The Coffee Habit Unbeaned

I love a good cup of coffee.  Okay, my husband would say that's not accurate.  I love my flavored coffee creamer accompanied by a cup of coffee.   I've never been one of those people who consumes a pot a day... one to two cups is usually my max, in the morning, and I'm done.

That was still enough to cause me to get a raging headache that ibuprofen wouldn't touch by 2 pm if I didn't consume my morning cup.

I got pretty tired of this, so I started investigating alernatives.  I tried chai... not what I was looking for.  I wanted something full-bodied, something... well, something very much like coffee.  And I know that the flavored creamers on the market are not a model of healthfulness, but I LOVE THE STUFF.  More on that later.

Why not decaf?  Because the caffeine is taken out of the coffee with toxic solvents including ethyl acetate or dichloromethane.   They are SOAKED in this stuff, then roasted, ground, and packaged.  According to Toxipedia, "Ethyl acetate is an effective poison for use in insect collector as its vapors are a respiratory tract irritant whose vapors can kill the insect quickly without destroying it, leaving it intact for study."  No thanks, I'd rather not.

So I wanted something UN-caffeinated rather than decaffeinated.  The week I made this decision I was in TJ Maxx (where I often buy my coffee because you can get organic/free trade for way cheaper than normal) and stumbled upon a box of "Caffe Orzo."  It's basically roasted barley, and they've been using it in Italy for ages, serving it to kids instead of "real" coffee. 

I bought a box, took it home, LOVED it, went back and bought all they had.  It's lasted me probably four months.  I cut it with regular coffee about half the time because I don't necessarily want to eschew coffee entirely, I just want to cut way down on my caffeine load and reduce my headaches.  What I really liked about it was that it brews the same as coffee in the beloved coffee maker my son got me for Christmas.  

Well, I've run out, and of course, TJ Maxx doesn't stock anything permanently, and I haven't seen it there since.  So I started a quest online and I can only find a place to import it from England.  A Google search didn't turn much up.  Amazon had it but "currently unavailable." 

So I thought I'd try this Ayurvedic Roast from Amazon.

This is a non-caffeinated blend made from roasted barley (cafe orzo), roasted rye, roasted chicory, ashwagandha, shatavari, brahmi and natural vanilla flavor.  Okay, I don't know what those last four things are except for the vanilla so maybe more research is needed.  

It's good.  It's much less bitter than coffee, brews in a pot, french press or percolator.  It's organic.  It's supposedly vanilla flavored but I'm not getting a lot of that.  I did notice that it does not want to come out of my reusable coffee filter, not sure why that is.  If you're concerned about the acidifying effect of coffee, it's non acid. 

Only one problem:  I paid $16.95 for 11 ounces of this stuff.  Holy moly!  I can't afford this habit, even at two cups a day, even cutting it with nasty bitter cheap coffee (and then what would be the point?).  Also, I find that it takes a little bit MORE of this to make a pot that tastes like it's not watered down. 

So it's back to the drawing board to try to find something I can drink.  Curse you TJ Maxx for getting me hooked on something I can't get more of!

Then I started thinking... barley's cheap.  Why couldn't I roast my own barley?   Mother Earth News came through and here's an article on how to do exactly that (and recipes for other coffee substitutes I may have to try).  I love you, Internet!  I'll be letting you know how these experiments work out.

How about you, what's in your warm morning beverage mug?

Great Backyard Bird Count

This blog is about food.  But it's also about living in harmony with the rhythms of nature.  About eating seasonally.  About walking with your feet on the earth and knowing that you are leaving footprints.  For me, that is a spiritual experience and the way I eat has very much to do with the central philosophy of who I am in this world.

Too existential for you?  Sorry.  But I'm going to guess that you're here reading for a lot of reasons, and that you probably care at least a little bit about the environment and the creatures and plant life that share our world.

To that end I want to talk a little about the Great Backyard Bird Count.

