Sunday, July 31, 2011

Checking In

Happy Sunday!  Just got home from a working weekend.  I hope you all are doing well.  Thing were dicey here for a little while, the stress from the dog being sick yet again really set me back (the Andra equivalent to a psychotic break and it wasn't pretty.)  I was a mess for awhile there.  But after the juice fast, I have been eating clean, low grain, wheat and sugar free, juicing daily and each day I feel stronger and more emotionally stable. And despite having some very expensive car repairs, I got my smile back a few days ago.  I'm happy to report that Tally is doing very well.  She's active, hungry, thirsty and playful again.  Here she is just now all fresh and clean from her bath...

I've been working lots of hours and will continue to do so to pad the Champagne fund (and re-pad the car and vet bill fund.)  I won't have as much time for blogging but I will try to as often as I can with food porn, any good recipes I come across, and how my training for the 5k is going.  Watch this space for those details, as well.

I've been using my kefir grains like they are going out of style, I've been drinking my raw milk kefir every morning and yesterday made up a batch of raw cream kefir.  Oh, it's lovely.  Thick and golden and tangy.  It can be used in place of creme fraiche or sour cream. 

I'm making grilled flat iron steak for supper along with this dish I saw on Kalyn's Kitchen.  Mmmm, zucchini with melted pizza cheese.  Oh, can't wait!

I will leave you with a wee bit of food porn.


This is a delectable vegetarian stir fry I made the day after the juice fast.  It had a whole head of bok choy, peppers, snow peas, sprouts, broccoli, it was just loaded with veggies, served on just bit of baked brown rice made with coconut oil. 

One of my favorite dishes, sausage and peppers.  There was a few multi-colored baby potatoes, orange bell peppers, sweet onions, portobello mushrooms and some chicken, vegetable and asiago cheese sausages from Trader Joe's.  It was heavenly!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

A Juice Fast for Two

We started the day with some tea and lemon then our first juice.  I used that whole packet of super greens along with celery, cucumber, asparagus, zucchini, green apple, lemon and ginger.  It's a super green bloat buster but I like what Donna calls it...


This was quite sour, but the last thing on our palates was homemade vanilla chocolate chunk gelato I made us for a treat last evening.  You do the math.

This is what I wake up to every morning.  I'm one lucky lady, hee hee!  Not that I'm such a prize, I was not camera ready due to a severe case of bed head.  

Some of my reading material for today...

Must avoid any and all things having to do with food like Food Network, Cooking Channel, food magazines and cookbooks.  Which always seem to be a big part of my Saturday.

I took Tally on a gentle gimp around the block, my right knee has been bothering me this week but we both needed to get out and about a little.  In case you hadn't heard, it's really fraking hot out!  I had a shower and then it was time for lunch.  Er, juice.

This one is an orange green combo with cucumber, kale, celery, lemon, carrots, turmeric root, Japanese yam and a juicy pluot that had gone too ripe to eat. 


Now this was tasty.  Orange veggies are sweeter, fresh turmeric root tastes fabulous and kale is surprisingly mild when juiced.

At 1pm, Rob said he was hungry but otherwise feeling pretty good.  I made him a cup of Sweet & Spicy herbal tea and I had a big glass of the herb and lemon sun "tea" that I made yesterday. 

Another round of mean green at 3pm after Rob said he was ready to gnaw off his own foot.  This one is loaded with kale, golden beets, cucumber, zucchini, celery, green apple and ginger.  I left out the lemon by mistake.  I much prefer the juice with the lemon, it seems a little flat without it.  Beets are damn tasty, though.

Time for supper juice, last juice before the highlight of the evening, the Pina Colada smoothies.  This one was so orange-y and delicious with carrots, golden beets, Japanese yam, turmeric, zucchini, ginger and lemon.  It was a bit sweeter than the others but I could tell by the look on Rob's face that if it was overly-green tasting he might give up and head for the ham and cheese. 

At about 7:30pm we decided it was time for smoothies.

