Sunday, February 28, 2016

I'm making a quick grocery list at the moment, to make the recipes I've decided to make this coming week, and one of the recipes I want to make is beans on toast for breakfast - updated style!  I'll share the recipe link, after I've tried the recipe.  It's from one of my favourite recipe sites, so I'm sure it will be delish.

The recipe calls for 1, 15 oz can of navy beans.  Naturally, I have dry navy beans (a lot apparently...I need to tidy up my pantry again...  More on that to come LOL.

Anyway, I was at a complete loss to what the conversions were, until I found The Reluctant Gourmet!

They have a great conversion table, so I thought I'd share it with you:  Bean Conversion Table

I'll be making them in my Instant Pot, which means they'll be ready in about 15 minutes.  I freaking love that thing!!

Friday, February 26, 2016

I'm so bad.  I take pictures to share of healthy food I've made, note the ingredients I've used, and then completely forget to actually share them.  Honestly...

Anyway, since sharing that I was starting another 100 days of real food, and also that I'd had a very interesting series of tests done for food sensitivity and nutrient absorption, I've made lots of healthy meals, so here are a few of them:

Home-made from scratch chicken and rice soup:

Chia pudding using almond milk, vanilla, cinnamon, topped with frozen fruit:

Some sort of fish (salmon?) with lemon, salt and pepper, and mini red potatoes, all made in my Instant Pot:

Pea pod soup, which I discovered the recipe for when I just happened to be eating fresh sugar snap peas right out of the bag:

A spicy tomato/kale/egg dish that I found the recipe for online.  I didn't care for the kale (I'm not a big cooked greens fan) but other than that it was delish:

A FABULOUS fermented salsa recipe.  I tried both the all-salt and the salt and whey version, and I think I might like the salt one better.  I had been wanting to make salsa with some of the tomatoes that I want to grow in the spring in my first-ever urban kitchen garden, and wanted to try it before using tomatoes I grew myself, to make sure I like it.  You see, I loathe raw tomatoes, so wanted to make sure I actually liked the taste--and I can tell you, it's AMAZING!  There first image is of the freshly-chopped ingredients, the second is of the salt/whey version, just after I finished combining it in the jar:

Green muffins made with quite a bit of spinach, which, believe it or not, were actually quite tasty, and had the texture of a firm cupcake.  I used all organic whole wheat pastry flour, instead of 2 types of flour, because it's what I had on hand:

Several green smoothies with a whole lot of greens in them:

And steel-cut oats made in my Instant Pot, with frozen blueberries and cashews:

With regards to my first-ever kitchen garden, I'm going to have (barring some calamity) 4 plots, 4x10' each, so 80 square feet to garden.  I'm going to do the no-dig garden method, partly because I hear it's much better for the beasties and the soil, and thus for the crops, than digging everything over each year, and also because frankly I have better things to do than constantly amend the soil, constantly weed, and constantly water. 

I sourced as many things as I could free or very cheap, so that I could spend the money on quality organic vegetable and fruit seeds.  I even got some heirloom and rare varieties!

I'm currently planning out the plots.  I plan to grow vertically as much as possible, to maximize the space.  I'm growing:

Basil - Mix
Beans/Legumes - Hildasta, Rattlesnake Snap, and Speckled Cranberry
Beets - Mix
Cabbage - Red Express
Carrots - Coloured Mix, Danvers Half Long, Paris Market, Scarlet Nantes
Cauliflower - Snowball
Corn - Double Standard Sweet
Cucumber (not really a cucumber but classified as such) - Mexican Sour Gherkin (aka Cucamelon)
Garlic - I had to order from way over in the west coast to get them!
Kale - Heirloom Mix
Lettuce - Parris Cos (Caesar type Romaine), Red Romaine (apparently it's a little spicy!)
Leek - Giant Musseluerg
Onions - Evergreen Bunching, Red Wethersfield, Cippolini White
Peas - Sugar Snap (not sure how much of this will actually make it home vs getting eaten at 'the plot'
Peppers - Alma Paprika (making home-made paprika from these!), King of the North (fresh)
Radishes - French Breakfast, White Beauty
Squash - Butternut Waltham
Tomatoes (all paste, for making tomato sauce) - Amish Paste, Black Plum, Gilbertie Paste
Watermelon - Small Shining Light, Sweet Siberian

I also bought Celery - Peppermint Stick and Lettuce - Marvel of Four Seasons from the UK.  I couldn't resist them, since I've never seen either of them here.  The celery is pink and white!!

