Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Dinner from the garden - bibb lettuce with poached eggs

Tonight we ate the biggest, prettiest head of homegrown bibb lettuce for dinner. It was a simple salad: oil, vinegar, shallots, poached eggs, walnuts and some left over red pepper. A perfect dinner to follow a week of heavy holiday eating. 

For dinner last night we finally had left over turkey sandwiches. Delicious!

Tomorrow we're back to YDFM. I want to make a jalapeno, roast butternut squash soup. Oliver will be picking up groceries for our Saturday SEC championship tailgate party at the Georgia Dome. Geaux tigers!

From the comfort of his Macy's shopping bag, Topher would like to wish you a month of easy and affordable holiday shopping! If you're looking for gift ideas for locavores and foodies please check out the gift guide I put together on Etsy. It's full of gorgeous work by other Etsy craftersclick here!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Fall Planting - 4th update

It's the Sunday after Thanksgiving and I'm looking forward to a week of "normal" food. That's not to say our Thanksgiving meal* wasn't normal food. In fact it was surprisingly healthy (for Thanksgiving) and comprised almost completely of real food from the farmer's market. The only pre-packaged/processed foods were sugar, flour, butter, a couple of boxes of crackers and a tub of roasted red pepper goat cheese. Everything else, from the cranberries to bread crumbs, were purchased fresh. To meet the non-dairy needs of two family members Oliver substituted organic goat milk almost everywhere dairy was called for. (The exception was the creamed spinach; it was full on dairy loaded with marscapone and cream cheese.) There haven't been any extravagant left-over Turkey sandwiches but we've made up for it with homemade cinnamon rolls for breakfast every morning and bowls of oyster dressing for lunch. 

So I guess what I'm really looking forward to is a week of eating light. And what could be better for eating light then enjoying our first homegrown salad of the season! I think one of the Bibb Lettuces is ready to harvest - and the bok choy isn't too far behind. The fate of the littlest bibb lettuces, the ones we grew ourselves from seed, still seems undetermined. I think they may still be too little when the weather finally turns cold (it's 70 degrees now but will be in the 30s by the end of the week). The kale, onions and peppers are doing great. 



*Photo of Oliver's oven schedule for Thanksgiving day. I was so impressed with his ability to organize so many dishes all at once. He really did a perfect (and delicious) job with a very complex meal. Thank you Oliver! I love you.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

'Twas the night before Thanksgiving and all thru the house...

'Twas the night before Thanksgiving and all thru the house every creature was stirring, yes even the mouse (no wait, that isn't right, even the cat). Busy, busy, busy! Guests arrive at noon. Dinner for eight adults to follow. HAPPY THANKSGIVING to everyone around the world.

*Topher is eating spinach.
**We're listening to the Fresh Air interview with Jason Segal and Nick Stoller about the new Muppet movie. Which I am SO EXCITED to go see!

Monday, November 21, 2011

What's for lunch? You guessed it - beans!

Admittedly not a gorgeous photo - but that was made up for by the deliciousness of these red beans and rice. A Louisiana dish if there ever was one. Knowing this weekend will be an all out eat-fest I'm doing my best to eat light and healthy now.

Over the last couple of months we've cycled through pinto beans, lentils, black beans and red beans. I really don't know what Oliver will come up with next. But it also doesn't matter - I like all the beans!

Speaking of beans... I LOVE this painting of beans and lentils by my favorite new Parisian artist, Lucille. Click over to her blog to check it out: click here! There seems to be no end to her wonderful watercolors, collages and drawings of food. Super inspiring.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

SNL Weekend Update with Kermit! Pizza is a vegetable, really?!

Last Grant Park Farmers' Market of the year

Oliver has been busy all morning getting a head start on Thanksgiving dinner. Turkey necks and wings are in the oven as he prepares to make a stock for his secret-family-recipe oyster dressing. He chopped a dozen large onions in the food processor and filled the entire house with chopped onion air. Even Topher was squinting and blinking. To give our crying eyes a break we walked down to the last Grant Park Farmer's Market of the year. 
It's sad to see the market close for five months but perhaps it will prompt us to check out the Decatur Farmers Market (not to be confused with YDFM which is in Decatur). That one is open Saturdays 9am to 1pm year round. Click here for the website: Decatur Farmers Market

Ok, back to work for me!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Pizza in not a vegetable. Vegetables are vegetables.

Tuesday the United States Congress announced frozen pizza counts as vegetable when served to children in school lunches. While the USDA fought for increasing the amount of fresh fruit and vegetables in school cafeterias the US Congress instead declared that the tomato paste on frozen pizza qualified it as a vegetable. If you're already a reader of my blog then I hope we both agree that the statement "frozen tomato paste is vegetable" is deceitful. If you need convincing then please read the actual ingredients in the tomato paste: water, tomato paste (31 percent Natural Tomato Soluble Solids*), pizza seasoning (salt, sugar, spices, dehydrated onion, guar and xanthan gum, garlic powder, potassium sorbate, citric acid, tricalcium phophate and soybean oil (prevent caking)), modified food starch). 

