Posts Tagged ‘food’

12 Goals for 2012

(I swear I didn’t specifically aim for 12 goals. When I counted them before making this post, I was pleasantly surprised by the symmetry though.)

– Knit 12 projects (1 per month) from yarn already in my stash and patterns in my queue or favorites list on Ravelry. I will get a post up about this soon.

– Run the Instant Classic Half Marathon on March 17th. The goal is 2:30, but being a trail race, I will accept any time between 2:30 and 2:45.

– Sew several new pieces of garb over the Spring and Summer, for all of the family. We all need new garb to get us through Pennsic, but especially Grace.

– Pre-plan monthly menus. That system works too well and takes nothing more than me applying some brain power to it. Saves us a ton of money and headaches when I keep it up.

– Find some way, some how, to find the funds to join a CSA (I want Victory Farms if they keep their system the same as the old owners). I will continue to fantasize about having the money to get a cow share from Faith Farms for milk.

– Run the 5 mile Dauber Dash on June 17th.

– Expand my cooking chops and learn new and amazing ways to eat unfamiliar vegetables. (See the CSA goal above).

– Work with Grace to continue to help her with her goal of learning to run along with Mommie.

– Run Warrior Dash on September 29th and earn a PR for that race (would like to do it in 50 minutes or less).

– Run the Richmond Half Marathon in 2:30 or less on November 10th.

Tighten up my nutrition to improve my performance in the races I have planned. I am shooting myself in the feet with my diet. I could do so much better if I was even more careful about what I put in my mouth.

– Present the family with beautiful handknit Christmas gifts that will keep them wrapped in warm wooly love.

I want to focus 2012 on food, fitness, and family, and improving the connections and relationships I have with each of those things.

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The Neglected Blog Looks Back

I have had nothing to say. Nothing to show you. Nothing to share. Not that there hasn’t been an abundance of words, potential photos, or knitted projects, it’s just that it is the time of year where my brain is overwhelmed and I just don’t feel like talking. I have neglected the blog and I am sorry.

2011 has been a year for wild ups and downs. It will go down in my memory for several momentous occasions.

First, it was the year I found my feet. I started running in the Spring of 2010 a few months after gastric bypass, but it wasn’t until this year that I found the confidence to run races. It began in January when I learned that Warrior Dash was coming to Virginia and I signed up as a way to motivate myself. Then I discovered the SuperHero 5K; a perfect race given my ability, my fondness for superheros, and the charity appealed to me. In total, I ran 3 races this year, finishing the year with the Jingle Bell Run, and even before 2012, I have signed up for two more races, both 13.1 mile distances. I am already well into training for the half marathon I am running on March 17, 2012.

I will also remember it as the year I received my Pelican in the SCA and as a year in general where I gave most of my spare time to the SCA, at least up until about October. Between autocratting, gate keeping, and general event support staff, I put a lot of time, sweat, and work into the SCA. I have committed to making 2012 a lighter year for the SCA for myself. No jobs, no event staffing, no offices; nothing unless I am taken hold of by some bolt out of the blue and inspired to do something.

It was the year of car repairs and cash hemorrhaging in general. Things were looking up early in the year, but then the van needed work, then the washer gave up the ghost, then we bought a new t.v., then my truck needed $1000 in work, then the van again, then the truck broke down the day before Thanksgiving, and finally, the van needed a new radiator just last week. It has been brutal, but we have held on and received a lot of blessings too; just the fact that we aren’t deeply in credit card debt still puts us in a better place than we were 3 years ago. I hope things will improve in 2012.

Also in the hardship category has been the breakup of my parents’ marriage after 32 years. As I told my dad a couple of weeks ago, this has been a long time in coming, so long in fact that I just stopped believing it would actually happen. But at long last it has, and we are picking up the broken pieces of my family and trying to figure out how to make a new puzzle out of it all. Some pieces are missing. Some pieces don’t fit together anymore. For better or worse, I suspect it is only the glue that is Grace Elizabeth that is preventing total disintegration.

