Thursday, June 30, 2011

Another great CSA box

My 5th CSA shipment so far. I am totally loving how easy this is. It's almost as though the vegetables just magically appear in my refrigerator.

Yesterday the magic was:
2 baskets strawberries
3 heads baby lettuce
1 bag washed arugula
2 things of fennel
3 gorgeous beets w/ greens
3 stalks broccoli
half-dozen eggs

One of the stalks of broccoli is already gone--I steamed it to have as a side for dinner--and some of the arugula was eaten at breakfast this morning. The strawberries are going to come to Salt Lake City with me, so that my family and I can enjoy them while I'm on vacation. Some other veggies will probably have to come with me, too. Whatever will fit neatly in my carry-on. :) The root veg will survive until I get back.

The fennel this week is rather like the kohlrabi a fortnight ago: I've known that it existed as a food, but have never come across it or tried to eat it. I do like the anise/fennel flavor under certain conditions (such as black licorice, which I haven't had in months, since I've gone off sugar). I'm thinking that one bulb will need to be tried raw and the other cooked, since I've seen recipes for both salads and gratins using fennel.

I'm going on vacation for 3 1/2 days, staying at my parents' house. It is going to be an adventure and an undertaking to maintain my current eating habits there. Just because I'm on vacation, I don't want to slip into eating non-nutritious food. My plan is to get there, see how much of the fridge I can take over, and then go shopping for meat and vegetables. I'd really like to cook some fabulous meals for my family while I'm there, too. I think they'll be up for it.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

O-zone Thai

After work yesterday, I hopped on the train and headed up to the city to meet my boyfriend J for dinner and a walk. We strolled along the waterfront, there along the Embarcadero, up to the Ferry Building and then back towards the station. It was a typical June evening in San Francisco: damp, chilly, and windy enough that I was very thankful for my wool beret and shawl. Still, a beautiful evening to be strolling around with such pleasant company.

For dinner, we ended up at O-zone Thai Restaurant and Lounge. All the tables were empty when we first arrived, though all the bar stools were occupied with people taking advantage of happy hour. Our table was in the back corner of the restaurant, by the windows, which was nice.

J had us start off with the sweet corn patties (one of his favorites--seems to be at every Asian restaurant here in SF). They were very much like apple fritters, just with corn in place of apples. Not undelicious, but very starch- and oil-heavy. Not worth it, in my book, so I shan't be ordering them again. We split a green papaya salad, my entree was the special spicy clams, and J got the BBQ beef. The papaya salad had a lot of dressing, and all the ingredients were mixed up together. Tasted delicious.

I was given a gigantic plate full of clams, in their shells, with onions and peppers and Thai basil all in a spicy sauce. It was rather messy, scooping the clams out of the shells, but added a nice visceral element to the experience. I was rather worried, however: I've always read that when you cook shellfish, like clams or mussels, you should not serve any that do not open. About half of the clams on my plate were fully open, another quarter were open just a bit, and the final quarter were still well shut. Really, I don't think that last 25% should have been on my plate at all. I didn't eat those, and I was a little hesitant to eat the ones that were open enough to get my fork in. No signs of food poisoning, so it was all right in the end.

Our waitress had to struggle through the language barrier. It took a long time for J to get his drink from the bar, even though the joint was basically empty. The hot tea was a very bland green tea, though the waitress did check the hot water and bring me a refill without me having to ask. She was also correct in informing us that their "medium" spicy was the equivalent of "hot" spicy at other restaurants--medium turned out to be plenty spicy for us.

I won't go out of my way to return, but I wouldn't not go back again. Yes, the service lacked, but overall the food was very tasty and wonderfully spicy.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Dear Mom: I am enjoying myself at camp. The food is not good.

I spent the weekend at a 3-day fiber arts workshop down in a boy scout camp in Southern California. There will be a more extensive write-up of the workshop in a later post, but first I wanted to talk about something that bothered me the entire weekend.

You guessed it: the food.

