Spring – Time to Grow!

The weather has been unbelievable. I think we skipped the harsh winter months and got a head start on spring. And now it’s like early summer around here. I’ve found myself still too warm in a tank, shorts and flops more than once this week. The garden is growing and I’m adding more plants each week. The tomatoes I planted a week and a half ago – are already flowering.

I’m planting mostly food, but some flowers too. We have a small lot and last year I had decided there was only enough room for edibles. Unfortunately, it occured to me later in the summer that a few more flowers would’ve attracted more beneficial insects. (I had to hand pollinate my zuchininis and pumpkins.) And pretty flowers are nice to look at.

This year I have decided that I’ll have a few more flowers and I want a little more than food from my gardens. I want them to add a little natural beauty to my yard. I’ve found quite a bit of inspiration for neat ways to label plants using old stuff like wire hangers, wood scraps and small bamboo stakes. I’ve just been too busy planting the last couple of weeks. I just can’t seem to pry myself from tending to the gardens. My farmers’ market trips aren’t solely about buying food  ready to eat. I look forward to see what transplants are available each week. I’ve got a total of seven tomato plants so far. Fennel seeds are sown. There are carrots, countless herbs, garlic, spring onions, garlic chives, lettuces, beets, peas, kale, spinach, blueberries and raspberries and a few surprises (some kind of squash, pumpkins or maybe melons). Volunteer seedlings are popping up anywhere I mix in my compost. I’ll let a few of them go to see what grows. I hope we don’t have a late cold snap!

I do already feel the effects of the mild winter. Critters are everywhere. Literally. I come inside and have to inspect myself for hitch-hiking pests. I usually find at least one of these:

And my plants are all under attack. I found this huge snail in my garden. He looked like he could do some damage, so I had to relocate him – probably permanently. So sorry little guy. I have to admit that the small act of killing critters foraging for food sheerly for their own survival, does make me think twice before killing even the tiniest insects. Laugh if you must. I wish there was enough food in my garden to go around, but a seedling is no match for a slug or a snail or catepillar. My beet seedlings get devoured by something the day they emerge. If I could just get them to wait a little while… they’ll be enough for them too. Me and the snail hung out for a bit while I decided what to do. I couldn’t bring myself to kill it, so I put him in the trash bin. There is plenty of food in there. If he makes it out, well then kudos for him.

Last year I sowed only five pea plants. All but two of them were hacked by cutworms. We never had enough to make a side dish and usually opened the pods and ate them straight from the garden. This year I planted twelve. One of my food discoveries in this journey is that I don’t hate peas after all. I just don’t like the stinky ones you get in a can at the grocery store. Frozen or fresh peas are a staple now. I’m excited and hopeful about fresh peas! I may try and grow fava beans too, if cutworms thin out my peas again this year.

I’m looking forward to long, warm lazy days.  I’ve made a kind of bucket list for the spring and summer.

I hope I get to take a nap in a hammock (have to get one first).

I’m looking forward to outdoor dinners with amazing food, amazing people and laughter and smiles and candles and pretty table settings.

I hope I don’t get too caught up in the day to day details and I find time to do all the d-i-y art and garden projects I have planned.

I want to eat a meal made almost entirely with ingredients from my own back yard.

I want to swap and share homegrown and homemade food.

I want to can tomatoes, at least enough to last through the winter. I’ve planted seven tomato plants so far, and plan to get three more varieties.

I want to freeze some homegrown veggies, like peas and squash and peppers, so that I can have a taste of homegrown veggies in the dead of winter, when I’m craving springtime.

And those are just a few things I can think of at the moment.

Roasted Tomato and Red Pepper Soup (Autumn)

Last week a friend shared a link with me from smittenkitchen.com for Roasted Tomato Soup. (Thanks Jane!) While looking over the recipe, I instantly started salivating. Memories of childhood and Campbell’s Tomato Soup came to mind (though the soup from smittenkitchen looked a thousand times more appetizing). But I loved the canned soup when I was kid – with obscene amounts of crumbled Ritz Crackers. I tried it again as an adult, years later, and was disappointed. (Why don’t these things ever taste the way we remember?) I so miss enjoying that bowl of soup. I have never tried to make it from scratch. Usually fresh tomatoes peak at the end of summer, when it’s much too hot for soup. However one of the farmers from the market has a ton of late tomatoes this season. So thanks to Jane and late tomatoes, I decided to try and resurrect my love of tomato soup.

