Tag Archives: organic grocery

Wait, Is All of This An April Fools’ Joke?

So, yesterday was probably the best April Fools Day on record. Well, the best April Fools’ day in my personal history. And I’m pretty sure none of this was part of an April Fools’ joke.

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1. Student Loan Refund Checks were distributed- Self-explanatory. I’m no longer in the proverbial poor house. I mean, I’m still broke. But at least I’m not scrounging for pennies under seat cushions. Ok, I’m still doing that. Whatever, I CAN OFFICIALLY PAY MY RENT LET’S CELEBRATE.

 

2.  Jessamyn Not Jasmine Takes On The World- Yesterday was packed with a lot of REALLY exciting blog-related developments. Some of them are so exciting that I can’t talk about them quite yet. But one thing that made me super pumped was my mention in Backyard Produce’s weekly newsletter! I wrote a review of their service earlier this week, and they were kind enough to give me a shout out in their publication. As a result, I have quite a few new readers- HELLO NEW READERS! I hope you realize that I get as much from  you as you do from me- if you ever have any suggestions, comments, complaints, requests, ideas, magic tricks, hula hooping tips, etc., feel free to blow up my comment boxes or e-mail me (jessamyneatspraysloves@gmail.com). I’m so glad to internet-meet each and every one of you.

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3. WGBH- Yesterday I found out that I am going to be a WGBH/Kenan Institute Summer Fellow. This fellowship is beyond the cat’s meow- I’m going to spend my summer working at the WGBH headquarters in Boston, as well as spending time at Seftel Productions in NYC. I’ll be working on a project about- well, actually, I don’t know if I’m allowed to reveal the details of the project. Just know that the topic is EXTREMELY interesting, and it is going to involve a lot of interaction and conversation with people from all walks of life. I don’t think there’s a way to express how stoked I am. My excitement about this opportunity extends to every aspect of my personal and professional life. Plus- did I mention I’m going to be in one of my favorite cities all summer?

Speaking of Backyard Produce, have y’all seen some of their offerings this week? Here are three I’m especially excited about:

tatsoi

Tatsoi, a green I’ve wanted to try for a long time. I’ve heard the flavor is similar to a hybrid of bok choy and mustard greens. I love both of those plants, so I’m really excited to try tatsoi. BY PRODUCE POINTS: 7

collard greens

I went off on an extended tangent about proper collard green preparation after my trip to Milner’s restaurant last week. This week, I am really excited to make some collard greens the way my grandma taught me. However, I’m crafting a  vegan friendly version of my family’s famous ham hock-soaked greens. This week I’m going to put in some time with this recipe, and Backyard Produce is going to play a huge role. BY PRODUCE POINTS: 5

purple sweet potatoes

Um, purple sweet potatoes. Need I say more? Smile BY PRODUCE POINTS: 5

If you’re still on the fence about trying Backyard Produce, try this on for size- tell them Jessamyn referred you, and we’ll both get 10 extra points. Is that a win or what?

I’d love to stay and chat, but the sun is peeking out from behind the clouds which means it is a perfect Farmer’s Market day. If you’re racing today, I’m sending you lots of positive vibrations. Actually, I’m sending everyone positive vibrations. Smile

Have a great weekend, y’all!

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Food, Inc., Corporate Farming, Online Farmer’s Markets, and Backyard Produce- An Exercise in American Consumerism

Last weekend- remember  when I went on a pilgrimage to Charlotte and lost my mind at Trader Joe’s? Remember when I mentioned that I didn’t buy very much produce, but that the reason would be explained in the future?

Well, the reason is about to be revealed- but first, let me give a little back story.

(STOP: By reading below this disclaimer, you are allowing yourself to read a stream of conscious and potentially nonsensical rant. You were warned.)

I don’t know how clearly I can state this- I am a cheapskate. I hate paying more money than is absolutely necessary. It’s not just because I hate spending money- it’s because I don’t have a lot of money to spend. There’s never been a point in my life when I haven’t been on a very restrictive budget.

