A Year on Real Food

Losing weight was my initial goal when this journey began. However, as my focus shifted towards better health, my weight became less important.  I had a feeling that if I made healthier choices, the weight would take care of itself. Once we became more conscious about the quality and kind of food we were eating, the weight slowly, steadily melted away on it’s own, just as I suspected it would. Before I knew it, it was August and I felt like a different person. I’d lost 30 pounds eating the best food I’d ever eaten in my life. We vacationed that month, and it was the first time in over a decade that I’d worn a swimsuit without covering up and feeling ashamed… and it was a bikini to boot.


The girls continue to surprise me. Just last night, I made chili, something Haleigh has adamantly refused to eat. I used to let the kids off the hook if it was something they really hated. Gradually though, I’ve been discouraging it. This was the first time I told Haleigh that she’d have to eat it. She didn’t argue, and afterward she told me that she “didn’t love it”, but that she also “didn’t hate it”. London (almost three years old) only played with the chili, but she did eat the jalapeno cornbread. It was a bit spicy so I told her she didn’t have to eat it, but she wanted to anyway. A few days ago we had a slightly spicier, but delicious jalapeno bread. She desperately wanted to eat it, but just couldn’t handle the heat. She tearfully gave up. So last night they both made progress. If you have a picky eater at home, don’t lose hope! I read somewhere that kids have to be exposed to a food something like 15 times before they can learn to eat it. Wonder if that theory holds true for adults – like maybe with… liver?

Liver and Onions

Getting the family on board was not easy. It was a very rocky start, and even now we encounter an occasional bump in the road. Especially since many of the changes are unconventional and so different from the standard American diet, which we had been eating up until then. But I was persistent and in the end, it boiled down to this: the menu was my decision since I shop for and prepare the meals. Then, finally, a turning point. A couple of months in, Brian and I began dropping weight steadily. Compliments and questions about how we were doing it came from everyone, everywhere. The proof was in the pudding. All of my hard work and persistence paid off. Brian was finally on board.

So what exactly did we do? First we cut out the junk food and stopped eating out, then gradually, nearly all processed food – from snacks and boxed sides dishes and meals to frozen entrees. I was counting calories and paying attention to portions sizes (eye opener). We started eating more vegetables and fruits and less meat and carbs. We were eating and drinking more nutritionally packed foods like fennel, greens, more seafood, green tea, plus some we’d never heard of before, like quinoa, acai berry juice, imo (Japanese sweet potatoes). It was a lot of fun experimenting and trying these new foods. We avoided high fructose corn syrup and other refined carbs like the plague, which was easily done just by staying away from processed food.

As we took each step, we went all in at first. Then gradually, as we gained control, we’d start making some allowances. I don’t count calories anymore, but I do avoid over eating high calorie foods. I no longer attempt to cram as many nutritionally packed foods as I can into each meal, but we do eat them daily. We don’t eat processed foods often, but we don’t avoid them like the plague either. We save them for special occasions, usually when we’re away from home. We still rarely eat fast food, but we do occasionally eat at restaurants with healthy options.

Here are a few key things I’ve learned.

  • Get the kids involved. Sharing the responsibility and the experience has benefited the entire family. It’s a great way to spend time together, and letting them help prepare food is probably the best tool in getting them to eat and appreciate food.
  • Buying organic produce, free range chicken and eggs and pastured meat really is important and not just a popular food fad for yuppies and foodies.
  • Buying local food that’s in season is better if it’s available. It’s more sustainable to support local, smaller farms, and in case you need a “what’s in it for me” –  your food will taste better, have more nutrients and stay fresher longer. Farmers markets are a great resource, not just for buying food but also for learning about food.
  • Mother Nature/God really knows what she’s doing. When humans go tinkering around with her work, it usually backfires. Real food is unadulterated.

Throughout the year there have been many bonuses that I didn’t expect. I’ve discovered that I love gardening. Keeping a garden is an economical way to get fresh, organically grown produce. It’s rewarding to nurture something that will eventually nourish you and it fosters an appreciation toward food and nature. I think it’s also a pretty cool way get in a little exercise outdoors.

Child Shelling Beans

I definitely didn’t expect this to be a spiritual experience. But it has been. Growing our own food, visiting farms and farmers market, eating seasonally and locally, preparing and cooking meals from scratch, exploring new foods and methods and eating well – and doing it together as a family – all feels ethereal to me.  Becoming reacquainted with these traditional food practices and passing them down to my children (instead of the standard American Diet) just does something for the soul. There is harmony in nature. There is nothing harmonious about a box of dry, crunchy, reconfigured corn, no matter how many ways they shape, color or flavor it.

