Tag Archives: Human nutrition

Putting By. Or: Let the Canning Begin!

We’re coming into peak harvest here, and it’s time to get all the wonderful overabundance into stores for the coming seasons. In other words, we’re canning.  Above is our own creation, of sorts. We had all these little tomatoes that needed to be preserved, and a bunch of other little veggies, too. So, we brined the daylights out of them and created these sweet-and-spicy snack mix pickles. They are so very, very good (we kept a small jar in the refrigerator, uncanned, so we could check how the flavors proceeded..yum! doesn’t quite cover it). We’re definitely doing more of these. We kept the pH nice an high with lots of vinegar and some sugar, using a brink intended for carrots to make sure we didn’t under-do it and risk botulism (never fun).

Also, of course, we’re doing the obligatory regular pickles (of which I did not get a picture), some jams, and tomatoes:

What are you canning?


On the Menu: August 15-21

I guess I don’t really need to say that this week  is crazy. How is it that taking off for a few days means you come back to 3 times the work you’d have had if you’d stayed home? I have no idea, but I will say it was worth it. Incredible wine tastings, sunsets over The Castle in DC, Thai food to die for, and most of all getting to see my best friend for almost a whole week. But, all good things must come to an end, and it’s time to get back to the Real World.

The next few weeks are going to see some schedule changes, and therefore menu changes, around here. Thadd’s headed back to another semester of school, so the menus you’ll be seeing starting in about two weeks will have lots of easily-packable leftovers for his lunches. He’ll be cooking on different days, which also changes things. For now, we’re going to try and take a day or two a week to load up what little freezer space we have left with food to get him started. A lot of the meals will be fast and simple, since he’s getting in as much work as he can before his time to do so becomes limited, and I am catching up.

On the Menu:


Monday: Lentil and sausage soup. This is a go-to for us, as anyone who’s read here for any length of time knows.

Tuesday: Grilled “Cottage Pie.” I have to work until about 8 tonight, so Thadd’s going to layer all the fun stuff that typically goes into a traditional cottage pie (shepard’s pie uses lamb, to which I am allergic) into foil and toss it on the grill. In this case, the meat is leftover meatloaf (which Thadd keeps telling me is farther and farther from meatloaf, as it has more veggies than meat in it at this point). I have to admit, it’s great to come home to food after teaching spin class.

Wednesday: Crustless quiche and BLTs. Another really long day for me, 3 hours of which is teaching fitness classes. Thadd’s up again for cooking, and since we have so much fresh produce, this sounded like a good way to use some of it up.

Thursday: In theory, I am hosting a supper club. If that doesn’t happen, it’ll be leftover night.

Friday: Tuna salad wraps. Thadd works overnights, so he needs something fast and filling. He’ll have several of these, while I stick to just one. They’re one way I get some fish into my diet (along with sardines, which we’re out of right now), and Thadd makes amazing tuna salad with carrots, homemade pickles, onions, and I have no idea what else. We fill them out with fresh greens and tomatoes (boy, do we have those!).

Saturday: Venison Pot Roast, with potatoes, carrots, and salad. We need to use up some of last year’s venison, and we also need a meal that doesn’t take forever. So, slow cooker to the rescue.

Sunday: Black bean & banana empanadas. We love these. They’re fairly healthy, really tasty, and freeze like a complete dream. We’re making a triple batch so we can throw a bunch in the freezer.

You know the drill for lunches, which is almost always mostly leftovers and things like boiled eggs, nuts, etc. Breakfasts are a challenge for me right now, as I’m working on developing things that are high in protein, low in simple carbs, and contain little or no calcium (yes, I am eating calcium, but I have to eat it later in the day as it interferes with the absorption of my adrenal medication–something I’d pretty much forgotten about. Whoops). So, it’s mostly steel cut oats at the moment.

What’s on your menu?

On the Menu, June 13th Edition

Yes, I realize it’s the 15th, but since this plan starts on Monday, I’m calling it the 13th. What are we eating this week?


Monday:  Lasagna with ciabatta bread and spicy greens salad. This is my special recipe lasagna, which is made with all real, no fat-free anything, yet manages to still have about half the calories of most lasagna. And,  it’s one of my most requested recipes, too. I actually made two of these, one for the freezer, to really make use of the oven space.  We got an amazing harvest of mixed greens, complete with spicy mustards, that will be paired with fresh strawberries and cucumber for the salad. It’s all topped off with Thadd’s amazing Ciabatta.

