Archive for March, 2009

Food Diary by Sketchbook Buttons

Food Diary by Sketchbook Buttons

I enjoy setting goals and achieving them. However, I’ve always had difficulties keeping logs whether it is a list of my daily food intake, a journal of highs and lows of the day, or scrap books that document my journeys to faraway lands. My better-yourself projects always begin with full-throttle dedication. I buy the beautiful leather-bound scrapbook, scissors, glue, and accessories, I have at least 3 food journals that have no more than three entries ( however these entries are detailed to perfection) and my diaries lack the tear-stained realism they should have if I actually used them. So, I’m admitting that all my tracking goals slowly fizzle to “I’ll get to that tomorrow.”

After reading a post by A Life Without Diets about the benefits of tracking daily eating habits, I have decided to pick up the torch (again) and keep track of my daily food intake online using FitDay. Keeping track of what fuel we put into our bodies is important because key vitamins and minerals may be missing from our diet. When we know we are writing our intake down, we want to check off our food successes and pat ourselves on the back for eating healthy. I am going to take A Life Without Diet‘s 2-week FitDay challenge. But, it won’t come blemish free I assure you, but I will try. One thing that frustrates me to no end about these systems is that they are not geared to individuals with not-so-average eating styles like me. If someone could find one of these programs that incorporates vegan delicacies such as eggless egg salad or dairy-free mousse, please let me know. I promise to give feedback after two weeks to let you know what nutritional deficiencies I may be burdened with. I encourage you to give the challenge a try. Spring is here and it is time to clean and reorganize our lives, why not take an inventory of our eating habits and try to rework them to better our bodies.


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Michelle Obamas Garden Photo from Huffington Post

Michelle Obama at the White House Garden- Photo from Huffington Post



As we all know the job of the President is extensive–Commander in Chief, leader of the executive branch of the federal government, performing checks and balances on the judicial and legislative branches, and the appointment of justices, cabinet members and other federal officers. But, the President is also a beacon of hope to a nation in turmoil. The way he carries our his daily life impacts the nation. Citizens across the nation are losing the ability to pay off their loans because their unemployment status leaves them empty-handed. Our nation is plunging feet first into debt that we may never find our way out. My cynical nature finds it hard to pull myself out of the downward spiral and see the positives of the situation at hand, but there are many. For one, times of struggle make individuals more aware of their surroundings. Spending is more focused on needs rather than wants. Who says a little frugality is a bad thing? We begin to alter our daily lives–turning off the lights to save energy, eating out less and spending more time cooking with family, riding a bike or taking the bus to save gas, buying reusable grocery bags, and planting a garden to reap the benefits of cheap, healthy produce. Clearly there are  solutions to the financial and personal crisis of our nation, and who better to lead us than the leader of our nation.
If you’re a person who’s only looked at the stock market, CNN, or the Wall Street journal for recession-worthy news, you may be missing the world of good that is coming out of these trying times. For example, the Obama’s planted an organic garden on the White House lawn in mid-March. The garden is more than a food source for the Obama’s, it is a symbol to Americans that you too can grow your own food and succeed. Michelle Obama recruited23 school children to help her with the job. The interaction between Madame Obama and the children strived to show the newest generation that we can succeed by employing the habits of self-sufficiency learned by our grandparents and ancestors from the dawn of time. 

 The Obama’s garden

1,100 square feet plot that is visible to passerbys.

For Mexican food cilantro, tomatilloes and hot peppers

Lettuces will include red romaine, green oak leaf, butterhead, red leaf and galactic.

For colder months spinach, chard, collards and black kale.

For desserts, there will be a patch of blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries.

And herbs will include some more unusual varieties, like anise hyssop and Thai basil.

A White House carpenter who is a beekeeper will tend two hives for honey.

The plots will be in raised beds fertilized with White House compost, crab meal from the Chesapeake Bay, lime and green sand.

Ladybugs and praying mantises will help control harmful bugs.

– Courtesy of A. Siegel from the Huffington Post

New York Times reporter Marian Burros has an interview with Michelle Obama about the garden. It is a great read.

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Blood Orange from the Local Co-op

Blood Orange from the Local Co-op

I love winter–stews, kale, warm flavors, spiced tea, slow cooking, and soup.  But there is one thing Winter lacks, fruit. Apart from crispy apples, the season really lacks ingredients that satisfy the need for sweet, juicy, fleshy fruit. After feeling deprived for most of the Winter, I was ecstatic to see blood oranges at the co-op. Good gracious I’d never had one, but they immediately beckoned me to buy them and learn about what they had to offer.

What isn’t there to love about these juicy crimson-blushed fruits? Their simultaneous tart and sweet flavor yields a joyous flavor combination that excites the taste buds to no end. The majority of these succulent delicacies are grown in the Mediterranean, but of course, the United States must have a piece of the blood orange pie…California grows them too. 