I'm also growing, in pots around the plots (but out of the way of walkers), a number of flowers for the bees and other pollinators.

The onions and garlic, I'm growing partly because I use a lot of them, and partly for companion planting/beastie control.  The corn, one of the beans, and the squash, are being grown in the same space, using the Three Sisters Method.

I'm growing a number of lettuce plants, in less space than normally allotted, because I'm doing something called "Cut and Come Again", where you harvest the outside leaves for a meal that day, and leave the rest to keep growing.  Apparently you can do that until the plant goes to seed, at which point you will put in another seed.  If I stagger the planting times (called successional sowing), I should have lettuce all season long!  I'm also going to do the same thing with the pretty pink celery.  I often buy celery heads, and don't use it up before it's not really usable anymore, so with this method I'd just pick a couple of stalks as I need them through the week, and they grow back.  How cool is that!

I know it seems like I'm growing an awful lot of stuff for 2 beds, but I plan to use as much of spring and fall as I can.  

In spring the first to go in are the radishes.  They add nitrogen to the soil, and since they're a variety that only take 3 weeks (!!) by the time they're done, the other main crops will go in (I'll be starting them indoors).  Then, in the fall, more radishes to be added (and maybe some in the summer too...maybe with the watermelon?  I hear they need a lot of nitrogen), leeks will be added when the beans are finished (all my seeds are short-season), more lettuce, onions, kale, and the garlic to over-winter and grow fat until the following late-summer.  The cauliflower will be a fall crop, as well as another generation of carrots, cabbage, and beets.  Short-season seeds are DA BOMB!

I've really tried to maximize not only the space I have, but the full season, and also keep in mind that it would be nice to have stuff to enjoy outside of the growing season, and through at least part of the winter.  To that end, I'm researching how to preserve some of my crops (which I am growing with a mind to doing this), preferably mostly not in the freezer.

*  My tomatoes I'm canning (first time!) in 2-cup jars, to use as tomato sauce through the winter.
*  I'm trading some of my stuff for non-paste tomatoes, so I can make a few jars of fermented salsa, using my fresh peppers, onions, and garlic also.  
*  The Cucamelons (Mexican Sour Gherkins) I hear are very prolific, so I'll be eating some fresh (hopefully I like them!), and also making fermented pickles!
*  The beans I'm growing, one is for fresh eating, one is for either fresh or dried, and one is just for dried.  I'm not sure that I'll have a massive crop (how many pods does each plant have??!!), but I wanted to enjoy them for as long as possible, thus the 3 kinds.
*  The cabbage I'll be eating some fresh, and also making sourkraut in jars.  So many times I've bought cabbage, and it was WAY too much, even when it's small!  This will use the 2 or so that I will be growing - one in summer, one for fall harvest.
*  Butternut squash, of course, will be harvested late summer/early fall, and will hopefully last over winter.  
*  Watermelon - I freaking LOVE watermelon!  I'm going to really research how to have the best watermelon (flavourful, not mealy) because it's so heartbreaking to buy a watermelon, only to discover that it's not tasty at all.  Sooo sad!  I'm also going to successional sow these, one plant every week or two, and since they're short-season (about 85 days!) I can have 2 crops.  In theory, I should have at least one, 10-inch watermelon each week starting in late June/early July, and through the summer.  Amazing!

The plants I'm growing just to harvest in the fall, I'm growing with a mind to the kinds of things I'd want to make in the fall, like potato leek soup, etc.  Leeks are SO expensive here!  I'd love to grow potatoes, as they're so tasty when they're super fresh, but they just take up too much space.  Ah well.  One can only do so much with 80 square feet, and a relatively short season.

Of course, all of this is in theory.  I feel like I've finished the in-class part of my growing degree, and I'll be doing my placement this spring/summer/fall to learn the hands-on stuff LOL!  

I'll be blogging about my growing stuff, and also about eating fresh/cooking with the veggies and fruit I've grown.  I'm also toying with doing videos for Youtube about my complete-newbie experiences, and how it progresses/what works/what fails, etc.  There are lots of food garden blogs and videos out there, but I have yet to come across one which is truly from a newbie perspective, where we learn together, and doing it organically.  If I do it, it will be very informal, and probably presented like the viewer is there with me, and we're doing it together.  We'll see! 