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Kimchi and Chopsticks

Thanks to my mom, I’ve grown up eating (and loving) Korean food. Some of my all time favorite meals are Korean. Galbi (Korean barbecued spare ribs), tteokguk (rice cake soup), chapchae (noodles), egg rolls, Korean style chicken and pork, spinach and soy bean sprouts, sticky rice, gimbap (Korean sushi), Korean pancakes (which is nothing like a breakfast pancake)… just to name a few. And of course I couldn’t forget the most well known Korean food – kimchi. Most people either hate or love it. But what they don’t know is that there are many kinds of kimchi. Nearly any vegetable can be made into kimchi. Kimchi made with napa cabbage is probably the most popular. But I have in my refrigerator right now, turnip kimchi. If you think regular kimchi has a strong odor, you’d probably be blown away by this one. If it didn’t taste so darn good, I probably wouldn’t eat it myself. The poor kids can barely stand the smell, but hopefully they’ll learn to love it like I do.

Tteokguk

Kimchi is usually some form of a fermented vegetable. It’s not much different than one of America’s favorite stinky foods – pickles. (I have to admit that I’m a little sensitive when it comes to kimchi, and would like to point out to that every culture, including us Americans, have “stinky” foods. It’s really just a matter of what you are used to. If we’re judging with our noses, I’ll take kimchi over American cheese any day of the week. They were both a staple in my house growing up. That cheese is some fonky smellin’ sh-tuff!) Kimchi as well as other fermented foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, tofu, some cheeses, even beer and wine, are good for you. Fermented foods (and drinks) boost the immune system and the flora (or good bacteria) is great for digestion, which is important for good health.

Kimchi

As it turns out there are many healthy foods in the Korean diet. Nori (seaweed) is also good for you. One of my favorite lunches is rice mixed with green onions, soy sauce and a little butter, salt and pepper, along with nori and kimchi.

Nori, and other sea vegetables are rich in potassium and iodine and contain other vitamins and minerals not often found in land foods. They have an anti-inflammatory effect and may reduce the risk of breast cancer as well as other types of cancer. They boost the immune system and help maintain normal blood pressure. Sea vegetables also contain lots of B12, which helps fight fatigue, memory loss and nerve damage. Just like fish, some sea vegetables have a stronger flavor than others. I have had seaweed that tastes very “fishy”, which I don’t like, but not all seaweed is fishy. The one pictured above doesn’t have strong flavor at all.

Koreans also tend to eat a lot more vegetables than meat. Unlike a typical American meal in which the main dish is usually the protein, Koreans will likely have several vegetable dishes with little or no meat. Fish is also a big part of their diet. Fish is rich in Omega 3’s which are good for heart and brain health.

Believe it or not, even eating with chopsticks is good for you. No smart ass – not because you hardly get anything in your mouth, but because it forces you to slow down. It does take some practice to master and I’ll admit I’m not that great with them, but it’s because I don’t use them often. That’s going to change. My mom on the other hand could probably build a brick wall with a pair of chopsticks. It’s a lot healthier to eat food slowly and it’s a fun change of pace. They’re more efficient than a fork when you know how to use them. Eating rice with chopsticks is a challenge, but that’s when the nori or lettuce comes in handy.

Korean style porkchops

One more thing about the way we eat. Maybe you’ve noticed, as I have, how much of the American diet, including how meals are prepared and eaten, is based on convenience. Meals should be a social event from preparation to after dinner conversation. Enjoy yourself while you’re cooking and eating. Meals with good company and glass of wine or beer are far healthier than those eaten alone in front of a T.V.,  in your car or at your desk. People tend to eat more when they eat quickly and alone. I also suggest sitting down when eating – even if it’s finger food. Happy eating!

Oh My Lard!

Dear Lard:

I have been unfair and have misjudged you. It was wrong of me to believe all those nasty rumors and stereotypes without getting to know you personally. I apologize for the numerous fat jokes I have made about you. Thank you for making my pie crusts so flaky and delicious and my egg so tasty.

Pumkin Pie with Whole Wheat Lard Pie Crust

Tasty egg frying in fresh lard - my first taste.

Last week I rendered lard. Never in a million years would I have believed that this journey would bring me here.

The pork fat pictured above comes from around the kidneys and is used to make leaf lard, which is “high end” lard prized by pastry chefs. It has a pretty neutral taste compared with regular lard (which is usually made from fat back). The pig farmer gave me both types and said that she usually mixes the two, but since this is my first time and I wanted to compare them, I rendered them separately.