What I liked about the smittenkitchen recipe was that the tomatoes were roasted, along with a few cloves of garlic, and I loved the way the recipe married grilled cheese and tomato soup. I also love roasted peppers (especially with tomatoes). And I just happened to have some really great sweet red peppers in the garden. The one below is not yet ready and nowhere near as large as the ones I actually used. They are called Corno di Toro Sweet Peppers and are also great for stuffing (which I have done… and they were good). But if you aren’t lucky enough to have fresh peppers growing in your back yard, then you could substitute with red bell peppers. I also have some medium heat Poblano Peppers in the garden. I used one large one.

Something else that goes well with tomatoes is basil. And I have lots of beautiful basil perking up in my garden thanks to cooler weather. (Isn’t a garden a great place for inspiration?) So here’s my seasonal version of tomato soup:

ROASTED TOMATO AND RED PEPPER SOUP (AUTUMN)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 or 5 medium sized tomatoes
  • 1 large or a few small to medium red sweet peppers, seeded
  • 1 Poblano Pepper, seeded (or other hot pepper)
  • 3 to 4 cloves of garlic
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 cups of vegetable or meat stock
  • fresh basil (optional)
  • plain yogurt or sour cream (optional)
  • chives (optional)

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Quarter tomatoes and squeeze out some of the seeds and excess water. Put them in a strainer and let them drain a little more while you cut and seed the peppers into chunks. Place tomatoes, peppers and whole cloves of garlic on a baking dish, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast in a 400° oven for 45 minutes to an hour, stirring once or twice during cooking.
  2. Once the tomatoes and peppers are soft and begin to brown they are done. Remove the dish from the oven and press on the roasted garlic with a fork to easily remove the skin. You can either put the roasted veggies and the fresh basil into a food processor or blender until smooth (or chunky if you like it that way, use a blender if you want it really smooth); or you could just skip to the next step and use a hand held immersion blender.
  3. Combine the tomato, pepper and basil mixture and the stock of your choice in a pot over medium heat. (This is where the immersion blender comes in if you haven’t already blended them.) Once the soup begins to boil, reduce heat and simmer, uncovered for 20 minutes.

Click here for a printer friendly version: ROASTED TOMATO AND RED PEPPER SOUP

Serve this soup with a dollop of plain yogurt or sour cream, a sprinkle of fresh chives, maybe a little drizzle of olive oil and a slice or two of toasted, crusty, chewy bread topped with melted cheddar cheese.  When I made the soup on Sunday, I placed the bread in the oven with the cheese, then once the bread was toasted and the cheese melted I placed a couple slices directly on top of each bowl of soup . It went all soft and gooey, which was amazing, but I missed the crunch from those crackers in my childhood tomato soup.

So the next day for lunch, I kept the cheesy toast on the side. I also got it really crispy on both sides before adding the cheese. I put a little olive oil in a pan over medium heat and toasted the bread well on one side, then flipped it, sprinkled it with sharp cheddar cheese and turned the heat off while the other side toasted slowly, giving the cheese enough time to melt.

Some suggest peeling the tomatoes and the peppers, but I didn’t bother and it turned out fine. If the soup is a little on the watery side, you can either add some tomato paste, tomato sauce or canned tomatoes (though you may have to blend it again if you use canned tomatoes), or you could just simmer for a little longer to allow more of the water to cook out. We were in a hurry (because the football game was starting!) so I added a can of Trader Joe’s  fire roasted tomatoes with green chillies.