Blood Oranges are Healthy Too

The blood-like pigment of these lesser known oranges is from anthocyanins.  Anthocyanins have a variety of health benefits–anti-inflammatory, protection against oxidative damage, collagen and nervous system health, better vision. Blood oranges are also rich in Vitamin C which helps your body absorb iron and reduces the risk of cancer. Blood oranges also contain 3 grams of fiber which helps lower cholesterol and decrease the risk of cancer. These oranges have approximately 70 calories per serving, are have no fat, sodium, or cholesterol.

Types of blood oranges

  • Moro:  This variety has the most vibrant hues with a deep purple flesh that originated in Sicily. The flavor has a hint of berry with sweet and sour notes. This more aromatic and more flavorful varietal is the most popular blood orange in the US.
  • Tarocco: This variety is most popular in Italy because of it’s sweet and juicy characteristics along with it’s nutritional value. It has more vitamin C than any other orange in the world. The color is less vibrant than the Moro, but the lack of bitter notes make this variety more desirable to some. 
  • Sanguinello: This variety is very similar to the Moro, but traces it’s origins to Spain. 

How to Use Blood Oranges in Your Kitchen

Although my favorite method of consumption is the peel and pop into my mouth, I also love using the juice and zest in a basic dressing. Blood oranges can also be used for cocktails, marmalade, chutneys, desserts, appetizers..it’s endless really. Here are a few recipes that sound amazing


Check out this ode to blood oranges from my favorite radio station:

NPR’s All Things Considered: The Juicy History of Blood Oranges



Sources: http://www.chiro.org/nutrition/FULL/Anthocyanins.shtml



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I apologize for my absense. Spring Break began last week, and my internet access was limited. Here are a few food photos and a few fun ones as well!


St. Patrick's Day 2009

St. Patrick's Day 2009


Shrimp, Corn and Basil Steamed in Foil

Shrimp, Corn and Basil Steamed in Foil

 The recipe from Food and Wine used scallops, but the large, local shrimp were the perfect substitution. The recipe is fast, healthy, aromatic, and full of bold flavors from the dry sauvignon blanc, sweet cherry tomatoes, and fresh basil. 


Magic Kingdom--Where Magic Happens No Matter How Old You Are

Magic Kingdom--Where Magic Happens No Matter How Old You Are

 This was the first time I’d been to the Magic Kingdom since I was in elementary school. It was my first time to ride space mountain (my new favorite ride), to get soaked to the bone on splash mountain, and to not get any autographs from the Disney characters that I idolized in my childhood. I can’t wait to go back


Back to the Present

      Classes started back on Monday, and I felt a bit under the weather–fatigue, chills, hot flashes, headache, fever, stiffness, sore throat, congestion, and sleeplessness. It seems that I caught my sister’s flu-like virus cooties, and they have taken over my body. Although I feel horrible, I just couldn’t go another day without blogging. Sitting at home for three days is hard for me because I hate to be stagnant. So far, I’ve watched movies (Hairspray, 27 dresses, and Bread and Tulips), written two papers, and eaten lots of fruits and vegetables. My sloth-like nature is extremely boring. So, of course, I’ve been putting my brain to work. For those of you who really know me, you know I love to make lists. My friend Sarah once told me that I make lists about lists, and she’s probably right. So, here is my list about my goals for the year in relation to food and sustainability. If you have any ideas or suggestions, please let me know.

To-Do for 2009

  • Brew and ferment my own kamboucha
  • Can my own jellies and relishes using local produce
  • Follow a raw food diet for 1 week
  • Whip-up homemade tomato sauce and pesto to use in the winter months
  • Start composting my food waste
  • Make my own cheese (Ricotta, Mozzarella, and anything else that’s feasible)
  • Make my own bread and crackers for at least a month 
  • Only buy wine that costs over $10 dollars…headaches be gone
  • Drink more teas (I’m a sucker for black and green varities)
  • No more chips, unless they are homemade or local
  • Blog about my daily food intake so you guys can hold accountable to these new goals
  • Eat seasonally, eat locally, and eat organically

This is just a start, and I may add more ideas as they come to me. I promise to keep you updated on my progress with photos and how-to guides so that you too can join me on my journey to a better me.

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Our grocery system is dominated by large corporate grocery stores. I’m sure if you live in small town USA, you’re grocery options include Wal-Mart, Kroger, and maybe Food City of Publix. Larger towns have more options including elite grocery stores that carry hard-to-get ingredients like Whole Foods, Earth Fare, or Fresh Market. These large grocery stores eliminate the glamour and excitement of grocery shopping. The products travel hundreds and thousands of miles to go from the farm to your shopping buggy. There are rarely local products on the shelves, and the ratio of fresh foods to processed foods is skewed to the later.

