Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Quick Photo

Lunch today was too good not to share quickly:

The salad has red lettuce, spinach, snow peas, arugula, broccoli, cucumber, zucchini, and mushrooms, and every item except for two came from our CSA! Man, I really, really love summer.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Joining a CSA

Last September, near the beginning of this blog, I talked about my struggles with shopping for produce.  I haven't made much progress since then at seeking out more local foods.  But now that summer is here, and especially since I live in Lancaster (a city completely surrounded by farmland), I don't really have an excuse.

Over the winter, my sister suggested that I consider joining a CSA (which stands for Community Supported Agriculture).  Essentially, it means buying a share in a local farm, and then getting produce from them all throughout harvesting season.  It didn't take me long to figure out that this was the perfect solution for me.  It would teach me what's seasonal and growable in our area, and it would force me out of my comfort zone a bit with veggies, all while supporting a local farm.

I used the website Local Harvest to find the right farm for us.  My main criteria were: convenient pickup times and locations, big variety of veggies, and the ability to buy a half-share (since we're just getting started with this, and I didn't want to waste our money or their food).  Secondary criteria for my ideal farm were: certified organic, and a larger selection of herbs and fruits.

With input from Erica of course, I settled on Goodwill at Homefields.  I was astonished at how many I had to choose from, and all of them met many of my critical points.  In the end, I chose Goodwill because it had the biggest variety of fruits, and while not "certified organic," they do use strict organic practices.

So after much anticipation, our first pickup was late last week!  And for a first harvest, our half share was pretty decent:

We got red leaf lettuce, green leaf lettuce, arugula, chard, bok choy, radishes, garlic, kale, napa cabbage, and a bunch of herbs.  Erica had fun figuring out recipes for how we can use these things this week: I forget exactly what she has planned, but I remember hearing that homemade spring rolls are in my future....

The farm also has a "pick your own" section.  I think that's how a lot of the fruit will be, but this week, the "pick your own" du jour was snow peas, which is one of my favorites.  Erica snapped a picture of me taking the lead on the pea-picking:

I haven't done this since I was a little kid!

So far we're pretty happy with our CSA decision.  I'm a little afraid of things stacking up this week, as the only time we can get down to the farm is Thursday, and we're not going to be home again until Sunday.  It definitely is a challenge to work the things that you're given into what you're used to eating, but we are both putting real effort into it.  (The salad I made when I got home from the farm was incredible!)

Coming up soon I'll talk about the cost of this project:  I'm keeping a close eye on what we spend at the store now, to see if the CSA is saving us any money.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Recap on the Juice Cleanse

Sunday was my third and final day of the juice fast, and needless to say, I was pretty excited to eat again.  But before I talk about all that, a friend reminded me that I never talked about my juicer; what kind I have, how I picked it out etc.

This little beast is named the Juiceman Jr.  When I picked him out, I probably wasn't wearing my "good consumer" hat.  The reality of the situation was this: I didn't want a large bridal registry full of things I didn't need, but then I got flack for not having very much on it at all. I'd forgotten I wanted a juicer, so this guy was a late-in-the-game addition to the registry (and my now-mother-in-law graciously picked it up for us!)  I only read reviews on a few, but the one other in this price range had a lot of reviews saying it died within a year.

So I guess my biggest qualification for getting this juicer was that it not die within the year.  I'm doing my part, trying to take very good care of it,  but man is this thing a lot to clean up after.  It separates into eight pieces.  The worst part is this piece: the part that does the juicing:

Sooo many tiny crevices!

But I'd imagine that's the same for any juicer, and at least it came with a brush (which I did not realize the first time I tried to clean it).  As far as actual juice extraction, I don't have anything to compare it to, but it seemed pretty fair.   You still waste a lot in the pulp, but that's the point of juicing.  Anyway, if someone is looking for a brand recommendation, I'd say give this one a try!  The price was pretty reasonable, and it came from Bed, Bath, and Beyond.  (Quick note: I don't know what this thing is the "Jr" of, but don't let the name fool you, it's actually quite large!)

So, day three of the juice fast was fine.  It was funny, each day I drank from various juices all day long so I never felt hungry.  at the end of the night, right before bed, was the only time I felt a twinge of hunger.  But when I would wake up the next morning, I wouldn't feel hungry or want any juice til almost 10am.  I wonder what that means about my body's digestive patterns.  The whole time, though, I felt alert and energetic all day long.  

Overall, I'd say I liked the experience, but it wasn't without its drawbacks:  I wasn't hungry, but I did miss eating. And I thought about food a lot. Also, juicing took up enough time in the morning that I didn't get to work out at all.  Right now, I'm torn as to whether I want to ever do an all-juice fast again, but having one every once in a while is something that I definitely want to incorporate.

So how did I break my fast? I wanted to keep it healthy but also have something really hearty, since I hadn't had solid food in three days.  Vegan chili was just the ticket!