To save time, you could easily use canned tomatoes and skip roasting them altogether. If there weren’t some available at the farmers market, I would have used Trader Joe’s fire-roasted tomatoes straight out of a can. This recipe is simple and good as is, but I love to play around flavors. Next time I may add rosemary or thyme instead of basil and some red wine to sweeten it up a little. Some heavy cream would make it more velvety. I have not checked the ingredients or sugar content of the Campbell’s version, but my guess is that it’s high (in salt too). Some tomato recipes call for added sugar, which would give it that sweeter taste like Campbell’s, if that’s what you are aiming for. So put your twist on it. I think you’ll like it.

4th of July Barbecue

It’s hot. Maybe too hot to grill. But we’re doing it anyway. Ice cold mojitos will keep us cool! Looking forward to burgers made with pork from local, pastured pigs and slaw made with Linsey’s cabbage from the garden, fennel – also from the garden – and onions and peppers from the farmers market. Veggie and mushroom skewers to round the meal out – onions, peppers and tomatoes (from the garden) and mushrooms. Maybe homemade vanilla ice cream sweetened with maple syrup for desert, using local milk, organic cream… topped with local, organic blueberries. Seasonal, local, home grown – and yummy! Happy 4th!

Play with Your Food.

You probably already know I love food, but cooking from scratch… is like playing with my food. When I was a kid I loved to get in the kitchen and play. Most everyone I know (including my kids) loved it too. I remember coating a spoonful of peanut butter in crumbled Oreos as a kid and thinking it was the best creation – ever! While the combination of Oreos and peanut butter still sounds pretty tasty, I can’t imagine eating that now. When you’re a kid, you’re limited to what your parents have stocked in the kitchen and to what appliances you are capable or allowed to use.  As adults, we don’t have these limits.

And here’s the icing on the cake. You learn so much when you cook from scratch. If you’ve always eaten something out of box you may not even know what’s in it or what cooking methods are used to make it. And believe me – you can find a recipe for nearly everything you can buy in a box or bag. Brownies are so easy to make from scratch, yet I never even bothered to look at a recipe until about a year ago. There are only a few ingredients, most of which anyone would already have in their pantry. I’ll never buy boxed brownies again. You’d be surprised how quickly you learn the basics of cooking when you start cooking from scratch. It’s often cheaper to buy the ingredients than it is to buy it prepackaged, and it’s better for you. It does take a little longer than opening a box, but that’s the best part. Really! When food is too easy to prepare (or already prepared), you tend to eat it more often and over indulge. When you slow down and take the time to make it yourself, you really learn to appreciate food. You eat slowly and savor every bite. You eat less and you get to control the quantity and the quality of the ingredients (and eliminate additives, preservatives and excess sugar). Cooking from scratch is gratifying and you might even lose a few pounds – effortlessly.

If the kitchen is my play ground, then the markets are my toy stores. I used to hate going food shopping. Now that the blinders are off, I find new things all the time. Sometimes I take them home to learn more. My favorite places to shop are off the beaten path – farmers markets, specialty markets and less common markets where you find things you’ve never seen before. I’ve learned what eating seasonal and local means and I’m so inspired by it.

Growing your own food seems like a quintessential part of life. Nurturing a plant and then (hopefully) eating the fruits of your labor restores a connection to food that has been lost in America. I’m still amazed at how disconnected this nation is to food. I recently walked through a small greenhouse display and the woman ahead of me was surprised to see how bell peppers grew. I don’t presume to know how everything grows, but I know how most of what I eat grows and I am curious about the rest. And I’m not suggesting we should all know where everything we eat comes from (or am I?).

Bell Peppers

Asparagus

Broccoli

Artichokes

Pineapple

Coffee is made from the roasted seed inside this berry.

Cacao Tree - Chocolate is made from the beans found inside these pods.

And playing with food is more fun when you do it with friends, family – even strangers. Involve them as often as possible. Nothing is more enjoyable than sharing a good time and good food with other people. This summer I plan to let the kids get in on the fun a little more. It’s not like they have anything better to do. Even London (3 years old)  can help.  Our schedule will be more relaxed which means meal times will be less hurried. They can help in the garden, the kitchen and with shopping, and we’ll learn even more together. Maybe by the end of summer, they’ll be able to help with dinner every night. Hell, maybe they’ll be able to cook an entire meal themselves! I’ll just sit back and have a glass of wine while they do it all. That would be nice. And fun for them I think.