One of the biggest problems with the Western food industry is that it is SIGNIFICANTLY more expensive to eat whole foods than it is to eat processed foods, from potato chips to factory farmed “Idaho Potatoes”. I’ve spent the past three years actively trying to resolve my budget issues with a healthy balance of organically produced food and cheaper options. Up until about four months ago, I thought I’d finally struck the perfect balance.

That was before I saw this:

food, inc

If you are able, rent/buy this film. It’s on netflix instant right now- when you are done reading this entry, WATCH IT*. As one of my friend’s recently said, Food, Inc. should be broadcast on CNN 24/7. EVERYONE needs to see this film.” I can’t tell you how many people I’ve told to watch Food, Inc. who’ve told me that they’ve held off on watching it because they don’t want to feel guilty about or grossed out by their eating habits (i.e.- they will feel guilty about eating meat). I understand this dilemma. But here’s the thing- the movie does not seek to shame anyone. It is not very visually graphic. It doesn’t promote vegetarianism, or any specific diet. It puts the food industry into colors so vivid that you can’t help but wonder why we’ve become so complacent in our food choices.

Here’s the truth- if you didn’t buy your food directly from a farmer, you probably have absolutely no idea where it came from and you CERTAINLY don’t know what’s in it. I’m not just talking about the center aisles of your grocery store- you know, “foods” that come in boxes, or that arrive to your store frozen. I’m talking about the “healthy” fruits and vegetables, the dairy products, and every piece of “fresh” meat and fish homogenously wrapped in plastic for your enjoyment. There is a deliberate veil between food manufacturers and food consumers, and when you start looking behind the curtain you’ll be repulsed by what you see. It’s not just about the literal ingredients of your food- this film exposes all of the unseen costs of producing the food you eat, from distorted food laws and travel costs, to the horrific exploitation of ALL food industry workers. We’re not just talking about exploitation in other countries- the things happening to our American brothers and sisters (hell, our NORTH CAROLINA brothers and sisters) will make your head spin.

And we support them. Every time we go to the grocery store or a restaurant, we support corporations which deliberately try to mislead us. Every time you buy fruits and vegetables produced in far-reaching parts of the globe (which is more than often the case), you are directly furthering deep set afflictions between farmers, workers, governments, and the international oil industry. It is important that, as consumers, we make ourselves aware of the real decisions we’re making, and change our actions in order to affect a balanced economy and work-force.

The balance I struck in my personal eating/buying habits was not where it should be. I was perfectly happy purchasing food that wasn’t produced in an ethical fashion simply because it made my wallet feel less pain. However, the source of pain I feel now has much less to do with money and more to do with the power of my individual dollar. It is much more important for me, as a tax-paying American consumer,  to buy foods which do not support unhealthy corporate farming, which are organically produced, and (whenever possible) support my local economy. In my opinion, this is the most important decision I can make as a consumer. I know how easy it is to say, “I can’t afford to do this” or “I can’t afford to do that”. And it’s true- there are millions of Americans who simply can not afford to make the necessary changes to their lifestyles. BUT I AM NOT ONE OF THEM. And I have to lead by example.

Anyway, one of last week’s groupons was $18 for delivery of one box of local and organic produce from Backyard Produce, a North Carolina online farmer’s market. I have read extensively about online farmer’s markets, and was already well aware of Backyard Produce- but, to be frank, I’ve always thought fruit  and vegetable delivery was a luxury I couldn’t afford. Though this groupon deal was a steal, the typical price of a medium box of produce is $23.49, not including the $12 annual packaging fee. However, after critically looking at my produce buying habits, I decided it would be worth it to try out Backyard Produce with this groupon.

Here’s how it works:

You choose from three different sizes- small, medium, and large. Each package size equates to a certain number of points- 20, 40, or 60. You then use the points to choose from their weekly selection of food options. The options rotate every week, and are subject to availability- while not all selections are locally produced, they are organic, fresh, and arrive to your front door the following Wednesday in refrigerated boxes to ensure freshness.

Sign-up is really simple, and you have up until Sunday night to decide which fruits and veggies you want in that week’s delivery. I made my choices, sent in my order, and waited with bated breath until Wednesday.

Yesterday, after a very stressful day, I was pleased to see this waiting on my front porch:

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I gave very specific directions on how to reach my apartment (which can be a little confusing), and I was super pleased to see that the delivery person had no trouble figuring it out.

