Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Remember to Check Anyway

Remember how I said in a previous post that I wanted to pick more blackberries to make blackberry syrup to freeze to make icecream later in the year when the blackberries are all gone? Well, I procrastinated. It's getting hotter and many of the blackberries I see alongside the road are starting to look overripe and dull. Last weekend, I figured if I was going to pick blackberries I should do it. I was feeling lazy, so I asked Don if he would go to the hedgerow behind our apartment building and look to see if there are enough good blackberries to pick six pints. He said there wasn't any point looking since there weren't and that the blackberry season was over. He didn't check and I didn't check either.

Then yesterday, I got home about a half hour earlier than usual and since I was already outside, I thought I'd stop by and check - and there were plenty of blackberries still to pick. I have a lazy husband!!! I can't blame him - I didn't want to go out into the smoky air last weekend either. Anyway, I went to the apartment, dumped my bag, changed, grabbed a container and went out to pick. They certainly are past their prime. There weren't as many "shiny" blackberries - they looked sort of dull - and many of them tasted slightly overripe - like cough syrup. I started at the point in the hedgerow closest to the road and was starting to get really disappointed in what was there. I almost gave up, but as I went further away from the road - there were plenty more to pick. It was just more work - slower going and being more picky than about a month ago when I'd fill my container in about 15 minutes. I picked for about 45 minutes and got about 7 pints. It was slow going because some of the nicer blackberries were sheltered in the inside of the bush and my hand was getting really scratched up trying to reach into the thicket to pick them.

Here they are:

I made the syrup, bagged them in ziploc bags and froze them.

I have enough to make 4 batches of icecream and I still have one left from the last time I made this. I was tempted earlier to go again and pick enough to make another batch of these, but I think I want to try other kinds of icecream as well. If I still feel like it this weekend and there are enough, I might. But if I don't, that will be okay too. This is the sort of time when I wish that we lived in a house and had a chest-freezer. I would want to pick, process and freeze bunches of things.

A friend gave us some pears - I am waiting for them to ripen a bit more. I found a delicious looking recipe for a pear-ginger icecream. Doesn't that sound wonderful? Enough about icecream - I seem to get obsessed about icecream once I start!!!

Yesterday was a good day food-wise. Here is what I ate:
Homemade granola and millk

Whole Rice and Wheat Medley w. Veggie Burger; Carrots + Hummus

Veggie soup w. bread; Sweet Potato Baked "Fries"
Also had some blackberries and some dark chocolate for dessert

Monday, August 24, 2015

8/24 Weigh-In

Not much to report - weigh in was 219.2lbs. Slightly less than last week, but not substantially. I had planned on going walking this weekend because it was going to be pleasant. However, smoke from the Oregon and California fires had come and settled in the valley and it was really smoky - almost as though the fires were only a mile away. There was poor air quality advisory on and my eyes hurt to be outside. Don was coughing a lot. It was very hazy due to the smoke and you couldn't see the trees too far into the distance. I walked about 2 miles on Saturday and 2 miles on Sunday, but couldn't do more than that. One really fun thing though - the smoke makes the sunset and sunrise look blood red - not orange-y red, but blood red. It's quite the sight! I wish I had snapped a picture. But a friend of mine did, and she said that the picture did not do justice to the color of the sun and the sky.

I did not snap pictures of food this last week. Goals for this week are:
1. Check blood sugar before each meal
2. Remember to take the metformin
3. Snap pictures of the food and track what I am eating.

Have a great week, everyone!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Urban Foraging

I have always been fascinated with urban foraging. I think it started when I was a kid in India. You can't grow up in India and not know a bit about finding and using herbs. But I had the advantage of having two urban foragers for parents. My father came from a farming family, but became a University professor at a large city. Although he didn't go into farming, he was a farmer at heart and when he could grow something, he would. On the tiny, minuscule bit of land we had around our city home and in pots, he planted as many vegetables, fruits and herbs as he could. When I was growing up, we had a coconut tree, two guava trees, and a mango tree. When we moved and had less space, he grew a curry leaf tree, chilies, balsam, aloe vera, tapioca and whatever else he felt like planting that year if he had the space. My mother did not come from a farming family, but she grew up in a village and knew how to recognize and use what she did find growing wild. Even now when my parents go around town or come to visit me in the U.S., they go about looking at the trees and shrubs and weeds and herbs and think of ways that they can use what grows around them.

