Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Can food cure a dreary day?

I know I am not alone in the feeling. You're tired. You're bored. You feel restless. We've all been there. So you reach for a cookie. Or a chocolate. Or anything that makes you happy to eat, in hopes that it will make you feel better.

So, does it?

I'm posing the question partially in earnest, because I am curious about other people's experiences with food cravings. (Feel free to comment!) However, my personal theory is that it doesn't really make anything better in the long run (surprise surprise), although there is certainly something satiating and satisfying about eating it in the moment.

Take today, for example. After waking up at 5:30, and unable to fall back asleep, I decided to start the day early. I think between my pre-dawn wake up and a general feeling of "blah", I was in the mood to eat sweets today. Fortunately for me, my coworker was kind enough to bring in some leftover cookies from her Yom Kippur breakfast. Surely those make a fabulous 10am snack, I thought as I went for one. And then two. And they were delicious. Usually I limit myself to one main "sweet" per day - my ability for self control comes only from the fact that I don't have a huge sweet tooth in the first place. But today was different. After my morning cookie indulgence (chocolate chip AND oatmeal raisin - I'm wild and crazy!) I decided that I needed an afternoon snack. So I ate not one, not two, but like 8 ginger snaps. And they were stale (although I kind of like them that way). My rational - I wanted to finish the bag. And I was bored. Not my best example of good judgment.

Fast forward until now (I wrote the previous part a few hours ago). Well, my eating habits haven't gotten better but my mood has! I just stopped at Dave's Fresh Pasta for eggs on my way home (stay tuned for upcoming posts on the fabulousness that is Dave's...) , and after a mildly humorous interaction with my regular sales guy there during which I tried to pay for $2.50 eggs with a credit card, only to be told that there is a $5 limit, and then scrounged together leftover coins from my wallet to pay him at least $2 (he said he'd call it even at $2!), I was approached by another sales person with a chocolate croissant in her hand, who proceeded to ask if I wanted it for free! Did I ever! Why ruin a great day of unhealthy eating by having something nutritional for dinner! Bring on the chocolate croissant!! So, I just ate it. For dinner. Sure, I'll be hungry in about an hour and will probably eat the three sad leftover frozen shrimp dumplings from Trader Joe's that have been waiting patiently in my freezer for a night just like this. But for now, I have decided that instead of feeling badly about eating badly in the moment, I am going to embrace it. Even if I know that I'll be starving and cranky when the sugar high wears off.

Maybe that's the key to enjoying a little nutritional deviance in the moment - I shouldn't ruin the glory of indulging on too many sweets/fried foods/fill in the blank unhealthy eating by feeling guilty for eating it, but rather savor it and know that there is always time to get back on the bandwagon of health eating sometime....you know... later! And you though this was a blog about healthy vegetarian eating....

(Stay tuned for the post update during which I inevitably lament the decision to eat 10 cookies and a chocolate croissant in one day....fortunately I have got a whole batch of kale soup to cure that feeling! )

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Why someone should invent smell-o-vision

I woke up this morning to rain. I knew it was coming, and secretly I was kind of looking forward to a rainy Sunday. Yesterday was the most glorious fall day. My friend Amal and I took advantage of the beautiful weather and went out to farm country - we visited the Harvest Fest at Gaining Ground in Concord, and were pleasantly surprised to be greeted with a delicious lunch buffet full of farm fresh foods. We continued our day of outdoor autumn appreciation by visiting Carver Hill Orchards, in Stow, where we ended up picking apples and laying in the field, soaking in the smells and beauty of it all.

So with that start to my weekend, I was kind of glad to have an excuse to stay home and relax around the apartment (although I have million things I should be doing!) So in honor of the rain, I stayed in bed this morning after waking up and finished reading Ruth Reichel's Tender at the Bone, the first of her memoirs about her young life as a budding chef and food critic. Her writing makes me salivate - she uses the most lush and colorful language to describe food and it is amazing how well she brings to life the dishes she discusses. I finished the book this morning - I'm going to do my best to hold out on reading her next book, so I can savor the deliciousness of her writing for a little while longer...

Needless to say, I was inspired and in the mood for cooking by the time I got up! I started the day with a fried egg on toast spread with basil pesto, and I tried out a new experiment - I made my own chai tea! It was delicious and very easy - I used this
recipe, and even though I put in only half the called for sugar (and used soy milk), it was still a little sweet for my taste. But I will definitely make it again - I might even make more this afternoon!

Breakfast though was not enough to satiate my desire to cook (note to all - while my day may sound super productive to some, really it was a full on attempt at procrastination against some important things that I still have to do - just like writing this blog post is a form of procrastination!) Next up - apple sauce. I cut up a bunch of the apples I had picked yesterday (Romes, Macouns and Macs) and stuck them in a big pot with a cinnamon stick and some cloves. I cooked it for at least an hour, and the house filled up with the delicious, cozy, enveloping smell of apples and spice.