So, what is the answer? Many cities across the nation are part of the International Cooperative Alliance. They define themselves an “autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly-owned and democratically-controlled enterprise.”  They value “self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity, and solidarity. In the tradition of their founders, cooperative members believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility, and caring for others.”

It’s much easier to paint a picture of a co-op by telling you my personal story. So, here is the story of my love-affair with my local cooperative.


Three Rivers Market by Cruze Farm Girl

Three Rivers Market by Cruze Farm Girl




Stepping into the Three Rivers Market is like stepping back to yesteryear. The creaky, wooden floors are worn-down from 27 years of customers. The faint scent of apples greets incoming shoppers. And, the earthy, plaid-wearing staff isn’t sporting glossy nametags because they’d rather introduce themselves with a firm handshake and a neighborly smile.

The Three Rivers Market on Broadway Avenue is more than a grocery, it’s a community. Whether you’re on the hunt for local products or in dire need of gluten-free goods, the Three Rivers Market caters to shoppers’ demands because, it’s owned by them.

The prices at the market are comparable to chain grocery stores in Knoxville. A brochure filled with discounts on featured products including frozen foods, canned goods, bulk items, cleaning supplies and health and beauty products is emailed to customers and owners each month.

But shopping isn’t the only option for customers. For just $25 dollars, visitors can be a part of the bigger picture—a local cooperative with over 1500 members. Chris Buckner, education services director, believes, “The biggest benefit of becoming an owner of a place you actually shop is knowing you help support a community owned local business and have a voice in the store.”

            With the rising prices of packaging, shipping and gas, shoppers pay lower prices for dry goods like flour, couscous, coffee or dried fruit by using a bulk purchasing system. Buckner says, “Buying in bulk is more eco-friendly because it eliminates unnecessary packaging, and it’s cheaper because you buy the exact amount you want which eliminates waste.”

            Environmental sustainability is a principle owner concern. In 2006, the quantity of local products offered increased by 27%. Buckner says, “We’re always looking for new growers and producers. We try to look for our local folks as much as we can.” Local products range from cheeses, breads and produce to beauty products like lotion or soap.

            Food isn’t the market’s only priority. It serves the community by donating unsold food to Second Harvest Food Bank and Food Not Bombs, buying recycled and biodegradable products, purchasing green power monthly and offering bus-riding customers free vouchers for purchases over $10.

            The co-op strays away from a traditional grocery because the “money spent here is reinvested in the community. Profits don’t go to an investor that doesn’t live here,” Buckner says.

            The Co-op is open everyday from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. In addition to groceries the co-op also has baby food, dog food, books, shopping bags and a to-go deli featuring homemade sandwiches, salads and other vegan and vegetarian treats.  If they don’t have what you want, ask for it. The co-op has one priority and it’s the customer. 

Check out Cruze Farm Girl’s Blog to learn more about the Co-op and check out some awesome photos (Cruze Farm is a local dairy that supplies delicious chocolate, whole, skim, and buttermilk to the co-op)

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Colorful Veggies Make Colorful Plates

Colorful Veggies Make Colorful Plates



Lately, it seems the foodie world has been buzzing about veganism, but the emergence of raw food has quickly gained popularity as well. My first official raw food meal, occured at the Glowing Bowl in Knoxville last fall. While I expected fresh, cruncy, colorful, and cold food…I got so much more. The flavors were rich, bold, and developed. The textures perfectly complemented one another, and I learned about new ingredients like Stevia, Agave nectar, and almond milk. I was hooked at the first bite.

I like think that Raw foodies are more creative than “normal” cooks, because they don’t have the ability to play off the texture changes that occur during cooking (caramelization of sugar, browning and crunchiness of fat, tenderizing vegetables). They also eat seasonally to get the most flavor and nutritional value of food products. I ttry to live by these principles, and I feel a deep connection with raw food and what it stands for.

A few mantras for serious raw foodies

  •  Don’t kill the enzymes. Living foods are foods that contain enzymes. Enzymes begin to be destroyed at 102° F and are completely destroyed by 126° F. Destroying these enzymes decreases the nutritional value of  food according to raw foodies. (I do disagree about one food–tomatoes. Tomatoes are more nutritious when cooked)
  • Consume uncooked, unprocessed foods that are generally organic
  • Learn to sprout , juice, and dehydrate…this is where the creativity comes in

Although is a very condensed lesson about raw food (I’ve got tests and papers galore), it is a good tool for the raw food newbies.  Although, I’ll never be a full-blown raw diet follower, I do like to incorporate these uncooked dishes into my weekly meals.
Here are some of my favorite raw food treats

Ezekiel Sprouted Bread

Carrot Cake

Eggless Egg Salad

Chocolate Mousse

Please share any recipes or links of your favorite raw recipes, I especially like lunch and dessert.

