Archive for the ‘Traveling’ Category

What a Whirlwind!

Phew!  2½ months since I last posted!  I don’t share too much of my personal life with you on this blog but I’m sure you could tell by my last posts (from fall thru early winter) that I was not in my normal state.  I started seeing someone who was a great person but had a lot of issues, and due to his instabilities and lack of discipline my lifestyle was hindered.   I was way out of whack, mentally and emotionally; I was eating horrendously, not getting enough sleep, being exposed to a great deal of second-hand smoke, add his unpredictability to that and I was struggling to keep my sanity.  Hence why I dubbed him “The Distraction” from the beginning.  (Of course there was plenty of goodness mixed in with that, or so I thought.)  I finally ended things for good a few weeks before Christmas and have been working on Me ever since.

With the Distraction gone, I was able to regain control of my life.  I was back to cooking on weekends, eating all organic again, I also started going back to the gym.  My sadness subsided and I was feeling even better than I had before he had come into my life.  Around the end of January I was invited by an old co-worker (whom I’d been out of touch with for about 6 years) to go to Mexico mid-February.  The people in my life questioned me about food in Mexico; to be honest, I wasn’t really worried about it.  I mean I didn’t want to eat GMO’s but I didn’t want to be a PIA to my travel companion (who didn’t seem to completely grasp the definition of organic although he is a vegetarian and super into yoga and somewhat practicing Buddhism) so I was just going to go with the flow.  I packed a lot of food for the plane (have I mentioned my new addiction to Kind Bars??) as to avoid the food at the airports.  I was doing well until our flights got a little mixed up and we spent 16 hours traveling.  I ate a turkey club at the airport and a tuna melt at the Crowne Plaza.  The next morning we ate at the airport, I had a yogurt with fruit and granola.  When we got to Mexico I felt much better about the food.  I don’t know for sure, but I assume the produce is much fresher and less likely to be from GMO seeds, I also suspect less pesticide usage or at least less dangerous chemicals, but I may be naive in this assumption.  I ate a lot of fresh fish and never have I enjoyed fish so much in my life!!  I ate bacon!  You would have never known that I hadn’t eaten bacon in over a year the way I was ordering up that fatty pig!  Oh, and french fries too!  Ha! I know, pretty relaxed huh?  😛  The bacon was so different from what we’re used to here in the States.  I can’t describe it but it seemed to be made better; I pictured healthy pigs rolling around in a muddy pen snouting for roots and flowers and such.  And I couldn’t resist the BLTA, a BLT with avocado and a special avocado mayo – OH IT WAS DELISH!!!!  The fries? Ok, admittedly I could have done without the fries. Our trip back was a little messed up too, leaving us to eat at yet another hotel restaurant where Iagain ordered fries… I was starting to become worried about this reunion of grease and good feelings.  I had been fighting a cold the whole week and it definitely caught up to me on the return; as soon as I got home  I passed out for 5 hours and when I woke up, I was hungry and realized how accustomed I had gotten to eating out.  I was in between week-long vacations so I hadn’t done any food shopping and it took everything I had to not go get something, anything!

I made it through that week and found myself in a Friday’s at yet another airport (with my Mexico travel buddy).  I wasn’t too hungry and really didn’t want to restart this nightmare of conventional crap so I didn’t order anything.  Too bad that didn’t stop me from eating the sesame jack chicken strips and one or two of the potstickers that was ordered 😦  I vowed to be more mindful and unwavering while I was at my parents’ in Florida!  Remember last year’s visit?  Well, it almost brings a tear to my eye to admit that on our way from the airport at 1opm I was so hungry I asked for anything.  Anything!  My parents listed some choices and all I could think about was how I’d give anything to be back in Mexico, I longed for their fresh food!  After reneging on my original request, rejecting McDonald’s and Burger King I was left with one option, Wendy’s.  Wendy’s.  I’m shaking my head as I write that.  I ended up with a jr. bacon cheese burger, a jr. chicken sandwich and split a small fry!  WHAT!?  I know.  I can barely stand to type that.  Might as well get used to it as I have a whole shitload more of this to tell you about.  Chick-filet is on the list.  So are a number of other sit-down restaurants, at least 3.  I lost track of the crap, it was easier to count my organic meals; on average it was one a day.  😦 And that doesn’t even touch on the rum drinks and beer!  Well, at least in Florida my rum drinks were made with organic juice 😛

With that aside, there was some great things happening in SWFL since my last visit.  Remember the co-op I had found for my mother?  She has been using it all year and is really happy with it.  I was able to join her to pick up her meat order and was happy to see the project in action.  They also built a Trader Joe’s in Naples so my mother is very happy about the savings she finds there.  I wasn’t able to make it out there again this year, there’s just so much more to do than groceries!  I did get to visit Publix in Cape Coral though and found that they had a section of natural and organic foods at the front of the store.  Prices were still high and the selection left a lot to be desired, but it’s better than nothing!  As a side-note, last year at this time, Girl Scout Cookie time, I had ordered a couple of boxes from my niece to be shipped to my Grandmother via my Mom.  The shipment happened to arrive while I was there and I ended up eating 2 or 3 cookies that week.  This year when my niece came calling, I ordered a box for support but told her to donate them herself.  No temptation for me!  Despite all the other crap I’ve included in my diet over the last few months, I cleared GSC season without eating one!

