Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Scenes from the holidays

Spending the holiday season with family means I wasn't always able to take photographs of our activities. When I'm around the people I care about, I do my best to be WITH them in mind, body and spirit and not be distracted by things like my phone and camera. That being said, I was able to capture some wonderful moments we had together, a sampling of which is below. 

As the calendar changes tonight from 2013 to 2014, I wish you and yours health and happiness in the new year!

I made a butternut squash dish for Christmas dinner, and found this beautiful heart shape inside!
(Recipe to come in another post.)

C and his granddad rowing around Elkhorn Slough near Monterey, CA.
A beautiful place to see all sorts of wildlife!

A very exciting Christmas present to me! Can't wait to try out some recipes!

Some shots from a Spanish tapas cooking class that C and I took just before Christmas. It was a belated anniversary outing, and lots of fun!
Local honey, used in one of the recipes. 
Squid tentacles, which we chopped up and served on flatbread.

Pan con Tomate, with various toppings: jamon, queso y anchoa

Squid stuffed with caramelized onions, getting grilled.

C putting the finishing touches on our Almond Cakes. Yum!

And with that, my last post of 2013 is complete. See you next year!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Seeing Michael Pollan LIVE

Everything in moderation, including moderation.
-Oscar Wilde

Me and my friend Valarie were SO excited to meet Michael Pollan!
This post is a bit belated...My birthday was about a month ago now, and what did I do that evening? I went with a couple of friends (who I met at nutrition school) to meet Michael Pollan and hear him give a talk in Yountville, California - the heart of wine country and a big agricultural area.

What I didn't realize until we got there was that the event was the culmination of a program held in the schools through Napa County Reads. The students read Michael Pollan's book Food Rules, and then created original recipes for a cooking competition. There was a cookbook of their creation for sale, and children's food-related artwork was hanging throughout the event space. You can see some of it behind us in the photo above. The middle and high school student-chefs also prepared all of the yummy hor d'oeurves, and walked around with platters for us to sample. I was impressed with how well they described each item - it was like being at a fancy party! My friends and I especially liked the demonstration that the St. Helena Montessori school had set up. The school has a bee-keeping class (and hives on campus!) and had huge pieces of honeycomb for us to sample. The two little boys working the booth were adorable, and the honey was delicious!!

After mingling about looking at the art and tasting foods, we got in line to meet Mr. Pollan. I brought my books with me for him to sign, but then left them in the car. Oops! When we got to the front of the line, I asked him if he'd take a photo with us instead of signing for me, which he agreed to. There wasn't much time for talking, so Valarie got her book signed, and we made our way into the auditorium.

Much of what he spoke about was geared toward the youth in the audience. In fact, at the end of his talk, he only took questions from the children. Those that asked questions were probably as young as 5 and as old at 18. It was truly wonderful to see a young audience engaged in this type of talk. It gives me hope for the future of our food!!

A few key points he made in the talk really resonated with me, and I wanted to share them with you here:

1. The difference Americans make in describing hunger. For example, a French person might say, "I have hunger" and "I no longer have hunger," and ask if one "feels satisfied" after eating. An American, on the other hand, usually would say, "I am hungry" and "I am not hungry anymore" and asks "Are you full?" to indicate being done eating. This, to me, is a huge difference - can you tell why?

2. On a personal note...Growing up, my mom would post health-related comic strips on the inside of our cupboard doors. One she had up for years, which my dad still likes to quote, said: "The whiter the bread, the quicker you're dead." I was astonished when Michael Pollan used this saying in his speech, and attributed it to Jewish and Italian grandmothers! Go, Mom!

3. The importance of cultural history when it comes to our food. That our food "rules" flowed from culture, not from science. People figured out what to eat long before science got involved. This made me think of the role of fermented foods (probiotics) in cultures around the globe, and how many different diets are healthy to many different cultures. There is no ONE right way to eat!

4. And last, the importance of cooking for yourself (and your family). It is the best way to eat healthy on a budget - after all, recipes and cooking originated with peasants using scraps to feed their families. If you're looking for help on how to get started cooking for yourself, take a look at some of the recipes on this site, and post any questions you have in the comments. 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Thanksgiving Recap

Top Row, L to R: Wontons, Dungeness Crab with Homemade Mayo, Seafood Chowder, Pomegranate-Mint Relish.
2nd Row: Asparagus Soup, Sweet Potatoes with Marshmallows & Creamed Spinach, Latkes, Chestnut Stuffing.
3rd Row: Turkey - whole and sliced, Beef Tenderloin - whole and sliced.
Bottom Row: Maple Pecan Pie, Apples (used in applesauce), Chocolate Souffle, Salted Caramel Budino 

Whoops! I thought I'd posted this, but it turns out I didn't. Better late than never, right?

It was another amazing meal at Thanksgiving this year. The photos above show most of the things we ate, but there were a few dishes that I missed getting a picture of. My step-mom's family has this awesome tradition where everyone has to make at least one dish (appetizer, side dish, or dessert) which means that we have quite a multicultural feast in addition to all the usual Thanksgiving staples like turkey and sweet potatoes. Learning to pace ourselves throughout the meal is key, as desserts (like my step-sister's Salted Caramel Budino and my Dad's chocolate souffle) can be awesome.