Food…and Stuff

Today I canceled my hair appointment, ended my membership at the tanning salon, and painted my own toenails.

I know what you’re thinking: isn’t this a food blog?  What does this have to do with
food?  I’ll get there, I promise.

I have always struggled with my conscience over my habits of consumption, and I don’t just mean food.  However, as I look more closely at the food products I’m buying, I am forced to [re]consider all of the products and services that I am consuming.  After all, looking at the whole picture and making changes to my entire lifestyle are two points
which separate my good intentions from the bored suburban middle class white woman jumping on an organic health trend phenomenon I’m trying so hard not to fall into.  How can I desire to affect change in sustainable eating if I’m buying right into the consumer habits that have created the problem in the first place?


Let me make that make sense:  I am baking bread and canning vegetables for the winter because I am standing firmly against the “convenience” propaganda that has led us to believe that these items should be store-bought.  I am refusing to spend money on the lies I have been fed (pun not intended).  I have lost count of the number of times that I have been shocked to find that making my own isn’t as difficult as I have always been made to believe.  Raise your hand if you’ve ever heard about how difficult it is to make bread, or how long it takes to make pasta.  I do these things every week now, and I’m here to tell you that it can be done by even the busiest of people.

So how can I fail to question the other things I spend money on?  I took a look at three months of bank statements, and I was shocked to add up my…ahem…personal grooming expenditures.  And as painfully embarrassing as it is, I am going to share them with you.  I spend $150 on my hair every 5 or 6 weeks.  Alternating manicures and pedicures every week add up to about $100 a month.  Shameful. Tanning  membership, $55 a month—and I haven’t even used it in a month or two.  Deep-tissue massages every two weeks, $80 a month.  The one expense I am going to withhold here is my total sum of Starbucks purchases—it’s seriously just too embarrassing.  And honestly, I’m not ready to think about my clothing/accessory purchasing habits.  I have to take this one step at a time, but believe me when I say that it’s going to get painful.

I don’t have the answers yet.  I suspect that this will always be a work in progress, but consciousness is always the first step.  However, it can’t be the only step—action has to follow.  I’m curious to know how I will respond to the challenges that keep coming to mind.  It’s probably not realistic to think that I will never have my hair cut again.  I also have to recognize that massage therapy is a necessary part of my training.  And I’m Asian…I’ll be pale yellow in the middle of January and who knows how I’ll feel about tanning when I look like I have jaundice?  Can I realistically escape meetings at Starbucks?

My six year old copies the poses she sees on TV. Not ready to see her try this one out.

And then there is also the fact that I have a child who is being sucked into brand consumerism at the ripe old age of SIX.  As a parent, I have always tried to be honest with my daughter.  This has meant trying to find ways to break down my beliefs into kid-friendly language.  In my household, it is understood that there are just some products that I refuse to purchase for one reason or another, and sometimes this
warrants an explanation to my daughter, who doesn’t understand why, for instance, I won’t buy anything with Tinkerbell on it.  I’ll share with you with my explanation, especially in case you’re still wondering why any of this is important: when we spend money, it’s like voting.  We vote for the candidate whose beliefs most closely reflect our own.  We vote for the candidate who we feel best represents our interests.  And to varying degrees, our votes are limited.  Companies measure the success of their products by the amount of money they make, which means that every time we spend a
dollar we are effectively casting a vote for a product or service.  Do I want to cast a vote for a product that sends my daughter bad messages, or could I save that vote for a better product?  And, should I cast a vote impulsively, or do I owe it to myself and others to give serious thought before making a choice?

I wonder if this is where I will lose many of you.  This is pretty intense stuff.  I know that most people reading my blog probably skim through the blahblahblah of my thoughts and scroll to the recipes (which, I recognize, are pretty sub-par and entirely
experimental).  For everyone else, food is a pretty comfortable topic.  My blog doesn’t make you question your eating habits—you are probably reading my blog because you already question them and are looking for ideas.  But this—this is new.  I am asking you to question everything you spend your money on.  I’m not being judgmental or condescending—as you can see, I don’t have it figured out.  Maybe some of you are even further along than this and can help me out.  I’m in the questioning and
now-what-the-hell-do-I-do-about-it phase.  I will probably get a haircut in my near future.  I may find myself, however reluctantly, at a Starbucks near you.  I may never give up my Banana Republic addiction.  And really, I am going to continue to buy stuff that I don’t need and could probably live without.  But I’m thinking about it and making a serious effort to change some habits—and this is more than I did last month.  I’ll keep you updated as I figure it out.  Will you join me?

For those skip-to-the-recipe-readers out there, I’ll share with you three meals I made from one batch of homemade pasta.  This time I used a different pasta recipe than last time, and I liked it a lot more.  It was more difficult to work with in the beginning, but it made the leftovers better.