Bored with Vegetables?

It’s no wonder “dieting” never worked for me. Even to this day I associate “dieting” with carrots and celery sticks and salads at every meal. The very word evokes images of bunnies munching on lettuce and carrots. Plain, crunchy, bland, boring vegetables. And don’t forget fruit… Apple slices, pears, bananas, grapes… B.O.R.I.N.G. Then, when I started exploring new foods and new cooking methods I realized that the food wasn’t boring. I was just stuck in a food rut.

So what changed? I started shopping at the farmers market and learning about local and seasonal eating. My eyes were opened to a new world of food that I had either never bothered to pay attention to, or I had never bothered to try, or had thought was to complicated to prepare or too extravagant for my taste. The blinders were off and I even noticed and purchased new foods from the grocery store. A year and a half later, I’m still tasting new foods weekly, sometimes even daily and there’s no end in sight. Here’s Linsey taking her first bite of red corn:


Yeah. Red corn. That you eat, not a Thanksgiving table decoration. How was it? Meh. Tasted like corn that’s not quite in season yet – and corn isn’t in season yet around here. So if I can find it again when it is in season, maybe I’ll give it another taste. But it was fun to try. I also found multicolored popping corn in a bulk bin at Healthy Home Market. Can’t wait to try that. I especially love to see the confusion on my family’s faces when I bring home something that doesn’t look like the standard variety.

I’ve heard people say that they don’t like to cook. But I can’t help but wonder how that’s possible if you like to eat. I mean, most of us eat at least three or four times a day. Cooking takes some talent, but mostly it just takes practice, patience and a good cookbook or recipe website like allrecipes.com or epicurious.com. Don’t be afraid to try. Tell your guinea pigs (aka family) to be patient, open minded and supportive. (And if they aren’t, then tell them to shut up and eat.) They’ll learn to like these new foods and so will you. It’s normal human behavior to be skeptical of trying new foods. It’s what has kept us alive for thousands of years. You might have to attempt a recipe two or even three times to get it right, but it’s worth it. I strongly urge you to pay attention to ratings and reviews in the recipe websites. They’ll give you great hints and tell you how to avoid mistakes or make them better. It’s like free cooking school. Just get in there and do it. Eventually, you’ll gain confidence and learn which flavors and cooking methods work and which don’t.

Here’s a list of some veggie dishes we’ve had this week. Some of the recipes are new for me.

-Braised Fennel

We had this tonight and it was delicious and easy. Skip the water and just use broth. Fennel is so good for you. Click here to read about it’s health benefits. By the way braised simply means to cook (meat, vegetables, etc) by lightly browning in fat and then cooking slowly in a closed pan with a small amount of liquid (from dictionary.com).

Tonight's dinner: Ossabaw pork chops, roasted smashed potatoes, kale and swiss chard, and that's the braised fennel there in the front.

-Smashed Potatoes

I got the idea for this on Easy Entertaining with Michael Chiarello. He boiled the potatoes (I used the microwave) and then gently smashed them once with a spoon on a cookie sheet, drizzled with olive oil and seasoned them and then popped them in the oven. I used salt, pepper and chopped garlic. I put them under the broiler until the top starting turning golden brown and then sprinkled them with spring onions after I pulled them out of the oven. It’s so easy and good. You have to try this.

-Greens

Do not put vinegar on my greens. A squeeze of fresh lemon or lime, maybe. But no vinegar please. I like to saute them with onions and garlic in olive oil and then season with salt and pepper. Can’t get any simpler than that. Okay maybe you could add some shredded parm or goat cheese or you could cook them in a little chicken broth or add some soy sauce. Kale and swiss chard are in season now. Early spinach is here or just around the corner.

From my garden - kale and rainbow chard, along with some oregano and spring onions that I used for tonight's dinner.