As promised, the produce was protected by refrigeration insulation:

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Just in case you were wondering, the annual $12 packaging fee helps them reduce the amount of packaging they use. Every week, they pick up your packaging from the previous delivery and reuse it. Great system.

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Let’s see what I ordered, eh?

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Granny Smith apples, organic WA – 2 count- 4 points

Baby Carrots, organic CA – 1lb- 5 points

Navel Oranges, organic FL – 3 count- 5 points

Tommy Atkins Mango, organic Ecuador – 2 count- 3 points each  (6 points total)

Salad Mix, Cottle Farm NC organic – 1/2 pound- 4 points

Kiwifruit, organic Chile – 2 count- 3 points

Bibb Lettuce, Green Haven Farms hydroponic NC – 1 head- 7 points

TOTAL POINTS USED: 34

As you can see, I only used 34 of my 40 points, leaving 6 points for a future delivery. I was extremely pleased with the quality of my items- bruise free, chilled, and clean. The mangos are nice and large (which is not always the case with mangos), and everything smells great.

At this point I can’t decide if it will be worth it to use Backyard Produce in the future. I still think it’s a little too expensive- but is it really?

I mean, I spend a lot of money on produce every week. In fact, I’m probably spending more than $23.49, not including the gas to/from the grocery store/farmer’s market. Though I’ll keep going to these spots for the rest of my items (and any incidental vegetation I might want), it is really awesome to have fresh, local, organic produce arrive at my door and ready for the week without having to judge by sale prices. I can change up my order every week, depending upon my weekly meal plan. Hmm.

All in all, I’m very pleased with my Backyard Produce experience thus far. This particular company only services the North Carolina Triad, Triangle, and Charlotte area. However, there are online farmer’s market delivery services all over the country- I’ve heard about them in urban centers, and in other parts of America. At the very least, they are worth a try-the convenience factor is unbeatable, and the price might be in your ballpark.

*And yes, that was an inadvertent plug for netflix. I love netflix- and so should you.

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FonDOs and DON’Ts: Why I’m Not a Vegetarian

Yesterday, thanks to a series of modern science miracles (dayquil, sudafed) paired with home cure-alls (a 48 hour long relationship with my neti pot) and the best remedy of them all (SLEEPSLEEPSLEEP), I emerged from the depths of plague just in time to make a fondue Valentine’s Day Dinner for my girlfriend.

 

Fondue incorporates everything I love about food and community- it brings diners together to create a meal which is representative of individuals, while encouraging fellowship. Seriously, I could probably write a dissertation on ‘how and why fondue can create a food revolution’, but I’ll try to contain myself. Anyway, my obsession with fondue started a few years ago: ever since then, I’ve amassed a collection of fondue pots (so far I own seven) which are on display around my apartment. This also means that I’m constantly looking for excuses to use them.

(For those of you who are rolling your eyes at the thought of a fondue pot collection, I encourage you to take a look at your shoe/dvd/perfume collection and keep the judging to a minimum.)

Anyway, making a three course fondue dinner at home, while it does take a bit of prep work, is really easy. The process is made even easier when you haven’t spent your weekend dealing with a nose full of mucus, but that’s neither here nor there.

When planning a dinner of this magnitude (even if it’s only for two people), I find it’s helpful to make a detailed shopping list- this is a preventative measure so that you don’t end up wandering around a grocery store for longer than necessary. Ok, maybe I did that anyway- but that has more to do with the fact that I was sick, partially delirious, and the fact that I’m not immune to the well-orchestrated insanity of Whole Foods on Valentine’s Day Eve.

Already owning a fondue pot (or seven) makes planning a spur of the moment Valentine’s Dinner pretty easy- therefore, I would recommend investing in a fondue pot of your very own. Since I bought most of my pots at yard sales, my entire collection probably has an exact monetary value of less than $40. However, a couple of my pots are individually worth more than $40. For those who are not willing to scour yard sales, I would recommend purchasing a pot with a reliable non-stick cooking surface and easy to use heating system- if you’re going to purchase more than one pot, feel free to get exciting with your heat sources (butane fuel, tea light candles). However, if you’ve never done fondue outside of the occasional Melting Pot Dinner, I would recommend getting an easy to use plug-in fondue pot. There a couple of models which would make great starter pots- Rival FD350S and Cuisnart CFO-3SS, for starters.

