Day 60–Steel Cut Oats to Fuel a Body

Traditional 28-ounce tin of McCann's Steel Cut...

I love to run. And that’s really pretty funny because I completely stink at it.

Growing up, I never ran and wasn’t even athletic. I was the “creative” one, and somehow that excused me from participating in sports. When I was about 30, a friend loaned me a book that changed how I viewed running. The book was “The Courage to Start,” and it detailed the progress of John Bingham from heavy, smoking, drinking, middle age dude to svelte, non-smoking, still slow-as-molasses runner. I wasn’t in terrible shape when I started running, but it was comforting to have someone tell me it was ok to be the penguin, not the gazelle.

It sounds dense now, but it never occurred to me that you could be athletic and not be consumed with competition. Or with being super fast. And maybe you get out and run every day and you are still last in every race. What is important is that you cross the finish line with a smile on your face. Because at the end of it all, you had a great day. I loved that book, and it encouraged me to find a love of running and an appreciation for what my body can do and not be critical of what it can’t. I will never be a gazelle, but I can be the penguin who thanks each and every child handing me water during the race. Even if the pace car is bumping me in the behind (really, this happened).

Running makes me hungry, and in the spring when I get back outside to run, I become voracious. But if I eat what I feel like eating, I will be way less of a gazelle and ultimately the pace car may be running over me. One of my favorite fill ‘er up foods is steel cut oatmeal.  If you haven’t tried steel cut oats and you think you don’t like oatmeal, I’d encourage you to try it. It’s a whole different animal from those paper packets of highly sugared, processed oats. Steel cut oats are very high in fiber, higher in protein and high in iron. In fact, I don’t know why Popeye wasn’t eating oats, because they have more iron than spinach!

Steel cut oats take longer to make (about 30 minutes) and that can be daunting when you’re hungry and tired. They are, however, a great make-ahead dish. I like to make a batch, pop it in the fridge and heat up single servings in the microwave as I need it. Also, steel cut oats can be made in a crock pot overnight, so you’ll have hot oatmeal first thing in the morning. Easy peasy.

Think oats are boring? Add dried cranberries or any other dried fruit and maybe even a tablespoon of brown sugar. Or maple syrup. Or chopped nuts. My favorite is dried cranberry, pecan and brown sugar. The trick is to keep the sugar to a minimum.

So fuel up, get outside and have fun! Just watch out for the pace cars.

Steel Cut Oatmeal (stovetop)

  • 1 c. steel cut oats
  • 4 c. water
  • dried cranberries, chopped pecans, brown sugar, whatever makes you happy
  1. Combine oats and water in a small pot and heat to boiling.
  2. Boil oats for about 1 minute and turn the heat down to medium. Stir.
  3. Cook oats on medium for about 30 minutes or until it is very thick like porridge. Stir frequently to keep from sticking to pot.
  4. Ladle into bowls and top with your favorite toppings.

Steel Cut Oatmeal (crock pot)

Note: you will need to experiment with your slow cooker to see what setting works best. For mine, the low setting was still too high, but the “keep warm” setting works like a charm.

  • 1 c. steel cut oats
  • 4 c. water
  • 1/2 c. milk or cream
  1. Add all ingredients into crock pot.
  2. Cover and heat on low or warm.
  3. Cook for 7-8 hours
  4. Ladle into bowls and add your favorite toppings

Day 59–Soft, Oatmeal Cookies to Fuel a Journey

I don't usually take direction from a cookie, but...

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Remember hearing that? (If you’re younger than 35, you are probably still hearing that, but humor me). I remember being a bit bummed out as a child that I had to pick one thing to be–or at least that was the expectation. The world seemed so full of wonderful choices that I didn’t think I could ever decide on one thing to do…forever. My first choice was Horse Trainer (I had never been on a horse), then Teacher, then Veterinarian, Teacher, Solid Gold Dancer, Teacher, Writer, Teacher, etc. I finally decided at age 8 or 9 that I would be a part-time horse trainer and vet and in my spare time I would teach children. And maybe shake my booty on Solid Gold on the weekends.

I think I’m still in that place, although parts of my booty now shake all by themselves.