I confess that I always assumed that divorcing parents would be vastly easier to manage as an adult than as a child. In fact, I thought I would have no emotional fall out whatsoever. I was categorically wrong on that front. This is hard. It hurts. And there is not a quick end to the hurt in sight, but I will push on to do right by all of my family, even though that balancing act is difficult at best and leads to hurting others sometimes at worst.

2011 was the year I began to earn some culinary chops. I have enjoyed experimenting with food, flavors, cuts of meat, and preserving food. The surgery I underwent almost 2 years ago has totally transformed my interests in food. Gone are the days when fried chicken and French fries made a meal, and all for the better as far as I am concerned. Yes, almost everything I cook has to have some kind of sauce with it for my own benefit, but the great thing about sauces is you can cook the same type of meat 10 times (hello boneless, skinless chicken breast) and have a different take on it every time. I have truly begun to enjoy cooking to the point that I frequently prefer it to eating out at a restaurant a lot of times.

It is also the year where I began to really care about what is in my food and where it came from. Websites I follow like Well Preserved and Fooducate have opened my eyes to possibilities and problems with our food. Sites like Food Freedom and Farm to Consumer Legal Defense have opened my eyes to the incredible power wielded by the large food corporations and how they influence government policy to their own fiscal benefit, though frequently to the detriment of the general public (remember, this is the year that tomato paste made pizza qualify as a “vegetable” for the purpose of school lunches).

It was not a big year for knitting for me. My Corrie Vest was the only really impressive project I succeeded at. The well-intentioned Self Created Sock Club flopped in May when it was supposed to be a pair of socks for my dad; this was simultaneous with the discovery of the divorce. Between the insanity of getting ready for Sapphire and the tumult of the early days of the divorce proceedings, I just couldn’t bring myself to knit his socks. And once I was off a month, I never got my sock mojo back. I have a new plan for 2012 and for knitting that I will describe in a forthcoming post.

It has been an incredible year with my daughter. Watching Grace become a little kid who can write her name, her numbers up to 10, who can spell C A T, who can color in the lines, who can draw pictures, and can remember and sing entire songs back to us has been uplifting and amazing. She has been the light and joy in my year.

I feel like I am ending 2011 a very different woman than I was when it started. I feel much older, more care-worn than I was 12 months ago. It has not been an easy or light year in any way, which doesn’t expressly mean it was a bad year overall, just a very intense year across the whole spectrum. I feel like I changed more in just this year than I have ever before, in some ways for the better, and in other ways, not so much.

I am closing out my third decade of existence very soon as well. My twenties were an awesome set of years, to be sure, but I am entering into my thirties in better health than I have ever had and with an amazing family I didn’t have at the beginning of my twenties. I don’t know where I will be at 40 in the same way I could never have predicted where I am today when I was 20, but I hope and pray that the coming decade will a decade of action and doing. I want to use these years to do rather than to hope to do. I will never be any younger than I am today, every day, and I learned very acutely this year that if you want to do something, you better hurry up and do it. Opportunities come far less frequently than excuses.

On that note, I will be closing out 2011 by running seven miles on Saturday morning. That is something I definitely could not have done on 12/31 a year ago. I can’t wait to see what I can do a year from this Saturday.

I wish you and yours an amazing 2012.

Our Local Thanksgiving

Well, my challenge to myself was to source as much of our Thanksgiving Day feast foods as locally as possible. I am annoyed at myself because every year, we always take a picture of our spread and this was the first year I failed in that, and this is the first year it really mattered to me what our spread looked like.

So, starting with the blatantly unlocal stuff. I did not extend my challenge as far as the goods other family members were bringing. Anna Jean was bringing deviled eggs and Dottie was bringing the beloved dish affectionately known as “green glop” (lime jello, pineapple, and marshmallow salad) and pumpkin pie. Because cranberries don’t seem to grow in Virginia and I really do like cranberry jelly, I got a plain old can of cranberry jelly. Next year, I am going to make my own. The white potatoes came from the store because I couldn’t find decent white potatoes at the farmers market except for tasty small new potatoes that would not make good mashed potatoes. And of course there was the Savory Toasted Cheese.

Other than those items, pretty much everything on the table, down to the fresh herbs for seasoning, were local.

Of course the star of the show was the turkey. At $6.50 a pound, it was really hard on our budget. One would hope that for $95, it would be the most amazing turkey you have ever tasted.

