My food philosophy, revised.
So I wanted to talk a bit about how my food philosophy has changed most recently, and discuss how that has changed my grocery shopping habits.
Here are 7 things I try to do in making choices about food.
- I prefer local food over high carbon footprint, anonymously sourced food. I like to know who handles my food, thank them directly, and make sure that they are doing well for helping me be well. If everyone did this, we’d all be better off. If the food is not local, such as coffee or bananas, or tea, I try to make choices that benefit the grower directly, such as fair trade offerings. If food is available locally, I will choose it over a remotely sourced food.
- I prefer organic food to commercial farming methods. No one needs to eat pesticides or chemical fertilizers. The need for pesticide aggression in commercial farming is one of convenience and mass growing efforts, usually of monocrops where the pests evolve to resist less aggressive pesticides. Smaller farms can pay more attention to the crops, the soil, and the methods for their plants, and I want to support that effort.
- I prefer natural genetic evolution to Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO). I’m saddened by the Obama Administration’s recent support of the efforts of GMO organizations.
- I prefer to cook and bake and brew my food rather than to pay for having it done for me. It usually tastes as good or better than the food I buy in a restaurant, I never get my order wrong, and I’m able to very tightly control my caloric intake. It is always, always, always cheaper.
- I prefer whole foods over processed foods. I like foods that Michael Pollan would approve of.
- I prefer to grow my food when possible. I live in a studio apartment, with very little spare space, but so far I have an herbal tea garden with German chamomile, basil, sage, and oregano, all delicious teas.
- I’m mostly vegetarian. I eat meat occasionally, usually as a condiment, usually in situations where the food is already prepared, like chicken broth based soup at a restaurant, or at a friend’s house.
What do I keep on hand?
So with all of this in mind, I have started to cut down the cans, boxes, and packages of processed foods in my cupboard, most of which I’ve not touched since my nutritional lifestyle change almost a year ago. I’ve had more than my share of Progresso soups lately, and I’m glad to see them go. I am replacing these past staples with new staples in my cupboard, fridge and freezer, and using most of them at least once each week.
- A variety of apples and Navel Oranges. I eat at least 3 of these a day.
- Seedless Grapes, cherries, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries and raisins and other dried fruits. I snack on these.
- Mixed nuts in shell: peanuts, almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans, and Macadamia nuts. I shell and blend these to make a mixed nut butter.
- Leafy greens, including spinach and kale. I use these in dinners and stir fry.
- Whole grain flour, barley, and corn meal or grits. I bake a loaf of bread each week, eating a quarter of it each day. I use the corn meal for polenta, corn bread, and as a texture in other dishes.
- Yeast, baking powder and baking soda. Who doesn’t like pancakes?
- Peas, String beans, lentils, chickpeas and legumes. Great protein.
- Cabbage and Brussels sprouts. Great texture and flavor.
- Asparagus. A treat.
- Bananas. One of my regrets. I really wish they could grow bananas in New Jersey.
- Tomatoes in many shapes sizes and colors.
- Potatoes, onions, garlic and carrots.
- Raw sugar and honey. I like it sweet.
- Olive and peanut oil. I like it umami.
- Corn and popcorn. Corn as a whole food is very good food.
- Granola mix. This varies, but I like a little toasty, crunchy, sweet mouthful.
- Peppers. I like it spicy.
- Rosemary, cilantro, parsley, basil, peppercorns, sea salt. I think that these items are what bring food from delicious to sublime.
- Eggs. I buy them locally, where I can see the chickens.
- Water. I drink 8 cups a day, usually in tea.
This is where I am at right now. I may change again, but it’s a process. I know this: I’m fit, content, satiated, and happy with my nutrition. I feel great. I challenge you to try this for a week or a month, and see what happens. You might love it like I do.
