Sunday, May 30, 2010

A Paean to Sonja Henie

Let me start by saying that nothing I write here is going to do justice to how delicious this chicken tasted or even come close to describing how fantastic the entire experience was.

Sonja Henie on order day...

and on the day before pick up

On one of my previous visits to the farm I had asked Daniel and Susan about their slaughter methods. For those of you who have read The Omnivore's Dilemma, they follow Joel Salatin's method of raising and slaughtering their chickens as described in wonderful detail in the pages of the book. I asked if I could observe sometime and Susan said absolutely. I'm not sure if I'm ready for that yet, but I like that I have the option.

Daniel Hammond ready with his beautiful broilers, meticulously butchered and waiting on ice. We arrived with our large baggie and cooler to transport Sonja home. This bird never even saw the inside of the fridge! It gets no fresher than that.

This is no factory chicken. It's almost sleek, no flab on this bird. The heavy processed corn diet that is making Americans fat and flabby also makes factory chickens fat and flabby. This bird was raised eating and exercising the way nature intended and it is plain to see.

I love that Sonja came pre-trussed! I prepared the bird just like I always do, using Thomas Keller's My Favorite Simple Roast Chicken recipe. Just pat dry, season all over the kosher salt and pop into a preheated 450 degree oven. Sonja weighed in at 5 pounds, 4 ounces so I set the timer for 90 minutes. I've done this recipe so often that I have the times set for a foolproof chicken every time. Three pound bird gets an hour, add 15 minutes for each additional pound.

Cooked to perfection! Such little fat on this bird that there was no smoke (which means no chicken fat smell stinking up the house for days) and the skin cooked to crisp perfection. It cracked where I lifted it with the tongs onto the carving board. I can't even describe how tasty that skin was.

All carved and ready to serve. The veggies were delicious, though not how I originally planned to serve them. The homemade aioli (garlic mayonnaise) tasted just too eggy for my taste buds that I couldn't eat it. I boiled the turnips and tossed them with butter, roasted the beets and tossed them with a drizzle of aged balsamic vinegar and grilled the potatoes, summer squash and onions to charred perfection. They were all very tasty but this meal was really about the bird.

I'm writing this on Sunday but I wanted to capture the essence of how we felt as we were eating this wonderful chicken. Here is a little soundbite from Saturday's meal...

Rob and Andra~ Oooooh, mmmmm!
Rob~ grunt, mmmm, pap, pap, pap.
Andra~ *eyes rolling into the back of her head*
Rob and Andra~ Mmmmm, smack, pap, slurp, grunt, yummmm!

So what exactly does a pastured, local chicken taste like? If you've only eaten factory chicken before, a pastured bird tastes nothing like you've ever tasted. There was not a trace of gaminess about this bird. The richness of the flavor and the natural juiciness was amazing (no salt water or chemical enhancers needed for this bird) but the texture was the real difference, firm and toothsome, like al dente pasta. Now don't mistake this for toughness because that's not it at all, the beautiful texture of a pastured chicken has made me realize that every other chicken I've eaten before this has been mushy.

I have to admit that when I put my deposit on Sonja, I heard a little ignorant voice in the back of my head telling me that it might be gamy and not worth the $15 price tag. I'm glad I told that voice to STFU because at $2.86 per pound this pastured chicken was not only an amazing value, this was unequivocally the most delicious chicken we have ever tasted.

I urge you to find local farmers in your area and try this for yourself. See where your food comes from and look the people who are growing it in the eye and you will know that you are getting the absolute freshest, healthiest, most delicious food nature has to offer. No factory, no processing, no slick advertising needed.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

It's Chicken Day!

So excited that I was up quite early. I let Rob sleep in, which got us to the farmer's market later than I had wanted. Farmer's markets are like Walt Disney World, you need to get in early, get what you want and get out before "they" arrive en masse.


The strawberries were gone but I made out well for the Grand Aioli to pair with Sonja Henie this evening.

Little tiny turnips with all the glorious greens attached, small red beets and lovely red bliss potatoes. The sweet corn is for the grill tomorrow and I can never resist raw local honey. In the paper bag is some freshly made mini flat breads that I'll pair with a spinach salad as a light lunch this afternoon.