Fortunately, it was. Yes, I will spend $100 on a turkey again. I brined it in a fairly unscientific brine of a cup of sea salt, a half cup of brown sugar, a variety of herbs and garlic, in enough water to cover the bird for about 18 hours in a 5 gallon lined drink cooler out on the back porch overnight.

I worked very hard this year to smooth out timing issues that have been plaguing me over the past several years. I spent most of Wednesday afternoon doing a lot of pre-cooking. I made my mushroom stuffing and melted the STC together, I sliced and boiled the sweet potatoes for my sweet potato casserole. I mandolined all the veggies for my “root vegetable salad” and got them coated in their olive oil and herb coating to sit in the fridge overnight. I really need a nicer name for that dish since “roasted root vegetable salad” sounds shockingly unappetizing, but the end result is a delicious, sweet and savory dish of perfectly cooked squash, purple onions, carrots, garlic, parsnips, and garlic cloves.

All this prep work made Thursday morning the most relaxed Thanksgiving morning I have ever had. I still had to be up at 6am to get Tommy in the oven, but that didn’t bother me. If the pan goes in the oven length-wise, it leaves enough room on the side to put a smallish dish in next to it, which meant things like the dressing (I do actual stuffing in the bird and dressing in a dish for those who are concerned about contamination, even though I also check the internal temperatures of the stuffing) and the sweet potato casserole could be baking simultaneously with the bird. I was religious this year about checking on Tommy and checking his internal temps as the morning went on. There was NO way I would risk over- or under-cooking him. At exactly 11am, as my plan had been and thankfully worked out to be, he had reached the appropriate temps I was looking for and out he came for a good long rest. That allowed the root veggies plenty of time for their one-hour roast.

At 1pm, everything was ready to serve. Byram had a very hard time carving up Tommy because the physiology of the bird was unlike any regular turkey we have ever had. He had more muscle, fascia and sinew, tougher skin, and was more boat-shaped than flat and round like an ordinary turkey, so he would not lay flat on the cutting board (or the roasting pan for that matter).

One of the things that really startled Bryam and I as we worked with the bird (though in different ways) was just how physically different it was. The giblets were HUGE compared to a regular bird, as would be necessary since he lived outdoors, moved very freely, and could even fly (a regular bird cannot fly, even if it had access to space to do so). It would of course need a larger heart to move more blood. Its internal cavity was huge as well to accommodate all those larger organs. The breast was smaller (but not by a whole lot) but the thighs, legs, and wings were much bigger, and the dark meat was absolutely delicious.

For all the expense and worry and work of getting it right, that was the most amazing turkey we have ever had. Interestingly enough, the skin was not especially tasty, though I didn’t add a ton of seasoning directly to the skin, just smeared it with butter and a little salt before roasting. I usually find the skin on a regular bird to be yummy. It didn’t matter that the skin wasn’t tasty though. The meat itself was so good that you didn’t need the skin for extra flavor.

As for the rest of the table, the food was generally really good too. The mashed potatoes flopped, but they were the last dish I put any effort into and I don’t know if it was the choice of potato (russet) or the much larger quantity I made than usual, but I couldn’t get any flavor into them no matter how much half and half, milk, butter, and salt and pepper I added, and I could not beat the lumps out of them. Ah well. Of all the things to flop, mashed potatoes were the least important.

The roasted vegetables turned out to be a big hit when in the past they have been less popular. And shock of shocks, even though there was “bird-free” dressing on the table, everyone kept going for the stuffing we had taken out of the bird, even all those who are generally fearful of it. That blew my mind. And they all loved it too.

All in all, I would call the Local Thanksgiving Challenge a big success.

Now the big question. So how about the budget? Excluding things I always have in the house like flour, salt, eggs, milk, chicken broth, and butter, which of course do add to the total, but were not bought specific to this meal, the total for my part of dinner came out to be about $120.

That is a lot of money, but then I broke it down further. I fed 8 people one meal. That works out to $15 a head. So that makes my Thanksgiving dinner about the price of a decent sit down dinner in a restaurant (excluding drinks). But then, I sent leftovers home with 2 people who didn’t have to make dinner that night. So that is 10 meals.

