DPP 2013 / ‘Tis Also the Season… / Dec 7



…for soup!  I made butternut squash soup today, and you can see my green smoothie in the background.  I’m trying to kick a mild stomach bug, so it’s fruits and veggies all the way!  Normally I make soup by just throwing stuff together, but this batch turned out so good I wanted to record it.  It takes quite awhile the way I do it, because I would rather bake the squash first than try to peel and chop such a hard vegetable.  It’s a good project for a winter afternoon!

Butternut Squash Soup

1 large butternut squash

2 onions, chopped

6 cloves of garlic, chopped

2 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth

1/4 tsp. sage

1/4 tsp. cumin

1/8 tsp. nutmeg

1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper

1/4 cup half & half

olive oil, salt, pepper

1.  Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds.  Place cut side up on a cookie sheet, brush with olive oil, and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper.  Bake at 375 degrees for an hour, or until tender.  Remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes.

2.  Meanwhile, in a large soup pot, saute onions and garlic in olive oil over medium or medium-low until onions are tender and translucent.

3.  When the squash is cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh and add it to the soup pot.  Add the broth and spices, bring to a boil, and simmer for 20 minutes.

4.  Blend the soup with an immersion blender until smooth.  (Or, cool soup for a few minutes and then blend in batches in a blender or food processor.)

5.  Add salt and pepper to taste, and stir in the half & half.


Human Transportation & Fresh Produce

This morning, I (slowly and carefully) drove my car to the repair shop in my neighborhood to be fixed, and then I walked home.  This afternoon, I walked back to the repair shop and picked up my car.

This evening, I left my freshly repaired and perfectly working car at my home, put $5 and my cell phone in a drawstring backpack, and walked to the farm stand a few blocks away.  I came home with red potatoes and a muskmelon.

I guess healthy choices really do breed more healthy choices.

In generations past, we didn’t need $30-per-month fitness clubs or gym amenities in apartment complexes.  Our ancestors traveled distances too long to walk by horseback or horse-drawn wagon…and I bet the aerobic activity and “weight-lifting” required to care for the horses was more activity than many of us get in the 21st century.  And that doesn’t even take into account the energy expenditure that was required to grow/raise, harvest/slaughter, and prepare food.  Or to wash the laundry.  Or to chop and carry the wood just to heat the home during the winter.

Even today, in the 21st century, even in industrialized places like ours, there are people who naturally expend a lot more activity than I do.  I wouldn’t know, having never been there, but it is my understanding the New Yorkers mostly walk and use public transportation.  The typical New Yorker’s walk to their subway stop is many times longer than my walk out to my car.

And remember college?  In college, I walked all day long.  Briskly.  No matter what the weather, I walked.  If it was hot, I left a little earlier (when I could) and walked a little more slowly.  If it was cold, I wore a hat and mittens.  If it was raining, I carried an umbrella.  I arrived to class with rain soaking the bottom five inches of my jeans, or snow collected in the grooves of my backpack, or sweat trickling down my back.  It didn’t matter what the sky was doing, we all walked.

Why do I get in my car, when it’s not very far away, I’m lucky enough to have legs that work fine, and I have enough time to walk?  Or ride my bike?  Truly “authentic exercise” is when it takes me somewhere I want to go.  Our world, at least here in this city, does not provide us with enough truly authentic exercise, so we need good exercise habits on top of that.  But why can’t I break out of the peer pressure of using my car five times a day?  It turns out, most of my routes today actually had good, safe sidewalks and crosswalks.  (I have my doubts about whether the traffic actually yields to pedestrians, but that’s another issue.)  Why can’t I try to think more like a college student?  Or a New Yorker?  Or, evidently, a French woman?