I've been playing around with chili a lot since I first made it waaay back in September, and It looks completely different now!  I've learned that chili as best as an off-the-cuff food--add as much chili powder as it takes, as much cumin as you want. And as far as what you can put into it?  Anything goes there as well. Right now, the most far-out ingredient featuring in my chili is zucchini.  Erica loves it, and I know she's not just being nice, because she asks me to make it all the time, and she bogarts the leftovers.  I'm sure other people would like it too.  I should really try to write this recipe down.

And speaking of recipes!  I plan to share my favorite juicing recipes. Look for that soon.

So what's next for us?  Well, we joined a CSA, which is basically like buying a share in a local farm and getting a portion of their produce.  First harvest is at the end of this week, and I'm super excited.  I won't get to write again until the beginning of next week, but expect to hear a lot more about the CSA!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Juice Cleanse: Recap of Days 1 and 2

Well, I started the juice cleanse yesterday, so now i'm about 2/3 done.  It's really amazing me how much I'm learning, both about myself and about this process.  The biggest thing I've learned is that hunger is relative, and food cravings are at least 90% a mental game. For example, I've been doing just fine with my plan of eating healthy and avoiding certain foods, but during this fast, I really want nothing in the world more than to eat a bucket of Boardwalk fries, cardboard and all.  Also cheese. That would be nice.  And maybe a burger, too. Hell, I saw an ad for Subway last night that had my mouth watering!! I don't even like Subway, really.

I'm off-track.  My point is, I'm doing something healthy, and though it's extreme, I'm still getting enough calories that I'm not craving these foods because I'm hungry.  I'm craving them because I told myself I can't have them.  I'm afraid that once I'm done, I'm going to have some wild rebellion and just eat the worst food I can get my hands on.  I doubt I will, because once the restriction is lifted, I'll go back to my regular habits of eating well-balanced meals.

So how has it been so far, other than the food fantasies?  It's not terrible.  Most of the juices I've made have been pretty good (some of the fruit-based ones are excellent, actually!), and making them is not terribly time-consuming.  The worst part has been cleaning the juicer.  It's a beast, seven different pieces, and I've been handwashing it at least three times a day.  But my energy level has been great, and actual hunger hasn't really been an issue.

Another big thing I've learned was that I actually snack a lot while I cook.  It was really hard for me to refrain from cutting the orange, for example, and popping a piece in my mouth.  Since I do a majority of the cooking in the house, I can imagine that I get a ton of anaccounted-for calories that way.  I'm still not really sure what to do about that.  I imagine most cooks taste-test as they go, right? It part of the process for me:  I don't know if I could just cut it out.  But I'm glad I pinpointed this.

 Ingredients for Joe Cross's "Mean Green" juice

My invention! Perfectly fruity and refreshing.

The results of those two juices=what I took to work yesterday.

Using water bottles actually turned out to be a stroke of genius.  Not only do the juices stay fresher when they're airtight, but being able to shake them vigorously is a big plus.  Each day so far I've had two veggie-based drinks and 1.5 fruit based ones.  I'm trying to be careful with fruit due to the high sugar content (of course they taste better!) but they do give me something to look forward to.

So.  One more day.  I feel like I'm having my most anti-social Saturday ever; I'll probably even go to bed early.  But I'm glad I chose this weekend.  For one, I work every day, so at least there's some time where I'm not focused on it. But also, I feel like eating well really gets away from me on the weekends.  I'm sure most Americans have a similar mentality ("back on the diet on Monday!")  but that's just exactly the type of cycle I'm trying to break.  Still, dinner tomorrow night is going to be the best meal I've ever eaten.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Juice Cleanse: Prep

Inspiration for my journey toward a healthier life came from a lot of places, none of them more important than the fact that I simply got fed up with the way things were: I realised I needed to make a change or I was going to go crazy.  But one of my biggest motivating tools was watching the documentary "Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead," in which an overweight man (Joe Cross) with a lot of health problems decides to to a drastic 60-day juice cleanse.  I knew I couldn't handle anything that extreme, but his idea of eating food as close to its whole form as possible is what inspired my 60-day vegan experiment.  Now that almost a year has gone by, and I feel much more aware of the foods that I eat, I decided to see what juicing is really like.  So, today starts my three-day juice cleanse!

Back when I reviewed the movie, I expressed my concerns about juicing--you get too much sugar out of fruits and veggies and not enough fiber, it's wasteful, and depending on what you buy, it can be very expensive.  I decided that for three days, the good would probably outweigh the bad, so I started preparing a list of recipes. I got everything online, and one of my biggest staples is going to be the very one that Cross relied on at the beginning of his journey, something he calls "Mean Green" juice. Below you can see some of my recipes and my crazy shopping list.

I immediately disqualified any recipe that had an expensive or hard-to-find ingredient.  So most of it ended up being stuff I eat everyday anyway.  But as you can see from the shopping list, it was in ridiculous amounts.