Sometimes the universe brings you a gift that you aren’t necessarily looking for. And sometimes, you go looking. This journey we are on–to find sustainable ways to live, to find sources for healthy, locally produced food, to reconnect our family to the living world–has changed the way I view how I spend my time. I want to make a difference, even if it’s a small one, and I want to use what I am learning every day to help others who are interested. How will that play out? That is a mystery. But I am on the alert for new opportunity and excited about what the future holds.

Until “opportunity” and I find each other, here is a recipe for soft, oatmeal, cranberry, cocoa nib cookies. A perfect, sustaining snack for a long journey!

Oatmeal, Cranberry, Cocoa Nib Cookies

  • 1 c. unsalted, organic butter
  • 1 c. unbleached, organic sugar
  • 1 c. organic brown sugar
  • 2 farm eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 c. whole wheat pastry or all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 3 c. rolled oats
  • 1 c. dried cranberries (you could also use raisins)
  • 1/2 c. organic cocoa nibs
  1. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a mixer, cream together butter and sugars.
  3. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Add vanilla and stir.
  4. Add butter/sugar mixture to the dry ingredients and mix well.
  5. Add oats, cranberries and cocoa nibs. You may need to mix with your hands at this point!
  6. Cover bowl and chill for 30-90 minutes.
  7. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  8. Line cookie sheets with unbleached parchment (or lightly grease your cookie sheets).
  9. Roll dough into balls about 1 1/2 inches and place on cookie sheet about 3 inches apart.
  10. Take a glass and gently flatten each ball with the bottom of the glass.
  11. Bake for about 10 minutes (check your cookies after 8 minutes as cooking times vary by oven).
  12. Cool cookies on baking sheet for 5 minutes, then remove to a cooling rack to cool completely (I never have that much patience, but it sounds good in a recipe :-))
  13. Continue looking for new opportunities with a full tummy and a smile on your face…

 

 

Day 58–Small Shrimp, Big Footprint

Shrimp Boat

I love good shrimp, especially over grits or in pasta. Living in a state that produces shrimp for the rest of the country, I used to think that most of my shrimp was caught within a two-hour drive from my home. Checking grocery store sourcing, though, I found that most of it is imported. Imported!! Shrimp comes from 120 miles away, but it’s imported from Asia??? Now we get all our seafood local, thanks to Locals Seafood and Earp’s Seafood Market. I recently read a report that has me even more convinced that local shrimp is the way to go.

The article is from Mother Jones Online and it proclaims that “Shrimp’s Carbon Footprint is 10 Times Greater Than Beef’s”. Say what??? I thought grain fed South American beef was the worst food in regards to carbon footprints, but apparently not. Highlighting Taco Bell’s $2.79 shrimp taco and Red Lobster’s “Endless Shrimp” feasts, the article focuses on America’s love of cheap, plentiful food and the practice of farm raising shrimp in Asia. Twenty years ago, 80% of the shrimp Americans consumed came from wild domestic fisheries, with an additional 20% imported. Today those percentages are flipped, with more than 90% of the shrimp we consume coming from outside the U.S. and mostly from shrimp farms throughout Asia.

Why is that bad? Well, to read about it, apparently these foreign shrimp farms are increasingly built on former mangrove forests across Asia. The devastation of the mangroves is huge. Mangrove forests are biodiverse fisheries, where many species lay their eggs and where young fish can develop in clean waters. The cutting down of these mangrove forests results in “fetid dead zones” that are devoid of life except for what is farmed there. Mangroves are also rich in carbon. When the mangroves are destroyed, that carbon is released into the atmosphere as global warming gas. And since the farms can only be used for about 5 years until the water is too toxic and laden with pesticides, viruses and antibiotics, these shrimp factories are not at all sustainable.

So, what is a shrimp lover to do? Well, first, back away from the shrimp taco and all-you-can-eat shrimp buffet, because the odds are good that those shrimp came from someplace pretty gross. And then buy U.S. shrimp, which are plentiful and which will support jobs in fisheries here. Domestic shrimp may be more expensive when measuring by the dollar, but they are less costly in terms of the environment and your own health. Now I just need to find a good recipe for shrimp tacos!

Day 57–Starting Week 9–Budget and Menu

English: Romaine lettuce (Lactuca sativa var. ...