This is my two plots, just after I finished digging out the remains of the previous owner's crop.  Picture this in white, for what it looks like now. ;)

Monday, February 15, 2016

100 Days of Real Food - Day 10

A few days ago, I visited a nutrition consultant.  I'd thought about doing it for a long time, but hadn't gotten around to it.  Since now seemed to be as good a time as any (and my friend, who had gone in January, was suggesting rather forcefully that I make an appointment!), I made the appointment.

The idea behind going to the consultant, wasn't to find out things like if I was allergic to certain foods (food-allergy testing is different) but rather to discover which foods my body doesn't do well with.  While "intolerances" don't get as much attention as allergies do, if you think about it, if you eat a lot of foods which stress your body, it can still have a real impact on your health, and how you feel on a day-to-day basis.

Another of the things that they tested me for were things like viruses, bacteria and parasites.  I was particularly interested in these as well, as I've traveled to other countries, and have eaten a lot of raw fish (sushi) in my day.

He asked me what my main goals were, and I said basically I want to regain my health.  That's definitely numero uno.  I'd of course like to regain my waist-size, but I know that my health is the most important thing, and following that path will naturally result in a slim-down anyway.

I was kind of expecting to have a lot of things that I needed to change, but it turns out that I'm not too bad.  I don't have any of the parasites that you might find in raw fish (yay!), or any of the other of the  myriad possibilities (seriously...there were SO MANY!!).  In fact, I only have one, which I've apparently had for a while now, which apparently is relatively common, and you can get in many ways, including from pets, which I used to have.  It's called Giardia lamblia.  I'll let you follow the link if you're interested--no need to post about it here. :)

Anyway, my test results indicated that I'm not properly absorbing virtually every nutrient on the list, and in some cases, my nutrient absorption rate is very very low.  The practitioner indicated that my parasites would be lining the walls of my intestines, which provide them with lots of nutrients, but prevent ME from absorbing a lot of them.  They're like unwelcome house-guests who keep eating all the food!!!

The other thing that came of this initial testing, is that I appear to be cow-dairy intolerant.  I had no idea, but thinking about it I'm starting to see a pattern in the past, of occasional stomach aches, and I often used to wake up the day after eating dairy, with a phlegm-y cough.

The practitioner indicated that cow dairy may be the cause of my life-long sleep issues (I have a lot of trouble falling asleep, and rarely wake in the morning rested, unless I'm allowed to sleep until I'm ready to wake up), which would be amazing if it turned out to be true.  Normal sleeping would be fantastic!!

SO!  I have to avoid cow dairy, and do a not-very-taxing cleanse, to clean out my house-guests: stay away from all non naturally-occurring sugars (naturally-occurring being fruit and other kinds of dairy for example), and limit naturally-occurring sugars.  I'm to limit sugars in general, because my house-guests love sugar, so not having it in my "house" means they don't have anything to eat really).  I can occasionally have dairy-free chocolate, or make my own raw chocolate (yum), but only occasionally, and only a little.  His exact words were, "Don't go crazy" LOL.  I'm translating that as once in a while have a square or two, as a treat. :)  I asked if my house-guests might be the cause of my huge sugar-cravings, and he smiled and said, "yep!".  If that's the case, not having those cravings to contend with after this would be a MAJOR added bonus!

My next step, was to go through my kitchen and get rid of anything not on the plan for the next 2 months, until my follow-up appointment on April 15th.

Image from Jamie Oliver
Turns out that the bread I normally buy has neither dairy nor sugar in it, so no change needed there.  If I want to have English muffins for Eggs Benedict, I'm going to need to look around for sugar and dairy-free possibilities.  I know that I've seen Food For Life breads in the health section of my local grocery store, and I'm pretty sure I've seen their English muffins too, though not necessarily in the same place LOL.  I've never tried their stuff before, but I guess I'll be trying it now!

Ironically, I'd bought a big box of cereal, 2L of organic cow's milk, sour cream, and a few other things, just last weekend, which I now need to give away.  Could be worse though!

Now, I'm looking through dairy-free, sugar-free recipes on the 'Net.  It's going to be a big change in how I cook, but I think only because I would use honey in a lot of things, and now there's to be no added sugar.  So I may have made salad rolls in rice-paper wraps, but the dip (which is an important part!) always has some sort of sweetener.  That doesn't mean I can't make it at all over the next two months or so, but it means I'll have to relegate it to the realm of "treat", and make the sauce with less sugar.  And use less too.  There are ways and ways, right?