I picked up these beauties yesterday at the farm when we got my milk and eggs (Susan got the eggs right from under the hens in the hen house for me and they were still warm!) I really wanted to serve some things that came from the same farm that raised Sonja so I couldn't resist these fresh spring onions and beautiful summer squash. I love that lemon-lime color!

We came home to see the day lilies starting to open. This one is my favorite with that splash of crimson in the center. It's got this sort of alien thing going on which I just love. The hydrangeas are really coming along. It's amazing how different soil creates different colors on the blooms.

The blue is on the side of the house...

the purple is in the back garden. I can't decide which is lovelier, so I won't.

We pick Sonja up at 4pm, so until then I'll be pottering around my house enjoying the day. I want you to do the same. Life is yours, not for the asking, but for the taking. Grab it by the balls and squeeze every bit of joy from it you can. You're in charge of your own happiness, so get out there and make it happen!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Girl's Day Out

Every year just before Memorial Day weekend, Donna and I get together for a mani-pedi and lunch. It's one of my favorite days of the year. Today was the day!

Donna got a really cool blue on her nails, I went for a sheer pink. Though I went more daring on my toes...

It's Shrek's signature color from the new Shrektacular line by OPI. I love it!

We visited Urban Pl8 for lunch, we dined on the covered patio because the weather couldn't have been nicer. I adore this place, fresh, local and organic food beautifully prepared. I had Lily's Nut Burger the last time and loved it so much I had to have it again.

I will probably have it again next time, too. It's just that good. The salad had a very light but tangy vinaigrette along with cranberries and sunflower seeds. The burger is so flavorful and perfectly cooked, I really want the recipe.

The owner came to the table for a chat and said she really wanted to open a place that would offer a great alternative to fast food. The freshest, healthiest ingredients prepared in such a delicious way that you wouldn't miss the drive-thru. I say she has beyond succeeded. Wendy who?

Then it was on to Cami Cakes for a treat to take home. Aren't they gorgeous?

I chose Strawberries and Cream, Lemon Drop, Classic Cami Chocolate on Chocolate and Classic Cami Vanilla and Chocolate. Rob and I will have fun sampling these this weekend.

Before I headed home, I had a little playtime with Donna's new baby, Zoe. She would not stop licking my knees!

Isn't she pretty? She sweet, too. Almost makes me want a dog. Almost.

I'm taking Rob to the farm for the first time tomorrow to pick up our milk and eggs and to get the final photo of Sonja before we pick her up sans head, feet and feathers on Saturday. Watch this space for all the details on the farm dinner.

Have a wonderful weekend, get out there, play in the dirt and enjoy the sunshine!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

One More Shift

I walked the whole neighborhood this morning and did some running sprints a well. It's gorgeous out there. Yesterday I did some gardening before work. I'm worried that some of my tomatoes are infected with early blight. I mixed up an organic fungicide with baking soda, vegetable oil and castile soap. I soaked all the tomato plants with it in the hope of recovering the ones that are poorly and saving the new ones. I may have to visit the local nursery for some professional advice. Not only is gardening helping to teach me patience (which I always need more of,) it is teaching me that nature doesn't always swing our way and there may disappointments along the way.

Aside from my tomato dilemma I'm pretty excited, I have one more shift this evening before a nice mini-vacation. I logged a lot of hours this month and really enjoyed spending extra time with all of my residents but I'm definitely looking forward to the break.

In anticipation of some planned indulgences over the long weekend, I've made a commitment to eat super clean at least until Thursday evening. No refined sugars/carbs and eating lots of raw veggies and fruits, good fats and lean protein. I was feeling particularly bloated from my period Sunday and Monday and I'm already feeling lighter. Yesterday's lunch was two boiled eggs, spinach and avocado drizzled in Dijon mustard. The extra good fat is amazing, it is so filling, helped keep me alert and energetic well until my dinner break. It is no wonder that low fat diets are so miserable. Eat some good fat today and see how good it makes you feel!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Homemade Yogurt

We enjoy our weekends here so much that they just fly by. I pottered in the kitchen all yesterday morning , I made yogurt, cut up some beautiful tropical fruit and made the weekly batch of breakfast muffins. As the clouds cleared and the sun dried the air, Rob and I took a glass of wine on the deck to enjoy the afternoon.