Friday morning, we ate leftovers for breakfast. Call that 2 more meals (since Grace didn’t eat as much and I don’t eat a huge portion), so we are up to 12 meals served, bringing the cost down to $10 a meal. We continued to eat leftovers for lunch and also dinner on Friday. Add 4 more meals to our overall Thanksgiving meals. Now we have served 16 meals from that dinner.

Saturday was a Thanksgiving-free day, and we splurged on things like homemade steak, eggs, and bacon for breakfast, lunch at a local, charitable restaurant, and dinner with friends.

Byram was 100 % done with turkey but we still had a bunch leftover, so since he was gone all day on Sunday, I made a sort of Mexican Turkey chili thing. Grace wouldn’t eat anything so spicy, so I made her steamed broccoli leftover from the head I bought at the farmers market for Thanksgiving, and served her rewarmed turkey pieces and rice. I had the Mexican chili on rice for lunch and dinner, which my mom ate as well. I would call that one real serving since it was just turkey even though it fed 3 of us for last night’s dinner. That makes 17 meals, and there is still enough turkey left that I intend to make into turkey salad to eat for lunch, which I would call one last small meal, bringing the tally up to about 18 meals served out of the $120 I spent on Thanksgiving.

That brings my total to about $6.67 per meal served. Yes, $120 is not playing around money, especially when our budget is squeezed to the limit right now, but getting that many meals out of it makes it surprisingly economical when you consider the grand scheme of things.

So, my conclusion is that I loved the local challenge and even with the insanely expensive turkey, it was no so expensive as to prevent me from doing it again. What a wonderful experiment this turned out to be.

If I do Thanksgiving at my house next year, I would do this again, and I would tweak only a couple of things like maybe I will serve roasted local new potatoes instead of plain old mashed potatoes and I will get green beans while they are in season and blanch and freeze them or can them while they are fresh to serve in November. I will make my own cranberry jelly from non-local cranberries, but without all the HFCF in the Ocean Spray stuff. But that is about all the changes I would make.

Thanks for following along if you are still with me, 1700 words into my wrap up. I hope you and yours had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Next challenge: Occupy Christmas and make it Local! I will come up with details and ideas and post soon.

Another Wash, Rinse, Repeat Post

Knit. Run. Play with Grace. Run. Knit. Play with Grace. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

Throw in some stupid internet games and my salaried job (where a lot of the Knit. Run. Knit. Run. part happens…) and that is pretty much the sum total of my life. I spent a week run down by a cold, but am mostly recovered now, and thankful it hit before Thanksgiving, rather than next week.

I am working on a poncho with a deadline. That is going mostly well, and at least faster now that I am to the interesting part of the poncho.

I have several Christmas gifts set aside, but not everyone’s yet and time is winding down. Trying not to panic here.

Next week is Thanksgiving and my menu is mostly planned. Care to see? Things with a * next to them denote that the dish is as local as I can make it.

*Empress Farm Heritage Turkey w/ gravy
*Kim’s Mushroom Stuffing
Savory Toasted Cheese (blatantly non-local!)
*Steamed Broccoli (to appease the Girl Child who loves the ‘little green trees’)
Green Beans
*Roasted Autumn Veggies (very flexible depending on what is at the farmers market tomorrow)
*Mashed Potatoes
*Sweet Potato Casserole w/ meringue topping

Those are my contributions to the table. The rest of the menu is as follows:

*Fresh baked rolls (Ama makes them and gets the flour from the mill in Ashland)
Green Glop (yummy pineapple and lime jello salad brought by Greatma)
Deviled Eggs (contributed by Nana)
Can of Cranberry Jelly (I can’t help it, I just love this stuff so I put it on the table)
Pumpkin Pie (Greatma)
*Apple Pie (Ama)

Some of the dishes might vary based on what I find tomorrow at the market. The mushroom stuffing might get to be a local dish if the guy who sells the mushrooms is at South of the James tomorrow, or it might not. If I were making the pumpkin pie, it could count as local since all our pumpkins this year came from the Chesterfield Berry Farm and we stowed the pumpkin goodness in the freezer, but this is another way for my grandma can contribute. I might make a pumpkin pie of my own over the long weekend though, or more of the pumpkin bread I made last weekend that was so delicious.