Turns out there are quite a number of recipes to try, which makes me happy.  Some of them, I'll have to check to make sure that the ingredients I pick up are sugar and dairy-free (sugar especially is in nearly EVERYTHING that's pre-made), like looking at the ingredients in things like bacon.  I think I can reasonably purchase fresh bacon from the butcher, but the packaged stuff may have sugar in it.

This is the second day of my new and amazing way of eating, so I thought I'd share a couple of the meals that I've eaten so far.  Last night I also made pasta sauce, but all I had in the pantry was diced tomatoes instead of pureed, and the resulting sauce was a bit bland, so though I ate it, I didn't think it deserved a pic.

Yesterday for breakfast, I had 2 eggs with avocado on toast, with a bit of hot sauce (which it turns out had sugar in it.  D'OH!).

Day 2 (today) for breakfast I had oatmeal.  I used almond milk, cinnamon and vanilla to make the oatmeal, and had about 1/2 cup frozen fruit (no sugar added), plus added some cashews and hemp powder for some added protein.  Plus tea and goat's milk.  I haven't taken sugar in my tea for years (I used to take FOUR!), so that wasn't a change I had to make.

Hopefully that isn't too much sugar.  I figure that maybe one fruit per day or maybe every other day  would be OK.  Fruit is so yummy and nutritious!  

For lunch today, I think I'll have avocado on toast with lots of fresh ground pepper.  I'd shave on some Parmesan, but the kind I have (I assume) is cow dairy.  

Not sure about dinner.  Today is a holiday, so the supermarket isn't open (nor is anything else), so I can't start to purchase ingredients until tomorrow.  I hope I have something in the freezer!  

Tomorrow's breakfast will be oatmeal again, but lunch...  Actually, I think I may make olive oil mayo, and if it turns out, I'll make an egg salad sandwich.  I've never made mayo before, but it looks simple enough and I have all the ingredients.  I also would rather not buy vegan mayo (vegan because of the dairy), since it seems to me it may be kind of processed (and thus may contain sugar), I don't know how it would taste, and it will most certainly be more expensive than me making it.  

Lately, I've taken to saving good jars that I end up with, after using the contents.  I have a jar that I think is about 1 cup (conveniently, the size of the mayo recipe) from Farm Boy raw honey (which is seriously tasty!) which has a good tight lid, so that works out great.

OK off to look for some more recipes, so I can shop tomorrow--I don't want to find myself without anything to make, since I can't readily pick something up.  It's all about preparation, right?

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Time For Another 100 Days of Real Food!

A couple of years ago, I committed to 100 days of real food.  I did pretty well, and felt not only really proud of myself, but really good physically.  Since then, things were really tough for a couple of years, and because of that, I fell off the health track.

Now, I'm ready to move forward and regain my fitness and my health.  I'm 42 now, and I know that now is the time.  I already suddenly have high blood-pressure, which up until now was literally perfect.  Clearly my body is telling me enough is enough!

So, starting today, I'm embarking on 100 days of real food.  100 days from today is May 16th.

So what does that mean for me?

Well, it means that I'll be eating real food at least 90% of the time.  Why 90%?  Because I want to allow for some wiggle room, in case for example I'm invited to someone's house.  I don't want to have to bring my own food, or insist that they make something specific for me.  I don't want that kind of relationship with food--I want it to be real-life, but healthy real-life!

90% + real food, means if you eat 3 meals a day for a week for example, which equals 35 meals, then I have a maximum of 3 "not whole food" meals at my disposal, if I need it.  

I'm talking realistic meals here too--I can't go to an all-you-can-eat fried food convention, and count
that as one meal, just because I ate it all at once.  It might be more like 3 "things" a week that aren't whole food--so maybe 1) an iced coffee from a coffee shop, 2) dinner at a friend's home, 3) ice cream on a hot day in a week.  That seems like a lot, when I look at it that way!

In the past, when I've focused on eating real food, I was afraid to make healthy versions of treats like muffins and cookies, because I've had trouble limiting myself.  The idea was to avoid it, because I thought I'd have trouble, and I'd work on not having trouble in the future.  But I now realize that I can't very well learn to limit myself with these things, if I never make them!  And I want to have them during these 100 days, so dammit I'm going to make them!!

I'm really looking forward to making delicious real food meals.  I know full well that healthy food can be utterly delicious, and I have many recipes on my computer which I want to try, and many many more recipes out there for me to discover!!

OK!  No more blogging!  Time to search for recipes to make next week!