Category: Features (page 1 of 77)

This Evening in Pictures

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Some Thoughts on Whole 30

Salad

Greetings from Day 30 + 2!

 

Mike and I spent the last month following the Whole 30 plan. Basically, on Whole 30, you eat all the vegetables, proteins and fruits that you want, but cut out all grains, sugar, alcohol, white potatoes and legumes.

Strange as it sounds, Whole 30 was both way easier and much more difficult than I had anticipated. The first few days were rough! I didn’t realize quiet how addicted to sugar and grains we were. Giving up bread was also pretty rough. I can’t tell you how often I wanted to reach for toast or a peanut butter sandwich over the last month.

For the first week or so of Whole 30, I was exhausted and cranky. My body was so used to getting some kind of sweet treat to get me through the afternoon, not to mention two or three Coke Zeros throughout the day. But at about Day 10, my energy level normalized and, I can honestly, say, I’ve never felt better in my life.

The hardest part by far, though, was the cooking. I’m a pretty good cook and cooking is something I really enjoy, but Whole 30 required a whole lot more time than I am used to spending in the kitchen. We usually eat out two or three nights a week, but on Whole 30, eating out is nearly impossible.

Besides the fact that nearly everything we ate had to be cooked by me, when you eliminate grains from your diet, you eat a lot of vegetables. Like, a staggering amount of vegetables. One book I read said you should plan on 6 cups of vegetables per person per day. We didn’t always eat that much, but there were definitely some days that we did. Truly, I have never eaten so many vegetables in my whole life.

I found that it was much easier to prep a bunch of meals at one time. For example, if we were having steak for dinner, I would grill tomorrow nights chicken at the same time. Chopping vegetables for two or three meals similarly seemed to save time and kept me from washing a mountain of dishes every night. (You will need a lot more food storage containers than you think!)

Another lesson I learned was that, when you’re cutting out the sugar and grain, you have to find ways to amp up the flavor in your meals. I used a lot more spices and rubs in my cooking than I normally do.  Since soy sauce and store bought condiments and salad dressings are out, you really have to think out your marinades and sauces, too.

I think that the main thing I learned was that, while eating a whole, clean diet, you can’t just wing it. Having a fridge full of pre-chopped vegetables at least gives you options of throwing together a salad or a stir fry at the last minute.

I do have to admit here that I was wrong about something. I few weeks ago, I did a blog post about the documentary Fed Up. In the comments, reader Susan S. posited that eating a whole food diet was something that only rich people can afford and I disagreed with her. Since then, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this issue and I have to concede that Susan S. has a point. While buying fresh, whole vegetables and, say, a whole chicken, might be cheaper than even a fast food meal out for a family of four, it takes a whole lot more time and effort to turn that fresh food into dinner. And for people living at or below the poverty line, that may be time that they just don’t have to devote to food prep.

Of course, you can spend more money to buy pre-cut veggies and boneless skinless chicken breast, but then you do get into a situation where dinner from the drive through probably does cost the same or even less, without all the work.

(Susan S., I apologize for dismissing what you said about this without giving it some serious thought. I generally hold myself to a higher standard than that, and I am sorry. While I may disagree with on the science, that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t have been open to hearing you out. I hope you can accept my sincere apology.)

The big question is, will be be adopting Whole 30 full time? Probably not in it’s hardcore form. Our eating habits have definitely changed dramatically over the last 30 days, and we will absolutely be keeping a lot of these changes. I don’t see us going back to regularly eating bread or pasta at home– it will be something for special occasions or dinners out. I also plan to continue replacing starches with vegetables, vegetable and more vegetables.

And we will not be going back to eating sugar the way we did before. Mike and I have both started reading labels and astonishing each other with the amount of sugar in food (almost 10 teaspoons in a can of Coke!). For the past month, we’ve finished meals with fruit and I expect that to continue. Mike and I each lost about 10 pounds in the last month, and I think that is nearly all due to cutting out the sugar.

Going forward, we will be shooting for an 80/20 balance, eating mostly clean, whole foods. And I’m planning to repeat the hardcore Whole 30 three or four times a year to make sure we stay on track.

Sorry for the super wordy post! I would love to hear your experiences with this kind of diet.

 

 

Blueberry Slab Pie with Strawberry Marscarpone Ice Cream

Independence Day is just over a week away so it seemed like a great time to re-post my recipe for Blueberry Slab Pie with Strawberry Marscarpone Ice Cream. Slab pies are a great way to feed dessert to a crowd and blueberries are super cheap right now at the farmer’s market. Enjoy!

