Monthly Archives: January 2011

Local Restaurant Review: Cristina’s Cafe

Standard

As you know if you read New Year; New Way of Eating we are trying to eat more organic, local, natural foods.  I mentioned the website Localharvest.com on which you can search for local restaurants, farmers markets, farms, Community Supported Agriculture programs etc… Well I found a place called Cristina’s Cafe that is a “Virginia Green Certified Restaurant” located in Strasburg, VA.  They are a green business and make great effort to serve locally produced and fair trade food and drink. They also donate food scraps to local pig farmers, use solar heating, green cleaning products and even have their own little garden behind the restaurant!  My husband and I decided to make it a date and give it a try.  Cristina’s Cafe is set along route 11 in the historic district of Strasburg alongside several cute shops and boutiques.

The day we went was a snowy day and the restaurant was mostly empty, but had a very homey relaxed feel.  When you first walk in there are some couches that make a relaxed reading area, along with some local crafts for sale, a bakery display (all baked goods are made in house), a fridge display of the local craft beers they sell, and a small section of pamphlets on local activities and green awareness papers.  The walls are decorated with local art, which is for sale. Every inch of this place seems to support the local community.  They even have a stage on which local musicians perform on weekends. During the spring, summer and fall, the parking lot is a farmers market free to local farmers and craftsmen to sell their goods.  Meat is purchased from Blue Ridge Meats in Front Royal, potato chips are from Route 11 Chips in Mount Jackson, and produce is from a handful of local farms.

I ordered a sandwich called “Wendy’s Favorite” which is ciabatta bread with refried black beans, avocado, and chipotle mayo.   My husband got something called “The Hangover Cure” which is biscuits and gravy, and roasted breakfast potatoes.  The restaurant is open 7-4 weekdays during which time they serve breakfast and lunch.  On weekends they are open 8-4 for breakfast/lunch then 6-9 for dinner and music. Anytime my husband can eat breakfast food, he is happy so he enjoyed his meal very much.  My sandwich was to die for! It was a bit messy, having all soft ingredients, but I feel the messier the better when it comes to good food. This was no exception, the combination of the slightly salty beans, with the creamy avocado and slight kick from the chipotle mayo- was just a perfect combination.  It was served with a pickle and Route 11 potato chips.  What a satisfyingly delicious meal! I can’t wait to go back!  Total cost of lunch for two came to about $15.  We made it home without any of their delicious looking baked goods, but let me tell you- that took some strong will power.

In short, we had a delicious meal that we could afford and feel good about.

Check out their website for more details: Cristina’s Cafe

I didn’t get a picture of the breakfast meal, but here is half my sandwich. I got too excited when it came and dug right in.  I hope you find yourself there soon! 🙂

Whole Wheat and Seed Crackers

Standard

These babies are chock-full of seeds and whole grains providing a tasty and filling snack with a healthy dose of useful nutrients!

My husband LOVES to eat bread and crackers. I could probably get him to eat anything if I put it either on bread or a cracker.  I’ve already found and used a great recipe for homemade whole wheat bread but was looking for a homemade whole grain cracker recipe to supply my husband’s cracker crave with a healthier alternative to store bought.  I’m not certain this is the perfect recipe yet but it is at least a good starting point from which  may branch off of in the future.  I found the recipe online- it was actually in the LA times using a recipe adapted from the book “Whole Grain Breads: New Techniques, Extraordinary Flavor.” Might be a good book to check out.

Ingredients:

1/4 hulled sunflower seeds (plain- no salt)

1/4 cup hulled pupkin seeds

1/4 cup flax seeds (red or golden)

1/2 cup natural sesame seeds (tan in color) – I found in bulk section of Whole Foods

2 cups Whole Wheat Flour or Rye Flour (or combination)  I used Whole Wheat but want to purchase some rye flour and try it! Rye has some great health benefits!

