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Our Food Journey Update

Eating Clean

Our family’s journey to health has been just that, a journey. Over the years we have made small changes to get to where we are today. Here’s a small glimpse of our where we were and where we’re going.

Rewind to a couple of years ago when we ditched desserts and soda. This came about for two main reasons. My husband went through several expensive dental treatments, and our oldest son turned 1, and was beginning to eat everything we ate. We knew we had to change our lifestyle in order to better our health and to be a good example to our kids. It was really hard at the time, but well worth it.

While that was a great first step, a lot of hidden sugars have still remained in our diet. Lots of store bought breads, crackers, sauces, condiments, and convenience foods were consumed daily without much thought or concern.

Then, last summer after watching, Food Inc we started thinking much more about where our food came from. It was such an eye opening and life changing documentary, and we have never been the same since. We found a local farmer who raises grass fed and grass finished beef and have been buying the majority of our meat from him. We also began going to another farm to get free range eggs, and try to buy as much organic produce as possible and support the farmer’s market as often as we can.

So here we are today. Although we’ve taken some critical steps to bettering our health, I’ve been feeling really convicted lately that we needed to clean
up our eating habits again. I’ve been trying to find a diet (and by diet I mean lifestyle) that fits our family for quite some time. I didn’t want anything extreme and unattainable, and nothing that eliminated complete food groups. A few weeks ago I stumbled across a blog called 100 Days of Real Food, and felt like it was something I wanted to do. It’s just like it sounds, a challenge to eat only real foods for 100 days. No processed foods, no preservatives, just plain old chemical free nutrient rich real food. My husband, who I thought would be reluctant and not very interested, was surprisingly on board and willing to find ways to clean up our diet. We are not doing the official challenge, but we are making a commitment to eating cleaner, more homemade and less packaged foods. And we’re taking it slow. Like really slow. We’ve got a lot of work to do, and we want to make small, sustainable changes.

Keep following the blog to stay up to date with our journey!

Nikki Stenson

I am a wife to my husband, Matt and a Mom to my son, Micah. I live a simple life and eat a lot of oatmeal.

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Locally Sourced Trout Salad and Sweet Potato Chips

Sweet Patato Chips and Trout Salad

Hey everyone, this is Nikki’s husband, Matt. You’ll probably see me blogging over here more often as we continue the journey of simplifying our life as a family. I’ve actually been on this blog as a photographer for quite some time, but now I will be writing too!

We love eating and buying local. We have been shopping at our local farmer’s markets more frequently and it just feels right. I feel like I know a least a little bit more where our food is coming from. Everything on the plate above is locally sourced, and I love it. You can probably find most of what you need to make this for yourself at your local farmer’s market.

Smoked Trout Salad

Simple salad greens with tomatoes and topped with smoked trout.

  1. Start your grill and set it at about medium high. When grilling fish you want to sear it. If you have your temperature set too low you’ll end up boiling it instead.
  2. Take your fish and pat it down with paper towel. This will remove any excess moisture.
  3. Spread on a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper. The olive oil help to keep the fish from sticking to the grill
  4. On your grill use a wire brush to clean your grate thoroughly. Then, using a paper towel dipped in olive oil, rub your grill grate till it glistens.
  5. Place the trout scales side down on the grill. This will make your first flip easier
  6. Grill till it is cooked through. Try to flip the fish as few times as possible.
  7. Serve with sliced tomatoes and salad greens.

Sweet Potato Chips

  1. Scrub 1 sweet potato well and then slice thinly. We used a Mandoline Slicer for this. It makes the job so much easier.
  2. Toss slices with a little bit of heated coconut oil or olive oil and a pinch of salt.
  3. Spread the sliced on a baking sheet that is covered with parchment paper.
  4. Bake at 400 degrees till crispy. The length of time will vary greatly depending on how thin your slices are.

Matt Stenson

I'm a photographer, musician, geek and technologist. I have a passion for seeing the world changed through selfless action of ordinary people.

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Putting the Simple in OatSoSimple

My husband and I are in a season of life that we refer to as OPERATION: SIMPLIFY!