Tuesday: Shape-It-Up Meatloaf with whipped potatoes and broccoli.  Made this on Monday (also made two), again to utilize oven space. I admit to using my client’s menus to inspire my own, since I typically have all the spices out anyway, and one got my meatloaf this week. This works our well, since Tuesdays are a late night for me. We’ve had some potatoes and broccoli that needed using, and this was what they went best in.

Wednesday: Thai peanut tofu noodles. Thadd’s been wanting this for a while, so I put it on the rotation.

Thursday: Black bean & Yam burritos. You’re right, there’s a good bit of vegetarian on the menu this week.  We eat a lot of vegetarian anyway, but this week  it just seemed to fall out that we’re eating more than usual. We love these burritos, inspired by Seva in Ann Arbor.

Friday: Sausage lentil soup. Quick, easy, hearty, and makes a lot of leftovers. We prefer red lentils for this.

Saturday: Leftovers. Clean out the refrigerator day.

Sunday:  Saag and samosa pie. The mustard greens for this dish are from the garden. The samosa pie is a much easier way to do Indian samosas, and I’m also making a mango and basil chutney (it should really be cilantro, but since Thadd has that weird genetic it-tastes-like-soap thing, I substitute basil). And, thought it looks it, this isn’t quite vegetarian. The saag uses homemade chicken stock.  This will finish off our potatoes, use up those yummy greans, and allow me to crock-pot chickpeas so I don’t have to use canned (writes that down on the kichen schedule). Thadd’ll make the crust for the pie.

What are you eating this week?

How is That Frugal?

I get a lot of surprise when people read my posts about food, from what we eat overall to what we eat specifically, because I say it’s frugal. They see things like “London Broil,” or “Grass-fed local” and say, “But that’s so expensive.”  And they are right, it is expensive. Which is why you don’t sit down and eat a huge slab of it.

How is it frugal to eat this way? Let me break it down:

1. My definition of frugal is not: as much consumable calories as I can get for as little money as I can spend. My definition is: as much quality nutrition as I can get in as ecologically sustainable manner as I can mange, within a budget. This means making choices. For example, we eat a lot of vegetarian meals, which are cheaper than meat, so we can afford to buy quality meats.

2. At some point, this country is going to have to start paying the real cost of food. That is not what you are paying when you purchase many items at the store. The government is paying a large portion of the actual cost for you, in the form of subsidies, which go to large companies for the most part. I believe it is more cost-effective to buy food locally, to keep the money within the community rather than send it to some corporate honcho somewhere. This is a long-term outlook, of course, but buying “cheap” food just contributes to a larger problem that is going to come back to bite us in the butt.

3. Being sick and/or fat is not frugal. The saying goes “you can pay now, or you can pay later.” I’ll pay now, thanks. Staying at a healthy weight and keeping as many crappy chemicals as I reasonably can out of my body is a worthwhile expenditure to me. If that means eating less so I ca afford better food, so be it.

As Thadd says, “Good, Fast, Cheap: Pick Two.” We choose Good and Cheap, which means it’s definitely not fast. There’s lots of planning involved, and I’ve learned to be a Master Food Organizer (hey, I think I’ll trademark that and start giving classes on how to become one!). It takes a very strong commitment, and it sometimes means giving up other things.  We all have decisions to make regarding food, and this is what works for us. We don’t eat like typical Americans by a long shot.  Our average food expenditure each week is about $70-80 for the two of us, but it takes a LOT of work to keep it that way. Mostly, that work is cooking, and finding good recipes that use less expensive ingredients. We go through a lot of lentils and beans, but we don’t do it grudgingly.  We have learned great recipe for these ingredients so that it is something we look forward to.

And, we enjoy the size of our grocery bill while we enjoy the food!

Predicting the Demise of Paleo, and What’s On the Menu

Before we get to what we’re eating this week, I thought I’d take a moment to make a prediction. A lot of people are having really amazing results in a variety of areas eating “Paleo,” which essentially means lots of meat and veggies, no grains and little/no sugars other than those naturally occurring in fruits and veggies.  There are a lot of pluses to this lifestyle, and the science behind the results is also pretty good.  That said, The End of that success is coming, just as it has for most diets that start out so well from Atkins to vegetarian.

Why? Because the thing is, when most of these diets/lifestyles/whatever you want to call them come out, what is most effective about them is that they 1) limit your food choices and 2) get you away from processed foods. Unfortunately, as soon as they catch on, so do manufacturers. Which means that both of those things go away, and more and more people flock to the diet because they can now have anything they want again! Except that it doesn’t work that way.

