Passing Up Processed Foods and Making Your Kitchen Fun (at one of my local loves)

On the way home from the gym every night, I pass about 15 fast food joints, 4 grocery stores, and numerous gas stations.  Some nights I am SO HUNGRY that I can’t help but think of the endless possibilities of prepared food waiting inside those establishments, calling out my name,  “Lauren….I’m already cooked…I smell so good….I require no effort on your part.”  Some nights it is so tempting because I have nothing left in my energy tank, by then I’ve taught numerous kids and adults, done my own workouts, and I just want to get food in my belly before drifting off to sleep.

Those nights when I’m feeling hungry, tired, and lets face it, grumpy, are the nights I have to depend on knowledge, not motivation, or discipline, but knowledge.  At that point, I am no longer motivated to do anything but get to bed, and my discipline is all used up.  All I have left is knowledge, no matter how tired or hungry I am, I can trust what I know about processed food to get me through the temptation and into my own kitchen.  I think about what chicken nuggets look like before they’re deep fried for serving, I think about the hydrogenated oil that touches every surface of any processed food I could imagine, and how those omega 6’s lead to inflammation and disease in my body.  I think of the unknown objects in a hamburger; the bits and pieces of soy, or the low quality of the meat.  I think about insulin spike I’d get from the floury crust of a pizza, or the high fructose corn syrup in it’s marinara sauce.  All of this knowledge that I have gathered from books, articles, and studies reminds me of the importance of passing these places by and providing a nourishing meal from my own kitchen.

(This is the mixture of meat that goes into foods like chicken nuggets, bologna, and hotdogs)

These are the times when it is especially important for me to have things on hand that are already made, or easy to put together so that we don’t go to bed hungry.  Last night was one of those nights–I had no desire to cook, so I took out the mixture of hamburger, sausage, onions, and spices that I had made the night before and cooked up some hamburger patties (without any unknown objects, fillers, soy, or hydrogenated oils) and ate them up with a glass of coconut milk, before tucking myself in for a long winter’s nap.  It is important to have foods that are easy to prepare (but not processed) around the house for evenings when you’ve got nothing left in your tank, but you still need to provide a healthy meal for yourself.  A few ideas might be…

  • Greek yogurt (I’ve most definitely eaten this for dinner)
  • Quality ground beef, pork, chicken, or turkey
  • Quartered chicken, or chicken breasts (smaller pieces cook up quickly)
  • Protein powder (for smoothies)
  • Fresh and Frozen Vegetables
  • Thin sliced pork chops

This may sound like a lot of work to you, but with practice, you’ll have it down to a science and you will be SO glad you passed on that processed food.  I don’t always get excited about cooking, so I try to make my kitchen a very inviting and user-friendly place.  If you’ve seen my kitchen you know it’s nearly as bright as the sun and that I have an addiction to dishes.  If you’ve seen me in motion in my kitchen, you know that I am hard on my equipment and use it to it’s full potential.  I wouldn’t be able to be so hard on my kitchen if I didn’t have a place nearby to purchase affordable, durable kitchen equipment that will last a life time.  I’m not always pumped about cooking dinner, but having good kitchen equipment can make it much more enjoyable to provide a healthy meal to the family!  This is where The Kitchen at Whittingham comes into play.

When we first moved to Stafford, we had just gotten married and I was in the market for a sharp knife…hmm.  I mean, I was in the market for a quality, kitchen  knife that would make meal preparation faster and more enjoyable.  I knew what kind of knife I wanted, and that I wanted to support a local business with my purchase, but I didn’t know where to go!  Fortunately, my husband took me on an antiquing trip to downtown Fredericksburg, and we found this little gem.  The Kitchen at Whittingham, opened in 1994 by Bob Whittingham, started as a 300 square foot store, that has now grown to three stores.   Next to The Kitchen is Whittingham, where you can find china, household decorations, rugs, florals, candles–all unique with a little Southern flare.  Down the street at Walter& Co. you will find fine furniture, lamps, rugs, and unusual accessories that will make you wish it were time for a new sofa or chair.

As much as I love decorating and the products sold Mr. Whittingham’s other stores, the small appliances, hard-to-find kitchen gadgets, utensils, cookware, cutting boards and cutlery at “The Kitchen,” make it easy for me to spend lots of time, and money, roaming around the store.   In addition to their awesome equipment, they also carry a wide variety of gourmet foods and wine.  I am sure I could go to a big specialty grocery store and buy any one of these foods and more, but those stores just make me anxious, too many isles, people and products.  I want to go into a store and say “Mr. Whittingham, where can I find raw cocoa?” and be lead straight to the shelf.  I also want to ask “Mr. Whittingham, where do you get your raw cocoa from?” and be given an answer, not another question.

In addition to wonderful products, The Kitchen at Whittingham also provides cooking classes to the community.  Today at noon Laurie Beth Gills will be leading a class called “Mardi Gras Jazzy Cajun Menu” where she will be teaching how to make Jambalaya Wraps with Andouille, Fried Okra, and Hurrican Rum Punch.  Each class has an interesting menu and theme, classes are taught on many different days at the week at different times, to accompany everyone’s schedule.  To find out more about their January-March cooking class schedule visit: http://www.shopwhittingham.com/The_Kitchen/Classes/Jan_Mar_2011.pdf

Just the other day I was at Whittingham to buy raw cocoa and good vanilla, both were easy to find and I could have been in and out in a few minutes, if I hadn’t been distracted by everything else in the store.  The staff is always friendly and so helpful.  I have not yet gotten to take a cooking class, but I am determined to make time in my schedule this spring.  It would be a great opportunity to get together with girlfriends and enjoy an afternoon or evening, who’s with me?

The next time you’re downtown, stop by Hyperion Espresso, my favorite coffee shop, and grab a cup of their Organic Dancing Goat, then walk on down to Whittingham to visit Bob and his fabulous shops!

To learn more about Whittingham visit: http://www.shopwhittingham.com/index.html

To learn more about Hyperion Espresso vist: http://www.hyperionespresso.com/

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