Ewww. I hate my stove.

 

She also directed me to their website for directions, which I used. I started out following what looked like a handy “tip” from another blog. Rather than taking the time to cube the fat, I cut it into large chunks and gave it a whirl in the food processor. BIG MISTAKE. I spent more time trying to get it out of the food processor than it would have taken to cube it. I also wasted a good bit, because I got frustrated and threw it in the sink with some dirty dishes. Some of the icky dish water splashed inside. I don’t really know how to explain how gooey this stuff was. Glue would have been easier to extract. Even peanut butter isn’t that gooey. Cement maybe? Here’s my tip – DON’T EVER DO THAT.

So after that little debacle I went back to my trusty, all-in-one, good for everything tool, a sharp knife, and cut it into one inch cubes. Things went smoothly from there. I’d guess it took me about a half hour to chop up 9 pounds of fat. Then I just let it render on the stove. According to the directions, it would take just a couple of hours. When I checked, the stock pot still appeared to have large pieces of fat in it, though I wasn’t really sure how to tell when it was done. I guess I thought it would all melt and I’d see those crispy cracklings. But I didn’t. My “cracklings” weren’t crackly. They were soggy. I might have had the heat too low. I don’t know what went wrong with them, but the lard turned out beautifully, so who cares?

What’s so great about this lard? It was rendered from high quality fat that came from a local, pastured, heritage breed (Tamworth) hog. The lard you might find in the grocery store would more than likely be hydrogenated, meaning it contains unhealthy trans fat, in order to give it a longer shelf life. My lard is unadulterated and has to be kept in the refrigerator (or freezer for a longer shelf life). That’s why rendering it yourself is worth the effort. It’s not like it was hard (if you skip the food processor). Cut it into cubes, drop them in a stock pot and let it melt for a couple of hours. Then pour through a strainer lined with cheese cloth into jars.

Why lard? I’ll give you the short version. It’s not as bad as you think. It’s way better for you than vegetable shortening, which is full of harmful trans fats. It’s higher in monounsaturated (good) fat than you might think (45%) and has less saturated (bad) fat than butter. Lard is about is 40% saturated while butter is 60%. (However I still believe high quality butter is a good and tasty fat when used properly.) Though saturated fat is generally supposed to raise cholesterol, the saturated fat in lard has been shown to have a neutral effect on cholesterol. You can also use about 1/5 to 1/4 less lard in place of butter (and shortening, I think). What I mean is, my pie crust recipe calls for 1/2 cup of butter, but I substituted with 3/8 cup of leaf lard. The crust turned out so much better than it did when I used butter. It was more pliable and held together well – much easier to work with. It browned beautifully and more evenly and didn’t burn at all. Lard has a higher smoking point than butter. Finally, lard has been used traditionally for thousands of years and still is used regularly in other cultures. Most of those cultures are generally healthier than Americans. Since we started eating fewer traditional whole foods, including lard, and began eating more “low fat” and highly processed foods, our health has plummeted. Diet isn’t everything, but it’s a lot.

I should probably add some sort of caveat about how you should talk to your doctor about it. But to be honest, they’ll probably echo the general myth that it’s bad for you. Remember that most advice given by doctors and experts is based on the assumption that you are consuming the typical western or American diet – which is not healthy. If you aren’t eating a healthy diet to begin with, adding high quality lard probably isn’t going to do you any good. Also remember that fat is high in calories and consuming too many calories leads to weight gain and poor health. Respect the fat!

Tamworth Hogs

 

Hillbilly Produce, Super G Mart, Harris Teeter and… Food Lion

I drove all the way out to Hillbilly Produce just to buy chestnuts this morning (they’re so yummy and good for you)… and they were sold out. The guy I spoke with said they probably weren’t going to get anymore in. Boo hoo hoo…  This is about the third time I’ve been here and I’m still not impressed. But I did buy 3 pie pumpkins for $5 and some more Grateful Growers pork chops while I was there. I was bummed that I missed out on the chestnuts.

While I was pulling away, I decided to check out the international food market, Super G Mart, across the street (where Bi Lo used to be). Several people, including my Korean mother have mentioned this place to me several times. I’m so glad I finally went!! Maybe it was meant to be… the first things I noticed was that they had chestnuts! They are the Asian variety I think because they are much larger than the ones you’ll find around here. I bought a huge bag of them – probably around 3 or 4 pounds. I’ve already roasted a few (in the microwave) and they are yummy. So I got what I was searching for, just in another place.