Anyway, I made a classic Swiss cheese fondue and Fondue Bourguignonne, a traditional meat fondue. Here’s my first confession- I was too cheap and lazy to make a swiss cheese fondue from scratch, so I bought a pre-packaged Swiss fondue.

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I was very pleased with this purchase- it made my life SO MUCH EASIER, and cost less than it would have cost to individually buy the necessary cheeses. I bought this box of cheese for $6.99 at World Market and it was worth every penny. To dip in the cheese, I chopped up a couple of granny smith apples and half a loaf of 3-grain whole wheat sourdough from Whole Foods.

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I think it’s best to use a really hearty bread for cheese fondue- it’s less easy to drown your bread in the cheese, and it helps decrease the odds of cheese overdose (something I’ve never experienced, but am absolutely sure can happen. To someone who is less cheese obsessed).

Fondue Bourguignonne is really easy to make, as it’s just 2 cups of oil (I used canola) heated to 350 degrees. You dip the meat in the oil, cook until your desired ‘done-ness’ and voila- meat, it’s what’s for dinner. However, Fondue Bourguignonne is NOT healthy, and VERY dangerous. In fact, it’s probably a good idea to have a fire extinguisher nearby. I mean, if you’re not using an open flame then it’s probably ok, but sputtering oil does not feel good when it comes in contact with bare, tender skin. Basically, use caution when preparing this dish.

Since this was a special occasion, I tried to buy really high quality meats- I decided to use a local London Broil, and local sweet Italian sausage. I chopped both meats into bite size, fast cooking pieces.

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As a rule, I don’t eat a lot of meat. It’s very expensive, and it becomes especially expensive to buy meat which doesn’t make me feel like a horrible person for even looking at the packaging. However, when it’s possible to find meat that was butchered from animals who were raised in humane conditions and fed meals which are representative of their actual dietary needs (as opposed to wide-spread animal homicide through corn feed), I have less of a problem incorporating meat in my diet. For me (I can’t and won’t speak for anyone else), it’s important to be able to make a direct connection between the meat I’ve consumed and the animal that gave up its life. It’s nearly impossible for me to come to terms with meat that’s been slaughtered in factories which exploit both the animals and the workers. However, I think it’s important to support local farmers, and raising livestock is one of the traditional crucial elements of a working farm. Do I eat meat on a daily basis? No. Will I eat meat if the circumstances are acceptable? Sure.

Anyway, one of the best parts of making a meat fondue is getting your meat nice and crispy, then coating it in tasty dipping sauces.

I made two dipping sauces from scratch- they were both REALLY easy, and pretty healthy.

First I made a mustard sauce using the rest of my FAGE Greek yogurt- I even mixed it up right in the container.

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Mustard Sauce

Ingredients:

1/2 cup Greek Yogurt

3 tbsp Dijon Mustard

1 tsp Coriander

1 clove Garlic

1-2 tbsp Lemon Juice

Salt and Pepper to Taste

Combine all the ingredients, mix well and chill until serving.

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I have to say, this sauce turned out awesome- This is my own original recipe, and I was really pleased with the consistency and flavor. Most mustard sauces use mayonnaise and/or sour cream as a base, but Greek yogurt gives a delicious creamy texture for a fraction of the calories. Plus, on a personal note, I think it tastes better.

I also made a Teriyaki Sauce.

Teriyaki Sauce

Ingredients:

– 1/2 cup chicken stock (I used Maggi bouillon dissolved in H20)

– 3 Tbsp low sodium soy sauce
– 2 Tbsp fresh or bottled lemon juice
– 2 tsp cooking sherry
– 2 tsp honey
– 1 clove garlic

Combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan; heat to boiling. Refrigerate until serving time. Can be served warm or cold.

This sauce also turned out quite delicious.

