Real Food Challenge – Week #3

For 14 weeks, the family and I are undertaking a Real Food Challenge (put forth by the awesome 100 Days of Real Food blog). I’m hoping to check in about any struggles and successes along the way each week. Our ultimate goal is to cut down on our dependence on processed foods and start using some cleaner fuels to energize our bodies. And stuff.

So, here’s how it works. I’ll get an email every Thursday for the next 14 weeks (the actual eating challenge will start on Sunday or Monday for 7 days, so there are a couple of days of grocery prep built in). Each email outlines the “rules” for that particular week. It’s up to each participant as to whether or not they’d like to try each week independently or build on top of the prior week. In other words, continuing doing the prior weeks while attempting the new weeks, if that makes sense. There’s also a very active Facebook group (I’ve actually joined an offshoot that’s super supportive and far more focused) that’s there to share, answer and support.


Review of Week #2: The second week of the challenge was a pretty simple week. The only beverages allowed were as follows: water, milk (suggested organic & whole, which we do anyway), coffee, tea, and wine in moderation (one a day). ONE glass of juice was allowed, mostly so that if anyone hates water they could spritz a bit of juice in for some flavor.

I’m not a soda drinker anymore — I’ll have a couple per year. No, seriously. So, the only part of this that took me anywhere outside my comfort zone was that the only sweeteners allowed in one’s coffee or tea was honey (ew, bee barf; love bees, hate the taste) or maple syrup (the 100% awesome quality organic stuff is great, but leaves a “deeply flavored” aftertaste). I don’t drink a ton of coffee, but since it was allowed and I needed “caffeine motivation”, I tried the maple syrup with a splash of milk. Hmm. Okay, but honestly tasted like…maybe…almost…TOO sweet?

Okay, okay, hold the phones. Those who have known me for any amount of time know that I’m a sugar consumer. I used to use 4-5 teaspoons of sugar in each small cup of coffee. *ahem* And was passionately mocked by family and friends for it. Over time, I’ve cut it down to about 1 1/2 (which is big for me). But, the fact that just yesterday, I took a mug with coffee and a splash of milk to work and thought it was fine…well, let’s just say I’m expecting a chunk of the earth to explode. I’m pretty pleasantly surprised.

I’m hoping to maintain this, although if I’m in need of a sweet caffeine fix, I’ll probably try one of the recipes for a NATURAL creamer replacement (something with cinnamon or what have you mixed in so that I don’t notice the maple syrupy goodness). Oh, and while I used to have the super rare caramel macchiato (like, also twice a year) at a random Starbucks, I’m not even sure I’d enjoy that anymore. I’d probably get a latte. MAYBE a crappy flavor shot, just for a “treat”, but even then…not sure it’s a treat anymore. So, I’d call Week #2 a success.

Side note: Hadley still drank juice. I’m bending rules ‘cuz he’s…y’know…2 1/2. He had far more milk and water than usual and no more than his watered-down cup of organic juice each day, so I’m happy.

Week #3 Challenge: $#@% just got real. This week will actually be quite the challenge, unlike this past week. We’re “allowed” to eat only 3-4 (which means, um, 4) meals containing only locally-raised meat; the rest of the meals are essentially vegetarian. PLUS, whatever recipes we choose should involve meat in a supporting role rather than the star. Hmm. That’s. Um. Crap.

I’m not one of those “Must. Eat. Protein.” people. Our bodies actually don’t need the “one vast serving per meal” amount of protein that folks seem ingrained to tout. (Mom.) But, I do want to make sure that we all get enough. I could easily do pancakes for every meal, but it’s not healthy for any of us. At least I’m trying to maintain a semblance of the 6-per-day fruits and veggies, so we’re definitely still getting our fill of nutrients. It just throws quite the monkey wrench into things. And stuff.

I definitely have a love-hate relationship with this week’s challenge. I fully understand the reason behind it. I haven’t had the greatest success at trying a flexitarian meal plan. I’ve made “meatless” meals and was proud of them, but they weren’t that healthy. Like, pasta So, this is definitely a week that I hope to learn from. I’m excited to see whether this is one of those “this is soooo hard!!!” sort of weeks or more of a “this is easier than I thought, I can do this!” week. Fingers crossed!

Here’s my flexible meal plan “schedule” for the week:

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Caveat #1: The asterisks imply that there may or may not be some local meat involved, depending on what we can pick up at a local market. Like, if we can find locally-raised pork or bacon, it’ll go into the potato soup. If we find chicken breasts, I’ll cook them up for the stir-fry and salads. Also, this is a general guide that helps TREMENDOUSLY when I’m having that, “What to have for dinner?” blank moment. But, if I decide that we haven’t had pasta in awhile (which we haven’t), I might switch that out for the omelet night, for example, with some salads on the side. We’re nothing if not flexible.

