WRITTEN ON September 29th, 2010 BY Meredith AND STORED IN Uncategorized

First, I want to thank you all for such incredible feedback from my post on Monday. I feel so lucky to have the support of such a dynamic group of readers. I have to admit, pressing that “publish” button Monday night was quite nerve-wracking; I had no idea how my over-share would be received and was worried it might come across as whiny (which drives me nuts).

Within minutes I had comments, emails, Facebook posts from you lovely people. It buoyed me and lifted my spirits.  I’m so thrilled you’re still reading! I was also incredibly touched by those of you who are going through a similar experience and wrote to me about your own personal roller coaster ride. Many of you said that my post helped you to feel less alone, made you realize it was okay to feel bitter sometimes. Thank you for allowing me to lend my voice to our collective troubles.  I’m honored by your trust in me.  You are my true sisters along this journey.

That said, lets get back to business.  The virtual strip tease of my last post, combined with your words, did the trick.  I’m brimming with ideas, and I can’t wait to get back to being happy in the kitchen.

Why is it that I tend to feel more renewed in the fall?  Perhaps because I’m the product of a 30 year veteran teacher (Mom), who spent years herding us all out of the house on the first day of school. Or maybe I was Jewish in a past life. Either way, September always feels like more of a beginning to me than January.  And this year, I’m making one big resolution that I hope will have an impact on a lot of different aspects of my life.

Hubby and I are always saying we want to be more healthy. We’re not unhealthy now. We eat a lot of fresh foods and I like to think I make more things from scratch than your average Jane. I haven’t used a boxed cake or brownie mix in years.  I never use jarred salsa, preferring to make it fresh. I like to whip out sheets of pasta in the winter time, and the thought of using a can or packet of soup to season meat makes me gag.

Still, there’s a lot more I could be doing to take charge of my own health and what I’m putting into my body. I’ve been mulling this over for some time.  My better half has two parents who have already battled cancer: my father-in-law in his mid-fifties and my mother-in-law, currently, at age 62. Pretty young I’d say. My own mother had to have a kidney transplant 9 years ago (donated by my father), my grandmother had breast cancer, as well as my aunt. There is heart disease and high blood pressure on both sides of our family. And, as you now know, there is clearly a fertility issue.

It seems, more and more, like one of the few things I can actually have some control over is what I feed myself and my dearest. So I’ve decided to take the from scratch method even further. I’m swearing off of as many processed foods as I can without turning into a total nutcase. That means no more canned tuna, no more store bought chicken broth, no more Kelloggs. Out with the nitrate, water-pumped deli cold cuts and processed American cheese (though I do love it). I’m even swearing off mass produced bread: Roman Meal, packaged naan, English muffins.  If I can’t get it at a local bakery or bake it myself then we’re not eating it.  Gone, also, are canned beans (this is going to be tough) and most dried pastas.

There will be some exceptions.  I’m not cutting out dairy: milk, yogurt, cheese (though I stopped buying non-organic milk ages ago.  Too many hormones in the regular stuff).  I will never give up my coffee (but the Splenda is in the trash. I’m switching to agave nectar as a natural sweetener). Baked goods are always welcome, but they’ll be made from scratch with whole wheat flour substituted where appropriate.  I’m not doing a raw food diet (cooked food is considered “processed”, so even if I cook apple sauce from local apples in my own home, then I’m technically eating processed food. What a load of garbage). In fact, I’m not going on a “diet” at all. I fully expect to eat better than I ever have: fresh, local, seasonal, mostly organic. Basically my new motto is if my great-great grandmother wouldn’t recognize it as food, I’m not putting it in my body (though my great-great grandmother was the daughter of a famine Irish immigrant so she probably wouldn’t recognize anything other than a scrawny looking potato).

We will still go out to eat. It’s our favorite “hobby” and something we have always loved to do together.  And I will never be the jerk who goes to someones home and says I cant eat that Triscuit and store bought hummus because they’re processed.  Its the ultimate compliment to be invited into someones home for a meal. I’ll never disrespect that.

But within reason and within my own home, I’m going to try my hardest to stick by these guidelines.  It’s already proven tough.  Yesterday I spent four hours roasting half a turkey breast for sandwiches, using a meat grinder to make ground fresh turkey for meatballs, making turkey stock and soaking and cooking a massive amount of chick peas.  I think the secret is banging it all out in one day.  I now have a ton of great, whole, fresh food to nosh on for the rest of the week.

Keeping that in mind, check out this recipe for Peach Wheatberry Salad. Wheatberries are a fantastic whole grain source, and the last of the seasons peaches are sweet and juicy. It’s the perfect side for any lean meat. Try it with grilled chicken, pork or fish. Eat slowly, savor each mouthful and feel your stomach sing.  Then get your ass off the couch and go for a run (another resolution.  Way more painful).

And good for you too!

Wheatberry Peach Salad (serves 2 as a side)
1 cup dried wheatberries, rinsed
3 1/2 cups water
1 tsp salt
1 large fresh peach, peeled and cut into chunks
1/2 cup fresh goat cheese, crumbled
3 scallions, sliced thin
1 handful pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds)
1 handful mint, roughly chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
Olive Oil
Salt and pepper to taste
In a medium sized sauce pan, add water, wheatberries and 1 tsp salt. Bring to a boil, cover, turn down to a simmer, and cook for 1 hour.  Wheatberries should be soft but chewy, slightly al dente. Remove from heat, fluff with fork and allow steam to escape.  Cool to room temp. Toss with remaining ingredients.  Let stand about 30 minutes to allow flavors to develop.  Serve room temp.

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