When I was a vegetarian, it was next to impossible to be a fat vegetarian, because your options were fresh vegetables and grains (and, in my case, eggs and dairy because I was lacto-ovum). Fast forward to today, and you can get vegetarian “meat,” which is so processed and full of crap that almost nothing on the label is recognizable. Today, we have lots of fat, unhealthy vegetarians. Yes, there are also healthy vegetarians who eat whole foods and at one time, that was a default of being vegetarian; but, since it’s caught on, the lifestyle itself no longer takes real thought about health. Anyone can “be a vegetarian,” and just go to the store and replace non-vegetarian crap “food” with vegetarian crap “food.”

This was the same with, say, Atkins. It started out being highly effective because it really limited food choices and took away the vast majority of processed foods.  When people have limited food choices, they tend to eat less. This is true of processed foods, as well, and has the added bonus of getting rid of the fat-packing empty calories and weight-gaining chemicals.  Once manufacturers caught on, they started producing “Atkin’s Friendly” crap, which consumers snatched up like the world was ending. Which is when the diet began to fail, because two of it’s primary components of success were taken away for most people (especially those who decided to switch to the Atkins lifestyle without bothering to read the book).

Paleo is catching on. Whatever you think of it’s ethics, it’s also very effective for weight loss and maintenance, at least in part for the same reasons vegetarianism and Atkins initially were. Which means that, if it hasn’t happened already, we’re going to soon see “Paleo friendly” processed junk hitting the market, mostly stuff that wouldn’t otherwise be on the diet. I betcha a dollar to a donut that if it’s not already out there, we’ll see Paleo bread mass-marketed within the net 12 months. Yes, there will still be the people who do it right, but there’ll be a whole lot more who do it wrong. Again. Because they want to believe in magic.

So, with that out of my ranting way, here’s this week’s On the Menu:


Sunday:  Chicken tikka masala over saffron rice. Okay, you have to use local or organic chicken with this, just just do. I admit I used neither, since we had some chicken given to us that wasn’t and it needed to get used. It turned out awful. Well, the sauce was great, but the chicken itself was appalling. Every time this happens, I remember why we don’t eat conventional chicken. Ick.

Monday: Sloppy joes with 3-potato salad and green beans.  Mmmm… grass fed beef with homemade sloppy joe sauce. So good! The potato salad was leftover from our weekend picnic with friends, and fresh green beans.  You’re going to notice that most of our menu this week is geared to limited cooking, and some batch cooking. It’s just too darn hot to do anything else!

Tuesday (tonight): Sliced, cold London Broil over fresh greens, with steamed cauliflower. We grilled the London Broil on Sunday, so no cooking tonight. The broil came out great–the grass fed makes a huge difference.

Wednesday: Chicken & vegetable kabobs over black rice. The kabobs were also done on Sunday. We’ll just reheat them quickly, and I’ll make the rice outside on the deck with my rice cooker.

Thursday: Falafel with mujadara. The heat is supposed to break, so we’re making homemade falafel and flatbread, as well as mujadara (an lentil-parsley-rice salad).  I’ll whip up a tzaziki sauce, and it’ll be served with fresh tomatoes.

Friday: Black bean & banana empanadas. It’s time to make a huge batch of these up again and toss them in the freezer for quick lunches.

Saturday: Leftovers day. Time to clean out the refrigerator!

Breakfasts are kefir, yogurt, fruit, granola, eggs, and homemade toast. Lunches are leftovers and smoothies (I don’t eat much when it’s hot out, so I drink a lot of smoothies).

How are you keeping cool and eating well this week?

Grain Free Week & On the Menu

I am going grain-free for a week, though Thadd will not be joining me. I thought about blogging my grain-free journey with recipes and everything, and then I realized that the menu really doesn’t look much different from any other menu I post. With the exceptions of homemade (super-yummy) breads, we don’t eat a ton of grains.  When we do, it tends to be quinoa, bulgar, etc., mostly because I like cooking weird stuff.

So, I’ll keep you generally posted, but don’t expect any real revelations. Maybe I should have done this in the winter, when we’re a bit more grain-heavy. Regardless, here’s the menu for the week:


Monday: Seared pork loin with homemade BBQ beans and vinegar & herb 3-potato salad.  This meal was to use up some of the leftovers from our party. I made crockpot beans to go with our burgers (yep, all pastured and local, etc.), and had some leftover. My potato salad is one of my most-requested recipes, and has no dairy. It’s a wonderful combination of cider vinegar, olive oil, and fresh herbs, with lemon zest over the top!

Tuesday:  Asian salmon over zucchini “noodles”,” with large salad. They store had made a mistake in pricing their salmon filets, so I grabbed them! I love making zucchini, beets, spaghetti squash, and other veggies into noodles, and it’s a fun way to get kids to eat their veggies, too! Greens are in hot and heavy right now, so they’re a featured item in many of our meals.