3/4 tsp salt

2 tbs honey or agave syrup (I used brown rice syrup)

2 1/2 tbs vegetable oil

1 egg

First use a blender or coffee grinder or nut mill might work to grind sunflower, pumpkin, and flax seeds into fine powder- not too long or you’ll have seed butter- which could be fun another time! Recommended to grind flax separately it takes a different length of time to grind.

Then mix everything (except egg) together in a bowl and mix until a dough- should not be sticky.

Knead dough on a lightly floured surface for 30 seconds to be sure thoroughly mixed. Texture should be tacky but not sticky- add more flour if it is sticky.

Divide dough into 3 pieces and roll out one on a floured surface- flip frequently so it does not stick to surface.  Roll it out until it is almost paper thin- as thin as you want your cracker to be- think about Wheat Thins.   Then use a knife or pizza cutter to slice dough into the shape you want your crackers to be. A large, flat kitchen knife worked well for me, cutting long lengths at a time.

Transfer onto a baking pan that is layered in either parchment paper (this is different than waxed paper! I learned that the hard way a few weeks ago… fail)  or a silicone baking mat.  (I have 2 very nice baking mats, thanks to my mom, and they worked very well!)  So you lay them out on the parchment or baking mat and they can be very close to each other because they won’t rise or anything.

Next the recipe said to mix an egg with a 1/2 cup of water, to brush the crackers with before sprinkling with white sesame seeds.  I used just a little bit of water.  Then sprinkle with sesame seed (white or black). I also then sprinkled with sea salt.  You could get creative at this step and sprinkle garlic or basil, or chili powder… endless possibilities.  Then bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes (rotating baking sheets if baking more than one at a time every ten minutes). Allow crackers to cool on baking sheet, this will help them crisp up.  If when they are cool they do not snap when you break it- put it back in a hot oven for a few more minutes.

That’s it! Pretty easy- but all that cutting and brushing and sprinkling was time consuming, I’d say it would be much faster with 2 sets of hands!  I plan on making my eggplant hummus this weekend to go with these. Yum!

What is Good for you in these crackers? Wow if you have arthritis, asthma, are going through menopause or worry about bone or prostate heath- read below: seeds are something you really want to incorporate into your diet!

Flaxseed: A super seed! It has high levels of Omega 3 which are good for anti-inflamation to help conditions such as migraines, asthma, and arthritis and helps your bone density and health.  These Omega 3’s also help reduce the risk of colon cancer, prostate cancer, and heart disease. It helps lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels and helps menopausal women and their hormone balances and hot flashes.  Flaxseed is also very high in magnesium (which I’ve learned plays an important role in your natural energy and stamina) and dietary fiber.  So sprinkle this on your cereal, add it to bread, yogurt or eat it plain, but we all could use some more flaxseed in our diet!

Pumpkin Seed: These are great for all of us, but especially men as their levels of zinc, carotenoids  and omega 3’s help prevent some prostate problems. Again those helpful Omega 3s also help with lowering cholesterol and with bone density. Pumpkin seeds are also a great source for protein, manganese, magnesium, and iron.

Sesame Seeds are a great source of minerals. They are high in copper, calcium, manganese, magnesium, iron, zinc, and others.  They also contain their own special substances which help lower cholesterol and prevent high blood pressure: sesamin and sesamolin.  All these fantastic nutrients results in a plethora of health benefits ranging from protection form colon cancer to helping menopausal women sleep better. Here are some: supports heart and respiratory health, bone health, prevents the blood vessel spasm that triggers migraines.

Sunflower Seeds are super high in vitamin E and B1. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that protects cell membrane and brain cells.  The magnesium  helps reduce asthma and arthritis by preventing inflammation and helps prevent heart disease. It also helps women with menopause symptoms such as hot flashes and reduce risk of colon cancer.

Wow a lot of these seeds have similar characteristics. It’s great to know our bodies are getting beefed up from several different sources to fight these common ailments.

