Have Your Pie and Eat it Too…in Moderation.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and that makes it the official start of the Holiday Season.  And, as everyone loves to point out, it also signals the start of a long series of holiday feasts.  Why is everyone so quick to complain about the holiday calories, and yet so quick to eat them?  It’s a sad cycle that is certainly not conducive to healthy self-esteem: you hate that you’re going to eat, you eat, you hate that you ate, and then you make a New Year’s resolution to lose the weight.  Couldn’t we just skip a few steps and worry a lot less?  There’s nothing worse than to see this anxiety play out as someone heaps mashed potatoes and gravy onto her plate at the table.  Eat it or don’t, but please do everyone a service and shut up about it!

…So this brings me to my super-cheesy holiday challenge: can’t we all just indulge a little bit?  Eat the Christmas cookie, and maybe even two—but then walk away.  Indulge in that piece of pie (maybe even two…) after the big Thanksgiving meal, but be content not to eat the rest of the pie.  Can you do it?  Even further—can you do it without agonizing about what you ate or about the rest of the pie that you didn’t eat?  Can you indulge (a little), enjoy, and then walk away?  What’s the worst that could happen?  Some might say that the worst thing that could happen is to gain a few pounds.  I say the worst that could happen is to go into self-hatred mode.  I’ve been there—it’s much easier to lose five pounds than it is to feel good about yourself after feeling like you’ve broken rules that don’t even exist.

This holiday season, don’t treat food as an enemy.  Don’t hate your body over a pound gained.  Don’t lose faith in your self-discipline over a piece of pie.  The way I see it, we all have three choices: We can eat our pie in peace, we can peacefully choose not to eat the pie, or we can stress the hell out about whether or not to eat it.

If this blog post finds you at a place in your life in which you cannot exercise control, then what I would like for you to take from this is a new perspective.  Consider setting a goal that is not measured in terms of weight; instead, make it your goal to learn how to enjoy food in moderation.  If you are currently on a nutrition plan that is conducive to a goal that you feel good about, then please talk to your trainer/nutritionist before making any changes.  However, if you struggle with food and your body and want peace in your life, then start now by making changes to your approach!

Today’s recipe:  Hawaiian rolls!

2 packets of yeast
2 tsp honey
½ cup water
1 cup pineapple juice
¾ cup sugar
1tbsp vanilla extract
3 eggs
1 stick of butter, melted
1 tsp cinnamon
6 cups flour

Heat water and add honey; stir in yeast to dissolve.  Set this mixture aside until the yeast blooms, about ten minutes.   Mix in the juice, sugar, vanilla, eggs, and butter (all ingredients but the flour).  Slowly add the flour, about a cup at a time, until a dough is formed.  Turn out onto floured countertop, and knead a few times.  Do not over-knead this dough.  Form into a ball and return to bowl; cover with damp towel.  Allow dough to rise in a warm place for about an hour.   After dough has risen, punch it down to deflate it.  Turn the dough out onto lightly floured countertop, and roll into a long loaf (think French loaf in size and shape).  Cut into 12 equal slices, and roll each section into a ball.  Place the dough balls into a well-greased rectangular glass baking dish, and bake for 35 minutes at 350.  Cool for five minutes in the pan, and then turn out onto a cooling rack.  Serve with cinnamon butter!

 

 

 

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Food Guilt, [Mis]conceptions, and Kale Casserole!


Is it possible for our bodies to just…be?  It seems like we tend to think of our bodies in terms of how they look or what they should be or aren’t doing.  Losing  or gaining weight.  Not losing or not  gaining weight.  Too short, too tall.  Too big, too small.  We tend to think of our bodies as vessels that must be forced into cooperation, beaten into submission, and occasionally over-indulged for a job well done.

This carries over into our [mis]conceptions of food.  We see food as a means to an end—“bad” food makes us fat and guilty, “good” food makes us lose weight and feel good.  But why can’t a cookie just be a cookie sometimes?  Why eat it if you’re going to complain about how guilty you feel afterward?  I have been there, but I’m happy to report that I no longer am.  This is one thing that bodybuilding both complicated and cured for me. 