Caveat #2: Oh, and while we’re allowed 3-4 meals including meat, if there are leftovers from a particular dinner, you’d better know we’re using them for lunch. That’s how we’re playing that game. Leftovers are my saving grace, dudes.

So, that’s the latest! Looking ahead, the following few weeks look pretty easy again (and even fun!), so I’m lucky for the most part! Now, if I could get Hadley to eat more of these meals, I’d really be getting some place.

Have a great weekend (and happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day!) and good luck to any fellow challenge friends!

From Super Slow to Friggin’ Fast

*crickets chirp* It’s been over a month. Sorry ’bout that!

Anyhoo, time to talk about my eating since Hadley came along (exactly what you’ve been waiting 41 days for, I know). No, not diet — which is slightly limited but is pretty much an “I see, I eat” diet. That’s nursing for you.

What I mean is the fact that I’ve done a 180. There are ongoing family jokes about my slow eating habits growing up (several involving my being the only one at the table still nibbling my sandwich, talking a mile a minute, while everyone else’s Happy Ending sundaes are being devoured). Those habits followed me into adulthood. What can I say? Apparently, I talk. Who knew?

This is no longer the case. Well, I still talk, but my eating tendencies have flipped. In general, I’m starving most of the time (as I said above – thanks to BFing), so while at work I have to suck down my huge lunches at intervals throughout the day. When home, however, the baby seems to have a keen radar. The moment I sit down with my hot plate o’ food, he starts fussing or decides he’s hungry or whatever. Almost never fails.

This started on Day One in the hospital. I recall my first “meal” (all clear liquids or Jell-O or…wait, coffee?? That thing I didn’t drink for 9 months and still don’t to keep the caffeine out of the little buddy’s system??), but folks were busy snapping pictures with our new lil’ bundle of joy. I only remember one other hospital meal. All the others involved getting a few bites in while learning to nurse or visiting or trying not to murder some gosh-darn impolite nurses. Besides, it was mostly about drinking constantly – although I’ll never forget the 2am feeding when a nurse kindly handed me a tumbler of ice water that inadvertently ended up all over the baby and myself.

The thing I remember about the one hospital meal I ate, start to finish, (aside from the ever-present chocolate pudding) was creamed spinach. It. Was. Divine. Never had it before, and probably won’t, but I was so literally starved by that point, the fact that the baby was getting checked over and I got to the food HOT, I found it to be the most delicious thing I’d ever eaten. I still find myself having cravings for it. Weird, I know.

I don’t, however, want to forget to mention the first “real” meal I was allowed post-surgery – provided by my sister/best friend, Mary. She knew that I had craved a bologna sandwich (on soft white bread, with yellow mustard) during my entire pregnancy. The only cold-cuts I had were all-natural…needless to say, not bologna. She came with a huge bag, including several sandwiches, an entire bag of my other guilty pleasure (Jax…I know I’ve mentioned them here before, but they SERIOUSLY kick Cheez Doodles’ arse) and soda, plus I’m sure some other goodies I have since forgotten. But, again, I was too busy to enjoy it all in one sitting. It seems life has followed suit ever since.

Take this post, for instance. I started it while eating my dinner and simultaneously nursing the monkey. It has been written entirely one-handed. But, as long as I can eat enough to sustain both baby and mama, I’m happy. And, if I can keep punching out s-l-o-w, one-handed posts more frequently, I’ll be even happier. πŸ™‚

P.S. If you’d like a different perspective on our new little family, be sure to check out my hubby’s posts on fatherhood at Currently, you can find out about a new little family member, Dougie, and how he came to join the clan. (No, he’s not another cat.)

My Lunch as a Mommy

“Food” these days has taken on a new meaning. Thanks to breastfeeding, it’s an extension of the past 9+ months — what I eat affects the baby. I still haven’t figured out if certain food items (highly acidic, super spicy, etc) make Hadley act/feel differently, but I do know that the evening I decided to *gasp* drink a cup of coffee made for a looooong night. What’s equally as important with breastfeeding (or, really, for any new mom, in my opinion) is keeping up my caloric intake. Earlier, I felt my body’s energy draaaaiiiiin if I didn’t eat or drink enough; it’s better these days, but still need to keep on top of how much I eat. Oh, and sure I’ll occasionally grab a bowl of ice cream as one of my “snacks”, but for the most part I’m trying to keep those 4-5 meals a day healthy. See? Extension of the previous 9 months, generally speaking.