Basic Pasta:

3.5 cups of flour
4 large eggs
1/2 c water on hand for kneading

Make a big pile of flour on a clean countertop or cutting surface.  Make a hole in the flour (like a volcano, according to my daughter) and put the eggs into the hole.  With a fork, scramble the eggs and incorporate the flour, starting with the edges of the hole and drawing more flour in until all of the flour is integrated.  If the dough is too dry (you’ll know because it won’t hold together) add drops of water and knead, over and over, until you can form a ball with the dough.  Once you have a ball, lightly flour the surface and knead the hell out of the dough.  That’s right, a very technical term that you can’t mess up–knead the hell out of it.  Re-form into a ball, cover with plastic wrap or a wet towel, and let rest for 20 minutes; don’t skip this step!   After dough has rested, pull a portion that is bigger than a golf-ball but smaller than a baseball.  Roll, add flour, and flip–do this over and over until the dough is paper thin.  At this point, fold the dough in half long-ways and roll losely; cut into half-inch thick spirals.  Or, use a pasta roller and cutter!  Once all the dough is cut, place into boiling water and boil for about two minutes.  It’s important to let the water return to a boil before you start the cooking timer.

Meal 1: Serve with tomato sauce

My version of a quick and super easy tomato sauce recipe:

Four tomatoes
Red bell pepper
Garlic (I use several cloves)
Red wine (I usually just pour in about a half cup of whatever I happen to be drinking…)

Put all vegetables in food processor with olive oil; chop until it becomes a paste.  Add to pan with red wine, bring to a boil and then simmer.  The longer you cook it the better it will taste.

Meal 2: Repurpose the tomato sauce:

The above recipe ALWAYS tastes better the next day.  Add a little bit of brown sugar and a dash of cinnamon and reheat.  Serve with leftover pasta.

Almost forgot to take the picture! Mid-meal...but you get the idea.

Meal 3: Garlic pasta w/grilled summer squash

Cut squash into long strips; coat lightly with olive oil and toss in sea salt and fresh black pepper.  Cook on grill, turning occasionally, for just a few minutes.

While squash cooks, reheat pasta in microwave.
Heat olive oil in a pan and add two cloves of minced garlic; sautee for about a minute.  Add chopped bell pepper, onion (I have to use powder since Mike hates onions), and pretty much whatever veggies you have laying around.
Toss pasta in garlic/onion/pepper mix and top with grilled squash.





Because I’m a Joyful Girl. Who likes granola.

I do it for the joy it brings,
Because I’m a joyful girl.
Because the world owes me nothing,
We owe each other the world.
–Ani Difranco


“But…you don’t look like…I mean…” This is usually followed by an awkward search for the most appropriate/least offensive adjective.  So far, I’ve heard granola, vegan, weird, crunchy.  What do any of these words really mean, and how did they become identity labels?  And what does granola look like?  (Healthy, at least).  After almost six years spent in women’s studies, I know a thing or two about identity labels.  And I am also very familiar with the way that I’m perceived.  It’s funny that every decision we make plays into an identity, or at least a perception of our identity.  But what do my clothes have to do with my food?  It is clear to me that, whether they realize it or not, people associate organic, plant-based, sustainable food with a clear political statement.  And they associate that statement with the aesthetic look commonly assigned to (and I use this term with extreme affection) hippies.  And for some reason, hippies are associated with…anger?  So I’m perceived as an angry hippie in disguise.  Interesting  juxtaposition, but I’ll take that.

I am often asked why I “suddenly have a problem with” grocery stores, packaged foods, mass-produced meat, and convenience foods (hell, I’ll even help it out and name the IMF and World Bank, if we’re talking about things I “have a problem with”).  I always have to carefully rephrase the question: this isn’t about picking a fight or demonstrating anger.  This isn’t about all of the things I won’t eat or can’t have.  And it’s not about telling the world what they shouldn’t eat or shouldn’t have.  It is and yet is not a political statement.  It’s about learning to love the things that I can have and should enjoy. Cabbage.  Eggplant.  Zucchini.  Apples.  Until recently, I have been so caught up in the manipulation of my body that I was willing to force-feed it chemicals with no nutritional value just to skirt a few calories.  It was  pretty hard to appreciate the sweetness of a carrot when I was dumping Splenda into my food by the cupful.

I love the lyrics by Ani Difranco that I posted above.  I owe myself the joy of health, the joy of an anxiety-free life, and the joy of affecting change in the way I see necessary.  I owe the world my contribution to sustainable agriculture and my ability to articulate my journey in a way that not everyone can.  So…not angry.  Joyful.

Whoaaaa–did I just get “all granola” on you?!  Oh well, it’s my blog and I’ll write
what I want.  🙂  (Speaking of granola, I put quinoa in my latest batch—added protein, extra crunch.  Awesome!).

So it’s been almost a month.  I keep searching my brain for something negative to report, but the truth is that I am really happy.  In fact, this may be the happiest month my family has seen in quite some time.  My anxiety is still down, tension in the house is down, and we are still functioning as a team.  In some ways, our house does revolve around food—but every household revolves around something, doesn’t it?  Kids’ soccer games, long hours at work…etc.  In my home we all have to take part in the one thing that we all do, and we do it together.  We have always eaten together at breakfast and dinner, but now that we are all shopping and cooking together, food has become a family activity.

