My husband and I used to joke that all we ate was one version of macaroni and cheese or another: artichokes in cream sauce over pasta was wheat and dairy. Pizza: wheat and dairy. Bruschetta with home grown tomatoes and garlic olive oil with melted Parmesan: wheat and dairy.
Then about the same time that I started learning how to use cast iron cookware, we learned that we needed to change our family diet because of food allergies. Literally overnight we were thrust into the world of gluten-free, dairy-free, and cane sugar-free eating. That was hard. Actually, that was overwhelming. And very soon I realized how much I LOVED our new diet. We were forced to eat healthier than we ever had before. Gone was processed white flour and soybean oil. Instead I was cooking with almonds, mung beans, and avocado oil. Everything I read said those were simply healthier ingredients.
I’m not saying our diet is the healthiest in the world. We eat potato chips at least once a week and I just don’t serve as many vegetables as I think I should. Frankly, I wouldn’t even know how to define The World’s Healthiest Diet. From what I’ve seen there are a lot of fads out there and nutritionists keep redefining the “optimum” diet, but when you look past all of those fads and changing ideas, eating a variety of unprocessed, unrefined plant-based foods seems to be a really good way to eat. I guess we might be part of the Clean Eating movement, though I don’t know how some folks who follow that philosophy would view us every time we buy a bag of potato chips or I make the kids popcorn balls.
My original idea for this project was to teach people how to make vegetarian foods using cast iron cookware. I figured they’d make a few (or a lot) of these recipes then start making their own recipes in cast iron cookware. My main goal was to help people who were afraid of cast iron the way I had been.
But as I got more and more away from processed foods, I started trying to figure out more ways of making our food healthier. For example I’ve figured out how to avoid most canned foods (to avoid the estrogenic effects of the can lining.) And then, as I thought of people I know who still can’t eat some of my recipes because of allergies to eggs and nuts, I started trying to figure out how to adapt my recipes for their needs. Suddenly I discovered I was making some really good foods that were free of gluten, dairy, eggs, soy and nuts. And some of those recipes were very different from what I could find with multiple Google searches.
I do want to point out that it is a natural tendency of people eating in a new way to try and recreate their old diet with new ingredients. I have done the same thing. I have found ways to make our well-loved foods from healthier ingredients. However, I recommend using an open mind when doing this. Maybe you’re old enough to remember the days before “they” realized dark chocolate is healthy for you. The wisdom was that you replace chocolate with carob because “they” thought carob was healthier. I happen to like carob, but do not tell me it is chocolate. It’s not. And if you try and pretend carob is chocolate, you will be disappointed and you will throw the carob away instead of saying, “What a tasty carob coated almond.” The same is true of recipes baked with honey instead of white sugar. You can taste the honey and it’s not the same.
That said, since I have tried to replace the foods we’re missing because of ingredient restrictions, I’ve been selective in the recipes I’ve chosen. And, if I do say so myself, I have included some foods that are pretty good substitutes. For example, I like my Brazilian-style bread balls more than I like the rolls we used to get for eating with soup.
Then with time, my family found our tastes changed. When I made crepes the first summer we were gluten free, we liked the potato starch crepes the best as they were the closest to white flour crepes. However, now we don’t like them so much because they seem so “doughy.”
So I recommend if you are trying recipes that recreate some of your old favorites using different ingredients, your best bet is to avoid comparing the new recipes to your old favorites. Don’t think of the potato soup your grandma always made you when you eat mine. My potato soup is a favorite of our friends. However, it does not taste like it was made with butter or cream.
As this site grows, I hope to provide recipes from a great variety of culinary origins so anyone who comes here can quickly become adept at using cast iron. Then, once you realize how easy cast iron cooking is, I hope you’ll come back and see what new recipes or techniques I’ve learned towards the goal of healthier, yummy foods. Don’t want to use coconut milk out of a chemical lined can? Then just use veggie broth and coconut butter. Want to make eggplant or bread balls on short notice? Freeze them and pop them into the oven at the last minute.
And, as I’ve mentioned on other pages, if you’ve got some great ideas I haven’t learned yet, please share them with me. There are just so many simple ways to make foods healthier and I’d sure like to learn about them.