So, I thought I’d share a cucumber dip (loosely, a tzatziki sauce) that I recently whipped up. We had been sent home from my mom’s with leftover chicken and I thought this sauce would help us use it up in a healthy way. Plus, we had a buttload of cucumbers to use up. Unfortunately, I started mixing and chopping before I realized our plain Greek yogurt was expired. *wop wooooop* So, on a whim, I substituted cottage cheese, and whadya know? It worked just fine! Here’s what I did…

Cucumber Sauce/Dip (Tzatziki)

Dice or shred 1/2 a cucumber (more or less, up to you! It’s all relative, too, since homegrown cukes have been HUGE this summer), zest 1/2 a lemon, and mince a clove of garlic. Mix these together with ~ 1/2 cup cottage cheese (or plain yogurt), ~1/3 cup all-natural mayo, and (to taste) salt ‘n pepper, oregano, dill, and the juice of the 1/2 lemon. Enjoy! Here’s a look-see:

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Sure, it doesn’t look like much, but it’s tasty. My favorite thing to do with it? Wraps!!! Whole wheat wraps up the nutrition factor, and there are things you can make with wraps that you couldn’t do with plain ol’ sandwich bread.
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OnΒ  this particular day, the wrap was made with mesclun mix, all-natural deli turkey, shaved romano cheese and chopped apples. Oh, plus the cuke sauce and, of course, the whole wheat wrap…’cuz it ain’tΒ  a wrap unless it gets wrapped!

But, a wrapped sandwich does not a full meal make. So, here’s the full Monty – wrap, small handful of pretzels (or, at least, I think it’s small ;-)), a sliced apple, some Nutella and peanut butter (y’know…for dippin’), and a glass each o’ water and juice. Yeah, I’m generally double-fistin’ it these days.

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It ain’t good unless you’ve got a sweet, overweight kitty admiring your plate…and a stack of baby laundry to accompany the deliciousness.
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I’ll be doing my best to keep up the healthy factor upon returning to school this week. Since Dave and I have both been fighting a virus (mine admittedly more bearable than his; I blame the healthy-ish eating and prenatal vitamins I’m still downing), this is wicked important to have the energy (both mental and physical!) to make it through the firstΒ  “not with the baby 24/7” days. Plus, I haven’t done the best job at stockpiling the ol’ boob juice, so I’m trying to see if there’s anything (food or otherwise) I can do to make pumping more successful. So far, I’m drinking Mother’s Milk tea and have just discovered that oatmeal helps (generally whole grains, depending on what you read).

By the way, I’m truly sorry I haven’t been posting more this summer. Seriously. I wouldn’t apologize if I didn’t feel badly about it — it’s not just guilt. Ideas for posts have popped up in my head (usually when I took a shower, strangely enough), and I’ve got a kazillion drafts of posts started. Truly, I’d like to try to post a touch more since a) it’s kinda therapeutic, b) I enjoy sharing my thoughts and experiences, c) hopefully folks get a kick out of what I write, and d) I can look back as Hads grows up to see the evolution of our family and remember the small, good times I may not otherwise recall. So, yes. I will try. πŸ™‚

Gotta Love Paul Newman

Gotta love a guy named “Paul.” Seriously, some of the greatest guys in history (or at least the 21st century) have been “Paul”Ps. Paul McCartney (arguably the best Beatle…clearly I’m biased after literally bumping into him in NYC a few years back). Paul Simon. Paul Newman. Seriously, it’s a sad thing “Paul” is off our baby-naming list, but we’ve both gotta like the name. *shrugs*
We appreciate Paul Newman less for his acting skills (although I love those piercing blue eyes…and Cool Hand Luke? Love it. NOBODY can eat 50 eggs. Ha.) and more for the charity work his company, Newman’s Own, still does, even after his death in 2008. Truthfully, what we appreciate the most is the fact that many of their products are all natural (and some even organic), so when I’m making my grocery buying decisions, I consider health (including a deep look at the ingredients and nutritional facts, when it’s a prepared food – we try to keep it low-fat/low-cholesterol/low-sodium when possible) and value, but when a Paul Newman product costs a tad more, I may still opt for it.
For example, two of our always-have-on-hand food staples (y’know, for those nights when Mama just ain’t up for cookin’…which can be often lately) are the Newman’s Own brand. The first is his jarred tomato sauce. I know, I know, I could make my own and freeze it and blah dee blah blah…but when his organic marinara hits our taste buds just fine (mind you, I do kick it up a bit with my own “method”…which I’ve tried to teach Dave in the event that our kids get a taste for it and something ever happens to me…I’m not morbid, I’m Irish) and save me a buttload of time, I’m all in. The occasional coupon helps on the “value” front, too.
The other food staple that I like to keep in the fridge is one or two of the Paul Newman frozen pizzas. The pizzas are a traditional “frozen pizza-esque” thin crust, but the ingredients are thoughtful. The pepperoni is uncured and nitrate free (except that which occurs naturally), so I feel okay about eating some once in awhile during my pregnancy. While I’m itching to try their supreme, I know Dave’s not a fan, so we pretty much stick with the four-cheese or pepperoni. I did recently pick up the buffalo chicken style since it’s one of my man’s favorite flavors. Update: We tried this last night. Dave loved it. Me…not s’much. There was some heat to it (which I’m not a huge fan of), but not a lot of flavor for my taste. Maybe this means I get to try “supreme” someday as payback. πŸ˜‰ Just kidding; we try to keep things fair here, especially food-wise. But, yeah, if you’re into buffalo chicken, you may like it.
Another awesome thing about the pizza? Once in awhile, you’ll find a coupon on the back of the package – usually for ANY Newman’s Own product (strangely, not pizzas, though). Dave usually looks for those boxes first. Gotta love a man who’s into a bargain.