From the very beginning, we decided to give up artificial sweeteners.  I quit Splenda.  Cold turkey.  Anyone who knows me well ought to be shocked by this news.  I have been fine without it, but I have had to rethink sugar.  In moderation, perhaps it’s not the evil monster that I have been trained to believe it is. So I have been baking and
sweetening most things with honey, but have begun to sneak some sugar in from time to time.  We started with brown cane sugar (turbinado), because we had been led to believe that it must be better for us.  But, just like all things “organic,” it’s worth it to take a look into the assumptions and slippages surrounding the trendy/healthy food  propaganda.  Yes, organic is good.  But how many definitions of “organic” are there? (Don’t get me started–that’s another blog post!)  And turbinado is less processed than white sugar, but are there any significant health benefits?  I took some time to look into the sugar, and as of now I can’t find any solid evidence that there is a significant nutritional difference.  Sugar is sugar.  Raw sugar contains traces of minerals that get processed out of white sugar, but the amounts are extremely small and insignificant.  I am open to any information to the contrary, but so far I can’t really find anything credible.

So tonight I’ll leave you with two recipes.  I’m a little behind on my blog, and in this past few days I have made so many wonderful meals, it’s hard to choose.  These are two of my recent favorites.  Message me for instructions if you have any questions.

Pizza Dough:
(seriously, the BEST pizza dough I have ever had.  Anywhere.  Hands down.)
Tip: Knead the ever-living hell out of it. And when you’re sure it’s dead, knead it some more.  Seems to help.  🙂

1.5 cups of water
3.5 cups of flour (I like whole wheat)
1tsp salt
3tbsp honey
one packet of yeast

Pumpkin Pancakes:

1 cup flour
2 tsp baking powder
dash of salt
1tbsp sugar
1 cup of milk
2 eggs, separated
2 tsp oil
½ cup pumpkin




Pasta, Tortillas, and Local Farms Unwrapped

The recipe is at the bottom of this post--ravioli with roasted squash filling!!


It’s been several weeks now, and things are still going well.  When we started this
project, we had totally open minds, and we approached it as an experiment.  Who  wants to take on a project only to be embarrassed later when it doesn’t work?  Luckily, it appears to be working, and it appears that we can make this work long term.  Other than a few of those ohmygodweforgottosoakthebeanslastnight moments, and the
occasional random shortage (usually seems to be tomatoes and/or fruit), things are running smoothly.

This has really forced us to slow everything down, and it has helped me to manage my
time differently so that I can relax in the evening.  It has been difficult to balance school and family, because schoolwork feels like this constantly revolving assignment with no real deadline—just a constant weight that never goes away.  But reexamining health and food has led to a change in all of my priorities including time,
money, and career goals.

We have been getting further and further away from packaged foods.  We started with bread, and then realized that we were eating our vegetables with packaged pastas and tortillas.  So then we decided to make pasta and tortillas!  I have also gotten pretty good at whipping up a batch of bread to go with dinner—I have nearly perfected focaccia bread!

We have also made friends with some of our local farmers.  One that I have already
mentioned is Turtlebend Farm, which you can find here:  .  We have also gootten to know another friendly couple who own and operate Two Mule Farms, which you can find here: .  It’s a good sign when you show up on Saturday morning and they ask you how your kale tasted last week!  In fact, I had to share my kale
catastrophe, and the kind woman at Two Mule handed me a sheet with kale recipes!   Then her husband educated us a little bit about when in the season kale tastes the best.  How amazing is that?  Ultimately, wouldn’t you want to eat food that someone took pride in growing? His hands picked the kale, squash, and zucchini that fed my
family this week.  And in return, we support his farm, which supports his family.

Unfortunately, this week we made a startling discovery: not all of the food from our
local farmers market is local.  Maybe you already knew this, but we certainly didn’t.  Boy do we feel a little stupid.  After coming home with a huge load of produce, much of which was bought from the same stand, we found stickers on our apples that were from NEW ZEALAND.  Seriously?  We have huge orchards right here in GA, but our apples
came from New freaking Zealand?  Now we are left to question where the rest of our produce bought from that stand came from.  What we do know for sure is that from now on we will never make any assumptions about our food.  This means that in our near future, we plan to visit the farms we feel good about supporting. And we are not just interested in any farm: after meeting the friendly couples who run Turtle Bend and Two Mule, and after hearing them talk about the struggles they’ve gone through to keep their farms running, we realize that want to specifically seek out the smaller local farms.  And we will certainly be joining their CSAs this year!

If any of you are thinking of making a change to your nutrition, but you’re not sure
where to start, I’d urge you to strongly consider starting by buying some of your produce from a local organic farm.  Trust me.  Once you meet them, you’ll understand.

Tonight I’m going to include two recipes, because I wish everyone could know how easy it is to make these things.  The food industry doesn’t want you to know, because if everyone started making their own products then the food industry would lose money, and we can’t have that now can we?   When everyone stops occupying Wall Street, they should all visit a local farm.

Amazing for my first attempt! It even looks like pasta!

Simple pasta recipe:

3 cups flour
5 egg yolks (save whites!)
cup of water on reserve

Place flour in a pile either in a bowl or directly on the counter.  Clear a hole in the center and place the egg yolks inside.  Slowly mix the yolks into the flour, and add sprinkles of water until a dough is formed.  Dough should form a ball and keep its  shape.  Knead for five minutes, and let rest (covered) for 20 minutes.  After dough has rested, knead again and reform a ball.  Pull a section of dough that is enough to form a ball that is larger than a golf ball but smaller than a baseball. Here’s the fun part:

lightly flour a large counter space and roll out dough until it is an oblong shape.  Flour the top of the dough, flip, flour again, and roll.  Continue to roll, flour, and flip until dough is paper thin.  Cut into desired shape and repeat entire process until all dough is rolled and cut.