Click to go to site
This makes a great project for homeschoolers or parents of kids, and big kids who get a kick out of watching birds.  It happens every year in mid-February, and this year is this Friday-Sunday (14-16).  It's pretty easy.  You register to participate, tell them where you'll be observing, and then you spend some time (in your yard, or elsewhere, up to you) observing, and log how many birds of which species you see.  You log those findings on the website.  You probably learn a thing or two along the way (last year I discovered that the chickadees where I live in Tennessee are Carolina chickadees, not the black-capped chickadees I was used to seeing in Ohio where I grew up... no wonder they sound a little different!) about the animals that inhabit your corner of the universe.

It's crowd source science, and it's awesome!  Then you can explore the data and see what kinds of birds are being seen where. 

Between this project and my garden, I started noticing things.  I noticed plants blooming that I hadn't noticed before, and I educated myself about what they were.  I started keeping a nature log - the daffodils bloom now, the forsythia blooms then, I discovered that my horses are eating an interesting weed and this is what it is.  And, the robins and bluebirds are back earlier this year than usual.  That sort of thing.  Since I'm a hard core journaler, I love this kind of stuff.  It tunes you in, in a way that just going about your information-saturated, dissociative business and shoving factory food in your face every day can't.

So join me!  Maybe keep a little nature journal of your own.   I have a sketchbook, but I also have a little page on my Notes app on my phone so I can type in what I see when I see it (is there an app for this kind of thing? If there isn't there should be).  Happy birding.  :)

National Farmers' Market Week

I got an email from Slow Food USA about this coming week being National Farmers' Market week... apparently the USDA and Secretary of Agriculture issued a proclamation that August 4-10 will be National Farmers' Market week.

So I Googled it.  There's practically nothing about it.  So I went to the pages of all the farmers' markets I could think of on Facebook.  There's nothing about it.

What the heck?  Why so little publicity?   So I took it upon myself to make this little graphic and share it around on Facebook... feel free, if you are a small farmer who goes to markets - no wait.  If you are a person who eats food, feel free to share this graphic and if you haven't been to your local market - or if you have! - please go and support your local farmers this week.

In other news, the EPA recently approved an increase on allowable limits for glyphosate (Roundup and its spin-offs) on crops.  Hey EPA... you're under a Democratic president, get a clue :(   Here's a link with more info on why glyphosate is awful for the environment and awful for you.

Please, if you can afford to, eat organic or certified naturally grown (crops that are not grown with Roundup or other herbicides, artificial fertilizers and pesticides), and especially, support your small local farmer who is farming responsibly.  Get to know them.  There's nothing like knowing where your food came from.

Herbal Stomach Soother Green Smoothie

Pretty?  Eh, kinda.  Good?  Yes!!

I'm trying to ease up on the coffee, because I'm tired of having a headache by 1:00 pm if I don't drink it.  So I cut back to 1 cup for a few days, now I'm drinking 1 cup of Chai tea in the morning.

Chai and my empty stomach didn't get along this morning, and I was getting a burning in the back of my throat and some reflux.  Bleh.

So here's what I did for my green smoothie this morning... I took a handful of stomach-soothing herbs -- apple mint, and lemon balm -- and threw them in the blender with the greens, and made sure to use papaya as one of my fruits, because it's known for its stomach-soothing properties, too.  Seems to have done the trick :)   Here's the recipe.

Don't have lemon balm and mint?  My god, why not?  Find a corner of your property you don't want to mow anymore, stick one of them at one end and the other at the other end (seed, plants, whatever) and let them go to town.  They will take over the area, and you will have all the mint and lemon balm you could ever wish for.  They both make amazing hot teas and iced teas, and they add flavor and a load of nutrients to a green smoothie, and as far as green things go they taste fantastic.  Last year I couldn't possibly have picked and dried and used all the lemon balm and mint I had growing.  My plan this year is to pick it and freeze it with water in ice cube trays so I can throw it in my smoothies all winter long. 

Stomach Soother Green Smoothie

10-20 mint leaves
10-20 lemon balm leaves
1 cup kale or spinach or green of choice
1 cup water
1 cup Silk coconut milk (I love this stuff!!!!)

Blend the heck out of it.  If your herbs are stemmy you might want to strip leaves off the stems.  If the stems are still tender and you have a good blender, throw 'em in.