Last night we caught up with the rest of the planet and watched Avatar. I have to keep it real and tell you after hearing all the hype, seeing The Hurt Locker (and Titanic, hee hee,) Avatar was a bit of a let down. Nerd alert: Unobtanium, seriously? (I bet George Lucas wet himself laughing when he heard that one.) Zoe Saldana put down a breathtaking performance and that's the best that James Cameron could come up with for the thing that was worth killing an entire people for. The metaphors were as subtle as lead filled balloons but there were some good points such as Na'vi being the best alien language since Klingon. Did you love it, hate it? Do tell!

It's a hot one today, dry and sunny, nearing 90. We've spent the morning making more Mel's Mix to plant the last of the seed potatoes and transplant more peppers. It got quite smelly working the chicken, steer and mushroom poop into the vermiculite and peat moss because of the heat. Pew, pew, pew! We'll head back outside when it cools off a bit.

Susan at the farm was kind enough to tell me about her method of making yogurt so I was very excited to try it out. It's very easy and requires no special equipment. She uses her milk, of course, and a freeze dried yogurt starter but told me that good quality yogurt can be used for a starter. For my first time, I used plain yogurt as the starter and supermarket organic milk because I didn't want to risk wasting the real milk in case of a kitchen fail.

I warmed the milk in a sauce pan to about 110 degrees, turned off the heat and stirred in one-half cup of Greek yogurt then transferred the mixture into mason jars and placed them in my crock pot which I preheated on low while I was heating the milk.

Then I put on the crock cover, unplugged the crock pot and wrapped it in a thick bath towel to hold in the heat. The milk needs to incubate undisturbed for 8 hours.

Unplug the crock pot, don't burn down the house

At 7pm last evening I had yogurt and it wasn't bad at all, perhaps not as rich tasting as yogurt made with real milk. It made a lot, too. I strained two of the jars in a mesh strainer lined with paper towels overnight and this morning I had a nice batch of yogurt cheese. It's very creamy and a bit tangy. The rest I strained just a little to remove some of the excess whey. I served it with the Champagne mango and pineapple I chopped up yesterday, drizzled with raw honey and sprinkled with cinnamon.


I've enjoy my recent dairy projects so much that I just ordered 200 Easy Homemade Cheese Recipes: From Cheddar and Brie to Butter and Yogurt. I look forward to making yogurt again but this time I will invest in the proper starter and use real milk. I will let you know my thoughts on the book when it arrives.

Just six more days until we pick up Sonja Henie. I'm going to hit up the farmer's market that morning and buy all manner of fresh veggies to make a Grand Aioli to serve with Sonja (whom I will be roasting a'la Thomas Keller.) I will have lots of pictures including the weekly photos of the broiler chickens I've been taking to chart their amazing growth.

I am so excited for the Memorial Day holiday weekend! What have you got planned?

Friday, May 21, 2010

No-Weigh Friday

Happy Friday! We had heavy rains overnight, so good for the garden. My hydrangeas adore the rain. They barely survived a very late frost a couple of years ago but have rebounded splendidly. They have lots of buds getting ready to explode in bunches of lavender blue beauty.

I have a very nice non-scale victory to share. There is a very slim, very fit and very pretty woman who works out at my gym. She's there whenever I'm there and from how fit she is, she's probably there when I'm not, as well. She walked up to me on Wednesday morning and said, "You look great, all your hard work is really paying off!" That was so nice of her to say and so nice to hear. I'm definitely going to pay it forward next time I'm at the gym.

Which brings me to the topic of body pride. Do you hate your body? I used to hate my body, hated that it betrayed me with low energy, sore knees and an aching lower back. Horrible foot and ankle pain and frequent headaches. But my body didn't betray me, I betrayed it by neglecting it, feeding it poor quality junk food and spending far too much time on the couch or in front of the computer. I'd never give my car the wrong fuel, it's really sad how I didn't treat myself with the same care as my automobile.

When I heard Barbara Cobb speak at the Alive Expo, she said something that really stuck with me. "If you don't take care of your body, where will you live?" There were giggles from the audience, but think about it. Our bodies are a gift that we are entrusted to care for. And when cared for properly, it will repay us handsomely. A little nourishment, a little movement and lots of positive reinforcement will cause the body to bloom with happiness, vibrant energy and a whole lot less pain.

I've decided to take the challenge proposed by Lyn at Escape from Obesity, to choose a body part we are proud of, photograph it and blog about it. I come from a family where most of the women have no shoulders. The straps of every bra I've ever owned would fall and have to be righted all day long. Not fun. But since I started weight training I have built myself shoulders. They are strong, shapely and I'm so proud of them. (Sorry about the graininess, the lighting isn't very good in that bathroom.)