I also never updated you on my caffeine detox.  Sun Roasters sent me 2 lbs of flavored beans about a week after I requested them ($20!).  I’ve been cutting the decaf with caffeinated Sun and have been loving it.  I’ve been meaning to cut down more, I’m still at 50/50% but I feel good and don’t see any reason to cut it out completely.  Thanks to Charlie at Sun Roasters for all his help!  (No, I don’t know what I am going to do when I am out of the beans!)

I think that pretty much brings you up to date on where I’m at now.  Except for one thing, and even though I don’t keep you up to date with my personal life, I have to share this with you for I can’t keep it to myself and take every opportunity to tell anyone who’ll listen; I’m in love!  After being single for close to 6 years, briefly dating only a couple of people in that period, I have finally found where I belong!  My travel buddy and I fell in love in Mexico, maybe unbeknownst to us, but we quickly became conscious of what was going on during our visit to my parents’.  It’s just so wonderful and perfect!  People used to give me a hard time about being too picky or afraid of commitment but I knew even though I had met a lot of great guys over the years, none of them were for me.  I always said I was perfectly happy by myself, that anyone who came into my life would make it brighter, not complicate it.  When I was with Tom in Mexico everything was … pfft like there are words in the dictionary to describe it!  It’s the stuff you see in movies, what girls dream of.  He’s an extension of me, makes me feel like I’m walking on air; my heart is full and though I’ve been in love before, never anything like this, ever!  Everything about us amazes me!  He is just the perfect person for me in every way!  We even compliment each other in our differences, it’s like we were truly meant to be!

Okay, I’ll stop myself – I could go on for paaages!  But I do have to tell you all about how we eat now that we’re back home… oh yeah, I forgot to mention, due to future plans we have, I’ve moved in with him 🙂  So for the last week we’ve eaten wonderful meals with barely any effort at all!  It’s crazy!  You know how much I hate preparing dinner after work; well Tom is so fantastic and such a great cook and we work so well together that it’s like we question what’s for dinner and before we know it there is a delicious complete meal on the table!  BAM!  He’s got me eating all sorts of fish and I’ve introduced kale and quinoa into his life, funny that I don’t even like quinoa but now that he does we’ve eaten it just about every night.  I like that he doesn’t like kale but when I cooked it (once steamed with salmon, which he ‘doesn’t like’ either, and once steamed in tamari), he liked it 🙂  I love that he likes my cooking and I love that he jumps in without hesitation or question and starts a dish or finishes something I’ve got going on.  He’s just so terrific!  Oops, here I go again!  I just can’t help it!  ❤

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Random Thoughts

One thing I’ve learned from having this blog is that there are a lot of people out there looking to find out if Chipotle uses GMO’s.  I really can’t believe how many hits my blog gets from that range of search.  It kinda makes me want to write another email, this time with a little more detail.  {UPDATE: 4/29: Here is that correspondence}  I just learned of Baja Fresh and really wish there was a location near me.  I just checked to see if I would hit one on my way up to the Catskills this summer; so far there are no stores close to my route.

Yesterday as I strolled through the produce section of Shaw’s looking for some organic tomatoes I wasn’t seeing any marked as organic so I started checking the PLU stickers for that #9.  (If a PLU starts with 9 it is organic, an 8 means it is GMO and just a 4 digit number is conventional)  All of a sudden, I wondered if all GMO produce was labeled with the #8 and realized this would change things dramatically for me!  I looked it up as soon as I could and this is what I came across: http://www.foodrenegade.com/plu-codes-dont-indicate-gmo-produce/  I should know that would’ve been too good to be true!  Oh well.

My Easter trip to PA was great!  My brother and I went to the Giant Eagle Market District on the way home from the airport.  What a store!  Jeeze!  So many things!  My sister-in-law had already gotten a lot of organics for me so we just got a few other things she wasn’t able to find at the regular Giant Eagle.   I made some mac & cheese with black beans for lunch, pasta and sauce w/ corn for dinner.  A cliff protein bar for breakfast, snacks of yogurt, fruit strips, nuts, and a banana.  I was still craving a burger so my brother made a point to get me one ❤  He found this place Burgh’ers that had my mouth watering!  Too bad they aren’t open Sundays 😦  After a trip back to Giant Eagle, we had organic burgers on the grill!  My craving still hasn’t been satisfied though so this week’s menu consists of Burgers, Tacos and Waffles and Sausage LOL I’m thinking I might be a little deficient in my iron intake with all these red meat cravings!  One of the best things for me about my trip was that all the food I didn’t eat will be eaten by my nieces!  I thoroughly enjoyed seeing them suck on organic juice boxes!!  I filled their easter eggs with natural jelly beans and gummy bears; my 6-year old niece hated the jelly beans but my 2-year old niece loved them which to me just means the 6-year-old’s tastes are already adjusted to the sweet and salts and artificial flavors.  The number one reason people think organic food is gross is because their pallets are so accustomed to the artificial sweeteners and other poisons that have been added to our foods for the last 30 something years!

