I Am My Own Best Chef

As I take a break from packing up my belongings at the farm, I realize once again, I’m LEAVING! Wow, this season flew right by!  I am very excited to head back home with everything I have learned. It has been an incredibly insightful journey – I absolutely know I am leaving with the clearest vision I’ve ever had for what it is I am meant to do, what life it is I am meant to lead.

Although I am excited, I am slightly nervous. Why? Because I am leaving what I consider to be the best food in the world. I can count on one hand the amount of times I ate off farm the past six months: five. That’s right, five. And I have to say four out of those five I was disappointed. The one time I wasn’t I had fruit & mulled apple cider. Does that even count as eating out?? Anyways, the other times the food was way too salty. I know I am salt sensitive so I rarely ever use it but since when did chefs start using so much salt we can’t even taste the real flavor of the meal?

Because I want to eat the best quality of foods possible, prepare them simply, and know what the heck is in them… eating out doesn’t really appeal to me anymore. It is also difficult when I avoid gluten, sugar, most grains, dairy, meat, and salt. I want real food. I want quality food.  My body is my temple and I have to treat it with respect. As should you. This is why I believe I am my own best chef.

On that note I read this article last week about the prevalence of MSG at Whole Foods. I’m not a big fan of anything from a package, so this doesn’t affect me really, but is certainly something worth sharing! Know what you’re buying! Or better yet, make your own versions at home .

As we enter the winter months it is important to continue to eat well & stay active (especially with the holidays coming up!) If you live in the north, be sure to pay attention to your vitamin D intakes. Check out my guest post on vitamin D I wrote for my friend Johanna. I’ve been particularly aware of bone health the past few months as I was experiencing symptoms similar to arthritis in my right hand. The symptoms have more or less cleared, leading me to think it was just from overuse. However, maintaining healthy bones & joints is still a priority.

Eat well & nourish your soul!

Loving Cabbage (Juice) Is Normal, Right?

I am totally hooked on juicing cabbage! It has been the perfect replacement for cucumber since the stopped producing late summer. The cabbage really contributes to the bulk of the juice, something I cherish in green juice… I want a lot, as in 32 ounces at a crack. It sounds like it would reek havoc on your digestion but I really haven’t had any ill effects. I admit my system is accustomed to eating cabbage nearly everyday now, so it may just be I have a high tolerance. But like I’ve shared before, don’t knock it until you try it! If anything it is doing your body a whole lot of good! Think loads of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and antioxidants.

As my juices change frequently due to what is available here at the farm, I have adapted my first go at cabbage juice a wee bit:

All Hail Cabbage:

1/2 napa cabbage (sometimes 3/4)
1 bunch red russian or dinosaur kale (12-15 leaves)
7-8 parsley stalks
3/4 lemon, with rind*
2 1/2 honeycrisp apples
2″ piece ginger

*Leaving the rind on really accentuates the lemon flavor (essential oils are concentrated in the rind). Lemon peel however is high in oxalates, so note of caution for those with kidney or gallbladder problems.

If you have a high power blender, save the parsley for blending. Juice all other ingredients, add to blender with parsley & blend on high until parsley is liquified. Otherwise, toss parsley right into your juicer. Depending on the style/quality of your juicer, it may not truly be juicing any of the parsley.

This juice is amazing. So, so delicious.

Cabbage isn’t just lovely juiced… but in its much loved fermented form: sauerkraut!

Look at all that cabbage!!

We recently made enough sauerkraut to last a lifetime. This picture probably only captures 10% of how much we went through. Cabbage is certainly in no shortage here! I’ll never complain when fresh veggies are in ample supply. Bring. it. on.

So even if loving cabbage juice isn’t considered “normal“, it’s much adored in my books ;)

Question: What is your favorite way to enjoy cabbage?  

Gazpacho: An Ode To Summer

 

With so many tomatoes and cucumbers continually on hand, gazpacho has become one of my favorite things to make, in part due to the handy Vitamix. I can go from having an entire cutting board full of vegetables, to a big bowl of soup ready in under 10 minutes. Gazpacho is an easy way to eat more fruits (remember, tomatoes are fruits!) and vegetables.

Here again I don’t have any clear cut measurements. I tend to just grab a bunch of items and toss in the blender. The combinations however are delicious, so consider this inspiration at least. I never salt my foods because a) I prefer minimal salt & b) salt is easy for everyone else to add to their preference. Preparing foods sans salt opens up a window of opportunity to enhance flavors with herbs. Try it!

