Friday, December 16, 2011

I have finally perfected eggplant parmesan!

Eggplant parm is a staple for me, and has been for about the last two years. One day I was at my mom's house and we needed something to fix for dinner but there wasn't a lot of food in the house. She did happen to have an eggplant though, and some shredded mozzarella, so we decided to try eggplant parmesan even though neither of us had ever had it before (I have no clue why she even had the eggplant). I ended up really liking it and have been making it ever since. I didn't do much differently this time, but for some reason it just all came together in the most perfect way.

When I make this I cut the eggplant into rounds and bake it, instead of breading and frying it. This has two upsides: it is MUCH easier and cleaner, and it's healthier. No gluten from the breading, no worrying about oxidized frying oil. I'm sure I originally did it this way to make it lower in fat, and while that isn't really my focus anymore, baking the eggplant is still a good idea. This recipe takes a little time, but it is super easy.

Eggplant Parmesan:
1 large eggplant
1 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
2 C shredded mozzarella
2TBS shredded parmesan
1 clove garlic, minced
1 TBS each chopped thyme and chopped oregano
Olive oil, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes

First preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Then slice the eggplant into rounds. Use a sharp knife for this, it makes a world of difference. I think one of the keys to really good eggplant parm is uniformly thin eggplant slices. Lay the slices on a cookie sheet and drizzle both sides with olive oil and season both sides with salt and pepper. This is basically the same way I cooked the eggplant when making enchiladas.

While the eggplant is baking make the sauce. Saute the garlic in some olive oil over medium heat. Add the red pepper flakes (to taste) and let that hang out for a minute or two. Next dump the tomatoes into the pot, season with salt, pepper, and herbs, and turn it down to medium low to simmer while the eggplant is cooking. This is basically the same simple sauce I used for my sausage meatballs.

After about 20 minutes in the oven the eggplant should be done. It should look nice and brown before you take it out. The next step is to assemble everything in a casserole dish. I prefer to use a smaller one so I can get more layers in.

First put a thin coating of sauce on the bottom so nothing sticks, then add a layer of the eggplant rounds. Put more sauce on top of the eggplant, followed with a layer of mozzarella. The key to this is to make thin layers, if you put too much sauce or mozzarella the whole thing will come out too watery. Add another layer of eggplant, then sauce, then mozzarella until you run out of eggplant. Add the parmesan to the last layer of mozzarella. Put the whole thing back in the 400 degree oven, uncovered for about 45 minutes. Do not take it out before all the cheese on top is dark brown and bubbly. You could eat it earlier, but trust me, the crust is worth the wait. Also, the longer baking time makes the eggplant skin more tender. It can be really bitter and tough to cut, but if you cook it long enough it is soft and delicious. Here is what mine looked like:

Next, slice and serve! I cut this one into 6 squares. My husband and I both ate two squares for dinner and I had the leftover two for lunch the next day. This is really, really good leftover.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Mediterranean Salad

I haven't been cooking anything very exciting lately since I've been pretty busy, but I had some friends over for brunch last weekend and I thought I'd share this salad I concocted for the occasion. It isn't terribly seasonal, but it is delicious, and *gasp* vegetarian. I thought I might never post any vegetarian recipes on this blog, but I guess the time has come. 

Overall, this is ridiculously simple. I had some bocconcini in my fridge and wasn't sure what to do with them, but my first thought was Caprese salad. That didn't seem all that interesting so I added whatever other Mediterranean ingredients I could think of to get a wider range of flavors and textures. Over all I used 

3 cups of bocconicini, halved
2 pints of cherry tomatoes, halved (I used about one pint red and one pint heirloom variety)
1 cucumber, peeled and diced
1 can of artichoke hearts packed in water, drained and halved
1/2 cup Kalamata olives, halved

I dressed the salad with the juice of two lemons mixed with about 1/2 cup of olive oil, salt, pepper, cumin, cayenne, and about 2 tablespoons of fresh chopped basil. 

This salad is great leftover. After serving it for brunch on Saturday my husband and I ate it as a side with steak that night, and I've had it for lunch today and yesterday. For lunches I served it over some baby spinach, as pictured above.

I've never been crazy about olives, but I'm glad I put them in here. They add a nice salty kick and I think they are something I could definitely learn to like in small doses. Hopefully I can get back into the swing of cooking for a little while, but I don't know how hopeful to be. We are going on vacation in less than two weeks and for some reason travel always sucks away my ambition. We will see. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Garden Update!

I am new to gardening, and when I started out about six weeks ago I had no clue whether or not I'd be able to grow anything, especially since I decided I wanted to start pretty much at the end of the growing season.

Well, it turns out that I'm doing ok! I've been able to keep almost everything alive. Nothing is growing like crazy, but like I said, it's alive. I'm counting that as a success for now.