As delicious as apple sauce is, I recognize that it will not tide me through the week of meals ahead. So that brings me to cooking adventure number three for the day - soup! A perfect day to simmer a pot of hearty soup. The only problem - I have virtually no food at home, and am avoiding going grocery shopping on a rainy Sunday (when pretty much every other person in Somerville and Cambridge is bound to be at the grocery store).

So, here is what I came up with - it's currently simmering on the stove, tempting me with it's delicious basil smell, but because I haven't eaten it yet I can't fully vouch for it's flavor. I'll have to update this post later, but for now, my recipe:

Green Kale Soup (great for a rainy day)

1 large bunch of curly kale (you could really use any kind)
1 medium onion
4 cloves garlic
1 leek
1 can of cannellini beans
1 cup barley

1/2 cup of basil pesto
olive oil
splash of white wine
8 cups water
salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste

I first sauteed the onion, leek and garlic in the oil, and after about 10 minutes, I added a few splashes of white white (partially for flavor, partially because I want to use up the wine before it goes bad!)

After the onions were soft and slightly browned, I added the kale, which I had washed, ripped up and removed the stems from. Next, add the water. I used enough to cover the kale (I had a lot of kale - really the inspiration for this soup was the need to use up my kale!) Then I rinsed the barley and the beans and added both. Finally, I dropped in the pesto (I had made a huge batch of pesto back in August and froze it in muffin tins - so I added 2 muffins worth of pesto)

I've been simmering the soup for about 45 minutes now and the veggies are all cooked but the flavors need to meld a little more. Oh, I also tried something different that I had read about ages ago - I have been saving the rind of a nice parm cheese for a while because I heard it was good to add to soups to give a little intensity to the flavor. So I tossed a chunk of rind in there - we'll see what happens!

Ok - the smell of the dish is definitely calling me into the kitchen - must go and stir the pot (maybe once my green soup is done I'll finally buckle down and do my other work - wish me luck!)

UPDATE: The soup came out great! The only thing I would do differently would be to add a little less barley - it was a little barley heavy, and the grain soaked up more of the liquid that I had anticipated. But other than that, delicious!!

Friday, September 25, 2009

The harvest awaits....

After a few days of humid, sticky late summer weather, I woke up this morning with the distinct sense that fall was truly in the air. The sun was shining brilliantly, and dappled the sidewalk as it shone through the brightly colored leaves. I had a spring in my step on the way to work - which is unusual on a Friday, when my only spring is the one that means I am one step closer to the weekend! I think the spring in my step was just enough to push me over the edge on the whole blog thing. Then the topic of blogs came up in a work meeting, and I decided - now's the time. What am I waiting for?! Blog world - here I come!!

Least you think this blog will be a random string of self-aggrandizing musings on life, think again. Well actually, it may fit that bill at some points, but the intention is broader - I view this as a more structured forum for me to share my creative outlet with the world. For those of you who know me, (and frankly, if you are reading my first blog posting and you don't know me - well, then I'm flattered! And it's nice to meet you, stranger), you know that I love to cook. Specifically (and among other things), I love to cook vegetables. In fact, I really love everything to do with vegetables. I love planting them, growing them, harvesting them, eating them - the works! I have always been into cooking and eating, but in the past 8 months or so, I turned a corner, and have been adopting what I think of as a more holistic approach to food and eating. I have become passionate about where my food comes from, and that has ushered in what I loving refer to as my "farm era". This summer I have indulged myself in one of the most glorious of summer traditions - relying on farmers markets and local farms for my food.

So that brings me to this blog. For the past few months, I have been toying with publishing a blog. I had a seed of an idea (haha no pun intended!) but was afraid of the commitment that it takes to upkeep a blog. But today, with that fall nip in the air and that sunshine on my face, and with a the memories of my delicious dinner from last night still tickling my taste buds, I decided to throw caution to the wind and start the blog I've been wanting to start.

Now, because I am someone who needs a little discipline in life, I have decided to lay out my strategy for this blog here:

  • The broad topic of the blog is about food and all that relates to it - recipes, photos, farms, plants, animals, restaurants and more.
  • Specifically, I plan to focus the theme of the blog on my attempts, as a fish-eating vegetarian who lives in Somerville, Massachusetts, to eat locally, healthily and holistically year round (warning: there may very well be venting about how hard it is to find local food in Massachusetts in January - but I will just have to deal!)
  • I am trying to approach this with realistic expectations about the time commitment I can make to keeping up a blog. Right now, I hope to post at least once a week - ideally I'd like to be inspired more often, but we'll see how the process goes.

Finally, about the name (I need to wrap this first entry up because I want to head home and, well, eat!) I think the name "Bloom Mangia" represents what I am doing here - talking not just about food and eating, but also about where food comes from, and what food means to me and to others in the world. I love the visualization of something blooming - not just growing, but bursting into the world in bloom. And mangia, because I love the energy and color that the word elicits, and most importantly, my mom (even though she's not the Italian one!) would often say "mangia, mangia!" when we sat down for dinner.

So thank you - the 4 of you out there who are reading this:) I hope to be providing culinary inspiration, as well as a little humor, in the coming months as I share my foodie (btw, I hate that word!) musings with the blogosphere.