Straps don't fall off of these shoulders!

Treat your body like the treasure that it is, give it nourishment, movement and rest. Look in the mirror and tell it how beautiful it is to you. Love your body, it's the only one you get.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Fresh Homemade Ricotta

Happy Hump Day! I've wanted to sit here and write this post since I made the ricotta on Saturday but haven't had a minute, it's been a crazy busy around here. But it's my day off, I've had a great workout and cleaned the house and now I have the rest of the day to do a bit of most needed relaxing. I've missed how soothing it is typing posts talking about things that I enjoy. And making homemade cheese was most enjoyable.

I was inspired to make homemade ricotta by this recipe in Cooking Light magazine~ Zucchini, Cherry Tomato, and Fresh Ricotta Pasta. What could be better than pasta and lightly sauteed veggies topped with fresh ricotta? Nothing! I picked up an extra half gallon of fresh milk from the farm and got to work. I followed the method from this recipe from the gorgeous blog ,101 Cookbooks.

Half gallon of whole milk and two cups organic buttermilk

Gently heat over medium

Remove from heat once the curds start forming

Drain and you have cheese, soft, warm, glorious ricotta cheese

It is just that easy. I broke the curds up really small and stirred in some of the cream I skimmed from the other half gallon of milk. It made two cups of ricotta. Next time, I will remove it from the heat a bit sooner, like the second I see the curds forming. I think it will yield a more delicate texture. But this was amazing, just the same. Had I cooked it longer, I could have formed it into mozzarella balls! Now it's time for dinner...

This meal was simple and delicious. Olive oil, crushed red pepper, two cloves of garlic, broccolini, yellow squash, zucchini, grape tomatoes, fresh mint, basil and parsley and of course the fresh ricotta cheese.

Pasta is one of the foods I still have to be careful with. One box of Dreamfield's pasta has 6 servings, I weighed out half the box which leave one hearty portion for both Rob and me with one slightly smaller portion leftover to take to work for dinner. I swear to you I could eat a whole pound of pasta with my mother's garden tomato marinara in one sitting. I've done it more times that I care to think about. It's a victorious feeling being able to sensibly enjoy my absolute favorite foodstuff without falling to pieces, overeating then hating myself for it.

I like this little flying saucer, keeps me honest

Alright, let's cook. I got the water boiling for the rotini then warmed the saute pan over medium heat, poured in a little olive oil, sprinkled in crushed red pepper and two cloves of minced garlic. I let that heat up until the garlic was fragrant and the pepper released it's heat and flavor into the oil.

I added the veggies that I had chopped up, sprinkled in a bit of kosher salt and black pepper and sauteed them until tender-crisp.

I turned off the heat and added the halved tomatoes and chopped, fresh herbs. Then the pasta went in and got tossed all together with a drizzle of spicy, Sicilian olive oil.

I served it up in my favorite rimmed pasta bowls and topped it with the fresh ricotta.

Not for devouring, we lingered over this bowl of nutritious deliciousness

I didn't want to waste the leftover whey, I saved it to make bread and will feed the rest to the tomato plants. It's really fun making cheese, I hope you'll give it a try.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Alive Expo

It was a fun take for a Sunday afternoon. We got there right at the start so we were able to see everything and get on our way before the heavy crowds settled in. I got a mini-massage from the Asha School of Massage students, it was heavenly. I think I'd like to go to the student clinic for a full body treatment. We did a wine tasting, got lots of tastings of different natural foods and bevvies and saw an interesting lecture about raw and living foods. There was a lovely lady there who is from Acworth, Georgia. She was selling her handmade soaps made from at least 95% local ingredients. The scents were amazing. I bought the Gaia and the Mediterranean Lime which I can't wait to use. She's got an online shop, in addition to selling at local shops and farmer's markets, so check it out~Indigo Bath and Body.

I think the absolute best thing was the free fresh young coconuts. There was a vendor serving them with a small hole cut in the top and a straw. The fresh coconut water is so flavorful and refreshing and really healthful. Once I was finished drinking the water, I took it back and he cut it open for me so I could eat the chewy, tender flesh inside. I took it home with me and have been picking at it. It's SOOOOO yummy.

