balance is good… and hard.

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For clarification… I am still going to be eating mostly vegetarian, but I will include chicken and fish recipes from time to time (and likely provide an alternative way to make the dish vegetarian-friendly). This is certainly not going to become a steak ‘n’ eggs kind of blog any time soon. :)

Hello, readers and friends!

The start of summer has held its ups and downs for me. Recent health problems have caused me to consider a host of things I hoped I wouldn’t need to think about in depth for at least another 10 years: my diet, what kinds of exercises I do and if they’re enough, what vitamins and supplements I should take, and whether or not I should move into a retirement home now or later (hardy har har). My discussions with doctors, solitary ruminations, and extensive reading on the subject led me to make a huge decision in terms of my diet (and consequently, this blog). I’m hesitant to use this blog as any kind of soap box, unless that soap box concerns the joys of pickled onions, but I wanted to explain my thought process, for any who care to read. In truth, I feel that in some small way I’m betraying (this is too strong a word, but the English language sometimes fails us) those of you who follow my blog because you can identify with my choice to become vegetarian.

My decision to include small amounts of chicken and fish in my diet is rooted in the same reasons behind my conversion to vegetarianism 5 years ago: I want my food choices to embody my values, and I want to eat food that fulfills my body’s nutritional needs. It’s possible that a radical shift in beliefs acted as the catalyst for this change, but I’m beginning to think, begrudgingly, that my original beliefs were founded in a fallacy. My decision to be vegetarian was filled with the best of intentions, and I have learned about the joys of tofu and legumes (and will continue to eat both in droves), but it was also based on some misconceptions.

I strongly connoted a carnivorous diet with factory farming. When I read Fast Food Nation and an essay by Temple Grandin and saw violent images of factory farms, I had a visceral reaction. I felt sad, powerless, and a little naive. How had I not known what a chicken farm was really like? I didn’t want to support such an industry monetarily, and I believed that if more people ate less meat, we could be agents for change. To act in a way that’s not in accordance with your values makes you feel bad, and I wanted to avoid that. I assumed that to eat meat I would have to compromise my values by contributing to a system that harms humans and animals alike. But I’m beginning to realize that eating with integrity isn’t this black and white, as nothing worth thinking about is.

The smaller, organic farms that are popping up all over the nation have spawned a locavore movement that stands in stark contrast to factory farming. In fact, I think this change has huge political and nutritional implications for our society. It also offers compelling reasons for eating sustainably raised meat, poultry, and fish. We can help our local economies and invest in smaller-scale agriculture that promotes healthy animals, healthy land, and healthy consumers.

The more I considered these implications, the more I realized that I had, indeed, bought into a myth. Being vegetarian and eating many organic goods did contribute to improved health and, in my own small way, was a protest against factory farms. But investing in local farms and eating grass fed animals that weren’t treated cruelly can also be a small protest against a system that is as bad for its workers and animals as it is for consumers. It seems to me that small scale organic farms promote dignity for workers and consumers and restore integrity to farming and agriculture– an industry that’s gotten a bad rap precisely because of the ills of factory farming.

I’m happy with my decision to incorporate locally raised chicken and fish in my diet, while continuing to cook my favorite vegetarian meals. Balance is a good pursuit and a hard one to achieve. Finding a diet that works with your body and your beliefs is valuable (and seemingly impossible… we can never be perfect). Moreover, being able to choose our diets is a privilege, one for which I’m grateful. I’m excited to see how this change affects my overall health and well-being, and I’m looking forward  to sharing some new recipes (vegetarian and with chicken and fish) with you as this blog evolves!

lv, molly

P.S. If you’re interested, I think this article points out some compelling reasons for a balanced diet that includes meat, recognizing that diets are a personal decision!

P.S. The blog has a new look to fit its slightly new direction. Check back tomorrow for an organic chicken recipe… (and some pictures from our Michigan adventure).

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“no meat, no dairy, no problem.”

Loved this pithy and informative article by Mark Bittman! The interactive feature provides 12 fool-proof and wholesome recipes that I can’t wait to make on a busy weeknight. Enjoy!

lv, molly

quick, spicy kale.

Here’s my new favorite way to make kale. It takes 5 minutes, and it tastes good. I’m sold. (See how guarded I’m being with my words tonight? That’s because I have writing to do for grad school… I don’t want to use up too many words here. That’s my logic anyway.) lv, molly

P.S. After being sick for about 2 weeks, I finally feel well enough to run again. Yay!

Spicy Kale with Parmesan

Serves 2 as a side dish (or one Molly… I eat this all because I love it.)