I walked in without a cart or basket thinking I was just going to look, but after my fingers and arms started cramping from carrying so much stuff, I decided to grab a basket. By the time I left, my forearm was sore from the weight of the basket and my fingers were cramping from carrying stuff that wouldn’t fit in the basket. Next time I’ll be sure to get the shopping cart.

The produce selection is pretty amazing. They have most of the standard stuff plus lots of exotics. They had my favorite Asian sweet potatoes (which are actually yams, I think and also really good for you) so I stocked up on bunch of small ones – perfect size for snacking. They taste much better than the standard sweet potato and are better for you. You should definitely try them if you find them in an Asian market. I also scored a couple of 2 quart sized, Low Sodium Kikkoman Soy Sauce on sale for $8.99 each. I picked up some enoki mushrooms and organic, non-gmo tofu. I’m not sure I’ve ever eaten these mushrooms, so this is my “something new to try” for the week.

Tofu is something that I’ve eaten once or twice before. Even though this was a staple in my house growing up, I’ve never really given it a fair chance. I think my mom puts in her egg rolls (which I love, as does anyone who’s ever tried one), but I can’t really remember trying it any other way. I’m sure I must have as a child. Maybe that’s when I formed my unfair opinion about it. So it’s another food (like the eggplant) that I’m going to give a second chance. I don’t know how I’m going to use it yet.

Harris Teeter made me very happy today. I was out of milk, so I had planned to use some Organic Valley coupons there this morning. I decided to check the sale add before going and it’s a good thing I did. They were super doubling coupons! So all of my $1 off coupons were now worth $2! I got 4 half gallons of milk for $3 each, 2 small containers of heavy whipping cream for about $0.35 each and 2 bricks of cream cheese $0.59 each!! I also grabbed some of their eggnog. There was no coupon for that, but I couldn’t resist the thought of sipping a nice warm cup of eggnog (with a little spiced rum) with all this cold rainy whether we’re having. I also picked up some Lara Bars for $1 each (usually $1.50). I highly recommend these. They only have a few ingredients and no added sugar. My two favorites are the peanut butter and the cashew one. The fruity ones (apple and cherry) are pretty tart – too tart for my taste. I got Seattle’s Best Cinnabon coffee for $4 after vic savings and coupon and Starbucks coffee for $6 after coupon.

Seventh Generation products were also on sale. Some of them weren’t worth the small savings, but the detergent was on sale for $9 and I had $1 off coupons (but not subject to doubling). I also picked up the paper towels, toilet paper and automatic dish washing gel. The bonus is that more seventh generation coupons were generated when I checked out. I’ll be going back for more tomorrow probably.

Oranges and tangerines were on sale too. They are in season now and taste so good! I’m sure my kids will be happy to know that we have something besides apples in the house. This should hold us over until the clementines show up.

I forgot to pick up ginger root for dinner tonight, so I decided to run by Food Lion because it was convenient. It’s been awhile since I’ve been in there. I got the ginger, but also wanted to see if they offer any of the products that I usually buy these days. Nope. Not one. I couldn’t easily find any organic produce (though I just gave it quick look). Didn’t see any eco-friendly/safe cleaning products, though I do remember buying Greenworks there before. Food Lion, you guys need to get with the program. If this is your usual grocery store, might I suggest you step out of your comfort zone and venture to a Harris Teeter at the very least. This might be a good first step into a healthier lifestyle.

Holidays on Whole Food

First – It’s almost Halloween, so here’s a little treat: Organic Valley Dairy Coupons and Free Apples from Earth Fare and more Earth Fare Coupons.

I can’t believe Halloween is two days away. It seems fall just arrived. Then again, yesterday at the elementary school, there were leaves on the floor. You know fall is in full swing when leaves are blown and tracked inside buildings. This is my favorite time of the year!! I absolutely L.O.V.E. the holidays. I’m the one who starts listening to holiday music on November 1st, the one who almost can’t wait for Halloween to be over so we can get on with the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years. Spending time with family, good will, holiday decorations and preparations, the music and traditions… I get goosebumps thinking about it!!

The next few holidays are centered around food, so of course this excites me! I’m looking forward to holiday cooking and baking with real food. But it does lead me to wonder how am I going to stick to my whole food, non-processed, no conventional meat, low sugar and refined carbs lifestyle at potluck family dinners? I was thinking of buying a free-range turkey from the farmers market, but changed my mind when I figured up the price. At $6.00 a pound, that’s about $120 for a turkey. I might spring for this once a year, if I knew that it’s superior quality and taste would be appreciated by someone other than me. And if it were served with equally fresh, local vegetables and sides to honor the bird.