During a contest prep diet, I allowed myself a Saturday cheat meal; the idea was that I’d eat a “clean” (read: strict!!!!!) diet all week, and then enjoy a meal that did not fit the diet plan.  What I took from this strategy, and what I was able to teach my daughter, is that no food is truly off-limits, if eaten in moderation.  (Oddly, however, I find that I naturally draw the line at some things.) However, my food guilt kicked in on my off-season when I wasn’t dieting, and I soon found myself in an all-or-nothing mode.  The only time I didn’t feel food guilt was when I was dieting.  The rest of the time, even when I knew I was absolutely not supposed to be dieting, I hated myself for all of my “not-clean” foods.  And how healthy is that?  So for me, the goal has been to move beyond that to reach a point where food is just food.

 I have dieted down to single digit body fat.  Twice.   And I will always be comfortable with the knowledge that I completely own my ability to lose weight if I want to.  I have survived the post-contest rebound.  I have lived through periods of bulking (in which I deliberately attempted to gain weight by eating a LOT).  But the true challenge is to do neither.  To simply live—with no food anxieties.  To eat when I’m hungry, and not eat when I’m not hungry.  To enjoy a cupcake from time to time, but to remain conscious of macronutrients when making meal choices.

Some of you may be wondering what this looks like.  For starters, I have rejected the notion that the healthy body can be measured aesthetically.  Perhaps I am perceived to be healthier at 10% bodyfat than I do at 18%, but in truth I’m much healthier when I am not dieting.  This goes a long way to help me make decisions about food.  Instead of choking down mass-produced chicken in the name of protein, and pumping myself full of caffeine to get through the day after rigorous workouts, I am listening to my body and realizing that my adrenal glands are pissed at me and my digestive system prefers to be meat-free.

Not single digit body fat, but soooo much healthier!

On an everyday level, I know how to balance meals.  Even without meat, I still can’t ignore the importance of balancing macronutrients—this means making sure that I am getting a good balance of protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates.  Granted, my macronutrient balance looks a little bit different than it used to, but I am still making sure to get enough protein throughout my day.  And I really don’t have to think about it very hard—it’s become second nature.  So at the end of the week, when I have maintained a balance all week, if I want a cookie I will enjoy one without a second thought and certainly without guilt.  Not because “I’ve been good all week and am now entitled,” which is what I hear people say far too often, but because I feel like having a damn cookie.

Today’s recipe was born out of necessity—upon searching my kitchen for ingredients, I realized that the only local produce I was able to purchase this week was a basket of sweet potatoes, several peppers, and a lot of kale.  So I decided to experiment with a casserole, and it actually went REALLY well!  With one leftover white potato and a few other ingredients I had laying around, I found a great use for kale!

Ingredients:
Kale (several bunches)
One sweet potato (mandolin sliced thinly)
One white potato (mandolin sliced thinly)
4tbsp Olive oil
2 tbsp flour
½ cup Vegetable broth
¾ cup Milk
1 tsp tarragon
salt
pepper
½ cup cheddar cheese

In large pot, heat broth and 2tbsp of the oil; add kale and sautee until kale cooks down.  Reduce heat to low and cover for 10 minutes.  Drain kale in colander; while kale drains, heat remaining oil in the pot the kale was in.  Sprinkle in the flour while whisking to form a roux; slowly whisk in milk and bring to a boil.  Add tarragon, salt, and pepper.  Reduce heat and add kale; stir to coat, remove from heat.

In large greased casserole dish, form a layer of potatoes using roughly half of them.  Spread kale mixture over the layer of potatoes and top with half of the cheese.  Form another layer using the remainder of the potatoes and top with remaining cheese.

Bake at 400 for 20-30 minutes, or when potatoes are soft.  The time will vary depending on the thickness of the potato slices.

Too Busy?

A variation of today's recipe

Ok, so I hit some snags over the weekend.  And please, refrain from slinging your “I told you sos” at me!  This blog is an honest account of my journey, and if all I had was good news to report, surely you’d know I was lying.  So…just in case I was making it sound a little too easy, here’s the truth: it’s really really hard to make this work with a busy work schedule.  There.  I admit it.  But don’t give up on me just yet—I’m not ready to throw in the towel.  I have learned some valuable lessons for next time.