Which brings me to my second point, and the reason for the delicious picture you see above.  I’m in the middle of the book French Women Don’t Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano, and I’m finding it delightful, anti-diet, pro-joy, and all about balance.  Despite the title, which doesn’t sound as holistic as the actual advice inside.  Apparently, the French have a habit of going to a market every couple of days, rather than doing bulk grocery shopping once or twice a month.  (And it’s described like a farmers’ market, not a supermarket.)  They buy the produce, meat, and dairy that they have immediate plans to cook, and leave the monthly shopping for things like flour and toilet paper.  The benefit is that you eat the food when it’s at its best.  You don’t eat tomatoes that have been in the fridge for a week and taste like sawdust.  You don’t eat chicken that has been frozen in boneless, skinless pieces, maybe months ago, or the frost that has been collecting on it.  And you learn what really good food tastes like, and you become a snobby French woman who won’t settle for less.  🙂

So, I was inspired to prepare myself a dinner of something that was absolutely ripe and at its best.  I went to the farm stand just to see what they had today, and planned to decide what to make later.  I ended up with a delicious omelette made with a tomato that I picked off my tomato plant, red potatoes grown not 20 miles from my home, and the most perfect, sweet, almost-mushy, sun-warmed muskmelon slices with sea salt.  (If you’ve never tried melon sprinkled with just a little bit of sea salt, proceed with caution.  You’ll never go back.  On the other hand, this is how I finally learned to like muskmelon and cantaloupe.)

Supermarket tomatoes taste like water, compared to a homegrown tomato.  Supermarket melon feels like biting into styrofoam, compared to the ripe, sun-warm melon that melts in your mouth.  I don’t know what the difference is, other than whether it ripens on the plant or off.  Supermarket produce is picked early, because it needs to travel before it reaches it’s peak of ripeness.  Farm stand or farmers’ market produce was picked this morning, or maybe yesterday.  A home-grown tomato can be picked and eaten within moments.  It ripens while still receiving nutrients from the plant, so maybe that’s the deal.

It’s all about balance.  I am grateful for the transportation that makes it possible for me to have pineapple, seafood, and coffee.  I’m grateful for the transportation that allows me to go places, daily, far outside the distance I can walk in a timely manner.  But I’m also grateful for the occasional perfectly ripe muskmelon and the fact that I can walk to find it.

A Taste of Whatever Is In the Lounge


Do I really have to talk about eating?  To the internet world?  And people I know in real life?

Yes.  I committed to being open about this process, not because YOU want to hear it, but because I’m hoping that me telling you will help me accomplish actual change.  Last year I gave you book reports.  This year I need to write updates on this year’s progress.  So here we go.

One of my goals for 2012, as you know, is to run a 10K.  The impossible 10K.  I run 5Ks all the time.  Well, maybe not all the time, exactly.  I’ve run several of them.  A 5K is well within my reach, just by working out regularly for a few weeks.  To accomplish a 10K, I’m going to need a little bit more commitment than that.

One important thing is, for the sake of my knees, I need to lose a few pounds.  I’m enough of a girl that I’m not going to tell you how many.  Tell you what…when I weigh 115 pounds, I will tell you that I weigh 115 pounds!  🙂  (NEEEEEVER gonna happen!)  But in all seriousness, if I want to run a 10K, my knees need to carry a little less with them for those 6.2 miles.

Exercise is great.  Exercise is healthy and builds muscle and a strong heart and lungs, and gives me TONS of energy, a FANTASTIC good mood, and AWESOME sleep. Exercise is nothing short of amazing.  But a person can’t exercise away enough calories to lose weight without looking seriously at what they are eating.  So this week, I am looking seriously at what I eat.

I watched Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead on Netflix this weekend, and it made me think, for one short moment, that I should buy a juicer and go on a juice fast until I am the weight I want to be.  Then, since I don’t really want to buy, clean, or store a juicer, I thought maybe I could go on a green smoothie fast until I am the weight I want to be.  That thought stuck around for a good 24 hours or so.  I mean, the guy on the movie lost maybe 100 pounds by only drinking freshly juiced fruits and veggies for a few months.  Surely, I could do green smoothies for a month and get the change I needed!

But…I have plans to try some new recipes with my sister next weekend.  And I still want to drink coffee.  And it never fails, there will be something good to eat in the teachers’ lounge at some point in the month.  Brownies, candy…  One time, our school nurse made lasagna for the entire staff!  And as much as I want to accomplish my goals, I know that in that moment, faced with gooey warm lasagna, I will choose the lasagna.  I have changed a great deal in the last five years or so, regarding what I consider to be food.  If there are generic vanilla sandwich cookies in the lounge, I will not have any.  I don’t even want them.  I would eat highly processed, low quality sweets at the same level of hunger that would make me consider drinking Windex.  And I am SO proud of myself for having made that paradigm shift over a long period of time!  But hot, homemade lasagna is food.  GOOD food.  Made with love.  And I want to have a taste of it, if it’s there.