The fat in the coconut kefir made the smoothie have lots of staying power.  I'm freezing cold now, though.  We had to turn off the fan and turn up the temp on the central air.  I was just laying under a blanket before I came to post this.  In July, in Georgia, during a heat wave.  Wheat, sugar and alcohol are all inflammatory foods, which cause acid and heat in my body.  Juicing and sticking to an anti-inflammatory diet is one sure way to stay cool in this heat.

Rob boycotted day two, but we will be having juice for breakfast and a light, veggie-centric day.  I can't do food prep for Rob and a juice fast for myself, it's just too hard.  That's why I always planned my previous fasts around his traveling.

I wish I had some good news about Tally, but she's still quite poorly and not holding anything down.  We'll see how she is in the morning and then decide if we need to take her to the emergency vet hospital for more treatment.  Think good thoughts for her.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Juice Fast Prep and a Poorly Pup

Tally is poorly again, another bout of gastroenteritis and all the lovely emissions from both ends that comes with it.  She is at the vet getting IV fluids at this moment and I'm trying to keep myself from getting too worked up about it.  Ooops, too late.  I'm positively beside myself.  But I just called and Tally is doing well.  She's resting and getting hydrated, the vomiting seems to have stopped.  Rob is going to pick her up on his way home from work.  Poor Baby Girl!

After dropping Tally at the vet this morning, I headed to Whole Foods to stock the fridge with all the produce needed to get Rob and me through two days of juice fasting.

We've got two bunches of kale, a large head of bok choy, lemons, golden beets, turmeric, ginger, zucchini, cucumbers, asparagus, a Japanese red yam, granny smith apples, carrots, celery and two pineapples.  I also have some assorted greens and fruit in the fridge that are going to get juiced before they "go over."

The pineapples will become our supper smoothies both evenings.  I'm going to juice the pineapples then whizz them in blender with ice and a scoop of coconut kefir.  Mmmm, sounds good, doesn't it?  Rob is going to cry when I tell him that we're not having any coffee or tea, just lots of lemon water and herbal tea.  I just set this out on the back porch to steep, to serve over ice with a spritz of the Meyer lemon juice...

Meyer lemon peel, mint, pineapple sage and 
two kinds of basil with filtered water.

I found these lovelies that I couldn't resist and will enjoy them first thing Monday morning when I break the fast... BEHOLD, the mango nectarine!

The perfume on these yellow-green beauties is simply irresistible.  I just know they are going to taste like ambrosia after nothing but bright green and golden juices all weekend.

Think good thoughts for my baby girl and wish us luck on the fast.  I will keep you posted on everyone's progress!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead

When Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead turned up on Netflix streaming, Rob and I couldn't wait to watch it.  We watched it yesterday afternoon.

In a nutshell, a man named Joe Cross chronicles his 60 day juice fast in an attempt to cure his auto-immune skin disease called Urticaria and get off all prescription medication as well as "reboot" his life from one of unhealthy excess to a healthier, fitter existence.  Well he did just that.  On the surface Mr. Cross went from looking like Jim Broadbent to looking like Hugh Jackman (hubba hubba) in record time but also improved many aspects of his life and helping lots of people along the way.

The medical consultant in this film is Dr. Joel Fuhrman who is a big proponent of a nutrient dense plant based diet.  He states in the film and on his site that, "Our modern, low-nutrient eating style has led to an overweight population, the majority of whom develop diseases of nutritional ignorance, causing our medical costs to spiral out of control."  How true.  His website is loaded with interesting and informative information on nutrition and using food as medicine.  Check it out.

Rob enjoyed the film as much as I did.  So much so that he has agreed to a two-day juice fast this coming weekend.  I've been struggling this year, seemingly losing and gaining the same five pounds, a reboot is just what I need.  I've blogged my juicing experiences here for the past couple of years but I will have a totally different point of view to add here, Rob's first juice fast.  Watch this space for our weekend juice fast blast!

I've learned the power of juicing vegetables and fruits from personal experience but watching it distilled down in this powerful documentary was just amazing.  If you have ever been even the tiniest bit curious about juicing, YOU MUST WATCH THIS FILM!