This morning I was trying to come up with a solution to lunch and landed on my go-to meal from last summer (tortellini with olive oil, spices and this time I used broccoli) which made me realize just how long I have been living this ‘new’ lifestyle 🙂  Talk about easier now than then!  It just happens, it’s a way of life and requires much less effort – well, maybe the same amount of effort but less thought which makes it seem like less effort…?  I don’t know, it’s just way easier today than it was 10 months ago!

Here I go again…

Up, up and away … again!  My flight is booked for Easter weekend in PA with my brother’s family 🙂

I’m so not stressed about it either!  I figure, if I can get away with a week’s worth of clothes without checking a bag, I can do a weekend’s worth and use the extra room for food.  My sister-in-law (who is my only one but would most likely be the best even if I had 16!) sent me an email telling me she thinks she has a few places where she could get some organics and wanted to know what I would need as she ‘knows how important this is to me’.  I love her!

Other things going on in my life… I’ve been pretty good about my meals since I got back from Florida.  I made a delicious chicken dish (about 15x now!), the only change I made was adding a bag of TJ’s frozen organic jasmine rice and my chicken was marinated.  I also found some frozen organic pork pot stickers at WF’s (Annie Chung’s) – they are awesome!  I’ve used them a few times in a pinch; I’ve added a little teriyaki marinade to some of the TJ’s jasmine rice and what a great dinner!  Lots of chicken & rice happening, still haven’t made the Italian pot pies!

In my dating life, I’ve met someone and we’ve been spending a good amount of time together.  He’s not organic but very open to the idea; hell, if a guy knows what a GMO is already, I’m happy!  Saturday was the first time we spent an entire day together and during our afternoon dog walk he looked at me and said, “So wait, you don’t go out to eat, do you?” I looked at him, smiled and shook my head, “Not really, I mean I willllllll but I’d rather not…” we talked about food for the rest of the walk.  He jokingly said he could really go for an Olneyville burger and I jumped on the opportunity to make a food plan, “We could go to NY System, you can eat and then we can go by my house and I’ll make something real quick?”  While we were at NYS he asked if it bothered me that he ate [conventional food] in front of me, we talked more about food and I told him how I felt about different stuff – Like the wieners being piled up on the counter next to me, meat sauce dripping and the onion smell permeating my nostrils.  Man, what I wouldn’t have given to eat one of those…but at the same time, I didn’t want it.  I can’t explain it.  It’s like I knew I used to love wieners but even if I were to shut my brain down and eat one, I wouldn’t enjoy the taste now.  And then his burger came, oh man!  It looked soooooo good!  But instead of wanting a bite of it, I just made a mental note to put a burger on my grocery list this week.  Again with the french fries, it amazes me that I have absolutely no desire to eat a french fry!  We talked more about food and how I live my life around it.  Then we went to my house where I threw a handful of frozen broccoli into a pot boiling water and a Blake’s chicken mac & cheese in the microwave and within 5 minutes, was eating my own dinner (you know how much I love to appear low maintenance!). I also gave him the remnants of the conventional food in my pantry; 8 months later and my kitchen is almost completely void of any non-GMO food item!   Today I noticed he was still logged into Netflix on my laptop so I added Food, Inc. to his instant que 😉

Forgotten Florida Fun

I indicated in my last post that I still had some things I wanted to tell you about my recent Florida trip; enough time has passed since writing that novel so I will continue…

I wanted to mention how it became clear to my Mom how important is was to read ingredients as she got tricked many times into thinking things were organic by the claims on the front of packages.  I myself had this same thing happen to me last summer, once you realize the mistake you feel duped and a little stupid.  She couldn’t believe the amount of falsified info companies put on the front of their packaging; at least twice I heard her say, “Why isn’t GMO food labeled?!”  Good question, Mom.  The answer would make you sick.  (Oooooo while looking for the link to the answer, I found this – please click!!) (And after I found the link to why the government refuses to label GMO Foods, I decided against posting it as I refuse to spread such ignorance.)

Another thing that I drew attention to was the size of my father’s (and mother’s for that matter) dinner plate.  Over the years his belly has become quite round, cute, but I know it’s really unhealthy and needs to be taken care of.  He rides his bike every day for about 7 miles but he doesn’t do much more in the line of exercising (other than household/yard chores) so it’s unlikely he’s going to shed any pounds without changing his diet.  (My mother and I may have convinced him to add some strength training to his weekly routine.)  The first night at dinner when he took out the plates I made a comment about how big they were and suggested we use salad plates and that if we wanted more we could have seconds.  The first try was successful, my father put significantly less on his plate and didn’t feel like he needed seconds (even a few hours later, he didn’t seem to be hungry or even remember that he had eaten maybe half the amount he normally would’ve); he did mention how good he felt and that he normally feels very heavy and full after dinner.  The next time we used the smaller plates he didn’t even finish what he had!  The third time, he was the one to correct my mother when she took out the large plates.  I haven’t checked, but would like to know if this is a new habit.