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I’m starting a new series called “Tell Me All About it Tuesdays”. Every food and beverage has an extensive history. I want to share their stores with you. Tuesdays will be a food history lesson jazzed up with nutrition facts and fun new ways to incorporate these products into your diet. I’m going to begin the series, with my latest beverage obsession–Kombucha (kom-BOO-cha). 


Homemade cran-ginger, strawberry and mango kombucha by Queersten

Homemade cran-ginger, strawberry and mango kombucha by Queersten




The Chinese first recorded using kombucha, “The Tea of Immortality” in 221 BC. Although the Chinese consumed this fermented beverage for over 2000 years, the name Kombucha originated in Japan. The story goes that the Emperor Inyko was treated to fizzy tea by a Korean physicist, Kombu. The emperor combined the physicist’s last name Kombu with the Japanese word for tea “cha” to form kombucha.

The Russians began to use the tea after traveling to Japan between WWI and WWII after they discovered the tea improved health, longevity, and well-being. From Russia, it’s popularity gained Prussia, Poland, Germany and Denmark. Although it lost popularity during WWII because there was a shortage of tea and sugar, it regained steam after the fighting ended when Dr. Rudolph Skelnar of Germany used it to treat cancer patients, metabolic disorders, high blood pressure and diabetes.


What in the world is Kombucha

Kombucha is a sparkly, fizzy fermented tea derived from the kombucha mushroom. This mushroom is a relative of Chaga, a birch-tree mushroom, used by the Russian peasants of the Alexandrove district near Moscow to cure them of cancer. Peasants from this area are reported to have no cancers in their communities.

Kombucha starts as a bacteria and yeast culture, and it is then placed into a bowl of sweet black or green tea. The liquid transforms into a pool of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and healthy organic acids. This occurs because the living kombucha culture digests the sugars and produces organic acids, vitamin C, vitamin B, amino acids, and enzymes.

The unique champagne-like taste isn’t popular with many consumers. So, in the United States Kombucha is paired with popular ingredients like ginger,raspberry, mango, or cranberry to make a tastier and even healthier beverage.

Nutritional Benefits: “The Tea of Immortality”

Kombucha is similar to yogurt because live bacteria digest sugars and produce acid, and it is also a probiotic. A probiotic is a food or beverage loaded with good bacteria that promote healthy guts in humans. Probiotics, including kombucha,  generally have a sour or bitter taste. The vast amount of research on probiotics focuses on fermented milk products like yogurt or kefir. In the lab, kombucha has shown antiviral, antibiotic, and antifungal properties. In lab rats, it improved liver function and protected the body against stress. However, many of the health claims of this magical elixir are from personal testimonies. Benefits range from treating cancer, HIV, arthritis and allergies to improving energy levels, hypertension, and chronic fatigue. So, what is kombucha made of that might give evidence to these claims?

Organic Acids

  • Glucuronic: This detoxifier binds toxins in the liver and flushes them out through the kidneys. It can cope toxins from plastics, herbicides, pesticides and resins. A byproduct of glucuronic acid are the glucosamines, which are associated with cartilage, collagen, and synovial fluid (this lubricates joints).
  • Lactic acid: Assists blood circulation and helps stomach distress. It also aids in the acid base balance of the body. This slightly more acidic environment, kills the bad bacteria.
  • Acetic acid: Inhibits harmful bacteria.
  • Usnic Acd: A natural antibiotic
  • Oxalic Acid: A preservative that promotes intracellular production of energy
  • Malic acid: liver detoxification
  • Gluconic Acid: greatly benefits individuals who suffer from yeast infections
  • Butyric acid: protects cell membranes and strengthens the gut to prevent bacterial infections

Basic Nutrition Facts: 30 calories, Og fat, 10mg sodium, 7g of total carbohydrate, 2g of sugar, 25% folic acid, 20% Vitamin B2, 20% Vitamin B6, 20% Vitamin B1, 20% Vitamin B3, and 20% vitamin B12. It also has 1 billion lactobacillus bacteria and 1 billion s.Boulardii

Where do I get this stuff?

You can make it yourself. Find out how to do it here


Homemade Kombucha looks a little gross, but its full of healthy nutrients

Homemade Kombucha looks a little gross, but it's full of healthy nutrients

If you prefer not to drink something that looks like the beverage above, try drinking Synergy Raw Kombucha Drinks, with great flavors like Cranberry, Ginger or Mango. But keep in mind, NEVER SHAKE KOMBUCHA OR IT WILL EXPLODE. Trust me, I’ve shaken and it was a mess.


Synergy Raw Kombucha

Synergy Raw Kombucha







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