And that was all from tonight’s dinner. Last night I made zucchini. I sliced it lengthwise about 1/4 inch thick and then soaked it in homemade dressing (balsamic vinegar, olive oil, honey, shallots, salt and pepper) for about 15 minutes. Then I grilled it (in a grill pan). Linsey raved about it. Brian and I both ended up giving her a few of slices from our plates because what parent says no to a child when they want more vegetables? We also had avocado and mango salad. I roughly cut them into one inch pieces and then squeezed a lime over it and threw in some chopped cilantro from the garden.

Salads don’t have to contain mostly lettuce or any at all for that matter. Use your imagination. I like a little fruit (dried or fresh) and nuts in my salads. Adding fresh herbs can transform a salad to something extraordinary. Quality dressing is a must. I strongly suggest you try making your own. It’s so easy and the taste is superior, so why not? My favorite is one part olive oil, one part balsamic, a little honey (more if you like it sweet, but try to cut back on the sweet stuff), salt and pepper. I put the ingredients in a mason jar and give it a shake. Make enough for the week (or more). Sometimes I add garlic, shallots or fresh herbs. You can use any oil, any vinegar or even fresh squeezed citrus. Use cheeses, buttermilk, mayo, sour cream or yogurt to make creamy dressings. Find healthier homemade recipes for your favorites online. The Joy of Cooking has tons of recipes and ideas for homemade dressings. The best part is that you can tailor dressings to suit your taste and standards.

Make fresh produce the norm at home. Save a few frozen bags for emergencies, and don’t even bother with the canned (maybe some tomatoes, occasionally). To keep things interesting, try new fruits and vegetables every week. Find out what’s in season right now, and start there. Produce that’s not in season will be low on quality and taste. Dig a little deeper in the produce department, but also try to find a farmers market that sells organically grown, local produce. The taste of produce this fresh and clean might surprise you. You should also try growing your own. It’s never too late to start a garden. Produce grows year round. Just search the web to find out what you should plant this time of year in your area. Start with container gardening if you are short on experience, time or space. Again the web has all kinds of info on container gardening. Harvesting food from your own garden then preparing it in your own kitchen and sitting down with your family to eat it feels so innately human and satisfying.

Try new cooking methods and recipes too. Before this journey I used recipes for the main dish and usually steamed veg then added oil or butter, salt and pepper. Steamed veggies are classic, but you can spruce them up with new flavors (pretty much the way you would a salad – vinegar, oil, herbs, etc.). Give roasting a try. Simply toss vegetables in olive or coconut oil, salt and pepper and roast at 400 degrees until they start to brown. Mmmm…

And that is just the tip of the iceberg. Vegetables are not boring.

Beans! Beans! They’re Good for Your Heart.

The more you eat them, the more you f…ight disease and signs of aging. Beans are one of nature’s most perfect foods. They are a rich with antioxidants and a good source of folic acid, vitamin B6, magnesium, iron and protein. They can replace meat in a vegetarian or vegan meal. (But be sure to add “good fat” to a meatless meal. Either by cooking drizzling with healthy fats or oils  – coconut oil, avocado oil, walnut oil, olive oil, butter or lard – or incorporate oily foods like avocado, olives or nuts into the meal. Good fats are friends and help the body absorb nutrients. Fats are also good for your brain, skin and hair.) It’s also a good idea to pair beans with brown rice or corn. Each lack one or more proteins, but together they are more complete.  Different types of beans have different health benefits. Oh and if you want to reduce flatulence, soak them over night, sprout them or get yourself some Beano.

brown rice and heritage mixed beans (cooked in homemade chicken stock, onion and garlic) with broccoli and pineapple-mango fruit salad (dressed with fresh squeezed orange juice, cilantro and chive blossoms and topped with avocado)

Beans are versatile and should not be overlooked or considered boring. For me at least, it’s just a matter of (1) taking the plunge and learning to cook them and (2) experimenting with recipes and combinations. Learning to cook with beans is like learning to cook with any other protein – chicken, fish, beef, etc. The possibilities are endless. I’m not sure why so many people turn their noses up to beans and only associate them with vegetarian or vegan eating. They should just be associated with healthy eating. And of course, you don’t have to substitute meat with beans. You can eat them together. I strongly suggest doing that. Yum!!