My earliest memory of urban foraging is when I was around seven years old. My sister was suffering from jaundice and I went with my father to pick kizhanelli, a weed that grows on the sides of the roads or in empty city lots. It's good for the liver and helps cure the symptom of jaundice and other liver problems. When my sister had chicken-pox, I went with my father to ask a neighbor if we could pick a couple of branches of neem off his tree to make a soothing balm for her skin. (She did get allopathic medicine as well - the herbs were to help supplement the medicine she was already receiving). When the same neighbor had a bay leaf tree cut down, my father and mother spent a few days plucking off the leaves to dry them and stripping the bark for cinnamon. We had enough cinnamon and bay-leaves to last us almost a decade!! I remember my parents picking wild berries, guavas and mangoes that grew along street-sides. There wasn't a lot to forage since it was a large city with not many useful wild plants and many hands to pick the bounty that they did produce.

When I moved to the U.S. - first to Kansas City, I didn't find anything to forage. Absolutely nothing where I lived except perhaps dandelion greens - and I don't like them. Then I moved to a semi-rural college town in Iowa. There was more to be found there. I found large patches of spearmint in the prairie. There were wild raspberries. I was introduced there to my favorite berry of all - mulberries - that remarkably grow on trees!!! But still - not much that grew wild. I lived in an apartment and did not grow much at home in pots although I did have a curry leaf plant that died in the winter, and some chilies in a pot that did decently. I then moved to a city - Minneapolis. There wasn't much there - nettles and dandelions - but nettles are too much work to make edible and dandelion is too bitter. I did find some purslane once, but it was too close to a busy street and I worried what it had been sprayed with by the city street-keepers - plenty of weedkiller, probably.

And then I moved to Oregon. And I am in heaven!!! This is a paradise for urban foragers. The weather is temperate and it doesn't freeze often. As a result, anything that falls to the wayside roots and grows. The easiest thing to forage here are the blackberries - they are an invasive species and grow EVERYWHERE!!! They have terrible thorns and are VERY hard to get rid of. This means that as long as you don't mind your hands getting scratched up, you have a plentiful supply of blackberries for about two months each summer. I have also found plenty of mint and spearmint - various kinds (although I don't like the lemon-balm mint and pineapple mint and other such flavors) on the streets, I have found blueberries growing in the wild, wild plums, wild apples (one very near my apartment), and other things. And most astonishingly - rosemary and lavender!!! When I lived in the Midwest, I had to pay a TON of money for a few sprigs of rosemary - but it grows in the wild here - just for the picking. I first came upon one outside a restaurant about a week or so after I moved here. I couldn't understand why they had just planted some rosemary there and wondered that people didn't just pick it bare as they passed along. And pretty soon I found out why - it grows everywhere here - and really really prolifically. Oregon is also a wonderful place to pick morels and chantrelles, but often where they grow are closely kept secrets because of how expensive they are, and frequently need permission of others to get on their land and so on - too much work for me. Don did find some oyster mushrooms once although they are not commonly found in this area unless cultivated. They were delicious. I would grow things in pots now, but I live in an upstairs apartment without a patio, and no south or west-facing windows, so not much light. I think we will be able to afford a house in a couple of years, and when we do, I can't wait to grow things!!!

I posted recently about making blackberry icecream from blackberries I had foraged. Last weekend, I went to the wild apple tree less than a block from my apartment building and picked apples to make apple pie:
You can see that they are small - it's a wild tree, after all. The fruit itself is mildly-sweet and not tart at all. And I have found in the past that the apples from this tree will keep their shape and don't go mushy if you cook or bake them.

Here they are chopped and spiced with a little bit of sugar, powdered ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon (that my mom foraged and dried and brought me the last time she came to visit)

And here is the baked pie (I use only one crust for my apple pies). Foraged pie = quite yummy and mostly free!

And here is the food from yesterday which was a good day with not much off-plan snacking:

Homemade Granola w. Milk

Leftover khaman dhokla, tomato chutney, grapes

Israeli Couscous w. Kale, Garbanzos and Olives seasoned with za'atar

More foraged yummyness - homemade blackberry icecream (the blackberries were foraged anyway)

Thursday, August 20, 2015


I'm taking it one day at a time (ODAAT - used a lot in "recovery lingo" for AA, NA, OA and Eating Disorder and suicidal thoughts/behaviors recovery). I've been depressed before, and I probably will again at various periods of my life. But I usually am okay and usually recover from the "funks". I am resolving to take it ODAAT. And then this happens in my head between me and my mental self-critic (let's call her "SC"):

ME: I resolve to take it ODAAT!
SC: Is that like all your other resolutions which you abandon within a few days?
ME: No. This is different - I need to feel better. I will just focus on one choice at a time.
SC: You have a BAD track record with that.
ME: F*** you, self-critic!!
SC: You know it's true.
ME: Maybe you're right.

I'm trying to not say that last bit.