It’s really a bit odd how cheap whole turkeys are in the stores this time of year – $0.49 or even $0.29 per pound. A conventional 20 pound turkey will only set you back about $6 to $10. (If you have 10 to 15 guests, that’s $1 or less per person for the main protein.) Isn’t that just a bit strange? Especially considering the costs of feeding, raising and processing, packaging, storing and transporting a turkey? It’s life and all of the resources used to get it to your table is priced at $6 to $10. Really?

So what’s a whole-foods girl and her family to do at family gatherings? I’m not sure yet, but I’m open to suggestions. I know I’ll probably eat very little meat and dessert and try to pick out the most “whole-some” foods offered. I’m not sure whether the temptation will be too great. I don’t really miss that sort of food. I’m more worried that I’ll feel obligated to eat (or at least plate) the offerings so as not to offend anyone or draw attention to myself. The rest of my family, especially the girls, will eat with reckless abandon and take full advantage of the processed, sugar filled cornucopia. I wish I could say I have a plan for that, but I don’t  – yet.

I do have a plan for Halloween. I’m going to buy as much of their Halloween booty as they are willing to part with. I’ll conveniently remind them that they’re going to need money if they want to go see the new Harry Potter (coming out November 19th). We are usually pretty strict about how much they are allowed to eat daily anyway. (Between Halloween, Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Easter, our candy bowl never runs dry around here.) So limiting what they do keep, won’t necessarily be a problem.

But as for the rest, I’ll just take it in stride. I’m not the least bit worried that our new food philosophy will take the happy out of the holidays. The joy from it will easily overshadow little hiccups. We’ll cross each bridge when we get to it. While I would like to say my kids will make wise choices, they probably won’t. They’re kids. It’s my job to do that for a few more years…

Sleep Deprivation

This blog is about our healthy journey, which largely includes eating healthy. Most of my posts have been about food. This one isn’t. Our menu isn’t the only thing that has changed around here. While I do believe eating healthy is step one, you can’t stop there. Studies have shown that people who maintain a healthy weight, usually make healthy choices in all aspects of their life. Focusing on overall health, rather than just your waist line, will give you the weight loss you want and might even make it feel effortless. It did that for me. Don’t focus on the food-weight connection. It’s a smoke screen that will probably lead to failure.

I think the most important thing, besides eating well, is sleeping well. For me this was the thing that kicked me off that vicious yo-yo diet cycle and took me from “dieting” to healthier living. The light bulb went off when I realized that not getting enough sleep made me too tired to make healthy choices. I used to stay up until the wee hours of the morning. I was a self professed “night owl.” London, my sweet little alarm clock, usually woke me around 7 a.m., which meant I was getting about 5 hours of sleep most nights. (Apparently I wasn’t alone.  I’ve seen a facebook likey thing called “I stay up too late and then hate myself in the morning.” They have over 385,000 likes!!)

At some point I realized that I was cheating myself. I traded a few hours of sleep for a few hazy, tired hours in the middle of the night. BUT WAIT! THAT’S NOT ALL! In addition to those extra hours in the middle night, I also received, at no additional cost, one full cranky and unproductive day filled with guilt, which lead to feeling sorry for myself, all for one low price of just a few hours of sleep. I’d rationalize not eating or worse yet, eating prepared processed junk food to save time. It’s part of the cycle and studies have shown that sleep deprivation may lead to weight gain (especially in women). Here’s the cycle. You eat a lot of junk. You need more sleep. You don’t get enough sleep. You eat more junk.

Here are some side effects of sleep deprivation (from Wikipedia) :

So what is considered a good nights sleep? Everyone’s probably heard that we need 8 hours. But then some study showed that 8 is too many and 7 is the perfect number…? In reality the amount of sleep a person needs varies. There is no “perfect number.” Figuring out yours isn’t that difficult. I started out with 8 hours and then tried 7. Subtracting that hour made one noticeable difference. It was easier to get out of bed in the morning. I didn’t have that strong urge to hit snooze, roll over and go back to sleep. I also began to notice that I was naturally waking up just minutes before my alarm was set to go off. Any day that doesn’t start out with that atrocious “BEEP… BEEP… BEEP…” is already a good day in my book.