I made half into ravioli one night, and the other half into fettuccine.  To make ravioli, I used a drinking glass to cut circles in the dough, placed a teaspoon of filling in the center, and folded the circle over.  I sealed it shut by brushing the egg whites onto the pasta and pressing with a fork at the seem.

For fettuccine, I rolled the pasta (short-ways) and cut ¼ inch sections that looked
like little spirals.  They unraveled when I boiled them.

Which brings me to the important part: to cook, place into boiling water for 1 minute.

Alright, so they are a little ugly. But they sure tasted good!


Simple tortilla recipe:

2 cups corn flour
1.5 cup water

Mix flour and water, knead until dough forms a ball that stays together but doesn’t
stick to the bowl.  Break into smaller balls and roll each ball between two sheets of wax paper until it forms a thin, flat shape.  Fry in ungreased pan for 45 seconds on each side.




Caffeine Free…What?!

Ugh—today is day 3, no coffee.  That’s right, this super-caffeinated lady is now going
fully unleaded.  I’m not sure if everyone should do this, and I don’t have a personal grudge against caffeine, but my intake of the stimulant was excessive by every definition.  At least a ten-cup-a-day minimum.  Sad, I know.  But then there’s the diet soda that kept me going in between…so yeah, I had to start by reducing. It’s been several weeks of weaning, and now I’m finally down to none.  I still have headaches but I think they’re getting better.  What’s the point of trying to watch my body respond to totally clean eating if it’s still being influenced by a chemical addiction?

Speaking of clean eating, almost every day I encounter something I miss, and every day
I have to be reminded that everything existed as a homemade product before it became a canned or packaged staple.  Ultimately, the grocery provides “convenient” replacements for the “old fashioned” products that our grandparents once made by hand.  Everything from baked goods to spices and seasonings are now packaged and sold as  “instant” versions of the real thing. Today on the radio, I heard three commercials in a row that were meant to appeal to the American need to have everything “faster,” to “save time.”  And I wondered where my anxieties were coming from?

What’s sad is how surprised I still am when it occurs to me that I can actually make
things from scratch; even more surprising is how easy most of them are.  And we have officially started bottling and jarring some of them. The list so far:

Pam cooking spray
Peanut butter
spaghetti sauce
pizza sauce
pumpkin puree
cold cereal
hot sauce
salad dressing
vegetable broth

And I can’t say enough about how it has helped my family to grow closer together.
The kitchen is now the warm epicenter of our home, and no longer the center of my bitter OCD attacks.  After all, it’s never spotless anymore because something is always cooking.  I admit, I used to keep a pretty cold kitchen—I preferred to have nothing on the counters. Ever.  Not even the toaster.  Now it’s warm and lived-in, and I kind
of like it this way.

Yesterday afternoon, we had our afternoon lull and we all wanted something sweet for a snack.  Without much thought, I preheated the oven and started dumping ingredients into a bowl to form a cookie dough.  20 minutes later we had amazing whole wheat cinnamon apple cookies!  It was amazing to be able to just whip up some cookies like that.  It would have actually taken my longer to drive to the store to buy them!

Today’s recipe:
Whole wheat cinnamon apple cookies

1 cup whole wheat flour
½ cup honey
1 apple, chopped (I didn’t peel mine)
dash of baking powder (you can also substitute baking soda and cream of tartar)
1 egg
¼ cup oil
cinnamon to taste

Preheat oven to 350.  Mix ingredients to form dough.  Form into balls on greased cookie sheet.  Bake for 12 minutes.

Privilege, [food] Politics, and Priorities

My background in Women’s Studies has left me in a constant mode of analysis; I can’t
help seeing everything through the lenses of race, class, and gender.  That said, I can’t avoid thinking about how access and privilege play into this food journey.  Am I just another bored, middle class suburban white woman subscribing to a new trend that not everyone could afford?  Am I standing against food politics, or reinforcing class politics?  Could everyone benefit from this way of living, or is it only available to some?  I am still thinking through this.

I have to believe that, ultimately, we can affect change by supporting sustainable
agriculture.  We are standing against a political system that determines what foods will be produced and distributed throughout not only our country, but the world.  How much of what we eat in the United States is determined by the USDA, and how much is the USDA influenced by private money?  For basic information, check out:

And we can think about this on a global scale as well.  There are people currently
starving in countries that used to  sustain themselves with agriculture.  Now, thanks to late twentieth-century economic restructuring, these countries are forced to sell their own crops for the money to buy imported food.  Only they aren’t making enough money to buy the food.  So they export their own food for money…that won’t buy food.  How much sense does this make?  You can read more about this in several places, but here’s a link I grabbed just now:

I do acknowledge that not everyone has knowledge of, or access to, the kinds of foods my family is eating.  I still don’t know exactly how I feel about this.  I am lucky to have the time in a day to bake my own bread.  I am lucky that I can afford to pay slightly more for organic, local food.  I am sad that for so many, this is not the case.  But I am affecting change in the way that I can.  This does mean arranging my priorities during the week to make the time for the cooking and shopping, and it involves partnership from my family.  And it also means re-prioritizing my budget to accommodate the slightly heavier emphasis on food.  Manicure, or better food for my family?  Another
pair of shoes from a department store, or an hour spent buying vegetables from a local, small-scale farmer who is working hard to beat the odds that are stacked against her?