Here’s another reason to eat more beans – you get more bang for your buck. If the upfront costs of eating healthy is one of the things preventing you from doing so, then eat more beans. If you buy dried beans you can save a ton of money – especially if you buy from bulk bins. I also prefer dried over canned for a few reasons: (1) it’s cheaper (2) the lining in cans frequently contains BPA, a dangerous chemical with more evidence mounting against it every day; (3) canned beans are usually high in sodium; and (4) the texture (more bite, less mush) and taste is superior. That said, I do keep a couple cans of low sodium, organic beans in the pantry for last minute meal ideas. Dried beans take a little more planning.

Once you learn the basics, the rest is just experimental. I suggest soaking for at least 6 hours. They don’t have to soak overnight. Many times I forgot to soak the beans and changed my entire dinner plans before I realized this. As a matter of fact, they don’t have to be soaked at all. But they will have to cook longer and remember, soaking will reduce flatulence later. Your gut will thank you. Cook them in broth (for about an hour if you soaked them, 2 to 2 1/2 hours if you forgot). Tasting one or two beans at different times during cooking can help you get the texture you want. Once they are cooked, you can add whatever you want. As I said the possibilities are endless.  You can even take them out of the cooking stock just before they’re done and finish them in a saute pan with… anything. Use your imagination. I think I’ll try it sauteed with onions, garlic, tomato and basil next time (Italian style). Maybe even some red pepper flake…

The rest of this post is completely unrelated to beans. Just random pictures and words.

For Cinco de Mayo:

Pulled Pork and Goat Cheese Quesadilla (with brown rice and vegetables) - Click on the photo for the recipe.

Chorizo Fajitas with peppers, onions, tomatoes, cheese and plain yogurt.

Suggestion: Buy good quality blocks of cheese and shred or grate it yourself. You'll be amazed at the difference. If you only use prepackaged shredded or grated cheese, you don't know what you're missing. Try it! It's also more cost effective. I give the job of grating and shredding cheese to my kids, who love it. Then I store the excess in a container instead of a bag to prevent sticking. In case you didn't know, cellulose is used in prepackaged shredded cheese to prevent caking.

Mmmm. Refreshing Mojito with fresh mint from my garden.

Grossly malformed strawberries thanks to TruGreen. We won't be eating these. Click on the photo to find out what happened.

African Basil, Red Russian Kale, Spring Onions - All from my garden, used to make an "international omelet" this morning.

African Basil - Pretty enough to be used (and is used) as an ornamental. Heartier in colder weather than other basil, which is why it is sometimes considered a perennial. Taste is described as less minty and more clove like.

Blueberries! Fingers crossed that I get to eat the ripe berries before the birds this year.

This and That

So I haven’t posted anything in awhile because I’ve been so busy. You might think that turning off the T.V. would give me more time, but it’s time slot was replaced quickly. I have to admit that I did kind of relapse. Season 2 of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution started this week and I like watching this with the kids. So, one show – THAT’S ALL! Turning off the T. V. was the best thing I’ve done in awhile. What a difference it makes. And I don’t miss my old shows a bit.

My garden is growing. The last couple weeks have been warming up. Mother Nature has been taking care of most of the watering too. I have to water every now and then, but mostly just the potted plants and newly planted stuff. A couple of my tomato plants may have been stunted by freezing temperatures a few weeks ago, but I’m hoping they’ll start taking off soon. The marigolds I planted seem to be keeping the bunnies out of my strawberries. They are flowering and berries are starting to form. I’ll be keeping a closer eye on them when the berries are close to ripening.

I entered a livestrong.com facebook contest with the above photo. Nothing special, I know. You’re supposed to post a picture of yourself or something that represents what you’re doing to be healthy. The best part is that they re-posted my picture on their wall! My organic garden provides nourishing food, exercise and meditation. Being outside under the sun, with dirt and plants – growing the very thing that keeps us alive – touches me on a spiritual level. I think my entry gets that across.  Voting starts April 18th by the way. I shamelessly beg for your vote. The winner gets and iPad and I want it! You can click here to see my entry.