Wherever everything ends up coming from, our little band will eat well. Looks to be only 8 of us now, technically 7 if you count Grace and I as one normal serving.

Tomorrow, I will be two weeks away from my 5K Jingle Bell Race at Stony Point Fashion Mall. I am not feeling as confident about my sub-30 minute goal as I was, but I am not as unhappy about that as I thought I would be. I have not yet been able to maintain the 9:30 min/mile pace I would need for the sub-30 minute 5K, but I still believe I will run a solid race and hopefully make a faster time than my 31:52 in April.

That being said, I finally signed up for my first half marathon. I am running the Instant Classic Half Marathon Trail Race on March 17, 2012. I plan to train for it with Kitty’s team who will simultaneously be training for the Shamrock Half being held in VaBeach the same day. They start their training on 12/3, the same morning as my 5K run, so I will be coming in a week late to the show. Hopefully her team won’t mind.

And that’s it in a nutshell. I have lots of stuff going on, but nothing that has been much worth blogging about. Like I said, it figured to be a quiet month. I hope to have more to share leading up to or right after Thanksgiving.

Quiet Time

My October Unprocessed challenge is ending, in theory, today. I committed to a hard-core first week and succeeded in it, with my major exclusion of artificial sweeteners, and then after the first week, I tried to continue it without going overboard or making myself (or anyone else) crazy.

I learned that really, I do pretty well already in terms of whole, low-processed foods. My major stumbling blocks came from my sweet tooth and the sacks of candy that one of the attorneys here always keeps in his office. In the last week, I just couldn’t keep my hand out of the candy jar and there were a few Snickers mini-bars and one or two Reese’s Cups. I had only one excursion out for fast food, which was the morning of the yard sale and I could not resist a McDonald’s McSkillet Burrito.

I really did try and at the same time, I tried to be subtle about it, I tried to be easy on my family about it, and most of all, I tried to be flexible about it and not let it stress me out. It seemed to work well.

I think I am going to try and make November a quiet month. I genuinely feel like I need to pull back, regroup, and heal my own spirit a bit. This year has been difficult and I am going into the holiday season at a very low point, mentally and emotionally, and I am going to focus on taking care of the issues in my life that need working on, and get myself right in my heart to begin the Advent season that I do love so much. I have some phone calls to make and some actions that need to be taken.

I’ll be around if you need me, but I expect a quiet spell for a while.

Rules To Eat By

A dear friend who is chronicling her efforts to lose weight and run the Richmond Half Marathon said to me this weekend that she wanted to talk to me about nutrition because I “know how to eat.” Her comment took me by surprise; everyone knows how to eat right? I do believe everyone basically knows how they should eat, but in a world where every week there is a new “diet” book out and every magazine marketed to women has a new way to eat to “lose that belly fat forever,” it can get very easy to lose sight of the basics.

I will start with Michael Pollan’s “Rules” with my personal addendum in brackets.

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly [lean protein and] plants.

That’s it. Simple and common sense. And pretty much everyone knows that stuff whether they have ever even heard of Michael Pollan or not.

So let’s talk about these basics, using Pollan’s Rules as a framework.

Eat food.

What is food? Food is nothing more than potential energy in a form that our bodies can digest and turn into kinetic energy. But it is SO much more than that. Food has deep cultural and emotional roots in most of us, both of which make it more difficult for humans to look at food as simply fuel and make it much easier to over-indulge.

In American food culture, we have the additional problems of what I think of as edible food-like substances. Think Lucky Charms, Kraft Singles, powdered non-dairy creamer, which are just a few examples that come immediately to mind. I am not saying these things are inherently evil (okay, I do think Lucky Charms are inherently evil…), just that they are not good ways to be getting nutrition. I also believe that these food-like substances confuse our bodies, mix up our hormones, and contribute to our obesity epidemic.

An occasional Pop-Tart is not going to kill you or make you fat by itself. But is it going to do anything for you aside from making you not hungry for a short while and fill some empty spot in your brain that said “I have a sweet tooth”? No, of course not.