Over the weekend I worked about 30 hours, leaving early in the morning and not making it home until after my daughter was asleep.  Not only did I miss breakfast, lunch and dinner with my family, but I also wasn’t available to cook or shop for them.  And while I have a supportive partner, he’s never been in charge of the meal planning or grocery shopping.  And to be honest I didn’t leave them very prepared for my absence.  (Spoiler: they did, in fact, manage to live without me).

No time to make a trip to the farmers market.  No time to cook dinner, so therefore no premade lunches.  And as luck would have it, we (well, they) ran out of just about everything.  And we learned why fast food is such a strong industry, though I can report that we still all firmly refrained.  Thursday night they went to a local pizza restaurant.  Friday night he made a dinner out of eggs and our remaining potatoes and peppers.  Saturday, we all went out for sushi.   Sunday, Mike whipped up some fried rice.  And for lunch, as many of you may relate to, I ate lunch out with colleagues each day, which was a necessary part of my weekend.

So I was able to do some things that worked, and I was able to make a note of many things I would do differently next time.  My general list of tips:

–NEVER RUN OUT OF OATS.  EVER.  What was I thinking?  It screwed over the entire weekend.   More specifically, my tip is to buy more of your staple foods than you think you’re going to need.

–Make a few staples ahead of time.  If you know you are headed for a stretch of time that will be exceptionally busy, you can prepare and store a few things like beans, rice, and quinoa.  And in the future, any time I make these staples I will make enough not only for lunch leftovers but also to freeze a batch for the occasional unanticipated late workdays.

–Be firmly committed to your lifestyle and make a priority list.  There were so many instances in which fast food would have been the most logical solution, but because it is absolutely not an option to us, we prioritized so that when compromises had to be made it wasn’t over that.

–Decide what you will and won’t eat if you have to eat out.  Again, I’m still not sure how I feel about eating out, but I haven’t ruled it out entirely.  What I have ruled out for certain is eating mass-produced meat, consuming overly processed foods, and eating at chain restaurants.  Even when eating out with others, you have a surprising amount of flexibility.  There is usually that moment when no one can decide where to go—and it’s important to take charge.  Make a few suggestions that you are comfortable with, and people will invariably find themselves choosing from the options you’ve named.  I ended up having fantastic salads (dressing on the side, no extra junk) at local restaurants and my friends were happy to try something new.

–have a few easy-to-prepare, go-to meals that a partner can prepare or that you can prepare quickly.  For us, the pan-fried potatoes and scrambled eggs with peppers was a lifesaver!  We almost always have those ingredients laying around.  Another was fried rice.  We almost always have rice, and we just toss in whatever veggies we have.

–In the future, I will also be comfortable bringing my meals.  As awkward as it sounds, I have brought many meals to restaurants with me, or I have found ways to manipulate foods that are offered.  It helps that most of my friends think my fitness background is awesome and are willing to be supportive.  However, even in the absence of that background you will find that your friends will be more than supportive of your efforts to reach health and fitness goals.  It’s not embarrassing to care about your health.  It is, however, embarrassing for your friends to chow down on a cheeseburger in your healthy presence, so be prepared for that…

–Dig deep to find the drive to do what needs to be done.  When I get home, I’m tired.  By Sunday I just wanted to drink a bottle of wine, lay on my couch, and veg out.  But had I done that, I’d be screwed for this week, too.  So I dug deep and still managed to shop for the week, bake two loaves of bread and prepare the week’s vegetable broth.  And trust me, I’m not really the disciplined person that I might appear to be.  I think at the end of the day it comes down to two factors for me: What things I really find important and worth committing to, and remembering that I have made a commitment worth keeping.  I am not always stoked to be doing it, but I said I would so it’s at least worth going through the motions until I am inspired again.  This thought process can apply to anything: the gym, a nutrition plan, a political belief, a parenting style, etc.

Today’s recipe:

Our go-to fried rice!

This isn’t a recipe, it’s a guideline.  And I’m no genius, but if you’re looking for an idea for a quick meal or a way to get rid of leftovers, it might be a great reminder.  It’s quick, it’s easy, you can’t mess it up, and it’s a great way to incorporate small bits of vegetables that might otherwise go to waste.  I prefer to use cold, leftover rice because it fries better.