If you talked to attendees, the food this weekend was much better than they'd had at other, comparable retreats, and, in any case, they always eat well at this workshop. Hearing this made me realize just how extremely different my diet is from the Standard American Diet (SAD). Let me illustrate this by recalling the meals offered the first day:

Breakfast--cereal bar, waffles, granola & low-fat vanilla yogurt, scrambled eggs, sausages, fruit (apples, bananas, oranges)
Lunch--sandwich bar with bread, luncheon meats, sliced cheeses, baby carrots, lettuce, leftover fruit from breakfast, chips, store-bought potato salad
Afternoon snack--cookies, chips, crackers
Dinner--taco bar with corn and wheat tortillas, ground beef, chicken, refried beans, rice, shredded cheese, a tiny bowl of iceberg lettuce, one jar of salsa

In essence: a lot of carbohydrates. How very SAD.

Now, were there no vegetables being offered this weekend because it's just too difficult to buy, prep and cook veggies or because they would not be eaten if offered?

I was dying for vegetables. I could only thing longingly of my refrigerator at home, chock full of fresh baby lettuce, kale, radishes, leeks, onions, tomatoes, peas, kohlrabi and my crocks of fermented carrots, beets, cucumbers, and sauerkraut. Once I arrived home yesterday afternoon I enjoyed a snack of prunes and walnuts. For dinner that night, I cooked up some grass-fed beef with onions, with peas and kohlrabi greens on the side. Strawberries and raw milk cheddar for dessert. Bam--there's five servings of fruits and vegetables right there. For breakfast this morning, I had scrambled eggs with sun-dried tomatoes and fresh basil. Bright yellow and delicious eggs--so yellow compared to the eggs last weekend that I could almost not believe it. But that's the difference between real food and industrial food.

This issue is not going to hold me back from potentially attending the workshop again next year, I just have to come better prepared in order to feed myself over the weekend.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

CSA Swag!

Another Wednesday, another fabulous bag of goodies from Fifth Crow Farm. When I open the big box, nigh-overflowing with farm-fresh goodness, I sometimes think to myself, "All this for only $25 a week?" Yesterday evening I picked up:

3 heads baby lettuce
1 giant bunch of lacinato (dinosaur!) kale
a bunch of little red radishes
3 yellow onions
2 baskets of strawberries
a bag (maybe a pound?) of wheatberries
4 baby zucchini
a basil plant

The basil came roots and all, which I've set in a jar of water so that it will stay alive for the next week or so and I can have fresh basil every day. Or, since I also get a 1/2 dozen eggs, I'm thinking of an omelette with sun-dried tomatoes, zucchini, and lots of fresh basil. If you've never had eggs from pastured chickens before, seriously--they're amazing. Factory-farmed eggs pale in comparison, literally. I should do some side-by-side photographs to show the difference between a bright yellow pastured egg, bursting with sunny goodness, and a plain factory egg, where the chickens are supplemented with beta carotene to get an artificial yellow color and it's still not enough.

Given that I have dino kale and cattle beans (from last week's CSA box), plus some fabulous goat cheese from Achadinha, it's time to make my favorite recipe for beans and greens. I have so many onions right now that it is a good thing most of my recipes for ordinary home cooking begin with "saute an onion". In order to get the most nutrition out of the wheatberries, I'm planning to sprout them. I've never sprouted a grain before, so it will be an experiment. Yay, experiment!

Jumped right out of bed when the alarm went off (didn't even hit snooze), put on some walking clothes, and headed out on my usual 2-mile route. Everything was lovely this morning--I think the neighborhood dog-walkers are more pleasant in the morning than the evening, at least most of them. Plus, I saw two young deer. They were obviously rather accustomed to humans, because they simply froze and watched me walk by, rather than bounding away at first glance. It's so amazing, being able to walk outside in my neighborhood and see deer. I can't get enough of it.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Delicious breakfast!

This morning I created (and devoured!) what turned out to be a fantastic oatmeal parfait. The following ingredients were layered in a coconut oil jar:

1 diced aprium
1/2 serving of cooked oatmeal
spoonful of homemade almond butter
spoonful of chia seeds
the other 1/2 serving of cooked oatmeal
1 diced apricot
about 1/4 to 1/3 C homemade yogurt

The aprium (an apricot-plum cross, like a pluot, but more apricot than plum) and apricot were purchased yesterday after work at the Tuesday afternoon farmers' market. So fresh and sweet and delicious!