Have you seen this film?  Has it changed your ideas about juicing?  I want to hear from you!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Un-Sunny Saturday

Good morning and happy Saturday!  It feels like ages since I sat down to blog.  I have been working lots of shifts this month and picked up many more as they have been available due to summer vacations and such.  I'm going to be stockpiling hours as much as possible because Rob and I have booked our 10th wedding anniversary holiday so I am padding the Champagne budget in anticipation!

We have had a tremendous heat wave here in metro-Atlanta, like much of the country.  I have become amazingly heat and even humidity tolerant since the weight loss but 96+ temperatures with high humidity and a heat index of 115 is a little too much for even me.  Walking Tally after work on Wednesday afternoon was a grueling stroll through piping hot pea soup!  It broke yesterday with positively refreshing 80 degree temperatures.  This morning is cool and rainy.  Wonderful for the gardens but unfortunately Tally's best friends 101 class graduation was cancelled due to the rain.  I have to admit, I'm a little heartbroken about not getting to have the ceremony.  I was going to wear a crazy hat and everything.  :(

I am still watching my kombucha culture, almost three weeks in and it's still just sitting there.  I hope it wakes up soon because I can't wait to brew my first fizzy and fermented batch!  I've been making kefir just about every other day. It's just so easy.  The raw milk kefir is wonderful, I've been having it first thing in the morning and it works a treat on the old digestive system and is very satisfying.  Filling my stomach with healthy and filling things, like raw milk kefir, early in the day helps keep the hunger monster at bay.  I have learned that if I leave breakfast too long I can't seem to "catch up" and get control of the hunger for the rest of the day.  Have you ever experienced this? 

Today is chicken day at the farm, we are off later this afternoon to pick our two plump pastured hens.  Needless to say, we are having winner winner chicken dinner tonight!  Herb compound butter and grill roasted or bbq dry rubbed with a beer can popped up its bum, I haven't decided yet.  But we will be having tomato basil salad with balsamic vinaigrette alongside.  What's on your weekend menu?

That's all for now, have a wonderful weekend!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Adventures in Fermentation

Say hello to my little friends...

I've been culturing raw milk into yogurt for about a year now but as I've been reading more about the benefits of traditionally fermented foods, I wanted to diversify.

Let's get the health stuff out of the way first.  Why should we eat fermented/traditionally cultured foods?  I've just started reading  Real Food: What to Eat and Why by Nina Planck.  Here is what Ms. Planck has to say about cultured/fermented dairy...
Traditional cultured milks are not only digestible but also nutritious.  According to Harold McGee, beneficial bacteria found in "traditional, spontaneously fermented milks" take up residence in our guts and promote health all over the body.  The bacteria secrete antibacterial agents, enhance immunity, break down cholesterol, and reduce carcinogens.  The bacteria added to industrial yogurt don't necessarily do the same good work.
The immune system (which protects our bodies from everything from common colds to vile cancers) is inextricably linked with the digestive system, you simply can't have a healthy body without a healthy digestive system!  That is why we *need* traditionally cultured foods.  Think of it as an inexpensive health insurance policy.

Now on to the fun stuff.  Over the past few weeks I have dabbled in kefir, kombucha, villi yogurt and lacto-fermented mayonnaise and pickles.  It has been quite fun, though not everything has been a smashing success.

Lacto-fermentation is an ancient process of preserving vegetables.  Think of traditional saurkraut.  Cabbage is put in a crock with water, salt and spices.  Lactic acid is formed and the good bacteria and enzymes preserves the cabbage into something healthful and delicious.  No heat or refrigeration needed.  Nourishing Days has a lovely four part series on fermenting.  I used her method for making these pickles.

These turned out absolutely delicious; crunchy, tangy and not too salty.  I am going to branch out as the summer season goes on.  Since these pickles turned out so well, I made the investment in a dozen quart size wide mouth mason jars.  I really want to pickle perfect summer peaches to enjoy in the dead of winter.

