on those days that I don’t have the time or energy to keep up with my mother’s incredible legacy, her words echo through my head, and I give myself a break… then I fix up MY version of a home cooked meal!
I am all about using fresh, whole foods. The less processed the better. In fact, when I am at the grocery store I always make sure to spend much more time in the fresh produce section than perusing the aisles of manufactured, prepackaged foods.
But even though my intention is to make a fabulously fresh and organic, homemade meal every night, life gets busy, and I am sometimes left with only 20 minutes to prepare a healthy AND delicious meal for my family. It was in these moments when I came up with the concept of Mostly Fresh with a Dash of Processed and began choosing to use 70% fresh produce and 30% processed foods for each meal. Basically I want my plate to be as fresh as possible. I don’t literally calculate the percentages, but it does keep me in check about what ingredients I am using.
The type of processed food I choose is just as important. Organic is the #1 factor that motivates my decision. I look for the USDA Organic label, so I know I am buying 100% certified organic with no genetically modified ingredients (GMO’s).
The second deciding factor is the ingredient list. The shorter the list the better! All that other stuff is usually just a bunch of preservatives that I’m not interested in putting in my family’s meal. I began by simply taking a little extra time to read the labels in the freezer section at the grocery store and soon I had my favorite, go-to brands I’d spy easily when walking down the aisle.
Here are some quick & easy ways I add fresh ingredients to our meals:
* I always add a fresh veggie to my canned pasta sauce. I usually throw in a bag of spinach to the sauce and let it melt away, but some fresh broccoli, peas, chard, or kale will do the trick as well. It adds that element of freshness, makes it a bit more homemade, and it’s delish!
* When making sandwiches I always add as many fresh veggies as possible! Load up on the lettuce, tomato, onions, cucumber, peppers, and avocado. I also cut up an apple instead of chips if I want a little crunch! But really, sometimes you just have to have a bag of cool ranch Doritos to stuff in your sub. Yumm!!!!
* If it’s a canned or boxed soup kind of a night, pair it with a yummy salad.
* On hot dog or veggie dog night, I sauté red & yellow peppers with some red onion and top off my dog with some beautiful colors & flavors.
* Breakfast is usually pretty easy to add freshness too. Some strawberry’s, blueberry’s, banana’s & flaxseed to my cereal, oatmeal or waffles usually does the trick, or tomatoes, green onions, and spinach to my scrambled or poached eggs.
It’s all about looking at your plate and adding some freshness to it. It creates so much more flavor, not to mention the added vitamins and fiber in every bite. So next time you prepare a meal, try and be conscious of how much of it is fresh vs processed and even use my 70/30 rule if it helps… but also cut yourself some slack, as my mom says, There’s always another meal to eat right around the corner!