I learned of some new businesses that made me feel all warm inside 🙂  One is White Oak Pastures which has the only on-farm, USDA-Inspected, grass-fed beef processing plant in the US.  I encourage you to read about their family farm; how can you not marvel at the idea of organic, grass-fed beef, humanely butchered cows (by artisan meat cutters, who hold master degrees in meat science), all on a zero-waste processing plant!?  The best news?  Well, that would be that you can order their meat for delivery to your home!! (But please remember to keep the distance traveled to your home from the farm in mind!)

Another gem I stumbled upon was a local CSA in Fort Myers that runs weekly and allows you to order what you want from the weekly order form.  I can’t describe my excitement at this find!  I told you how frustrated I was once I saw the prices of organic produce at Sweet Bay, well the prices at Fresh Organics SWFL are low – even compared to my Whole Foods in RI!  PLUS, there are items (produce and dairy) that are not sold close by my parents’ house (my mother goes to the WF in Naples about every 6 weeks) so this is ultra convenient and cost-effective!!  VICTORY!!

Another find that I was excited about was the organic ice cream shop!  My family loves ice cream but we eat more of it out than at home so I was psyched to have an organic option!  We weren’t sure of where it was and everyone who we told the address to said “Hmm, odd spot for an ice cream place”, apparently it is in a rather industrial area.  We also tried to look it up in the GPS and 2x we called 411 for the number, all to no avail.  We are a family of explorers so we didn’t let that deter us, as we probably  should have HAHA!  When we walked into Cool Hand Luc’s there were 4 other people in the roughly 500 SF shop, two of which had an infant crawling around on the dirty, flaky paint, concrete floor.  We approached the counter and saw the 4 flavors of ice crystal-laden ice cream, 2 non-dairy and 2 organic.  My grandmother stepped right up and ordered the (unknowingly non-dairy) peanut butter.  My parents and I were a little less excited about the whole thing.  I didn’t want this to be a bad experience for my grandmother as she was already poo-poo’ing the whole organic idea (even though she wasn’t grasping the concept of what makes food organic;  in her defence she is 92 and suffering from Alzheimer’s!) so I stepped up and told the lady that we were going to pass due to the lack of flavors and that I wanted my grandmother to enjoy her organic ice cream experience (I said it with way more tact than that though LOL).  She gave me a bite of the PB, non-dairy ice cream and I have to say it did taste better than I imagined it would but no one seemed to really be feeling the place so we left.   I just searched for the website and came across some reviews that make me think I may be judging from an “off” day.  I do like the idea of what they are doing there, I am sorry it wasn’t what I expected.

The last item on my list was also bitter-sweet.  One morning my mother was telling me about a tour she has taken a few times at a farm where they educate missionaries on agricultural solutions to problems with growing food in difficult conditions.  She sold me on the idea of taking a tour and after watching the introductory movie before the tour, I was super excited to learn more about Echo!  I wanted to be educated on the mission and I was thrilled to hear an opposite solution to the world’s food crisis than GMO crops.  The intern who got up and spoke after the video was so chipper and excited about life and her mood made me even more excited to get on with this tour… unfortunately, we were led outside by a volunteer who was less than informed.  My mother had told me more and answered more questions on the car ride over than this guy; even the answers he did have, I began to question after recognizing some incorrect answers he had given in the beginning of the tour.  I was left frustrated at not getting the info I wanted and not being able to trust the info I was given.  A few times we jumped to other tour groups only to feel guilty and returned to our own group.  I’m glad my mother took a few tours and had already convinced me that this was really cool because I will def give it another chance when I can; I will be sure to get on a tour lead by an intern though!

I had a great vacation and feel like I spread a lot of information around to people, which feels great!  I am happy to be home and see that spring is trying to spring!  I got back to looking for recipes and cooking new dishes for myself.  This week  I made a spring soup and a chicken dish; the only thing I changed in the chicken dish (that I think made the dish) was that I marinated the chicken in Organicville teriyaki sauce (which normally, I am not crazy about the lack of flavor) and added a little extra to the asparagus and chicken mixture.   And I’m already one recipe ahead for next week!  (Mostly because I was supposed to make it this week but didn’t)  I’m going to try Italian Pot Pies (with grass-fed beef, of course!)

Organic Living in SWFL

I’ve become pretty damn good at eating while traveling; so why not kick it up a notch and take this show off the road and into the sky!

After my frustrating day Monday I arrived at the airport Tuesday at 6am with a Cliff bar and 2 TJ’s fruit snacks stuffed down in the bottom of my carry-on (thanks to the TSA’s website letting me know I was not allowed to bring my own food through security).  I held up an orange and banana to the TSA guy and he cheerfully said “Oh yes, you can bring all the food you want, just no liquid!”  Thanks.  I don’t know why I second guessed myself with that!  Grrr!