I hope you're having a wonderful Sunday. I'll be back later in the week with my post about making homemade ricotta cheese. Take good care and have a fantastic new week!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Saturday in the Garden

I visited the farm yesterday morning to pick up milk, eggs and yogurt. I was crestfallen to find that there was no yogurt available. Turns out that the county no longer offer licenses for the sale of homemade yogurt to local dairy farmers. What a shame that healthy, whole foods are not only not subsidized, but restricted. I guess no one stands to get rich if there are a bunch of healthy people running around this country. I can't stress this enough, please support your local farmers.

Now on to something a bit more cheerful. Rob and I spent all morning pottering around in the garden. I still can't get over how much we've taken to it. I never knew how relaxing and rewarding gardening is but I'm thrilled to have found out. It's great exercise, too. Everything is growing better than we could have hoped for. Gourmet Seed International is where we purchased the majority of our seeds. I highly recommend them. Here are boxes 1 and 2 that we planted just five weeks ago. Here are the early photos if you want a before and after.

Box 1

which has the rutabagas in full swing and a second box of rutabaga seed that I placed this morning, nasturtium, turnip greens, endive, different varieties of beets, carrots, chard and lettuce. I thinned all the carrots this morning. I won't thin the beets or the rutabagas but rather start harvesting their leaves for salad when they get a bit bigger.

Box 2

which has more beets, chard, carrots, nasturtium, lettuces, endive, dill and chervil along with marjoram and garlic chives that I planted from seed on May 5th when I did boxes 3 and 4. I can't wait until the dill and carrots are ready. Lightly steamed carrots tossed with butter and fresh dill is a revelation!

Box 3

which has two boxes of mini peppers from seed and transplanted banana pepper plants that I started in a pot on the deck, more lettuces, beets and carrots. The back row has two varieties of cucumber and two boxes of romanesco zucchini. Rob is going to build a trellis for them to climb up. I can't get over how fast the squash and cucumber seeds sprouted and took off. Can't wait until I have the first blossoms to stuff, bread and fry.

Box 4

which has two squash plants, golden sunburst (also known as patty pan) and golden crookneck. They are bush rather than vine plants so they need lots of space so we let them have the whole box except for the back row which is potatoes and my, my taters are such a curious thing to grow. I had no idea that to grow a potato, you actually plant a potato. I ordered certified disease free seed potatoes, let the eyes sprout, cut them into pieces and planted them just barely covering them with soil. You have to plant them toward the bottom of the container because as they sprout green leaves, like this...

you keep covering them lightly with soil. Keep repeating until the container is full of soil then let them grow and flower. Eventually (hopefully) we'll harvest some lovely ruby crescents, Yukon golds, russets and Austrian crescents. We had more potatoes than we had room in the garden for so we put the rest in a bucket on the deck. Speaking of the deck, it's starting to look like a jungle with so many herbs and 8 pots of tomatoes.

After I finished in the garden, I put a loaf of bread on and made homemade ricotta cheese. But you'll have to wait a bit for the post on that little project. I hear Rob opening the wine, so I will bid you a magical Saturday evening. CHEERS!

Friday, May 14, 2010

After the After

Why do people enjoy reading weight loss blogs? Why do you? Is it for the transformations, you know, that amazing moment when you see the before picture next to the dramatic after picture? Is it for motivation, information or just entertainment? Does it become less interesting after the after?

I never read healthy lifestyle/weight loss blogs before I started my journey to a healthier life. I figured, what was the point? I had failed so many times, it would just make me feel bad about myself. While perhaps seeing someone with the same struggles as me might make me feel better, I never wanted to get caught in the trap of needing someone to do poorly to somehow validate myself. I think building one another up is a much better use of time.

I know that I'm not "at goal" (which is pretty fluid because I'm learning that being healthy has much less to do with the number on the scale than with how a healthy life is put into action on a daily basis) but I am indeed maintaining my 100 pound weight loss. I wonder if it's not as interesting reading about maintenance and furthering my healthy lifestyle than it was when I was working through my emotional eating issues and struggles to get myself moving. I hope that's not the case, that I can continue to inspire you to take the first step toward a healthy lifestyle and keep walking it day after day.