Cucumber & Radish Gazpacho

4-6 cukes, peeled
1/2 cup red onion or 3 scallions
1-2 cloves garlic
4-5 radish
Handful fresh cilantro
~4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
~2 tbsp lemon juice
Fresh ground pepper

Toss roughly chopped cucumber into Vitamix and blend for 2-3 seconds until cucumbers are well blended. Add in onion, garlic, radish, cilantro, oil, lemon juice, and seasoning. Blend for a few more seconds until all vegetables are well blended. Adjust to taste.

Tomato & Cuke Gazpacho

This one goes something like:

Lots of ripe tomatoes, de-stemmed, quartered and tossed into Vitamix until full. Blend until soupy.

Add in:
1-2 large cucumber
1 small red onion or 1/2 large red onion
5 radish
1 generous handful of fresh basil
1/2 handful fresh cilantro
~4 tbsp olive oil
~1 tbsp lemon juice
Fresh ground pepper

Blend some more and you’re done. Garnish with chopped onion, cilantro, sour cream/yogurt or a few slices of avocado if they are readily available for you. All these flavors will go wonderfully together. Blend in a substantial amount of yogurt or whipped avocado and you have yourself a tasty gazpacho dip!

Enjoy!

Caraway Sauerkraut

So many wonderful foods are born via fermentation. Kombucha, beer, wine, vinegar, sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles, yogurt… the list is endless and I love them all!

Earlier this spring I finally ordered Wild Fermentation, the bible equivalent for fermented foods. This book is both very user friendly as well as informative as the author thoroughly explains the benefits of fermented foods.

Even though this book contains delicious sounding sauerkrauts that I intend to make in the near future, the caraway sauerkraut my mom and I made last week I picked up elsewhere. The recipe we followed came from Crock and Jar, a food preservation company based out of NYC. I know from sampling some earlier this winter at the Just Food Conference that this kraut is SO delicious.

Even though I have a special place in my heart for Bubbie’s sauerkraut (& pickles!) there are no more excuses to buy sauerkraut when it is so easy and cheap to make right in your own kitchen. If making sauerkraut isn’t something that interests you – at least do yourself the favor of buying Bubbie’s raw kraut at some point. This brand is unpasteurized (retaining all nutrients and good bacteria) while not overwhelmingly salty like others can be.

Caraway Sauerkraut

yield: ~1 1/2 quarts

3 lbs green cabbage (any mix of cabbage will do)
1 tablespoon coarse sea salt (do not use iodized salt or anything with an anti-caking agent)
2 1/2 tsp caraway seeds

1. Remove outer leaves of cabbage and cut into quarters. Remove the cores and slice each wedge into 1/4 inch wide strips. Place into large bowl and add some salt and seeds to allow the cabbage to release some of its water. Continue cutting and adding salt until its all finished.
2. Massage cabbage to help the salt remove the water. Put cabbage in a tall container (half-gallon or two quart jars).
3. Firmly press down cabbage with your fist until it is covered with its own liquid.
4. Cover the cabbage with a few outer leaves. Weigh down the cabbage with a glass jar full of water.
5. Cover container with a towel or loose lid and place in a cool place to ferment.
6. Check in one week: remove the weight and wash off any mold and remove any rotten spots. Cabbage (kraut) below these spots are entirely fine . Taste to check the progress. Press cabbage down to submerge in brine.
7. Replace clean jar, cover container and return to cool spot. Continue to check the cabbage 1x/week. Cabbage should ferment for 3-6 weeks. Once the cabbage is sour enough for your taste preferences, put it in a clean container and store in refrigerator for up to 6 months.

Enjoy!

For Health’s Sake

So, why have I suddenly introduced meat and dairy back into my diet?! Here is a quick low-down:

As I mentioned in my previous post, I am on the quest to increase my levels of estrogen as they are hovering zero and have been for quite some time. Two summers ago when I went off birth control, with that went my cycle. At first I thought nothing of it – I figured my body was adjusting to the change and my shift to a mostly raw vegan diet. Well, months passed and still nothing. Against my will my doctor put me on HRT for two weeks and still nada. I continued to ignore it. I left for Hawaii 6 months later thinking my body would naturally heal as I spent nearly 22 hours a day outdoors – I was banking on the connection I had to the earth & its natural rhythms. No go. Continued to ignore, ignore, ignore. I will add all this “ignoring” is unlike me. I would consider myself quite health conscious and gladly refer to myself as a hypochondriac.