Today’s recipe:
Easy whole wheat/oat bread (NOT VEGAN!)


My very first loaf of homemade bread EVER!


2c white bread flour
2.5c whole wheat bread flour
1c oats
1t sea salt
2T molasses
1T honey
1c water (warm)
1c milk (warm)
1 packet of yeast
4T butter (melted)

Mix dry ingredients in bowl.  In separate bowl, mix first four wet ingredients; add yeast and stir to dissolve. Add butter and dry ingredients.  Knead for about 10 minutes; add flour if necessary, dough should not stick to the bowl.  Cover and let rise for about an

Punch down dough and lay out flat on a lightly floured counter.  Shape into rectangle
the width of bread pan.  Pull top to center, and bottom to center; there should be a crease in the middle and the dough should now be about the side and shape of the bread pan.  Place dough in pan, crease side down.  Tuck edges down.  Cover and let rise for about 45 minutes.  Pre-heat oven to 400.  Don’t be surprised (like I was the first time) when it actually looks like bread at this point!  Enjoy the sense of accomplishment a little early–you’re almost there!

After dough has risen, bake for 40 minutes; bread should sound hollow when you knock on it.  Remove from pan, cool on rack.

On making mistakes, cool kids, and oatmeal!

So let’s just be real here—I have cooked a few truly awful dishes!  But really, who am I fooling?  This is an experiment!  I have had no formal culinary training (or informal, for that matter).  I am cooking vegetables that I can’t even spell, as well as a few that I
can’t even name!  And as it turns out, you can screw up vegetables: we found this out last night.  Not counting my not-so-good vegetable stew, this was my first real inedible screw-up.

You may have noticed a pile of green mush on the plate beside last night’s chana masala—that was some kind of kale (greener and waxier than any I’ve had before) which, according to the guy at the farm stand, should have tasted like spinach.  So I cooked it like spinach: I heated some olive oil and garlic in the pan, added my greens and a pinch of sea salt, then sauteed them over medium heat until they got
a little soft.

My daughter was the first to try it, and she was pretty enthusiastic about telling me how good it was!  Mike was next…bless him for being so gentle about it.  He took a huge bite, and when I asked him how it was he said they were “just a little bit on the bitter side.”  A few minutes later I tried them myself, and could hardly force myself to swallow them!  Mike was just about to take his second bite when I admitted how awful they were—he actually refrained from that next bite, relieved that he didn’t have to pretend to like them.  Isabella actually pretended to be disappointed that I didn’t expect her to finish hers, but I’m fairly certain I saw relief in her eyes!

In the process of totally screwing up something, I learned something about my family’s commitment to this adventure—and we grew closer as a team because we were able to laugh at our mistakes and be honest with ourselves and each other.  Seriously–How cool is my kid??

Seriously--how cool is this kid?!


For anyone who is intimidated by the idea of making a change, laugh with us!  If anyone could do this and get it right the first time, every time, I’d be shocked to hear about it.  I’ve been getting a lot of feedback from people who tell me that they admire what we’re doing.  But my goal is not to present our journey in a way that looks
admirable, intimidating, or unachievable; my goal is to show what it looks like when a real family decides to try something new.

I found time to post early today, and we are having leftovers for lunch.  So my recipe of the day will have to be the breakfast I made this morning:

Apple-Cinnamon Oatmeal

2 cups whole oats
1 or 2 apples, peeled and cut into small pieces
about 2 tablespoons of honey
2.5 cups of water

Add apples, cinnamon, and honey to medium sauce pan; cook on medium/low until the juice starts to cook out of the apples and you have a pan full of mushy, juicy apple stuff.  Add water and bring to a boil.  Add oats and return to boil, cooking for about 3 minutes; cover, let sit on medium/low heat until water is absorbed and oats reach your desired consistency.  I like my oats slightly chewy and liquidy.  Is that a word?  hmm. 

Ok, so this breakfast wasn’t rocket science; but so many people rely on instant oatmeal!  This is like nails on a chalkboard to me–instant oats are nowhere near as nutritious as whole, and nothing beats the natural sweetness and value of real apples and honey!  We have been tricked into thinking that “instant” foods are faster and more convenient than making it ourselves–but this breakfast took me about 8 minutes and fed my whole family at once.  To make instant oats for three people would require at least 9 minutes, because you’d have to microwave it all separately, and then no one could eat together.  Also, a lot of people think that oats can’t taste good without butter, brown sugar, milk, etc.  If you need proof that they can, try making it my way!


This week I think I had much more success at the farmers’ market.  But the part where Isabella was super interested…yeah that didn’t last long.  My kid has this awesome way of making me look like an asshole in front of other people—she exaggerates how tired her legs are, starts walking funny…yeah the whole nine yards.  Oh well, with a six year old you win some and you lose some.  (Later, I won with a fantastic glass of wine…) So I focused on making sure I had enough veggies for the week and decided to stock up on fruit later that day when my family went up to Ellijay for the apple festival.


Stocked up at the farmers' market!

Long story short, the orchard did not quite happen.  After a three hour trip that should have only taken an hour, we basically had to turn around and go home with no apples.  Do not—I repeat—do not go to Ellijay for the apple festival unless you love bumper to bumper traffic and long lines, compounded by questions like “mommy, when
do we get to see the apple trees?”

