Believe it or not, we published our very first Eat REAL America weekly meal ideas and coaching tip 8 years ago, in October 2013.
My husband and I were reminiscing about everything we have experienced and learned over the last 8 years and thought you might enjoy some of our thoughts...
...after all, we are ALL on this journey together!
First, there are the obvious things we discuss extensively in our coaching tips, meal ideas and wellness programs:
- Eating with the seasons and shopping at the farmers' markets truly changed our lives!
- Roasting vegetables and eating lots of delicious salads have been equally life-changing!
- There is no "magic bullet" and no one "super food." Wait, well, technically there is...it's eating a wide variety of REAL FOOD each and every day!
What else have we discovered?
Some things we have learned about cooking...
- One garlic clove? Are you kidding?! When using garlic, there is NO point in using only one garlic clove! There should be a 2-clove minimum! And, in case you were wondering, we are going through and updating our recipes -- so wherever you see a recipe that calls for 1 clove of garlic, go ahead and make it 2 (or more)!
- There is a long list of things you can freeze. In addition to many fruits, vegetables and soups, things like that extra tomato paste, canned pumpkin and fresh ginger freeze beautifully and last for several months. Just don't forget they are in there!
- Baking requires different skills than cooking. When we are cooking, it's easy to improvise and it's really more of an art than a science. Remember, as Julia Child says "You've got to have a what-the-hell attitude in the kitchen!" When it comes to baking, it is much more of a science...and improvising often doesn't turn out as well. Of our "not website worthy" recipes that don't make it onto the website, many of them are breads, cakes, cookies and other baked goods. Ugh!
- We get huge enjoyment from cooking REAL FOOD at home! After gaining confidence in the kitchen, at some point, cooking became second nature. There was a time when we couldn't make anything without a recipe. Now, we can make a wide variety of flavor-loaded meals based on what we are craving and what we have on hand and we love it!
A few things we have learned about online recipes...
- Amp up the spice! If you are ever looking at recipes online, you can often cut the salt and sugar in half and double the seasonings and spices! This is one of the ways we adapt recipes to be healthier and most flavorful!
- Many of the recipes you find online can be simplified. Why dirty multiple pans when you can cook everything in one pot or on a couple of baking sheets? Our goal is to help provide you with recipes with the most efficient number of steps!
- Websites filled with ads drive us crazy! We are also reminded of this when we find ourselves on a site scrolling for miles to get to the actual recipe!
About success, failure and running a business...
- Success doesn't come without failure. We have had well over 200 recipe failures...these are recipes that we determined were not "website worthy." Some of these failures weren't horrible but if we don't want to make them again, our rule is that they can't go on the website. In just the past two weeks, we had to say "thanks but no thanks" to some pumpkin snickerdoodle cookies, stuffed pasta shells and a cornmeal-crusted okra salad. The good news...the okra salad failure led to some delicious okra cornmeal pancakes (coming soon!).
- Bring on the heat! For many of these failures, we laugh and typically say "no need to throw them out, just add some sriracha"...after all, doesn't sriracha make everything better?!
- When commitment meets passion, anything is possible! We are still a little astonished we have shared meal ideas and a coaching tip EVERY SINGLE WEEK since October 2013. We love providing inspiration to help people make delicious and nutritious REAL food part of their routines!
- Timing is everything! Not everyone with nutrition education can navigate through the noise and confusion around healthy eating. Remember our stories about "experts" advising not to eat cherry tomatoes or mandarin oranges (only "regular" tomatoes and oranges)?! This is why we are so grateful that Zonya Foco and her team entered our lives in 2015. We are blessed to share the same passion and enthusiasm for inspiring and motivating others to keep it simple and Eat REAL food -- her nutrition knowledge and expertise are invaluable to us.
- Owning a business is challenging. As you can probably imagine, we have had to adjust and adapt our approach several times over the last 8 years...including developing the Eat REAL Cookbook and our variety of programs to help organizations and their wellness programs. There have been many times when we have asked ourselves, "are we really making a difference?" Every time we get to that point, we get a call or a message from someone telling us how REAL food has changed their life in some way. As a team, Zonya and I continue to have faith that we should continue this journey!
- The right camera makes a difference. We have evolved from taking our Eat REAL America website recipe photos with an i-pad and i-phone to a Canon EOS 80-D. The right lighting and lenses also make a difference. I have to admit that some of our older recipe photos make me cringe a little and have room for improvement, so you may notice us remaking and updating some recipe photos! As always, we remain committed to our practice of NO editing or photoshopping our recipe photos. After all, we want you to be able to make a recipe and say "mine looks just like that!"
About health, nutrition, cravings and what we eat...
- Our bodies are SO MUCH healthier than before our REAL food journey! Friends and family have commented on how we look less inflamed than we used to and how healthy our skin looks. And, we notice a huge difference in our energy, our ability to deal with stress and how well we sleep. Our clothes fit better and our weight rarely fluctuates. No more of that dreaded "are the jeans going to fit this year?"
- There are no REAL foods we don't like! We were asking ourselves "what is a REAL food that we DON'T like?" Believe it or not, we cannot think of one! Not one! It is amazing to enjoy the freedom of no longer worrying about whether something has an ingredient in it that we "think" we don't like!
- Our cravings have dramatically changed! We now crave veggie-loaded meals all the time, every day. And our cravings for fast food and ultra-processed foods (which used to be our routine) are basically non-existent!
- Balance is key! While fresh, in-season veggies are the foundation of our meals, we also enjoy meats, seafood, dairy, cheese, eggs and desserts. We even enjoy a little dark chocolate or some other sweet treat every day.
- Eating is personal. Everyone comes from different backgrounds and cultures and has different life experiences, schedules and routines. So, no one set of meals is going to be perfect for every single person. That is the beauty of REAL food...it can be easily adapted to each person's preferences.
- Salads every day! We love to have a big delicious salad with lunch AND dinner. Remember, with hundreds of salads on the website, we are not talking about boring salads here! We enjoy salads loaded with fresh, in-season ingredients and a variety of flavors and textures.
- Our minds are powerful things. I have lost count how many times we have heard people (including ourselves before our REAL food journey) say, "I don't like _____________." Things like sweet potatoes, beets, tomatoes, oats...the list is long! Then, they try a dish that has been thoughtfully prepared with a delicious combination of ingredients and say, "Hmmmmm...maybe I do like __________ after all!"
- There is way too much "noise" when it comes to healthy eating. We have learned to ignore the noise and enjoy a WIDE VARIETY OF REAL FOOD (mostly plants)...and have faith that the nutrition and our health will take care of itself! We don't count calories and we eat until we are comfortably full -- it's extremely liberating!
- We still crave a great burger once in a while. We have to admit we are not fans of the "fake meat" (like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods)...give us an occasional juicy burger or steak from a grass-fed and grass-finished producer who raised their animals with love and care! And, we love veggie burgers made from REAL veggies and REAL ingredients!
- Pairing the right wine or beer with a meal is a magical thing! And, what is the right wine or beer? Of course, there are some rules of thumb you can use, but it is whatever tastes good to you is the right one! Remember, experimenting is half the fun! And, if you are a wine-lover, investing in a good set of glasses that enhance the aroma and flavor takes things to another level!
we want to say thank you for your support, encouragement, and joining us on this REAL food journey!