Here are some examples of the vegetables that would go well here:

Shredded cabbage (I almost always have leftover cabbage)
Carrot
Celery
Peas
Green beans
Corn
Zucchini
Squash
Onion
Broccoli
Greens of any sort

I like to add my veggies to the food processor an chop them into smithereens so that I have a great mixture of flavors and colors.

Sautee garlic in oil, add chopped vegetables and cook until they are tender.  Remove this mixture from the pan and use it to scramble a few eggs; return veggies to pan with egg and add rice.  Fry, adding soy sauce to taste.  You could also add pineapple, ginger, coconut milk, and any other flavors you’d like.  Again, you cannot mess this up.

“Mommy, Are We Ever Going to Have NORMAL Pizza?”

When is someone going to call me out over the fact that I’m bringing a six year old into this whole big sustainable eating project?  Surely someone is reading this blog and thinking, “yeah right, there’s no WAY my kid would eat that.”  And it wouldn’t be fair to say that it’s not an issue in my household as well.   I struggle a bit, but not always in the way that I might have expected.  First, I have to say that I have a child with an extremely adventurous spirit—I guess I can chalk it up to the fact that she was born in Turkey and has had more transatlantic flight time than most adults I know!  She’s my road-trip buddy, my vacation friend, and my partner in all things fun and mischievous.  So of course she was down with mommy’s food adventure!  My struggle, however, is to create balance for her so that she doesn’t miss out on “kid foods” and end up with a complex about junk food as a result of a deprived childhood.  Restated: I don’t want to be the crazy hippie mom who screwed up her kid.

I’m by no means qualified to write articles about making coordinating holiday curtains and napkin rings, or turning vegetables into kid-friendly dinosaur shapes.  I don’t arrange zucchini into flowers, or make food into smiley faces on her plate. I didn’t even do the airplane spoon!  These things really aren’t my thing.  My approach is a little more straightforward.  I don’t offer an alternate meal at dinner—I’m more of a “this is what we’re eating” kind of mom.  So how do I get her to eat?

For the most part she is excited to eat what I cook because she’s involved in some way now.  She helps me carry vegetables at the farmers market, and then helps me wash them when we get home.  Later, when it’s time to eat kale or turnips, she feels connected to them and can’t wait to know what they taste like.  She especially loves turnips because they usually have dirt on them.

This is definitely one way to do it...(Borrowed from cutefoodsforkids.com)

The best way, in my opinion, to get my daughter to eat what I cook is to make her feel included—not just in the preparation process, but in the adventure in general.  In my household, trying new things and being open-minded is right up there with the Golden Rule.  She is not praised or rewarded for eating everything I cooked and mindlessly doing what was expected of her—she is praised for her willingness to try something new.  I don’t expect her to eat an entire bowl of curried lentil stew, but I do expect her to try a small portion of it.  When we run into something that she genuinely doesn’t like, I adjust her meal so that it’s fair to her, and without sending the message that I’m willing to cook her an entirely separate meal.

Sometimes I have to get a little creative.  Not cutesy Halloween sandwich creative, but a little outside-the-box nonetheless.  For instance, squash doesn’t sound so great to a kid, so from the time she was about two years old I just convinced her it was pumpkin.  Very similar, but eating the jack-o-lantern was much more appealing to a kid than eating something that sounds like it may have come to an unfortunate end before reaching the dinner table.  And eggplant?  Who in their right mind would want to eat something squishy that has egg in it?  I can’t blame her.  But what’s in a name?  In my house we refer to it as “that really pretty purple vegetable.”  This concept works for many, many things.   And with especially strange-looking foods, I help things out by mentioning that it’s so-and-so’s favorite.  She hasn’t yet figured out that her grandmother and aunt have an impossibly long list of “favorite” foods…

But recently, she asked for “normal pizza,” and I realized that despite her adventurous spirit, maybe not everything I’m doing is entirely fair to her.  So I will be making a few compromises.  First, I have started making a big deal about home made Sunday brunch—and she gets to choose what we make.  Also, once a week I let her order a personal pizza from a local pizza place.  I want her to know that she is not entirely helpless and that I hear her concerns.  The kid eats kale, lentils, and quinoa (along with pasta and other kid-friendly home made meals), so I’m happy to compromise.  It’s not my job to shelter her and make all of her decisions—it’s my responsibility to guide her and educate her so that later she can decide how she feels about Pizza Hut.