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Blueberry Slab Pie

  • For The Crust

    • 5 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
    • 2 tablespoons sugar
    • 2 cups (4 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
    • 1 to 1 1/2 cups ice water
  • For The Filling

    • 2 1/4 pounds fresh (8 cups)
    • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest, plus 3 tablespoons lemon juice

Directions

  1. Make crust: In a food processor, pulse flour, salt, and sugar until combined. Add butter; pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal, with a few pea-size pieces of butter remaining. With machine running, add 1 cup ice water. Pulse until dough is crumbly but holds together when squeezed (if necessary, add up to 1/2 cup water, 1 tablespoon at a time). Do not overmix. Divide dough into 2 disks; wrap each tightly in plastic. Refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour (or up to overnight).
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Make filling: In a large bowl, toss together blueberries, cornstarch, sugar, and lemon zest and juice. On a floured work surface, roll out 1 disk to a 12-by-16-inch rectangle. Place in a 10-by-14-by-1-inch rimmed sheet pan. Pour in blueberry filling, then lightly brush edges of crust with water. On floured surface, roll out second disk to an 11-by-15-inch rectangle, carefully cutting out the star shapes. These will serve as vents to allow steam to escape.  Lay over blueberry filling; press along moistened edges to seal. Fold overhang under, tucking it into pan, and crimp edges.
  3. Place pie in oven, then reduce heat to 375 degrees. Bake until crust is golden and juices are bubbling, 50 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack for at least 1 hour, preferably two. Allowing the pie to rest will keep the filling from running when you slice it.

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For the ice cream, I modified a recipe from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home. I have to say, this book changed the way I make ice cream. I’ve always been in the “frozen custard” camp, making my ice cream with eggs because I found ice creams made with out them to be less creamy and icy. This book turned that thinking on it’s head. Not only is the ice cream amazing, it’s much easier to make because it doesn’t require a custard base, which is always nerve wracking. It’s kind of revolutionary. This particular recipe is- hands down- the best ice cream I have ever made.

Strawberry Marscarpone Ice Cream

  • 8 cups strawberries, sliced
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 2 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 16 ounces marscarpone cheese
  • 1/2  teaspoon salt
  • 2  1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup

Directions

1. Place the slice strawberries in a bowl and mix with the balsamic vinegar. Refrigerate for overnight, or for a minimum of 2 hours.

2. Mix about 2 tablespoons of the milk with the cornstarch in a small bowl to make a smooth slurry. Whisk the marscarpone cheese and salt in a medium bowl until smooth. Fill a large bowl with ice and water.

3. Combine the remaining milk, the cream, sugar, and corn syrup in a 4-quart saucepan, bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat, and boil for 4 minutes. Remove from the heat, and gradually whisk in the cornstarch slurry. Bring the mixture back to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, stirring with a rubber spatula, until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat.

4. Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the marscarpone cheese mixture until smooth. Chill the mixture thoroughly. I usually just put the mixture in the fridge for a couple of hours but if you are in a hurry you can use Jeni’s quick chill method. Pour the mixture into a 2-gallon Ziploc freezer bags and submerge the sealed bags in an ice bath. Let stand, adding more ice as necessary, until cold, about 30 minutes.

5. Strain the strawberries, saving the balsamic vinegar for a salad dressing. Add the strawberries to the ice cream base and pour the base into your ice cream makers’s canister and proceed according to the manufacturer’s directions. Spin until thick and creamy. If you prefer your ice cream more solid, you can pack it into a plastic container and place it in the freezer for a few hours.We like it the way it comes out of the ice cream maker.

Makes two quarts ice cream, which may sound like a lot before you taste it, but it really isn’t.

 

Fed Up

Fed Up: a documentary about what's making us fat.

 

A few weeks ago, Mike and I were fortunate enough to procure the services house sitter extraordinaire, Sandra Hucher. When we hired Sandra to stay with our three dogs, two cats and tank full of fish for the weekend, we had no idea how lucky we were to be able to get her at all. Sandra’s services are in super high demand and she is already booked up for the travel we are doing for the rest of the year. Sandra literally wrote the book on house sitting. She once had a house sitting gig that last two years!

But I digress. After she’d arrived at our house and we’d given her the complete run down on all of our various pets various diets and schedules, Sandra told us she was really excited to be staying at our house this weekend because there was a documentary she really wanted to see playing at a theater nearby. The film is called Fed Up and it hadn’t even crossed my radar when Sandra mentioned it.

But then Mike heard an interview with Katie Couric about it and I started seeing it pop up on some of the Whole30 blogs I was reading, so last night we decided to check it out.

It’s no exaggeration to say that Fed Up should do for obesity what An Inconvenient Truth did for climate change. Basically the movie looks at the obesity rates in the U.S. (and to a growing extent, the world) and gets to the bottom of our ever-increasing back sides. The foremost authorities on nutrition, obesity, metabolic disease and food are interviewed and they basically all come to one conclusion: sugar is killing us. By 2030, fully HALF of all Americans will be obese and 1 in 3 will have diabetes. Think about that for a minute. Those numbers are staggering.

