A few weeks ago I told you about a sweet gift my mother gave me. You can read about that here.

Well, this past week, I received another sweet gift from my kid sister, this time for my birthday.

(Really, I think she just wants me to cook for her)

All kidding aside, I must say, this one had me dancing about with glee and immediately googling “how to use Indian spices” and messaging a good friend from India who gave me a quick run down on each of them.

This also gave me the inspiration I needed for this post. It got me thinking on some other things that I have lately been changing in my menus, that I thought may interest some of you. I mentioned in the above noted post, that I am doing my best to move away from as much processed food as possible and choosing to cook from scratch. Now, I must confess, this means I truly had to reconsidered what “from scratch” really means.  When I first began this “journey”, I thought it just meant no Hamburger Helper type meals where everything needed for your meal was packaged handily together. So, for a few months, I was thinking I was awesome. I made tons of casseroles, and other meals “from scratch”. Then I realized how many cans of condensed soup, packets of taco, barbeque, stroganoff and ranch seasonings I was using in my “from scratch” cooking. All these things are just as processed.

Then I thought about salad dressings, sauces, condiments. Argh!!!!! It goes on and on and on.

So, let me stop here. I also realized the obsessing over it, was just as unhealthy as the processed food was. My husband reminded me that ultimately,  “… whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body?  But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them.” (Matthew 15:17-18) Food is important, but ultimately, the love I have in doing this for my family is way more important. It doesn’t do to get judgey and obsessive about the food, because then my heart gets messed up. Taking care of our hearts is one priority notch above taking care of our bodies.

That was a shift for me. This is a big change for anyone living in our culture.  It can not be done overnight. Now that I have shifted my perspective, I do what I can when I can, and I add a few new ideas to our menu as I go. The cool thing is, the more you move along with the change little by little, the easier it gets. You learn tips that keep you from feeling like you are living your entire life in the kitchen.

Even though I kind of like it in there, I really have to get out of it now and then.

As I do this I have also considered Harriet. Surprised anyone? Harriet, as I have mentioned before, was an incredible cook and baker. It was her career, and her hobby too.  She lived on a farm and had so much freshness at her fingertips. She also, however, became a house wife during the age when processed food was a new and  modern miracle. Her generation of women were moving into an era that our generation is starting to slowly move the other direction in. It was kind of an interesting historical mental note for me.  Current culture dictates so much of what we do. I also laugh at  the thought of HER mother (who had 11 kids by the way) shaking her head and smiling over a great granddaughter who struggles to find a suitable substitute for cream of chicken soup in recipe.

These are some of the processed things I have declared my independence from in favor of making them myself:

Salad Dressing

Condensed Soup

Seasoning packets for things like tacos, pulled pork barbeque, and stroganoff.

Enchilada and sloppy joe sauce

alfredo sauce

Chicken, ham, vegetable, and beef stock.

These are some of the things I plan to begin making myself this year:

mayonaise

ketchup

bbq sauce

mustard

pudding

…and I’m toying with the idea of bread.

I’m also making plans to eliminate white refined sugar this year. This one is going to be tricky for me.

I have found that the things that I am already making on my own are saving me a little at the store too. Maintaining a well stocked pantry and spice cabinet makes a big difference.

Have no fear. I organized it just for the blog. It never stays this neat.

Just a note, if you go with spice blends, be sure to watch for things like MSG, sugar, and more. The above is a picture of my Wildtree products. It’s a neat company. Check them out here.

This is just my spice collection, but other staples I would strongly suggest having on hand would include healthy oils and fats (grapeseed, coconut, olive, and REAL butter) as well as an assortment of vinegars and cooking wines. Wheat flours, corn meals, oatmeal, and honey all come in handy too.

Now, I realize I am a stay at home mom. You single and working moms and dads out there have a much different time slot for dinner carved out than I do, and I understand that. My sister in law,  a mom with two jobs, is a great example of that.  She too though, is learning to incorporate some easy methods when she can that are helping her choose healthier alternatives for her family, and finding that they are easier than they appear.  It’s all about doing what you can when you can.  Baby steps as they say.

Tonight, I will enjoy the company of my sister and her man, when we as combined families enjoy a vegetable strata with Maharajah curry for Meatless Monday.

Like the bumper sticker says, “Love People, Cook Them Tasty Food”.

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