Eating across the layers was definitely fun. Like digging for pirate treasure!

Here's hoping that today is the tail end of the heat wave. My little house has no a/c and no air circulating system, so the heat just stays contained. Last night I had to open all the windows I could in order for it to be cool enough to sleep. The sudden and excessive afternoon heat has also limited my ability to go for long, vigorous hikes, though another contributor has been my need to run lots of errands right after work, like a busy little bee.

Fortunately, I was able to enjoy a nice walk yesterday evening with my boyfriend. We were out a little later than I'd intended, and did most of the 2nd mile in the dark. During the 1st mile, coming around a curve, I saw ahead of me a deer on the road. Not only a deer--a 3-point buck with a fantastic set of antlers. This was the first time I'd seen a mature buck in the area, and I thought it was particularly fitting to have seen it on the evening of the summer solstice.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The things you discover

...when you plug your day's food into a calorie counter. I've been using FitDay off and on for the past few years. It was the first online calorie tracker I discovered, so I'm accustomed to the way it works, and it generally functions just fine for me.

Because I was curious, I decided to plug in my meals from yesterday. Wow. Unintentionally low-calorie and low-carb. Intentionally high-nutrient (what one gets from eating all real plant and animal foods). There's a function where you can see a bar graph of your various vitamin and mineral intakes, and I giggle a little inside whenever mine are off the charts. Because of what I ate, my intakes of Vitamins A, B, C, and D were all in the range of 300% of the RDA. A few minerals were in the 50-75% range, but most were well above 100%.

What surprised me about yesterday was how full I was on such little food. Breakfast was around 350 calories, lunch 450, and dinner 500. That's only 1300 calories, and I'm trying to figure out how I managed to get by on so few without feeling hungry at all, maintaining my normal activity at work and at home. I think it was a combination of the higher fat and protein content of my meals--both of which are so satiating--and the heat. It's easier to eat less when it seriously feels too hot to eat. Plus I'm sure my body said "I have all the nutrients I need today, thanks. I'll just burn some of this adipose tissue when your organs need feeding later." :)

Woke up early for a nice dawn walk. I felt that it was a necessary thing today, on the longest day of the year, to celebrate the sun as much as possible. Two miles in the cool morning sun, with all the birds singing their little hearts out. My favorite way to start the day. Happy Summer Solstice, everyone!

Friday, June 17, 2011

This week's CSA haul

Yep, I'm a day late in posting my Fifth Crow Farm booty from Wednesday.

This week, my box contained:
a gorgeous head of red butter (?) lettuce
a bag of mixed baby greens
a bunch of little white turnips
three fabulous purple kohlrabi
two baskets of strawberries
two red onions
and a bag of blue cornmeal

I had feared that this time would come: kohlrabi in my CSA. Though I'd read about it through other food blogs, I'd never actually come across it myself. However, I showed no fear, perhaps because I discovered that kohlrabi was a staple amongst my ancestors in Eastern Europe. :)

After doing a little research into what could be done with kohlrabi, I decided to take the path of least resistance and just straight up eat it. I trimmed the leaves from a bulb, cut it in half, pared away the outside, then sliced it up and ate it raw with dinner. It's very crisp, very fresh, and, to me, is like a cross between broccoli stems and jicama. Like many raw vegetables, nutritionally it's a cell wall holding Vitamin C and small amounts of other vitamins and minerals. Low in calories, and most of those are fiber.

I'm very keen on eating the kohlrabi greens, along with some beet greens I also have in my fridge, and possibly even the turnip greens. I might be accustomed to the taste of greens, or I might be lacking certain taste buds, because they never seem bitter to me. Could be that I just acclimated my palate to sauteed kale back in my 20s and that was that. I'm thinking it would be tasty to do the greens in an asian style: steamed and mixed with sesame oil, sesame seeds, tamari and crushed red pepper.