That being said, these ain’t cheap. At least, at Hannaford, they’re just shy of $6. We can occasionally get them with a coupon for close to $5. Honestly, I look at it this way – it’s still cheaper than buying a pizza from a local pizza joint (and easier…and faster). Plus, knowing the charity factor involved, I feel better about the price, too.

So, if you haven’t tried any Newman’s Own stuff, go ahead! They try hard to keep the ingredients as-good-as-pre-packaged-food-can-be-for-you. Or, if you’re not in the mood to try their stuff, just watch Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Either way…can’t go wrong with a “Paul.”

For Example

In my last post, I mentioned (briefly) the fact that, thanks to pregnancy cravings and the such, I’ve fallen off the organic-slash-all-natural wagon. They are but brief interludes in an otherwise quite healthy diet. I mean, if I wanted to go nuts, I wouldn’t have folks demanding I gain more weight. The baby’s fine, I’m fine, and I’m not by any means starving myself; I’ve never been one to do that. Call it laziness or lack of willpower, but I’m just not prone to eating disorders.

Tonight’s a prime example of one of my “whoopsies.” My cravings tend to come from a very psychological place, rather than a physical urge for a particular food item…although, from time to time an irrational “Ooohhhh I need a *insert food item here* from *insert unhealthy food chain here*!” It happens, just not much. So, this evening I was considering what I’d like for dinner, since it would be a solo meal (sans hubby).

My thought process followed this stream: something light…like cereal or a sandwich…ohhh, I’ve gotta use up the organic wheat bread before it goes bad…maybe tuna?…I’ve already had tuna this week, that’s a no-no…ohhhh, egg salad, there’s some good protein…what else MUST one have with an egg salad sandwich?…hmm…Jax with ketchup…but the sandwich will be organic and local (the eggs were from pastured chickens and sold at the farmers’ market), so what does it hurt to have some Jax with ’em?…and organic ketchup, of course.

Yep, that’s a moment inside my brain. Wacky, I know. So, that’s how I came to be sitting here, awaiting my egg done-ness to hopefully enjoy a meal of egg salad (quite possibly on toasted bread, the way good ol’ Grandma used to make it), Jax with ketchup, perhaps some chocolate milk (again, how Grandma served it)…and maybe some strawberry Chobani yogurt if dessert beckons. Let’s forget the fact that when I stopped to pick up my single-serve package of Jax, I also grabbed some Twix bars. *ahem*

See? We’re not all perfect. Sometimes it’s about balance…other times, it’s about simply sustaining oneself…still other times, it’s about self-discipline. Of course, I picture myself being way stricter when the baby comes, but that’s yet to be seen. πŸ™‚ Have you had any awesomely simple organic/all-natural meals lately? Or indulged in something wonderful that was more than worth it?

Side note: The Jax with ketchup thing is not a pregnant whim, by the way. It’s a totally real food category that only a few people (namely, those who attended my babysitter back in the day) understand fully. Let’s just say that hotdog day (cut up, with ketchup) + a handful of Jax = accidental tastiness. Let’s just say a hotdog craving isn’t far behind, but I insist on waiting for this summer, after the little one arrives, and eating a nitrate-free, real beef version. See? I’ve still got standards. πŸ˜‰

Cravings Thus Far

“Crave for a thing, you will get it. Renounce the craving, the object will follow you by itself.” – Swami Sivananda

And when a preggers lady renounces a craving, WATCH THE HECK OUT!

Real Food Challenge - Week #3 - image  on Now I totally want mint chocolate chip.)

Seriously, I haven’t been craving a whole lot. The first trimester, I had a few random ones, but mostly had nausea. No “actual” illness (luckily!), but lots of appetite-killing nausea. The urges are currently a lot milder when I get a craving, though. I think it’s due to the fact that I wasn’t eating much at all before, so when I finally WANTED something to eat, I’d jump at it immediately.