So far the most problematic thing has been basil. I just can't seem it keep any alive. I tried in the pot out on the balcony, and in my kitchen window because I thought it might be too cold outside. I don't know if it's the temperature, or the sunlight level, or what but it just shrivels up and dies. Maybe I'll have better luck in the spring. Also I think that my husband's aunt may have bought us an AeroGarden for Christmas, so I'll keep my fingers crossed for that.

My biggest success has been the garlic. I had a bulb that I guess I had been holding on to a little too long and the cloves had begun to sprout. Instead of throwing it away I decided to stick it in the dirt and see if anything happened. I really wanted this to work because we eat a LOT of garlic, and because buying garlic from seed suppliers is really expensive. Well, it did work! All the cloves sprouted and now have really tall leaves. I'm so excited!

Anyway, here are some photos:

First is my cilantro and parsley. They have grown a bit, but don't produce as much as I'd like to eat. The basil was in the middle but I took it out. The little green shoot there is garlic.
sorry for the sideways picture
Next is the pot with rosemary, oregano, and thyme. The oregano and thyme are doing great. I really wish the rosemary would grow more quickly. I've almost just gone to get a bigger plant a couple of times now. In front of the rosemary is a bunch or garlic that is just going crazy.

The last pot has kale and lettuce. Neither of them has really done much, I think the container might be too small. I'm thinking about moving them into something bigger.

The compost is still going. I filled the bucket up a bit quickly, so I'm waiting for it to break down more before I add more scraps. So far it doesn't smell bad or anything.

My next move is to get some holders for these boxes so I can put them on the railing. I also want to buy or make some larger containers and start to prepare for spring planing. I should probably start thinking about ordering seeds as well. I'm excited and overwhelmed all at the same time. This tiny garden has been easy, but I don't want to fail when I try something bigger or more involved. I guess I still have a few months to figure it all out. 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Spaghetti Squash

Hello, I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving! We roasted a duck and it was delicious. I used the leftovers to make a duck stock, and used that to make cassoulet. Not at all primal, but still delicious and a great holiday splurge.

Anyway, I still have some back-logged recipes to blog about. Another of my recent vegetable discoveries is spaghetti squash. I've never been a huge pasta fan, but I do really like some pasta sauces. Luckily this squash is a perfect vehicle for delicious sauce. I also wanted to write about this meal because I used leftover sauce and the rest of the sausage I bought for my mozzarella stuffed meatballs. I know meal planning is a challenge for a lot of people, especially two person households, because it's hard to think of ways to reuse the leftover ingredients so nothing goes to waste. This worked out to be a perfect way to use up what I had hanging out in my fridge.

Spaghetti Squash with Meat Sauce
1 medium spaghetti squash
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 C of carrots, chopped
1 link of hot Italian sausage
1/2 lb of ground beef
Red pepper flake, salt, pepper to taste
Left over tomato sauce (or 1 can of crushed tomatoes)
2 sprigs fresh oregano
Fresh basil and parmesan cheese to garnish

First, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cut the squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Bake the squash for about 40 minutes. When it is done use a fork to separate the squash into strands that look like spaghetti. I did this part the night before because I knew I would be a little short on time the night I planned to eat this.

For the sauce, saute the garlic and carrots in olive oil over medium heat. Remove the sausage from the casing and add it in, along with the ground beef. Brown the meat and add the salt, pepper, and red pepper flake. Next add the leftover sauce (or crushed tomatoes) and let the sauce simmer for about 15-20 minutes. After the sauce is done just add the squash, mix it all together, and serve with parmesan cheese and basil.

The texture is different than spaghetti, but it is still delicious. I also find that the leftovers keep pretty well and make a delicious lunch the next day.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thanksgiving Shopping

This weekend I went to the farmer's market with the goal of getting as much as possible of what I needed to cook Thanksgiving dinner later this week. It's just me and my husband this year, but we still plan on making plenty of food. So far here's our menu:

Butternut squash soup
Duck with pan sauce
Green Beans
Sweet potato casserole
Corn bread dressing (for my husband, I'm not a dressing fan)
Roasted potatoes
Pumpkin pie

I was able to get the squash, green beans, both kinds of potatoes, an onion for the dressing, and a sugar pumpkin pie at the farmer's market.
I also got some more delicious honey crisp apples, cauliflower to make a cauliflower puree for my husband's office Thanksgiving potluck, and some huge parsnips. This was the first time I've seen parsnips there and I was so excited, I love parsnips so much. So far there has still been a pretty good variety at the market, I hope in continues through winter. I've never tried this seasonal eating thing before and I'm afraid I'll get tired of the same old stuff by about the end of January. Hopefully it won't be a problem though.