My suggestion is this: enjoy your pop-tart (or whatever your unfood of choice might be; mine was a dunkin donut this weekend) but don’t use them as a meal or eat that stuff daily. Even better when have a sweet tooth attack would to be to eat a real food treat.

Homemade chocolate chip cookies? That is a much better choice than a Chips Ahoy! cookie out of the bag (I know, I nibbled on one this weekend, then threw it and the remains of the bag of cookies in the trash. Yuck.) A slice of cheesecake is better than a fudge round made with transfats and high fructose corn syrup. Do either options qualify as health foods? No. But I would bet you that the higher quality choice will leave you feeling better.

As for your daily meals, keep them simple and focus on high quality ingredients; higher quality means generally more nutrients and better flavor. The more elaborate you try to get with your meals, the more time it takes to prepare and cook them, making you less likely you are to cook your own foods. Make protein the largest part of your meal (more on this below), make your carbohydrates as complex as possible, and eat a little fat with each meal!

Fat? Oh noes! The Horror!

Fat is NOT the enemy. Fat is essential for the absorption of many essential vitamins like A, D, and K. Fat adds flavor. Fat keeps you fuller longer (actually, calories help keep you full, but what else is fat but concentrated calories/energy). The trouble with fat is it is a key feature in most processed foods (cheap way to add flavor) and most meals in restaurants (more flavor means happier guests, happier guests come back and spend money at the restaurant again!), which is where we get most of the fat in our diets. Eat at home when you can.

Not Too Much.

This is a murky spot for me to offer any advice on. I had to be surgically altered to stop overeating, so maybe I am not the best person to offer advice, but I will give you tips on what I do now, because it is still very easy for me to overeat, just my version of overeating is different from most everyone else’s.

If you are cooking at home and you KNOW you are a late-evening grazer, don’t cook more portions than you need to feed everyone; you say you will take the leftovers to work tomorrow, but chances are about 9:30 there is food right there waiting for you and you end up eating a second dinner.

Start your meal by eating your protein first. Protein is denser, takes more time to chew, thereby slowing your eating, and will fill you up fastest.

Don’t drink liquids with your meal. What’s this you ask? This is one of the rules I have to live by post-gastric bypass. Why? There are separate issues at work for weight loss surgery patients involving mineral and vitamin absorption, but for the normal GI tract, water, tea, or whatever, with your food washes the food more quickly from your stomach to your intestinal tract, and an empty stomach triggers the brain to request more food. Your brain will ask for more calories even though your small intestine will be busy with the ones you just consumed.

Don’t eat at buffet style restaurants very often. It should be obvious as to why. They serve low quality, cheap food, very high in sodium and fat, and often are questionable in terms of food safety (how long has that chicken been sitting under a heat lamp?). These places are designed to get you to overeat. You feel like you need to get your money’s worth out of that bar (you won’t), not like you should eat only until you are sated. Just avoid these places when possible.

In fact, as I said above, it is better to avoid restaurants when you can. Portions are usually too large, and you are out of control of the ingredients that go into your meal. Occasionally is fine. Daily, every other day, multiple times a day, are all too much.

Mostly [lean protein and] plants.

This is where Mr. Pollan and I diverge a bit. Part of his “Mostly Plants” rule, in part, relates to the environmentalism of eating meat. No question about it, industrial farms where meat is raised in mass quantities are horrific places, bad for the animals, bad for the environment, and bad for us. It is an individual’s choice whether to support those Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) by buying industrially-produced meat, milk, and eggs, or not.

I personally believe that animal-based proteins are healthy in reasonable quantities and I am doing what little I can to flex my activist muscles and dollars by buying locally and humanely raised and slaughtered beef and pork. I have not been able to extend that to chicken yet, but we do get eggs locally, almost 100% of the time now. There are lots of non-animal proteins out there, but I feel their quality is not as good and many of them are highly processed (textured vegetable protein, anyone?).

My basic diet is not specifically Atkins, The Zone, Protein Power, South Beach, or any of those plans. My bypass requires that I concentrate on protein because it is very easy for me to develop a protein deficiency; this is not the case for a normal person, but I think my basic diet is still a fairly healthy example.