Landed at 2:00 and we went to The Elephant Bar for lunch.  I’m not a drinker but when on vacation, forget it!  I want a rum drink in my hand at all times (which has always led to a cigarette but more on that later).  So I ordered a rum runner without much hesitation, quick thought crossed my mind but it was trumped by the logic that I am about to eat some undoubtedly inorganic food so why not wash it down with some [assumingly] GMO rum mixed with HFCS?  I ordered the tomato, basil, avocado and mozzarella salad which is what I thought to be the best choice on the menu – and what a menu it was!  I wanted sooooo much more but the thought of eating CAFO cows or big breasted chickens who stumbled around in their own feces the entire 6-7 weeks it took to ‘grow’ turned my stomach.  So vegetables (even big fat GMO tomatoes and pesticide sprayed basil) it is!  And I just enjoyed the cheese without thinking about where it came from (which now that I do think about it, I have a vision of a cow shitting out a mozzarella ball LOL).  Covered with some sort of GMO oil – Mmm’Mmmm!!

Back at the house I did a quick look through the kitchen – I have to say, even as a kid I never felt like there was anything to eat in the house.  My mother cooked meals.  You didn’t look in the cupboard and say “Hey, I want that!”; you had to have creativity, you had to envision the ingredients as a dish and then make it happen.  I ate a lot of cereal as a kid 😛

At dinner time we decided on left-over kale, sweet potatoes and chicken on the grill.

~ The kale (which was said to be organic) was great because I don’t cook kale (other than in a soup) and I know it is really good for me so I was happy to learn a [new] way to cook it (she cut out the veins and cut into small pieces, put 2 tbsps of soy sauce and a little water in a saucepan and cooked it for like 3 minutes until it wilted).  You know I was all over that soy sauce bottle!  As I pulled the bottle out of the fridge and turned it around my mother said, “IT’S ONLY 1 TBSP!”.  I wasn’t not going to eat it on a count of a tbsp (or 2 like we now know!) but I was just curious.  I ate it and wasn’t crazy about it, I blame it on the taste of the soy sauce (I don’t know if it is because the crap in it or that I would’ve rather had it plain).

~The sweet potatoes were surely organic but, too late, I noticed my mother spraying the pan with “Connola Oil SPray”; she informed me she was using non-organic spices which I approved, she never mentioned pan coating.  I frowned and notified her that PAM makes an organic.  The potatoes tasted like GMO’s.  Seriously!  I don’t know if I can taste GMO’s but I didn’t enjoy the taste of the spray (I felt like that’s all I could taste, I assume it is because of the ‘fake factor’ because I use cooking spray all the time).

~ The chicken was ‘organic’ (I am using quotations because I was assured that all the meat my parents eat is organic and I believed it….until just this second when I realized they buy their meats at Whole Foods at the meat counter and we know WF doesn’t sell organic meats at the counter.  Oh well, at least it was from WF’s…) and marinated in Organic Valley marinade, cooked on the grill.

The next day we went to see about some misc. food shopping.  We stopped at Back To Nature which is a small store with produce, dry goods, supplements and other neat natural finds.  My mother told me the owner follows a raw food diet and has classes on the subject.   We struck out with the produce, it was looking pretty sad.  We did get a couple of items and then we went to Sweet Bay.  The organics in Sweet Bay are arranged together in each aisle and marked “ORGANIC/NATURAL”.  I liked this idea at first (as our supermarkets have a natural section but they still keep some organic items only with their conventional siblings so you have to search the entire store) however it quickly became disappointing because the selection was very small.  I also was appalled at their produce prices!  2 green peppers were $6.99!  So we got what we could and went back to Back to Nature for peppers (luckily they had just received a fresh produce order), Cliff Bars, and breadcrumbs.  I wasn’t able to make it to Fresh Market or the Whole Foods in Naples; I wanted to but I just didn’t have it in me – this was a vacation after all!

A few weeks ago my sister-in-law hit everyone up for Girl Scout Cookies, my favorite time of year!  I knew I didn’t want a box but I wanted to order my normal two for my niece so I decided to have my order shipped to my grandmother to save me the temptation.  Well wouldn’t you know, that shipment of cookies arrived in Florida while I was there!  And not just my order but my parents’ 8 boxes (it might have been 6 but really, does it matter at that point??)  Anyway, between the order and the delivery my grandmother’s doctor warned her about her sugar level and it has become a bit of a struggle so I decided not to give her the cookies… I ended up eating 1.5 peanut butter patties and 1 peanut butter sandwich.  I’m okay with that, considering how many I really wanted to eat!  Cravings for that stuff have pretty much disappeared but GSCs are sooooo yummy and the fact you can only get them once/year adds to the want factor!

I did some more online searching for organic eating in the area as I knew it was only a matter of time before I was asked again about eating out.  I found a few places but really there were only two that had organic food (the rest were vegan or had gluten-free menus); one was a pizza place and the other an ice cream shop.  Not exactly what I was looking for but the ice cream was a bonus as that is another favorite thing for our family.   We were coming home from the beach one afternoon and we were headed to pickup my grandmother and go to bingo for a few hours (this is what makes this diet hard, being on the go for more than one meal is really tough!).  Luckily we had the pizza place on the way so I called to ask my questions and was delighted to hear their answers – everything from the dough to the toppings was organic!  (I assume not the meats but I forgot to ask that!)  We ordered a pepper, onion and mushrooms and a Hawaiian (which had bacon instead of ham), they were both very good!   The inside of the place was clean and fun and they had a frosted stripe running the length of the bar for your beer!  They also deliver there pizzas in a Prius!  I’m happy places like Pizza Fusion are out there and I pray they stay in business!!

