filling the empty nest with food

No Processed Foods

As I was looking down the road this past fall at becoming an empty nester (again!), I decided it would be a good time to stop buying processed food. Now that the big appetites in my family have moved out, it seems like the right time. But, boy is this turning out to be a challenge and a commitment–especially as I’m saying it out loud to you all. But I’ve been inching towards it for a long time. For sure, this means I won’t buy a loaf of bread or a box of crackers or jar of peanut butter or a bag of tortilla chips to go with my sister-in-law’s phenomenal salsa. (More on that below.) Or even a container of my favorite mint chocolate chip ice cream. Yikes!

First, though, I have to determine what “processed” food is. I love definitions, and the definitions of the term processed food usually refer to food that comes in boxes, cans, or bags, or food that has additives, or food not found in nature. One food blogger I read defined it as any food with more than 5 ingredients, another as food without a label on it.

Will I have to go out and butcher my own chickens or only buy food that has one ingredient in it? Like tomatoes or apples or basil or flour–oops, that’s been processed and prepared by the miller. The more I think about what “processed” food means, the more I thought I’d have to go back to the stone age to fulfill my goal. Except didn’t the cave men and women “process” that mastodon meat they ate?

You’ve got to define the concept somehow, but for now I’ve decided I’m not ready to make rules or define in a way that requires a philosophy degree to identify a processed food. If my internal food conscience tells me it’s processed, I’ll pass. Believe me, it knows!

How about you? What’s your view of processed food? And how do you define it? And how do you live without tortilla chips?

In the meantime, try out my sister-in-law Jessica’s salsa. She makes it the best, but even when I copy her recipe, it’s much better than most salsas I’ve tasted.  IMG_1562

Jessica’s Salsa
1 or 2 roasted jalapeño peppers (keep the blackened, roasted skin on; scrape out the seeds for those of us with Midwestern palates)
1/2 yellow onion
1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes
Cilantro (to taste, or optional)
1 teaspoon salt
Lime juice

Put all ingredients except tomatoes in a food processor and process (The irony of this just hit me!) until cut very fine. Add tomatoes and pulse until salsa is nearly pureed. (This is not meant to be a chunky salsa.) Squeeze in a little lime juice at the end.

2 comments on “No Processed Foods

  1. ruthsmason
    April 21, 2014

    Maybe it’s all in the verb? Butter is churned, milk is pasteurized, wheat is milled, cheese is aged, etc. When the only verb possible is ‘processed’ then for sure it’s not on the good guy list. I’m not sure this approach will follow through logically in all cases, but it’s fun to contemplate.

  2. Caroline
    April 26, 2014

    It’s anything on the inside aisles of the grocery store. Well except for flour, sugar, spices. Best to just go close to the source (dirt, cow, etc.) as possible! Keep us posted on your progress!

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This entry was posted on April 19, 2014 by in Recipes and tagged , , , , .

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