When preparing new recipes, I know many cooks on a budget can be deterred by expensive ingredients that they don’t use frequently. I mean, hello? Cooking sherry? It’s not exactly an every day ingredient. However, my method for gaining a recipe friendly pantry is to make a list of dry ingredients which occur frequently in recipes. Then, gradually (one or two at a time) purchase the ingredients during routine grocery store trips- this way, when you come across a new recipe or concoct a dream recipe,  you have the necessary tools on hand without going into spontaneous debt. I’ve accumulated countless vinegars, oils, and spices using this method: most recently I bought toasted sesame oil which has elevated my impromptu tofu scrambles to another level.

For dessert, I decided not to make a river of chocolate fondue and opted for a couple of (GASP) store bought desserts.

Actually, this was probably my best idea- I bought four tiny desserts (two mini chocolate covered cheesecake bites, a mini-cannoli, and a petit four). This way, my girlfriend and I were able to have a very sweet dessert without creating a ton of leftovers and without breaking the caloric bank. Also, they were only .99 per treat- Whole Foods Market, you are my valentine.

I hope everyone has a great Valentine’s Day. If you’re single, try not to let the antics of your slobbering friends (myself included) get you down- self-love is much more important than love from a partner.

And if you’re slobbering all over someone, try to remember than Valentine’s Day is not the only day of the year that you should make a noted effort to show care for the one you love (or ones– monogamy is not for everyone).

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Product Review: Siggi’s Icelandic Style Skyr Yogurt

I love yogurt. It’s one of the many reasons why I have difficulty commiting to a vegan diet- that, and all the delicious varieties of cheese this world has to offer. However, I don’t like certain kinds of yogurt- in particular, runny, fruit on the bottom varieties. Ok, I’m not going to discriminate against all ‘fruit on the bottom’ yogurts, but c’mon- I know you’ve probably had a bad experience with some 4/$1 brand of runny, low-fat, fruit on the bottom yogurt. If you’re anything like me and could recount pages of bad yogurt adventures, you have probably developed a deep love affair with Greek yogurt.

Greek Flag

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jos smiles

So yes, I absolutely love Greek yogurt. Especially Oikos and Fage. But recently I saw a new type of yogurt called Siggi’s Icelandic Style Skyr Yogurt hanging out in my mom’s icebox.

Ok, Icelandic. Things I know about Iceland:

1. Bjork

2. Lesbian Prime Minister

As far as I’m concerned, these two facts alone have given Iceland a fairly high placement on my ‘must visit list’.

But, um, skyr? Can I get some culinary subtitles here? Does that mean the yogurt is especially thin? Is this some sort of Northern European Greek yogurt? WHAT’S THE DEAL?

Skyr, for those of you who don’t know about wikipedia, is apparently a cheese and very popular in Iceland (Captain Obvious). Implication? This must be a thick yogurt in the style of Greek yogurt. Therefore, when Jessamyn sees that Siggi’s yogurt is on sale at Whole Foods Market, she decides that it’s time to try out this new treat.

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First of all, I need to address the issue of money and price. As I’ve discussed before, I am a textbook cheapskate. I hate spending more money than is absolutely necessary- most of the time, I honestly can’t afford to spend more money than is absolutely necessary. However, I’ve recently come to a crossroad about buying inexpensive foods-

Is it worth it to buy a lot of cheap food that you don’t love to eat, or is it better to buy a smaller amount of high quality food you love to eat?

(Yeah, that’s right- I’m expressing personal relationships with food. Learn to love it, because you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.)

I used to be in the first camp- but I think that if you can afford (financially) to change to the second camp, do so immediately. I have purchased giant 32oz containers of store brand yogurt which get moldy in my fridge because the texture makes me want to vomit- thereby making the ‘money savings’ a waste. I should have just bought the brand I liked and would have consumed. Buy for quality- this is Jessamyn’s official opinion, as of January 23, 2011.

ANYWAY, back to the yogurt at hand. The first thing I noticed about Siggi’s? THIS IS THE THICKEST YOGURT IN HISTORY. In my mind, that makes Siggi’s yogurt a revelation in the world of dairy, and I’m officially saving money for an Icelandic vision quest. Seriously, the yogurt is so creamy and thick that I had difficulty mixing it up with my spoon.