There were two beach days were we ate at the pool bar; on each of those days I had a rum drink and a piece of grouper.  The first day I picked at the salad and dipped my fork into the salad dressing to flavor my fish.  The second day I ordered my plate without the salad and got the fish blackened.  I didn’t ask any questions about how the fish was prepared so I don’t know if there was butter or oil or anything, I just ate it.  Did I mention I hate fish?  Hahaha It’s growing on me.  We had fish one other night, this was a fish my father caught and I let my mother prepared however she wanted (I know there was organic butter and we had bought organic PAM so other than the spices, I’m pretty sure everything was okay).

We threw a cocktail party one night as well.  My mother did a great job of thinking of me and what I could eat during the party, however she is still getting used to checking labels so the organic corn chips were found to only be ‘made with organic corn’.  There were Kettle Brand chips (not organic but they advertise non-GMO ingredients!), Applewood ham wrapped around organic cream cheese, Food Should Be Good tortilla chips with organic salsa, and someone made up an organic vegetable platter (“How can she afford to eat organic?!” was what she asked my mother after she shopped for the veggies – it’s not easy there and I am not even sure I could make it happen if I lived there!).  I drank my organic juice with rum and happily ran back and forth to retrieve bags to read ingredients to people as they surprisingly enjoyed all the organic food – they knew it was organic because I made little flags saying “I’M ORGANIC” so they would know 🙂

I probably should have focused more on putting some of that food into my body as I woke up the next morning with a hangover 😦  Luckily it was a dreary day so we hung around and tried to salvage what we could of the afternoon/evening.  We decided to visit my grandmother one last time and take her to play bingo; great idea but the logistics were ridiculous!  We just couldn’t get on the same page and couldn’t get a plan together to save our lives! Needless to say I was hungry (the whole day).  My mother was really wanting to eat out, after all the work she did on the party and clean up and helping me nurse my hangover, she deserved someone else to cook and clean for her.  I was willing to cook and clean but she wouldn’t be able to sit and watch and I’m sure that’s why she wanted to go out.  I didn’t say no but you know I was looking for every other possibility!  We had to make a quick stop back at the house for something and I took the opportunity to pack a cooler as full as I could!  We were out the door and I was happily eating my food while everyone else got chicken sandwiches and french fries at the bingo hall.  I realized I haven’t eaten a french fry in almost a year!!

There are a few other things I want to tell you about but this post is long enough so I will some other day.  (Just as a reminder to myself: Mom checking labels, Dad’s portions, White Oak Pastures, Eco Farms, Cool Hand Luc’s)

My vacation was great, I had a lot of fun and we fit a lot into that week!  Most importantly, food was not a stress factor!  Thank goodness because now I am home and my bare kitchen is a stark reminder that vacation is over and it’s back to reality.  Whole Foods, here I come.  :/

Out of Control

For more than half my life I fought my parents for control of my life; had they known what was to come they may have made my middle name Independent.  Hmm I like that; Sara Independent Polaski 😀  But I digress…

The original plan for my arrival in Florida was to first stop at Whole Foods.  Even still, I thought I’d send myself a care package of things that my parents most likely already have that would be silly to also buy an organic version (peanut butter, jelly, chix stock, bars, pancake mix, pasta, quinoa, etc.).  When I told my mother about this she stated she had or is planning on getting everything I packed so it was deemed unnecessary.   She then told me she was going to Whole Foods before I came so we should discuss my needs – great.  I’m not ready for this!!  We sorted through a list and I feel okay about it, but I keep second-guessing my mother’s devotion.  I’ll tell you why: she eats out.  She has no problem bellying up to a table at any restaurant to eat anything (within her allowed calories anyway).  Bringing me to the next area of concern; on this particular call she asked “Are we ever going to go out to eat while you are here?”  I didn’t answer, “Hello?” , “Yeah, I’m here, I just don’t have an answer…no?  I don’t know”.  Then yesterday I needed a reminder if I was allowed to bring food through airport security (I planned on it but am now thinking I can’t!).  During this conversation she said “You’re going to be really hungry when you land! Can we go out to lunch after the airport?”  Ugh.  “Sara, you can get a salad, comm’on!”

That comment sent my mind into the following thread of thought:

Salad?  Conventional vegetables? Uck!  Why would she say salad?  Why would that be what she picked, like a salad with conventional vegetables is “okay”.  I don’t understand the food rules people establish for me, they say they understand, but it doesn’t seem like they really comprehend the matter as a whole.  What could I eat?  Damn, I am going to be starved if I can’t bring my own food on the plane.  Oh WTF!?

Then she kept going on about …well, what I heard was “NOTHING WILL BE ORGANIC!  YOU WILL EAT CONVENTIONAL FOOD ALL WEEK MWHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!”