So this brings me to an interesting question in our lifestyle change.  Is it realistic to hope that we could buy all of our produce from local farms?  Because quite frankly, I spent an hour at Harry’s (Whole Foods) Market this afternoon, catching up on all of
the things I forgot, couldn’t find, or otherwise couldn’t obtain.  I was able to find apples from Mercier farms (take THAT Ellijay…), but I realized that there were no other local fruits in season.  At least none at Harry’s.  So I broke.  Totally buckled.  I bought lemons from Chile, oranges from Florida, and mushrooms from Pennsylvania.  It also occurred to me that the middle of October is a really horrible time to decide to depend solely on local farm produce.  After all, there aren’t many places in the world that are
known for food abundance in the winter…which is why food surpluses became so important in the first place.

It’s time to re-assess our goals and really decide what’s important.  We have so far agreed that we want to do the following:

  1. avoid—and ultimately elminate—all packaged/precooked/pre-made/processed
  2. reduce  our use of disposable storage and paper products
  3. rely on local farms and seasonal vegetables as much as possible
  4. know where our food comes from
  5. eliminate unethical, hormonally enhanced meat
  6. reduce our dairy consumption and look into alternatives until we figure out
    what we want to do with it and until we rule out lactose-intolerance
  7. learn to enjoy the natural flavors of fruits and vegetables
  8. eliminate artificial sweeteners
  9. concentrate on fueling our bodies properly for the sports we participate in

In some ways these are all very easy changes for us to make, because we are not strangers to dietary restrictions.  The challenge is to retrain ourselves to stop thinking of food as something that must be restricted, avoided, or feared.  We believe that by focusing on balance, keeping a good variety, and eliminating unnecessary ingredients, we can achieve a balance that is both mental and physical.  I am proud to say that I have not given a single thought to my caloric intake in over a week.  I know my body well enough to know when and how to feed it.

My family has benefited so much from this adventure in just two short weeks.  Isabella feels like she’s on a team with us, so she’s not acting up as much for our attention.  She’s excited about the adventure aspect, and is eating foods that most people would never expect a six year old to eat. There is also much less tension in the house because cooking, eating, and shopping are no longer rushed—we all participate in some way, because that is truly what it takes.  And don’t get me wrong, we definitely have some pretty tense moments in the kitchen, but they are the kind that we can laugh at five minutes later.  For instance, last night Mike took on the responsibility of making our pizza dough from scratch while I made the sauce…boy was he pretty annoyed
at the lengthy process!  There may have been some four-letter moments!  But secretly, I was stoked!  Finally he understands what goes on in the kitchen while he’s not looking!  I no longer feel under-appreciated, and he no longer feels intimidated by
the kitchen.  Mutually beneficial arrangement!

Today, I will share the recipe for the amazing meal I made for dinner, along with a bonus recipe I made with the leftover chickpeas!

Chana masala, and roasted red pepper hummus. 

cups dried chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
(soak overnight with enough water to cover; I soak them right in the crock

In the morning, rinse and drain beans; return to crock pot.  Cover with water, cook on medium for about four hours.  (I turned mine to “warm” after about four hours, because I wanted them to still be firm for dinner.  When I do it again, I’ll start them later in the day). 

2T olive oil
garlic to taste (I use a lot!)
½ onion, chopped (Mike hates it so I have to use powder)
½ lemon
1 tomato, chopped
1T coriander
1T cumin
1t turmeric
1t paprika
½ t cayenne pepper
1/2 t garam masala

Once beans have cooked to desired tenderness, heat oil in large pot.  Add garlic and onion, cook for about a minute.  Add all but the last two spices, cook for about 30 seconds or until spices start to really smell good.  Add the tomato and cook for about five minutes on medium/low heat.  Add 3 ½ cups of the cooked beans, with about a cup of water.  As you bring that to a boil, add the juice of ½ lemon, paprika, garam masala, and salt and pepper to taste.  Cook for about ten minutes, reduce to low heat; cover and serve over rice when eady.

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus:
I made mine while my chana masala was cooking! 

Add remaining beans to food processor with the following:

garlic (I use a lot!)
juice of ½ lemon
1T cumin
Roasted red pepper*

*I roasted my red pepper in the oven, by placing a whole red pepper (top and seeds removed) onto a baking sheet; broil on high until the skin turns brown and starts to bubble, and then turn it over.  Continue until entire pepper is brown and peeling.  I don’t remove the skin, though most probably do.  After it cools, you can throw it in the
food processor with the other ingredients.


Starting Week 3

During week one, we were about three days into our first goal when we realized that we were ready for the next one: to rely entirely on local, seasonal organic produce.  For us, this meant the farmers’ market.  So on Saturday morning, I brought Isabella and my big bag, and we had a blast talking to the farmers, getting to know about vegetables we’d never seen before, and picking up cooking tips.  I had forgotten how much more fun it was to shop this way, and Isabella really enjoyed it too.  She didn’t do any of the squirming and wriggling that she does in the grocery store, because at the farmers market there is always someone talking to her—she is included in the shopping experience.  I let her choose some of the vegetables and fruits, and she also enjoyed carrying the bags.