Today’s recipe is one of Isabella’s favorites, and this recipe for black beans can be made into at least four different meals: tacos, chili, soup, and with rice.  This is also ideal for the convenience factor because if you make a huge batch, you can either freeze the leftovers or repurpose them the next day.   There is absolutely no way to mess this up unless the beans are undercooked!

Basic Black Beans:

If you’re feeling a little extra fun, you could always use my recipe in conjunction with this creepy festive idea! (photo found at http://familyfun.go.com/halloween/halloween-recipes/halloween-snacks/black-bean-cat-crudites-688201/)

2 Cups black beans
4 cups water
corn (you can use frozen, but fresh off the cobb tastes the best!
zucchini, diced (optional)
carrot, diced
chili powder (2tsp)
cumin  (1tsp)
onion powder (1/2 tsp)
2 cloves pressed garlic
salt (to taste)
cayenne pepper (optional)

Soak the beans overnight; I let mine soak in the crock pot.  Drain and rinse, add more water.  If you don’t remember to presoak, you can quick boil them (boil ten minutes, drain, add enough water to cover, then continue to the next step).

Add all of the remaining ingredients, with the exception of the corn and zucchini.  Let cook in crock pot for at least three hours.  If you start them in the morning and plan to eat them for dinner, then cover and cook on low.  If you have less time, cover and cook on high.  Watch to be sure that the water has not cooked out; add water as needed.

Add zucchini and corn 20 minutes before serving.

When I serve these over rice, I prefer them to be a little more watery.  In tacos, I let the water cook out.  For chili, I cook them with crushed tomatoes and serve with cheddar cheese.  For soup, I add a few potatoes and whatever greens (chopped) I have lying around.

Tips for Busy People, Tomato Soup

Just in case anyone was wondering, I do have plenty to do besides staying home and cooking every meal of the day.  The food aspect of my life is only an attempt to chill the hell out and enjoy life more healthfully.  It’s great for my health, great for my family, and contributes to the greater good of my community.  I laugh more, I stress out less, and I enjoy things differently.

That said, this is still a very stressful time in my life.  Maybe some of you can relate: one semester left of grad school…and then what?!  The choice between a lifetime of academia (because face it, what the hell else does one do with a PhD in Cultural Studies, Women’s Studies, or Cultural Anthropology?), racking up tremendous amounts of debt in law school, or joining the work force as a minion with a Master’s degree…pretty stressful.  And then of course there is the stress of wondering WHO ON EARTH WILL TAKE ME?!  And I pretty much just glazed over the most stressful part of my life: one semester left of grad school!  This means I have to pump out a thesis within the next few months, while raising a first grader who has gymnastics and homework and festivals and library books and permission forms and questionsquestionsquestions.  She’s my world though.

…Meanwhile, I’m baking bread every week, cooking breakfast, lunch, and dinner from scratch, and basically ridding my life of every food convenience you can think of.  So in case you’re reading my blog and wondering how on earth you could live without Happy Meals, boxed foods, and frozen dinners, I’m here to help.  Please, by all means, send me your questions!

First things first, I use Sunday as a make-ahead day.  This is actually something I’ve been doing since my bodybuilding days.  Basically, anything that can be made ahead of time and stored appropriately, I make on Sunday.   Every Sunday, I make two loaves of bread; one I store, and one I freeze.  I use this bread for Isabella’s lunches, sandwiches, or for use with dinner.  On Sunday morning, if there is any left, I use it to make French toast.  I think this week we will have a lot left over, so I will make a lot of French toast and whatever is left after breakfast I will freeze for Isabella’s breakfasts.  Other things I make ahead on Sundays are: hummus (accessible go-to healthy fats!), vegetable broth, pizza dough, and granola.  Granola is especially convenient for those mornings that I don’t feel like cooking (yes, I have those mornings too), and I store it in a plastic cereal container.

