You Say Tomato/ I say Panzanella

newsletter-photoLast weekend, O and I dragged ourselves out of bed early and drove out east of town to pick tomatoes on our CSA farm. For three hours we stooped in the dirt, grasping for the bright, plump fruits hiding within their rows and rows of tangled vines. Row by row, our senses became more honed: Was this one ripe enough? Diseased? Too soft? Begging to be sampled on the spot? It was hot and hard work—I have so much respect for all of the people who are out there harvesting our food every day. But even though we came out of it scorched and thirsty with aching thighs and backs, it was the best time I’d had in a while. There was something so intensely satisfying about being truly connected to the food that would end up on our plates and in our bodies. The heat and the dirt seemed to somehow intensify the scent and flavor of those tomatoes. When we were sent home with several pounds, we swooned over every bite.

For the last hour I’ve been trying to write something insightful about the importance of personally connecting with our food, but it’s just not coming out. Let’s just leave it at this: putting some energy into what you eat makes it taste better. So before tomato season is up, I urge you to try the following recipe using the most luscious, perfectly ripe, warm from the sun tomatoes you can get your hands on—it makes all the difference.

Panzanella (serves 2–3)

  • 6-8 slices of stale bread
  • 4 large tomatoes
  • 1 cup losely-packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • Flavorful Olive oil
  • Vinegar (your choice)
  • Sugar
  • Sea Salt
  1. Cut the bread into 1-inch chunks. If the bread is fresh (not stale), toast it in the oven until crisp and dry.
  2. Chop the tomatoes in half and squeeze out most of their seeds. Then into 1-inch chunks and place in a large bowl.
  3. Tear the basil leaves into pieces and add to the tomatoes.
  4. Chop or grate the garlic into the bowl with the tomatoes.
  5. Add the bread and toss everything together.
  6. Dress with olive oil (be liberal) and vinegar to taste (I like using the vinegar from pickled jalapenos for a little kick).
  7. Add salt and sugar to taste (even just a dusting of sugar really brings out the sweetness of the tomatoes).
  8. Serve!

Cooking with Unrefined Oils

I’ve completed my first round of homework for school! This consisted of keeping a diet and activity log for a week (sooooo painfully tedious) but also creating a handout related to any nutrition related topic we chose. We’ll make these handouts as a part of each module’s homeowrk assignment, with the idea of having a variety of handouts already prepared to hand out to clients at any given time. I chose to focus this first handout on unrefined oils. As I touched on in my recent post, I never realized how highly processed and poor for one’s health refined oils are. As I began to research unrefined oils, I was surprised by the true health benefits many of them provide—it’s not something you generally think of with oil. I was also pleasantly surprised by the variety of unrefined oils that are available. I’m excited to experiment with using avocado oil, red plam fruit oil and nut oils in my cooking. 

Oh, and in case you were wondering, I have made O’s chcolate-chip cookies with a mixture of coconut and macadamia nut oil with steller results. Buh-bye refined sunflower oil! So long!

Below is the information included on my handout. If you’d like to print a copy to keep in your kitchen, click here to download the PDF. Continue reading

Reinvention

Tomorrow I start school again. Astoundingly, it’s been nearly five years (!) since I last sat in a classroom, listened to a lecture or did homework. I’m equipped with a stack of slightly intimidating textbooks, a brand-new notebook and a handful of my favorite pens and feel just a touch of those first-day butterflies that have been hanging around since grade school. It’s all so familiar and yet, what I am about to begin is in fact very different that any of my education up to this point.

In the morning, I’ll be beginning Bauman College’s 18-month Nutritional Consultant program. At the end of it I will be a certified Nutritional Consultant and will be able to take the Holistic Nutrition Boards in Colorado. Unlike dietetics, which maintains a very strictly regulated USDA-compliant curriculum, these certifications will allow me to offer unique, personalized nutritional advice to individuals, based on their own personal histories, health goals and dietary philosophies. I plan on combining this knowledge with my already well-developed skills in the kitchen to guide clients through the whole process of changing their diet: from meal planning to shopping for, storing, preparing and preserving their new dietary staples.

I am so excited to be learning something so relevant and applicable that also happens to be something I’m naturally passionate about. Throughout my college education, I’ve always felt something of a disconnect between these two desires. I studied anthropology and classics, both of which I found to be fascinating, but I knew that neither would exactly set me up for a career outside of academia. After realizing I was more attracted to an academic career for the argyle than its actuality, I’ve toyed with the idea of attending culinary school to further develop my love of cooking. But, with some careful reflection, I realized that life behind a stove all day, every day would likely destroy that love rather than bolster it. I felt at a loss for how to proceed for several years, until I stumbled upon an ad for the Natural Culinary Institute in NYC in a magazine. I was blown away that such a program existed, focusing on both health and cooking. I researched the school further and even dropped in for a visit, but ultimately realized that it wasn’t a great fit for me – they seemed mostly to turn out students as personal and professional chefs, albeit enlightened ones, but it still wasn’t exactly what I wanted… I just wasn’t sure what it was that I did want.

Then, last summer, I heard about Bauman College, which conveniently had a branch in Boulder. I was initially attracted to their Natural Chef program and attended an open house to find out more. I left feeling similar to how I had after the visit to the New York school – like it was close to what I wanted but not quite there. Along with hearing about the chef program, several students spoke about the school’s nutrition program. They were knowledgeable and engaged, but at that point studying nutrition hadn’t crossed my mind. I mulled it all over for several more months, but Bauman kept popping back up in my mind. It was in Boulder, not too expensive and philosophically totally on the same page as me… why wasn’t it what I wanted? I did a little more research into the school and decided to look into their Nutrition Consultant program—why not? It was amazing. Something just clicked for me. I already knew and loved cooking, I was committed to healthy eating and I wanted a career that would allow me to share this with others, not keep me in a kitchen, separated from those with which I was sharing. This made total sense. I met with an advisor and sat in on a class and the more I learned about the program the more excited I became. The approach was very comprehensive—something I demand from my education. I don’t care if broccoli is “good for you” if you can’t explain to me exactly why that is. This program effectively combines in-depth physiology and biochemistry with their broader holistic curriculum to ensure students really grasp how food, medicine and supplements act on the body. The whole thing was just totally “me”!

I know that this program has the ability to be truly transformative —in a way that none of my other education experiences have been. My biggest goals are too maintain my inspiration and focus throughout the program. I know it will be hard to have homework again, but I really want to continually remember why I am doing it—not for the teacher, but to build my own knowledge and confidence with the subject matter. I also want to reach out and network as much as possible with the instructors, other students and anyone else in the field that crosses my path. Putting myself out there can be difficult for me, but I am committed to working on it. Also, I am going to strive to maintain balance in my life. I will still be working full–time at my job, so I will be busy, for sure. But I am also committed to making sure I find time to rest, relax and have fun.

Wish me luck as I embark on this new adventure!