Eggplant Enchiladas

I've been a bit lax about blogging recently, but I don't have to work this week so hopefully I'll have a chance to catch up.

As I've said before, after going primal I've missed Mexican food. I've looked for substitutes for tortillas before so I could make enchiladas again, but all the recipes I found used egg crepes instead of tortillas. I don't really like eggs, so that didn't work for me. I've always been a fan of eggplant parmesan and one day it occurred to me that if eggplant could work in place of pasta, why not in place of tortillas? So I tried it out and as far as I'm concerned, the eggplant works great.

Eggplant Enchiladas:
1 large eggplant, sliced
3 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 cups chicken stock
2 TBS tomato paste
1 TSP each cumin, coriander, paprika, chili powder, cayenne
2 TBS chopped cilantro
1 14oz can tomato sauce
1 clove of garlic, chopped
dash of cinnamon
2 cups of shredded cheddar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Slice the eggplant into disks, lay them on foiled cookie sheets, drizzle both sides with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. They should look like this:

Bake the eggplant for about 15 minutes until it's browned and soft enough to be pliable. When it's done it should look like this:

While the eggplant is in the oven cook the chicken and the sauce. Put the thighs in a pot with the stock and simmer at medium heat until the chicken is cooked through (around 15 minutes). When it's done shred the meat with two forks and mix in a bowl with the tomato paste, cilantro, and spices. Add a little of the cooking liquid to keep the chicken moist.

For the sauce sautee the garlic in a pan with a little olive oil. When it's browned add the tomato sauce and season with salt, pepper, and the cinnamon. Simmer until everything else is done and you're ready to assemble the enchiladas.

To make the enchiladas first spread a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of a casserole dish to keep everything from sticking. Then take a slice of eggplant and place 1-2 tablespoons of chicken in the center, roll the eggplant and place it in the pan seam side down. Keep lining up the enchiladas until the pan is full. Here is my dish about halfway full:

When the pan is full pour the remaining sauce over the enchiladas. Top the sauce with the shredded cheese. Put it all back in the oven for about 20 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly.

I was so excited about eating I forgot to take a picture before I served myself.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


I love jambalaya and a box of Zataran's used to be dinner on nights I didn't feel like doing much. I loved pretty much all of the boxed rice mix type things. Turns out those aren't very good for you, too processed and so much rice. I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with rice, I just don't want to eat so many carbohydrates in one sitting. So, like the fried rice I posted about before, I substitute shredded cauliflower for rice in this recipe. It is really delicious and it's easy to feel good about eating it because it is almost all vegetable.

Cauliflower Jambalaya
3 boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into bite sized pieces
2 (about a pound) links of smoked sausage (I used kielbasa, but this would be great with andouille) cut into  bite sized pieces
1 small green pepper
2 cloves garlic
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
4 springs of fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
Cayenne pepper, to taste
1 head of cauliflower, grated in the food processor
Half a bottle of beer
2 C of chicken stock

First, dice the pepper and garlic and saute in some olive oil (if you want to add onions or celery you should do so now). After they have softened and become aromatic, add the chicken and sausage and let them brown for about 5 minutes. Next add the tomatoes, bay leaf, cayenne, thyme, and salt and pepper. Let that come to a simmer and add the shredded cauliflower. Put in the beer and chicken stock. The liquid should come to just the top of the cauliflower. After it all comes to a simmer just put a lid on it and wait for about 10-15 minutes and then it's ready. Overall, this is much quicker than normal jambalaya because the cauliflower cooks much more quickly than rice. It ends up a little more soupy, but it's still delicious.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Food for You-Know-Who

I woke up early on Saturday to run to the farmer's market. I didn't get anything too exciting, mostly the same old stuff since that's what's in season. I did find some really beautiful purple lettuce though so I bought that instead of the standard green. This was partially because it was so pretty, but also because usually the more colorful food is the better it is for you. Anyway, I went home, put everything away, and started to clean the lettuce. As I was in the kitchen doing this my husband woke up and got out of bed. His first words to me were:

Robbie: Looking at the lettuce: "That looks like something Voldemort would eat."

Me: "I've never known Voldemort to eat anything besides unicorn blood. I don't really think he's a salad kind of guy."

Robbie: "Well if he did eat salad he would use that lettuce."

Well, good morning to you too. I think this might be his way of telling me he prefers the normal green lettuce.

Voldemort's Salad
Anyway, I also bought broccoli, green beans, white sweet potatoes, eggs, cauliflower, and some really cute tiny Brussels sprouts. Oh, and some apples. I used to eat a lot of apples, but cut back since they're pretty high in sugar. I started eating berries instead. Well, I really can't pretend berries are in season anymore so I'm back to apples. These are honey crisp and they are delicious. 