- Reasons to Buy and Eat Organic Food? (ourlittlefamilyadventure.wordpress.com)
- Top 10 excuses for Obama signing the Monsanto Protection Act (thedailysheeple.com)
- 8 reasons GMOs are bad for you (sott.net)
- Common Food Items Could Contain 180 Times More Fluoride Than Tap Water (secretsofthefed.com)
I have tried to find an especially easy meal to get about 500 calories in a good balance of fat, carbohydrates, and protein. It should accomplish the following:
- local food
- variable and extensible according to seasonality and availability
- whole food
- well-balanced nutrition
- raw food
I think I found it.
Fruit with granola and nut butter:
In a 2 cup bowl, combine granola and peanut butter into a paste, dice and add apple, add raisins and mix.
It is addictive. It’s so delicious that I crave it, and have had it every day since I first made it. The fruit adds a bright sweetness, the raisins add a chewy licorice depth, the granola brings a crunchy texture, and the peanut butter holds everything together. At 8 grams of fat, 10 grams of protein, and 87 grams of carbohydrate, it is very close to my nutritional percentages that I try to get for the day. The sugar is all fructose, and it has no refined sugars. The ingredients are local and organic. I could make the raisins myself, and have a plan to start drying fruit this season. It’s raw food, whole food, good food. 440 calories for the whole bowl.
- Trail Mix Granola Bars (apinchofnutmeg.wordpress.com)
- 25 Breakfast Recipes We Love! (abeautifulmess.com)
- Peanut Butter Banana Protein Pancakes! (skinnychimp.wordpress.com)
- Peanut Butter Banana Powerhouse Bowl (flapjacksandsunshine.wordpress.com)
I enjoy coffee very much. I have recently enjoyed it less recently though, because I’ve begun to realize how it negatively affects my persona. I recognized the effects one day as I was sitting with my children, everything was going fine, and I decided to make myself some coffee. I quickly became quick to anger, chaotic in my mind, and a subtle distress, shakiness, and forgetfulness appeared. I thought maybe it was something else, or that maybe the particular situation of my life at that moment was having an effect, but after sensing this each time I have coffee after, I realize that for my particular body, this is causal. I only noticed this because I specifically focused on it, becoming more aware over time of effects of certain foods and situations on my persona, and removed other stimuli to try to see if coffee was the culprit. For me, it was. I am kind of sad about this fact, but I also realize that the absence of coffee, for me, makes me calmer, more focused, and less shaky. This might seem obvious, as many people drink coffee for this particular effect, but I do not think of this state as my best state, and so, why pursue it?
Note that I do not typically have just a cup of coffee, and less coffee means less adverse affects. I typically make 28 ounces in a French Press, and finish it in a short period of time, usually an hour or less. I used to have it with Splenda and fat free milk, and moved to raw sugar and whole milk, thinking perhaps that the processing of the materials in the food were part of the issue. I still drink coffee from time to time, and notice the almost immediate effects, regardless of the setup of the beverage.
As a result, I’ve focused more on tea as an alternative to coffee, and have not only not seen those effects appear, but I have seen other more positive effects appear instead. I’ve noticed after drinking tea that I breathe better, have more focus, and am generally calmer. I purchase loose teas, and enjoy them just as much as coffee. There are many stated benefits to green and black teas that I am interested in gaining.
However, there are still issues with this. I love bananas, and enjoy them very much. However, they are wrought with issues because they are not local food. They will not ever be local food. There is a huge carbon footprint to eating bananas. The
Chiquita Dole company also has a sordid history in terms of how it treats its banana workers. For more on this, consider the documentary “Bananas!” on Netflix Watch Now. If you can understand why I am conflicted in eating bananas, you can understand how I likely feel about drinking coffee, and tea. Both have a huge carbon footprint, and neither are local.
I started asking people who are like minded how they solved this problem, and they all have the same answer: Grow your own herbal teas. When I asked what herbs and other plants made the best teas, I got a long list of beneficial, familiar, local herbs that are perfectly suited for tea. These start with rosemary, thyme, sage, raspberries, mint, ginger, and include basically every other edible, fragrant herb you can think of. I was referred to Victoria Zak’s 20,000 Secrets of Tea, and it’s so far, it’s a very enlightening read.
