My Clean Kitchen – Year 1 Highlights
Wow, we can’t believe it’s been a year since we started My Clean Kitchen. It all started in Sara’s little kitchen with the idea of writing a cookbook, that quickly evolved into a food blog. Little did we know when we got started that we’d be joining a unique and sophisticated group of people. Food bloggers are dedicated, creative and fun. We are honored to be a part of that community. Over the year, we have tried hard to create recipes that are not only delicious but also healthy, fresh and local. It’s been an exciting and challenging journey.
As we remember the year, we wanted to share with you some highlights;
- We started with our eCookbook – Paleo Kid Cookbook which included a collection of fun, kid friendly paleo recipes.
- The 2013 Holiday Season was a great time for our us, we had so much fun coming up with clean, delicious holiday food. We shared our last minute holiday sides, and even ideas for Christmas breakfast! We also came up with a few food gift ideas!
- Next was the 7 Day Eat Clean Challenge. We put hours and hours of work into the challenge ,crafting simple recipes anyone can make during a busy week. The Challenge is what put our blog on the map!
- January was a big month for MCK. We had our first giveaway, we did our first restaurant review, and we did our Super Bowl roundup, which included our number 1 most popular recipe of the year. In January, we also welcomed Kathryn McMillan as a regular guest contributor with her first post S.P.A.C.E. My Spices.
- In February, we got our first pictures on Food Gawker and Tastespotting!
- In March and April we introduced “Cleaning Up Pinterest” where we took some of the most popular recipes on Pinterest and swapped ingredients to clean them up.
- After a taking some time to enjoy the summer we started the fall with a Whole30 adventure!
- And that brings us around to our 1st anniversary.
Looking back at this year, we must share our readers top 10 favorite recipes!
Our Readers Top Favorite Recipes
The MCK Team
Although we’ve known each other for about 10 years, this past year we’ve actually become a couple who’s been married for 30 years. Don’t get us wrong, its a happy marriage, we just act like an old married couple. Cooking together, writing together, and daily google hangouts (that sometimes last 7-8 hours, not kidding) can do that to people!
We are so excited and proud of the work that we’ve accomplished together so far and can’t wait to see what we do in the next year.
Sara’s Journey – Trials and Tribulations of a Real Food Mom
Disclaimer: Fair warning, I’ve been watching A LOT of Gilmore Girls on Netflix. I apologize in advance if you find some hidden Lorelai-ism in this post. It’s not intentional and completely subliminal on my part.
Wow, what a year it’s been. I must say, My Clean Kitchen has become a huge part of my everyday life. I have cooked, cleaned and eaten more in this past year than any other year of my life to date! Personally, I have evolved and learned so much, not only as a home cook, but also as a woman, mother, wife, neighbor, daughter, friend, you get the idea. As I reflect on this past year I thought I’d share a few of the lessons I’ve learned on this journey, specifically how they relate to the different hats that I wear, there have been struggles, and also successes.
Let’s start with the struggles. We all have our daily struggles. A few of mine include, keeping my house even a little clean, not eating an entire pint of ice cream at one time, laundry, making a healthy meal for my family instead of just ordering a pizza, getting my daughter to wash her hair, laundry, reading the same bedtime story 24 days in a row (yep, that happened), laundry, and the list goes on. Did I say laundry? Anyway, I’m sure many of you share those same struggles, I know I’m not unique. (The sarcastic part of my brain just called me a crybaby) I’m really not complaining, because I love my life, including my struggles. Those struggles make my life anything but boring. My 5 year old also helps with the not boring thing.
I promise, I’m getting to a point here; making a commitment to eating real, clean foods has forced me to focus on true solutions for some of those struggles. As a result, cooking a healthy meal for my family has become more of a habit than a struggle. It seems like nothing for me to make a “from scratch” dinner every night, even though it means we eat later than we used to. It’s just something I do, even when I have had a hard day, had a meeting or we have some kind of lesson, practice, etc. It has also taught me to be prepared, with healthy snacks, frozen leftovers that can be reheated quickly, and a well stocked pantry.
Something else cooking healthy meals has done for me is force me to keep my kitchen clean and organized, because cooking in a messy, unorganized kitchen is almost impossible. If you have been a reader for a while, you know that I live in an old house. It was originally built with a wood fire stove where my stove sits now. It was not designed for a dishwasher, garbage disposal, etc. Although, I’ve installed those items of convenience (this is so a first world problem, I know) the space available really isn’t ideal. Don’t get me wrong, I love and I mean love my house. But I don’t love that the only functional space for a dishwasher is half the size of the normal full size version. Therefore, I have a mini dishwasher. It is a pretty one though, stainless steel, top button GE deluxe dishwasher, but I can barely fit our dinner plates in this stupid thing. I actually get dishwasher envy when I’m at other peoples houses. For me, doing dishes, and keeping the kitchen clean is a true struggle, especially since I really hate washing dishes. But, alas, cooking 3 meals a day in the kitchen forces me to at least keep the dishes done, and counters wiped!
I’ve also learned a few things this year that I didn’t anticipate. Obviously as a mom, it’s important to me that my daughter grow up with a healthy relationship with food. I want her to know what is good for her body and why. Between the ever present health educator I have in Jessica (she’s an MPH) and the research I’ve done for recipes and posts, I’ve gained a much better understanding of food and how it affects us. I thought I knew before, but what I thought I knew a year ago only scratches the surface to what I know now. For one, simply learning to read labels, I mean really read them, not just look at calories, sodium and fat, is a huge benefit to our everyday healthy food choices.