1 cup pineapple, fresh preferable or if using cans you can use some of the juice instead of water
1/2 a papaya, seeded, peeled and sorta chopped
1 small-medium banana

ice cubes to taste... I like mine cold.  You can seed and chop the papaya and then freeze, freeze the banana, pineapple, or all of it, for a nice cold one.  If you put enough ice cubes in here and you have a Vitamix, you can turn this into their version of soft serve ice cream.  Or freeze it into popsicles for little upset tummies.

Blend till smooth.  This will serve 2, you can put it in a sealing glass jar or mason jar in the fridge and it'll keep for a day or two, if there's only one of you in the household braving the green stuff.

This is GOOD!  Seriously, if you don't have mint and you're a smoothie-holic, get some.

Green Smoothies Win!

Last week I started a Green Smoothie Challenge.  I am loving it!!  Want to join me?

Here's the deal.  I am all about some whole foods, which is why we are in a CSA again this year.  Well, with a full share and only 2 of us consuming it, I am finding that I have a lot of leftovers, most of which can be canned, frozen or preserved in some way, but not so much the greens, which, being springtime/early summer, we are getting a lot of.

So, what to do with them?  I stumbled on this green smoothie thing.  The concept is, you drink 1 smoothie a day.  You can use it to replace a meal (you'll probably want to, they're filling, but you can snack a little too).  That's it.  You don't deprive yourself, you can eat what you're eating, but here's the thing.  Since this is basically whole foods thrown in a blender, you're getting all the fiber with whatever sugar is in it, which for me is killing my carb/sugar cravings (yay!), and because of the fiber you don't get the same spike in blood sugar levels that you would just eating junk or even juice.  The ingredients are PACKED with nutrients, so that's awesome.  

How to:  The skinny is, you shoot for a proportion of 40% greens (leafy dark greens preferably - think kale, spinach, collards, mustard, turnip... I don't eat most of that crap except for the first two either, but I promise, you won't taste it) and 60% whole fruit, with a liquid - water, coconut milk, almond milk, you can even use teas sometimes, or regular milk, or yogurt.  You can follow that challenge link above to get you started with great tips and recipes.

Recipes will follow here, or you can follow my Green Smoothie Board on Pinterest as I gather smoothie info and recipes from all over the web.  Drink up!

It Might Get Easier Being Green....

My hubby and I were in Franklin  (a Nashville suburb) last week and I had the long-awaited opportunity to go to Franklin Farmers' Market.  It is awesome!!

While I was there I ran into some very cool people from Colvin Family Farms, who sold me these white cukes.  Some of them (the lower one in the picture) were "regular" white cucumbers but some were these super cool translucent glowy looking things that remind me of jellyfish and were delicious (actually they were all delicious).  Unfortunately they can't tell me the variety, they say they only have one variety of cukes.  So I'm not sure what causes this awesome but I love it.

I have an interesting story to tell.  My doctor diagnosed me with Tension Myositis Syndrome... this syndrome  is the result of repressed emotions causing actual physical symptoms in the body.  Lots of cases of degenerative disc disease, fibromyalgia, and other things, are the result of TMS and not necessarily a physical process.  The disease keeps people living in fear of pain.  And I've had both chronic neck pain and fibro type symptoms, and they are getting better with treatment.  

But, when we went to Nashville this weekend, my foot suddenly started hurting, just an ache I thought was arthritis at first, but after we walked for hours at Cheekwood Botanical Garden, I started to worry that it was a stress fracture or something... any pressure on ONE point on the ball of my foot caused excruciating pain.  I hobbled around all weekend.

Then on Monday I started to wonder if maybe this wasn't a new TMS manifestation... once you "conquer" one of them, others frequently crop up.  So I basically told myself I didn't believe there was anything wrong and started walking on it normally, even though it HURT at first.  

Within a few hours the pain was gone.  The mind is a crazy thing.  If you have chronic pain you owe it to yourself to read up on TMS, because there is a CURE.  Here's a LINK for you.