* All information was taken from either my brain or WHFoods.com (that stands for World’s Healthiest Foods 🙂

New Year; New Way of Eating

Standard

This was not an official New Year’s resolution, but it happened to take place around the New  Year:  In our house, we are changing the way we eat. We are trying to avoid pesticides, chemicals, genetically modified foods, antibiotics, growth hormones and preservatives as much as possible.  It all started with a desire to de-tox our bodies and to get my body healthier to combat allergy and other health issues.  As we learned more about this, we also learned more about the food we eat and where it comes from, how it is produced and how it affects our bodies. I have always known portions of what I have learned, but it is becoming more important and meaningful as I learn more.  It is truly a testament to God’s amazing creation that our bodies are able to stay alive and function as long as they do with all the awful junk we put into our bodies nowadays.  And yet we wonder why we have so many health problems.  We don’t take care of ourselves and treat everything with a pill and expect all our troubles to go away without any effort of our own.  Well, I’m sorry but that’s not how we were created.  Did God put a pharmacy in the Garden of Eden? No, He gave us endless supplies of healthy nutritious fruits, vegetables, grains and animals (which by the way were not mass produced in an unhealthy condition or on a diet of antibiotics, hormones, corn, soybeans and other junk that is not found in a pasture.)  While I do agree that God has given us abilities to create medicines to help us, we have gone pill crazy.   I personally believe that if we ate a diet of foods raised naturally- without adding manmade chemicals, pesticides, etc..  we would be a million times healthier.  I can’t say that this is what I am doing- I enjoy processed foods too, but I am really trying to cut out a large portion of this junk from my life.  I recently read a book called Food Rules: an Eater’s Manual and it is so funny (and true) that we need to be told things like- eat food that is food, then in further detail that it is not food if it arrived through a window or is called that same thing in every language.  Also it discusses that we shouldn’t eat foods that our great grandmother wouldn’t recognize or that you wouldn’t normally keep in your home pantry.   While I didn’t agree with everything in this book, it had some good points that shows us what a sad state our culture is in when it comes to food.  If you want to learn more about where the food you eat comes from and how food affects your life, I would recommend watching Food Inc. and Food Matters– both interesting documentaries which can be viewed instantly on Netflix.  I would like to watch more documentaries like these but have not found the time to watch them yet.

I have been loving the last few weeks with this diet change.  There is a good bit of effort put into it, but I believe that the output is incredibly worth it. Cost was a big concern for us when we started this diet. You should all know by now that I am very frugal and love getting as much as I can for my money. We typically only spend $50 a week on groceries and I am proud to say that I have continued to successfully stick to within $10 of this on our new diet. We are considering changing this amount, but I have proven that it is possible on just the $50. Here are a few changes we have made that maybe you would be interested in trying yourself:

Buying Local Eggs: We are currently buying our eggs from a little place called Brown Stone Ranch whose chickens are free range and fed a supplement of cocofeed. Cocofeed is made naturally from coconuts and is high in fiber and protein.  This is en excellent alternative to feeding chickens soy which we get all too much of in our diets already. Soy is too high in polyunsaturated fats and almost all soy in America is genetically modified with pesticides in the seed itself.  This farm had the best raising practices and price around- only $3 a doz.  That is equivalent or cheaper than organic eggs at the grocery store!

They are so pretty!

Buying Organic as much as possible- WOW! I have been amazed by organic produce!  I always kinda thought “eh, organic it is such a trendy thing and it just cost so much more, I can wash most of the pesticides off right?”  Wrong!  I’ve learned that non-organic crops are sprayed chemical fertilizers that will make the plant grow- instead of nurturing the soil by crop rotation or natural fertilizers.  So non-organic crops will grow with all those chemicals but at the cost of the product having less nutrients and more chemicals.  Organic produce is raised in soil that is fertilized naturally without chemicals and responsible farming practices and is therefore able to produce plants with more nutrients.  When we thought about it this way, it seemed worth at least trying organics. It may cost more but you are getting more nutrients and less chemicals.   Like I said, I have really been amazed- organic produce tastes so much better -and it’s better for you!  In some cases, I have found organic for cheaper than non-organic! I also have found that in stores like Whole Foods (who I always thought of as being expensive) you can often get organic produce cheaper than at places like Martins because there is the consumer demand for it. That’s for produce, not sure about the stuff on the shelves.  My Mom suggested that Whole Foods likely has their own farms and/or they have more buying power because they are buying organic in larger quantity.  So while it is a bit of a drive to get to the closest Whole Foods, we have been going to N. Va every other weekend on grocery adventures. We have fun, get to be together, and often get to visit with my parents so for us it is worth the gas and time.  Also places like Wegman’s have great variety of fresh produce and organics along with great prices on store brand shelf products.