Yesterday, I resolved to remember to take pictures of the things I ate. I thought that if I did that, then maybe it would help me make better choices about what I eat. It did for the most part. But someone at work brought a big box of baklava and I ate a bunch of that - it's almost all pure sugar and starch!! Then SC and I went over all the things I didn't do yesterday - I didn't check my blood sugar, I forgot to take the metformin, I didn't exercise, I wasn't productive at work and so on...

SIGH!!! Trying to forgive myself for the choices I make that are not good for me and also to forgive myself for the self-bashing that I do.

Home-made granola w. milk

Sandwich with Seed-Nut bread, Morningstar burger, hummus and basil; Apple

A ton of unphotographed baklava

My version of khaman dhokla, a steamed chickpea flour dumpling with sauteed sesame seeds and spices w. tomato chutney and steamed broccoli - a very low-carb meal
Followed by home-made low-sugar blackberry Icecream

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Losing Steam

I am stuck - maintaining - at least, not gaining...

Weigh-in on Monday was 220lbs. Just maintaining. I am stuck!!! I don't have motivation to exercise, I don't have motivation to cook much these days. Just feeling exhausted and checked-out a lot. I wonder when I will get out of this funk?!?! I have been taking the bus since my car broke down. Don wants to try his hand at fixing it before I take it in to a mechanic, but he has been busy. It looks like I'll have to wait a few weeks. This is not a bad thing - we have an excellent bus system in my town. The bus stop is a half mile from my home, so whether I like it or not, I am getting at least a mile-long walk each day. The downside is that I live at the edge of town and my commute on the bus is an hour each way, changing 2 buses. The drive was 20 min each way. GRRR!!!

I haven't been reading other blogs consistently - just glancing at them and not responding. I have wanted to isolate myself socially and electronically. I can tell that this is an episode of depression. I am exhibiting all the classic symptoms. I just want to "snap out of it"!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Monday Weigh-In and Blackberry Icecream

Weigh-in was 220.4lbs. (-0.6lbs). Only to be expected. I didn't have time for exercise most days due to some stressful and busy things going on. I barely got any sleep for three days last week and was too exhausted the other days to do anything. However - at least, I did not gain. That is good!!

My car died in the middle of a main thoroughfare in my city during during the after-hour rush on Friday! Scary!!! I did eventually, after several tries, get it started and into a parking lot. After it cooled down a bit, it managed to make it home - running at under 25mph. It had been running rough before it died like that. Anyway, the catalytic converter needs to be replaced. Estimate was $1200 because my stupid car has TWO catalytic converters. Goodness knows why!!! GRRRRR!!!! Don says he'll take a look at it and see what can be done. If it's too much work for him, then he'll take it to a mechanic. Hopefully it's something he can fix. I am hopeless at car stuff. However, since I met Don, I now know how to jack a car up, change tires and change batteries. He told me he'd teach me how to change oil, but I haven't got around to that yet.

The weekend was good. I did a bunch of cleaning, dusting, polishing and scrubbing at home. That was the only exercise I got this weekend. On Saturday, we went to a friend's for a potluck dinner. We stayed talking till well past midnight. She has a wonderful covered outdoor patio separated from the house and in the middle of her yard. It was beautiful outside and we ate and drank and talked and were happy. I am grateful every day for my friends.

Lentil-Quinoa-Kale Salad, Cold Pesto Pasta Salad, Broccoli Quiche, Munchies, Ginger-Peach Iced Tea
There was chcolate zucchini bread to follow for dessert

At dinner, my friend who has Type-1 diabetes, and has refused to let it bog her down (she eats everything she wants to - just smaller quantities), asked if I had made any icecream lately. Back when I had just purchased my icecream maker, I was making a different kind of icecream every week. I realized then that since my diagnosis of diabetes I had not made any icecream. She reminded me that I could eat icecream if I wanted, and I could make icecream without the sugar if I wanted to. I had been talking about how I was picking blackberries nearly every day for dessert, so I decided that I would make a blackberry icecream next.

Adapted from Ree Drummond's recipe on Food Network. Click here for original recipe.

2 pints blackberries
1/2 lemon
5 egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
1.5 cups whole milk
1.5 cups heavy cream

Pick or buy 2 pints of blackberries. I picked 6 pints and then made enough syrup to last me for three iterations of blackberry icecream making. I thought I'd freeze the r est of the syrup and thaw it out after blackberry season to make this icecream.

On medium-low heat, heat blackberries, 1/4 cup of the sugar and the lemon juice. Mash the blackberries with a potato masher or back of a spoon to release the juices. When it thickens, remove from the hear. Cool. Then strain it using a fine mesh strainer to remove the seeds. I reserved the seed/pulp to add to oatmeal or smoothies (sorry didn't take a pic).

