I haven’t checked in on the physical health front for a while, so now is as good a time as any. I started slipping back into old ways and my weight started edging back up to the 190 mark and my fasting blood sugars were on the rise. I have my next doctor appointment the first week of September and I would like to see some improvement in my A1C score as well as my cholesterol, which has never been high but started creeping up the last time I had blood work done earlier this year. I really really want to get down into the 170’s before summer’s end, mainly to see if the weight loss significantly impacts my numbers. I am working on being more accountable with what I eat, every day. I’ve been cutting way back on the white stuff, doing my best to prepare meals without bread or pasta or white rice, or if I do include those starches in the family meal, I don’t eat them. I’m also saying no to sugar 90% of the time. We purchase our animal proteins from locally sourced butchers who carry only the highest quality pasture farmed, organic, hormone-free poultry and pork products plus grass-fed beef. We choose fish that is wild-caught and sustainable. Now that we are nearing summer, for the most part our fruits are in season or sourced within 100 miles and we get most of our vegetables from our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm share. I have continued to follow many of the Whole30 guidelines and am working towards another 30 day run at it. I am always more active in the summer, so that should help with everything I am trying to accomplish. I am back to walking the dogs (I took a break when the bone spurs on my left heel started to flare up), gardening, and doing the exercise routine prescribed by my personal trainer.
When I evaluate my healthy lifestyle choices, right at the top of the list of my favorite decisions has been to purchase a Community Supported Agriculture farm share. About seven years ago when The Pragmatist was a sophomore in high school, he volunteered at a farm not too far from his school. He did a lot of volunteering in those days mostly because of his personality, but also partly because of his class president duties, and partly because the school had strict community service requirements for graduation, which I believe he had already completed by the end of his freshman year. The sixth graders were going to a farm as part of a field trip where they would learn general aspects of farming, irrigation, plant starts and planting seasonal crops, crop maintenance, greenhouse farming, farm animal care and the like. The Pragmatist and a few others went as chaperones. They all slept overnight in the big barn. The Pragmatist fell in love with the farm, and specifically with the farmers who run this particular farm, which is an approximate 30 minute drive from our home. A couple days after The Pragmatist had volunteered, I got a call from the farm mom asking if we wanted to be members of their CSA. The Pragmatist had told her I would definitely want to join once I heard how great it was so she was calling to tell me how wonderful it really is. She explained to me that we would pay one lump sum and receive shares of produce during the season (April-October) and they also asked that we volunteer out at the farm at least twice per season. We joined the following season and have been members ever since. The first couple of years, The Pragmatist was home and he helped me use up all the vegetables each week making new and fun recipes with some of the unique produce we received (like kohlrabi… I had never heard of nor seen kohlrabi before receiving it one week in our farm share). I will say that the first few weeks of the season do include mostly dark, leafy greens and just about the time you feel like you have had your fill of kale, chard, spinach, and romaine, the good stuff starts showing up. We pick up our share every Sunday and I plan the week’s menu from that basket.
This week’s share included two big beautiful heads of lettuce, a head of cabbage, basil, green onions, beets, radishes, cauliflower, broccoli, zucchini and summer squash, fava beans, sugar snap and regular peas, red potatoes, two fennel bulbs, garlic, kale, and two dozen farm fresh eggs.
We are city dwellers, living just three miles from the downtown core of a pretty decent size U.S. city, and we love driving out to the farm to get our vegetables. We have so much fun helping with harvest, especially in the summer. Here is a picture of the sunrise from our deck on the Sunday morning of the last time we were out at the farm to help with harvest. I do not often get up before sunrise, but I will say, it feels good to have accomplished breakfast and five hours of decent manual labor by noon. Can’t say I would want to do it every day, pretty sure my body wouldn’t hold up at that point, but we do enjoy it for those couple Sunday mornings per season.
Bringing in the harvest:
baby farm animals:
A glimpse of Fall inside the barn:
Each September the farm mom hosts a canning party. Everyone brings a case of jars, lids, etc… and we make about 20-30 recipes and each person takes home one jar of each canned item. Here is a sampling of a few of the jars from a couple seasons ago:
* * *
Above: Sorrel Pesto. Below: Sorrel Pesto on toast
Sorrel was another one of those vegetables I had not heard of before receiving it in our share one week a few years ago. We love pesto around our house and the farm newsletter includes recipes for everything in the week’s share. Here is the recipe for the pesto:
1 cup Sorrel (stems & ribs removed), coarsely chopped
3 Tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
3 Tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese
4 Tablespoons pine nuts
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 Tablespoons olive oil
I just whizzed (as Jamie Oliver would say) everything together in the blender and it is delicious, and the most beautiful green color. I will most likely make some pesto from the rest of the fresh basil we received this week. I already used some of it on an heirloom tomato salad for dinner.
Another recipe I have made quite often for the family is this risotto:
SPRING PEA RISOTTO
(makes 4-6 dinner sized servings)
4 tablespoons butter, divided
1/4 cup olive oil
2 shallots, minced (we used fresh spring green onions this week)
1 tablespoon green garlic or 1/2 tablespoon regular garlic, minced (we had green garlic left over from last week’s share)
1 cup risotto
Kosher salt, to taste
Fresh ground white pepper, to taste
3/4 champagne (we used white wine because we had an open bottle of chardonnay in the fridge)
4 cups hot vegetable stock
1/2 cup fresh spring peas
1 sprig fresh mint (we had some in our own garden)
1/2 cup pureed or blanched fresh peas (see note below)
3 ounces Parmigiano Reggiano (we used a little extra for garnish)
1/2 cup pea tendrils, rough chop (or other tender leafy green, we used spinach from the farm)
In a large heavy bottomed stockpot, melt 2 tablespoons butter and olive oil over medium heat; do not let it turn brown. Add the shallots (or other onions) and garlic and cook until translucent. Add the risotto and stir to coat with the oil and butter; season with salt and fresh ground white pepper.
Add the champagne (or wine) and cook, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon until liquid is absorbed. Add the hot stock, a ladle at a time, stirring constantly, letting the liquid absorb before adding the next ladle. (It is important that the stock be kept hot during the entire process.)
When adding the last ladle of stock (the risotto should be cooked, but sill have bite), add the fresh spring peas and mint sprig. Cook until liquid is absorbed, then remove from the heat and add remaining 2 tablespoons butter, pea puree, cheese and pea tendrils (or other tender greens); stir vigorously with a wooden spoon. Discard the mint sprig and serve. Risotto should be creamy about the consistency of a good oatmeal, so that it can be eaten with a spoon. Mine in the picture below is a little thick.
Note: Make the pea puree ahead of time by blanching about 1/2 cup fresh peas in salted water, then pureeing the peas in a blender with a little of the cooking water.
The farmers have since done a total re-do of the barn, but this is one of my favorite pictures from the first season of our farm share. I think I may have to paint this lovely old window one of these days, but I will most likely get out the oil paints to do it.
Traveling the short distance out to the farm each week to get our veggies has been a real joy and comfort with everything else going on in our lives. As soon as I am out of the car and smelling the fresh air and enjoying the peace and quiet of a lazy Sunday afternoon after all the chores are complete, I feel a calm come over me. Maybe I should think about moving to a farm.