Throughout the week, I generally decide what to make for dinner based on the state of my produce.  For instance, some things last longer than other things, so I try to use up the more perishable things early in the week.  By the end of the week, dinners are decided by what’s not going to last another day!  Last night we had tomato soup and mozerella/spinach paninis (recipes below!).  Basically, I had to use up bread, tomatoes, and spinach.  This is a fun system because it forces me to make things up on the fly.  Have you ever seen that show Chopped?  Yeah, that’s going down in my kitchen every day!

Mozzarella and spinach panini on homemade bread!

Aside from my make-ahead Sundays, something else I do to make more effective use of my time is to cook a little extra any time I can.  Spaghetti sauce is so easy to make and even easier to store, so I try to make a double or triple batch at once; then, later in the week I can use it again for pizza or another pasta dish.  Also, by making a little extra at dinner, lunch for the next day is already done!  We do a lot with beans, quinoa, and rice, so it’s very easy to repurpose them for a new lunch, or for a quick lunch on the go we simply eat them as leftovers of whatever we had the night before.

Another major time-saver is that I rarely refer to recipes for dinner tips and ideas.  I make most of it up totally on the fly, so I don’t waste any time measuring out spices and other ingredients.  I use what I have, omit or replace what I don’t, and basically just make it work.  I have many, many variations of what I affectionately refer to as “@#$% in a pot,”  and “@#$% in a bowl.”  You get the idea.  Sometimes it goes so well that I write down everything I did so that I can recreate it, but other times I’m content to make it differently every time.  Quinoa, beans, pasta dishes, rice dishes, soups, sauces, granola, and stews are among the things that I think would get boring if they didn’t taste a little different every time I make them.

For any tips on storing, preparing, or planning meals, please feel free to email me or drop me a comment.  Also, don’t forget to subscribe so that you can receive email updates!

Today’s recipe is for my tomato soup.  To be fair, I pretty much just made it up on the fly, but it was honestly the best tomato soup I’ve ever eaten.  And I never really like tomato soup.  Also, I learned how to make tomato paste in the process!  Two for one!

6 tomatoes
1 red bell pepper
4 cloves of garlic
¼ cup olive oil

2tbsp butter
2tbsp flour
1 cup vegetable broth

Fresh basil
Thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup of milk
¼ cup sugar

Place the first set of ingredients in a food processor and run until a smooth sauce forms.  Boil in a large pot for ten minutes.  Pour through strainer to eliminate seeds and chunks.  Save the remaining mush—store and use as paste in another recipe!

Before returning sauce to the pot, first melt butter in the pot.  Once the butter is melted, whisk in flour and stir quickly to create a roux.  Slowly whisk in broth, ensuring that the roux doesn’t clump up.  Whisk until a smooth liquid forms.

Return to pot and simmer;  add the remaining ingredients.  Bring to a boil and stir constantly until soup thickens slightly.  Cool before serving.

Questions and Donuts

How long before the world of Wall E becomes our reality?  In the movie, the earth had become so polluted that nothing would grow, and the people were forced to board a ship and live in space.  The most disturbing part of the movie, however, was that everyone on the ship was obese and had become so weak that they had to be carted around on something like one-person train cars.  Food had somehow been made even more quick and convenient than in our current reality.  The people were all simply carted around, passive and unthinking.  Are we not half way there already?

Without going into a deep Marxist discussion here, I want to point out what I see as a serious flaw in the way that we shop here in the United States.  We are so incredibly removed from the source of our products, especially food. Everything about the way we buy food seems designed to make it impossible to trace it to a source.  Sadly, it’s “normal” to just accept this, and it’s “weird” to question it.   We have a store here that sells “local” organic produce.  When I first started my search for a CSA, I went there to find out where they buy their produce, and I will never forget how disappointed I was to find out that no one at the store could tell me—but they were happy to look at the stickers on the fruit to at least pinpoint a country of origin.  Gee, thanks guys!  Frustrated, I went to an indoor, year-round farmers market to find out where they buy their produce; luckily, they went into great detail about the various farms around Georgia that they have built relationships with.   But they had no idea what a CSA was.  I can’t fault them for it, but I can be a little disappointed, right?

