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Ice, Ice Baby: Making the Most of Your Ice Cube Tray

Frozen lemon juice

Frozen soy milk

It’s not just for ice anymore. The simple ice cube tray offers a brilliant way to preserve fresh ingredients for later use. If you’re like me and cooking for just two (three when the Kiddo is here), using up fresh ingredients before they spoil can be a challenge. I try to plan my meals so that they share common ingredients, which helps. But I’m quickly learning the ice cube tray can be a great “fresh saver.”

Here are a few examples:

  • Lemons or limes on sale? Buy a bag, juice ’em, and freeze the juice in your trays. Once frozen, dump them in a freezer bag, label them (frozen lime and lemon juice look a lot alike!), and you’ll have perfectly portioned “real” juice on hand when you need it for a recipe, instead of having to use those little lime/lemon-shaped squeeze bottles with all the extra preservatives.
  • Preserve extra fresh herbs or garlic by chopping and mixing with a bit of garlic oil, then freeze in your trays.
  • Frozen cubes of soy/almond milk or Greek yogurt are great for adding to smoothies if you like them icey, but don’t want to water them down with extra ice.

  • Freeze leftover coffee to add to iced coffee–again, it will keep your iced coffee¬†from getting watered down when the ice melts.

There have to a thousand other creative ways to use your ice cube trays for more than just ice. What goes in your trays besides water?

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Friday Favorites: Journey to Real Food

eating real food

“Friday Favorites” features my favorite great ideas/recipes/etc., from across the giant world wide webs.

eating real food

When you start really trying to ditch processed foods, you start having to think a lot more about everything you put in your body. As I’ve evaluated what we’re eating now and what we need to cut out, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about food in general–where our food comes from and what it means to eat “real” food.

I find myself looking at “food” items in the grocery store and thinking about what they really “are.” Because food, essentially, as it works according to the food chain we all learned back in fourth grade science, should be something that was once living. So, I stand in line at the grocery store checkout and I look at the candy bar rack and wonder, what was once living in a pack of Mentos? Looking at the ingredients list, the only “once living” items on the list are sugar and coconut oil. That’s not enough to count as “food” for me any more. It’s shocking to me now how totally oblivious I have been to the fact that much of what I put in my body isn’t really food.

Or wasn’t food. That’s all changing now. It’s a learning process, and it definitely takes planning to make this transition happen, simply because “real” food is not as readily available as the pretend kind. Fortunately, I’ve quickly learned that the “real food” movement (sad that there has to be a movement in support of “real” food, right? Shouldn’t that be a given?) is growing quickly, and there are lots of online resources out there to help navigate the waters of eating naturally in a too-processed, too-busy world.

One of my favorite new websites is 100DaysofRealFood. What I like most about it is that the tips/recipes/ingredients are very realistic and doable for the average person or family. I live in a small town–there’s no Whole Foods right around the corner, so exotic, hard-to-find ingredients aren’t helpful for me. And I work full-time, so I need recipes that are realistic to be able to come home after work and cook. This site offers a workable approach to real food.

At this point, I’m not completely cutting out refined sugar and flour, but I am trying to significantly reduce the amount we eat. The Natural Sweet Recipes blog caters to my inner sweet tooth with recipes that are free of refined sugar. Be aware, though, many of the recipes do have some of those hard-to-find ingredients I referred to earlier.

Since we are cutting back on white flour, we’re experimenting with some new whole grains. Quinoa has been a hit in our house, particularly in these quinoa pancakes from Martha Stewart, which are deliciously hearty, but at the same time have a wonderful light, airy texture (tip–soy milk works fine in these, and whether you use dairy milk or a substitute, you’ll probably need to add a little more than what the recipes calls for). The Whole Grains Council offers lots of resources for learning to cook with whole grains, from recipes to this A-to-Z guide to understand the many different types of whole grains, including those funny-sounding ingredients in recipes that you don’t recognize (think amaranth). The Kitchn online magazine also has great resources to help you enjoy whole grains.

Where are you on the processed food/real food spectrum? Are you trying to swing over to the real foods side? What challenges do you face in eating “real” foods? What are your favorite natural food resources?