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Check out that (lack of) white balance. Also, welcome to my ridiculously messy bedroom.

The texture is smooth as a baby’s bottom- seriously, I can’t use enough positive  adjectives in regard to the consistency. However, even though the texture is out of this world thick and creamy, the yogurt doesn’t weigh you down. I went to the gym shortly after eating the 6oz container and felt fine.

My only problem with this particular type was the flavor- maybe it’s the kool-aid drinking American in me, but I found the flavor of the vanilla Siggi’s yogurt to be a bit too subtle. It was still delicious, but it was a little too vague for my personal standards. However, because I’m a resourceful Southern girl, I hit it with 1/2 tablespoon of honey- flavor problem solved.

I’m actually kind of upset because my local Whole Foods Market only carries the vanilla Siggi’s- they have several other flavors (GRAPEFRUIT? POMEGRANATE?!) that I’m absolutely dying to try, and I can’t! My feelings are hurt, Siggi– hook a sister up.

Anyway, get thee to your local Whole Foods Market (or Fresh Market. or EarthFare.) and try out Siggi’s Icelandic Skyr. And don’t let the price deter you- the splurge is totally worth it.

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Say it Ain’t SNOW: A Recap of New Purchases, and Why Corporate Farming is Destroying My Judgement

Today I was reminded of one of the side effects of living in a world dominated by corporate food manufacturing: it’s very easy to forget that weather directly affects farming opportunities. I mean, when you can buy peaches and strawberries in the middle of December, why the hell would anyone be thinking about the fact that those items are out of season and didn’t come from a farm nearby?

(It’s probably because we live in the Matrix. Or America. You know, semantics.)

Therefore, if there’s been an unusual amount of snow and ice in your area, there will be a very meager selection of produce at your local farmer’s market.

Let me make this a little more simple:

This:

(Source)

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Whatever, I’ll hit up the market later in the week. Anyway, while I was at home with my parentals and little bro, my mom and I went on a mother/daughter grocery shopping expedition and I found steel cut oats at ALDI:

Um, what? I had difficulty finding a selection of steel cut oats at Harris-Teeter, and there’s a giant display at ALDI for half the typical price? I won’t look a gift horse in the mouth, but that strikes me as slightly amusing. Now, these oats are quick cooking, so I don’t know how they will compare to these oats:

I’ll be sure to let you guys know how the taste testing goes down with these two items. Whole Foods versus Aldi– this ought to be very interesting.

Also, my mom hooked me up with a new kind of tahini:

I’m pretty excited to try it- Mama Bear got it for a great price using amazon.com, but some of the reviews say it’s kind of bitter. Do you eat tahini? Do you have a favorite way of preparing it? I, for one, am about to embark on a series of hummus experimental adventures.

Also, when I arrived home in Cancer City, guess what was waiting for me?

And Yes, I did pose these photos on top of my record player.

🙂 🙂 🙂 I love new purchases, especially when they come in the form of an Eat Smart Precision Pro Kitchen Scale and an Omron GoSmart Pocket Pedometer.

Because I’m Jessamyn and I have the patience of a two year-old, OF COURSE I had to immediately start weighing everything in my kitchen using my lovely new scale. I won’t bore you with all my testing, but I was very impressed with the scale’s accuracy and ESPECIALLY the great convenience of the tare function. By using the tare button, I can easily place a plate/bowl on the scale and zero out its weight before measuring my actual food. There’s no silly math involved at ALL. It’s a REVELATION, y’all.

Plus, doesn’t it look so pretty next to my coffeemaker? Now my kitchen is semi-color coordinated.

(Ok, I’m making an ass of myself.)

I’d have taken more photographs of my pedometer, but I immediately adjusted all the settings, clipped it to my shirt, and walked around my kitchen like an idiot for ten minutes. Things I’ve learned so far? Apparently I have a very short stride, and walk too slowly. I’m sure more lessons will be learned as soon as I start walking and acting like a normal person again. Ok, that’s probably asking a bit too much- everyone knows I’m nowhere near normal.

How was your Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day? Did you act more or less silly than I did?