But, like in Wall-E, we are expected to move constantly forward, as if on a conveyer belt.  We are not supposed to question the status quo.  We are not supposed to know the answers.  We are not supposed to know how things could be different.  We are not supposed to wonder how things have come to be as they are.  We are just supposed to buy them.  I’m always shocked by the number of people around me who refuse to see past the conveyor belt.  First step: ASK QUESTIONS.

Imagine a world in which one could get into trouble for reading books and asking questions--Ray Bradbury did! If you haven't read it, READ IT!!! 🙂

Perhaps the most important lesson I have learned so far is to always ask where food comes from.  I have learned, again and again, that one should NEVER make assumptions, even when things appear cut-and-dry.  For instance, the Marietta Square Farmers Market, which by definition should be entirely comprised of foods that are Georgia grown and produced, has vendors who carry products and produce from many places that are out of state and even out of country!  Last night I had dinner at a restaurant that goes to great lengths to promote itself as a farm-to-table farmstead restaurant…but at closer examination I found that their definition of farmstead isn’t consistent with my own understanding of it.  After enjoying a fantastic meal, I struck up a conversation with the server who, to her credit, was extremely knowledgeable about where the meat and produce came from.  She informed me that they have partnerships with farms all over the world, including Columbia.  Columbia like the country…so much for our new miracle restaurant.

So far, despite my best efforts to stay as close to the source as possible, I have [accidentally] bought “local” apples from New Zealand, and I have enjoyed “farmstead” fare from Columbia.  And every time I think I’ve learned my lesson, I find myself learning it again.  It feels awkward to ask sometimes, but I’m beginning to realize that it’s only awkward if they don’t know—and that’s not my fault for asking, it’s theirs for selling a product they know little or nothing about.  I am also learning to expedite the awkward moment—chances are pretty good that if they don’t understand the question, they’re probably not going to know the answer.  Even people running farmstands at the farmers market look at me like I’ve grown a new head when I ask where their produce is grown.  Some proudly boast about how far their vegetables have traveled to be at our farmers market!  Judging from the reactions I get when I ask, it’s pretty obvious that I’m not supposed to know.  Isn’t that all the more reason to dig for the answer?

Moral of the story?  Ask questions.  Communicate until an understanding is reached, and make no assumptions.  I can’t assume that everyone is speaking the same language when it comes to words such as local, organic, ethical, and sustainable.  And it doesn’t mean that any one definition is wrong—anyone who is out there making an effort gets my respect, even if I disagree with their method.   It’s just frustrating to be a conscious consumer in an economy that has become so disconnected—especially in East Cobb, where it’s suddenly really cool to be healthy and there are so many hip suburban moms shopping on the organic bandwagon.  (Dear god please don’t let me be one of them…)

 Today’s recipe:  Baked Donuts!  

This recipe uses a special baking pan that has cups in the shape of donuts; you could also form into balls and bake on a cookie sheet to make donut holes!

 ***A quick note about flour: most recipes call for a certain kind of flour, depending on the desired consistency.  Personally, I’m more interested in the nutrition.  I think any kind of flour would work in this recipe; I have used all whole-wheat, but my favorite flour to bake with is unbleached white flour w/germ.  It has more protein and fiber than wheat flour, and the taste and consistency aren’t as overwhelming in baked goods as whole wheat sometimes can be.

Next time I make these, I will be replacing ½ cup of flour with ½ cup of quinoa for more protein!

Basic Ingredients: 

1/3 c. butter

1/2 c. sugar or honey

1 egg, beaten

1 1/2 c. flour

2 1/4 tsp. baking powder

big dash of cinnamon

Splash of vanilla

1/2 c. milk

Blend together butter and sugar; mix in egg, vanilla, and milk.  Add dry ingredients.  Mix until you have a thick dough.  Pour into a plastic bag with corner cut out; squeeze into donut pan, filling each circle to about half its height, careful not to overfill the cups (muffin top donuts look pretty funny!).  Bake for about 20 minutes at 350.

You could top these a number of ways, or you could even leave them plain.  I used a quick icing made from powdered sugar, vanilla, and milk, and then let my daughter add sprinkles.  The others were coated lightly with melted butter and tossed with cinnamon and sugar.