The yard sale was a bit of bust, but we still got rid of everything. We priced everything really low and some of it we literally gave away. We had two tables of “free stuff” that grew as the day went on. I think people were so surprised that we were giving away such good stuff that they bought a few things just to be nice. So maybe it worked in our favor. We didn’t have the traffic we normally do, so that was a bummer. I love having yard sales. And not just because we’re making money and getting rid of stuff, though that definitely doesn’t hurt. I thoroughly enjoy chatting with strangers and neighbors.

The pack rat in me showed up for a minute as we were closing up shop. I actually considered putting everything back in boxes and trying again at the next community yard sale. But then I came back to my minimalist senses and we delivered two ridiculously full truckloads to Goodwill. I’m sure the unloaders were not thrilled to see Brian the second time around. It felt so good though when he pulled away with that last load.

Thanks to one of my wonderful neighbors, I’ve finally found a holistic pediatrician for the girls. Within five minutes of speaking to her, I knew I was in the right place. It’s a drive to get there, but it’s worth it. Linsey was not happy about the appointment. She told me the night before that she wasn’t going to talk, but the doc was so nice and easy to talk to that she opened right up. It’s nice to find a doctor that fits so well into our new lifestyle and shares our philosophy.

Speaking of our philosophy… Lately I’ve discovered that a few people aren’t quite sure exactly what that is. I’m a little surprised, but then again I think sometimes I make it sound complicated. Another reason it may be difficult to understand is that it’s always changing. We have the basics down, but I’m always fine tuning it. It might be easier to explain what we do eat rather than what we don’t eat, since we don’t eat a lot of the food you’d find in the grocery store and the Standard American Diet. Mostly we eat foods that people would have eaten a hundred years ago – in this order: vegetables, fruits, meat (mostly chicken and pork), seafood, dairy, beans and some whole grains. All of which are grown organically, free range, pastured and naturally and without hormones, synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, etc. – the way they were grown a hundred years ago. And most of it homemade – the way it was made a hundred years ago. I grow what I can and we try to buy the rest locally, especially from growers that share our philosophy.

Really we’ve just gone back to our roots and try to pretend that prepackaged, processed foods and exotic foods from far away don’t exist (with a few exceptions – olive oil, some produce, tea, coffee, spices). It’s called slow food – “good, clean, fair food”. We try to eat a wide variety of foods, rather than the same thing every week. We eat less, and spend the extra money on better quality food. We do spend a little more (seriously, only a little more) than we used to, but we’re investing in healthier food for ourselves and our planet and we’re supporting the growers that are painstakingly providing it with their own blood, sweat and tears, even as they are barely scraping by. (And I thank you, from way deep down in my hungry little soul.)

Not everything we eat is like this though – maybe just 75% of it. As I’ve said before, I’m no purist and I don’t believe that any food should be off limits. We buy some produce, olive oil, coffee, tea and spices that don’t grow in our region.  I don’t make my own cheese or yogurt (though I may try it one day). I don’t always buy organic, but almost everything is (especially the dirty dozen and any products that contain corn, soy or wheat). We do take advantage of a few shortcuts and modern conveniences. I’m not stuck in some weird time warp, although I wouldn’t mind going back for a short visit. It would be eye opening and I could learn so much. We all could. There’s a saying that if your grandmother wouldn’t recognize it as food, you probably shouldn’t eat it. Michael Pollan also sums it up nicely. “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” 

I strongly urge you to read one of his food books by the way. If you struggled with food and weight, it might be the kick in the pants you need to change your life.

A couple other good books to get you started would be Real Food: What to Eat and Why by Nina Planck and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver. I especially love this last one. It’s also available on CD which is great if you spend a lot of time in the car. Check your local library. Seriously, stop dieting and read one of these. Worked better for me than any diet ever did.

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