Visiting my family in Southern California, I came across this garden.

real food anywhere - parking lot garden |

It is right on the edge of a parking lot on the corner of a very busy intersection. My parents say that the owner has had the garden for a few years and it thrives.

What I find most ironic is that this garden is in the parking lot of a convenience store filled with over-processed junk food.

Although the vegetables in this garden are surrounded by car exhaust and fumes, I would much rather eat things from this garden rather than the packaged food in the store.

real food - 5 things

I did a real food series taking each letter of the alphabet and choosing a real food item or concept that started with that letter.

If you missed any of the letters, you can  find them under the real food abcs label

Here are 5 things I learned about my real food journey:

1. Finding real food that starts with each letter can be a challenge. There were some letters, like X, that I needed to be creative. I think it worked, but it wasn't always easy.

2. Most of the real food items I featured are already a daily or weekly part of what I eat. Practicing what I preach :)

3. There was one item that although I like, I might not continue to buy it often. It was M. The reason is because I am also on a quest to simplify our home and kitchen and have thus challenged myself to only have a 100 ingredient kitchen. And M just didn't make the cut at this time. (having only 100 ingredients - including spices - is hard!)

4. Some letters it was really hard to choose an item because there were so many choices.

5. My favorite abc post? I think I would go with H for How much homemade. I think it sums up not only the series but my blog as well and what I hope people take away when they read it.

For more real food tips, nutrition, recipes and more:

linked to,
real food abcs - zest

Z for Zest

Zest is the last letter I am covering in the real food abc series. Zest can have so many different meanings, so I thought it was a great one to end on. Before I talk about zest, I wanted to say I hope you have been inspired by this series. My hope was that this series would help my readers learn more about real food and move in the direction of making more things from scratch and decrease highly processed foods.

I thought it would be hard to pick a z. But when I started to think of foods that start with z, zest popped into my brain and I knew it would be my z.

I feel like zest is the perfect way to end this series. It represents so many different things.

Zest - using the whole food

Zest - adding flavor to food

Zest - Enjoying food

These three things actually represent the entire real food abc series.

Zest - using the whole food

Zest is a great representation of using as much of a food as you can. Many times we use only a part of the food and discard the rest. (think cooking a whole chicken, but discarding the bones and organ meat) Not only does it waste food, it wastes money. Zest represents using as much of the whole food as possible. Real food is "whole" food with all parts utilized when possible.

Zest - adding flavor to food

Zest was another great way to end the series because it is a great way to add flavor to food. Highly processed foods many times add ingredients to enhance the flavor. Besides ingredients we recognize - salt, sugar, herbs, spices - there might be natural or artificial flavors. Those of which we have no idea what is actually in them. MSG which can cause headaches, weakness, nausea.

You can avoid a lot of those scary ingredients by eating more real food and using real foods - like herbs, spices and zest - to add flavor.

Zest - enjoying food

I love that the word zest means:
lively excitement : a feeling of enjoyment and enthusiasm (Merriam-Webster)

Food should add zest to our lives. Eating real food should not feel like a chore. It should not feel like a punishment. It should not feel like a diet. Eating real food should bring enjoyment. Not only through great food and flavor, but also through increased health. And real food  should be easy and uncomplicated.

Zest was the perfect food for me to end this real food series. Although the series is done, I hope you continue reading for more real food recipes, tips, tricks and fun.

For more real food tips, nutrition, natural living, and more:

How to make butterscotch squares like See's candy |

One of my most favorite candies is the Butterscotch Square from See's Candy. I have previously written a post on butterscotch squares, which is to date one of the most popular posts on the blog. I guess I am not the only one who loves them!

I decided to take that recipe post and turn it into a slideshare. This is a great candy to make for holidays.

no buttermilk "buttermilk" ranch dressing

The other day I wanted a creamy, ranch like salad dressing.  I knew I did not have any buttermilk, but that was fine. I would make a recipe similar, the essence of ranch without the tradition.

I created this dressing using mayo, 1/2 and 1/2 and a bunch of spices. Yet when I tasted it, there was something missing. I thought it needed an acid to balance it out. So a splashed some apple cider vinegar in. That is exactly what it needed.

After I made this I realized, I actually kind of did make a buttermilk ranch dressing. When a recipe calls for buttermilk and you do not have any, you can add some vinegar to milk. Hence, my no buttermilk "buttermilk" ranch dressing.