I’ve just started adding rosemary and oregano to my beloved gunpowder tea, and it’s lovely.
- Green Tea – Why Drink It? (dominicspoweryoga.com)
- Japanese study reveals green tea, coffee may lower stroke risk (japandailypress.com)
- Being Frugal Without Giving Up Your Social Life (wisebread.com)
- ‘Death Wish’ Coffee is About as Potent as Sniffing Ground-Up ProPlus (gizmodo.co.uk)
- “Reverse French” Coffee Making (kk.org)
Baking your own bread
As I have said here before, I really love bread. I am beginning to actually practice my recent preach of baking over buying, and the result has been wonderful, full of surprises, and fun with tasty experiments. I still have a 100 calorie flat round or two that I’m making my way through, but my freezer is empty of half-price day-old kaiser rolls and 6 packs of garlic naan, so the time has finally come to get into the practice of making bread twice a week or so. In preparation for this, I’ve gathered a few things: A large bag of whole wheat flour, a small jar of rapid rise yeast, some sea salt, and a water purifier.
Many benefits exist for baking over buying. I know exactly what is going into my food. I am gaining a useful skill. I enjoy the process of making, waiting, watching, and revealing that is inherent in baking, and stolen with buying. I like the science of it. I like the sensory aspects of it, the sights smells, tastes, and feel that are mostly absent from purchasing. The cost of a loaf at home is about $1.50, all said, and the cost of the average loaf at the store, with all of its flaws mentioned here, not to mention the extra ingredients, like preservatives and chemicals, is around $2.50 or more. Artisan loaves are expensive at the store, more reasonable at home. A very good article on this particular aspect is here.
I like recipes that you can remember. I tend to remember those that use whole measures, an example of which is Mark Bittman’s pancake recipe that uses one egg, one cup of flour, one cup of milk, 1 Tbsp of honey, and so on. They are nice when you can find them. I adore simplicity.
Most bread recipes I’ve found do not do this. I decided to make one that does. It could not be simpler, and uses only four ingredients, which I’ve mentioned above.
Basic 4 ingredient bread recipe
- 4 cups whole wheat flour
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp active dry yeast
- 2 cup filtered water
- In a large bowl, add each ingredient in turn as listed above, mixing as you go.
- Mix with a large spoon until dough forms a ball incorporating all or most of the mixture.
- Turn out into an oiled iron skillet, and let rise between 5 and 24 hours in a warm space.
- Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.
One cup of whole wheat flour is 400 calories, so this loaf will be 1600 calories in all. I will likely eat a quarter of it each day.
- Types of Flour Used to Make Bread (homebreadmaking.com)
- It’s Bread!! (cookingforthechemicallysensitive.wordpress.com)
- Naan Bread (allaboutchantelle.wordpress.com)
- Banana Bread (eatinghealthy4less.wordpress.com)
I really love eggs. I enjoy eggs as a vehicle for vegetables, and with a nice piece of crusty bread, I can’t think of a better breakfast. This recipe is a fairly typical mash-up for me, grab some eggs, veg and cheese out of the fridge, combine in a pan and serve on bread. Lots of options here, but this is a classic Florentine combination shown here.
Omelette Florentine Sandwich
- 2 slices hearty bread
- 1 egg, whisked
- 1 cup raw spinach, chopped
- 1 small tomato, sliced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 ounce mozzarella cheese, diced
- salt to taste
- Place the garlic, spinach and tomato in an oiled pan over medium heat, sauté until spinach wilts. Keep moving the mixture to avoid burning the garlic.
- Add salt, cheese, spinach, tomato, and garlic to egg in bowl and mix lightly.