A few weeks ago I had more blood work done after I met with an endocrinologist and hearing the words “zero estrogen” finally woke me up. Maybe I simply had to hear the word zero. The doc told me to stop working out (not gonna happen). She offered absolutely no nutritional advice and I walked out of that office entirely frustrated. I refuse to not get exercise in some way, shape, or form. So I did my own research and concluded I simply need good hormones and nutrients straight from the source. Happy, healthy animals. Therefore, I have introduced grass-fed meat & eggs, raw milk/butter, and organic yogurt back into my diet. As soon as I had my omnivore “epiphany” – something inside me woke up and overnight I not only accepted this but could not wait to get my hands (and mouth) on these foods.

Sadly my skin didn’t like the addition of raw milk and/or yogurt – so I may need to limit these or just the milk.  I will have to do an elimination test to figure out if one or both of them were the cause. But the meat? Body seems to love it.

Last week I made my first ever bowl of dippy eggs. Dippy eggs?! yea, I’d never heard of them either until Chelsea started talking about them and I thought she was crazzzy (jk Chels – you’re actually just genius). To start I lightly steamed some broccoli, brussels sprouts, and kale  & tossed with a tbsp of olive oil, minced garlic, bit of lemon juice, dried herbs and pepper. Next I poached one egg white and one whole egg (leaving yolk intact). I put some veggies in a bowl, topped with the eggs, split the yolk to run all over, added some hot sauce and voila! Dipppppy eggs! It’s really no different than “over easy” or “sunny side up” eggs but the name is way cuter and is now forever part of my lingo.

I have embraced this diet 100%, clearly. My body has gone through a lot of changes and stress over the past couple years – all starting with the birth control – and now I must listen to its messages to heal it. Although I felt healthy during the past two years – my body was screaming SOS . I do not believe any of this happened merely from a vegan diet. I know I was getting sufficient nutrients- maybe a wee low on B12 – but otherwise I was perfectly healthy. I entirely blame the wackiness of birth control and will never, ever put myself on synthetic hormones again. Blah!

So, there you have it! I very much enjoyed my bison burger tonight, sans bun, covered in grilled onion, mushrooms, guacamole & salsa. I already want another!

 

 

Per Anna’s request here are some delicious snacky combos I have enjoyed in the past few weeks:

Red pepper or horseradish Greek Gourmet hummus (Pittsburgh co.) with Lundberg’s salt-free brown rice cakes. devine.

Plain organic Siggi’s yogurt with 1 – 2 tsp bee pollen & a few dried mullberries. Locate Siggi’s at your local Whole Foods.

Medjool dates dipped in nut butter. Dates & nuts go together like peas in a pod.

Raw, organic milk with puffed corn cereal. heck yeah. raw milk is AMAZING – and I’ve never cared for milk, ever. Raw trumps all.

Homemade popcorn with a bit of melted organic butter & pepper.

Try these snacks (and dippy eggs) out! They are truly delicious!

Aimee, This One’s For You!

As my friend Aimee liked to bring to my attention today – I haven’t shown much love here lately and her ability to stalk me has been severely hindered. So here is what I have been up to since the day I ran the city of bridges.

-Two weekends ago I moved out of my tiny dollhouse apartment into Jeanne’s – a mere hop, skip, & jump away in Squirrel Hill. Temporary roomie until I head to Toronto and permanent roomie come December. Living with Jeanne means I’ll be able to enjoy many more walks with Edison & flowers!

My favorite pic from an early morning walk a few weeks ago –

-In the last week I officially became an omnivore (a picky one). Yep, this girl ate a burger last week (thanks to Jeanne’s local, grass-fed meat from her CSA) and am looking very forward to the bison I will be dining on come Wednesday with my fam at the Heartland Cafe. In addition to that burger, I’ve enjoyed some eggs, raw milk, organic yogurt, wild-caught salmon and pasture butter. I wouldn’t go as far as saying “I’ve been missing out” but I cannot deny that I have enjoyed these foods entirely. More blood work showed I’ve hit a scary level (you can go ahead and read this as nearly zero) with my hormones and vitamin B12 – so instead of not working out which was recommended by the doc – I decided to introduce pristine quality meat and raw dairy into my diet while continuing to workout. The fact that I’m craving red meat again speaks volumes – I clearly need the nutrients. More on this to come.

-Flew into Chicago last week and have been enjoying the amazing weather, relaxation, catching up with friends, reading the Hunger Games, going to my first Cubs/Sox Crosstown Classic game, visiting the always beautiful Chicago Botanic Gardens, and watching movies with my momma.