The only problem with all this, is that I didn’t want to give up those peaceful evening hours. The only sound as beautiful as a house filled with the joy and laughter of happy children, is a quiet house filled with the silence of happily sleeping children. So, I swapped those 3 to 5 unproductive hours at night for 1 or 2 really good ones in the morning. What a difference! I can’t believe what I’ve been missing all these years! It’s the same quiet, peaceful house, but now with a quiet, peaceful me. Serenity.

Here are some benefits of good night’s rest (from About.com):

First Test

So, right after my last post we made a last minute decision to go out for dinner with family. While driving to Jake’s Good Eats I went back and forth trying to decide whether I was going to start abstaining from conventional meat that night or put it off for just one more meal. When we arrived I still hadn’t decided. After looking at the menu, I realized that this place was more upscale than it looked. It’s also well off the beaten path and appears to be on the edge of a farm of sorts. Was it possible that this was a place for a conscious eater?

I made a bold move (one I’m going to have to get used to) and decided to ask the waitress a few questions about the food. Nothing’s local, but she tells me that the chicken is free range and free of antibiotics. That’s good. I mean, it’s not perfect, but it’s edible. Worst case scenario is that it came from a factory farm where free range means thousands of chickens freely ranging under a small, crowded, dark, dusty and disease filled poultry tent. That would definitely take the wind out of my sails. She mentioned that they use Sysco, which has been offering more local and sustainable foods to it’s customers (so they say). There was some hope. Click here to view Sysco’s 2009 Case Study.

There were a few other things about this place that gave me the sense that someone running it was thinking consciously about food. They make all of their own salad dressings. Balsamic vinaigrette was drizzled on the plate with some sauteed leeks and fried green tomatoes. Wow! This was a great start. I could have eaten the entire appetizer, but it was too good not to share.  At first I resisted an offer to try the scallops, but then let my guard down and tried a tiny nibble. Pretty tasty.

I should tell you that when we first pulled up to this restaurant, Haleigh practically shouted in despair and dread “UUUGH! THIS PLACE IS UUUGLY!” After chastising her for being rude and telling her to keep those thoughts to herself, we pulled into a parking spot facing a couple of horses. Things were already looking up for my drama tween.

The restaurant does slightly resemble a shack at first glance. Not really knowing much about this place, I was expecting typical local diner fare, such as hamburgers and maybe some not so healthy country cooking in a dusty old dining room. Corn hole was set up by the front door. The inside is decorated with some antiques and old plaques, but with an artsy touch. The bathroom almost had a sort of boutique feel about it. As it turns out, the place is pretty charming. I don’t know if it was intentional, but the dinnerware was not uniform. All the plates were white, but different shapes and sizes. Maybe the owner doesn’t have the money to purchase uniform sets, or maybe they like it that way. I did. Unfortunately for the wait staff, I noticed it seemed to make clearing tables slightly more difficult.

I’d ordered blackened chicken breast over homemade fettuccine alfredo. There were a few small cherry tomato halves mixed in. They didn’t have much flavor, but the rest of the dish had plenty. I didn’t want to bombard the waitress with questions, but I wish I’d asked what part of the fettuccine alfredo was homemade – the pasta or the sauce or both. I’m guessing the menu was referring to the alfredo sauce, which was very good. There was nothing special about the noodles, though they were more than adequate. They were cooked a little past al dente, but still, it was a good dish. As my sister-in-law pointed out, it would have been better if there were more vegetables mixed in – maybe some spinach or broccoli. The vegetables on everyone else’s plates looked fresh and nicely cooked. But back to my dish. The breastbone was removed from the chicken, but the drummette from the chicken wing was left intact. Nice touch. The skin was also left on, although it was a little too  charred.

This wasn’t a huge portion of food, but plenty in my opinion. I still had enough leftover for lunch the next day. The take out box offered another pleasant surprise. Instead of bringing me one of those eco-unfriendly styrofoam takeout containers, the waitress handed me a nice brown box made from recycled materials. I’m not at the point yet where I’m thinking enough ahead to remember that I don’t want to use those styrofoam ones, so it was nice that they’d thought of it.

While this isn’t a great restaurant (that would be one that uses local and organic ingredients), I still loved it. The real clincher is that it’s just a few miles away from home. There are several things on the menu that I can’t wait to try. Most of the restaurants that I would prefer to dine in, serving fresh, local ingredients, are in south Charlotte and don’t quite fit into our budget. Though I wouldn’t exactly describe this restaurant as cheap, it’s nice to have a semi-conscious option, i. e., one that I don’t have to fear, for an occasional dinner out that’s close to home.