In addition, I think I might be getting into the whole red wine thing. We've had a few bottles of Cote du Rhone that I've really enjoyed. I have no idea if that's a good red wine, or like the white zin of the red wine world, but I guess I don't really care.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Mozzarella Stuffed Sausage Meatballs

This meal is another one inspired by a Rachael Ray recipe. I know a lot of people find her annoying, but I really like a lot of her food. She is creative in a "I might actually be able to pull that off" kind of way, as opposed to a Michelin star kind of way.

Anyway, this meal has three components. The meatballs, the sauce, and the broccolini.

For the meatballs you need fresh sausage and bocconcini (bite-sized) sized fresh mozzarella. You can use whatever kind of sausage you like, I used the hot Italian pork sausage I picked up at the market last Saturday. To make the meatballs I just take 3 links and remove them from their casings. I split each link into three parts and put a bocconcino in the middle then molded the meat around it to form a meatball. I browned the meatballs in a pan with some olive oil then put them into a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes to cook through.

For the sauce I just saute and clove of chopped garlic in a little olive oil, then add a can of crushed tomatoes. I season it with salt pepper, red pepper flake, and fresh oregano and let it simmer until the rest of the food is done. It's the easiest tomato sauce ever. I had sauce leftover and I just put it in the fridge, I'll have to find a way to use it next week.

If anyone hasn't tried broccolini, I hightly recommend it. The taste is kind of a cross between broccoli and asparagus and it's very easy to cook. I heated up some fat in a pan (about one tablespoon each of bacon fat and butter) then added a clove of chopped garlic and the broccolini with the ends trimmed off. I seasoned it with salt, pepper, and red pepper flake, turned the stalks around to make sure they were all coated with fat, and then put them in the oven with the meatballs. When everything was plated I finished it with a bit of fresh basil.

Look at that cheesy goodness.
Overall it was a delicious and satisfying meal. You don't need spaghetti to enjoy some meatballs!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Primal Mexican

I love me some Mexican food (or Tex Mex or whatever they try to pass of as Mexican here) but it's hard to find many primal friendly options. Too many corn chips, flour tortillas, beans and rice! Not to mention my favorite fast Mexican place, Chipotle, cooks everything in soybean oil. No thanks.

So instead of making tacos, I've started to make lettuce wraps with all my normal taco fillings. This isn't exactly a revolutionary idea, but it's something I've enjoyed more than I thought I would. On Sunday night we had some yummy chicken lettuce wraps.
I know this picture is terrible. 
I poached some chicken thighs in chicken stock then shredded them with two forks. I think mixed in some spices (salt, pepper, cayenne, cumin, paprika, chili powder) to make the taco meat. I also halved some cherry tomatoes and mixed them with diced avocado, cilantro, grated garlic and lemon juice to make a kind of guacamole salad. The only other thing I added was a shredded Mexican cheese blend. I served my wraps with regular green leaf lettuce, but butter lettuce works better. I just used what I had though. Overall, I don't miss the tortilla much. The fillings are the best part of tacos anyway, especially any fillings that involve avocado.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Food Therapy

I had a bad week last week. I just felt weird and sad for really no good reason. I usually don't mind my job but for some reason going to work everyday was just painful. I usually like to cook but I just couldn't find the energy to do it for some reason. As a result I ate terribly. I was too lazy to make myself a salad in the morning so I even bought chicken fingers from the office cafeteria twice in one week. I was eating poorly because I felt bad but eating bad just made me feel worse, physically and mentally. I felt bad for my lack of "will power" and because I was eating so much industrially produced food that I knew was bad for me and the environment. I just kept on the downward spiral.

Until I finally actually cooked something on Saturday night. It was just a simple dinner of pork chops with carrots and green beans, but it made me feel so much better. It made me feel a little bit more in control and it reminded me why I like to cook in the first place. I enjoyed the meal, both preparing it and eating it. I think it helped me get out of this short little bout of apathy, which is wonderful. Being apathetic is no fun at all.

I think I also feel better because I spent some time outside this weekend. It's easy to forget just how important it is to get out in the sun for a few minutes everyday. Since the time changed this weekend I don't think I'll be in my office pretty much all hours of daylight, but I'm considering buying a sun lamp to help get me through this winter. 

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Farmer's Market Haul

Yesterday morning I had a chance to go to the market again so I went back to the one in my neighborhood. It was a bit chilly (in the 30s brrr) but the market was still going strong. I got broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, spinach, lettuce, a green pepper, eggs, and hot Italian sausage from Smith Meadows Farm.

I'm very happy they still have tomatoes at the market. I might cry when the day comes where I can't get fresh tomatoes anymore.

Also, I got my husband to watch Food Inc. with me yesterday and I think he's starting to understand why I don't just want to buy all our groceries at the Giant store down the street. I really think that everyone should have to watch this movie at some point.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Here is an interesting article

about local food and the current state of agriculture in the United States. I have to say, I agree with pretty much everything the author has to say.

Local Food: No Elitist Plot

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

More cauliflower magic

I still had half a head of cauliflower left over from the farmer's market a week ago so I decided to make a cauliflower mash to go along with a Spanish inspired chicken and sausage stew. This meal was inspired by this Spanish Chicken Stew with Manchego Polenta by Rachael Ray. I used to make it with polenta before I quit corn, and needed something delicious and creamy to serve the stew on. Enter: mashed cheesy cauliflower. Overall I'm really pleased with the way it turned out. I also used chicken thighs this time, I usually use breasts or tenderloins. I've always been kind of afraid of dark meat but I figured it was time to get over it. If I want to start buying pastured chickens I need to figure out how to eat all the different parts of the bird, not just the familiar white meat. The thigh meat was good. Really, it just tasted like chicken. I don't know what I was so afraid of.

Anyway, here is my version of the recipe:
For the stew:
3 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 smoked sausage (I used kielbasa, this would be much better with chorizo though)
1/2 C shredded or chopped carrots
3 cloves garlic
Salt, pepper, cilantro, chili powder, cayenne pepper, paprika, cumin, and red pepper flake to taste
1/4 C red wine
1 can of diced tomatoes (the fire-roasted kind would work well if you have them

For the cauliflower:
1/2 head of cauliflower
1/4 C heavy cream
2 TBS Butter
1/2 C shredded cheese
Salt and pepper

First I put the cauliflower in a pot with water to steam. Then I brown cut the sausage and chicken into bite size pieces and brown them in some olive oil. When they are sufficiently browned I season them with all the spices and then add the garlic (diced) and the carrots. After the garlic and carrots have had a chance to cook down a little, about 5 minutes, I add the wine to deglaze the pan. Next I add the tomatoes then leave the stew to simmer by itself for a while.

While the stew is simmering I drain the cauliflower and put it into the food processor with the butter. After pulsing a few times, I added the cream and seasonings and pulsed again until it was smooth. I then added the cheese and pulsed a few more times to get it all mixed in. I seriously love my food processor, all of this was so easy.

I served the stew over top of the cauliflower and ate it all mixed together.

It wasn't beautiful, but it was delicious. It would have been better with some cilantro on top, but the cilantro in my garden isn't ready yet. Hopefully it will be next time. 

Monday, October 31, 2011


Usually I'm pretty good about eating well, but traveling defeats me. My husband and I drove down to Jacksonville this weekend to watch the Florida Georgia football game and I ate like crap the whole time. I had fast food pretty much all weekend. There really just aren't any good options while driving up and down 1-95 (although we did stop at a Moe's and I noticed they are serving pastured beef and chicken and naturally raised pork, but I ruined it by eating rice and beans and corn chips). I always feel terrible when we go on road trips and I end up eating like this, but I have a hard time thinking of solutions. I guess I could pack a cooler, but that still doesn't eliminate the temptation I feel when we go out with friends once we reach our destination.

Speaking of lack of preparation, we got home late last night and were pretty much out of food. I had nothing good to eat for breakfast (so I had some Ready Rice I found in the back of a cabinet) and nothing to back for lunch (what I end up eating remains to be seen). I'm not entirely sure what I have to make for dinner, although I did take some chicken out of the freezer this morning. I hate feeling so unprepared. I like to have a fully stocked fridge and know that I will have good food to eat all week. Also, since we missed the farmer's market I'm going to have to do all my shopping for the week at Trader Joe's or Whole Foods. I was really starting to enjoy my increased freedom from the grocery store, but I guess it didn't last long. Anyways, hopefully I can learn from this experience. We're going back to Florida in early December for a wedding, and next time I'll make sure we are stocked up on the essentials before we leave. We are also flying this time, so hopefully less travel time = less fast food.

In any case, here are some pictures from the game:

It was a beautiful day in Jacksonville.

Go Gators!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Nothing is safe.

Wegmans grocery store just issued a recall for pine nuts contaminated by salmonella. This is only months after cantaloupe was linked to outbreaks of listeria. Neither of these things are foods I would ever consider "dangerous" or be nervous about eating. Stories like this make me want to avoid the grocery store even more, it's just scary how unsafe our food is.

I finally made it back to the gym

Last night I made it to the gym for only the second time in over two months. Moving and getting married in August pretty much killed my routine, but I'm trying to get back in the swing of things. I was lifting twice a week, sprinting occasionally, and walking almost every day. I still walk all the time but I haven't been lifting or sprinting. As of now, I haven't really found a good place to sprint by our new apartment, and I think I pulled my quadriceps last time I tried so that was a wee bit traumatizing. I really need to stretch more I guess.

Anyway, I'm still doing the New Rules of Lifting for Women program. I started in April and I'm only on stage three so you could say I'm taking it very slowly. I actually finished stage three before, but I figured I should do it again since I took such a long break. My only problem right now is that the free weight area in my new gym is truly pitiful. It's tiny and crowded and just doesn't have some of the equipment I like to use on a regular basis. There is no space to just spread out and do your own thing and the benches are so close together you have to be careful not to hit the person next to you with your weights. Of course they have a HUGE cardio room full of brand new machines. They even have a large room completely dedicated to exercising on a Wii and similar game systems. But apparently good old fashioned weights don't merit the same attention. I can see myself avoiding the gym because I hate being crammed into this small space. Unfortunately it's the only one in walking distance of my apartment and I'm much more likely to work out if I can walk there. Oh well, nothing is going to stop me from walking which is really my main form of exercise anyway.

In other news, I have been loving cooking with the fresh herbs in my garden. On Tuesday I used fresh rosemary in the marinade for my skirt steak and sprinkled fresh basil over my zucchini and my caprese salad. Last night I used some parsley to garnish my sweet potatoes. I also make kale chips again, which my husband was less than thrilled with. I don't really care though, that just means more for me!

Here is a picture from my delicious dinner on Tuesday:

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

This Diet Coke is defeating me.

Seriously. It is so hard to quit. I don't know how I made it so far last time. And I really feel like an addict, because I am I guess. It's really not a nice feeling.

I'm also having a hard time staying motivated this week because my husband and I are driving down to Jacksonville for the Florida Georgia game this weekend. I know the combination of road trip and tailgate is going to make it next to impossible to not drink soda, so that makes it really hard for me to stay strong for the next few days. Hopefully it will be easier after we get home.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Gardening fail

I was so excited about my new little garden, with my organic soil and organic fertilizer to use with all my organic plants.

Well, I just found out the Miracle-Gro Organic Choice soil I bought might not have been such a great purchase after all. Miracle-Gro is owned by Scott's which is pretty much in league with Monsanto, the GMO giant. The desire to avoid GMOs and not send any of my money to companies like Monsanto is a big reason I've decided to make these lifestyle changes in the first place, and even when I try to make the right choices I still somehow end up supporting Monsanto. They are everywhere. It's really kind of scary when you think about it.

Anyway, my soil is still organic, but I will definitely find a new source of soil before I plant anything else.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Another reason to avoid the grocery store...

Rising food prices.

This article from Yahoo Finance says that we can expect grocery stores to pass on the rising cost of food in the next few months. Since the article mostly blames the rising cost of energy and commodities like grain I'm hoping that I can avoid some of the cost increases by shopping local. That way less energy is used to get the food from the farm to my table. In addition, I'm not buying grains, anything made with grains, or anything fed grains (i.e. conventional meat) so hopefully the grain price increases won't affect me too much either.

I'm not naive, I know I'm probably not going to be able to escape these rising costs entirely, but I'd like to think what I'm doing will help ameliorate the higher prices we are likely to see soon.

Chicken fried "rice"

Since I cut grains and beans out of my diet I've been making an effort to try different types of vegetables. Going to the farmer's market encourages me to try new varieties as well. It's just too easy to get into a rut of eating the same 4 or 5 types of veggies day in and day out when you only shop at a grocery store.

Anyway, one of my best discoveries is cauliflower. I had never had it before and now I am obsessed. It is good roasted, sauteed in butter, mashed or pureed, or grated and used as a rice substitute. Last night I used it instead of rice to make my version of fried rice, something we ate fairly often before giving up grains.

A word of warning: I'm not awesome with recipes. I hardly ever follow them exactly and I don't measure anything. I'll try and approximate, but keep in mind these are just guidelines.

Fried "Rice"

One chicken breast
1 1/2 cups baby carrots, halved
1 1/2 cups green beans
1 medium stalk of broccoli
1/2 head of cauliflower
2 TBS butter
2 TBS soy sauce
3 cloves garlic
1TBS chopped cilantro
Salt, pepper and red pepper flake to taste

First I season the chicken breast then put it in a 350 degree oven for about 15 or so minutes. I simultaneously put the broccoli, carrots, and green beans in a pot to steam together.

Next, I focus on the cauliflower. I break or cut the florets away from the head and make sure they are in relatively small pieces. Then I run them through my food processor using the grater attachment. When I'm done it mostly looks like grated cheese.

I take the veggies out of the pan and then add the butter and garlic. Then I add the cauliflower "rice" and let it get a little bit toasty. In the meantime, I take the chicken breast out of the oven and cut it into strips. After the "rice" has cooked a bit I add in the veggies and chicken and season it all with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. I also flavor it with soy sauce. After that I just stir everything around until the cauliflower seems cooked through and gets a little bit crispy. I finish it with the chopped cilantro.  

Anyway, while the texture of the cauliflower is different than rice, it pretty much tastes exactly the same. My husband was pretty skeptical about this experiment, but he really enjoyed the results. He even agreed to take the leftovers for lunch, which is a pretty big deal for him. Here is a picture of the finished product:

A note about the soy sauce. I really try to avoid soy as much as I can, but soy sauce is an occasional exception. Since the beans are fermented, they are not nearly as harmful. Also, I only eat it very sparingly, mostly just when I make this recipe.

I started my garden!

I had a very productive weekend and the chore I am by far the most exciting about accomplishing was getting my garden started. I picked up some kale, lettuce, rosemary, cilantro and oregano from a seller at the farmer's market. I go some locally grown and organic basil, parsley and thyme from Whole Foods. The soil and fertilizer I got at Lowe's is also all organic. In addition, I also got the materials to start making my own compost. I'm really making an effort to do this as naturally as possible. I hope everything survives, the guy at the market told me it wasn't too cold yet, so I hope he's right. Here's a picture:

From left to right there is cilantro, basil, parsley, rosemary, oregano, thyme, kale, lettuce, more kale, and more lettuce. My cats are very interested in the plants. The big brown one is Penny and the white kitten is Rupert. They really like hanging out on the balcony with me and watching the birds and squirrels. 

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Saturday Market

Today is Saturday which means farmer's market day. There is one in my neighborhood, but I decided to go to a different market a few miles away today because it is larger and runs year round. The one closer to home is still open, but I wanted to see what was going on at the other market so I could be prepared for when mine closes.

Anyway, this new market was great. They had a really wide variety. There were several stands selling fruits and vegetables, two selling grass fed meat, two selling cheese, a few selling plants and flowers, one baker and even one stand completely devoted to mushrooms. I got a lot of great stuff.

Here is my haul: lettuce, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, acorn squash, zucchini, cherry tomatoes, black eyed peas, heirloom tomatoes, sweet potatoes, garlic, pastured eggs and fresh mozzarella. I got all of this for about $40 which is definitely less than I would spend if I tried to buy the same stuff at Whole Foods. Also, the mozzarella was kind of an impulsive splurge. It was a little expensive at $7, but I really really love fresh mozzarella and I needed something to eat with what are probably some of the last tomatoes of the season.

And I know I've talked about not eating legumes but somehow still ended up buying green beans and black eyed peas. Well, as far as the green beans go I just really love them. They aren't as starchy as other beans and since I'm eating them in the pod I feel like the eat more like a vegetable than a legume. And as for the black eyed peas, they are one of my husband's favorite foods. He requested them recently so when I saw them at the market I figured why not buy some to make him happy. I don't think I've ever had fresh black eyed peas, so they should be interesting.

When I got home I fixed myself some lunch. I had sausage and butternut squash sauteed in butter with a side of kale chips. I steamed the squash first then just cooked it with some kielbasa. I seasoned it with salt, pepper, red pepper flake, and garlic. I cut the kale into bite sized pieces then roasted it with olive oil and salt and pepper for ten minutes at 350 degrees. I've heard a lot about kale chips recently but this was the first time I tried them for myself. They were absolutely delicious, like a really thin broccoli flavored potato chip. Ha, I guess maybe that doesn't sound terribly appetizing, but I promise they were really good.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Going without

When I decided to "go primal" this summer I knew I needed to cut a lot of things out of my diet. Mostly grains, beans, vegetable oils, and really anything that was too carb-y. I thought I would really miss most of these things, especially bread. I have always loved bread. And rice. Rice has been one of my favorite foods for a while now, and I usually ate it a few times a week. I have also become very fond of beans over the last few years, and wasn't looking forward to doing without those either. None of these were that hard for me though. I pretty much just stopped cooking starch with my meals and began eating salads for lunch. I'll still eat a little bread or rice if I go out, but that doesn't happen often. And when I do eat grain products (especially wheat) I usually feel gross and bloated afterwards so it isn't that hard to avoid them.

What has been hard to give up, however, are my drinks. I have always loved citrus juice. I drank a lot of lemonade and orange juice growing up (I did live in Florida after all) and had become accustomed to my glass of grapefruit juice in the mornings. Even though grapefruit juice is considered relatively healthy by a lot of people, I decided to give it up. One glass has 22 carbs! I'm trying to stick to around 75 grams of carbohydrates a day and I couldn't justify drinking 22 of them every morning. Anyway, I've pretty much gotten used to the no juice thing. Whenever I have a strong craving I eat half of a real grapefruit instead.

I'm having more trouble on the alcohol front. I just really love beer and wine. And with a wedding, honeymoon, and college football in the mix the last few months the booze has been pretty hard to avoid. I don't really think it's realistic for me to cut it out completely but I am going to try to switch over from white wine to red wine. It has a lot more antioxidants and it's not quite as easy to throw back so I think this might help. We picked up a bottle of Cote du Rhone last night at the local wine and cheese shop and it was pretty good. Plus it had a pretty label:

I also got a six pack of a beer I'd never seen called Pork Slap Pale Ale. It's brewed in New York, which isn't super far but I'm sure doesn't count as local. I need to find a good Virginia IPA that I like and stick with that I think. Anyway, the cans were cute, they have pigs on them!

What has really been killing me drink wise is Diet Coke. I have always loved Diet Coke and drank more of it than I care to admit. I've known for a while I need to quit, but it is most definitely more easily said than done. I weaned myself off of it for a while back in July and August, but started drinking it again on my honeymoon. And now, I just can't stop. It's embarrassing how easily I feel back into the three a day routine. It doesn't help that my office building has tons of vending machines and they all take a debit card, I don't even have to fish for  change. Anyway, I really need to make another effort to quit. I have some anxiety issues and I know the caffeine isn't doing me any favors. Hopefully I'll have an easier time of it this weekend since my husband will be out of town and I won't be going out to eat with him or getting envious every time he opens a Diet Dr. Pepper, his own soda of choice. 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Well here goes nothing...

I thought I'd probably start with an introduction, and try to lay out what I want this blog to be about. First of all, I'm surprised that I'm even considering writing about food and nutrition. I was a notoriously picky eater growing up, I don't think I ordered anything besides chicken fingers and fries in a restaurant until college at least. Also, I have never been a particularly science minded person. I studied history in college and grad school, and currently work as an archivist.

So how did I get from history and fried food to where I am now? I guess it started in college, I began to get over my pickyness and try new foods. I also watched a lot of Food Network and taught myself how to cook. I began working out in college too, although I never really ventured beyond the elliptical machine.

In grad school I put pretty much any kind of healthy habits I might have acquired on the back burner. I simply didn't have the time or energy to work out or spend much time cooking. After I began working full time I also felt pressed for time. We'll my body certainly noticed the change and I gained about 20 pounds in two years. I would intermittently try to get back into working out or watching what I ate, but I wasn't very successful. Turns out, all I needed to get in gear was for my boyfriend to propose. With the prospect of wedding pictures that would last FOREVER I began to count calories using My Fitness Pal and began going to the gym more. I got bored with cardio so I began following the New Rules of Lifting for Women program.  I lost some weight, but not much. I felt like I was fighting an uphill battle. I thought I was doing everything right, eating the right amount of calories and a balanced diet of complex carbohydrates, lean protein, and healthy fats. There were definitely more calories going in than calories going out, yet I just wasn't really losing weight. I wasn't really losing inches either.

After lots of digging around online I came across Mark Sisson's blog Mark's Daily Apple which outlines the primal lifestyle. The whole concept is based on the idea that we are really not very different than our paleolithic, hunter-gatherer ancestors when it comes to our genes and how our bodies work. Our ancestors did not eat processed foods, grains, vegetable oils, legumes, refined sugar, or any other number of things that are staples in our modern diet. Modern hunter-gatherer populations, and likely our paleolithic ancestors, are healthier than us, and free of the "diseases of civilization" such as most cancers, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, gout, ulcers, osteoperosis, arthritis, and a number of other chronic conditions that plague people today. Overall this whole philosophy just made sense to me intuitively in a way a lot of other stuff I'd read about diet and nutrition did not, so I decided to give it a try and began to cut out grains, legumes, vegetable oils, and sugar and began to eat more meat and fat. I lost weight easily and effortlessly and looked and felt great for my wedding last August.

While I got into this purely for vanity reasons, mainly because I just wanted to be thin, I quickly became very interested in the health side as well. In the last few months I've spent a lot of time reading about diet, nutrition, agriculture, sustainability, and the environment. I'm trying to make a commitment to eat as healthfully as possible, and to try to lessen my impact on the environment by eating as much local and sustainable food as I can get my hands on. I want to be able to buy the vast majority of my groceries at the farmer's market, small independent food shops, or straight from the farm. I plan on ordering some grass-fed meat in bulk as soon as I can convince my husband that it's reasonable to put a chest freezer in our living room. My biggest project is turning my apartment balcony into an organic vegetable garden so I can eat my own veggies next summer. I also hope to be able to save some money and support the local economy by doing this.

So basically, that's why I wanted to start a blog. I'd like to record and share my efforts to eat better, live better and maybe help save the Earth and save some money while doing so.