Being home has meant I’ve even been able to witness the first ripe strawberry from my plants of last year – my mom and I went to harvest our one berry this evening and some stinker already got it! You snooze you loose apparently. This week I’ll likely do lots of reading, yoga, running, projects with my mom (soap, sauerkraut, more lotions, yada yada yada), and go see The Hunger Games before heading to Milwaukee this weekend for another Jagel wedding. Cannot wait to see Ryan & Maggie get hitched and to hopefully check out Growing Power Saturday am. I have a lot to pack in before I go back to the burgh Sunday & Canada Monday!

-Today I made homemade lotion and chapstick! Easiest. projects. ever. and both incredibly cost efficient. For just a few cents I have a few mason jars full of lotion and 6 tubes of chapstick. Here’s how to DIY:

Homemade Lotion

1/4 cup olive oil (note: not extra virgin)
1/4 cup emulsifying wax (purchased from Mountain Rose Herbs)
1 1/4 cup hot water
essential oil(s) of choice

Directions: In a glass pyrex measuring cup combine 1/4 cup emulsifying wax & 1/4 olive oil. Heat these two until wax is entirely melted either in microwave (~1-2 minutes) or double broiler style in a pot over medium heat. Once the wax is melted add 24-36 drops of essential oil(s) if desired. While adding oils, heat 1 1/4 cup of water for about 1 1/2 minutes in the microwave. Add hot water to oil/wax mixture. Immediately the combination will turn milky white. Stir and pour into a 16 ounce mason jar. Cover and allow to settle & cool.

That’s it!! So quick, easy, and eco-friendly.

Homemade Chapstick

1 1/8 tsp cocoa butter
1 7/8 tsp coconut oil
3 tsp olive oil
1 1/2 tsp beeswax
3 vitamin E capsules
6-7 chapstick tubes (reuse old ones or purchase for cheap Mountain Rose Herbs)

Directions: In a pyrex glass measuring cup combine melted cocoa butter, coconut oil, beeswax & olive oil. After these four liquids are well combined, add the contents of three vitamin E capsules. Stir and pour into empty tubes. Allow to cool and harden and there you have chapstick that smells like honey!

I was very pleased with all the products I ordered from Mountain Rose Herbs – just be sure to purchase everything at once to keep the price of shipping down.

Let’s see what else… while teaching Jeanne to juice last week we pumped out one of my typical green juices while also making a watermelon-strawberry juice. Delicious. A few days prior I had juiced some remaining watermelon that was in my fridge so I didn’t have to pack it for my move. Why had I not done this before? Simple watermelon juice is so refreshing and hydrating. A perfect summer beverage. So this morning I decided to start my day not with green but with red juice and opted for a pineapple & watermelon juice:

1/2 pineapple
2-3 cups watermelon
1/2 lemon, peeled
1 1″ nub of ginger

So good and rehydrating. I’ve been in desperate need of liquids after a weekend of too much salt however water wasn’t appealing. This really hit the spot.

Off to read more Hunger Games, do some yoga, and perch with Ma & Pa.

Source: etsy.com via Jo Ann on Pinterest

Attention Meat Eaters

Unless you have been living in a bubble recently, I am certain you are at least somewhat aware of the myriad of food concerns these days. So many come and go, perhaps highlights of a few days’ worth of breaking news stories. We may shun the purchase of spinach or peanut butter due to a recent E. Coli or Salmonella outbreak – but two or three weeks down the road they are right back in the grocery cart. With an immediate threat no longer in sight we somehow feel “safe” again and resort back to our old habits.

Not knowing where our food comes from needs to change. And it needs to change fast. Or else Superbugs such as “Pig MRSA” that has been found in nearly half of all meat sampled in U.S. commerce, may soon appear on your very own plate.

Read this article and consider where you are purchasing your next food item. Especially if it is a meat, dairy or egg product. Not to lessen concerns facing produce (there are plenty). But the livestock industry is really causing some concerns for both humans and the environment. Even if “staph found in meat can be eliminated by cooking food well”, who wants staph in their food in the first place!?! And I certainly would not want a whole extra dose of antibiotics & hormones lingering from forced maturity on livestock to grow larger & quicker.

We all deserve clean, healthy food.

Next time you are at the store – ASK. Ask the butcher where the meat is from. Ask the grocer where the cheese, milk, butter, eggs, and yogurt are from. READ labels! Do your research online before you head out to the market. Call local farmers. Visit farmers’ markets. Invest in a CSA. DEMAND free-range, hormone & antibiotic free meat, dairy & eggs. It is the least we can do as consumers who rely on producers we don’t even know.

