Today's guest interview is with a close friend of mine, Sonia. I first met her when their oldest son began coming to my day care – our families are now great friends and we have a lot of fun together! She's helped me with a TON of recipes here on the blog over the years. Here are a few:
- Sonia's Margarita Pasta
- Baingan Bhurtha (a tasty Indian recipe!)
- Strawberry Bruschetta
- Grated salad with lemon dressing — this one was from her Mom, who I also love. 🙂
- Yummy flourless chocolate cake
- Here's the time she helped me get chicken feet into my stock, yes, she's a vegetarian, what a good friend, huh?
- I'm sure there are more, but I'm out of time!
- What is your #1 motivation for eating/feeding your family healthier meals?
Their day-to-day health and longevity drives us to make the food decisions we make. We are surely far from perfect when it comes to feeding our family – the kids had Lucky Charms as a treat when they got home from school recently. (They convinced me to get them at the store by telling me that it was on sale, I had a coupon, and a free book came with the cereal!) But we strive to make healthy eating as the rule, and junk as the exception. For us, there's got to be a balance.
- What started you on your path to better nutrition?
I have always been interested in health and nutrition, especially exercise, but my transition to vegetarianism made me acutely aware of the caliber of all foods. I grew up on a hobby farm where my parents raised our own beef and canned from our own garden. I didn't realize it growing up, but I am now so thankful for the appreciation for homegrown, local, unprocessed foods. (I know you'll read this, Mom. Thank you for giving me that gift as a child!) As time has gone on, both Bob and I have learned what we can about the healthier alternatives. When the kids came along, we became even more conscientious.
- What is your biggest struggle in eating/feeding your family healthier meals?
As with most people, I struggle with a lot of things when it comes to feeding my family in the healthiest way possible. It's expensive, not always available at the local grocery store, makes my kids complain when they don't have the same goodies in their lunch that other kids do, etc. If I had to identify my greatest struggle, it would be finding healthy (especially unprocessed) meatless meal options that the whole family will love. Sure, we have our favorites, but it would be nice to expand the list. It's surprising how highly processed many products are that proclaim to be ‘healthy' vegetarian options. We try to introduce the kids to new things, but other sources of protein (beans, tempeh, etc.) aren't very kid friendly. Since my palate expanded over time, I hope theirs will too. In the meantime, I'll try to keep the meal ideas a good balance of things I know they'll eat and new ideas, too.
- What is your favorite healthy recipe?
Naming a favorite anything is hard for me, so I might have to include a few favorites in different categories. I absolutely love hummus as a sandwich spread and dip. Any flavor is good, but I especially love roasted red pepper hummus. For breakfast, I really like Kelly's pancake recipe, but I also have a great recipe for strawberry bruschetta that is so sweet and delicious, especially with strawberries from our own garden. For dinner, I would have to say I love my hearty lentil, split pea, and alphabet soup with a loaf of homemade bread.
- What is your best kitchen/nutrition tip?
I think it's easiest to start small, but I am definitely neither an early adapter nor a person who jumps into new things quickly. Take baby steps and be proud of each thing you do that improves your family's diet. It might be something as simple as starting to replace some of the white flour in your baked goods with whole-wheat flour. Then, work up to using 3/4 whole-wheat or cutting out 1/2 the sugar and replacing it with a healthier sweetener. Or checking out your snack cupboard for the junk your kids are putting into their bodies. Next time you are in the store, check out the ingredient list on a bag of regular Sun Chips and the cheddar flavor. The difference in length is huge! (Now, I know Kelly would tell me Sun Chips are not good because they have vegetable oil in them, but, like I said, baby steps work for me.) Small improvements can make a huge difference and, again, it doesn't take all that much effort. You'll find it's a lot easier than you think.
- What did you have for dinner last night?
Being an honest person, I have to admit we had a crazy night last night and no real family dinner. Everyone just ate something when they were hungry. Tomorrow's plan is goulash and fresh fruit – using whole-wheat pasta, home-canned tomatoes, and meatless ground beef. (Yes, it's soy, and I know Kelly feels strongly against soy consumption. That is a beautiful part of my friendship with Kelly. We disagree in some areas of nutrition but still share the passion and a penultimate respect for each other.) (Note from Kelly: Don't ask me what “penultimate” means, lol, but I assume it's a good thing!) We'll probably either have blueberries that I froze last summer or home-canned peaches to go with it. It's an easy meal for a school/work day.
- What about Kelly annoys you the most? (Only one please.)
Kelly really wants me to answer this question (I thought it would lighten things up a little!), but my mom taught me never to focus on someone's deficits. (What a great Mom!) Embrace them for who they are, realizing that we are all human and have imperfections. If forced to write something, I would say it's her seemingly indefatigable ability to win every argument over money! She is way too generous to ever let me pay her what I think I owe her.