We had settled into a good routine for market shopping and ordering from local farmers. Until this week. With a sick child and busy work week, it was difficult to make time for the farmer’s market and I was tempted to just bag it and do my shopping at the grocery store. But, I didn’t. Can’t say I shopped with a glad heart this weekend, but I know I’ll be glad once we start cooking. We have lots of great eats this week. Our NC fishermen were catching a lot of swordfish, so we’re trying that along with NC scallops. Lettuce is making a strong comeback, so we will also be having more green salads with fresh lettuce and cucumbers. As for our budget we hit right at the mark this week, just four dollars over our $100 goal. Some items like flour will cover us for several weeks, so that’s good. Here’s how it broke out:

  • Farmhand food (meatbox pork tenderloin): $15
  • Locals Seafood (swordfish steaks and scallops): $40
  • Hillsborough Cheese Company (Greek yogurt, pimento chevre): $8.00
  • Coon Rock Farm (egg): $4.00
  • Misc. farmers market (lettuce, tomato, cucumber): $8.00
  • Trader Joes (frozen fruit, organic whole wheat flour, organic buttermilk, butter, lemons, white wine): 29.19
  • Great Harvest Bread Company (honey whole wheat): free with coupon

Total budget for week 9: $104.19

So, what are we having for all this? Here is our menu for the week:

  • Sunday: grilled swordfish with rosemary/white wine sauce, risotto, sautéed kale from garden
  • Monday: Cheese quiche with garden salad [Meatless Monday]
  • Tuesday: Grilled pimento cheese and Mae Farm bacon sandwiches, salad
  • Wednesday: Whole wheat pasta with scallops and lemon
  • Thursday: Soyaki pork tenderloin with stir fried greens and leftover veggies
  • Friday: Leftovers
  • Saturday: Out–dinner and symphony date night

I am seriously looking forward to the grilled pimento cheese and bacon sandwiches this week. That may be a blog post in itself! Here is to wishing you a happy and healthy week ahead!

Day 56–Warm, Whole Wheat Buttermilk Pancakes

Pancakes being cooked on a griddle.

A reader recently asked what we do for breakfast. I spend a lot of time blogging about our dinners, but nothing about breakfast (but see our smoothie recipe from Day 53). Typically, our breakfast involves toasted Ezekiel bread w/local apple butter, a bagel or, my tween’s favorite, homemade pancakes. Actually, our dog and cat love pancakes so much that they turn into little pancake lunatics when they smell them cooking. This past week, we had our one and only “snow” delay of the winter. It was so nice to make a fresh batch of pancakes, a pot of coffee and watch the 1/4″ of snow on the ground. Almost as cozy as a real winter.

Barring the rare snow delay, our morning schedule is pretty rushed (we are all out the door at 7:00 a.m.). There is no way this mom is making fresh pancakes every morning at 5:30 a.m. Fortunately, pancakes freeze well and warm in the microwave in just a few seconds. So, 30 minutes in the kitchen on Sundays makes for an entire week’s worth of hot, warm breakfast. Here is our recipe for whole wheat buttermilk pancakes that are much more nutritious and delicious than the frozen toaster variety you can buy in the grocery. While the first side of the pancakes cook, you can add fresh fruit, wheat germ or (if you’re feeling indulgent) chocolate chips. When I’m feeling like super mom, I even warm the syrup up for a few seconds in the microwave. YUM!

Whole Wheat Buttermilk Pancakes

  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (or whole wheat all-purpose flour)
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 Tbsp. organic sugar
  • 1 1/4 c. Maple View Farm buttermilk (or any good quality buttermilk)
  • 1/2 c. organic milk
  • 1 large farm egg
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • Non-stick cooking spray
  • Pure maple syrup
  1. Combine dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, soda, salt, sugar) in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Combine milk, buttermilk and egg in a medium bowl. Add the melted butter and mix.
  3. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until moist.
  4. Spray a large skillet or griddle with cooking spray and heat to medium.
  5. When skillet is hot, ladle about 1/4 cup of batter into skillet for each pancake.
  6. Cook until golden brown (about 3 minutes). Sprinkle the raw side of the pancake with fruit, wheat germ or chocolate chips, if you like.
  7. Flip each pancake with a spatula and cook until golden brown. This could be 1-2 minutes, depending on your stove and pan.
  8. Keep pancakes warm on a plate in a 200 degree oven or just serve ’em up as they come off the skillet.
  9. Serve immediately with real maple syrup.
  10. Recoat your skillet with non-stick spray as needed and continue cooking until batter is gone.