I once tried to make my own mayo.  It would not emulsify, no matter how much I beat, whipped, how slowly I dribbled and streamed.  And cried.  All those eggs and good olive oil gone to waste.  It would be a long time before I tried again.  But I'm not one to bow down from a challenge in the kitchen.  Armed with my trusty blender, farm fresh eggs and this method, I tried again.  This time adding whey to make it lacto-fermented, upping the nutritional value as well as making it keep longer.

Success!  It turned out thick and lovely.  Having everything at room temperature is a must and the blender made it so easy.  Although the fermentation is supposed to make it keep, tell that to Rob, who is slathering it on everything he can get his hands on.

I purchased some cultures and starters from Cultures for Health.  Specifically milk kefir grains, kombucha tea starter culture and villi yogurt culture.  Villi yogurt is meant to culture on the counter top. I followed the directions to the letter, it turned out thick and lovely looking but was so sour it was completely inedible.  But it wasn't all wasted.  I strained out the whey to keep for other uses like soaking brown rice and making more lacto-fermented goodies.

The kombucha (read more about kombucha here) starter culture needed to be rehydrated with starter tea, which is fresh brewed tea, sugar and vinegar.  It's been sitting on my counter undisturbed for almost two weeks.  It's not doing anything at the moment, but it can take up to four weeks to come back to life.  I'm watching and waiting...

The kefir grains (read more about kefir here) needed to be rehydrated also.  Place the grains in a little milk and let sit for 24 hours.  Strain and repeat daily for about a week until the milk starts to sour and thicken.  Then they are ready.

Add the kefir grains to a larger quantity of milk let sit on the counter for up to 24 hours.  After 12 hours start sniffing and checking the texture.  The longer it sits the thicker and more sour it gets.  My favorite batch was cultured for about 16 hours.  Strain out the grains, cover the jars with their lids and refrigerate for 6 hours to finish the culture.

The finished product is wonderful!  The dairy kefir is thick and sour but very tasty.  Richer and tangier than the store bought kind.  I find that pushing the dairy kefir through a fine mesh strainer before refrigerating results in a super silky and smooth tangy drink which is perfect for making protein shakes and smoothies or just sipping on its own.

My favorite of all my fermented goodies is the coconut kefir.  IT IS INSANE!!!  I bought good quality organic coconut milk.  The full fat kind.  There is no sugar, no water, just pressed organic coconut meat.  I used the kefir grains the same as with dairy milk.  Just put grains and coconut milk in a jar, cover loosely with a coffee filter and rubber band and let it sit on the counter for up to 24 hours.  Fish out the grains, cover and refrigerate.

The result is almost indescribable...

Thick enough to defy gravity!  But also fluffy, creamy, sweet and tangy at the same time, coconutty and totally rediculicious.  Yes, it's so good it is inspiring nonsensical descriptors.  I have used it in chocolate protein shakes, plopped on top of blueberries and bananas, stirred into hot coffee and straight out of the jar.  I have another batch culturing this very minute.

There is very little hands on time when making cultured products but like a pet goldfish, you need to keep your kefir grains alive by changing the water in their bowl, as it were.  When not in use just keep them in a little jar of milk on the counter, loosely covered.  Change the milk every day or two.  I mix the milk with filtered water to make it more cost effective.  It hasn't changed the effectiveness of the grains.  You can store the grains in the fridge if you need a rest, be sure the follow the instructions of the grains you purchase to be sure you keep them in tip top shape.

If you made it to the end of this novel, congratulations!  I'd love to hear your results with home fermentation and if you haven't tried it, give it a go.  Fermented foods are most definitely nutritious and delicious.

Weekend Blog Carnival

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Farmer's Market, Part 2

What did I do with the rest of the lovely vegetables from my farmer's market haul?  Read on!

I mentioned that I wasn't a big fan of green beans unless they are in the holiday casserole, but I saw these lovely blue lake beans and I really wanted to try them.  Also pictured with them are some adorable baby cucumbers.

I wasn't sure what to do with the beans so I put "Blue Lake green beans" in a google search and this recipe came up:  Blue Lake Green Beans with Lemon and Thyme.  I snapped the ends and washed the beans and blanched them quickly in salted water.