I know that all of us hate to think about a world without the occasional cupcake or cookie, but that’s really not what we’re talking about here. It’s the hidden sugars in processed foods and soft drinks that are the culprit. How it got these is a longer story which the film explains, breaking the science down.

I consider myself to be fairly well-informed in matters of food and nutrition but I learned so much that I didn’t know. For example, I’ve always believed that a calorie is a calorie, no matter what form it takes.  Not so, according to the experts. I was also unaware of the incredible additive properties of sugar– in a study, 40 cocaine addicted rats were given the choice of cocaine or sugar water. 40 out of 40 of them picked the sugar water every time.  Mind boggling, yes?

I’m urging you to go see Fed Up if it’s playing in a theater near you. And consider taking the Fed Up 10 Day Challenge, 10 days of abstaining from sugar. (I’m on my 12 day without sugar and I am only just now starting to get over my cravings!)

If you’ve seen the movie or read about it, I’d love to get your opinion.

 

Probably something you would like…

It seems I haven’t done a PSYWL post in a million years. Let’s jump right in!

Fashion illustrator Grace Ciao‘s flower petal dresses are so extraordinary and happy-making!

Grace Ciao designs dresses with flower petals

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Fashion illustrator Grace Ciao‘s flower petal dresses are so extraordinary and happy-making!

Made me laugh

Made me laugh.

Article: Kentucky Restaurant Utilizes Interesting Alternative to Tipping. I am so for this!

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I love this bathroom floor DIY.

I am both intrigued and repulsed by this machine. On the one hand, how hard is it to make flat bread? On the other hand, flat bread at my finger tips anytime I want it…

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I spent this weekend marathon watching  Veep: Season 1 and  Season 2. So funny and really great writing.

The Farm

I read the new Tom Rob Smith book, The Farm, in less than 24 hours. It is un-put-downable. (If you haven’t read his Child 44  yet, you really should, but The Farm is a stand alone.)

Mike and I are currently doing the Whole30 diet, based on a comment a reader left here about the book It Starts with Food. Basically, you eat a very clean diet for 30 days, with no grains of any kind, sugar, alcohol (of course), dairy or legumes. You can eat plenty of veggies and meat, though, and you don’t have to count calories or go hungry. (You don’t really need the book to do the plan  but it’s helpful if you want to know the science behind the plan. Otherwise, it’s all spelled out on the Whole30 website for free.)

I am not going to lie to you– the first few days were tough. It turns out that I was pretty addicted to sugar. And Coke Zero. But today is Day 8 and I’m feeling really good. I’m sleeping better and I have more energy. Plus, I’ve lost weight already, which is super encouraging.

I’m not going to bore you by blogging about this too much– there are tons of bloggers who’ve literally written about every meal they ate while on the program, something I found very helpful when trying to plan meals. But I will tell you we’ve had great luck with recipes from NomNom Paleo (we have her cookbook, Nom Nom Paleo: Food for Humans and I love it!). The Slow Cooked Kalua Pork is a fave and I am can’t wait to try the Panna Cotta with Strawberry Balsamic Compote.

That’s it from me– what’s making you laugh or smile (or cry) this week?

In Lieu of Lambcam…

Oh who am I kidding?  I’m not a great photographer or videographer and one hand is wrapped in a splint!  But here are some photos and videos of my evening at the farm last night.  Will post more this evening; hopefully I’ll be able to catch their playful antics.  Sadly, they’re more playful with the lambcam since they have no idea it’s there but when I come down, the babies run for their mommies and hide!

 

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Lambs everywhere!!

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C’mon guys…work together!

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Oscar & Felix

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Furble aka farm cat extraordinaire

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Unexpected Garden Guests

Today the weather was beautiful, and we decided to take our learning outside.

As in, I needed to take advantage of the weather and get some gardening done, and I needed some slave labor to help.

The girls pulled weeds and collected rocks while I got out the hoe and pulled up all the grass and weed cover from the garden beds.  I was working along at a pretty good clip, dragging the top layer of weeds and their roots out of the ground, keeping a steady pace so i wouldn’t think about how tired I was getting.

At one point in the back corner of the front garden I noticed a small amount of fuzz fly up at me, but figured it was either partially composted wool bits or some of the fuzzier chicken feathers.

Then I struck down again, and a HUGE clump of the ground came out with the hoe, flinging lots more fuzz, and prompting a loud squeaking, crying noise from the clump.

In that same instant, I saw what I thought was a mouse laying there, squirming about, and I yelped. No, I am not afraid of mice, but I was taken by surprise and had already been edge worried about those huge monster-sized furry spiders that live in the ground out there.

The girls came running, and by that time I realized that the little creature had longer ears than a mouse, and no tail.