We started simplifying our life primarily when our son, Micah, was born two years ago. It started out of necessity, because we became a one income family so I could stay home. Over time, however, it has turned into a lifestyle that we have grown to love.

“What we eat and how much stuff we own are the two ways that we have focused on simplifying our lives.”

As Micah started to eat solid foods, we found ourselves at a crossroads. We did not want to even introduce many unhealthy foods into Micah’s diet. If we wanted Micah to eat a healthy diet, we had to change ours. So, shortly after Micah’s first birthday my husband and I gave up all desserts and soda. We thought if he grew up without nearly as much refined sugar from the beginning, it would be easier for him to maintain a healthy lifestyle later on, and hopefully he just wouldn’t like it.

Although giving up sugar was super hard at first, and still is occasionally, it has been one of the best decisions we have ever made. We still eat refined sugar, mainly in forms of condiments, breads, granola bars, and our daily allotted amount of 85% dark chocolate, but we are much more conscious of how much we consume. I am happy to report that Micah is two years old and doesn’t know what a “cookie” is. Don’t get me wrong, we don’t have “perfect diets” by any means, but we are trying to set Micah up for success in making his own choices later on in life.

The next part of our journey, simplifying how much stuff we own, came a little bit later. I think it all started with a fundamental shift in the way that Matt was viewing his work. Though we both intellectually knew that things were not the most important part of life, that knowledge didn’t seem to have much application in our day to day life. We were still very focused on how much money Matt was making at work and what things that would allow us to do and buy. A couple of books, Jesus Wants to Save Christians: A Manifesto for the Church in Exile and Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived really allowed us to start re-framing the way that we think and act as followers of Jesus. Matt’s goals in work began to shift to making a difference in people’s lives and bringing more of God’s love into action in the world. At the same time we began to reflect on how this might change our lives at home. Right as these thoughts were forming and we were discussing what to do next, an unhappy event gave us the push that we needed to start making actual changes. Our basement flooded.

In the midst of the cleanup project, we realized that our basement was where we kept a massive amount of things we simply didn’t need or use. Since we had to move / dry out just about everything, we decided to start purging. While we wanted to get rid of things, we wanted to also do it in a responsible way. So, we had a rummage sale, listed items on craigslist, gave away things we no longer used, and donated things to a local food-bank that runs a resale shop.

We aren’t finished yet. For us, the journey is just beginning. Stay tuned for what’s coming next!

Nikki Stenson

I am a wife to my husband, Matt and a Mom to my son, Micah. I live a simple life and eat a lot of oatmeal.

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Fresh Fruit Soft Serve

We’ve been beating the heat over here with this soft serve that is so smooth, creamy and refreshing that you wouldn’t believe it is also extremely healthy! It’s an all natural dessert- with no extra sugar or preservatives, and completely free of dairy, gluten and soy. It’s “ice cream” you (and your kids) can even enjoy for breakfast! My son believes that this stuff is the best food ever invented.

To make this delicious desert, start with a few ripe bananas. The riper the better, as bananas get sweeter over time. Read More

Nikki Stenson

I am a wife to my husband, Matt and a Mom to my son, Micah. I live a simple life and eat a lot of oatmeal.

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Cake Ball Cake

It´s a cake…it´s a cake ball…it´s a cake ball cake!

Yes, you read that right, a cake ball cake.

It was my friend´s birthday and I was trying to think of a cake she would really like. All I could think about were the red velvet cake balls we made for a superbowl party last year. Once I had cake balls on my mind, I couldn´t get them out. I had to make them. But I didn’t want to take the time to roll out and cover each individual cake ball with with chocolate. Not that my friend isn’t totally worth the effort, but I have an 8 month old. While I like to think I´m still a little Martha Stewart in the kitchen, creating beautiful creations from scratch, I´m not.

So, in order to save a little time, I decided to make a part-cake, part-cake ball creation. This cake starts with a layer of red velvet cake topped with cream cheese frosting. Then, a layer of red velvet cake ball with cream cheese frosting is added. Lastly, the entire cake is covered in chocolate. Yum, right?  Don worry, it´s easier than it sounds.