So, we are CSA customers at Miracle Mountain Farm here in Cookeville, and we are getting more produce than I know what to do with (huge head of cabbage... oh my....).   I frequently have way more greens than my husband and I can consume, so I decided to take the 30 day Green Smoothie Challenge.  I have so much produce, I figured, why not?  And if it makes me feel great... well, great!

Follow me on Pinterest if you want to scope out some green smoothie recipes, in addition to my usual repertoire of recipes both healthy and not so much, and also jewelry, horses, animals, and art, and lots of other eye candy because I freaking love Pinterest.   I'll be sharing recipes and ideas here too... also, I'll be posting some stuff here about what to do with all that zucchini, blackberries, and other goodies that nature is pouring down upon us right now.

Green Smoothie, Day One

Around two cups of mixed greens:  kale, beet greens, & collard greens (I think they're collard, not 100%... we're in a CSA and I don't always know what I have!), gently packed.
3 cups of a mixture of:  2 bananas, frozen fresh strawberries, 2 small peaches
I added a teaspoon of chia seeds
2 tablespoons of frozen 100% apple juice concentrate
2 cups of water.

Go Vitamix go!

Assessment:  I'm getting a little bit of aftertaste of greens (probably the beet greens and collards), but all in all I think I can handle this, it's pretty yummy.  Not really pretty, because the red strawberries + greens makes it kinda brown, but good.  With no added sucrose, so yay!  I think it's gonna fill me up just fine, too, but we'll see.

This made way more than I can drink. I put it in the fridge in a mason jar to keep it from oxidizing; should keep till at least tomorrow.

If you're doing the green smoothie thing I'd love to hear from you and trade a few recipes.

Good health to you, and good eating!

Crab Linguine in Marsala Cream Sauce

CSA started this week!  Which means, this early in the year, mostly salad :)   

On a tragic note, the Refrigerator Apocalypse happened this weekend... my fridge broke and my epically awesome husband diagnosed it, which meant we did NOT have to buy a new one, and my epically awesome father-in-law knew someone who was willing to come and fix it on a Sunday morning.  Saved the day, but not the food.  I had to throw an awful lot out.  But I was freaking out because I had a bushel of produce coming on Monday.

Considering the Fridgepocalypse (and the fact that after paying to repair the fridge I couldn't really afford to restock it), I'm pretty happy that I managed to pull together this meal.  It was pretty awesome.  You want the recipe?  Sure, I'll share.

Crab Linguine in Marsala Cream Sauce

1 cup Marsala wine
1 cup 2% milk
1 cup evaporated milk
8 ounces uncooked linguine
4 Tablespoons of butter, separated
1 Tablespoon flour
1 stalk of green garlic, chopped
1 green onion, chopped
5-6 Baby Bella mushrooms, sliced
 1-2 Tablespoons of lemon juice (more if you like lemon flavor, less if you don't)
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 package imitation crab meat
Parmesan cheese (freshly grated, preferably, or flaky, NOT Kraft)
Finely snipped fresh parsley
Freshly ground pepper

Put your pasta water on to boil.  

Put the Marsala in a small-medium saucepan with the heat on medium.  Cook until reduced to 1/2 cup.  Stir in 2% and evaporated milk, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until reduced to around 1 1/2 cups.  Remove from heat.

Put the linguine in your boiling water and cook al dente.

Meanwhile, put 2 Tablespoons of butter in a deep skillet or wok.  Saute the green garlic and green onion in the butter, until the white parts start to turn translucent.  Throw in the mushrooms and saute lightly.  Remove the sauteed vegetables to the other pan with your cooling milk mixture.

Put the other 2 Tablespoons of butter in the skillet/wok.  Stir in the flour until a paste forms.  Then, add the milk mixture.  Add lemon juice and salt.  Cook and stir (pretty much constantly, make sure you don't burn it) until the mixture thickens to a little smoother than alfredo generally is.  Add the crab meat and cook until heated through.  Keep stirring.

Put your drained pasta in a serving bowl, top with the sauce, garnish with Parmesan, parsley and pepper.  Serve immediately.

This serves around 4 people pretty comfortably and I thought it kinda needed some fresh baked bread, but I think that about almost everything.  Enjoy!