1/2 bunch kale
1/2 Tbl olive oil
1 Tbl water (or lemon juice or white wine)
pinch of red pepper flakes
freshly grated parmesan cheese

Take 1/2 bunch of kale, rinse, and remove the large stems. Tear into pieces.
Heat 1 Tbl olive oil and 1 Tbl water in skillet, and add kale. Saute for a few minutes, and add a few small pinches of red pepper flakes.
Cook until mostly wilted. Sprinkle with parmesan.

Also… I recently became obsessed with this song. It may have something to do with the fact that Chris Mansfield sings on it.

oh, baby!

[Bok choy, that is… Snap!]

Cuteness quotient aside, baby bok choy is tenderer and a little milder than its grown-up version. It’s also easier and less laborious to cook. Since it’s smaller and more tender, you can use each whole leaf, stem included.

Baby bok choy is cheaper too because it’s comparably light by weight. The other day my friend and I bought about 6 bunches of baby bok choy– more than enough for two people– and at $1.99 a pound, our total came to under three dollars. Healthy, cheap, and tasty? Huzzah. I like you, baby bok choy.

We stir fryed our baby bok choy with tofu and a few other veggies I had in my fridge. Here’s the sauce I used. Simply saute your tofu, add this soy sauce mixture, and after a few minutes, add the baby bok choy (about 4 bunches) and cook until tender with a little bit of a bite.

[Separate each leaf, however, prior to adding the b.b.c. (ha!) to the stir fry. This may be self-explanatory, but men read my blog too. And I don’t want them to embarrass themselves if they’re cooking for a lady. Ah, stereotypes. I’m sorry.]

Bok Choy Stir Fry with Tofu, Ginger, & Soy Sauce

Serves 2-3 people, depending on how much tofu you use

Saute about 8 oz. tofu or meat with the following and a dash of sesame oil:
1 tablespoon ginger- about an inch worth of ginger root- finally chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced

While tofu is cooking, mix the following together in a bowl:
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon brown sugar or honey
2 tablespoon soy sauce or tamari
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon corn starch (Optional. This just thickens the sauce.)
[Double this sauce if you’re cooking for more than 3 people]

When tofu is golden on all sides, add soy sauce mixture and cook for a few minutes. Then add 4-6 bunches of bok choy and cook until slightly tender.

sugar overload –> vegetables needed.

It's probably difficult to differentiate between this M.S.' blog and mine. The difference is that she doesn't post Def Leppard songs. Problem solved!

Prologue:

From this post on, a song will accompany each recipe I post. The song will be something I’ve listened to while making the particular dish or it’ll have some tenuous relevance that makes me giggle but might make you cringe. Occasionally, I place my own amusement in higher regard than your enjoyment, but I’ll try to take you into account when I post songs because a blog is a public sphere, and I like you.

Cooking for me is a loud affair, and that’s partly why I love it. I blast music in the kitchen; I sing along, often heinously; and I’ve caught myself using a whisk as a mic. It’s part of my ritual of cooking, and I think it’s time I share it on here with all you foodies! Music makes cooking so much more fun.

The Real Post:

Confession: I’ve been eating too much sugar lately, and it’s making me feel like crap. I don’t want to hate on sugar. There are good songs about it; it’s delicious; and usually we have a nice, balanced relationship. But it’s time we separate for a while.

I’ve been baking a lot lately as a nice past-time when I’m not studying. And then there’s all that Easter candy my mom gave me and told me was from the Easter bunny as though I’m still 5. Every year I find this as endearing as the previous year.

So what to do about the sugar overload? For starters, I ran today. Then I ate a healthy salad with black beans because they’re known to lower one’s blood sugar level. Wiki that! I promise it’s true. I think a broccoli dish is in order too because it’s what I have in my fridge, and parmesan and lemon make such excellent bedfellows.

Here’s a healthy vegetable dish if you need to get back on track after all that Easter candy too. xo, m

Roasted Broccoli with Parmesan & Lemon

Serves 4 as a side dish
broccoli

This plus parmesan = delicious + good for you

3 heads broccoli
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or less depending on how rich you want this dish to be (and that’s not a passive aggressive way of saying, “Cut down the calories”)
1 lemon, juiced

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Trim about 1 inch off the ends of the broccoli stalks, and cut the broccoli lengthwise into spears. Arrange the broccoli on a nonstick baking sheet; drizzle with some olive oil; and season with a little bit of salt and a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper. Toss to coat evenly. Transfer to the oven and roast for 10 minutes.
Remove the broccoli from the oven and sprinkle the cheese evenly over the top and bake until the cheese melt and forms a crisp shell over the broccoli, about 10 minutes. Lift the broccoli out onto a platter with a spatula, and drizzle with fresh lemon.

Janna and I sang along with and danced to this song at a party we crashed weeks ago. I was eating so much sugar earlier in the week that I may as well have been singing this song at all times to those around me.