I read healthy lifestyle blogs now, I really like the ones from people who are maintaining their healthy lifestyles and keeping the motivation to exercise alive day after day. These are people I look to for inspiration. Because while maintenance isn't nearly as exciting as seeing the before and after transformation, maintenance is where the real magic is. Taking what we've learned about health and fitness and applying it to our lives. Every. Single. Day.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Getting My Walk On

Woohoo! I forgot how much I enjoyed a nice long walk around the neighborhood. I walked for 75 minutes, 6,753 steps. I feel so good right now, sweaty, but good. Everything is so green and lush with a tapestry of bright colors in the form of knockout roses, hydrangeas, impatiens, sweet potato vines and a rainbow of lilies plus the outdoor exercise endorphins really can't be beat.

What exercise do you have planned for today? [crickets]

I'm pretty excited because Rob and I are going to the Alive Expo at the Georgia World Congress Center on Sunday. It's "The Natural Products & Green Living" consumer event. I'm particularly interested in seeing Brenda Cobb, founder of The Living Foods Institute give her presentation on preventing and healing diseases through raw and living foods. It should be a fun and interesting afternoon.

I'm off to have breakfast then a shower. Have a great day!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


I really had to gird my loins to get myself to the gym this morning. I'm not sure why some of my old resistance is creeping back but I'm working through it. I pushed myself hard during my weight lifting (I managed one set of underhand grip lat pulldowns at 84 pounds after being stuck at 72 pounds for so long) and carried on with 20 minutes of balls out intervals even though I wanted to quit. In the interest of accountability, I'm letting you know that I'm going for a nice long walk tomorrow. No excuses, no mucking about in the morning. Just me, my iPod and a warm May morning! Feel free to call me on it.

How do you psych yourself up for exercising when you really don't want to?

After the gym I went food shopping. This lazy funk I'm experiencing led me to Kroger just across from the gym rather than making the drive to Harry's. Ugh! It was a less than stellar experience. The produce section is so small and the processed crap goes on for miles. The organic selection is truly lacking and what's there is so overpriced. I came away with much less than I would have at Harry's (which used to be an indoor farmer's market but is now owned by Whole Foods but retains a lot of the original farmer's market qualities) but still ended up dropping nearly $150. That amount of money gets me at the very least some amazing local and regional organic produce without compromising. Lesson learned.

I am learning even more now that I'm well into The Omnivore's Dilemma. I urge you, no-I BEG YOU- to get this book and read it. If you are even the least bit interested in your health and the quality of food that you put into your body, you NEED to read this book. It's utterly engrossing and I can't wait to pick it back up.

I hear my juicer calling me, so I best answer.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Tuesday Chit-Chat

How are you doing on the healthy beverage challenge? I looked back at yesterday and I'm staying on track, I had 9 glasses of water, a mug of genmaicha and my fresh vegetable juice. The Experience Life magazine take action challenge for this week is about drinking more water. In case you didn't sign up for the take action challenge, check out the week two Hydrate Your Body challenge information at the end of this post.

I've got lots of work this month, one of the full time nurses is on medical leave so I'm picking up the slack. If my posts aren't as frequent, that's why. I'm making the most of my mornings, though, I'm doing laundry and have whole wheat and millet bread baking now and yesterday, I had a really vigorous set of lifting as well as high intensity intervals on the treadmill afterward. As much as I'm enjoying the lifting, I think it's time to shake things up a bit. I'm still spinning my wheels and seem to be yo-yo-ing the same 2 pounds week after week. It may be time to add more cardio back into my routine. I'm going to carry on with the prescribed New Rules program but I'm going to do intervals at the end of each lifting session, though it's only recommended on the B workouts. I'm also going to add more outdoor walking with running intervals on my days off from lifting.

What you been cooking good? I grilled a bison strip loin on Sunday evening and served it over a salad of greens, fresh herbs, carrots, cucumber and mango tossed in a hot-sweet-sour Thai style dressing. The bison was amazing, tender and flavorful, highly recommended! Working 3-11 cramps my kitchen style a bit but on my days off I'm making Giada's white bean and chicken chili (batch cooking is great to have leftovers to bring to work) as well as corn and goat cheese cakes served with crispy ham, from the latest issue of Everyday Food.

I bought a batch of new spices from Penzy's, which I'll be writing about and I'm going to be doing some herb blogging. I have such lovely herbs growing in my garden I want to make some meals which highlight them and share the recipes with you. Reader Allison asked about my purple basil. I put a few pinches of seed in a pot last week and I have little purple sprouts at the moment. I will keep you posted on the progress. That's all for now. Have a great week!