The red onions, on the other hand, are going to be a problem. While I'm fine with white and yellow, I'm afraid that red onions have never treated me kindly. Possibly it's because they are most often served to me raw, and I just don't appreciate raw onions. However, this may be an excellent opportunity to make a real onion soup, with a mushroom broth base and perhaps a nice sprinkling of gruyere cheese.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

All kinds of sweet things

The first sweet treat I enjoyed today: a text message from a friend informing me that his wife, also my dear friend, had delivered their second son in the wee hours of the morning. I was in the delivery room throughout the labor of their eldest, and it was an amazing, energizing experience. That time labor ended in a caesarian section; this time my friend was able to have a vbac (vaginal birth after caesarian) just like she was hoping for. I'm so glad to hear that everyone involved is healthy and happy--most especially mama and her new baby. I can't wait to hear the story of the birth.

The second sweet treat was at lunch. In addition to the amazing salad--fresh baby lettuce topped with radishes, roasted beet, sauerkraut, home pickles and tuna--I also packed for myself some strawberries and my homemade yogurt cheese. Oh, so good I'm drooling just thinking about it. The creamy cheese was so rich and delicious, the strawberries so sweet and summery. I'm thinking that I could make up a nut crust, put down a layer of cream cheese, top with sliced strawberries and have the most amazing cheesecake a real-foods-eating girl could desire.

With any luck, the sweets won't let up for the rest of the day.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Another Farmers' Market

Due to an all-day recording session in San Francisco on Saturday, I was, yet again, unable to visit my usual Farmers' Market. While I do get a lot of goodies in my Wednesday CSA, there are lots of other veggies I like to have available on a regular basis. So I took the opportunity on Sunday morning to try out the market in Belmont. It's much smaller than the one in San Mateo, and with less advertised "organic" produce, but had everything I needed. I bought beets, carrots, tomatoes (first of the season for me!), walnuts, cherries, apricots, yellow plums, and pluots. Hooray for stone fruit!

I had an excellent and productive day at home yesterday. In the kitchen, I turned the remnants of my last batch of crock pot yogurt into yogurt cheese, saving the whey. I put up a quart of beets to ferment on the counter, following the recipe in Nourishing Traditions. Finally, as a treat, I made up some pudding, using real vanilla bean for flavor. I should say, however, that it is more of a honey vanilla pudding, since the honey I have is so strongly flavored. (Not a bad thing for a honey-lover like me.)

Before dinner I went on a nice 6-mile hike/run in the park. I had one of those moments where, emerging from the shade of the trees into the sun of the meadow, I just had to break into a sprint for the sheer joy of being alive and outside. I saw a doe and her fawn, which made me think of all the pregnant ladies I know, especially the one who is going to go into labor any minute now and soon get to nuzzle her new baby for the first time.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

CSA Haul

Here's what was waiting for me in my CSA box yesterday:

2 baskets strawberries
3 heads baby lettuce
1 bunch radishes (red, long and skinny)
1 bag spinach
1 bunch of giant collard greens
1 bunch of green garlic
a small bag of dried beans (I don't remember the type)

One head of lettuce and a couple of radishes ended up in my lunch box today. Most, if not all, of the spinach is going to be sauteed with garlic tonight, since my boyfriend will be over and that is one of his favorite dishes in all the world, second only perhaps to pumpkin pie. A few of the strawberries will get eaten tonight for dessert.

I think I'm going to cook the collard greens simply: sauteed and steamed in my cast iron pan with some garlic and onion plus crushed red pepper. Maybe with a bit of cardamom and ginger, too, to make them more like Ethiopian Ye'abesha Gomen.

Need to see what should be done with green garlic. I still have lots of kale and leeks left over from last week's CSA box, so all these green things must get eaten!