In case you have never heard of a cake ball, it is basically cake crumbles mixed together with frosting, formed into a ball and covered in chocolate. The cake and frosting combination yields a moist, sweet dough, and the chocolate on top brings everything together. You may have seen these cake pop makers in stores before, but be warned, they are imitators of the real thing, and should be avoided at all cost.

To make the real deal, start by baking a cake according to the directions on the box. I chose to make round cakes so I could easily mix up the layers.

Next, take your mixer and crumble one of your cake layers. Yes, take your beautiful cake and smash it into pieces.

Then, add some frosting. Since I made half the cake into cake balls, I used about half a can of frosting. For a whole cake, you will want about a cans worth of frosting, maybe a little less if your cake is really moist.  Combine the frosting with the cake crumbles. I have found it works best to use your hands for this step. Using the same baking pan you baked the cake in, spread your cake ball mixture, cover, and freeze for at least half an hour.

Once frozen, you can assemble your cake. You can really do this however you want. I started with plain cake on the bottom and the cake ball layer on the top, because I wanted the cake ball layer to be the closet to the chocolate outside.

Finally, grab some chocolate and melt it. I like Wilton Candy Melts. They melt smooth and quickly and are easy to work with. You can melt them on the stove, but I have found the microwave to work nicely. Simply place the bag of chocolate in a corning ware dish and microwave for a minute, give it a little stir, and microwave for another minute.

Cover the cake with chocolate, let it harden, and store in the refrigerator!

Nikki Stenson

I am a wife to my husband, Matt and a Mom to my son, Micah. I live a simple life and eat a lot of oatmeal.

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Dairy Free Oatmeal Cookie

A few weeks ago my husband asked me if I would bake cookies with him. I don’t think my ears have ever those words before. I thought in case this opportunity never presented itself again, I should run with it. He had a hankering for oatmeal raisin cookies, and they sounded good to me, too. Boy were the cookies good! But I kept thinking of ways to make them healthier. So I followed the recipe as it was, except I substituted butter with coconut oil and white flour with wheat flour. I also ground up and threw in some chia seeds.

This is what I got:

Matt had been gone for the evening and the cookies were cooling when he came home. He said, “Oh, what are you making?” I was pretty skeptical that my sweet tooth loving husband would ever come near these. I tried to play it cool and replied, “I was just baking some oatmeal cookies. Would you like to try one? He grabbed one and said, “Oh, these are good!” There you have it everyone, if my husband, aka “the cookie monster” approves of these, then they have to be good.

I know, I know, you might be thinking that a cookie is still a cookie no matter what. So just eat a cookie. What is the big deal?  I wholeheartedly agree. A cookie is still a cookie, but every little bit helps. If I can replace all of the bad fat with good fat without really noticing it in the taste or texture, it’s making a difference. And if wheat flour can replace white and still taste good, I’m all for it.

Here is what you need:


1/2 cup plus 6 tablespoons coconut oil
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs- room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups old fashioned oats
1/4 cup ground chia seeds
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cups chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Then take your coconut oil and put it in a container of hot water. It takes a couple minutes for the oil to become liquid in the water. It’s a good idea to take your eggs out of the fridge to bring them to room temperature. This helps the coconut oil blend well with the other ingredients while staying liquid.

Combine the flour, salt, baking soda and cinnamon in a bowl. Set aside

In another bowl take the coconut oil and beat it with the sugars. Then add the vanilla and eggs and beat again. Slowly add the flour mixture and mix it well.

Mix in oats, raisins, chocolate chips and chia seeds. Place rounded spoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes. Let cool for a couple minutes and enjoy! Don’t be worried if they don’t flatten out like a traditional oatmeal cookie, they will still be delicious.

Nikki Stenson

I am a wife to my husband, Matt and a Mom to my son, Micah. I live a simple life and eat a lot of oatmeal.

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Late Night Snacking

Late night eating is usually a recipe for disaster. Or is it just in our house? Last night was no exception. We should have just gone to bed, but we didn’t.

My husband was getting hungry and was having trouble finding a snack that sounded good to him. After a little debate, (because we do have foods he likes) it turns out he’s right, there are not a lot of snacks that Matt likes in the house.