Heat the whole milk on medium-low, stirring occasionally. In the meantime, beat the 5 egg yolks until pale. Add a little bit of the warm milk to the egg yolks and whisk. Repeat this a few times and then add the yolk mixture to the milk and continue to stir constantly. (Adding the egg yolks directly to the hot milk might cook them right away, so make sure you warm the eggs up by adding a bit of warm milk at a time.) Then, add the heavy cream to the mixture and continue to stir constantly until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon, about 5-6 minutes. Remove from heat. Add the blackberry syrup to the milk mixture and continue stirring until mixed well.

Chill overnight. Then add to your icrecream maker per instructions. Here it is while still churning:

And twenty minutes later, voila!!!
Thick and creamy
And here it is all ready to go into the freezer.

I added slightly over half the sugar called for in the original recipe. I also added whole milk instead of half and half, and it turned out quite good - creamy and rich. Overall, I liked the taste of it. However, one thing I would change is the lemon. I think it diminishes the flavor of the blackberries. I want to make (and freeze) more syrup and the next time, I won't be using the lemon. Other than that, it is a wonderful icecream.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Paradoxical Endeavour

I've been lazy this past week. At each meal I try to make good choices - sometimes I do and sometimes I don't. I haven't been exercising much this last week. I have been under some stress and for about 3 nights this past week, I did not get much sleep. The last two nights, I have been sleeping long and hard at night, but I've been waking up exhausted and am almost dropping off to sleep in my meetings. Not good at all!!

Lately, I have been having a lot of Fitbit envy - plenty of my friends and coworkers are wearing them, and I have been hearing a lot about how it has helped them to stay on track with their fitness, keeping them motivated and so on. So, I decided that I wanted to get one. However, spending $150 on it is not in my budget at the moment. Especially since it is a want not a need. So, I decided that if I could rake up enough credits on amazon through Swagbucks, Bing Rewards and MyPoints, I could get myself a Fitbit by the end of the year. (Disclaimer: if you sign up using one of those links, I get referral credits). I already had $11 in amazon credits at Swagbucks, and this past month I have been spending a lot of time online doing tasks on there and have got another $25 in amazon credits.

And there lies the self-contradicting illogical nonsensical-ness (??) of this. I have been sitting in front of a computer typing away for hours so that I can get a wristband that will make me get up and get out and walk about. I could have been doing that in the first place instead. You see how it is a want and not a need, right?

Organic Seed and Grain Bread w. Almond Butter and homemade jam from a co-worker
Earl Grey Tea

Lunch eaten out with a coworker: Pesto Scrambled Eggs w. veggies.
I did not eat all the potatoes or bread

Veggie Portobello-Swiss Burger, Fries
Don ate all my wedge cut fries. I ate some of his shoestring fries (not pictured)
Unphotographed strawberry frozen yogurt

1 hr leisurely walk with L.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Scotch Bonnet Hot Sauce

I am rubbish at following goals. I didn't meet my exercise goals last week. It was terribly hot, and life and laziness happened. But I did eat moderately well. Yesterday's weigh-in was 1 lb less than last week. Not a lot, but still... Anyway - that's three weeks in a row when my weight on Monday morning has been an even 2xx.0lbs - no fractions of the pound. I am entertained by weird things. :-)

I wanted to share about this wonderful hot sauce that I recently bought.

I purchased it at an African foods store, although the sauce is from Jamaica. I saw several "scotch bonnet pepper" sauces. Apparently scotch bonnet is a really hot pepper. It looks very much like a habanero. It is grown in the Caribbean and West Africa. I asked the lady at the counter how this sauce is different from a habanero sauce. She said that the habanero sauce is "just hot" whereas the scotch bonnet sauce was hot, but also had "flavor". I took her word for it, and she was right. This is a HOT HOT HOT sauce, but also very flavorful. A little bit goes a long way. And it definitely is tasty beyond the heat that it adds to the food.

Walking around the African food store was very interesting. I saw all kinds of foodstuff that I had no idea what I would do with. It certainly gave me a feel for what it is like for someone not Indian to go to an Indian food store. What does one do with beaten rice, or puffed rice, or red lentils, or giant lumps of jaggery, or big bags of fennel seeds or mangoes pickled in sesame oil? I know what to do with those things. But I was completely lost in the African foods store. I felt very sad at the idea of an entire cuisine being locked out to me - I know nothing of what to do with cassava flour (tapioca) or dasheen leaves (taro leaves) or Nigerian garden eggs (green/white aubergines). I might know Indian things to do with tapioca, taro (although not leaves) and eggplants, but not what they might do in Africa. It made me very sad. But I did get the scotch bonnet sauce and I am using it liberally on everything!

That's all for my ramblings for today. Have a good day everyone.