For freezing and reheating:

If you are going to freeze these, cool pancakes completely on a cooling rack.

Pack in a freezer safe storage container, putting a sheet of wax paper between pancake so they don’t freeze together.

When ready to reheat, take however many pancake you want and wrap them in paper towel.

Put the towel wrapped pancakes on a microwave safe plate and heat for 30 seconds-1 minute. Start with 30 seconds and if that is not enough, heat in 10 second increments until pancakes are hot.

Serve to your family, making sure they take note of your super parent status.

Day 55–Community Gardens

Austin TX

“It is what it is, but will become what you make of it.”  Pat Summit

Spring is just around the corner here in North Carolina, and we are looking forward to planting our garden. I have mentioned before that we have some challenges (some extreme shade, some hot spots, horse-sized mosquitoes and LOTS of tree roots). I’m not only interested in having a successful gardening year for our family, but I am also interested in expanding access to fresh food. Don’t get me wrong, it’s been rewarding to find new local sources for our food and to post recipes and blog about our journey, but a larger issue is nagging at me. While I’m frolicking at the farmer’s markets, packing organic produce in my “green” Trader Joes bags, other families are having trouble finding any access to healthy, fresh food. Living in “food deserts,” these families, children, elders are often dependent on highly processed, overpriced foods available at local convenience stores. And there are many more folks who might have access to fresh food, but have no idea what they are eating (e.g., me six months ago). Food access and food literacy. Two huge issues affecting the health of many families in my area.

So I can let it nag at me, or I can see this as an opportunity for another part of our journey. Maybe I just have the zeal of the newly converted or maybe this is where I’m meant to go. Hard to tell at this point 🙂 In any case, an opportunity came our way and we are seizing it and we will see where it takes us.

Advocates for Health in Action is hosting a “Dig In” workshop focusing on building, maintaining and sustaining community gardens in our area. Topics for the 1/2 day program include garden planning, school gardening, legal issues, fundraising, organic gardening, bee keeping and more. The program looks like so much fun that our whole family is going! I feel fortunate to have this level of enthusiasm for not only improving our garden, but helping with a larger community gardening initiative. The event is in March and we will definitely blog about what we learned!

Taking this locavore journey is shaping us in ways we never expected (but I guess that’s why it’s a journey!). And taking up Lady Vols coach Pat Summit’s challenge, we will see what we can make of it.

 

Day 54–The Carbon Footprint of Food

The older I get, the more I appreciate the aspects of strength and balance in my life. If I live to be 90, then I officially reached the mid-point in my life this month, which is cause for some introspection. While there are some issues (and my patient husband sees this more than anyone else) where I still have strength of conviction along with hair-trigger emotional responses, I also have a greater ability to step back from life, watch what is happening, and be more balanced and patient in my reactions.

So it is with the choices we make about how we live. I have the strength of conviction that I want a healthier, less toxic life for my family (and your family, too), but I also realize that we have to make balanced choices and sometimes those choices involve tradeoffs. It would be nice if we could have zero impact on the earth and the environment, but I’ve read stories of people who have tried and it nearly drove them mad. Maybe the goal should be to make the choices necessary to have the least impact while maintaining a healthy personal life.

Here is a link to a great resource on understanding the carbon footprint of the food we eat. This tool is helpful (and especially fun  if you have children) in understanding how the choices we make about food have an impact on the health of the world. Just one more resource to bring informed decision-making and, hopefully, greater balance to our lives.

http://eatlowcarbon.org

But sometimes food options that have a low carbon footprint are not necessarily the best foods for you. Homemade cookies, for example, have a fairly low carbon footprint, but that doesn’t mean you should eat them at every meal. And eggs have a low carbon footprint, but factory chicken farms are notoriously inhumane.

So it all becomes a balancing act. Maybe you have a steak one night, but balance the impact of that with lower impact dishes during the week. Or maybe you switch to chicken. Or buy only pasture raised eggs. Or maybe you decide meat isn’t important enough and go vegetarian altogether. Whatever you decide is right for you, it’s good to have the tools needed to make strong and balanced decisions about your life and your body.