This led to an 10pm plate of waffles and an 11pm bowl of ramen noodles.

I don’t even know where to start.

Massive amounts of sodium, fat, carbs (just to name a few)….and all right before bed. My jaw is still on the ground.

But it’s so easy to point the finger, isn’t it? Let’s see…I ate waffles with him. Not exactly a snack bursting with nutrients. In fact it’s mostly carbs with some empty calories on top.

…Pointer finger not feeling quite as pointy…

And before that I had a bowl of oatmeal. Oh and some bran flakes. And if we’re being completely honest, 2 squares of dark chocolate. Whoops. While they might be slightly more nutritious  choices than Matt’s bowl of ramen, it’s not the point. That’s an awful lot of carbs that I am not going to use before going to bed.

…Pointer finger has left the building…

So after all that said, it’s my mission to get some healthy snacks in the house. I don’t care if I have to buy them, or make them from scratch, I will find healthy snacks that my husband will eat. And I will have more willpower!

Do you have snacking disasters? How do you overcome them?

Nikki Stenson

I am a wife to my husband, Matt and a Mom to my son, Micah. I live a simple life and eat a lot of oatmeal.

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Super Smoothie

I really like smoothies. A lot. I have been making the same basic orange juice and frozen fruit smoothie for years. Many different recipes for fruit and spinach smoothies have been circling the web lately. They all claim you can’t taste the spinach.

Huh.

I like fruit, but veggies are hard for me to swallow, unless they are covered in some sort of nut butter or dressing. I was intrigued by the possibility of sneaking vegetables into my smoothies without noticing. (I know I’m like a 5 year old.)  All the recipes I found called for some sort of yogurt, but since my breastfeeding son’s tummy won’t tolerate dairy, I had to wing it and make up my own recipe.

I started with orange juice. Aldi had oranges on sale for .99 and I couldn’t resist. I can never resit. I bought a bag and made my own orange juice. It ends up costing the same as most store brand orange juices, but it’s fresh and has a lot less sugar. And I think it’s fun.

I added 2 cups orange juice into my blender. I threw in a ripe banana, a kiwi, 1 cup frozen blueberries and some frozen strawberries. At this point I didn’t have any room for spinach, I had to blend it a little first.

I blended it up and after tasting it, decided it could use some more spinach. I  wanted to cram as much spinach in as possible without tasting it. And my spinach was on it’s last leg and probably wouldn’t make it to the next day. So I added a bunch more. I blended it again, tasted it, and what do you know, it’s really good! The spinach is slightly noticeable, but still nice and fruity. And there are some crazy nutrients in there.

My blender filled 3 pint size mason jars, giving me a few days worth of smoothie. I added a tablespoon of chia seeds to each jar for a little extra punch of  protein, fiber, omega 3’s and antioxidants.

The color is not quite as pretty as a simple fruit smoothie, but it’s so good for you, it doesn’t even matter.

Nikki Stenson

I am a wife to my husband, Matt and a Mom to my son, Micah. I live a simple life and eat a lot of oatmeal.

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Ants On A Log… Remade

It’s ants on a log remade! While the traditional celery covered with peanut butter and raisins is always a hit in my book, I was looking for something a little different, a little more nutritious, and a little more filling. As a breastfeeding mama with an already high metabolism, I’m always looking for ways to pack in the nutrients while filling my constantly growling belly.

The result? Celery, nutbutter, dried cranberries and pistachios :

I started with a batch of homemade cinnamon almond butter and a container of sunbutter, as I wanted to see if one was better than the other, and spread them on my celery. I thought the almond butter logs tasted better, but the sunbutter was very tasty, too.

I added dried cranberries and grabbed some pistachios to add as well. I unshelled a bunch and ground them up in my coffee grinder. I have made these with whole pistachios as well and think they taste just as good.

Sprinkle the pistachios on top and viola, you’ll have yourself a satisfying little snack!

Nikki Stenson

I am a wife to my husband, Matt and a Mom to my son, Micah. I live a simple life and eat a lot of oatmeal.

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