All of that fuzz was rabbit fur, and that clump was a nest of babies; a FLUFFLE of bunnies, if you will.

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The clump.  The outside is composed of leaves, hay, and leaves.  The inner part is all rabbit fur.

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There were quite a lot of them crammed in there, and they all sought the heat of each other’s bodies as we cooed over them.

Emily informed us that rabbits do indeed build nests in the ground this way, and that if you find one you are supposed to gently put it back and leave it be.  The mother will be back at some point for them.

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So that is what we did, despite protests from the younger girls that we should keep them forever.

Either way, I am not thrilled about having rabbits in the garden, but leaving them seemed to be the only option I could live with.  I’ll worry about keeping the vegetables safe later.

Yarned by You

As the number of knits that are made with JMF yarn grow and grow in the Ravelry database, there are weeks that when looking for projects to favorite I can’t decide on a theme at all and just start clicking on all the projects that catch my interest! Here’s what I’m falling in love with this week. Click through the picture to be taken to the Ravelry project page for all the details!

Beautiful scarf! Mixing three colors makes it quite elegant.

ajmckinnon's Gentleman's Scarf

I can’t resist cables and a beret is a great instant gratification project. Plus then you can talk in a fake french accent when you put it on!

ElaineT77's stitch dc cabled hat

Spring is on its way, although it seems to be struggling a bit. A cozy sweater like this one would definitely help for those days when spring is just not apparent.

grumpygirl73's Feather

This is gorgeous! Really, is there anything else to say other than *swoon*?

hydrangealover's girl on fire

Another warm cozy sweater – nay – poncho! A poncho that I could see myself wearing, actually!

JerseyShoreDeb's Easy Folded Poncho

I can never get enough of admiring lacy shawls, even though lace often seems like more than I can concentrate on.

lsaumier iznik i heart you shawl

A sweetly cabled hat! Look how happy she is!

marcysheff's Habitat

Another shawl blocking! I love seeing blocking photos so you can get a real understanding of the size and shape of a shawl, but I also love modeled shots!NancyKW's EZ 100th Anniversary Camping Half Shawl

I am completely smitten with this cowl!

 

rebby's Growing Leaves Cowl

What’s knocking your socks off in the knitting world this week?

All the Naked Ladies

Yesterday our friend Emily came down to shear the ewes in advance of lambing.  I’ve been around for lambings done with wool still on and with wool removed, and I can tell you I FAR prefer them to be sheared before they lamb.  It makes it soooo much easier to see what’s going on, and much cleaner as well, without all that dirty wool hanging over their back ends.

What I love about Emily is she not only shears them; she clips their hooves and gives me an idea of how healthy she thinks they are.  Susan and I were  happy to hear (and see!) that they all look great, and she thinks all but two are bred. Emily handles countless flocks of sheep all through the year, so her opinion carries a lot of weight around here.

The rest of the flock will be sheared at the big shearing party on April 5; we didn’t want to move the ewes to the park that far into their pregnancies, though.

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It was chilly when we went out at 8, but sunny, and bright.

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We stuffed them into the mini barn the day before so they wouldn’t get wet in the rain; and I do mean they were stuffed in there.

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As the wool came off, however, they had so much more room!  It’s amazing how much less space they take up when they’ve been shorn.

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They’ve been getting extra grain and hay so they stay warm.  I elected to keep them near the barn since we’ve got snow today, but they are happily munching their hay and chewing their cud, more or less oblivious to the white stuff.

If you’re wondering, Emily wrote up an excellent post about shearing sheep and cold weather HERE.

WIP: Charlie Sweater Finished

It’s been quite awhile since I updated you last on my Charlie Sweater. Ages and ages, in fact! In January I finished all the knitting and late last month I wove in all the ends. But I only just now finally got around to photographing it. Knowing that it would take awhile to dry, I photographed it before I blocked it.

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I’m so thrilled with the finished sweater! Pamela Wynne did a fantastic job with the design (as always!) I can hardly wait to see a chubby baby hand poking out from the end of this sleeve:

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And the colorwork yoke just slays me! I had anticipated it being much trickier than it actually was and found that I settled into a nice rhythm once I got started.

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I did have to rip back at one point when I discovered a mistake, but it was well-worth it and is a great project to cut your color-work teeth on.

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I was a little worried that my colorwork wouldn’t be even enough when I finished, but Julie assured me that it was fine. You can see below that it’s a bit bumpy.

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Here’s a while-drying photo so that you can see that the inconsistencies did indeed block out! Never underestimate the power of a good soaking!

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Charlie is available as a free pattern right here. It uses Yearling yarn, which we are not releasing this season, so you should snatch up any that you might stumble across. As a bulky cotton-merino blend, it’s a great spring yarn and I’m sad to see it go from our line, but we had to make room from some new yarns (one of which we’ll be sharing with you this week).

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