April 1, 2012

Day 1—Knoxville 10 Days of Real Food Challenge

As I posted this morning, I’ve joined the Knoxville Real Food Challenge, which will take place for the next 10 days.  Erica from Child Organics was inspired to create the challenge from the 100 Days of Real Food blog.  The rules are pretty simple…or so I thought—I’ll get to that in a minute.  With the exclusion of refined sugars and grains, you’re pretty much safe on this challenge if you are eating foods that your grandparents would have eaten.  Take away the junk food and processed stuff and enjoy the real stuff.

My update for day 1--

I miss my coffee.  Yep, I know that the challenge allows one to drink coffee, but I tend to add in all of the flavorings to make it taste more like a dessert than a cuppa Joe.  My grandmother started me on coffee when I was about 2 years old—milk coffee as we still call it (almost entirely milk before you think that she was trying to mess with my parents by hyping me up on caffeine).  As a result I’ve always liked my coffee light and sweet.  Since I’ve been without sugar in my diet for a little over a month now, I eventually reverted to those coffee sweeteners that use the artificial stuff.  Gasp, artificial sweetener…take a moment to judge me harshly if you like.  Since I’m also not drinking sodas and couldn’t find a spot of caffeinated tea in this dang house this morning, I went without my morning wakeup. 

Tomorrow I plan to experiment with milk and vanilla extract (real stuff) to see how that goes.  I’ll also give this recipe a whirl.  When at the grocery, I made a point to buy some caffeinated tea.  My preference is Earl Grey, but again I like it light and sweet.  Almost any other tea I can drink straight or with a bit of honey, and I opted for a black tea that has dried blackberries in the mix.  We’ll see if tomorrow morning is any peppier.

Real food is more expensive.  OK, let’s just get that out in the open.  I’m all for using coupons and saving money when you can, but when you look at an entire grocery trip, expect to pay more.  This challenge would be significantly easier and cost less if the farmers markets were open and the garden were in full bloom.  In season foods are less expensive and foods straight from your home “farm” are practically free.  I’ll pick what I can from our plots and use my savvy shopping skills to help with the grocery budget.  The amount that I spent today was a lot higher than it would normally be for just a couple of trips, but I’m not sure how that will even out over the month since I did a lot of stocking up today. 

As I told you, Easter is our big holiday.  My family is well known for making dishes and dishes of cabbage rolls with plates and plates of sausages to go with them.  Beautifully dyed eggs, a few desserts, and some relishes even out the meal.  For years, that was the entire menu—notice the absence of fruits and vegetables on the list.  I tried to convince my dad to not make so many sausages, but he is stuck on tradition.  I decided to take over the job of the cabbage rolls (so I would know exactly what went into them).  Normally we would buy regular cabbage, something like a Jimmy Dean sausage, use local beef (I almost never buy regular beef if I can manage it), white rice, and the rest of the vegetables would be from the garden with the exclusion of the celery.  They would be topped with store bought bacon.  This year the cabbage rolls are going to be “real” but also be “really” expensive.  In addition to the local beef (about $4/lb), I bought locally made breakfast sausage (right at $6 a pack), organic cabbage (99cts/lb), organic/nitrate free bacon ($3.99/12 oz), and organic brown rice ($1.49/lb).  I know they will be delicious and I also know that I won’t feel the least bit concerned about the ingredients I’m using to make them, but I will expect for no one to waste any part of it. ;) 

While shopping for the ingredients mentioned above at Three Rivers Market, I decided to look for a few other foods that would be easy enough for me to grab on the go and still “keep it real”.  I found some regionally made herbed crackers that have only a few ingredients, all of which I can pronounce and have in my home kitchen, and no sugar added.  They were $3.99, but they are so good.  I’m perfectly capable of making my own crackers, but with the bathroom remodel and a busy week ahead of me, I decided to pay a little more for the convenience.  The same idea went into my bread purchase.  I found a loaf of honey wheat bread, sliced for sandwiches, and right at $4.  No sugar, a few ingredients all of which I know and use—perfect!  Normally I would strive to pay less than half that price for a loaf of whole wheat bread, which may be enough to convince me to get my hands into some dough soon. 

What did I eat today?

I didn’t abide by all of the rules today.  I didn’t make it to the store last week at all and I did what I could with what I had on hand for breakfast.  I didn’t realize that all of the meat needed to be locally grown, not just organic.  Also, I must confess that I don’t really like locally grown chicken.  I’ve tried it from all of the local farmers that I know of in this area and it tastes a little dry to me.  I would have planned something else for supper if I had realized the local stipulation, but I already had the organic, free range chicken in the oven.  Oh well!


Local eggs, scrambled
Toast with organic butter (note that this was store bought whole wheat bread as I hadn’t yet made it to the store)
Herbal tea, no honey or sweetener


Daughter and I went to Three Rivers Market and enjoyed fresh brown rice sushi.  Technically this is “fast food” but I don’t think it is what she means by fast food.  Not sure how soy sauce fits in the real food diet, but since I know it has been around a lot longer than the modern diet, I am thinking we are in the clear.  We drank water and some unsweetened tea. 


Roasted chicken drumsticks (used organic olive oil on these)
Roasted asparagus from our garden (again, used olive oil)
Peas with butter (organic butter, non-organic peas)
Green beans with butter (organic butter, non-organic green beans)
Radishes with salt (from the garden)
Locally made bread toasted
Pineapple for dessert (not organic, but fresh/non-canned)
We drank unsweetened tea and daughter drank local milk.


A few of the herbed crackers I mentioned above
Apple (not organic)

The food was quite good and filling.  With the exclusion of the absence of coffee and local instead of store bought bread, it wasn’t far off of what we would normally make.  The next few days will be a bit more challenging as life tends to be busier during the school/work week.  I’m going to spend a little bit of time tonight planning so that I know how I’ll make it work for us. 

Anyone out there thinking of participating?  If so, I’d love to hear how it is going for you.


  1. I love it! I told my family the same thing - I'm spending more money to give you real food, so I expect you NOT to waste it! :-)
    We were also eyeing up the brown rice sushi at TRM.

  2. Hey Gabe - I wanted to do this. But I'm out of town right now, which makes it impossible. Like you said, it will be easier when farmer's markets start back up.

    Funny you say that about the chicken. I don't eat it but when I make meat for the meat eaters in my house I usually always buy local, organic from the food co-op -- with the exceptions of a few times of getting organic chicken from Earthfare. The chicken from the co-op is never a hit, and always dry. I thought it was just my lack of meat cooking skills!

    This challenge is inspiring me to look more closely at the amount of processed (out of a box or bag) things and sugar we eat. And I'm going to curb it even more, but I kind of think making a more gradual, permeant change might be the better way to go on this for us. Finding some good, convenient substitute recipes for some of the organic box things we buy will take some time and experimenting to make that a part of our routine. But I'm up for it!

    The five ingredient rule throws me off. For example, I buy organic, soy-free, veggie burgers made all from simple grains and veggies and no additives - but there are way more than 5 types of grains and veggies in them. I could make them in my kitchen, but I choose to take this shortcut and buy them. And I'm okay with that. It's not something I want to put time into learning to make when I'm pleased with the box kind, and I am okay with the cost.

    And, it didn't address cheese in the rules. Does that count as processed? Or is cheese okay? Because I have a vegetarian daughter who lives on good choices, of organic cheeses. But they are not local.

    I look forward to more of your updates on the challenge!