In all honesty, my cravings have mostly been junk food-related. Oh, the shame! This includes one trip to McDonald’s (yes, you read that correctly…I still weep over the treatment of the cow I ate), another trip to Taco Bell, and several other very much non-organic, non-natural choices. *sigh* Can we say Fruit Loops…or Jax with ketchup? (And I historically ate Jax; it’s not a weird pregnancy thing.) If you don’t know what Jax are…well, you’ll need to find out. They’re awesome!And, seriously organic Fruit Loops BETTER be in the works…which disappoints me about how processed some of these organic foods are, ick.

Pickles are a norm for me, so I figured I’d lose the taste for them during pregnancy. Nope! Still tasty to me. So, I eat organic versions of those. I snack on baby carrots (generally organic) and hummus, eat apples, nosh on organic low-fat mozzarella sticks, immerse my all-natural salsa with multi-grain tortilla chips, and dip into my Chobani strawberry Greek yogurt (occasionally with a handful of Grape-Nuts or Kashi cereal). I’m drinking close to zero caffeine (caffeine-free green tea, yes) and as much water and milk as I can currently stand. I’m sure the water’s still not enough, especially at this lip-chapped time of year, but I’m trying. I’m trying with everything I eat.

My meals are pretty normal, except for the occasional crapfest from a fast food joint (or even a frozen all-natural pizza – just because Paul Newman’s name is on it and they do their best to make it with less chemicals, it’s still horrible for you). I’d LIKE to eat more chicken and fish, but I’m lucky if I get one serving of each per week, just because I tend not to be hungry enough (and fish tends to make me a tad sick). At least I can stomach a simple salad again, ‘cuz for awhile there it was rough for my salad-eatin’ hubby.

So, that’s a quick update on what I’m eatin’. Exciting stuff, I know. πŸ˜‰ In the beginning, I was constantly researching what we could eat (my poor mother had cut up an entire pineapple for me only to find out that it was on one of my “you’re askin’ for complications” lists…now I’m dying for it!) But, hey, considering that my grandmother had 5 successful pregnancies while drinking TONS of coffee and smoking LOTS of cigarettes, I guess I can’t mess things up too badly, can I? πŸ˜‰

Anyone want to share cravings they’ve had while pregnant – or, for those who’ve never had a baby, what you’re looking forward to totally indulging in? πŸ˜‰ What? It’s fun to dream!


So, it’s the weekend before the new school starts (more commonly known as “Labor Day Weekend”, yes) and I’ve gotta admit to being anxious. When I say “anxious”, I actually mean anxiety-ridden. My year ahead will look completely different than previous years, so it’s generally the stress and worry of the unknown that causes the anxiety. But, no worries; I’m working on it.

As part of our “Woohoo, 3-day weekend!” celebration (it’s not really a celebration, don’t get your hopes up), we trekked out to Cooperstown for a morning of farmer marketing and cider milling. Wow, I just made those activities sound quite…active! To be clear, we didn’t mill any cider or market any farmers. I’m not even sure how I’d go about doing such things.

The farmers’ market was even more burgeoning with good things than usual, possibly because we got there by around 9am-ish. From various vendors, we ended up getting a huuuuge 50-cent zucchini (which wins “deal of the day”), 3-count-’em-3 heads of garlic, broccoli; organics from The Farm in Ilion including a basket of baby heirloom tomatoes (for Dave; yuck, tomatoes), HUGE leeks, and purple potatoes; 6 ears of corn from the Amish (we’re saying goodbye to summer…); strawberry jam; and TWO sampler packs from “the British guy” (NOT his vendor name, just what we call him) who sells awesome British pastries. Oh, yes…and the bacon. The. Bacon.

This bacon, my friends, is a marvel. It’s, of course, naturally-raised and we know exactly what it’s fed. It’s not smoked, so it’s necessary to put a little salt and pepper on it while cooking, but it’s in-cred-i-ble. Like, save for Christmas morning good. Yet…I blame the bacon for what came next.

We asked the buoyant, knowledgeable seller of said bacon (as well as other meats, eggs and produce) if she’d have more this autumn, to which she informed us that she wouldn’t have anymore until December since she has “two growing at home and a sow about to give piglets.” I felt Dave (and, to a point, myself) pull back, suddenly a bit surprised, then kindly thank her and go on our way. We briefly discussed the fact that, while we’re aware that it’s treated well and fed proper things, it hadn’t occurred to us that…well…the stuff ever lived. Thinking of piglets being raised specifically to appease our taste buds left us taken off-guard…but not so much as to deter us from seeking out an awesome breakfast at Doubleday Cafe, including bacon and sausage. We’re idiots sometimes. Perhaps “human” is a better description.