Did not sleep well last night. I kept dreaming that the auditions were happening for Dickens Christmas Fair and I was totally unprepared. Eventually, when the alarm went off at 6:15, instead of snoozing for an extra 20 minutes, I actually got out of bed, put some clothes on, and went for a dawn walk. It was lovely--the air so fresh, the birds all singing, the cocks crowing. (There is, in fact, one house nearby that keeps chickens, and that cock was really going at it.) I'm hoping to make this a regular occurrence throughout the warm days of summer.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

What I love about my new diet

I decided that I just had to throw up another post today, since obviously I'm really excited about this fact.

Several months ago, I started the transition from a strict vegetarian (though not vegan) to an omnivorous diet. Right now I eat more like my European ancestors did: meat, dairy, eggs, fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts, some grains, honey & spices. Entirely real food, full of all the nutrients a body needs. All my meat (at this point, predominantly cow and lamb) is grass-fed, dairy comes from pastured cows, and eggs from pastured hens. Fruits & veg are as organic as possible. Basically everything I buy comes from my local farms.

What I love about this new way of eating--more protein and no sugar--is that I'm not hungry every few hours. Coming from a previous situation of eating upwards of six small meals a day, carefully distributing my calories, it's really amazing to me to eat just three meals a day and not really care about calories. My weight is stable, and the lowest it has been my adult life. I have a ton of energy. It's the ultimate in fabulous!

Produce Recap & Blueberry Ovencake Recipe

Have I made it through all the produce from last week's CSA box? Nope. As I was rummaging around in the fridge Monday, gathering carrots and celery for stew, I noticed that the entire bunch of baby leeks was still there. Plus a great deal of kale. The last of the arugula and radishes went into today's salad. One egg is left, but that'll get used up quickly. I am looking forward to today's box of goodies. Hopefully there will be some different items in it, though I still want a basket of strawberries each week for as long as the season lasts.

The grain-related items--popcorn and pancake mix--are seeing some consumption. While I don't eat a lot of grains (maybe one serving a day, rarely two), I don't see the need to eliminate them completely from my diet. However, the grains I do consume are 1) whole and 2) typically prepared in a more traditional foodways fashion; that is, soaked or sourdough. Having popcorn is an exception.

The instructions for the Fifth Crow Farm pancake mix are basic: mix with milk, buttermilk, egg, and oil, then cook up. I've instead been using it more like regular flour, mixing it with my sourdough starter, and letting it sit overnight. Here's what I cooked up for breakfast this morning:

Blueberry Ovencake (A Pancake Baked in the Oven)
The night before, mix 1/3 C sourdough starter with 1 C flour (a mixture of whole dark rye and whole wheat pancake mix) and 2/3 C water in a medium non-reactive mixing bowl. Cover and let sit in a warm, or at least room-temperature place overnight. In the morning, preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Add to the flour mixture 1 egg, 1 T fat (olive oil, melted butter, coconut oil, etc.), 1 T honey or maple syrup, a dash of salt and about 1/2 teaspoon baking soda. Mix well, then fold in 1 C blueberries. Spread in greased 9" cake pan. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until the top is browned and a skewer comes out clean. Makes 4 servings.

I've been experimenting with baking pancake recipes in the oven just so I don't have to stand at the stove for a long time.

Each serving provides 200 calories, 5 g fat, 34.5 g carbohydrates, 8 g fiber, 6.5 g protein, and 10.5% RDA for iron. All that iron and fiber is there thanks to the whole grain flour. However, just because the iron is present doesn't mean that your body can absorb it. The soaking/fermenting step is to help neutralize the phytic acid that likes to bind iron and keep it out of your system. Also, the fact that I ate my cake with a bit of homemade lamb (grass-fed) sausage, which contains some heme iron, means that the non-heme iron from the grains will be better assimilated. At least according to my nutrition textbook.

Currently there is a bag of sugar cookies in my freezer. I baked them on Sunday, and my dear boyfriend forgot to take them away with him. Last night they tempted me--for how bad would it be, really, to have just a couple cookies?--but only for a moment. Yes, I dare say that a cookie or two would not hurt me too much, especially coming after a very healthy dinner, but if I give myself an inch I am worried that I'll take a mile. Better to just ignore them completely and enjoy a lovely cup of herbal tea, and a handful of almonds or a bit of cheese for dessert.