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Oats and Quinoa and Grocery Stores: OH MY!

As I write this entry, I’m sitting in the deli/mini grocery/coffeeshop my girlfriend works in, and I’m reminded of how lucky I am to have a store so close to my apartment which sells bulk spices and grains.

Wait a minute, let me back up and give a little free publicity: the store of which I’m speaking is called Washington Perk , and it’s fulfilling a serious grocery shortage in the Winston-Salem, NC area.

Ok, I’ll be more specific- yes, there are tons of grocery stores in W-S. Harris Teeter and Food Lion pretty much dominate the grocery options, though many people also utilize other big name chains (Costco, Wal-Mart, etc.) In my immediate neighborhood, we have a very substantial Spanish-speaking population and are lucky enough to have a Compare Foods Supermarket. For those of you who are unfamiliar, Compare Foods specializes in items which are specific to Latin cuisine. There’s a great Spanish bakery, vast crates of bulk beans, as well as an extensive butcher and deli. There’s also a multitude of options in food categories which are typically sparse or bare in your typical “American” grocer- where else can you find ten different kinds of Mexican hot chocolate? Also, on the scale of “expensive grocery stores”, CF ranks on the very low end of the spectrum.

However, Compare Foods is not a great source for organic produce (or any other organic item), and it can be cost in-effective to shop for items which are not prominent ingredients in Latin food culture. For example, though cheese is used in different types of dishes, traditional cheese (cheddar, etc.) produced “for” American cookery is EXTREMELY expensive. This is very similar to Super G Mart, a store in my hometown of Greensboro, NC, which specializes in Asian cookery. Super G Mart’s produce and meat selections are an unbeatable price/quality equation. However, I’ve seen packages of cheese costing nearly $7.

Of the available stores, there are very few which are locally owned. There are also very few which offer a large selection of local and/or organic products. And in my actual neighborhood, there are absolutely no coffee shops, and very few restaurants. This is where Washington Perk comes in. The Perk is locally owned, and features fair trade coffee, a small (but growing!) selection of locally produced dairy and produce, as well as a number of organic grocery options. There’s also a fairly inexpensive deli, and the aforementioned bulk spices and grains.

These are all very important features because one of the only other organic grocers in town is Whole Foods Market, and it’s not near my apartment AT ALL (though, for the record, I’m a fan of Whole Foods and everything for which they stand.)

Wow. Um, ok. Shall we get back to the point of this entry? 🙂

Anyway, there are a number of foods which I want to endeavor to make part of my regular diet during the next few months. Several of these foods hold nutrients and vitamins which I’m definitely not getting enough of, and I think they will help provoke my urge to create new recipes and meal ideas. Here are three with which I can’t wait to get more familiar:

(Photo Credit: Stacey Boyer)

Steel cut oats

My father has sworn by steel cut oats for a number of years, but I’ve always been turned off by how long it takes for them to become soft and chewy, as opposed to tough chunks which get stuck in your teeth leading to a morning of being called ‘oatmeal mouth’. I’m also turned off by the price, but most foods which are actually good for the human body tend to fall outside of my budget. I’m coming to the conclusion that instead of choosing unhealthy options because of the price, I need to re-work my entire food budget.

Danica of Danica’s Daily has a great recipe featuring steel cut oats which I am extremely psyched to try.

(Photo Credit: Stephanie of Noshtopia)

Quinoa

Quinoa is the new love of my epicureal life. I can’t believe I’ve let my food discrimination keep me away from this delicious delicacy for so long! The texture is an excellent substitute for rice or couscous, and it is unbelievably versatile. It can be savory, sweet, salty, or all three and more!

(All these exclamation points are making me feel like Billy Mays. (!))

(Photo Credit: Benefits of Spirulina)

Spirulina

I’ve been reading a lot about the positive health benefits of adding spirulina into one’s diet. Spirulina is a complete protein, and contains all essential amino acids. It’s stronger than the average plant protein, and it’s rich in a host of vitamins and minerals. Of course, the color and flavor can both be rather off-putting, but I get the impression that spirulina powder can be painlessly added to food and drinks.

What about you? What foods/recipes are you excited to try out this year?

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