Don’t just stop your inquiry at the store. Ask next time you are out to eat. The waiter(ess) may think you are a pain in the @ss, and/or your company, but your body will thank you when you pass on meat that came from who knows where. Rule of thumb: if they don’t know the name of the farm – don’t eat it.

The more WE care about where our food is from and how it is produced, the more WE will begin to change the way our food system operates. Unless our voices are heard through our purchasing powers – superbugs & much worse will be a guaranteed threat to our futures.

Buh-Bye Veganism

I have finally come to terms with something nagging, really nagging the back of my mind for the past few months. In a sense I am straying against the belief behind this blog – to share raw recipes and follow a raw lifestyle. Vegan raw at that. I’ll still continue with my raw recipes BUT I’m changing things up a bit for now.

After much personal debate I decided it is in my best interest to begin eating yogurt & eggs again. Yep, as some friends said earlier “welcome back to the dark side”. Ha, yes… the dark side. However, I’m very much at peace with my decision and don’t see it as the dark side at all.

It isn’t so much the act of eating eggs & yogurt that I have thought would be difficult but the physical, mental, and spiritual acceptance of consuming animal product. Physically I feel there will be no problems. In fact this morning for breakfast I had a generous serving of full-fat organic yogurt & cottage cheese. I couldn’t wait to get to the breakfast spread at the PASA conference to eat some of the Seven Star Farms yogurt… I literally had spent my entire morning run thinking about how much I wanted yogurt & hard-boiled egg whites.

There are a two reasons I have decided to venture from my strict(ish) vegan diet. The first being how difficult it has been to stick to a raw diet, in Pittsburgh, in the winter. I decided I am done trying to force myself to adhere to raw, just because it worked for me at one point, when my body now has been craving other foods and protein sources. Recognizing this I finally decided I need to honor this during the winter months and feed my body what it wants. My hope with eating yogurt & eggs is to get in my protein without relying on nuts – my go-to source for raw protein. Nuts are delicious, too delicious if you ask me, and I have been eating an unhealthy amount to feel satiated. I haven’t been feeling one ounce of healthy eating this amount of nuts so I decided it’s time to hang it up. Yogurt provides an excellent source of protein without all the high amount of fats (regardless of them being healthy fats). There is a such thing as too much of a good thing.

My second reason is still in the works. But what I’m coming to realize is a sustainable diet looks different everywhere you go and I need to honor that while I live in a northern climate. Plus, with my vision to one day own my own farm (SOOONer rather than later) I’ll need to do something with the milk & eggs! So I guess I’m prepping my body for that :) I want to be an active part of my farm’s own closed-loop system. It just makes so much more sense to me.

I am sure I had my parents floored this morning when I sent my mom a message I was eating yogurt and cottage cheese for breakfast. My gosh. They were so incredibly delicious. And to add to the shock value I mentioned I may want to eat bison meat in the future! Yep, me! MEAT. Crazy! Eating meat may be a bit more of a hurdle to get over… if ever… but I am certainly becoming more open to the idea. Grass-fed bison meat doesn’t sound as appalling as it once did.

Regardless of what I decide I will be choosing the healthiest and most sustainable options. My eggs must be local, come from chickens that are truly free-range, and I must know the farmer. My yogurt must be sourced from a local farm that doesn’t use hormones, pesticides or rGBH. Just like I want the freshest, pesticide-free fruits & veggies, I expect my eggs & yogurt to come from the happiest & healthiest local animals.

I have to say I am truly excited about my latest “revelation”. It feels great. I feel great…

Adding dairy and eggs back doesn’t change my beliefs about raw foods. I still want to start each day with my green juice. The bulk of my diet will still be mostly raw fruits & vegetables… because nothing compares to that!!

Twinkie vs. Carrot

Why does a twinkie cost less than a bundle of carrots? Michael Pollan will sum it up for you in under two minutes:

Twinkie vs. Carrot

Last night in my Sustainable Consumption class it was brought up that Hostess filed for bankruptcy. At first someone mentioned the twinkie was no longer going to exist. WHAT?! I almost had a heart attack. Not that I’ll ever eat a twinkie again. They are however a (somewhat) unfortunate nostalgic reminder of my youth. My mom always let me go to the 7-11 to get my double pack of Twinkies after I had my haircut. Clearly I do not agree with anything that is associated with a Twinkie yet it would be strange if Ho-Hos, Hostess cupcakes, and Twinkies became a thing of the past. Yet it would be entirely what I stand for. Funny how it invoked such a strong, yet fleeting reaction.

Well, off to enjoy some CARROTS!