Oh, and I had an awesome hike in the park yesterday: 4 1/4 miles, strenuous uphill sections with a lot of good running on the flat. The lizards were out in force on the path; I'm always afraid that one will take a wrong turn and scurry right under my foot. No deer this time. Very much looking forward to my hike tomorrow, too.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Whatcha got?

I don't know who said it first, but here's how it goes.

"What should we have for dinner?"
"How about a stew?"
"Well, what are you going to put in the stew?"
"Well, whatcha got?"
Thus coining the title of Whatchagot stew. Or, in today's case, Whatchagot salad.

I joined my dear boyfriend for dinner at a German restaurant in SF on Friday. After the framboise lembic (like drinking a jam sandwich!), my favorite dish of the evening was a mixed salad: lettuce topped with potatoes, pickled cabbage, carrots, and beets all in their independent sections. You could eat each vegetable independently or mix and match.

Today's lunch salad (just consumed with a bowl of yogurt and a tasty navel orange) was formed along the same lines. I started by shredding the last of my CSA butter lettuce, giving it a drizzle of sesame oil. Atop that I arranged a sliced white radish, a scoop of sauerkraut, and a bit of ginger carrot. The sour fermented cabbage and carrots melded excellently with the sweet lettuce and the radish. I loved this whatchagot salad all the way to the bottom of the bowl.

Having crocks of fermented veggies in my fridge is an excellent way, I've discovered, to get more variety of vegetables in my day. They have a very addictive flavor. Makes me want to get some beets asap and start some of those pickling, too, for an extra color and flavor option next time.

After a busy week with too many other activities and no formal exercise, my body was totally craving movement! By Friday I was feeling my muscles going completely flaccid, while fat just started splurging in new colonies. Thankfully Saturday evening was full of dance and Sunday afternoon full of hiking. Three evenings this week I must set aside my own activities in order to drive north and meet with some ladies for music rehearsal, but Tuesday and Thursday I'm going to make a point of hitting the trail and hitting it hard. (Though not literally, I hope. I'm still finishing up healing from the last time that happened.) My boyfriend has even been bit by the physical activity bug: he agreed that fresh air and exercise were better than sitting indoors playing video games, for the purpose of improving mood and general disposition.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

First CSA Box

Last night I picked up my first box of goodies from Fifth Crow Farm. In it was: a small bag of popcorn, 1 pound of pancake mix from their home-ground flour, a basket of strawberries, a bunch of baby leeks, a bunch of white radishes, a bag of arugula, a head of butter lettuce, and a bunch of huge kale leaves. Plus 1/2 dozen eggs, an optional extra I decided to include, since their pastured eggs are so fantastic.

The salad I made for lunch has some of the arugula and one of the radishes. I think the kale will be fabulous for making chips in the oven. The pancake mix will require some experimentation: because it already contains baking soda or powder, I'll have to see how that changes the acid-base equilibrium for producing sourdough or soaking overnight in yogurt. I'm trying not to devour all the strawberries before my boyfriend can come over and enjoy them with me. I did eat one last night.

Today the USDA unveiled it's new visual representation for the dietary guidelines: It's triggering memories of my elementary school cafeteria, and a poster of the old 4-square guidelines. Why is nutrition so complicated in this country? In other places they just eat food. In the US, we have to have elaborate systems dictated to us by the government in order to eat "healthy".

It's interesting to see the biases present in the information on the website. There's the usual talk about eating only lean meat and avoiding whole milk and egg yolks because of "bad" cholesterol and cardiovascular disease. They consider butter having no nutrients, and as a "solid fat" it must be avoided, but soybean oil is in there with all the other "vegetable" oils, so it gets cleared through. No mention is made of GMOs. Despite the rampant diabetes in this country, there is no information on the grains page about how constant carbohydrate (especially processed carbohydrates) consumption can lead to diabetes. Of course they say that you should "limit" your intake of sugars, but they don't actually link it to disease.

In case I didn't post this before, here's an article from the journal Nutrition, from 2010, which discusses the scientific limitations of the dietary guidelines. Very interesting reading.