I hung up the phone and went to check out the airport food choices, talk about frustrating!!  ARGH!!  I started with Starbucks; they have a section of the website where you can indicate allergies so I checked gluten, wheat, soy, milk and eggs (yeah, well you know…it’s hard to think about actually eating that shit!  There’s no ‘making the best decision’, you eat crap or you eat nothing when it comes to food outside of the house!).  The only food that was left after those restrictions was the oatmeal.  I checked the ingredient list (whole-grain rolled oats (with oat bran), oat flour, calcium carbonate, salt, guar gum, caramel color, reduced iron, vitamin a palmitate, niacinamide, pyridoxine hydrochloride, riboflavin, thiamine mononitrate, folic acid) then I pasted some into Google… X (that was a buzzer sound, “EEEEEEEEEEEEENT!”)  Not eating that!

I gave up.  I am going to attempt to bring some packaged food with me; I am not above batting my eyelashes and telling a little lie about a special diet to the TSA peeps!

So I just printed out everything in their area I could find on eatwellguide.org

Wish me luck!!

….. I am actually having a panic attack right now?  Before I could press ‘publish’ on this, my mom called from Whole Foods.  Mind you, I am at work and I have a hard enough time shopping for myself when I know where and how much everything is in my area.  “$5 mayonnaise, you’d better eat it!” She says in a threatening tone.  “Do you need cereal?”  I don’t know how to answer these questions!!  You know I am like friggen Rain Man when it comes to bargain shopping, cereal at WF is $4/box!  Can’t I get that at Publix cheaper?  I am paralyzed, I cannot answer, I don’t know what I want/need, I get told I have a phone call and I snap, “I CAN’T DO THIS!!! This is why I wanted to go together! I have to go!”  I told her I’d call her back but my body temp just rose, my heartbeat elevated, my head was light and I felt dizzy.  Really Sara?  Chill out, you f’n stress-case.

I can’t believe I am one of ‘those’ people.  I can’t see how flexibility can be had after learning all that I know.  How can I shut it off?  I’m so frustrated right now I could cry, this is ridiculous.

… Okay, I calmed down, got my thoughts together and called her back.  Mostly just to apologize and explain my frustrations.  It definitely stems back to childhood when I had ideas and passions that were either silly to her or impractical so they were dismissed.  When I decided to be a vegetarian for example, to say that idea was met with resistance would be an understatement.  That idea was flat-out refused to be acknowledged (other than to tell me all the reasons it wasn’t happening).  So this feeling of complete helplessness and that I am being duped doesn’t come out of nowhere.   It’s not that I don’t trust my mother and that I think she would do this on purpose but I know we do not have the same level of dedication to this.   Plus, above all else, I don’t want anyone doing this for me, I like to be responsible for myself and if I take care of everything for myself then my diet isn’t a pain in the ass for anyone but me.

Overall, after all of this, I feel good about my mother’s shopping trip and that she has never in my life tried so hard to help me do something I feel passionate about. Thanks Mom.

Long, Cold Winter

I knew it was going to be harder in the winter to come up with food solutions and I even prepared a little for it by freezing fresh ‘summer’ meals; but alas the freezer is empty and the garden is under 2 feet of snow.

I am eagerly looking forward to March when I go to visit my parents in Florida.  I am already elated that my mother mentioned hitting up Whole Foods after the airport (their closest WF is at least 30 minutes away).  I have 2 weeks to come up with a plan – what have we learned?  It always pays to be prepared!  🙂

In preparation for my trip, I have started researching organic rums (priorities, you know)!  That is my drink  of choice and being it is made from sugarcane, it’s important for me to try to find an organic substitute.  (It was argued that the ‘bad’ is distilled out by the time the rum is bottled but I don’t feel like I should buy a bottle of conventional rum, directly supporting GMO crop production.)  Granted, my parents drink enough rum that they will buy a bottle no matter what, so if I can’t find organic, I will ‘suffer’ through it LOL  I have been able to find 6 organic rums that are made, however actually locating the rum is posing to be a challenge.  I asked my mom to check around their way too.  I’ll let you know what we find!

The last time I saw my parents was for Christmas at my brother’s house in PA.  It was a great (all-be-it short) trip!  I was solo on this one and I was driving 8 hours to an old friend’s house, spending the night and then driving the final 2 hours to my brother’s, staying the weekend and then driving the full 10 hours back.  Now we all know about my need to appear low-maintenance, especially when it comes to people whom I feel have different opinions of food than me – in this case, my brother.  I also didn’t want my 6-year-old niece to notice I was eating differently than them and start asking questions that might aggravate my brother.  When I pack for these trips I try to picture myself in the moment, eating.  What are people going to be eating?  Snacks, dinner, special events?  If there is a special event, am I willing to cheat?  I answer that question by asking is it feasible for me to provide my own food?  If I were to cheat, what would I be eating?  (Basing my answer on the level of contamination/eco impact/ingredients.)   For this trip I packed eggs, milk, Batter Blaster (organic pancake mix in a can!), cookie dough, coffee, cream, sugar, and road snacks – lots and lots of road snacks!  As always, Trader Joe’s is my go-to for snacks.  We remember what Trader Joe’s says about GMO’s

My first obstacle was my friend’s husband’s birthday breakfast at Denny’s.  Feasible to supply my own food?  No.  If I cheat, what will I eat?  Well, it’s Denny’s.  I perused the menu and found there to be an egg scramble with tomatoes and spinach and such.  I really wanted a grand slam with pancakes and sausage.  I weighed the options; all the ‘good’ in the first choice was conventionally grown produce (tomatoes? UGH!) and the eggs, and… you know what?  Just do it!  Just get what you want!  I ate the whole thing.