After our Cooperstown excursion, I detoured us to the Fly Creek Cider Mill to stock up on some wine and cheese, and anything else that we felt like spoiling ourselves with. To those who have never been to Fly Creek, I’ll digress for a moment: It’s a tradition for many who live in the area to visit the cider mill, particularly during the fall. It’s generally too expensive to consider going there more than once a year. But, my husband and I live dangerously and, at times, just go to feed the ducks (and, now, chickens, geese and various other fowl). It’s an incredible operation that has commercialized itself almost too well, so be forewarned. It’s an awesome place, but not nearly as great as it was when we were children…and could afford the donuts. At least they have free samples throughout the store.

So, after purchasing our wine, cheese, salad dressing, and more (one item’s a gift, shhh), we went to feed the ducks. Is it just me, or is there always always ALWAYS one duck or goose that’s worse off than the rest? One that you try to feed more than the others, that you pity more than you would some humans? Well, today was no exception, and this one seemed to have a bad condition causing its feathers to fall out and leave parts of his skin exposed. Dave also noticed an eye disease. Ick. Poor lil’ guy.

After feeding them as much as my wallet would allow, and thinking to myself how much I’d like to raise chickens for eggs (for the millionth time), we turned and walked, half hugging, towards the car. Casually, yet determined, Dave calmly stated that he’d like to eat less meat. I nodded and agreed. This conversation continued in spurts as we drove the meandering rural roads home, passing countless cows unknowingly feasting in their fields.

Between the Bacon Lady and the helpless little birds, we were of the same mind. Strangely enough, we’d seen documentaries (Food, Inc., in particular) and read enough in the past however-long-we’ve-been-eating-naturally-and-organically to know that meat is an item that we should have been eating in moderation, anyway. But, we’re both meat-and-potato people, borne of meat-and-potato (and cabbage, and pasta – not that Dave would allow cabbage to be cooked in the house…*sigh* Why did I take you for granted, Cabbage, with your buddies, Ham and Carrots? Oh, why? But, it’s the price I pay for a quite happy marriage) people. It’s difficult to break the habit.

So, that being said, we’re not going vegetarian. We’ve been eating “vegetarian” pretty much every week, be it a Meatless Monday or, more likely, Tallow-Free (best I could come up with) Tuesday, but more likely than not, it’s pasta and a salad. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it really shows my lack of ingenuity in the field of culinary arts. I try, and made a meatless Mediterranean Lentil Soup during Irene last Sunday (great day for soup!), which turned out awesome, but I can’t just make soup.

Regardless, I’d call us flexitarians – which is NOT a cop-out, you ignorant people out there (online and in talk shows) who make fun of it! Sorry, whew, I don’t mean to attack folks, but ignorance is my biggest pet peeve. Aside from crappy driving and general rudeness. For those of you who don’t know what the whole flexitarian thing is, it’s GENERALLY (as with all generalizations, there may be individuals who define it differently, hence using the label differently) folks who make a concerted effort to base their diets mostly in grain, vegetables and fruits, with the occasional detour into the land of happy meats. This article describes it pretty well. Even the cookbook author and founder of the famous Moosewood Restaurant in Ithaca (at which I have eaten, go me) is no longer a vegetarian. Ha! Nice.

OUR reasons for going flexitarian are both moral and physical/health-related. We don’t want to be the reason for the death of so many innocent animals. Simultaneously, if we’re truly “voting” each time we purchase something, the fact that the meat is raised humanely (and, if at all possible, locally – y’know, it’s hard for them to lie to your face, easy to lie through packaging), we’d like our vote to count. Heck, I believe in that a little moreso than our current democratic process…but I digress! Let’s just say that we’re huge animal people. Three rescued cats being loved and spoiled rotten in our house. Dissolving into a flood of tears when seeing an animal killed on the side of the road. Boiling mad when news stories come through about abused animals. We can’t be ignorant Americans anymore. Our meat COMES from some place and if we’re going to eat it, we’ve got to remember that.

As for the health part, we feel that curbing our meat intake will a) make us consume healthier proteins and b) pump less red meat into our arteries (mostly Dave’s, he’s more susceptible to cholesterol issues and heart disease…gulp). It’s pretty simple.

So, why not go full-blown vegetarian – or even vegan? A few reasons. One is our families. We don’t hope to be the strange “what’re we going to cook for them” people who throw a wrench into holidays and get-togethers. Otherwise, I’d like to go vegetarian, or even vegan, one day. Really. Who knows, perhaps I’ll have a personality change and do it. But, for now, given my (at times) busy-ness and my (at times) laziness and my husband’s (general) aversion to certain new foods (although he’s getting better!), and my general lack of ability to commit completely to a lifestyle change (sigh), this will have to do. I think the fact that we go local as much as we can and otherwise try to purchase less processed items (although I’d like to master tofu…anyone? Sarah? ;-D) means that we’re on the right path.