Wednesday: Beef, with whipped sweet potatoes and seasonal vegetable. We just got a load of beef in from one of our favorite farms, and this is Thadd’s night to cook, so he gets to choose what kind of beef we’ll have. I’m going to hit the Green Market to see what’s fresh for our vegetable, and we’ll pull some sweet potatoes out of storage.

Thursday: Duck egg & greens frittata with soup and salad. Organic, free range duck eggs…so good! I’ll put together some “stone soup” from leftovers and homemade stock, and serve it with a big salad of fresh greens, strawberries, and elderberry & sage vinaigrette.

Friday & Saturday: Birthday parties. Lots of birthdays this month! So, the menu is on hold until we hear whether these are cookouts, etc.

Lunches are leftovers for the most part. Breakfasts include some combination of: milk, eggs in some form, cheese, fruit, yogurt, and honey.

What are you eating this week?

Volume Discount. Or, Stop Playing With Your Food!

We’ve been mislead about how to have a healthy relationship with food. For some reason, we’ve been taught to think that “good” or “healthy” eating and nutrition is about getting the largest volume of food into our stomachs with the least amount of calories. I am not sure where this trend started, but it’s definitely perpetuated in our food marketing, media, and a lot of nutrition advice.  Our society’s idea of nutrition has become about how much sheer volume we can pack into ourselves without “exceeding calories.”

This is not a healthy way to eat. It’s not a healthy relationship for our nation to have with food. If it were, we wouldn’t have the skyrocketing obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and other lifestyle-related disease rates we do today. The answer is simple, but it goes against the unfortunate American value that “bigger is better,” and the more you have the more you’re worth. Ergo, the more you can eat and stay “skinny,” the better you are, the healthier you must be.

There are many reasons that most people who lose weight put it back on, but one of the biggest is this: they have not changed their relationship with food and food culture. We’ve gotten used to feeling “full” all the time, and believing that it is necessary and good to feel this way. That we should be able to eat large amounts of food without gaining weight. That we all “deserve” to be able to eat whatever we want, whenever we want, and that it’s nutritionally reasonable to poke, pull, and tweak foods to fit into what we want them to be instead of what they are.  That we should be able to eat the way we want to eat, instead of the way we need to eat, without consequences. All of this despite demonstrable evidence that it’s a failing formula.

The fix for this is simple, and the more research that is done, the more it’s holding up: eat quality, whole, nutrient-dense foods, and eat them in an appropriate quantity.

A skin-on, bone-in chicken breast has only 50 or so more calories than it does skin off, and only about 2.5g saturated fats.* If you’re watching your weight, the answer isn’t to skin your chicken to save 50 calories, it’s to eat less chicken or do more exercise. In my last series about nutrition rules, you’ll note I said eat more veggies, and stop eating whole cuts of meat as frequently. Why? Because it makes far more sense to eat more vegetables and get the fiber and nutrients, while eating less meat and dairy but still getting the complete and natural fats, than it does to find “work-arounds.”

But what about those FDA “portion” sizes? It’s important to remember those are generalizations (and, frankly, bad ones). For a smaller/shorter person, a reasonable portion is much less. For a taller/larger person, much more.   Yes, as a small person I’ll be able to eat less skin-on chicken or whole milk than my partner, who is extremely tall, will be able to eat. And, that’s okay. It’s okay to eat less food, or less than than an “FDA” portion of a certain food. It’s okay to stock up on green veggies and take a smaller portion of the whole higher-calorie whole food, of which more and more studies are showing that removing nutrients (including fat) has detrimental effects (or, at the very least, removes potential beneficial effects and essential nutrients). Saturated fats are now being shown to help balance HDL and LDL cholesterol, for example. Which doesn’t mean an overabundance of saturated fats are good for you, either. Again, the answer is simply to eat it, just eat less of it.

This isn’t a new or even radical viewpoint on my part. Pretty much this same thing has been said in countless works on the subject, including the best-selling “French Women Don’t Get Fat.”  French cuisine isn’t exactly known for it’s use of skim milk, margarine, or skinned chicken. Yet, despite it being a best-seller and making the talk-show rounds, eating habits in the US have not changed. We still demand larger and larger portions, and try to find ways to make those portions contain less and less calories.

And yet, as a nation we continue to wonder why we’re getting fatter and sicker.

(Author’s note: Any inflammatoy/name-calling/trolling posts or off-topic vegan/paleo/locavore/whatever proselytizing comments will be deleted.)

* Info from Julie Upton, dietician writing in “Eating Light” magazine. I don’t have this online, so you’ll need to find the issue for yourself.