Eating at my brother’s was VERY easy.  Dinner the first night was pasta and sauce – SCORE!  I brought my own pasta!  FAIL! – Why didn’t I bring that jar of sauce??  Oh well.  50/50.  My brother made our family’s traditional Christmas morning breakfast of crepes.  I brought blueberry agave nectar so was able to skip the fruit filling and whipped cream – but I didn’t SMH  I did skip the syrup at least!  My mother had already lovingly prepared an organic turkey pie for me ❤  (this is a family favorite, my mother’s signature recipe, so I can’t tell you how thrilled I was to have my very own pie that she made from scratch just for me! – well, she is the best mom in the world!)  That took care of lunch and dinner Christmas Day!  Late Christmas night it was discovered that there was a blizzard moving along my route home so I decided to leave at 4:30 in the morning to try to beat it home; meals were over – how easy was that!?  The best part of it?  My brother said his Chef on the boat (he’s in the Coast Guard) cooks organic whenever he could and my brother was interested in the movement.  I’m unsure of his level of interest as we didn’t talk too much about it but I am going to mail him a copy of Food, Inc. for he and my sister-in-law to watch and see what develops.  I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how much I would love to see my nieces starting their lives off eating whole foods! (especially after reading about the health differences other families have discovered – it seems this diet has a bigger (maybe just more noticeable) effect on children.)

The week prior to Christmas brought the typical treat train through the office.  I did very well but there were some pit-falls and I’ve noticed that around holidays (any holiday) I cheat more and tend to have a period of sanction.  I jokingly referred to the week before Christmas as “GMO Week” – it’s not as bad as it sounds!  I barely cheated but my co-worker latched onto that moment and is still asking me if I want to try this or eat that.  It made me remember how long it took for him to stop offering me food when I started this.  Now I realize, this brings him pleasure; he likes to share food with me and discuss it.  I’m realizing how big a part of our culture food is and it’s making me wonder how anyone looses weight in this country!  If I didn’t have my ‘rules’ I would eat anything offered to me and now I’m seeing just how often people offer up food!  I suggest to anyone trying to lose weight to go organic, not because you starve or because the food is lower in fat or calories (it’s not!) but because it would remove the everyday temptations – the ones you may not even notice!  (Not to mention what the artificial sweeteners and other additives do to your metabolism)

So now that my freezer is empty I don’t have any crutches as far as my weekly meals go, I must have two full dinners every week or I won’t have enough to eat for the week.  (I know, you are cursing me under your breath because I only have to come up with two meal ideas a week.  I’m sorry.  I admit to everything you are saying right now.  I am sorry.)  I haven’t written too much in this blog lately and I have to wonder if it’s because I am subconsciously ashamed that I have basically been living off of Shepard’s Pie for the last 3 months!  Of course that is an exaggeration but when I try to list some dishes I’ve been eating, I can’t!  Shepard’s Pie has been easy, yummy and cheap so that’s my go-to, but I am so tired of it!  Last week my sister shared some of her beef stew and a tomato-based hamburg soup she made (we call it Venus De Milo soup, after the restaurant who makes it).  I made a chicken and lentils dish which turned out to be more of chicken risotto with lentils.  I made a Finnish dish that was basically a hamburg and macaroni bake but I added frozen broccoli.  I’ve been enjoying homemade pizzas too!  A lot!  My favorite has been sausage, mushroom, onion and cheese.  I also had a HUGE craving for caprice salad so after that hankering was satisfied, I had extra cheese and basil so I thought I’d put it on a pizza (with a lil balsamic as the only ‘sauce’) – YUM!!  I have been looking in my pantry and saying “I don’t need to go grocery shopping” while recipes swim in my head.  As soon as it’s time to make those recipes *POOF* my mind is empty, just like the fridge!  This morning I made two boxes of Annie’s Mac & Cheese, added frozen broccoli and topped with organic Italian breadcrumbs.  Jeeze, is that it??  Is this really all I’ve been eating?  Well, no wonder I am reporting $70/week food costs!

This post has been in my drafts for 3 weeks.  Since then my interest in food has dwindled even more!  The mac & cheese with broccoli has made it onto every weekly menu; I added chicken last time (yuck!).  This week is a challenge, so far I’m loosing.  I’m loving my new creation of a bag of TJ’s organic brown rice with mixed frozen veggies (corn, green beans, carrots and peas with asparagus for good measure) and marinated (garlic teriyaki) chicken thighs.  Couldn’t be easier and it’s SO delicious!!  Only problem?  I’m over it.  Last night I tried red quinoa with the mixed frozen veggies plus edamame, would’ve helped if I used some soft of flavoring but I just ate it plain.  Guess how disappointed I was at lunch time today?

Honestly, I’m just trying to make it through the winter, one day at a time!

Here’s some pictures of what I’m working with, in case you think I’m exaggerating

The bottom shelf is holding non-organic left over products...