So, that being said, I’d LOVE it if anyone here has great vegetarian recipes or valuable links they could share – just hit comment and let ‘er rip! The more the merrier.

On a side note, our breakfasts at Doubleday today consisted of eggs, french toast, home fries (Dave’s personal favorite), meat of our choice (bacon/sausage) and coffee and ran us around 8 or 9 bucks each. Simultaneously, if we’d stopped ourselves and just THOUGHT about what we were putting into our bodies, some vanilla yogurt with granola and berries would have run us $3.50, plus a buck or so for juice or tea. Actually, the place had lots of healthy options we COULD have ordered…

On a second side note (hee hee), YES, I’m suggesting a Wikipedia article. Here are the types of semi-vegetarianism, which kind of amuses me. I’d say that I’d probably like to veer into the realm of pollo-pescetarians, who eat white meat (but no red), one day. Freegans makes me giggle, but actually has some merit – they’re vegan unless it’s free, supporting the low impact, less waste philosophy. I guess we’re headed down that path. If our parents or friends make it for us, we’ll take it! Beggars can’t be choosers, and you don’t want to be a bad guest.

Hannaford v. Chobani

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I’m a general fan of our local supermarket, Hannaford. Heck, you can read how much I love it here, here and here. But, upon recent trips to the store, I have become dismayed…then downtrodden…and eventually pissed enough to jot down an idea for this blog post on my shopping list. (Yes, I even called it “Hannaford v. Chobani”.)

In case you’ve never heard of it, Chobani is a locally-operated producer of high quality Greek-style yogurt. It happens to be de-lish. They’re notorious for two things: #1) Donating lots and lots of their yogurt to great causes; just two that I’m aware of were for the runners and walkers at this year’s “Heart Run and Walk” and to my high school (both to send to a school in Louisiana for a cultural exchange as well as to our school for the kids to try) and #2) Being the fastest-growing yogurt seller (and now #1! Past Dannon and Yoplait!!) in America. Seriously, they’re awesome – and all-natural – AND they support local farmers. Check out their site, it’s worth it. I discovered that they now have kid-friendly yogurt options, which is awe-some!

Clearly I’m excited about the stuff. I tend to purchase the large (32 oz.) container of strawberry (classic), which I bring to school and toss with Kashi Go Lean CrunchΒ  (thanks for teaching me about it, Missy!). Delicious.

So, why am I so upset? I was frustrated to see that the usual $1 price for a 6 oz. container of Chobani (they have so many delicious flavors!!!) has been boosted, not by a few pennies, but to $1.19. A 19% increase?!?! Man! I used to grab the occasional blueberry for Dave to enjoy (gotta be nice to our spouses, y’know…especially when we’re in the doghouse ;-D j/k)…now it’s going to have to be a huge special occasion to do so.

It became immediately clear to me what caused the jump in price: the Hannaford brand, Taste of Inspiration, had released a new Greek-style yogurt – priced at $.85. Not only did they introduce competition at an already-lower price, but they upped the always-steady $1 price of the Chobani product. Call me Communist, but this bugged the heck out of me.

I understand the concept behind competition. Well, sure, I may understand a lot of things. The rise of big business. The shift from rural to urban lifestyles. The advancement of technology. Yep, I get it all…but it doesn’t mean that I agree with it. And this is one of those cases.

A local product made by honest folks who have gotten tons of press nationally that you couldn’t keep on your shelves, and you, Hannaford, simply had to get in on the action. Seriously, there’s a sign…wait, it looks kinda like this:

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This stuff is popular, as it should be. Good people doing good things, providing healthy, high-quality goods. Gee. There must be money to be made off of it. *grumbles* Sorry, that’s not a professional way to vent, but sometimes “GRRR” is all one can say.

How can I (or we?) combat it? I don’t really see a way, other than continuing to purchase my luckily-same-priced 32-oz. stuff, and possibly the occasional “whooooaaaaa, that’s ‘spensive!” 6-oz. stuff (with, perhaps, the odd coupon here and there, nudge-nudge, wink-wink). There’s a little part of me that says “Hey, cool, there’s a cheaper option for folks who can’t afford it”, but the sentiment behind what Chobani does is much grander, in my mind, than that. Hopefully the genuine fervor which has skyrocketed the company to such great heights won’t wane with the introduction of new competition. Here’s hoping!

And, if you don’t have Chobani in your stores yet, talk to the manager and write a letter to Chobani. It’s spreading like wildfire, so be proactive and a part of the “movement”. Support any company that cares about its customers and gives us high-quality, all-natural options. (Jumps off soapbox.)