What I gather from that ingredient list is the tomato paste is mostly water, 31% tomato and a lot of seasoning. Does 31% of a tomato make up for the amount of over-processed, carb-loaded crust and cheese that the kids also eat while trying to get to the tomato? We're a nation of land!!! A nation of ambitious people who are looking for jobs. We should be growing fresh fruits and vegetables locally for children to eat it schools. A vegetable should be an actual vegetable. That is doable and within reason.

Hey, I am NOT saying that we should stop serving pizza to kids at school. I know how much I looked forward to my 4x6 rectangle of pizza every Friday at Austin Elementary. Far be it from me to deprive school kids of Pizza Friday. But I also do not want to teach children that pizza counts as a vegetable. American children need to learn how to eat healthy real foods and they need to be led by example. The example this law sets is a decietful embarrassment. 

To read  more about the pizza debate check out Kristin Wartman's article in the Huffington Post. She goes into why Congress would make such a ridiculous decision and explains who is really benefiting (Big Ag). To get involved and tell Congress they're wrong there are a number of petitions that need your signature now:
Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution - click here to sign
Food Democracy Now - click here to sign 
Slow Food USA - it's too late to sign this petition but you can still sign up for email updates - click here

*Referred to as "NTSS" - The commercial packers crush ripened red tomatoes; strain out skins, seeds, and other non-soluble solids. The evaporators are used to reduce moisture under vacuum. Under vacuum, the liquids boil at 135 to 145º F. This helps to preserve the tomato flavors.  At home, if one would reduce the liquids, they would boil, and then simmer for a long time. Both the high boiling temperature (212º F) and long cooking time contribute to loss of flavor.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Crockpot pork butt = tacos & enchiladas

This week was full of south of the border favorites. Oliver slow cooked a shoulder roast overnight and then used the pulled pork to make enchiladas and tacos that kept us fed Monday through Friday. (Don't worry, in the photo to the left I ate two for dinner and saved the remaining two for lunch). For dessert on Thursday we shared a bomber of Great Divide's oak aged chocolate stout.

I've been busy trying to add more items to the etsy shop before black Friday while simultaneously preparing the house for six guests on Thanksgiving (two of them overnight). When not at home I can think of million things I need to do; once home I can only remember a few them. Sigh... oh well, I'm sure it will all get done somehow.

Even though at times I feel overwhelmed by my to do list, I still have not cut corners on the exercise. Tuesday I spent 25 minutes doing an intense work out on the elliptical machine and then followed it up with ten minutes of weights. Thursday I spent only ten minutes on elliptical but made sure to set the machine at  my top pace for the entire duration. After the short blast of cardio I focused on weights for 25 minutes: chest press, dips, bicep curls, squats with 60lbs added to the bar, several triceps exercises and more.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

One week until Thanksgiving

This time next Thursday most Americans will be lazing around with full bellies - but until then there is a mad rush of things to do. Clean the house, buy the turkey, start the pies and side dishes! Speaking of side dishes, we spent Sunday evening at Oliver's cousin's annual Thanksgiving Sides Party. This was our third year in attendance and I have to say it's such a fun idea for a dinner party! Everyone brings one homemade Thanksgiving dinner side dish and sets it out buffet style. No turkey at this meal!  It not only allows for a practice run of dishes you're considering for the big day but it's also a great way to sample other's family traditions and secret recipes.

This year the meal started with with a yellow squash soup (last year it was tomato soup with a floating ginger man made of toast). Side dishes included: Oliver's sweet potato gnocchi with a sage butter (recipe below), my usual kale with olive oil, brussels sprouts and a sweet potato casserole topped with brown sugar (I think it was brown sugar).  Dessert was an incredible pecan pie made from our host's grandmother's recipe.

Sweet Potato Gnocchi
2 large sweet potatoes, baked peeled, mashed and cooled.
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp butter
2 egg yolks, beaten
1 tsp nutmeg
2 cups AP flour

Mix above then fold in up to two cups of flour, a half cup at a time,
just until you get a workable dough.  With floured hands and a lightly
floured surface, roll out a hand full at a time to half-inch wide
snakes. Cut them into gnocchi sized gnocchi and cook in boiling water.
 Pull them out with a slotted spoon as they rise to the surface and
drain on a kitchen towel.