No Buttermilk "Buttermilk" Ranch Dressing

1/2 cup mayo
1/4 cup half and half
2 pinches salt
Pinch pepper
pinch parsley
pinch thyme
pinch oregano
pinch dry mustard
pinch dill
Splash Apple Cider Vinegar (affiliate link)


Mix all ingredients together. You can use more or less herbs, or even different herbs and I am sure it will still taste great. I literally did not measure the vinegar. I just poured a bit in and tasted.

no buttermilk "buttermilk" ranch dressing

16 yogurt recipes |

In the real food abc series, Y is for Yogurt. Yogurt is a healthy real food that is a great addition to your real food diet. This roundup has recipes that use yogurt as an ingredient.  There are even a few dairy free recipes.

The slideshare below has 16 featured recipes. If you want any of the recipes, all you have to do is click on the picture in the slide and it will take you straight to the recipe!

Thanks to everyone who contributed.
linked to fresh foods wednesday, whimsy wednesday,
real food abcs - yogurt

Y for Yogurt

Yogurt is a real food that can be so healthy for our bodies. Yogurt should definitely be a part of your real food diet.

Yogurt is such a great food to include in your real food journey. Yogurt contains probiotics. Probiotics are bacteria, the good kind. Yes, there are good kinds. Our body would not be able to function without bacteria. There are millions billions of good bacteria that reside in our gut to help us digest food.

Unfortunately, things like illness, antibiotic use, and stress, among other things, can knock our bacteria out of whack. When you take antibiotics, it not only kills the bad bacteria, but it will also kill the good bacteria. Without that good bacteria to balance it out, yeast will grow..and unlike bread, we do not want too much yeast in our bodies.

That is why it is important to eat foods that help promote the good bacteria. Yogurt is one of those foods. Most (but not all) contain live cultures that are the kind we want growing in our gut.

Things to look for when buying yogurt

There are a few things to look for is a good yogurt. There are so many yogurts out there that are full of sugar, colorings, and artificial flavors. When buying yogurt, here are things to consider.

1. With live cultures
2. PLAIN - yes plain. Sweeten it at home yourself. Why plain?

Read more about how much sugar is in your yogurt.
3. whole milk - don't be afraid of fat
4. milk from grass-fed cows
5. organic
6 PLAIN (just had to get that in again)

You may not be able to find all these things. Which is why the order is important. The most important thing is live cultures.

You can also easily make your own homemade yogurt in a crockpot.

Making your own will ensure you control the real food ingredients that go in it.

For more real food tips, nutrition, natural living and more:

Happy Friday!
5forfriday - 5 homemade dressing rescipes |

This 5 for friday I am sharing a slideshare I created of 5 of my popular homemade dressing recipes.

I am loving slideshare. You can see more of my presentations here: slideshare presentations.

real food abcs - X these things out

X for X these things out of your real food diet

So far this is the longest title in the real food abc series. Of course the letter x was going to be difficult. I thought about xantham gum, but I do not feel like I know enough about it myself to write about it. I also found several other food items that start with x, most were the Chinese name for a food.

One I almost went with was xocolatl. Which is the ancient aztec word for chocolate. I am sure many of you reading this would love to have chocolate included in your real food journey. So go ahead, include it. Although chocolate did not get a designated spot in the abc series, it does not need to be avoided.

But there are some things that you may want to avoid. The following foods are ones that you should start X-ing out of your diet:

High fructose corn syrup - although you will find conflicting evidence, there is enough information showing HFCS is an unhealthy sugar and that it does get processed differently in our body. Cutting down on all sugars is good, but just x-ing out HFCS is a good start.

Margarine (or any other butter substitute) - Don't be fooled by marketing claims. Most butter alternatives are highly processed and have a lot of ingredients.

Unfermented soy - Unfortunately, soy is in so many different products. The only way to truly avoid it is to cook more from scratch. The problem with soy is that it has phytates that can block absorption of other nutrients and phyto-estrogens that can increase your intake of estrogen above normal healthy levels. If you would like to read more about why soy should be X-ed out of your diet, here are two great articles:

The dangers of soy
Reasons to avoid soy

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) - This is another topic that has a lot of conflicting evidence. However, GMOs have not been around for very long and therefore do not have long-term studies associated with it. Although it may be difficult to completely avoid them, by buying more organic, you can be assured you will not be getting GMOs in those foods.

Hydrogenated Oils/Fats - Partially hydrogenated oils are the work type for your body. Our body does does not digest them properly and they can contribute to inflammation in the body. (source)

Unfortunately, there are so many different ingredients used in highly processed foods that we should probably avoid, but it takes time to change your diet and make new habits. If you are already avoiding these ingredients then you are on the right track. If you have not yet begun to look at ingredients lists, it is never too late. Remember, don't compare your beginnings to someone else's middle.

For more real food tips, nutrition, natural living and more:


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