This website isn’t a cure-all, but it is fun, engaging and informative. I hope you enjoy it and learn something new, as I have! Now, maybe I’ll go have a cookie 🙂

 

Day 53–Fruit Smoothies

fruit

What’s for breakfast???

In our house, we like to have breakfast together at the table, even though we are not all…ahem… “morning people”. One of the highlights of our morning is a frozen fruit smoothie. When local fruit is in season, I buy it fresh and store it in the freezer. By this point in the winter, however, it’s all store-bought, organic frozen fruit because the local fruit is long gone. I highly recommend the frozen fruit at Trader Joes, if you have one. Their prices are far below any regular grocery and they have a decent selection. Whole Foods has a better overall selection, but per ounce, their fruit is more expensive.

You can use any fruit for this recipe, but I recommend using frozen fruit instead of raw fruit because the consistency of the smoothie becomes very thick–almost like ice cream. If you’re using bananas, just peel them and stick them in the fridge overnight. But if you like it slushy, then you can adjust the recipe and use raw fruit with ice and make yourself happy! We do not add honey or sugar to our smoothies–the yogurt adds some sweetness and really, fruit is pretty sweet as it is.

We make our smoothies in a blender. Not just a blender, but the blender. A couple of years ago I invested (and I do not use that word lightly) in a VitaMix–the queen of all blenders. VitaMix blenders are flat-out expensive. I purchased mine on Amazon and got the previous year’s model (new) for $250 instead of $450. We have used the heck out of that thing, I tell you. It will puree frozen fruit in about 15 seconds with no huge fruit pieces floating around. As expensive as it was, it has been worth every penny. And at two years of daily use, our per day cost is .34. I can deal with that.

Fruit Smoothies (2 6 oz-ish servings)

  • 2 cups frozen fruit
  • 1 container yogurt (vanilla is always a good choice, but so is coconut!)
  • 2-3 cups soy milk or almond milk (the amount you need depends on the moisture of the fruit)

Put fruit, yogurt and 2 cups of soy milk into blender and blend at high speed. If mixture is too thick, add additional milk as needed and blend.

Scoop into glasses and serve with spoons and/or straws!

Day 52–The Sweet Potato Experiment

Sometimes things that seem simple and straightforward are, upon further contemplation, the very things that rock my world. So today, rather than a didactic posting about how our food supply is corrupted on so many levels and how concerned I am about what we are putting into ourselves and our children, I thought I would share this video with you. On the surface, it is a cute science experiment conducted by a little girl and her grandmother. Dig deeper and it is really about what food is available to us in the grocery store, even those foods labeled “organic”.

The video isn’t long, so I hope you watch it. It really reinforced to me the importance of our family journey, and gave me some extra motivation to keep going!

Day 51–Sweet Harukai Turnips

20120220-100757.jpg

Every once in a while on my trek through the farmer’s market, I find a new vegetable or fruit that causes me to veer from my shopping list and take a chance. This week I was at the Coon Rock Farm tent and saw what I thought were the prettiest white “radishes”. I found out that they weren’t radishes at all. Rather, they were Harukai turnips, also called Japanese baby turnips. You may have tried these already, but they were new to me. The folks from Coon Rock Farm suggested sautéing them–they are so small that they don’t need the heavy-duty roasting or boiling that large turnips require. Cute and easy to cook? Sold!

We were going to have them Monday, but I just couldn’t wait, so I made them as a side to our braised beef ribs. I washed the greens and turnips and cut the greens off and reserved them. Then, I halved the turnips and sautéed them in about 1 tbs. of olive oil until they were mostly soft. When they were about done, I added the greens and a little kosher salt and pepper and sautéed them for about 3 minutes more.

Not only were the turnips really cute (yes, I’m a sucker for mini vegetables), but they had a mild, delicious flavor that would pair well with many dishes. I’m glad I didn’t add any extra seasonings or garlic because these turnips are so mild that extra ingredients would have overwhelmed the flavor.

This is a definite “do again” at my house! If you happen to see these little, white turnips, give them a try!

Have you had success with new or unusual vegetables?