A typical dinner at my house might be like the one I made on Sunday. I roasted a whole chicken, seasoned with salt, pepper, and garlic powder, and the side dishes were pasta w/ peas (as requested by Grace; it’s one of her favorite things), and a (unfortunately burned) sauté of sweet onion, mushrooms, and asparagus.

Tonight’s offering will be a little different. The remnants of the roast chicken will become chicken pot pie. Pot-pie usually means a billion calories, but because I know how it is being made, that lots of veggies are going in it, I know how the crust is made and what is in it (mostly flour and oil), and I know that this meal will be filling without being the fat bomb that something like the KFC version or the Marie Callender’s version would be. I will eat a little of the crust (because it is delicious) and a lot more of the filling and I am not going to feel guilty about it.

Last week, one dinner was a grilled sirloin steak, with broccoli and couscous.

These are not foods you generally associate with “diet” foods, but I think our mental focus on low-calorie meals rubber bands us back into sudden high-calorie food binges.

This last thing came to me while I was eating my somewhat odd (at least, it was odd to my coworkers) lunch of feta and olives from my favorite Greek deli.

Eat Food You Love

Whenever I hear someone talk about “gagging down a yogurt” because they know it’s “good for me,” I want to ask them to just stop. Eating food that doesn’t taste good to you only screws up your relationship with food even more. If you are gagging down food just because it is good for you, what is your brain going to start telling you about food that is healthy?

The message won’t be a positive one, that is for sure.

Bananas are supposed to be some wonder food; I personally find them revolting and you know what? I am not sure if they cured cancer that I would eat one then.

For every healthy food out there that you don’t like, there is almost always an alternative that you will like.

I hope this didn’t come across as preachy; talking about food and nutrition is something I genuinely enjoy since it is so very essential to my long term health. If you have any specific questions, feel free to leave me a comment and I will see if I can answer it.

That Thanksgiving Challenge Again

Eat Local Thanksgiving Challenge

We are closing in on a month away from Thanksgiving here in the States (happy belated Thanksgiving to my one or two Canuck readers) and my challenge hasn’t left my mind, but I am realizing the significance of the challenge, or really, how many challenges this encompasses.

Challenge No. 1 — Avoiding “Weird” Foods
There are very few “weird” foods to me, however, when dealing in particular with my older family members who have very deep rooted food “comfort zones,” serving unfamiliar produce that is in season locally is going to come across as “weird.” A roasted root vegetable salad like I made several years ago is the perfect seasonal produce dish that I can serve, but when I made it a while back, it was definitely not the most popular dish on the table due mostly to its unfamiliarity.

Challenge No. 2 — Handling “Traditional” Expectations
We always have corn on the table at Thanksgiving, therefore, it must be traditional, right? If I want to serve local corn, I have to hope there is still some around right now and de-cob it (is that at word?) and freeze it. Otherwise, I either will miss that window or make an exception for the table. Further, I will have to be okay with traditional non-local foods like cranberries being there because it just “wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without it.” That’s okay too.

Challenge No. 3 — Being Okay Not Being Perfect
I frequently set myself a goal and when I see that I cannot perfectly execute said goal, I tend to give up altogether. I recognize this as the character flaw that it is. So when I see myself having to make exceptions (like Sweet Potato Casserole with locally grown sweet potatoes but HFCF-dense marshmallows and maple syrup from Vermont), I wonder why I am even bothering. Instead, I am trying to focus on two things: a) alternatives to the objectionable ingredients (like the maple syrup) or b) barring any alternatives, accepting that this is supposed to be fun, not make me insane and my family unhappy.

Saturday morning, I intend to make a visit to the South of the James Farmers Market and see what there is to see. I would like to make my roasted root vegetable dish again, though it has been some years since I last did it, and serve it. Those who don’t try it will miss out. I am looking for interesting apple dishes to try since apples are so easy and abundant locally. And I will see what fresh remaining summer-type produce I can get now and preserve in ways to put them on the table on Thanksgiving Day.

Soon, particularly after visiting SotJ this weekend, I hope to start scratching out a menu, which I intend to share here.