- Pour egg mixture into re-oiled pan over medium-low heat and heat through until egg is mostly firm and cheese is melted, flip and cook for a minute to finish.
- Slide omelette on to bread and enjoy this less than 500 calories of deliciousness.
- My Perfect Omelette (healthaholics.wordpress.com)
- Meatless Monday: Spinach Frittata (bestof2sisters.com)
- Approximate Foods: Eggs Florentine (Kinda) (pieinthewoods.wordpress.com)
In this post I’ll talk about two pancake recipes. One has seven ingredients, and one has only two, but they both have merit.
So I love pancakes. I really enjoy the fluffy texture, sweet flavor, and crisp edges of a well-done pancake. I always choose to avoid mixes for the task because the from-scratch (I mean, I’m not stone grinding wheat or anything) recipe is so simple and easy to remember:
Traditional Pancake Recipe
- 1 cup flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- 1 egg, whisked
- 1 cup milk
- 1 Tbsp oil
Mix the ingredients in a medium bowl, cook a quarter cup of batter per cake in a lightly greased nonstick skillet over medium high heat until bubbles form, flip and cook through for another minute or until lightly browned on bottom. Ignore first batch’s sadness and failure.
Keep hot in a 200 degree Fahrenheit toaster oven while cooking rest of batch. Serve with real maple syrup.
Simple, right? (about 800 calories for the batch) Well, it’s also delicious, but me being lazy, I decided to try the no-flour alternative I had seen in a couple of places, where a ‘pancake’ is made with two ingredients.
Two ingredient no-flour pancakes
- 2 eggs
- 1 banana, sliced
Mix by hand if you dare, but a small food processor will make this far easier. Place into a 8-10 inch buttered skillet on medium heat. Cook until firm, flip and finish cooking. Serve with honey, peanut butter or fresh strawberries.
Although I do not have celiac disease, and don’t subscribe to a gluten-free nutritional lifestyle myself, this is gluten-free.
The 2 ingredient version is more of a sweet dessert tortilla than a pancake, but the texture, sweetness, and flavor are not far off. Maybe the best part is the 240 calories for the batch!
- Oat Bran Pancakes (kennybakes.com)
- German Pancakes (tuffmotherondarun.com)
- Whole Wheat Pancakes (thefauxmartha.com)
- Banana Oatmeal Pancakes (thefitlifejournal.wordpress.com)
Baking rather than buying
I have decided recently to stop buying baked goods and start making my own. Flour, sugar and other raw ingredients are far cheaper than the packaged, processed breads, crusts, and other baked goods. The act of cooking gives you a sense of pride and accomplishment. The fact that I know exactly precisely what is going into my baked goods means that I have control and agency with it. I have been doing a lot of stove-top cooking lately, and I decided that it was time to begin learning more deeply about the baking side. I’ve made plenty of breads in the past, and so I knew how easy it was to do and what great rewards came from it.
I was looking for a reasonable idea for dessert for my boys, who I visit with a few times a week, and cornbread seemed like just the thing. I recently told them that we were going to stop getting donuts and pretzels at Wawa for snacks, and start making most of our own food during our visits. Not only did they understand the financial reasoning behind it, they genuinely love to help me cook, and seem to enjoy the food that they helped to make far more than the processed foods we used to purchase. This may have started as a temporary fix to help pinch some pennies, but it is making more nutritional, philosophical, and emotional sense now too.
This recipe has some great nutritional value: it’s vegetarian, low in fat, low in sugar, has whole grains, good oil, and is a great vehicle for nuts, fruit, or greens, like sauteed spinach.
- 1 cup stone ground corn meal
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1/4 cup raw sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 Tbsp baking powder
- 1 cup water
- 1 egg
In two bowls, combine the dry ingredients separately from the wet ingredients. Then slowly mix in the wet into the dry. Do not over-mix but mix until smooth. Pour into a oiled loaf pan and bake at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for 25 minutes.
Enjoy with tea, coffee, or as part of a meal.