I must admit, I felt pretty silly going through the checkout with nine cucumbers, six lemons, 2 each of bundles of celery, kale and parsley... and this is all for one person, for three days!  My total at the grocery store was about $40,  so my daily total is $13.33, almost exactly what Cross paid.  Again, I did the math: if Erica and I both did this for 30 days, we would spend exactly $800 on food in a month, not including any household items. So yeah, three days is just fine.

When I got home from the store, my massive haul of veggies pretty much took over the refrigerator.  Almost the entire left side is dedicated to juicing.  When you look at it as half a refrigerator full of stuff, it's a little intimidating.

Well, no more stalling.  I have to go make my first juice of the day.  But you know me, I'll be keeping notes and taking pictures!

(PS "Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead" is available for streaming on Netflix and regular Hulu!  Please check it out, it is a really well-done documentary.)

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Finally! a.k.a. A General Update

Well, hello!  It's been quite a while since my last post,  and though I knew the blog would be facing some sort of hiatus, I definitely did not intend to go three months without posting.  I thought I'd take today's post to recap what's been going on before I dove back in to the blog:

  • Erica and I are finally married!!  Planning and prep took up most of my March and all of my April (well, part of April was our awesome honeymoon in Napa, but still! Wedding-adjacent).  We're finally settling back to normal, although most of June will be occupied with family wedding festivities.
  • We really only made it two months into our "No TV for a year" commitment.  After a few stressful nights in a row, we broke down in early March.  I do have to say though, our "mindless" TV watching has decreased significantly, and we've even considered giving it another go over the summer.
  • Even though we're watching TV again, we still have our limits.  We're still eating in the dining room (No TV) and we didn't renew Netflix.  We never did have cable, so we're really limited to network TV.
  • Although we haven't been adhering to any crazy rules or 60-day challenges, we seem to have settled in to a pretty healthy eating routine.  I've also done a pretty good job of keeping processed food out of my diet: at this point we're making pretty much everything from scratch! 
  • I've been calling myself "predominantly vegetarian," eating meat for dinner only about once a week, and even then it's usually fish.  Erica, who's actually underweight at this point, is soon going to have to deviate from my habits and create something that works better for her.  That's a big challenge that we face in the coming months, especially since we like to eat dinner together.
  • I have, more or less, finally settled into a workout routine! I'm still ironing out the kinks in it, and running has not been working out as well as I'd hoped, but it's major progress.  More on all this soon.
But for the immediate future, I have something interesting.  I've been thinking about trying a juice cleanse to re-energize my interests in fruit-and-vegetable-based eating.  According to everything I've read, someone of my body mass should only do a 3-day cleanse, so that's what I'm going to try.  I'll post again in detail once I figure out the logistics and what recipes to use.  Then I'll keep track of my progress, including how much I'm spending at the grocery store.  

I have to say, These past few months have been amazing, but I'm really glad to be back to normal, and back to blogging!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Crock Pot Meals and Bulk Food Prep

Hello!  It's been awhile since I posted, but I promise I've been staying on top of things throughout this busy winter spurt.  I have some new things to talk about soon, but in the meantime, I've tagged in Erica once again to talk about something fun we did on Sunday:

Last week on Facebook, someone had posted a picture of neatly arranged freezer bags on their kitchen countertop, stuffed full of food.  My first thought was "what is this?" and my immediate second thought was "I want to go to there."  There was a link to this blog post about preparing crock pot meals ahead of time and freezing them. 
I'm jumping on the frozen meal bandwagon.  I haven't really wanted to cook lately, other than usual standards out of necessity, and I love the idea of getting all the work (and clean-up) done in one day to last for several, so that lazier, future me can reap the rewards. 
Since we're trying to stay mostly vegetarian (we do meat meals maybe once a week) I didn't want to use all of the recipes in the link above, all of which called for meat.  I opted for the Healthy BBQ Chicken, which looks delicious, then went around the web hunting for vegetarian options.  I also decided to make a German Potato Soup, Beans Bourguinon (which is like beef bourguinon, I guess, without the beef or bacon), and a Butternut Squash Soup. 
(In hindsight I shouldn't have gone for two soups, and the squash soup is a little light in the bags so we might have to make both of them at once, and that's also not a crock pot recipe so it may very well not work out.  But, onward!)

First I assembled my grocery list and went on a shopping trip.  I don't think I've ever bought seven onions at once before.  Then, I divided up the ingredients into sections per recipe.

My haul.

Then I laid out my gallon freezer bags, labeled them with a marker, and wrote down the last-minute instructions I would be sure to forget, such as what liquids to add and how long to cook. After that, I laid out all of the recipes because I work better with instruction.

The plan.

Then came the chopping.  Lots and lots and lots of chopping.  That's pretty much all it was!  It got pretty Zen, after a while.  Each recipe produced two bags.

And three hours later:

 Ta daa!

We froze most of it, leaving one bag of beans bourguinon in the fridge for dinner this week.  It was easy to clean up since we didn't cook with any dishes, and I really hope these come out tasty.  Only time will tell!