Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Eating Omily: Tiny Steps, a Second Chance, Nature...and a Guide to Acceptable Bacon

Happy 2015! Was one of your New Year's Resolutions to eat in greater accord with your principles? Don't worry! You don't have to go all crazy-granola at once! Although, fair warning, once you take the first step along that path, it does become a slippery slope, and then you go home to visit your family and find yourself getting shouty in the dairy department of the local big-chain grocery store...(WHY IS THERE NO HEAVY CREAM THAT CONTAINS NOTHING BUT HEAVY CREAM EVEN IN THE ORGANIC SECTION?!?!?!?!) Don't worry, the rage will pass. Just drink a lot! :-)*

But what was I saying? Oh yes! Baby steps! Which you can take! Without drinking-problem-inducing-levels-of-cognotive-dissonence-which-is-totally-healthy-right?! Ok. Just start with this. Eat real food. Take a peak through your pantry, freezer, and fridge. See a lot of boxes? Long lists of ingredients? Don't panic. You don't have to throw it all out right away. Just notice which things you love and eat a lot of, and which things just kind of sit there. Now, consider a closer-to-the-earth alternative for each item that you love.

Fish nuggets a regular staple? Try broiling Farmer's market fresh fish! You can just dredge it in cornmeal, or, (secret tip!!) instant potato flakes, to recreate the crunch you love.

Salsa disappear within days? You can buy that, ready-made in a variety of heat levels, at the Union Square Farmers' Market!

Obsessed with those heat-and-eat breakfast sandwiches to keep you full till lunch time? Bacon or sausage are waiting for you at Flying Pigs Farm, and you can buy artisan buns, baguettes, or tortillas at Bread Alone and Hot Bread Kitchen. Eggs and cheese are easy to find at a variety of vendors!

If the idea of breading your own fish, or assembling your own breakfast sandwich gives you the hives a little bit, then just try one swap out at once. Maybe you stick with familiar English muffins, and pre-grated cheese, but try scrambling your own egg! You can even do this in the microwave. It works particularly well for a sandwich that way.

If one swap is going well a few weeks later, try taking it to the next level, or adding another swap to your repertoire!

And yes, it's ok to decide that some swaps are just not going to work long term. I was super excited to make my own tortillas...for about two weeks. On the other hand, I can make two batches of pizza dough at once, and all the kneading gets done in my food processor in less than two minutes, which means I just need to be around to put it in the freezer after its first rise. Easy! The food processor also makes grating cheese super fast and easy, and I can toss it with a little cornstarch to keep it from sticking together, and then keep it in the fridge or freezer for those days when I want nachos pronto.

Is your head swimming with images of Suzie Homemaker and Laura Ingles Wilder? Ok, here's the thing: when I first got an inkling of how problematic our whole food system is for everyone and everything on the planet, here's what I did:

I chose vegetarian items at restaurants most of the time. Once a week, when I was near the Farmers' Market, I grabbed some basic fruits and veggies that I knew I would have bought anyway.

That's it. Can you handle that? Because that can make a difference.

What I'm saying is, you don't have to make it a badge of honor to do everything in as difficult a fashion as possible. But if you care, it's past time to start putting your money, and your elbow grease, where your mouth is! The planet needs you!

Speaking of money and elbow grease, I got the raddest Eating Omily Christmas present this year from the husband: a Vitamix! That's right! The Lamborghini of blenders! I can throw greens, fruits, milk, cocoa powder, chia seeds, frozen fruit, and ice right in, flip it on for thirty seconds (that's right, THIRTY SECONDS!), and out flows liquid gold: high-nutrition, delicious-tasting green smoothies! Have I told you lately how green smoothies have eased my life? Seriously. I love food. I love cooking, I love eating, I love exploring new flavors...but I'm also really busy, and sometimes putting together a nourishing meal feels overwhelming! Being able to to produce the sustenance I need in five minutes, and then take it with me to sip on the subway has reduced the stress in my life, and increased the vegetables, considerably!
Behold: The Vitamix 6000!!! Or, as my mother named it, the B24 Bomber!
It's not right for everyone of course, and a lot of people push it as a 'diet' or 'weight loss' method when we all know 'weight loss' as an attainable goal, or as a healthy thing to attempt, is complete bullshit**, but if sifting through that approach isn't too much of a trigger for you, I think green smoothies are something worth exploring. You don't need the Lamborghini of blenders: just one that's less than fifty years old, and a little know-how!

Of course, having a blender so powerful it can not only puree a soup, but HEAT IT via the power of friction is pretty cool, and I am beyond pumped to test drive the cocktail and frozen dessert recipes in the Vitamix Creations book...

Whew! Well, let me wrap this up by telling you a story about Nature, about Second Chances, about...Smoothies. Of course.

My step dad recently had a serious heart attack. It took him a while to recover, and his doctors were very clear: his lifestyle had to change. He was resistant to change as we all are, but ultimately, a grim prognosis is a powerful motivator, and he embraced reading labels, and cutting more processed foods out of his diet. Of course, I wish he had asked me for healthy diet advice, instead of the American Heart Association, which is funded in part by McDonalds, and is still pushing an absurd fat-phobic agenda, hence why I found myself reaching for a second mimosa to drown the rage attack when turkey bacon was the only breakfast meat on offer Christmas morning. TURKEYS DO NOT HAVE BACON!!! Anyway...

I still hold out hope for my step dad because I bought him a copy of my favourite healthy smoothie recipe book for Christmas, and together we sampled a few varieties and took notes of the ingredients he liked best over the next few days. Sadly, he killed his blender with his first smoothie attempt without me, but that blender was about fifty years old. Hence the disclaimer regarding the age of the blender earlier. I'm promised to send him our old, only five-years-old, quite serviceable blender ASAP. I'm just so proud of him for diving into the deep end of smoothies with spinach as a main ingredient! That's a far cry from what he was eating before, or from turkey bacon for that matter! He even texted me to ask where he could buy spirulina the other day!

Today was the first good snow I've been around for this Winter, so I took some time to walk in nature, and as always happens, I made some discoveries: in spite of my home being this huge city that people associate with concrete and tall buildings, I have way more opportunities to connect with nature when I'm here. I stopped at Prospect Park Pond, and witnessed a dozen species of bird swimming and feeding, each communicating in its own unique way. It's amazing to me that these birds can survive swimming in the water when temperatures are in the twenties! How do they do it??
A picture from today's Nature Walk. I love the heart in the tree stump! I wish you could hear the ducks all talking to each other.
Well, ducks, geese, and their brethren have something in common with pigs: fat! A lot of it, in a thick layer, close to the skin, overlaying the meat. Which means they have something else in common with pigs: bacon!

That's right! We've come full circle! Turkeys do not have bacon, but ducks do!

Hallelujah! There's hope for all of us!

*I can even laugh a little at the horrific added ingredients in all the heavy cream everywhere in Mansfield, Ohio! Ha. Ok, that's enough.

** Of course, eating nutritious foods, and exercising regularly are super healthy things that benefit everyone, and for some people who haven't been doing them before, starting to do them may result in weight loss (which statistically speaking will not likely stick around even if the good habits do), and there's nothing unhealthy about THAT. It's SEEKING weight loss, vs. seeking a healthier lifestyle, that's problematic, bad for you, and nothing but a huge cash cow for companies peddling snake oil to make it happen.

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