I shocked them in ice water then drained and patted them dry.  

Then  a quick saute in a nice bit of grass fed butter and tossed with lemon thyme from the garden and lemon zest.

I also squeezed some of the lemon juice over the beans for a bit of extra zing.  The preparation was simple, the flavors bright and the beans had a nice tender-crisp texture.  And the lemon juice-butter combination clung to each bean and gave a lovely richness.  A keeper!

Next up, the crowder peas.

I was drawn in by the lovely purple and green combination of these beans.  I wonder why?  

I asked the farmer what to do with them.  He said shell them and simmer them in broth or water until just tender then do whatever you want with them.  Shelling peas is oddly soothing.

I chose to make a lovely vegetable stew using the crowder peas and some of the other veggies from my haul like the fresh tomatoes, summer squash and zucchini.  I simmered them gently in my homemade chicken stock. The crowder peas had a bit of toothsomeness at first and a nice creamy interior.  The flavor, earthy and sweet.  The stew was satisfying and delicious. 

The baby cucumbers and the poye spinach came together in a Latin inspired dinner.  

Have you ever had cucumbers just tossed with salt and lots fresh lime juice?  It is a wonderful and refreshing summer snack.  I dressed it a up a bit more with some red chile, chopped cilantro and some diced avocado.

I knew exactly how I wanted to prepare the spinach.  There is a recipe called "Catalan Spinach" from the book Fresh from the Farmers' Market that I had been itching to try.

I washed the spinach very well, it's important to double or triple soak and rinse garden greens so you won't get grit in the final preparation.   I put the greens in a pan with the rinse water still clinging to it.

I quickly steamed the spinach, rinsed and drained it well.  Then in a saute pan I heated a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and cooked a chopped garlic clove until golden.  I added the spinach and tossed to coat each leaf in the garlicky oil mixture.  Then I added some chopped dried apricots, chopped toasted walnuts, golden raisins that I plumped in hot water.  Tossed it all together and served it.

There aren't enough descriptive words in either English or Spanish to describe how amazing this dish is.  So simple, so sublime.

Both of these wonderful dishes served as companions to a bit of grilled pork loin that I had marnated in a rub of garlic, cumin seeds and aleppo pepper.  There were raves all around that night!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Holiday Weekend Highlights

It has been a splendid weekend with still the rest of today to enjoy.  Rob and I spent the morning swimming and now just pottering about the house.  Here are some photo highlights of the weekend...

Friday evening, about to enjoy my first drink after almost 4 weeks of being a teetotaler.

Wearing my apron while preparing our romantic supper before heading out

Cheesy, meaty, crunchy, marinated and briny things!

View portion of Brew with a View

Watching the sun set over Kennesaw Mountain

 View from the bottom.  We had just enjoyed our gelato, 
but it was a race against the 90 degree heat to eat it before it melted, thus no photo.  :(

Saturday morning farmers market at Marietta Square

Found some perfect heirloom apples, $2 for 4 
and got a bonus one to munch on while shopping

Saturday evening, my mise en place for the cheese souffle

 French wine to go with dinner, it was delicious!

VoilĂ !
Rob wasn't impressed with the dish from an eating perspective, I should have known because he never likes things that taste "eggy and cheesy."  I didn't find it eggy at all, it tasted like cheese and air.  I was underwhelmed if I'm honest, but I do admit to being terribly impressed with the fact that I conquered the mythical cheese souffle.

Sunday afternoon Rob and I went to see On Stranger Tides.  
Sunday evening, dessert at Jeff and Donna's.  I made peach clafouti.  
You should have seen the spread they put on for dinner!  
Donna's gaucamole was superb and I will be dreaming of those shrimp and mango fajitas for years to come.  I wish I had been able to stop stuffing my face for a minute to get a photo.

 Zoe and Tally played themselves out!

As for today, I just put a farm chicken in to brine.  It will get slathered in a tarragon and pineapple sage compound butter and get grill roasted for our holiday dinner.  I may make splash of sangria now.  It's five o'clock somewhere, cheers!