JuicingWe found a juicer at Aldie for $35! What a deal!  Now it isn’t the most awesome juicer in the world, but we would never spend $800 plus on a juicer anyways, so this works for us.  Juicing fruits and vegetables gives you the nutrients of those foods (minus the fiber) in a form that your body can digest easily.  The nutrients can be in your bloodstream within 15 minutes of drinking it! Talk about a natural energy boost!  It’s also a great way to get nutrients from foods you don’t want to eat.  Just juice it, stick a straw in the back of your mouth and drink as quickly as possible! Back to the benefit of organic- before we bought organic apples- we tried juicing with regular apples.  One whole non-organic apple gave us maybe 1/4 c of juice- which didn’t taste very good – and was full of pesticides because we didn’t skin and seed it (which you should do when juicing non-organic produce) Then we got organic apples- I juiced just a half of an apple and got like 1/2 cup of delicious juice! I was so surprised at how good it tasted!

My favorites are apple juice and papaya juice (which is really good for digestion)

Whole Grains– My cabinet is full of mason jars of whole grains, beans, and white flour alternatives and it makes me so happy.  Whole grains offer a plethora of nutrients that white flour just can’t compete with.  I’ve been making home made bread and it is delicious!

Plant based protein- We often think the only way to get protein is from animals- we couldnt be more wrong. Whole grains and vegetables all contain protein. The protein you get from sources such as whole grains, lentils, beans, seeds, nuts, and vegetables are eaiser for your body to digest than animal protein.

Buying naturally raised, local meats- We still want to eat meat, but have never been big meat eaters.  However we will probably be eating even less now with our commitment to eating meat that has not been mass produced or overdosed in hormones and antibiotics.  Using the website localharvest.com I have connected with several local farms which produce meats and vegetables naturally.  I have more research to do to decide on which farm we will buy from- depending on the specifics of how their meat and produce is raised and the cost.  This week we are buying our first meat of the new year and I am purchasing it from Holy Cow Delivery.  They sell locally raised and produced meats and dairy products which do not contain growth hormones or antibiotics.  I also really enjoy buying local products because it supports small business and local farmers.

www.localharvest.com

www.HolyCowDelivery.com – You can also pick up products at the Winchester Farmers Market on Boscowen (That is what I am doing to avoid delivery fee)

Sprouting–  I am so exited to be learning about sprouting!  Did you know that if you take a grain and cook it- you only get a portion of that grain’s potential nutrients and energy?  Imagine how a seed can grow into a large plant- well if you take a seed and sprout it- it awakens that energy.  When a seed sprouts it begins producing more vitamins and minerals  to feed the plant it will grow into- when we eat a sprout- we get those nutrients and they are easier for our body to digest! A wheat berry that has been sprouted for 3 days has 300 times the vitamin E as the dry seed! Isn’t that amazing??  Again, this is God given nutrient- I feel so blessed to be given such awesome food by my creator!  As I type this I am munching on some sunflower and sesame seed sprouts.  They are light, crunchy and nutty.  Yum!  Also great in salads and apparently you can juice them, but I haven’t tried that yet.

I havent had the time to blog about all the tasty creations that have been happening in my kitchen lately but I have nabbed a few snapshots and I’m going to share those below, move cursor over pict. to see what it is: