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.