Health and Nutrition

Making Peace with the Supermarket

I don’t mean to be snobby. But let’s be real. I’m totally snobby about food shopping. As someone interested in nutrition and health, I’ve developed a kind of phobia of the supermarket in recent years. Thanks to Michael Pollan, food industry documentaries, and scary shit you read about food in the papers, I can’t help but see aisles and aisles of chemicals and carcinogens rather than food items. Even shopping the outer aisles of the supermarket, where the whole foods are supposedly at, scares me. I fear the hormones in milk. The color additives in cheese. The dyed salmon. The sickly looking produce covered in pesticide. I started shopping pretty much exclusively at my local health food store and the farmers market.

What finally got me back to the supermarket were dinner parties and cook-offs. When feeding one plus an occasional guest, paying a premium on food is totally affordable. OK it’s not really a premium, food should cost more than what the average American pays and that’s why we’re eating fake food all the time. But regardless, we’re used to it and it now feels like a lot of money. So when feeding a large party, I simply didn’t have the budget to purchase everything at the farmers market. I sheepishly returned to where I used to shop, KeyFood, with my tail between my legs. (Side note: I really want a tail. Wouldn’t that be crazy fun?!)

I’ve slowly rekindled a relationship with the supermarket. It’s hypocritical to shun them–a lot of farmers at the farmers market use conventional methods as opposed to organic, and  likewise, purchasing organic food items at the health food store from a huge national brand isn’t necessarily the most nutritious food either. I still stand by my beliefs that purchasing most of my food from farmers markets is the best thing I can do, followed by second best: organic food from health food stores. But the most important practice everyone needs to learn is purchasing whole foods, even if it’s at the supermarket. The supermarket even has some great advantages–it’s often cheaper and more convenient to get to, they have lots of sales, and they have a much larger variety of products. So, I’ve decided that it’s not a life-and-death situation to occasionally purchase butter from the KeyFood. it’s really not that big a deal. I have made peace with the supermarket.

Where do you do your food shopping? Do you ever get freaked out my supermarkets like I do?


Duck Prosciutto Egg Cups

I’m so lucky to have a year-round farmers market walking distance from my house. I’m there every week as a volunteer, and am pretty familiar with the product offerings. We have sorts of interesting items that aren’t on the average American’s shopping list: Moroccan M’smen, veal, hake, lard, creamed honey, and more. But even I fall into food ruts a lot, despite the more exotic options available to me.

I’ve decided to branch out and buy foods I’ve never prepared before. I started with duck prosciutto. It comes as one big slab with a thick layer of fat (which I, naturally, left on). The first morning, I diced some up and cooked them with creamy scrambled eggs. Yum.

The next morning, I thought I’d do duck prosciutto and eggs again, but give it a little twist. I’ve seen recipes for bacon and egg cups baked in a muffin tin before, so I decided to recreate something similar. Duck Prosciutto Egg Cups were born.

I don’t have a mandoline or any easy way to cut those ultra thin slices of prosciutto we often see, so I took a knife and carefully skimmed the top of my slab. They weren’t perfect but they were good enough. I greased and lined the cups of a muffin tin with prosciutto, grated some parmesan into each cup, and cracked an egg into each one.

I baked them for about 12 minutes and ta-daa! I had duck prosciutto cups. I topped them black pepper and fresh basil. What a decadent breakfast.

Growing Food

My Apartment Garden: Yelling at Seeds

All right, folks. Spring is here. I’ve read my first two books on growing vegetables. I’m ready to get started with this apartment garden! This is what I have so far. Two small pots with arugula seeds and two little seed cups I made from newspaper with strawberry seeds. I also bought an English Thyme plant at the farmers market, ’cause I needs my herbs now and I’m too lazy to start them from seeds. I covered the seed pots in plastic wrap to keep them warm and moist. All I’m doing to try get my seeds to germinate (and my thyme to continue living) is putting them by a sunny window and giving all of them a little bit of water everyday.