Sage brown butter sauce:
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 hand full of sage leaves (10?)
1 tsp ground nutmeg

Melt butter over medium heat until the milk solids are about to start
to brown. Toss in the sage leaves in the pan and swirl over the heat
until dark green and limp.  Toss with the warm gnocchi and serve.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Guest blogger: Sabrina in London

When I started this blog I asked a few like-minded, long-distance friends to join me as regularly featured guest bloggers. One of the people I asked is my lifelong friend Sabrina. We met in Kindergarten, grew up together in Dunwoody and went our separate ways as adults. While I was moving from Atlanta to Rhode Island back to Atlanta; Sabrina was moving from Atlanta to Florida to New York City to London. Despite the distance she has remained the kind of friend that never feels far away and is always easy to talk with no matter how much time has gone by. When Oliver asked me to marry him I knew it had to be Sabrina who officiated our ceremony - so off to the Internet sensation Universal Life Church she went! Suffice it to say, Sabrina is an incredible person. Sincerely beautiful both inside and out. Her first guest post follows:

This porridge is tooooo hot!
Before I moved to the UK, my opinions on porridge were grave at best.  To be fair I didn't know much about it - aside from the fact it was something Goldilocks ate.  I certainly believed the consistency was better suited for plastering one's wall.  That was before I met Dave.

My boyfriend Dave, Film Exec turned Acupuncturist, natural food enthusiast and over-all well being guru handed me a cup of tea our first morning together and exclaimed, "I'm making porridge, would you like some?"  Knowing I couldn't be rude I responded with a begrudging yes. Minutes later he handed me the steaming bowl of porridge, only this time it didn't look like prison gruel.  It was colourful!  It had berries in it!  And almonds and bananas and a little swirl of agave nectar on top.... this looked good!  Sure enough, one bite and I was sold.

Dave swears by porridge's nutritional qualities, namely a sugar free breakfast option that has a low GI and will keep you fuller longer.  Before I started eating it, I would be hungry and looking for snacks by 11am - now I start feeling hungry at lunchtime and have cut out the snacking... another bonus!

We have porridge every morning, but try our best to change it up as much as possible.  Fruits of all seasons make an appearance in our morning bowl of goodness - anything from the usual apples (with cinnamon mmm!) to the extraordinary pomegranate.  We've even started to add flax seeds and chia seeds for added texture and health benefits :)
We're a dairy-free house, so we use all kinds of milk when we make it (water's ok too but then I advise adding an extra teaspoon of honey).  Soy Milk is our usual favourite but we've also used Oat Milk, Almond Milk and even Hemp Milk!

One tip to cut down the amount of time it takes to make in the morning: Dave and i always have a bowlful of fruit in the fridge, already cut up in small bite size chunks which we toss on top of the porridge in the morning.  Slice up a banana and voila, breakfast!

Sabrina's recipe (serves 2)
1 cup rolled porridge oats
1 banana
1/4 cup blueberries
1 tablespoon agave nectar
handful of mixed nuts / seeds (we use almonds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds)
large pinch of dried coconut
Dump all of the above into a small saucepan and pour in enough soy milk to cover.  Turn heat on low and stir continuously so the porridge does not stick to the bottom of the pan.  The porridge will soak up a lot of the milk, so you can add a few splashes of water at this stage to thin out the porridge if it's too thick for your liking.
Serve piping hot with a cup of tea or coffee and enjoy! :)

Thanks again Sabrina! We're all looking forward to your next post. Sabrina documents her fabulous European travels on her blog - click here to read it. 

P.S. The photo is from Halloween 1985. We're dressed up as Cabbage Patch Kids. 

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Heart Healthy - the rest of it

I dedicate a lot of blog space to the food side of heart health. The truth is, as a family we put as much emphasis on exercise as we do food. But talking about exercise habits seems even more pretentious then talking about being a foodie. People may joke about their pant size but they don't talk about their physical fitness (unless they're a certain male from the New Jersey coast). That is why I find it very hard to press the importance of cardiovascular exercise on anyone. Starting now I'm going to make an effort to change all of that - at least on this blog.

The foundation of our exercise regime is three weekly visits to the gym. Oliver also commutes to Georgia Tech on his bike. When we travel to Baton Rouge to visit family then we go to the gym there (our membership is nationwide).  No excuses, we go to the gym.

This weekend Oliver challenged me with a bigger workout then usual. He suggested we ride bikes from our house to Stone Mountain (16 miles away), then hike up the steepest (mostly unknown) mountain path, walk down the easy path and bike home again. Three years ago I would have said no because I would have known I wasn't strong enough. Today I said yes because I wanted to find out if I was as strong as I think I have become.

The ride is along a 19 mile state bike PATH that starts at Piedmont Road in downtown Atlanta and goes to Stone Mountain (a giant bubble of granite east of the city). Oliver started at our house, two miles from the actual start. I skipped the first ten miles by driving my bike to YDFM and jumping in there. We met up, shared a lunch of left over homemade pizza and then got on our way.

It was great. The bike ride was almost easy. The steep backside of the mountain was a piece of cake compared to the first time I tried it two years ago. I know I have the countless hours on the elliptical to thank for the bike ride and the weight lifting to thank for the hiking. Three years ago either activity would have left me breathless. This time I had the strength of heart and body to not only keep going but to also truly enjoy it.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Very soon!

11.11.11 No better time then now to start something new. Ready, set....