I think every other choice that I make has to allow for those unexpected treats.  I still say, green smoothies are the key.  Here is why:

–Green smoothies reduce my sugar cravings.  Ridiculously.  In fact, if I’m in a good green smoothie habit, a serving of desert makes me nauseated.  When I drink my green smoothies, a taste of the treat is really all I want.

–Green smoothies allow for a high quantity of nutrients and a high volume of food without a high calorie content.

–Green smoothies…sorry for this detail…clean you out from the inside.  Very important for weight loss.

–Green smoothies leave you energized and feeling great, especially after a week or so of consistent consumption.  In other words, you won’t be crabby from food deprivation.  You will be able to do your workouts, perform well at your job, live your life.  I will tell you from when I first got into green smoothies, when I said I felt “good” before doing green smoothies, I didn’t know what I was talking about!  I didn’t know what good was until I knew what it felt like to be on the green smoothie wagon.

The demons that live inside my head aren’t going anywhere.  I love (and hate) a good sugar rush, I swear, like an addict loves (and hates) a line of cocaine.  (I don’t mean to offend anyone who is addicted to any substance.  I just truly believe that it’s a really similar thing.)  Those demons are still there, and I don’t know how to kill them.  I do know that when I’m on the green smoothie wagon, they are quiet.  I’ve been drinking green smoothies for a week, and I can feel the “good” that I once knew.  Tonight I wanted a cookie.  So I made cookies.  And I ate–get this–one cookie!!!  It wasn’t a battle, it wasn’t a fight with my inner demons ending in eating half the batch and then throwing the rest in the garbage in frustration and self-hatred.  I ate a cookie, and then I put the rest away.  Because I didn’t want any more right now!!!  I just wanted a taste!  If you have any kind of demon in your head, you know just how huge that is!  I know “normal” people just eat that way all the time.  I eat that way all the time, too, when I’m drinking green smoothies.

So, for the sake of my goal, for the sake of my health, for the sake of the silence of the demons, I need to stay on the green smoothie wagon!!!

Weekend comments…

…too long for facebook!


1. Went to a quilt show.  Had “Take Me or Leave Me” from RENT in my head the entire day.  Was very aware of the contrast between what I was looking at and what I was “listening” to!!!

2.  Every time I go to Des Moines, I fall a little bit more in love with it.  Specifically this weekend: the walkability of downtown, Palmer’s deli, and La Mie bakery.

3.  I got a big hit of my favorite drug this morning–playing music in front of people!  So many ways it brings me joy…hearing myself so well with the sound system…doing something well during the performance that I had messed up at soundcheck…an orchestra friend telling me I didn’t seem nervous at all (yay!)…strangers coming up to compliment me after the service and ask about the piece…  Seriously, how wrong is it that I get high on this drug at CHURCH???  God, if this is not what you want, please, don’t make it so FUN!!!

4.  What a productive afternoon!  What is it about sitting at a table with another person that makes me do my work?  Giant stack of papers to grade….DONE!!!

5.  I love the new show Pan Am!!!  The period music, the 60s fashion, the drama.  I’m intrigued!

Food, Inc.

I think I am in love with this man.

Or maybe just with his principles.  🙂

This is a clip from Food, Inc.  I just finished watching it, and I’m all fired up.  The man in this clip is Joel Salatin, and he runs a “beyond organic” farm.  Warning…there is a scene of chicken slaughtering in the middle of the clip.  If you watch the rest of the movie, you will breathe a sigh of relief watching Mr. Salatin’s operation.  In this clip, they look like clean, healthy chickens, and then they look like clean, healthy food.  No matter how it happens, there are a few unpleasant moments in between.  Making your peace with animals being killed to produce food is not the same as shutting your eyes and plugging your ears to how it happens.

Before this, toward the beginning of the movie, we see how chickens are produced for the mainstream food industry.  Nothing is pleasant about it…drawers of hatching chicks, big machines that inject the little guys with hormones, dark chicken houses where they grow so fast that their muscles and organs can’t keep up, and big chicken producing corporations that result in an average chicken farmer who is $500,000 in debt and makes a whopping $18,000 a year. 