We left the market two hours later and completely loaded down with more fruits and vegetables than I’d ever bought at one time.  I think we had a dozen apples and oranges, a big bag of green beans, ten zucchini, eight tomatoes, a pumpkin, a couple of avocados, an eggplant, a variety of lettuces and green, a mixed bag of peppers, a jar of honey…I’m sure there was more that I have since forgotten.  My concern at the time was that some would go to waste if I wasn’t careful; after all, we are new at this.  However, by Wednesday I had run out of everything but one tomato and four zucchini.  Luckily I had a few things leftover from previous trips to the grocery store,
but I still had to make an emergency trip to a local indoor farmers market.  I learned a lesson there too—a store’s claims to be local and organic means nothing!  Only a handful of items truly were—the rest had stickers from California and even a couple from South America!

This morning, we are up early eating breakfast and getting ready for the farmers market.  I recently contacted Turtle Bend farm about joining their 2012 CSA, and I look forward to meeting them at the market this morning.  We like them because they are a tiny operation.  If you’re interested, you can check out their blog here:   (They didn’t pay me to link that).

Every day we are coming to new questions concerning the ethics of the food we’re buying.  For instance, how can we strike a balance between personal health and extreme limitations?  Do we go hungry before we shop at Publix, just to make a point?  So far, we are not willing to do that.  What about smally family owned restaurants—do we withhold our business because of how they buy their produce?  We have started
by compiling a list of local farm-to-table restaurants.  How can we buy our gains, nuts, and seeds locally?  So far we are relying on a local bulk store. And there have been plenty of products that we are slowly working to replace with our own: so far we have been able to make our own bread, crackers, pizza crust, and cereal.  We are tiptoeing around the issue of pasta…but really, we thought bread would be difficult and so far it hasn’t been.  And I thought I couldn’t part with my Kashi cereal, and I have found that making my own is by far better.  Maybe pasta won’t be so hard to make…

Goals for today’s trip:

–double the quantity of vegetables and fruits that I bought last week

–find out more information about CSAs (Community Sustained Agriculture: it means that you buy a membership directly from the farm, and pay a weekly fee that covers a set quantity of a variety of what they picked that week)

–start a relationship with a local diary farmer and experiment with small amounts of local dairy and eggs

–talk to the woman at the pumpkin stand and thank her for teaching me how to puree a pumpkin!

Today’s Recipe: Cold breakfast cereal (also known as…granola.  Go ahead, bring on the jokes!)

whole oats, uncooked
whatever nuts, seeds, dried fruit, and bran/germ you have lying around
enough honey to just barely coat all of the above dry ingredients

Mix together in a bowl, using honey sparingly but being sure to coat all of the oats.  Pour out onto a foil-lined baking sheet; bake at 350 for about 30 minutes, stirring every ten minutes.  Let cool completely—it will crisp up a little more as it cools.  I am
storing mine in an airtight cereal-pouring contraption made by Rubbermaid.  I swear they didn’t pay me to say that, but now that I think about it…






Catching Up On Week One

A major turning point for my family was the recognition that the word “healthy” had become a joke to us. I bought Splenda in bulk and kept a measuring cup in the bag so that we could easily dump a half cup into my coffee and oats in the morning.  I was aware that this wasn’t healthy, and my common retort was “I’d rather have cancer than diabetes…”  Not cool.  But there were many other examples like this one—to us, food was for muscle building and fat control, and as long as we could manipulate our macros as we pleased, we gave little thought to the consequences.

…Then there were the anxiety attacks.  Apparently, juggling school, family, and sports were tremendously taxing on my nervous system and emotional well-being.  My anxiety attacks were compounded by alternating mood swings, depression, and
lethargy.  I started reading into chronic fatigue syndrome and realized that between my workouts, stress, caffeine, and unhealthy eating, my body was pissed at me…and showing it.  I wasn’t the only one exhibiting signs of stress and frustration–tension and stress in my household had begun to build as well.

From there, I started running and pursuing athletic outlets that made me feel good.
Running is my meditation time.  I also started cooking more, and my family really enjoyed this.  But one night, my daughter said “Mommy, you’re such a good cook.  I bet you could make broccoli!”  She sincerely did not know that I could not create broccoli in my kitchen.  At the same time, she had begun to show some signs of entitlement, materialism, and other selfish qualities typical of many Americans.  I realized that, in my attempt to give my daughter the best, I had failed to truly teach my daughter the values that are most important to me.

At this point, Mike and I decided to do a massive overhaul of our way of life.  We probably could have chosen many other starting points, but we both felt that we needed to really get back in touch with nature.  We had discussed on many occasions
the ethical problems behind our consumption of slaughtered animals, and we had already eliminated canned items from our diet.  We began to question our protein shakes, dairy, and many products that contained ingredients that we couldn’t even pronounce.  We quickly decided to move toward eating a plant-based diet.

We knew better than to get too extreme to quickly, and quite frankly we weren’t sure how far we could push things.  We also didn’t want to fall into a trap of subscribing to a
pre-packaged diet trend.  Why subscribe to someone else’s ethics, or someone else’s science, or someone else’s argument?  We wanted the chance to form our own.  This blog is not to lead you to our way of life: it is to show you what a journey looks like so that you can take your own.