Week 2 Challenge: Hydrate Your Body.

Right this moment, stop whatever you’re doing, and go grab a glass of water. Do not add ice (you can add lemon or lime, if you like). Drink half of it down now and drink the rest within the hour. For the rest of this week:

  • Drink one glass of water first thing upon waking, one before lunch and one before retiring to bed.
  • Also keep a refillable bottle of water or thermal container of unsweetened herbal tea with you wherever you go. Take a few glugs throughout the day while you work, drive and work out.
  • Aim to drink about a half gallon of water during the course of each day (or more if you like).

Healthy Perspective
Water keeps all of your bodily systems functioning well, and most of us don’t get enough. Even a moderate level of dehydration has huge limiting effects on our body. Blood, for instance, is more than 80 percent water. When you’re low on fluid, blood literally thickens, making your cardiac system work harder. Less blood flows to the brain, so your mind is not as sharp. Many of the body’s important enzymatic reactions and toxin-flushing activities require water to occur. That’s why a 1 percent reduction in hydration can reduce athletic output by 10 percent, and by some estimates, only a 2 percent drop in hydration levels can produce fuzzy thinking and impaired memory.

In cases of chronic low-level dehydration, skin and all bodily tissues become drier and less pliant. Muscles tire more easily and sometimes cramp. Metabolism slows, which, in turn, can lead to weight gain. And your body may respond to the lack of water by trying to retain whatever liquid it has, causing puffiness, under-eye circles and constipation. For all these reasons, drinking plenty of pure, fresh water is one of the simplest and single most important things you can do for your health.

Overcoming Barriers

  • “I don’t like water.”
    Add a slice of cucumber, a couple of frozen berries, a splash of lemon, or a tablespoon or two of pure fruit juice for flavor. Also consider purchasing a water filter (a pitcher-style or faucet attachment is fine) for both your home and workplace so that you have easy access to clean, good-tasting water throughout the day. Finally, remember, you don’t have to love the taste of water to drink it for your body’s benefit. And chances are good that once you start drinking it more often, the taste of water will grow on you.
  • “But I’m not thirsty.”
    If you body has grown accustomed to a constant level of chronic dehydration, your body’s thirst signals may have “switched off” as a result. This is an especially common problem among sedentary and older individuals. Interestingly, as you begin to drink more water and your tissues become better hydrated, you may find your thirst signal returning.
  • “Water isn’t going to give me the same energy boost as coffee, tea or soda.”
    You might be surprised by how much positive difference being well hydrated can make in your energy. And there’s no reason you can’t also drink other beverages, too, if you choose. Just strive to make water your primary hydrator of choice, and remember that your body may need extra water to help flush out the sweeteners, caffeine, artificial additives or alcohol you take in from other beverages.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Homemade Butter

One evening when my sister and I were kids, my mother poured heavy whipping cream into a bowl. She got out the electric mixer and let us take turns whipping the cream. Once the cream was perfectly whipped she told us to keep mixing. We asked why. Mom told us we were making butter. My sister and I were delighted by this and once the cream had been transformed we spread the thick, golden butter on Town House crackers. It was the best butter I had ever

Since there are so many wonderful butter brands available (hello, LURPAK) I never really thought about making my own. Until I started to get the farm fresh milk. Because the fresh milk isn't homogenized, the rich cream settles right to the top. I couldn't wait to use that amazing grass fed cream to make my own butter.

Skimming the cream

I skimmed off about 8 ounces of the cream, not all of it because the fat in raw milk is some of the healthiest you can feed your body. Next, I poured the cream into a bowl with a pinch of kosher salt and went to work with my electric mixer.

Mmmmm, cream!

Keep beating and beating, to soft peaks...

to fully whipped, then keep mixing until it loses volume and starts to look curdled...

the cream will break and the fat will form into globules and separate from the liquid, notice the color change...

Mmmmm, butter!

I strained the butter using a fine sieve and a paper towel then transferred it to a small ramekin.

It didn't make a lot, just a few tablespoons but was so worth the effort when we spread the butter on warm, homemade bread...

Rob was quite disappointed that there was none left for his bacon butty this morning. He's getting spoiled, I tell you!

If you've never tried making butter, give it a go. It's fun and the treat at the end is well worth the time.