The main purpose of this movie seems to be to shed light on how food is produced and where food really comes from.  The main point of that purpose is that food is an industry, a big business, and it is the consumers that are honestly driving this bus.  Walmart made a change due to consumer demand: They no longer sell milk from cows treated with rBST (artificial growth hormones).  Any of it.  Not just their store brand, but all of their suppliers of milk.  Walmart!!!  That is a huge player in the food industry.  We don’t (in my opinion) have the right to say, “Everyone should eat the way I eat!!!”  We do, however, get to vote daily on what kinds of foods are available and affordable.  Where we put our food dollars, we are telling the food production industry what to do more of.

I am also in love with this man.  🙂  This is an interview with Troy Roush, a corn farmer, about his participation in Food, Inc., not a clip from the movie.  But he ends this interview much in the same way he ends the movie, as the last voice heard in Food, Inc.  His family has been farming for five generations, and he would like to continue.  Farmers (much like those chicken farmers) do what the big food production corporations make them do, because they need to make money.  And the big corporations are driven by consumer demand.  So we, in essence, tell the farmers what we want, how we want our food produced, what kinds of foods we want.

Food, Inc. barely touches on the nutritional effects of food produced in the mainstream industry versus food produced on farms like Mr. Salatin’s, and while it is very hard to get definitive research on the topic–I mean, you can’t exactly feed a bunch of kids high levels of pesticides and watch what happens–there is much information elsewhere.  But after seeing this movie, my logic tells me this:

A human body that is fed unhealthy food, a diet not ideal for a human, turns into a large, unhealthy body.

A chicken that is fed unhealthy food, a diet not ideal for a chicken, turns in to a large, unhealthy chicken.

A human body that is fed meat from a large, unhealthy chicken, is consuming unhealthy food, even if it’s chicken.

I will be making some changes in how I spend my food dollar.  Small changes.  Sustainable changes, not impulsive, short-lived changes.  This body has been receiving crap for the past couple of years…well, more like the last 24 years…my momma fed me pretty well in the beginning.  🙂  This post comes from nothing resembling a high horse.  No high horses live here.  This is just me, reflecting on what I learned, and reflecting it out to you.  We are what we eat, people.  And what we choose to buy, they will continue to produce for us to eat.

Bedtime Snack

A common sight on my end table the past few weeks:  Tea and apple slices for bedtime snack.  This surprising combination makes me feel perfect for sleeping:  Relaxed, not too full, not hungry.  I’m sure it’s been keeping me out of the sweets, as well!

My favorite bedtime tea:  Tazo Calm (though in this picture I was trying Yogi Bedtime)

My favorite apples:  Braeburn

More vacation pictures coming soon.  No time for that this week!

Cauliflower & Chickpea Gratin

I’m always looking for vegetarian dishes with appropriate amounts of protein.  Left to my own devices, I’d just eat fruit and side dishes all the time, and never get very much protein at all!  🙂  In this yummy recipe, the garbanzo beans and feta make it a dish that is filling and sticks with you, and yet it’s very low-fat and low-calorie.  It tastes even better as reheated leftovers, because the flavor penetrates the cauliflower. 

3 T extra-virgin olive oil
2 C chopped onion
2 (14.5-ounce) cans diced tomatoes (I’ve used fresh grape tomatoes)
1 (15-ounce) can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), rinsed and drained
6 cloves garlic, minced (1 T minced)
1/4 C chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 T capers, rinsed and drained
1 T chopped fresh oregano
1 T lemon juice
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
1/2 tsp salt (optional)
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 & 3/4 lbs cauliflower, cut into florets
4 oz feta cheese, crumbled

In a lg saucepan heat olive oil over med-high heat. Add onion; cook about 5 min. or ’til tender, stirring occasionally. Add drained tomatoes, garbanzo beans, and garlic. Bring to boiling; reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for 15 min. Stir in parsley, capers, oregano, lemon juice, thyme, salt, and pepper.

Meanwhile, in a covered Dutch oven cook cauliflower in a small amount of boiling water about 5 min. or just until tender. Drain and keep warm.

Transfer cauliflower to a 2- to 2 & 1/2 quart broilerproof baking dish. Top with hot tomato mixture. Sprinkle with feta cheese. Broil 3 to 4 inches from the heat for 1 to 2 minutes or just until cheese begins to brown. Serve immediately.

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