So we set a simple goal: one week, no meat.  Instead, we decided on a “plant-based, whole foods diet” (Term borrowed from Forks Over Knives) for the week.  We had already taken quinoa, whole oats, dried beans, and lentils as staple foods, so we really only needed to replace our huge consumption of unethical meat with a variety of fruits and vegetables.  We started on a Tuesday.  The next day, I went to the grocery store and bought all kinds of fruits and vegetables.  These lasted us for about two days before we started questioning where they had come from.  By Saturday, we had already decided on a new goal: sustain our family for one week on only those fruits and vegetables we could buy at the Saturday farmers’ market.

We decided to treat ourselves to sushi at the end of the week to discuss how the week had gone and to set new goals.  However, by the time we were ready to go out, neither of us really cared to go out; we did anyway, and really couldn’t enjoy it.  We took this as a sign that the week had gone well.

I will stop here for now.  Sorry for all of the catching up, because I know many of you are reading for the details of our journey rather than the philosophical processes behind it.  But the story would not be complete without the background, and the journey won’t make sense out of context.  Many of you have no idea how crazy it is that we, of all people, have come to this; others of you know exactly how uncharacteristic of us this really is.  We are not “hippy-dippy,” “tree-hugging,” or “save the whales” kind of people.  I think that is ultimately what makes the journey worth reading.  They won’t all be this long.  🙂

Recipe: Crackers!  Mike made these last night.  Great with hummus, avocado, or peanut butter.

1.5 Cup whole wheat flour
1.5cup white flour
1/4 cup wheat germ

1t sea salt
1/3cup olive oil
1cup warm water

Mix, knead for 4-5 minutes.  Form into balls, coat with oil; let rest for 30 minutes.  Roll out balls into desired shape, bake at 450 for six minutes or until golden brown.

He just used whatever flours we had laying around–next time he plans to add flax seeds and sunflower seeds.


This blog was created for the purpose of tracking my journey as a parent, athlete, scholar, and…well, a person who is coming to consciousness about food, health, and the body.  You may be wondering what I mean by that, and quite frankly
I’m not really sure.  Follow me as I figure it out!  Please keep in mind that the choices I will be discussing are from the collective conscience of my household, and we are learning as we go.  What is right for us may not be right for another, and vise-versa: that said, nothing I write in this blog claims to be prescriptive or authoritative—you may borrow my recipes as you wish, but be mindful that as of now, they may contain gluten, nuts, dairy, and other animal products.  We do not claim to be vegan or vegetarian, nor have we positively identified any food allergies.

I am sharing this journey for my own benefit as well as the benefit of others.  This blog is not concerned with weight loss, nor does it approach the body from an aesthetic
perspective.  We come in all shapes and sizes, and from my time spent in bodybuilding, sports, and personal training I have come to realize that health happens when the mind, body, and soul stop fighting each other.  There are people who may, for whatever reason, truly need to lose weight.  There are others who measure their happiness by weight, jeans size, and bodily comparisons; I argue that as long as we measure ourselves in these ways, we will never be truly healthy.

Somehow, the conversation surrounding body image, size, and weight has been reduced to two sides: “It’s ok to be fat,” and “one should strive to be thin.”  This binary
leaves very little space for recognizing muscularity, body frame, and genetics.  It also fails to address the differences between fat and big, thin and skinny.  Terms like skinny fat address the outcome of genetically thin people who accumulate body fat.  But
terms like stocky, big-boned, and thick which are often used to describe even the healthiest athletes make skinny fat seem much more desirable.

So, here I am.  Baking bread, pureeing pumpkin, and juicing tomatoes.  (You’d have thought I’d invented fire if you could have seen me do any of these things for the first time!)  If you’re wondering why I’m doing it, how I’m doing it, or how far I’m going to take it, then please be on the lookout for my next post.  I will explain everything from start to present.  🙂

I will try to include, at the end of each post, a recipe from at least one meal I made that day.  As luck would have it, tonight our dinner was the worst one all week, but I’ll share it anyway.  As I will explain in my next post, I haven’t quite perfected the system of weekly farmers’ market shopping.  Afraid to buy too much and have it go to waste, I bought too little and was forced to cook dinner with just what I had left: not knowing what to do, I made stew.  Please keep in mind, I am not an expert!  I can (arguably) make food taste good, and I am still learning about vegetables I have always been too intimidated to bother with.  (What am I going to do with rutabegas???!!!)

Random Vegetable Stew:

two tomatoes (pureed in food processor)
two zuchinnis (ha!  I don’t even know how to spell that or make it plural…) (sliced)
a small bag of red tomatoes (whole)
a small handful of various spicy peppers I can’t even name yet (chopped)
garlic (minced)
one green bell pepper (sliced) 
a handful of green beans (really long ones…he said they were French?)

First I heated a bit of olive oil and added my chopped garlic.  After about a minute, I added the peppers and let them cook for a few minutes.  I then added my bell peppers, green beans, and zuchinni (I will know how to spell this by the time they are out of season, I swear) and let them simmer.  I transferred the entire thing to a bigger pot and added the tomato puree and potatoes, with about two cups of water.  I boiled them for a while with the lid off, and once the water cooked out a bit I put a lid on it for about 20 minutes, until the potatoes were soft.

Not going to lie…it wasn’t the best dinner I’ve made so far.  But my six year old ate it!