Knowing more about food also allows me to have honest conversations with my daughter about processed food and fast food vs. healthy, whole foods. She’s only 5 but she already understands that carrots help your eyes, eggs make your muscles strong and keep you full longer than a bagel, as well as the fact that sugar is added to pretty much everything we buy at the store. I try to use the meal preparation time to educate her about the food we’ll be eating. So if I’m making guacamole, I explain to her that avocados are a healthy because they have omega-3’s and help her brain learn new things. This helps her get excited about the ingredients as well as the final meal on her plate. I’m lucky to have a kid who likes almost everything.
The final ah-ha I’ll leave you with is; school lunches don’t need to include a sandwich! I have had a great time this school year experimenting with creative lunches for my daughter. I’ve included everything from scrambled eggs and bacon in her thermos to almond butter, with sliced apples, complete with a fancy spreader so she can make her own apple “sandwich.” In fact, tomorrow I’m going to give her chicken lettuce wrap filling in her thermos, and the iceberg lettuce in her lunch box so she can assemble her own lettuce wrap at school. She is super excited! This new lunchbox project is different for me even from the end of the last school year. Before including a chicken sandwich on whole wheat bread was as creative as I got when it came to protein. This year, I decided to make her lunch a priority every morning. I get up early and make her one hot item. Usually its something I can also eat for lunch that day, so BAM – two meals done at once! This isn’t always easy, there are days I dont want to get up, but its the principal of the matter, I’ve done it this long, can’t stop now. I’m a working mom who has meetings, conference calls, and deadlines, and I have had to work hard to fit the lunch priority into my schedule. But now that I’m doing it, its not that difficult. All that being said, I would have never had the courage to tackle the sandwich free, hot food school lunchbox project if I hadn’t gone on this real food journey. Cooking all those meals the past year has given me the confidence to go for it!
Of course this one year anniversary blog wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t give you my top 3 favorite recipes of this year;
Do you have a favorite MCK recipe? We’d love to know! Please share in the comments.
Jessica’s Journey – Healthy Living through Food
The evolution of how I think about food has been an interesting journey. My parents were an interesting mix of competing eating habits and ideologies. I had a mother who tried to feed us organic meals long before it was the cool thing to do. As kids when we saw the word “organic” on an item we would whine and ask where the real food was. On the other hand there was my dad who loved McDonalds and tortilla chips. As a result of the influences of both parents I grew up with interesting food habits. I was an adventurous eater who would try anything and loved to play around in the kitchen (creating what I thought at the time were amazing and creative dishes…) who also had a strong love for the Mac n Cheese in the blue box and delivery pizza.
To be honest I never really worried about the nutrition value of my food until recently. I have always been lucky in the sense that I have never had to worry about my weight and have never had health issues that forced me to evaluate my diet. Up until about 3 years ago I was convinced that I could happily, and healthily, live on bread, cheese and wine for the rest of my life (I still try to convince myself of this every now and then with the addition of chocolate…you gotta have the chocolate…but unfortunately I know better). For me the transformation to real food occurred in several stages and as a result of certain times and experiences in my life.
- 2008-2010 Hanging with Chefs – While I had always been fascinated by the concept of cooking and making my own food I was always very intimidated to try. This fear and intimidation was alleviated by spending time in restaurants and hanging out with chefs. As many people my age did ,I worked in a restaurant during college and well after I graduated. I was around food all day and started to try to experiment a little in the kitchen when I was at home. It was also during this time that I was lucky enough to have one of my best friends graduate from culinary school, Chef Hayley! I was always amazed by what she could whip up in the kitchen with only the most basic ingredients.
- 2010 – 2012 Getting my MPH – It was while pursuing my Masters in Public Health that I first started to become interested in the role diet plays in a persons health. It was during a class we lovingly termed “We Are All Going to Die” (aka Environmental Health) that I learned all the terrifying facts about what is in our water and food (I am still scarred). It was fascinating and a little scary to me what a major role diet and lifestyle play in a persons health. Basically every major chronic disease today is linked to diet in some way. It was this revelation that made me want to change the way I eat. I still wasn’t sure how or what my new diet would look like, all I knew was that I had been doing it wrong and needed to fix it.
- 2012-2013 No More Boxes – Okay so armed with my new degree and focus on fixing the way I ate, I left school and returned home to Georgia. I was determined to eliminate processed and harmful foods from my diet. I was also determined to help those around me do the same (good luck with that…people love being told what to do…oh the arrogance of the newly educated). It was during this time that I decided I would no longer make any meals out of the box. This lead to a tearful goodbye to my little blue boxed friend, but I was determined that I could figure out a way to make it work. While I was experimenting in the kitchen more and more I was still slightly intimidated at the idea of going off book and coming up with my own recipes. However, the more I cooked and played with my food, the less scary it became.
- 2013-Present My Clean Kitchen
Writing My Clean Kitchen has been a truly transformative time in my life. It has helped me to make sense of everything I learned while getting my MPH and translate into easy and understandable actions that can be made in everyday life. It has made the impossible seem possible. Not only for myself but for others as well. I love being able to share my passion and knowledge with our readers. I love the idea that reading about my trials and tribulations as I go on this journey might help someone that is scared and intimidated to take the first step. I love that improving our health can be done one simple, delicious meal at a time (Okay sorry, I will stop being sappy and bring this back down to earth now…phew that was a lot).
I will be the first person to tell you that never in a million years did I expect that I would write a food blog (I am not even sure if three years ago I could have told you exactly what a food blog was!). When Sara and I first started I thought it would be an interesting adventure, fun, and not all that time consuming. I mean you are just writing about food..how hard can that be right? … insert laughter here… Well I know better now. Even though almost every spare minute of the last year had been devoted to the blog, cooking, writing, and all the social media that goes along with it, I wouldn’t trade this adventure for anything.
Here are a couple of my favorite recipes:
Coconut Curry Chicken (Sara and I agree!!!)