Cooperstown Farmers’ Market – Our First F.M. Adventure of the Year

Although the weather forecast seemed doomed, Dave bouncily suggested that we head to our first farmers’ market of the year – in Cooperstown. With all that enthusiasm, how could I possibly say, “What, no cozy, “stay in and clean” day?” Plus, I already knew that it’s one of the area’s only indoor markets — it’s open every other Saturday throughout the winter, with normal hours the rest of the year. After hearing some great things about it, and with such an eager partner in tow, we left beneath a steady stream of chilly rain.

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Strangely enough, by the time we reached the baseball rhetoric-riddled Main Street, the sun had taken over and our jackets were unnecessary. It made the short walk toward the barn-like structure used for the market incredibly quaint, especially with other locals and travelers meandering their way with grocery store reusable bags and homemade baskets in tow. The vendors were overflowing to outside its doors, which we saw as a good sign.

Compared to the, admittedly, only other farmers’ market I can recall attending, it was kind of sparse. I’m sure the local ones I’ll start attending next week will be teeny-weeny, so I’m not necessarily complaining about it. There were plenty of vendors, several with the same goods (which we LOVE — it makes it easy to compare prices), mostly incredibly friendly and willing to talk. However, several of the goods were pretty irrelevant to us — tie-dyed shorts, anyone? And there were only a couple vegetable vendors, each with few items we could actually choose from.

Having worked on a dairy farm and lived in a quasi-rural area my whole life, I’m not ignorant about the reasons I wasn’t overwhelmed by lush and plentiful goodies at the CFM. I know. We’re still pretty much off-season. And, I knew that when Dave asked me to go, wide-eyed. Mostly, I wanted to see what the place was about, what the farmers and artisans and cheese-makers were like, and whether it truly is worth it to schlep 45 minutes away for locally-grown goods. There arises a paradox: If you’re going to release your fossil fuel into the atmosphere with a 1 1/2 hour round-trip to get organic, locally-grown goods which are good for you and the environment, is it really equaled-out?

Mind you, it was a wonderful drive (other than for the occasional rain shower) and we did get our first-ever free-range multi-colored XL eggs, Amish cheddar cheese (INCREDIBLE!), very well-priced European-style yogurt and some homemade, environmentally-friendly soaps (all well-thought-out and exciting purchases) as well as a side-trip to visit the ducks at the Fly Creek Cider Mill.

And, as far as the quandary is concerned, I say we still hit the ball out of the park (I do spend too much time at Cooperstown! We’d live there if we could! – not for the baseball). While we used up some gas, we got a great overview of what to expect when the yields REALLY start coming in. I foresee perhaps visiting the CFM once a month while supplementing the occasional CSA and local farmers’ markets more regularly, but it’s definitely not only a great resource for healthy, sustainable goodies, but an always-needed excuse to get away for part of a day.

***I realized after I wrote this that I’d taken a bit of a novelistic approach. Perhaps a slightly-more-sophisticated version of Donna Thompson *cringe*? (If you’re local, you know what that means.) Just a thought.***

First Meatless Monday

Yesterday, I received a cheerful, super-excited email from Dave with a link to a CNN article about meatless Mondays. While this concept is nothing new — especially both growing up Catholic (which made Fridays the meatless days rather than Mondays) — and Paul McCartney, among others, have been doing it for awhile — it’s new to us. Or, at least, a new idea to try. So, we made a couple of large salads and ate plenty of pasta with veggie-laden tomato sauce. Oh, all while watching the 3rd installment of our Netflixed Ken Burns’ “Jazz”. Fun night!

So, after one day of it, what do I think? So far, it didn’t feel like anything different. I think that if we went vegetarian for a few days a week, it’d be much more noticeable. But, we were still excited to be making an effort and, in a way, feel like we’re part of a bigger “movement” — although we’re not ones to be categorized (especially politically, and particularly since Dave takes his news job very seriously) or do things because a group is doing them. πŸ™‚

Last Sunday, we did some shopping at Hannaford to start our process, from buying their bulk corn meal and raw sugar to picking up some great fruits and veggies. It’s hitting the pocketbook pretty hard, but it’s not getting us down. Oh, I even got some organic shampoo and soap, which Dave loooooves the smell of — I’m getting used to it. πŸ˜‰

I’m now off to research soap-making. I find myself getting distracted by about a million different things to research, from safe cosmetics to Earth-friendly cleaning products, when I’m suddenly hit with “get simple about it — look up historic ways of doing this” to stay true to my historical interests and to avoid overdoing things. Thanks for checking in! Things are definitely going very well and even bringing Dave and I closer and closer together.

By the way, check out Dave’s blog, Dave’s Path to Enlightenment, where you can follow his thoughts while reading and learning more about the how to incorporate Buddhist concepts into his everyday life.