The first couple of days I impatiently checked on them constantly. I was so worried that they wouldn’t sprout that I resorted to repeatedly yelling “c’monnnnnnn” at them. The boyfriend didn’t think this was a helpful gardening technique. But guess what happened within a few days:

How exciting! The smaller arugula pot has a little sprout already. THIS IS THE FIRST LIFE I’VE EVER CREATED. Let’s hope I don’t let it die before it gets to grow into a big beautiful plant…that I will kill and eat in a salad with some olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

It’s still a little chilly right now, but I will probably set all this stuff up on the balcony soon and move whatever sprouts outdoors. C’monnnnnnnnn, plants!

Local Food, Lunch and Dinner

Eating with the Seasons

I’m currently reading Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. (Loving it so far. Pick up a copy.) It’s about her family’s story of how they committed to eat local for one year. They only consumed what they bought raised in their own neighborhood or grew themselves, and learned to pretty much live without the rest.

The idea wasn’t new to me–I’m an advocate for local food, and both volunteer and shop at farmers markets. I know I’ll never take it to the extreme that Kingsolver did, but I felt good that I bought local more than most people do. What was new to me was the thought of living without what you can’t get locally. I shop based on what recipe I want to make, meaning I’ll buy what happens to be available at the farmers market and get the rest from the health food store, not caring where it traveled from nor whether or not it’s in season.

Inspired by Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, I’ve decided to commit a little further to local food. Or at least get in the habit of eating with the seasons. We’re currently getting this bizarre hot weather for March here in NYC. I left work on Tuesday feeling like it was a summer’s evening. I kept imagining going home and making myself a big sexy plate of salad greens and lots of juicy raw tomatoes, with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I loooove tomatoes. They’re my fave. But then I thought of the book and it occurred to me that it wasn’t remotely close to tomato season here in New York. I wanted a tomato, and while I could technically get one, it was grown far, far away. I would go without that night.

You know what is in season, though? Kale. I adapted this recipe from the Kitchn using kale instead of collard greens. I cooked it up with onion and bacon while I simultaneously made some leftover quick-cooking polenta I had in the cupboard. I topped the polenta with the kale and bacon mixture and a fried egg, threw some parmesan and a few drops of hot sauce on top, and had an extremely satisfying meal. This is a well-balanced dish (especially if you’re generous with the kale), and would make a delicious breakfast too.

I see why they call it food porn. It feels so dirty getting all up in my dish to snap sexy pictures of her bits.

I’ve gotten rid of everything on my to-make recipe list that isn’t mainly comprised of food I can get locally right now. Moving forward, I’m planning the recipes around the produce and not vice versa. No, not all parts of this meal was local, and yes I will probably end up buying a tomato or two next winter. But hey, it’s a start.


Rediscovering Brussels Sprouts

The cool thing about a) being and adult and b) developing my palate is that I can start going back to all the foods I used to hate growing up, and pleasantly rediscover how great something can taste. Like 99.99999% of the rest of the world’s population (not a real statistic), I used to loathe brussels sprouts. I felt kind of guilty about it ’cause, c’mon, these little dudes are repping the capital of my father’s country! When I started getting curious about cooking a couple of years ago, but lacked any actual cooking skills, I attempted to steam brussels sprouts.


That reaffirmed my belief that they are just gross. It wasn’t until last year when dining at an Italian restaurant with friends that I discovered how good can they be! I guess it’s just one of those foods you need to cook right.

I love any excuse to roast things, so when I saw this recipe for Maple Roasted Brussels Sprouts, I jumped on the opportunity to prepare some slammin’ sprouts and wash away the sins of that stank steamed mess I created two years ago.

First, you need quality ingredients. Don’t get that fake syrup at the supermarket. Lucky for me, the maple syrup guys just came back to my farmer’s market that week.

I crisped some pancetta while my brussels sprouts were roasting.

Then I tossed everything together, et voilà! Glorious, sweet brussels sprouts.